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Learn about specialty brewing with local fruits at Upland’s Woodshop

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KAYTE YOUNG: From W-F-I-U in Bloomington, Indiana, I'm Kayte Young and this is Earth Eats.

ADAM COVEY: We use wood so that we give the various microorganisms sort of a place to colonize and live from batch to batch and, over time, those colonies and those different species that have taken hold will change, they'll drift. And so, you'll develop kind of unique character to each tank. That's really interesting.

KAYTE YOUNG: This week on the show, we dive head first into a giant oak barrel full of aging beer. Okay, well, not literally. Producer Toby Foster pays a visit to the Wood Shop. That's Upland Brewing Company's sour beer facility. Now is your chance to learn what's special about this beer and why they needed to construct a second building to craft it. Mysteries revealed just ahead. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG: Thanks for listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. First up, we have reports from our partners at Harvest Public Media.

Bird flu has infected dairy cows in a dozen states since the first outbreak earlier this year. But unless cows are going to be moved across state borders, testing for the virus is largely voluntary.

Harvest Public Media’s Rachel Cramer reports Iowa is taking a different approach.

RACHEL CRAMER: Shortly after the bird flu was detected late this spring in northwest Iowa … the state announced that dairies within a 12-mile radius of infected poultry sites would need to be tested. The virus can spread from dairy cows to poultry, and vice versa.

RACHEL CRAMER: Yuko Sato, an Iowa State Extension poultry specialist, said during a recent webinar that testing is key.

YUKO SATO: We don't know how to do anything about control, prevention or eradication until we start with diagnosis.

The USDA has a voluntary testing program of dairy cattle. Producers from Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and New Mexico have enrolled.

Federal regulations only require testing for dairy cattle moving across state lines.

I’m Rachel Cramer, Harvest Public Media.

KAYTE YOUNG: Regenerative agriculture is a movement that takes a conservation approach to farming with policies that are often influenced by indigenous knowledge. Harvest Public Media's Eva Tesfaye reports on how indigenous farmers in the Midwest are sharing these practices.

EVA TESFAYE: The Iowa tribe of Kansas and Nebraska received funding from the U-S-D-A to start a new project called, The Center for Excellence in Regenerative Native Agriculture, CERNA for short. The program will welcome a cohort of farmers from around the region both native and non-native. The tribe is hoping to influence farmers who live nearby, party to prevent the nitrate pollution of their water says the tribe's chairman, Timothy Rhodd.

TIMOTHY RHODD: If we find ways through CERNA to change the practices and the mindsets of these producers and reeducate those folks, we can have better water.

EVA TESFAYE: The U-S-D-A says that projects like these are forwarding climate goals of the Biden Harris administration and upholding the departments commitment to tribes. For Harvest Public Media, I'm Eva Tesfaye.

KAYTE YOUNG: Harvest Public Media is a reporting collective covering food and farming in the Midwest and Great Plains. Find more at Our next story comes from Earth Eats producer Toby Foster.

ELI TRINKLE: Here's 20 pounds of black raspberries left. I mean, the main thing where you're just going to shove them in and get aggressive with it.

TOBY FOSTER: Okay, and how carefully to look for--

ELI TRINKLE: The more you open them up, the more easily the yeast and bacteria can get in there and break the sugars down and helps release the tannin, which is good.

TOBY FOSTER: If you live in Bloomington, have visited Bloomington or are an avid viewer of Parks and Recreation, you're probably familiar with Upland Brewery. It began here in 1998 and has since expanded to multiple locations in Indiana and is widely distributed across the region. In 2006, they began brewing sour beers and have become particularly well known for this style, which is aged in large oak barrels called foudres. You may have seen them in the window of the Upland Wood Shop across the parking lot from their original location, which is completely devoted to brewing sour beers. The main difference between these and their quote, unquote, normal beers is that the barrels allow wild yeast and bacteria to affect the taste of the beer and, in fact, the beer will change in character multiple times during the aging process. The brewers will then take a blend of different beers at different stages and then allow them to finish the aging process in smaller barrels, usually combined with some sort of fruit or other flavoring. I got to visit the Wood Shop last February and chat with Eli Trinkle, Upland's sour brewer as well as Matt Wisley, the head brewer and Adam Covey, Upland's quality manager.

MATT WISLEY: So, I'm Matt Wisley, I'm the head brewer, so I do a lot of the organization of the production from all of our three breweries here at the Wood Shop. I coordinate with Eli with the sour beers and create the schedule for our main brewery on the west side of town where we brew all the staples, Dragonfly, C-V, Wheat, Campside, all the regular beers and then also the Fountain Square location, we have a pilot brewery up in Indianapolis and so we do new beers, experimental beers and I create recipes for that as well.

ELI TRINKLE: I'm Eli Trinkle, the sour brewer. So I do most things over here, at least labor-wise. Production work over at the other facility as well. A little bit of everything.

ADAM COVEY: And my name is Adam Covey. I am the quality manager. I have a lab at the profile location where I spend most of my time, but I also help out with the sour program and generally, my role is sort of a quality control and assurance to make sure that our products are going out the door stable and clean and the way we want them to be, then sort of deal with problems as they arise.

TOBY FOSTER: So we're here at the Wood Shop, which is specifically for the sour beers, correct? Do you want to just give me a little bit about what a sour beer is and what makes it different?

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah. I mean, really the biggest difference is we use bacteria in them and that's what creates the souring part of the beer. [LAUGHS] In most beer, that's just made with yeast Saccharomyces and you want to avoid all bacteria. So, we have the two different facilities to keep them separate so we can use bacteria over here without cross contaminating into the other beers. So that's why we have the two different facilities.

MATT WISLEY: So for quote, unquote, regular beer that people drink in much higher quantities than they drink sour beer, we're trying to isolate things down to one particular microorganism. These are particular yeast strains that have been selected over generations of people brewing specific types of beer that they want to taste a specific type of way and they would re-pitch yeast from one batch to the next and if the beer was good, they would re-pitch it, if it wasn't good, they would dump it. And so, you get this evolution happening over, really, hundreds of years and you have all these distinct yeast strains that make distinct styles of beer.

TOBY FOSTER: When Matt talks about pitching yeast, he is talking about adding yeast to start the process of fermentation that produces beer. Yeast can be reused or re-pitched, which is how beer is traditionally made. The brewers do pitch a traditional yeast, but the sour beer they produce also relies on wild yeast, which Matt will get to in a minute.

MATT WISLEY: When we're brewing beer over on the west side at our main production facility, what we're trying to do is we're trying to only introduce that one specific species that is specific to the style of beer that we're trying to brew. So, if we're going to brew our Champagne Velvet, we're pitching a lager yeast that has a very clean characteristic. If we're brewing our wheat ale, we're pitching an ale yeast that has a lot of flavors of its own, but we're trying to keep every other organism out of there except for that one that we introduce. So, every beer that we make, we're boiling it to pasteurize it and then on the west side, we're adding the one particular type of yeast and there's nothing else and we try to keep it clean all the way through and we almost always do. Over here at the Wood Shop, we kind of let nature take its course. So it's much less predictable. And so, basically, anything that could be found in nature that wants to ferment beer, we let it do it. We do pitch a specific blend of different types of microorganisms.

MATT WISLEY: So, there is some of that brewer's yeast that has been cultivated in the same way over generations, but there's also wild yeast, specifically brettanomyces, and a couple different types of bacteria, lactobacillus and pediococcus. And then there's also things that live in the wood of the vessels here that we use for fermentation and that ecosystem has kind of evolved over time. We don't thoroughly clean those tanks in the way that we clean our stainless steel tanks on the other side of the town because we want those things to be still living in the wood.

TOBY FOSTER: It may sound strange to say that they don't thoroughly clean their tanks, but don't worry, they're following all the appropriate food safety guidelines in the production of their beer. The acidity and fermented products takes care of any harmful pathogens and, in fact, you can't produce wild fermented products in a perfectly sterile environment.

MATT WISLEY: The main difference between what we call our core beer and our sour beer is that mix of yeast and bacteria. It's much more of a wild process over here at the Wood Shop.

TOBY FOSTER: Well, I guess, does somebody want to just describe what we're looking at for people that are listening?

ELI TRINKLE: Here at the Wood Shop, we have some very large wooden tanks up front here. We've got three right here in the window and these tanks are called foudres and these are usually found in the wine industry. They are white oak just like you would find most barrels to be made out of, but they're basically a very large barrel.

TOBY FOSTER: If you've driven by the Wood Shop, you've probably seen these large wooden foudres through the window. They sort of look like something you might see in a Medieval castle.

ELI TRINKLE: Like Matt was saying, we use wood for this program so that we give the various microorganisms a place to colonize and live from batch to batch. And over time, those colonies and those different species that have taken hold will change, they'll drift. And so, you'll develop a unique character to each tank that's really interesting. And beyond these foudres here in the front, we've also got several rows of oak barrels, most of them came from wineries. We do have some bourbon barrels in the fleet as well and those are generally, in this program, used for a little longer term aging or sometimes we fruit directly into them. And the advantage to using a smaller barrel is that you get a little bit more surface area to the liquid. And so, some of those processes can actually happen a little quicker. Each of these tanks can develop independently even if we put the exact same product or the exact same beer in them. As we sample them over time, they will all pick up unique characteristics that we can use when we blend later on into the finished product.

MATT WISLEY: I think we do need to give Caleb Staton some credit for this. He's one of our former head brewers who started experimenting with these sour beers back in 2006. So before any of us were here. I think he traded some cases of beer with Oliver for a few of their wine barrels and he started with I think just two barrels making these sour beers that no one in this area had even considered producing in any way shape or form. So it was because he started doing that and developing this very small program that then slowly, slowly, slowly grew until the point where we realized we needed this facility, that we had the demand to create this. And so now because he got going so early on this project, we have sour beer all over the country and we're known throughout the world for the beers that are produced in this facility.

TOBY FOSTER: Well I guess maybe let's go ahead and try this.

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah. So this is what we call BASIS. It's our take on a traditional lambic style.

MATT WISLEY: Sour blond.

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah, sour blond. We don't call it lambic. It's kind of like champagne from Champagne of France. You can't really produce champagne outside of that region of France and you can't produce lambic outside of that region in Belgium. So we don't like to call it that. So this is almost the only beer we make in the sour program these days. We do occasionally some collaborations and stuff like that and experiment, but this is what makes up the majority of them. Then we take this beer and we will add it to different fruits and that's where we get a lot of the different flavor profiles that we have. So this beer is a little over 24 months old.


MATT WISLEY: So, Toby, why don't you tell us what that tastes like to you. A lot of times, we'll tell people, oh, this characteristic or that characteristic and then they'll start tasting it because we said it. So from a blank canvas, what do you taste in it?

TOBY FOSTER: Well you did say Belgian style, it does taste kind of like a Belgian style beer to me, but maybe slightly like vinegary almost or like a white wine. [LAUGHS] Yeah, I don't know what you call that feeling.

MATT WISLEY: No, I mean, you call it whatever it is that you taste, right? So everybody's pallet is different and they're going to pick up different sorts of flavors and the same flavor is going to be different subjectively to different people. So, whatever you say, it's not wrong. There's not a thing that you should say, but I do like that you said white wine because to me, that's a lot of what I get out of this beer and the oak I think imparts its own flavor to it over time. A little bit of vinegar is acetic acid, which is something that develops over long periods of time and it takes the ingress of oxygen very, very slowly through the wood for those bacteria that produce acetic acid to actually do that. So we do like a little touch of that vinegariness, but not too much. It's a delicate balance there.

TOBY FOSTER: You said it's the aging that makes that kind of come out?

ELI TRINKLE: The vinegar is the presence of a type of bacteria in oxygen. I mean, even brettanomyces will create acetic acid in the presence of oxygen as well. It's a big thing, we try to limit oxygen. I mean, that's in beer all around, but especially in the aging process. With the wood, it does let a little bit in, kind of think of it as breathing. It just helps the maturation of the beer.

ELI TRINKLE: So, when we brew the beer, we will send it up here and pitch a collection of, like Matt was saying, yeast, bacteria, and right away, the yeast is going to ferment the majority of the sugars out. So, takes it and within two weeks, your alcohol is produced. Then, over time, the other things will start to take hold, the bacteria and the wild yeast, brettanomyces, will start to consume those residual sugars or dextrins and starches and things like that and start lowering the P-H and making it actually sour. It's pretty wild how it will change quite a bit over time. Like it can go from pretty--

MATT WISLEY: Beer like to almost like, there's this aspect of funk. As far as sour beers go, I don't think our beers are very funky, per se, but you know, when you talk about funk, you're talking about flavors that are pretty much an acquired taste. So, cheese would be like the prime example of something that's very, very funky. I mean, we don't want a cheesy flavor in any of our beers, but you will taste sour beers that do have these flavors that they describe as like, barnyard or even horse blanket, things like that, that are just not associated with something that you would normally want to drink. So sometimes, these beers will go through sort of a phase like that and then kind of turn around. But for the most part, the BASIS that we create, which is the foundational beer for all of the sour beers that we create, it's a pretty clean sour beer. It's got a little bit of that funk, but to me, like you said, a lot of that white wine character and there's some other things going on, but it's not something that I would think would be too challenging for somebody to drink. It's not necessarily an acquired taste for me. The acidity is strong...


MATT WISLEY: ...which is something that some people absolutely love and it's just not for other people, it is very wine like, but I don't think that the beers that we produce here, for the most part, you would call, "Funky."

TOBY FOSTER: And so, you say it kind of changes. It can get to that point and then maybe change into something different?

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah, it can go from being fairly drinkable to all of a sudden, you're like, what happened here? We call it sick, like the beer got sick. Then other things will come in over time and start to clean those compounds that are creating that flavor profile and just completely change it back to something that we like. Usually between like, one year to two years is the optimal for all this. So, anything before one year is not really at its peak, in my opinion, especially. But then, once you start getting over 24 months, oxygen can start becoming more of an issue and you start picking up more of that acetic acid and it can become more and more sour. That's where blending really comes in to where we can actually take something we really like a lot versus there can be something that's like, ah, there's a little something weird in this one, but it's got a really nice character to it. So we can add a little bit of that into it and it gives it a bit of depth.

MATT WISLEY: So if something is a little bit weird, it's just interesting, right? It's another layer to the flavor, but if it's overpowering then it can be an off flavor. So, blending is more of a part of what Eli does here. We do very little blending in any other aspect of the other beers that we produce.

TOBY FOSTER: The beer starts in the large foudres where it stays for usually a year or two. After the yeast has done most of its work, that's when it's transferred into the smaller barrels, usually with fruit or some other flavoring, to age a bit longer. One thing that was really interesting to me is that each foudre will potentially impart its own flavor onto whatever beer is put into it.

ELI TRINKLE: There's like, living culture in the wood. I think it was like, 2008 we got one foudre and really liked what was coming out of it and then in 2015, we acquired more foudres and we were worried about getting flavors that we didn't like or we were worried about getting that same flavor. So we actually brewed each batch into that original foudre we have and then transfer than into all the other tanks to kind of inoculate the wood and build that culture that we like in there.

ADAM COVEY: Yeah, at this point, we certainly have a house culture that is distinct to this program, even though we started with commercial cultures that anyone has access to. Several years ago, we had a sequence by a professor here at I-U and he was able to actually isolate like 53 unique strains.

TOBY FOSTER: Are you going to drop Matt Bochman's name? [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER: Matt Bochman has actually been a guest on Earth Eats at the past. You can find a link to the episode and to his work at

ADAM COVEY: But yeah, so you know, that's pretty cool that you could take this recipe for this basis and you could go anywhere in the world and try to brew it and not end up with the exact same product. That's how we're able to differentiate this program and create unique experiences that nobody else really can.

MATT WISLEY: And this is a very unique facility in the country. There are somewhere around 7,000 breweries in the country, but there's only literally a handful of places this size doing this sort of thing.

TOBY FOSTER: That was going to be my next question. So, yeah, I guess do you want to move onto talking about the blending process?

MATT WISLEY: So as he was saying, BASIS is the base beer for virtually all the beers that are produced out of here and we're adding fruit, we're adding spices, blending different other things into the process to create very, very different beers from that one original beer that we call BASIS. So what he's pouring now looks like, what do you got, cherry? Okay.

TOBY FOSTER: There's a couple beers that you use as the base in addition to the BASIS or is that not so much the case anymore?

MATT WISLEY: Before COVID happened, we were making a lot more beer out of this place and sour beer was becoming more and more popular and then COVID changed everything and also other things came along during COVID, people got into Seltzers and ready to drink cocktails and drinking tastes just drastically changed in a big way for the whole industry. And so, sour beers have always been kind of a niche thing, but now they are more so than when we first got going in this facility. So we were producing a lot of different variety out of here. How many beers did we produce in a year in like, 2018?

ELI TRINKLE: Thirty, forty something. It was quite a bit. I mean, yeah, we were making like, three base beers. So we did have like a Flanders style red and then a Oud Bruin style, like a sour brown ale. We just haven't been producing those. A lot of people really liked the fruited stuff, so that's what we focus on is the fruited sours.

MATT WISLEY: This is a style that some people really, really love. But it's not as accessible to everybody because of the intense tartness. A lot of wine drinkers like to drink sour beer, but it is more expensive because holding onto beer for one to two years before we even add fruit to it and then packaging it in the way that we do, it's all very expensive. So we have to charge a higher price point. So, it's not the beer that somebody is going to go to on a typical Friday night and fill their fridge with it. It's for special occasions, it's for sharing. It's a unique experience.

ELI TRINKLE: I always say treat it more like wine. Like, you're not going to sit and grab a bottle and just down it by yourself. We sell them in 750 ml, same size as a wine bottle and it's nice to get one and open it with four or five friends and just talk about it. Enjoy it with a meal or something like that. Yeah, I mean, treat it more like wine. Really, after the brewing process, it is much more wine-like here with the blending and the aging process and the aging in wood and everything like that.

MATT WISLEY: So that kind of brings us to the topic of fruit and sourcing of fruit. You want to talk about these cherries and just how we source fruit in general?

ELI TRINKLE: We try to source locally. I mean, it's kind of hard to source pineapple locally. I mean, there's certain things that we go pretty far away, but like the cherries, we get from Michigan every year. We get black raspberries from here just down the road. Blackberries from right around Indianapolis. Pawpaws, we have a guy that people bring him foraged ones and then he also goes to some of the farmers that have pawpaw trees and will gather them and process them for us, pulp them for us just to remove the seeds.

MATT WISLEY: If you don't know what a pawpaw is, which I bet people that listen to this show probably know what a pawpaw is, but if you don't, it's this fruit that grows around most of the eastern, Midwestern United States and down south and it's a very fragile fruit. It goes bad very quickly, so you don't see it in the grocery stores. But it looks kind of like a green potato and it tastes kind of like a mango mixed with a banana. And so, it's very pulpy, it's got a lot of big seeds inside. So it's hard to work with, but the pawpaw that we get is processed into a puree and we freeze it until we're ready to use it.

TOBY FOSTER: And so, you're freezing essentially like a puree that you've already strained out.

ELI TRINKLE: Pawpaw, yes, but like the cherries, they come pitted. So we get those from a pretty large grower up in Michigan and they've got a pitting machine. But then on the other side, we get peaches and we actually pit those. So we'll get multiple skids of peaches in and usually we get like a little party going, hopefully a party going. And they just sit around in a circle and pit peaches all day, usually for several days. Usually it takes about a week and depending on how many people we have, but yeah you're just sitting around listening to music and talking. I enjoy it. So it's one of my favorite things that we do. On the first two days. The last three days are kind of brutal. [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER: Yeah, that makes sense.

MATT WISLEY: That's another thing about our beers in particular I think that sets our sour program apart is we use a lot of fruit. Like the amount of fruit that we use versus the amount of beer that goes into it, that fruit ratio is very, very high.

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah, it's usually up around 3 lbs per gallon.

TOBY FOSTER: That does seem like a lot.

ELI TRINKLE: We have a blend of a range of different ones, but yeah like pawpaw and cherry and raspberry, they're up there pretty high.

TOBY FOSTER: So it tastes kind of like a cider in a way as well, but I guess it's maybe the difference that you're starting with this beer base. What makes this different than a cider, I guess.

ELI TRINKLE: Well, cider is made with apples and this is made with malt, is the main difference. But like, going back to, Matt asked you what flavors you were picking up in that base beer, I get cider. Like, it's super appley-pear to me and it comes with a little bit of that acetic in there.

ADAM COVEY: To be a beer, you need at least 51% of the alcohol to have came from grain. The starches that we're getting out of the grain is converted into simple sugars and consumed by the yeast into ethanol. So, to still be a beer, it has to have the majority of the alcohol derived from that grain, whereas cider is technically a wine where the sugars that the yeast is consuming to produce that alcohol is derived from the fruit itself. Sometimes we get kind of close with our high fruit rates, but these are still very much beers.

TOBY FOSTER: And then I guess also you mention the hard seltzers becoming a think over the last couple of years and are you still making the hard seltzers?

MATT WISLEY: So, you have hit on a sore spot.

TOBY FOSTER: I'm sorry.

MATT WISLEY: We can dive right into it because the company decided that it was worth it to do that and we wanted to do it in a way that had some integrity, that wasn't just fermenting sugar water and putting a flavoring in there. So that's one of the things that's important to us is that we're using natural ingredients as much as we possibly can and we're trying to be legit, right? So, we developed a seltzer that also included a blend of 10% of BASIS that we brew here and we also use whole fruit for that, but thankfully, not many people wanted to drink it, so we don't have to make it anymore. [LAUGHS] We're not seltzer fans within the brewery.

TOBY FOSTER: Fair enough. Well I enjoyed the seltzer that you all made. [LAUGHS]

MATT WISLEY: To each his own. [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER: Well, I guess, shall we try one more?

MATT WISLEY: So many of the beers that we produce here are just a single fruit with BASIS, which are all very, very good and they taste very much like that fresh fruit, but we also play with all sorts of other ingredients and draw on inspiration from other beer styles, too. So, this beer, Golden Brew, was a collaboration with the brewery out of California. It was fermented with their house yeast and also it was fermented in a foudre as well, right?


MATT WISLEY: So, we blended in some of our BASIS and then we dry-hopped it. So you're going to get a different type of hop aroma and flavor than you would get out of, say, an I-P-A because whatever liquid you put the hops into, it's going to extract different compounds from those hops in different ways based on the acidity. You're going to get quite a different flavor. So, this is one of my favorites of what we have on right now.

TOBY FOSTER: Yeah, it's really good. Are there hops involved in the BASIS?

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah. Very little. We used aged hops. So I mean they are technically aged now, but we put very little in there and hops are antimicrobial. So you don't want to overdo it. I mean, a little bit in there is good to help keep other things that we really don't want growing, especially when before fermentation takes off and the yeast has a chance to produce the alcohol and lower the P-H, but very little generally wheat, but this is all dry-hopped. So this is post fermentation, post-aging. This, we dry-hopped it when the beer was ready to be packaged just like a week before we packaged it.

ADAM COVEY: Yeah, dry-hopping just means adding hops either during or after the fermentation as opposed to, say, in the boil or something like that.

TOBY FOSTER: Okay. That makes sense. Yeah, it's really good. Refreshing, light, but yeah, has a little bit of that kind of I-P-A flavor that you get from the hops. Yeah, it's really good.

TOBY FOSTER: As you can probably hear, I struggle to find the words on the spot to describe exactly what I'm tasting and that I've also revealed how little I knew about the beer brewing process prior to visiting the Wood Shop. I did a little more research later and realized that, again, it comes down to the blending of different batches and that this is a blend of Upland's signature BASIS beer with another barrel aged sour ale from a brewery in southern California. Then, it's the hops that are added at the end that give it the floral notes. It's a flavor that is familiar in a comforting way, but also complex and original in a way that makes it feel new and exciting. Now that I think I'm finally starting to understand, I wanted to get a little bit more detail about the blending process.

KAYTE YOUNG: And we'll hear more about that after we take a quick break. You're listening to a story from Earth Eats producer, Toby Foster. He's talking with Adam Covey, Matt Wisley and Eli Trinkle about sour beer production at the Wood Shop. That's Upland Brewing company's facility designed specifically for crafting this type of beer. Stay tuned to hear Toby's first hand account of adding berries to a brew and to learn more about the sour beer making process. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG: Earth Eats, this is Kayte Young. Let's get back to Toby Foster's visit to Upland Brewing Company's Wood Shop and his interview with Adam Covey, Matt Wisley and Eli Trinkle.

ADAM COVEY: So like, if we know we're going to produce a fruited beer, which is what we're doing here a lot, right? We're going to know sort of what the fruit is bringing to the table and then we look through our inventory of beer that's in process, either in the foudres or in the barrels, go through and do a tasting, see what we like about each of those. Even though they may be six different versions of BASIS if you will, they could be 3 months old, they could be 6 months old, they could be 2 years old. Typically, we're going to go through and see which ones we like, see which ones have those interesting notes that might be too off putting by themselves, like Matt was saying earlier. And so, a given fruited beer may get 70% or so of something that's hovering around a year, year and a half old that's really in its sweet spot, and then we'll look for smaller amounts of those other versions of the BASIS to add those layers of complexity.

ADAM COVEY: So, that might be another 20% of something that's really young and has a lot of tropical peachiness going on and then we may go pull 5% from some barrels that's been in there for 2 and a half years and is starting to get some of that acetic character or some of the more funky, cheesy, farm like flavor characteristics and at that small quantity, those are going to come off really interesting. And then, once we find that sort of blend, we'll put that in the tank on top of the whole fruit that we've frozen or processed in whichever way we need to for that particular fruit, and that beer blend with actually sort of wake back up now that it's been reintroduced to sugars that the fruit is bringing and it'll go through an additional fermentation. Then another change essentially happens that that point.

ADAM COVEY: So, sometimes that base blend, some of those characteristics, maybe disappear or new ones come up even at that point, but it's kind of a really exciting way of producing beer, a little more artistic where you're sort of taking different colors of a pallet and trying to find something that works for the given fruit. And because we're using all the whole fruit that we talked about, that's coming in seasonally. So any given year, that's going to change as well. So, some years that water concentrations may be higher, some years the actual fruitiness, the richness of whatever particular ingredient we're adding is going to be more intense. It really is like wine where we have vintages effectively of these different releases. The 2022 cherry is going to taste different from the 2023 and that's because of the nature of the base beer and the fruit that's coming in being different each time.

TOBY FOSTER: Okay. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I've seen that you'll do an event for the release of a new batch, I don't know what you call it.

ELI TRINKLE: Sure, yeah, a new batch, a new vintage. So, yeah, then we do one beer specifically where we showcase that our base beer is a sour reserve. So, we usually try to take one, two and three year and do a blend and I don't want to say fruit masks it, but a lot of times, it really does just kinda hide the flavor of the beer. So we want to occasionally show that off. So we pick the best of the best and do a blend of that and package it as sour reserve. Usually it's very small. Small quantity. So, you've got to jump on it to get it and none of that is in draft or anything like that. That's all just bottle.

MATT WISLEY: Most of the sour beer that we produce now goes through our own retail locations. Back in the day, when we had a very small facility and we only were able to produce maybe 300 barrels a year at the absolute most, then we had to have a lottery for people to sign up ahead of time, reserve themselves a bottle and come get it. That's kind of the situation we're getting back into now. So, we're producing less, but we're putting it out through channels that we know people are going to appreciate it with. So, when there's a release, pretty much the only place to get it is to come to one of our locations.

ELI TRINKLE: Want to put some fruit in a barrel?

TOBY FOSTER: Yeah, that sounds great.

TOBY FOSTER: Before we get to putting fruit in the barrel, Eli gives me a tour of the facility. The production actually starts across the parking lot in the area where Upland initially started brewing their regular beer in 1998.

ELI TRINKLE: So yeah, this is our brew house. This is where we make all the work for the sour beer. This was our original brew house until 2012, we moved all production to the west side of town. It kind of sat somewhat stagnant. Sours were kind of moving. Like I said, Caleb started in 2006 and so, it's ramping up slowly, but I mean, to make 200 barrels of beer, it's not a whole lot of brewing. It's a lot of aging. Like going back to that wine where it's a little bit of the brewing and just a lot of aging. But then in 2015, we were looking for a spot to build a new facility to make sours and we looked around in different locations, then we just said, why don't we just keep our original brew house, and we had a building across the street at the time that we were storing stuff and so we tore that down and built the Wood Shop and then just went through the expansion of mainly more foudres. So we went from 1 foudre to 11 foudres of various sizes, 60 barrels, 37 barrels, 100 barrels and 90 barrel foudres.

ELI TRINKLE: The brewing process is very similar to making a clean beer. We do a little bit different things. So like, we used unmalted wheat here and that kind of leaves behind some starches and dextrins that wouldn't be there if we used malted wheat and so that kind of just leaves food for the bacteria and the yeast to consume later on during the maturation period.

TOBY FOSTER: Malted wheat has undergone a process called kilning where it is slowly cured with warm air. Unmalted wheat is the raw version and is treated a little differently in the brewing process, making for a different flavor and mouth feel.

ELI TRINKLE: So we boil the wheat, then add the rest of the barley in to actually go through the conversion process where it converts the starches and the sugars. We transfer that all over into the brew kettle here and boil that for two hours, versus the normal one hour that kind of just helps concentrate the sugars a little more. There used to be silos outside that we had all the grain and we could come in here. Now everything is in bags. There's our hops aging up there in those bags. Those are actually locally grown hops. Mill goes into the grist hopper, then go to mash in, it comes up through into the mash tun. We do the two step mashing process. Traditionally, lambic brewers made a turbid mash, which we do whenever we do like a cool ship experiment, which is how the traditional lambic brewers do it. You leave the wort sit open overnight and so that's when the bacteria and yeast actually falls into it, then we transfer that into barrels to let that ferment out.

ELI TRINKLE: It's been somewhat inconsistent, but it has produced some drinkable beer, but we pitch a controlled culture just to make sure we get a nice, healthy fermentation. That is one of the reasons why we don't get as funky and as barnyard. A lot of them, there's such little cells in there whenever you do a spontaneous fermentation that the yeast kind of struggle and it creates a lot of those off flavors like rubber balloons or things like that that people have come to like, but I'm sure nobody liked them originally.

TOBY FOSTER: Yeah, I don't know if rubber balloons seems ideal.

ELI TRINKLE: It smells exactly like a bag of rubber balloons to me. From here, we can go into any one of the foudres that are inside here, or, we actually have underground piping that goes up under the parking lot to the other facility and so we can transfer anything back and forth from here up to there. We used to package everything in here. That was quite an adventure. That's actually how I started in the sours was coming over here and package the sour. So I started in early 2013, just like Matt was saying, me and him both started at Butler winery just down the road, which was a home brew shop and that's why we got started into just hardcore home brewing. And then I really got interested in the wine side. So I was going out in the vineyard and doing a lot more out there and helping out bottle and harvesting, stuff like that. Then Matt got a job here then like a year later there was an opening and he talked me into coming over here and it's been great, like who I work with and the people are wonderful. A lot has changed in the last few years for sure, but it's still pretty great.

TOBY FOSTER: So it goes into one of these or one of the ones across the parking lot and that's just going to hang out there for as much as two years?

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah. I mean, or three or four. So, I mean, the three or four is getting just a little on the older side, but it changes quite a bit. So it really does add quite a bit of complexity. We just wouldn't want to take a three or four year old and package it by itself. It would be probably pretty harsh, pretty acidic, definitely a lot of acetobacter in there just because oxygen can't help but get in there over that long a period and it's everywhere. Acetobacter is everywhere all over us. So that's the acid producing bacteria. As long as you keep oxygen out, it's not really a problem.

TOBY FOSTER: So when you're ready to take it out of one of these, does it always go into a smaller barrel?

ELI TRINKLE: So, we will age in these foudres for the entire time of the beer maturing. In barrels, it happens a lot faster because in a foudre, there's a lot less surface area compared to the actual volume that's in there. So in a barrel, there's a lot less volume and you have quite a bit more surface area. So more of that oxygen exchange and gravity works much faster. You only have to move so many inches versus so many feet in a foudre for things to drop out like tannins and all kinds of stuff. So, we actually do mostly all foudre aging now. We don't age in barrels. When we first started, it was all barrels. Almost everything was going through barrels until we got General Sherman there, that's the first foudre we have and that's the one that we trained all the other ones up because we just really liked what was coming out of there. We don't clean these except for by spraying them out with a hose. Like, empty it, open it up and take a hose and spray the chunks off and get the yeast and everything out of the bottom versus stainless, we run a caustic and acid cycle and a sand cycle on them to make sure there's nothing in there, but we want what is in this wood.

ELI TRINKLE: Then it would be, go to the blending process and we would come up with a blend we want and then transfer that into either, on fruit, we would package it if it was say, sour reserve, or we would transfer it onto fruit and let that ferment out into stainless tanks which we bought in 2015, 2016. Or we put it in barrels, which is what you're going to help here with a little bit. So, we take a whole fruit, like today's black raspberries grown just south of Bloomington and we are going to mash them with a broken hammer handle and through a funnel in the barrel. And then we'll transfer the beer on top of that and let that re-ferment for two to three months depending on the beer. And then we'll transfer it off of that and package it up.

TOBY FOSTER: Cool. Should be go do that? Sounds good.

KAYTE YOUNG: That's producer Toby Foster in the Wood Shop at Upland Brewing Company of Bloomington, Indiana where they produce their sour beers involving wild fermentation. After a quick break, Toby helps out with adding fruit to one of the batches of beer. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG: This is Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young and we're back with producer Toby Foster. Toby is talking with Matt Wisley and Eli Trinkle at Upland Brewing Company and they're about to add some berries to a barrel of beer.

ELI TRINKLE: There's about 70 lbs of fruit in each one and then topped them up with beer and I left this one so we could work on it a little bit. So we only have about 20 lbs to put in there. It should take five or ten minutes and we'll just mash them in. So, I don't know if you want that thing running.

TOBY FOSTER: It really is as simple as it sounds, a funnel, a bucket of fruit and a broken hammer handle, A-K-A, masher. Matt kind of warned me that this would happen, but Eli really got a lot more talkative once we had a task at hand, which is something I can relate to and it makes sense why he enjoys working in the brewery so much.

ELI TRINKLE: So this is how we used to do everything. You can pull that bung out, just beside there. There's your masher. [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER: All right. Nice.

ELI TRINKLE: They used to have lanyards on them because many people would drop them in there. We just don't do this much anymore. They're not necessary.

TOBY FOSTER: I'll be careful not to do that.

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah, don't drop it in. So yeah, here's 20 lbs of black raspberries left and I mean, the main thing, you're just gonna shove them in and looking out for any kind of leaf matter that got in there and simply shove it down in the hole, get aggressive with it.

TOBY FOSTER: Okay. And how careful--

ELI TRINKLE: The more you open them up, the more easily the yeast and bacteria can get in there and break the sugars down and helps release some tannin which it good. So think of like a wine. You have a rosé versus like a full body dry red. You can want those tannins in there. So, we got the fruit back in summertime, clearly, from a guy just down south. Actually, the same guy that sources our pawpaws and then he grows pawpaws as well, but can't grow all of them. This is not a cheap fruit. It's very thorny and not fun to harvest. So a lot of people don't actually grow it, but lucky enough, we get somebody that does grow it for us. It's one of my favorites for sure. Just reminds me of my childhood, I guess. We always had black raspberry bushes everywhere.

TOBY FOSTER: Did you grow up near here?

ELI TRINKLE: I grew up just north of Spencer, Owen County. So, been living here for 15 or 17 years or something. It wasn't too bad. It took a couple hours today. Normally, a lot of times it's two people. Nothing worse then, but most of everything we do now is in these larger stainless tanks. So we have peach in here and it's about ready. We'll be processing it as the end of this month. Then just brewed Revive, which is our pineapple chamomile. Indiana grown pineapple. That's it.

TOBY FOSTER: All right.

ELI TRINKLE: At least you got to experience it.

TOBY FOSTER: After we have mashed all the fruit, we fill the barrel the rest of the way full with the BASIS beer, which just runs through a hose from the large foudre into the smaller barrel.

ELI TRINKLE: We can just gravity feed it. We don't have to do much work. So, I'll be coming right back. I've just got to open a valve. So, building like a little blanket on the top of the tank just so as we push out of the tank, it kind of forms a C-O-2 blanket and it helps keep oxygen out, since we won't be using this foudre over the next couple months to blend blackberry and guava and there's another one, I don't remember. [LAUGHS] That's it. See? It's exciting. [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER: Now it's already going?

ELI TRINKLE: Yeah. We'll let this sit for two or three months.

TOBY FOSTER: In the barrels?

ELI TRINKLE: In the barrels. It'll through re-fermentation. I mean, there's so much yeast in bacteria that is on that fruit already. It sat in the freezer for a while, but there's still dormant things, which is good. We want that because that kind of helps diversify a little bit of flavor profile, especially like peach for example, which we have here. We freeze them as we go, for one, because we can't process them all quickly enough to put them all in there and get them on beer. So we freeze them each day and then it helps break those cells up, but when we pull them out to thaw them out, you actually start to see some fermentation taking place because there's the yeast in those skins already and so that helps restart the fermentation and ferment all the sugars out on them. There is some of that when we transfer. Like there is still yeast and bacteria going in here, but a lot of it is pretty dormant because it has been sitting there for two years and it's just nice to have a little bit of wild stuff to play around with. So, never know know what you're going to get, but we start with a good base, so it's pretty consistent.

TOBY FOSTER: I've distracted Eli and now we've overflowed the barrel.


TOBY FOSTER: Just a little bit.

ELI TRINKLE: [LAUGHS] I was thinking about it. I've been keeping an eye on the flow meter and I've been keeping an eye on it so I don't do this and I've done it today, we were talking. Overflowing used to be on the regular. It would just blow off, but that's what these little tubes are for to help off gas so it doesn't pop the bungs.

TOBY FOSTER: Oh, okay.

ELI TRINKLE: It's nice when there's a pretty small batch for these days. I mean, this is only four barrels and it was ten buckets. It's like 120 buckets. Cleaning buckets is the worst thing ever [LAUGHS] after putting them in there. But yeah, that's that.

TOBY FOSTER: Cool. Well I will not take up any more of your time. I appreciate you showing me around and letting me try some things. Nice to talk to you.

ELI TRINKLE: Nice to talk to you as well. Thanks.

TOBY FOSTER: Eli Trinkle is the sour brewer at the Upland Wood Shop in Bloomington, Indiana. I also spoke earlier with Matt Wisley, Upland's head brewer and Adam Covey, Upland's quality manager. For more information and to see some pictures of my visit, go to

KAYTE YOUNG: Toby Foster is a producer on our show.

KAYTE YOUNG: That's it for Earth Eats this week. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

KAYTE YOUNG: The Earth Eats team includes Violet Baron, Eoban Binder, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Abraham Hill, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Schemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media. Special thanks this week to Adam Covey, Eli Trinkle, Matt Wisley and everyone at Upland Brewing Company. The show is produced and edited by me, Kayte Young. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on this show comes to us from Universal Production Music. Our Executive Producer is John Bailey.

Eli Trinkle stands holding a stemmed glass with beer, and a bottle of beer next to it. Wooden barrels are visible in the background

Eli Trinkle, Upland's Sour Brewer let producer Toby Foster help out with a batch that uses local black raspberries as a finishing flavor. He's pictured here with the Woodshop's foeders in the background (Courtesy of Upland Brewing Company)

If you live in Bloomington, or you’ve visited Bloomington (or, if you're an avid viewer of Parks and Recreation) you’re probably familiar with Upland Brewing Company

Founded in 1998, Upland has expanded to multiple locations in Indiana and is widely distributed across the region. In 2006, they began brewing sour beers, and have become well known for this style of beer, which is aged in large oak barrels called foeders. You can see them from the street if you drive or walk by the Woodshop--the facility that Upland built specifically for this process. 

Adam Covey wearing safety goggles in a lab setting pouring from a beaker
Adam Covey, Upland Quality Manager, in the lab. (photo credit: Anna Powell Denton)

I recently had the chance to visit the Woodshop and talk to Eli Trinkle, Upland’s sour brewer, Matt Wisley, their head brewer, and Adam Covey, Upland’s quality manager. The barrel aging process is part of what makes Upland’s sour beers unique, as their standard beers are all produced in stainless steel tanks.  

“We use wood for this program so that we give the various microorganisms… a place to colonize and live,” says Covey, “and over time, those colonies and those different species that have taken hold will change - they’ll drift - so you’ll develop a… unique character to each tank.”  

professional phot of Matt Wisley holding a pint glass of beer with wooden barrels in the background
Matt Wisley, Upland's Head Brewer, with oak barrels in the background (photo credit: Anna Powell Denton)

As the name suggests, the taste is somewhat sour. It has an acidic quality, similar to white wine or kombucha. Although the brewers do use some traditional brewers’ yeast, the aging process also relies on wild yeast, and the beer will develop different characteristics over the course of the aging process.  

No two batches will be exactly the same, and the brewers blend different vintages together for their final product. Some of this blend will be sold as “Sour Reserve,” which showcases this base beer, but most of it will also be blended with fresh fruit or other flavoring such as Michigan cherries, Indiana pawpaws, or pineapple and chamomile. 

“Treat it more like wine,” explains Trinkle, “Open it with four or five friends, talk about it, enjoy it with a meal.” Eli, Matt, and Adam were nice enough to send me home with a few bottles, and that is exactly what I did. 

Mentioned in the show: 

Matt Bochman is a professor in Biochemistry at Indiana University who does research with yeast in his lab, and he also has a business called Wild Pitch Yeast. He’s been a guest on Earth Eats several times, you can listen to those stories here , here and here

The show also includes reporting from Harvest Public Media about water conservation in Nebraska, and Indigenous knowledge about regenerative agriculture shared with Midwest farmers.

Listen to an episode of Earth Eats featuring Upland Brewing Co. working with local fresh hops. 

Music on this Episode

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from Universal Production Music.


The Earth Eats’ team includes: Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvajal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Shemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media.

Earth Eats is produced, engineered and edited by Kayte Young. Our executive producer is Eric Bolstridge.






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