Podcast Episode 253: Matt Van Wyk and Brian Coombs of Alesong Stay Focused on the Barrel

Matt Van Wyk cut his teeth on barrel-aged beers in Chicago in the ’00s, but with Alesong—in the bucolic winery-filled hill country of the southern Willamette Valley—he and cofounder Brian Coombs have built a brewery focused solely on barrel-aged beer.

Jamie Bogner Aug 12, 2022 - 5 min read

Podcast Episode 253: Matt Van Wyk and Brian Coombs of Alesong Stay Focused on the Barrel Primary Image

Photo courtesy Alesong Brewing & Blending

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Science teacher turns brewer—on paper, it makes sense. But Alesong’s Matt Van Wyk made that career transition long before many others in the current generation of brewery owners made similar leaps. With two decades of professional brewing under his belt, Van Wyk has seen (and brewed) many trends. However, the love of barrel-aged beer is what led him and his partners—including production director Brian Coombs—to create Alesong, with a deep focus on three threads: farmhouse-style beers fermented with Brettanomyces, mixed-culture sour beers, and spirits-barrel-aged “clean” fermentations.

The results have been impressive, with industry recognition through medals, and a club-based customer base that supports their boundary-pushing work. Meanwhile, this brewery that looks and feels like a winery—and is, in fact, located on a small parcel next to one of the area’s largest and most significant wineries—is less concerned with creating hype and more focused on the slow, iterative process of making compelling and flavorful beer.

In this episode, Coombs and Van Wyk discuss:

  • learning fruit fermentation techniques from wineries
  • building complexity in stout malt bills with smaller amounts of a vast array of malts
  • creating the perception of sweetness in stouts with relatively low (8–8.5°P) finishing gravities
  • selecting barrels for flavor over marketing potential
  • a tank-cleaning regimen for working with both sour and clean beer
  • oxygenating Brett fermentations over three days
  • blending strategy for sour fruited beer
  • creating a perception of body in 0°P sour fruited beer

And more.

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].