Bring the Noise, Drink the Funk
The “True Life” story of Funk’s Rise to Fame.
At Kahn's Lactobaccilis Brettanomyces, and sometimes collaborator, Pediococcus have become as definitive to Funk as James Brown, the Isley Brothers, and George Clinton. However, these two fun guys haven't always enjoyed popularity. In fact, their stories start with infamy...
“As a kid, Lacto-B never really fit in. He was always the center of attention, but it was almost never for a good reason…” Lactobaccilis’ high school principle further explained that they were constantly introducing themselves into brews, but never with the brewer’s consent.
Known for dangerous and highly unpredictable behavior, they eventually became well known as the bad boys of the brew world. “It’s seen as a spoilage organism,” tisked one of Brett’s Professors, mere weeks before the yeast was expelled for setting the same professors car radio on fire. When asked for comment Brett responded, “As an ‘it’ I obviously couldn’t have done anything to the car myself.”
It wasn’t until the boys revisited Senne Valley in Belgium in the 1830s, that they got their first big shot.
A group of funky farmers and mad monk innovators were ready to make intentionally funky beers. Belgian beers were fermented in wooden barrels, with natural fruits, or in containers open to the air, allowing wild yeasts and bacteria to enter the beer naturally.
It was a grand gamble, would the Funk brothers be able to control themselves for long enough to be a brewmaster's tool?
“They could and they did,” states one of the original brewers who wished to remain anonymous. For the first time in their careers Brett and Lactobaccili began to receive positive reviews.
"It was a revelation..." admitted Brett in a 1967 interview, "Throughout my long life, I never thought I could be... well, I still wouldn't call myself a good bacteria." The bad boy was said to smirk at that statement. By then, Lactobaccilis and Brett's sour singles "Lambics", "Guezes", and "Flemish red ales" were hits in Belgium, but it wasn't until the American craft beer revolution in the 1970s and 80s that they started gaining popularity in America.
Sour and Funk exploded into the American brew scene, going all the way to #1 with "ExBrett Yourself", "It's Your Sour", and "Thank You (Falettinme Saison Mice Elf Again)." Brett became the "it" ingredient as those searching for the next great exbeeriment recognized its untapped potential.
However, the yeast still proved to be a difficult pair- with some very peculiar needs. “Months of work, no guarantee of success, and every guarantee of ruin,” explained one brew collaborator, “If they didn’t get their specially purified sucrose solution and bacteria infested fruit platters… they would just lose it.”
As tempermental as the pair could be, collaborators were anything but dissuaded as the hits rolled in. “Brett is almost a taboo sort of a thing,” says the brewmaster at Southampton, New York–based Southampton Ales & Lagers. “There’s an allure because there’s an unpredictability to it, and that’s exciting.” Groups like Jolly Pumpkin, the Bruery, and Russian River Brewing embraced the group with opens arms. Together they have added to a new beer sub-genre called American "wild" ales, changing the scene of sour and funk with the same experimental mentality found in great Funk artists like George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.
Today, these wild beers have skyrocketed to national cult status, their progress closely tracked by fans, and bottles that sell for big bucks on a beer “black market”. Their bad reputations made their successes even more coveted by fans. They have secured their place in the Hall of Fame of Funk, inspiring beer geeks all over the world, and redefining Funk one more time for our generation.
Kahn’s Fine Wines and Spirits, a local venue that regularly features sold out performances of the group, will offer a unique retrospective of their work at an upcoming Beer Tasting Event. Join these reporters at Kahn’s Keystone Location Thursday, April 25th from 6-8pm for a free showcase of Sour and Funk’s career.
RSVP to 317.251.9463.
While there you can join the Beerocracy raffle, with the possibility of taking home rare Sour and Funk releases. We’ll also be raffling off tickets to their next big festival, Sour+Wild+Funk Fest, sponsored by Upland Brewing and Kahn’s Fine Wines, taking place May 11, 2013.