- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - When you look through the glass into the actual brewery area of a brewpub or taproom, everything in there is all shiny stainless and whiteness and lab-like. That’s because there’s a real science to brewing, with ratios and formulas and a tightly controlled fermenting process. Yeast strains are carefully selected to produce a certain result.

But two beer entrepreneurs are, more or less literally, throwing those precautionary methods to the wind, and planning to open a “farmhouse brewery.”

The short version of what Darren Vanden Berge, 34, and Kevin Hall, 36, want to do with their Black Hollow Brewing Co. is called wild fermentation. All the wild yeasts floating around in the air is what they want in their beers. Modern brewing usually is all about keeping that stuff out of the beer, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1tNSDxn ).

“The term ‘farmhouse’ is loosely based on French and Belgian brewing traditions,” Hall said. “Beer was generally low-alcohol, brewed for the farm workers for hydration and sustenance. It’s been evolving (to mean) a higher-alcohol beer, especially in America - that’s what people want. But (farmhouse beers) have distinct Belgian characteristics.”

It’s a back to the future sort of thing. When ale making began - as long as 7,000 years ago - brewers didn’t have any way to select the strains of yeast they wanted. A beer’s flavor “profile” wasn’t chosen, it just was. Black Hollow aims to harken back to that style, but with a little modern know-how thrown in to control the bacteria (“We prefer to say probiotics,” Hall said) and the flavors they create. Still, the beers will have a more “funky” (that’s a plus in beer parlance) flavor than most beer drinkers are used to.

To start with, Black Hollow will contract with other breweries to create the wort (the liquid extracted from the mashing process that contains sugars that will be fermented by the yeast) and then will be transported to Black Hollow where “the art” of the beer begins, Hall said. The beer will be fermented in stainless tanks, moved to oak barrels for aging and then go back into tanks for mixing before bottling.

They plan to have three core products - a stout; a light ale comparable to a saison style; and a biere de garde, a French pale ale traditionally brewed in winter and spring to dodge summer’s yeasty air. “Our beers are going to be a challenge to sell in the Iowa market,” Hall said. “People are used to a ‘clean’ beer. These will be more sour.”

“We hope that we can get people to see and appreciate the complexity of these wild-fermented beers,” Vanden Berge added, “as opposed to just taking a sip and saying ‘no thank you.’

“We’d like to help the craft beer palate evolve and expand.”

There are a handful of other wild-fermenting breweries around the country - maybe two dozen-ish, Hall said. The closest one is in St. Louis.

The guys hope to get Black Hollow up and running soon, with help from the Indiegogo fundraising site; the 40-day campaign kicked off Oct. 13 and they’re aiming to raise $50,000 - a fraction of what they’ll eventually need to go full bore.

But the plan accommodates those financial limitations. “We just want enough to get going,” Vanden Berge said. “To get a location and get some batches going. We’re starting with bottles, and when we secure more funding and start generating revenue, we’ll start working on a taproom.”

They’d also like to keep it all as local as possible and one day to build a barn to house the operation and to grow some of the things they use.

As Hall pointed out, “We’ll be dealing with nature, and you can’t really control that.” And he’s OK with that.

“I’m not really a technical brewer anyway. I brew by feel. It’s more about heart and soul.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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