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Spunding at Whaley Farms

While visiting Chris and Jessica Whaley’s brand new brewery Whaley Farms in Old Fort, NC over the weekend we were given a behind the scenes tour of their gleaming 7 barrel brewhouse. We were also shown something unique in their brewhouse. A spunding valve. Naturally there would have to be another unusual German word that accompanies the brewing process but such translation is almost expected from the originators of lagerbier.

The spunding valve is a way to capture CO2 and distribute it back into the beer, namely lagers. It is an alternative or companion process to forced carbonation. During forced carbonation the brewer releases the naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation, CO2, into buckets of liquid (sanitizer) in order to keep the pressure in the fermenter under control. After this the brewer adds CO2 via a dedicated CO2 tank.

On Beer City Brewery Tours I have been known to state that carbonation is the 5th ingredient in beer. Utilizing the CO2 that is made from fermentation takes carbonation to a sustainable, traditional and delicious level.

Naturally occurring CO2 is typically replaced by a tank of CO2 under the proper amount of pressure and by using a carbonation stone distributing the bubbles in a measurement called volumes of CO2 .This technique of forced carbonation is the beer industry standard for carbonating beer as the process is fairly straightforward. The forced carbonation process has been used for years with predictable results. Most beers are carbonated this way these days. It was really interesting to check out a German Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) inspired technique of capturing and using carbonation right here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Leave it to the Germans to be so in tune with every element of their precious lagerbier. You can tell Whaley Farms and other lager focused breweries take the 5th ingredient in beer seriously by using this technique. Breweries like Burial, Green Man and Eurisko on Beer City Brewery Tours use this technique as well.

Spunding involves capturing the CO2 from the process of fermentation and reusing it to carbonate the beer. Instead of blowing off the CO2 and letting it escape the tank, the spunding valve puts the bubbles back into the solution to enjoy in your overall beer experience. Check out the very cool spunding valve video that we took at Whaley Farms above.

Some brewers swear by spunding to utilize the fermentation process in order to carbonate their lagers. This process can give their beers more flavor and a different mouthful as well as appearance. Smaller, tighter head formation will occur as well that will bring a different more "European" flavor to the beer. Typically spunding will be used in unison with some forced carbonation in order to dial in the perfect carbonation level in the beer.

In an interview with Beer & Brewing magazine Ashleigh Carter, a brewer at Colorado’s Bierstadt Lagerhaus, said that "carbonation has flavor: it’s acidic—carbonic acid—and it balances malt sweetness." So carbonation really is the 5th ingredient in beer as it provides mouhfeel, appearance and even flavor.

If you want to learn more about ingredients in beer check out my blog post about hops and malt.

If you are in the Old Fort, NC area (about a half hour east of Asheville on I-40) stop by Whaley Farms and check them out. Tucked away in the valley, The Whaleys are about one month into their business and the place smells brand new. The brewhouse is absolutely pristine as well as you could probably eat or drink off the floor. They are currently open Friday-Sunday and have locally grown produce for sale as well (you gotta maintain). There was even a pop-up biscuit food truck that came the Sunday morning on our visit. Apparently the biscuits sold out in an hour or so.

The Whaleys are showcasing crisp and refreshing lagers that have been resting in horizontal tanks and spunded. In addition to their lagers Chris brews traditional English cask ales amongst other offerings (see below). They are off to a wonderful start with their old world tap selections like the subtle floral and slightly fruity Marigold Grisette, the rich Chaga Vienna lager with local mushrooms (WOW!) and the cask pulled English Bitter Ale. The latter brew being so smooth that you are ready for another pint as the first one is being poured.

This isn't the place for you if you want to blow your mind with American citrusy forward IPAs however. There are lots of fabulous breweries for that kind of flavor profile these days. That is what makes Whaley Farms unique. They have found a balance of the ingredients in beer with a throwback to the old world with a WNC farm spin. I assure you that there are multiple fantastic crisp lagers, traditional English cask ale choices (they had 2 over the weekend) and more for anyone who drops by the farm. It’s definitely worth the trip!

On Beer City Brewery Tours we stroll and talk about all of the ingredients in beer, the various styles, the brewing process and the stories of Beer City and beyond. We provide many samples and describe the beers in detail to understand what is in the glass. Book Now to join me, the tourist living in a tourist town and local beer expert, on a 3 hour beer and brewery exploration in Beer City USA. We are open every day and no group is too big or too small. Our short stroll will include three of the best breweries in town (Burial, Green Man and Eurisko). At each brewery we will talk about the brewery's brewhouse, beers and culture. Book Now to get a free gift at your tour. We look forward to meeting you on Beer City Brewery Tours.


Evan Rosenberg


Beer City Brewery Tours

Asheville, NC

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