Two traveling barrels reunite at Purpose Brewing after 18 years

There is the saying, “if you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours.” This idea rings true for Peter Bouckaert, owner at Purpose Brewing & Cellars. In 1998, in what can be described as a period of folly, experimentation and foray into the creation of sour beer and what served as a catalyst for a new style in the US,  Bouckaert who was the brewmaster at New Belgium at the time, sourced nine barrels with his friend Robert Poland. In 2000 as Bouckaert began purchasing foeders for New Belgium, the Fort Collins brewery began to lack space (Bouckaert estimates that he had 100 barrels at this time). So Bouckaert sent a few of these barrels away, including the elusive nine barrels, giving them homes at other breweries with each barrel providing a story to tell.

pH1 and pH2 were named after an experiment with lowering pH levels, during a time when lambic brewers were experimenting with lowering the wort pH before going to the coolship. Lauren Limbach and Cody Reif of New Belgium later spotted pH1 during a brewery visit. The barrel had traveled to Santa Rosa, CA., where it housed Russian River’s Beatification and was eventually delivered back to New Belgium in 2014. The journey did not stop there for pH1—the barrel made its way to Rare Barrel in Berkeley, CA where the sour beer company blended a beer with New Belgium.  Finally in October 2017, pH1 returned to its original owner at Purpose Brewing where Bouckaert had set aside space hoping for its companion, pH2, to find its way back.

In early November of this year, after 18 years of separation, pH2 was reunited with Bouckaert after spending some time with Chad Yakobson at Crooked Stave. This barrel never even left Colorado. Since then pH1 and 2 continue to unfold their story. pH1 has been tapped three times, once on its 20th birthday in February of 2018 and two more times since then. It currently rests with a pale base beer and Riesling grapes. Meanwhile pH2, happily awaits its first tapping in its new home.

Bouckaert believes that all of his original nine barrels have a story to tell and a mind of their own. While he has lost track of the other seven barrels, he patiently waits for these barrels to flock back to the coop. And when these barrels are ready, he’ll release them back into the beer universe once again.

Chea Franz