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Southerleigh Goes South: The Brewpub’s New Site Will Bring More Distribution and a Taste of Wild Yeast 

click to enlarge COURTESY OF AR3D
  • Courtesy of AR3D
Southerleigh Brewing Co. is building a production brewery on the Southside to support a growing number of restaurants and retail outlets in the area.

The brewery will be located at the Brooks multi-purpose development, just down the road from Southerleigh’s previously announced second restaurant location. Both the brewery and the eatery are expected to open next summer.

On top of the additional capacity, the new facility will feature a technological throwback that will let the brewer produce traditional farmhouse ales that rely on wild yeast.

“We’re excited to continue to expand Southerleigh into this neighborhood and introduce our beer to an even larger audience,” said Jeff Balfour, Southerleigh’s chef and owner. “The south side of San Antonio has been rapidly expanding, and we are thrilled to be joining this growing community at Brooks.”

Not many years ago, it would have been impossible for a brewpub such as Southerleigh to open a production facility, but a 2013 state law made it possible for brewers to operate both. San Antonio’s Freetail Brewing was the first to take advantage of that change, opening its own production facility in 2014.

Southerleigh’s new brewery will handle all its brewing for distribution — such as bottles for retail stores and kegs for bars and restaurants — plus beer for the Brooks restaurant.

The 6,000-square-foot facility will feature a 25-barrel brewing system, allowing Southerleigh to keep up with demand for its most popular brews, including Texas Uncommon and Gold Export Lager.

A new bottling line also will speed up packaging, now done by hand and a two-head bottle filler.

“The Brooks brewery will still have the same vibe that we’ve cultivated at the Pearl brewpub,” said Head Brewer Les Locke, who will oversee both sites. “But we look to experiment a bit as well as at new location, creating a perfect juxtaposition between both locations.”

Sailing in a Coolship

In addition to more capacity, the new site will give Southerleigh a barrel-aging program, which will allow it to age brews in barrels that once held bourbon, wine and other spirits.

But the brewery’s pièce de résistance will be a koelschip (or coolship), a large rectangular pan historically used for cooling unfermented beer before adding yeast.

European brewers began using coolships centuries ago to allow wild yeast to inoculate their brews, giving way to tart Belgian farmhouse beer styles. But the equipment fell out of use during the last century with advances in cooling technology.

While the old-school method’s seen a resurgence in Europe, it’s been slower to take off in the United States. Texas’ only other known coolship resides at Jester King Brewery, an Austin outfit specializing in farmhouse-style ales.

“Historically, in Europe, these vessels would have been used all the time,” said Averie Swanson, former head brewer for Jester King. “This method is how we get our spontaneously fermented beers.”

And that’s exactly what Locke is after for Southerleigh.

The coolship will allow the brewer to expand its offerings to include farmhouse ales. It also plans to introduce subtle wild yeast flavors into its Texas Uncommon.

“The use of a coolship not only honors our brewing roots, but it has nuances in the cooling process that you cannot get from more modern equipment,” Locke said.

Visitors to the new Southerleigh site will have access to 10 rotating taps in a taproom next to the brewery, a renovated chapel built in 1941. Tours will be available daily.

So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.

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