St Florence is an Australian Wild Ale refermented with wine grapes. It is named for Topher and his wife's first daughter and released around Florence's birthday. The Saint Florence was a 7th century abbess from Cartagena, Spain.
Our first release of St Florence was in October of 2017, about a month after my daughter was born, made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes. In 2018, we made two variants of St Florence using Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Each year, this beer aims to bring to light the interaction between native wine and beer fermentations. We as a brewery are heavily influenced by the winemaking world, well the part of it that ferments with native yeasts and doesn’t use additives or excessive procedures. We are continually inspired by its producers to increase the thought and integrity in our beer. It should be no surprise that these wine-grape refermented beers are a major focus for us and provoke year-long conversations about how we tweak them at the next vintage.
In 2019, we once again made a few variants using different wine grapes.
This variant with Black Muscat was made by blending 5 barrels of mature, barrel aged Gold with hand harvested Black Muscat grapes from Thornbrook Orchard in Nashdale NSW where we source many fruits. We picked the grapes with our friends Matt and Suzanne from The Masonry in Seattle on 21 March 2019, drove them back to Sydney and immediately transferred them into a stainless steel variable capacity tank without crushing or destemming. We allowed for their fermentation to naturally begin with the native yeasts on the skins of the fruit. After three weeks, we removed the juice at the bottom of the ferment and blended in 3 (1856, 1857 and 1858) mature barrels of Gold, coincidentally all barrels that had once held Muscat wine from Clonakilla. We then allowed the fruit to macerate and referment with the beer for 2.5 months. In mid June, we blended in barrel 1740 (7 month old Gold) and barrel 1839 (11 month old Gold) for necessary structure and balance. It was packaged on 10 July and allowed to go through a tertiary fermentation for carbonation and conditioning for 8 weeks before release. At bottling it was 5.6% ABV and 0.4 P (1.002 SG).
This beer opens with a gently attractive perfumey, rose water aroma to be expected from the muscat grapes, however unlike its white skinned sibling, the aroma moves toward layers of spice and earthiness. The palate is delicate and resembles this continuance from sweet fruit and turkish delight flavours towards a structural spice, phenolic and dry tannin finish.
This variant with Semillon was made by blending 4 barrels of mature, barrel aged Gold with hand harvested Semillon grapes from Tyrrell's Estate in Pokolbin NSW. On an early morning in January, we drove up to the Hunter arriving at Tyrrell's Estate around 8.30am to try and beat the 40+ degree heat predicted for the day and got to work hand harvesting beautifully ripe Semillon grapes. We finished, luckily, before it got too hot, had a nice little lunch in the shade and headed back to Sydney. We chilled the grapes overnight and the next morning transferred all of these whole bunch, hand harvested grapes into a variable capacity stainless steel vessel without destemming or crushing. We sealed the tank and allowed fermentation to naturally begin via the native yeasts on the skins of the grapes. After three weeks of sealed, carbonic maceration, we removed the juice at the bottom of the ferment and blended in 2 barrels, 1729 (11 month old Gold) and 1779 (14 month old Gold) on 6 February and allowed the fruit to macerate and referment with the beer for 4 months. On June 18, we blended in 1837 (11 month old Gold) and 1805 (16 month old Gold) for necessary structure and balance. It was packaged on 19 June and allowed to go through a tertiary fermentation for carbonation and conditioning for 11 weeks before release. At bottling it was 6.0% ABV and 1.1 P (1.004 SG).
We are deeply thankful to the Tyrrell family for allowing us to work with such iconic fruit in our beer. It’s a real pinch-myself sort of moment and an honour.
On opening, the aroma is reminiscent of aged Semillon with golden honey notes, waxed lemon and pear skin. The colour and palate show the months on skins with a deep yellow colour and nutty, grippy flavours which open up as the beer warms with a savoury finish. It is one of our finest examples of blending in fruit whilst firmly maintaining the integrity of our beer. It’s effortless and the ability to see both the beer and wine separately but also coherently on the palate is its strength.
Like all our beers, St Florence is best enjoyed when decanted off a settled natural yeast sediment at cellar temperatures (10-12°C).
This beer, along with our other fruit re-ferment beers this year, was packaged in 375ml quarter-magnum bottles. There will be a 12 bottles per person limit to purchase online and at the cellar door. We will make around 300 bottles available online (along with a few 1.5 litre magnums) while the remaining 300 will be sold at the brewery. Both variants of St Florence 2019 will also be lightly offered to our stockists around the country so you may see it in the wild.