MARYSVILLE — It’s good to have friends in high places.
From garage brewer to owner and operator of one of the fastest growing breweries in Snohomish County, R.J. Whitlow has built strong friendships with influential brewers up and down the West Coast.
This week, he’s called on some of them to help turn Marysville into Funkville for 5 Rights’ Sour Fest.
5 Rights will be pouring sours from a variety of breweries, including Breakside Brewery, Tacoma’s SIG Brewing and Bellingham’s Wander Brewing from Aug. 4 through 6. Whitlow also called up his friend Adam Robbings, owner of Seattle’s Reuben’s Brews, to collaborate on a watermelon margarita gose that will also be available.
The kickoff event is a brewer’s experience night with Bill Sobieski of Wild Barrel Brewing on Aug. 3. The co-founder and Director of Brewing Operations of the San Marcos, Calif., brewery will be talking about his beers and process, and sharing a few creations as well. Wild Barrel’s VICE series is well known in the world of sour ales, with Wild Barrel’s sours taking home back-to-back gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
“If you’ve ever wanted to learn about sours this is the event to come to,” said Whitlow. “Bill is an expert on sours and he has a lot to share.”
Whitlow’s friendship with Sobieski goes back a few years, when Sobieski stopped by 5 Rights while visiting his family in the Puget Sound region. Sobieski was impressed with 5 Rights’ beer and loved the location in the old hardware store.
“Whenever I visit the area my brother takes me to the ‘better’ breweries,” said Sobieski. “I really liked 5 Rights. The quality of beer coming out of 5 Rights is outstanding. I also like the location and making use of an historical building. It makes for a great place to hang out and have a beer.”
Whitlow and Sobieski struck up a conversation on that first visit and have been friends ever since. Whitlow, who has been working to increase 5 Rights’ sour offerings and plans to have a dedicated sour tap going forward, regularly chats with Sobieski about sours, mixed cultures and yeast.
Wild Barrel specializes in both barrel-aged sours and kettle sours, which take less time and are brewed and fermented in stainless steel mash tuns and fermenters. Most sours on tap at general breweries are kettle sours like a gose or Berliner weisse. Traditional barrel-aged sours can take months or years to create as they rest in oak barrels. Because they use wild yeast that could infect other beers, they also need separate equipment and usually their own space. Wild Barrel’s facility has a dedicated sour brewery that is separated from its general brewhouse.
As intimidating as making sours can be, Sobieski said brewing a good one comes down to the same key components as any beer: quality ingredients, clean healthy yeast and culture management.
“It’s basically the same as with other beers,” Sobieski said. “Proper brewery techniques and sanitation.”
Tickets for the brewer’s experience are $25 and include 5-ounce tasters of the four sours brewed specifically for the event.
The 5 Rights and Reuben’s Brews collaboration 7-10 Split will be released at both breweries on Aug. 4 and will be on tap during the week’s events. The beer, which is only available at the two breweries, is a celebration of 5 Rights’ seventh anniversary and Reuben’s 10th anniversary, hence the name.
Funkville Sour Fest
5 Rights will host Wild Barrel Brewing’s Bill Sobieski on Aug. 3 for a Brewer’s Experience Night at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 and space is limited. Sour Fest continues through Aug. 6 and includes sour beers from a variety of Northwest breweries. Tickets are $20 and include pours of all five guest beers. 5 Rights will also have sour beers on tap. There will also be food trucks and live music. For more information, including to purchase tickets, visit 5rightsbrewing.com.