Orpheus Wandering Blues
Wandering Blues, a blueberry sour, is the latest release from Atlanta’s Orpheus Brewing.

Atlanta’s Orpheus Brewing is probably best known for its sours.

Brewmaster/owner Jason Pellett doesn’t disappoint, as his next release? Yep, a sour. Orpheus has made Wandering Blues for the past three years, but this is the first time it’s been canned. We caught up with Jason to learn more about the beer.

Tell us a little about the development of Wandering Blues. Why did you initially make it?

I had a different blueberry beer as a home brewer that I called Wandering Blues. That happened when Nick Rutherford (chef/owner of the Porter Beer Bar) told me he could get good blueberries from a Georgia farm. I had a 10% wild beer sitting in a carboy ready to do something with, so it got a ridiculous amount of blueberries. When I opened the brewery, that wasn’t really feasible for a big release, but I still wanted to do a blueberry beer because even though people think about peaches being Georgia’s fruit, blueberries are actually our biggest crop. For the bigger release we took an approach similar to Atalanta – soured with our wild mother fermented with saison yeast, and get Arden’s Garden to juice our fruit for us. The main difference between making Wandering Blues and Atalanta is that we let Wandering Blues sour a bit more. We actually do have a 10% wild beer in barrels waiting for next year’s fresh blueberries for Wandering Blues Reserva.

One of the yeasts that you’re using is a “house” lacto. I know you like to use a lot of local components in your beers. Have you been able to catch a lot of wild yeasts? And how important is it to you to have that in your arsenal?

Our house lacto is what we call our “mother”. We used to let even our quick sour beers do their souring spontaneously instead of the normal kettle sour method of pitching a known lactobacillus. The mother came from starting to repitch the spontaneously soured wort batch to batch, so it’s not really spontaneous anymore, but still a wild and very diverse culture. It gives our sour wort beers a distinct depth that most kettle soured beers don’t get, because beyond just lactic acid production, we actually have a lot of ester producing microbes in the mother, so our sour wort tastes like raspberries and stone fruit.
I think it’s really important to have house character of you’re going to try to really build a wild program – I’ve always thought that a “wild” beer brewed with lab-bought cultures is problematic. It takes some time, but we now have three main types of wild fermentations that happen in our barrels, all of which are native to us:
  1. Our Mother. Beyond just souring wort with it, we do beers that ferment completely with the mother. Our house barrel-aged beer, Noise and Flesh, is a good example of this.
  2. Furies blend. From the Even the Furies Wept that we bottled last year, this blend had a wide assortment of microbes. Part of the blend was from barrels that got bottle dregs from breweries that inspired me, so those microbes are a part of this mix. The other part of the blend went through our coolships, picking up wild microbes, before I pitched a variety of saison and brett, so there is some commercial stuff in this blend, but as part of a much bigger whole.
  3. Spontaneous. We haven’t released much spontaneous stuff yet, but have a huge amount maturing. We should be able to blend something like a gueze in a few months, with spontaneously fermented, aged hops, coolship, turbid mash beer from 3 different years.
A lot of the experimentation now is doing offshoots of those and then blending. Our anniversary beer, Like a White Curtain Blowing in the Draft From a Half-opened Window Beside a Chair on Which Nobody Sits was a blend of spontaneous and Furies blend barrels.

You suggest pairing this with cheese and “fatty” meats (mmmm….fatty….) What makes Wandering Blues a good choice for that type of food?

Fat and acid always works. The fruit character is also really nice with a lot of cheeses.

At first, I thought Wandering Blues was an homage to the John Lee Hooker Song, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. How did you come up with the name?

It is. I’ve never told anyone and nobody else has ever asked. Basically, I wanted the name to have something to do with Orpheus wandering around the earth distraught after his wife was killed. I thought a name that sounded like an old blues song would be great, then I realized that one of my favorite singers had already come up with the perfect name.

What’s behind the decision of putting this into cans?

Mainly, nobody likes bombers and everyone loves cans. This was always the plan, just harder to can small batch stuff.

For your artwork – what attracted you to Lela Brunet‘s work, and was it a little stretch for her to do a label like this?

She has a very unique point of view while also doing clean, graphic work. She has a beautiful color palette that we had to limit for the can, which I imagine may have been a little bit of a stretch, though you certainly can’t tell. We were happy to have her later do the label for Even the Furies Wept and have a bit more freedom on a bottle label.

Orpheus really makes its name with your sour lineup. It’s probably not a stretch to say that you’ve got more sour-type ales as year round offerings than any other brewery in the area. What’s behind that passion for sour beers?

It’s what I like to drink! In many ways, Orpheus originally started because I wanted to brew sour beer. We sell over 50% sour, but it’s kind of ironic that our single biggest seller is a double IPA (Transmigration of Souls).

What’s coming up next for Orpheus?

We have 2 more sours about to come out. Over and Over (originally released as Again and Again) is a 4% pineapple sour that’s coming out year round in a few weeks (July-Aug 2017). Draft first and cans soon. The Cold Ground is a 5% coffee sour with Java Lords coffee coming out at the end of the month (July 2017).

Aaron’s Take:

I’ve been a fairly recent (about a year or so) convert to sours. So I’m still a rookie when it comes to these types of beers. That being said, Wandering Blues is a phenomenal beer. The lacto provides a nice tartness, but it balances well with the blueberries. I think a charcuterie plate would pair perfectly with this one. If you’re a sour fan…or even if you’d like to try one out, this is a great choice.

Wandering Blues is currently on shelves and on draft.