Black Star Co-op Financial Condition FAQ

1.     Why did I not know sooner about our financial condition?

The Board has communicated regularly to the membership through our annual reports, membership newsletters, and member assemblies regarding our financial condition as well as actions being taken to address the issue.  At the last annual members meeting held on October 30, 2016, we discussed our declining sales, challenges facing the co-op, our ends policies and the 2015 annual report, which stated:

“Monthly net losses through the second half of the year strained the Co-op’s cash position, making it challenging to pay our obligations and employees on time.”

Our financial condition has also been a point of considerable discussion at our board meetings, which are open to all members.

2.     Why was the letter sent out by the Worker’s Assembly (WA)?

As of Sunday, December 4th board meeting, cash projections combined with November sales data, and a robust plan of events for December projected a similar financial situation relative to the last two years. While deemed not acceptable long term, our forecasts provided enough time for the board and WA to continue laying the groundwork required to propose changes to our ends at the next member assembly meeting. However, on Wednesday, December 28th, during a regularly scheduled meeting, the Board Staff Liaison (BSL) informed the board president that December sales had come in considerably under forecast. The WA was asked to evaluate the situation at their next leadership meeting and determine next steps. On Monday, January 2nd, the WA developed new cash projections based on December’s revenue numbers, which indicated an inability to continue functioning within the next couple of months if trends continued. On Thursday, January 5th, the WA informed the President that January sales had continued to fall under revised forecasts, and the WA sent out the letter to members informing them of our current financial condition.

3.     What has been done to address our financial condition?

In an attempt to address this issue and with growing concern by the Board, the WA has implemented several initiatives over the past couple of years to increase revenue including the addition of lunch service, no longer including tax on food pricing, raising overall prices, successful events like the crawfish boil, a larger social media presence, removing the dart area to increase functional space for customers, and adding an outside awning to make the patio more comfortable during the summer. In addition, to keep expenses in check the WA implemented a wage freeze, a 5% pay cut, an increase in out of pocket health care expenses by employees and numerous optimizations to controllable costs.

4.     Why hasn’t more been done to correct the situation?

The WA is charged with the daily operations (beer, food, pricing, furniture, location, etc.) for the co-op and have implemented numerous initiatives to address our financial condition. The Board has continued to provide guidance to the WA as defined by our role. However, we are obligated to operate within the guidelines of our ends. While it has become clear that potentially significant changes to our ends will be required to allow for our business to evolve, the process of proposing and changing our ends requires time to develop and support from our membership.

5.     How will we prevent this from happening in the future?

The Board is in the process of evaluating our options to maintain profitability in a continually changing and competitive market. Thanks to a significant increase in patronage over the last few weeks, we have the runaway to finalize a new business plan and operating structure within the next 3 months, which will likely require the membership to vote on changes to our ends.

6.     Why don’t we hire a GM to develop and maintain the business?

Blackstar’s End Policy A.4 states that “Black Star Co-op will provide an empowering environment for all workers through worker self-management.” A change to this Ends Policy would require approval by the Co-op’s membership. Currently, the Workers Assembly is divided into four teams: the Beer Team, the Kitchen Team, the Pub Team, and the Business Team. These four teams are self-managed. However, hiring a general manager is an option that the Board and the Workers Assembly will continue to discuss.

7.     How can I help?

One competitive advantage that the Co-op has over other similar businesses are its members, and the skills and experience they have. The Board has used the talents of its members on a variety of projects including participation on the Annual Report Review and Bylaws Committee as well as discussions at our Member Assembly meetings. If you would like to serve on a committee, please contact the Board via email at board@blackstar.coop, and if you are interested in serving on the Board, please contact the leadership development committee at leadershipdevelopment@blackstar.coop. However, the most direct way for members to support the Co-op is to visit it and recommend it to your friends.

8.     Why can’t I see our financials and business plan?

It’s important for any business to keep its financial records such as daily cash flow, detailed business plans and strategy, contracts, profit and loss statements and balance sheets confidential. With the exception of the annual report, this information is not shared with the membership at large. This information is compiled by the Workers Assembly (WA) and shared with the Co-op Board of Directors (Board) on a regular basis.

9.      What will happen if we close?

The Co-op, like all other businesses, is subject to closing whether permanently or temporarily based on sales and profitability. The Board plans to form a Sunset Committee at their next official meeting to examine the definition of closing, what triggers a decision to close, and the sequential processes for closing. This group will report their findings at the next annual Member meeting. Members are welcome to join this committee.

Join a Board Committee

The Board has several committees which are either active or activating, and now’s the time to join up if you’re interested in deepening your commitment to Black Star and helping to lead our cooperative. 

All committees will involve email communications, some work from home, as well as in-person committee meetings, usually at the pub. Joining a committee is a great way to serve your community owned business without taking on full-on directorship. It’s also a great way to explore the Board’s work to see if you’re interested in running for the Board.

Ends Committee:

The Ends Committee will be reviewing our existing Ends and drafting new ones to create a guiding vision for our cooperative. Ends will be proposed to members and voted on at a Members’ Assembly meeting. Email Beth at beth.beutel@blackstar.coop if you’re interested.

Outreach Committee:

The Outreach Committee ensures that the Board is keeping the membership engaged by organizing Member-Owner Extravaganzas and other events, as well as helping to plan communications. Email Marcus at marcus.wilson@blackstar.coop to get involved.

Sunset Committee:

In order to inform the Board’s work, The Sunset Committee will research under what conditions the co-op should close, and what decision points the Board should consider. Email the Board  at board@blackstar.coop if you’re interested in serving on this committee.

Annual Report Review Committee:

The Annual Report Review Committee ensures that the Annual Report meets all of the criteria set out by the Texas Business Organization Code and that it is properly filed with the state. Email Charles at charles.hueter@blackstar.coop to join the ARRC.

Finance Committee:

The Finance Committee does direct inspections of the cooperative’s books upon request of the board, considers and makes recommendations for financial audit or review, and ensures that all directors have the skills required to understand financial materials presented to them. Email Cole at cole.noppenberg@blackstar.coop to find out more.

If you are interested in committee service but aren’t sure where you’d be the best fit, email the Board at board@blackstar.coop and we’ll help find the right place for you.

Resolutions for 2017

2017 is here, and many of us couldn't be happier. The previous year left its scars on us and the wider world. So as we shed the cumulative experiential skin of 2016 and nakedly begin our 2017, I thought we could share a few of our resolutions for this new year. 

From our Workers: 

"To keep my apartment mostly clean." - Forest

"I don't really do resolutions, but I want to eat fewer chips, ranch, and drink less beer (specifically at Black Star). Maybe that's not super conducive to getting people in here, but that's my thing—be less of a fat kid." - Rachel

"My New Year's Resolution is to not take lighters that don't belong to me. And to keep better track of chapsticks and my bobby pins." - Grace

"To get swole." - Anonymous

"I still resolve to get famous this year. I don't give up on my dreams. My co-op resolution is to master the art of spreadsheets by July 2017." - Jodi

"I resolve to get all the fries in my mouth and none in my car seat crack." - Andy

"I resolve to be a more open and honest coach and student for my co-workers. 
I resolve to be a better husband and son.
I resolve to drink less beer. 
I resolve to find a creative way to get our members excited again to be a part of the co-op they know and love.
I resolve to work hard to make Black Star Co-op survive the impending bursting of the restaurant and craft beer bubbles, and become a sustainable business that lasts for years like the Austin institution it is." - Johnny 

"I resolve to pack my lunch at least once a week (and cut my monthly SUBWAY™ visits in half)." - Larry

"I resolve to eat more tacos." - Everyone

What are your resolutions for 2017?

 

Community Support: Christmas Eve Toy Collection

Member-owners!! This December 24th, we'll be collecting toy donations for Safe Place Austin—one of our member-owner selected organizations for the Co-op to support.

SafePlace provides safety for individuals and families affected by domestic violence, and sexual assault and exploitation through campus-based prevention and intervention services. In addition, the organization promotes safe and healthy relationships, increasing the capacity for abuse prevention in Central Texas. afePlace works with community partners to create change in attitudes, behaviors and policies that perpetuate the acceptance of, and impact our understanding and responses to, sexual and domestic violence. SafePlace is a Founding Partner with the Austin Children’s Shelter of The SAFE Alliance, or SAFE | Stop Abuse For Everyone.

We would also like to encourage you to visit their website to make cash donations: http://www.safeaustin.org/safeplace/  

I'm Your Man, Leonard: Finding One's Self and The Black Star Menu

When I agreed to write a piece about our Fall menu, I originally intended it be an overview about new items, but things have changed. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for the newsletter, so I wanted to do something a more than just a little listicle or something about menu items. I wanted to tell you a story about a trip I took to research pub-food; to find myself. 

I’m pretty sure 2016 has been a suck year for most of us—economic instability, political upset, and countless deaths of creative heroes have left me feeling that the there is a serious deficit of good magic. And most of what is left the Cubs used to win the series. That being said, Thursday of the election week I was working the grill when Ben Davis came in and told me that Leonard Cohen had died. I immediately started crying, then my phone started blowing up with texts from friends who knew how much his work had meant to me.

Early in 2008, Leonard had announced that he would be going on tour for the first time in about fifteen years, and I knew I had to see him in case he died or something, but all of the tour dates were in Europe and Canada, so I knew travel was going to be necessary to see a show (something I wasn’t a stranger to considering I was a Phish fan and had traveled thousands of miles to see those guys already). Originally, I had decided it would be nice to see him on my birthday in July, but, unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out since it was in the middle of the summer, and that August... Well you know what happened. 

I ended up deciding on going to London in November, and was going to double dip and use the opportunity to eat my way through the city and do some research for the Black Star draft menu. At the time, I was managing the Produce department at Wheatsville and serving on the board of directors at Black Star, and hadn’t decided to change careers, but I was moving in that direction. I had a pretty random, but entertaining food blog going on the side documenting my food adventures. 

In London, I stayed with my bff’s girlfriend, who was a local, and made an efficient plan to eat every fish and chip I could, go to a few pubs, and eat a fancy meal or three. I put in work. I ate fish and chips in pubs, regular restaurants, and several chippys. I had two meals at the Duke of Cambridge, the only certified organic gastropub in the UK. I went to the Borough Market and ate too many oysters, ate an amazing Sunday roast at a hole-in-the-wall pub in Nottingham, and had one of the best meals of my life at St. John. Oh, and beer! I also “researched” beer. Lots and lots of beer. Mostly in the form of properly pulled cask pints. 

The Leonard Cohen concert was later in the week at the O2 Arena. My London homies took me to see Kayne West (not great) beforehand at the same venue. It was the 808 and Heartbreak tour right after his mom died from the bad cosmetic surgery, and even though it was dark and weird, it was nothing like the Cohen show. I was not prepared for the emotional heights of that show garnered. I was just some daft twenty-seven-year-old punk with a huge afro and a Hawaiian shirt in a sea of British folk. I was unprepared for the three-hour tear fest that ensued. 

Beyond the emotional depths of the concert, I learned a few things in that ten day stretch of gastronomical delights: that the best fish and chips don’t use cod, that stilton is the king of cheese, that cheese is the best dessert, and that simple British peasant pub food is some of the best food in the world. 

Which leads me to our next menu. A return to our pub fare roots; a homecoming of sorts. We are happy to be bringing back some of our Winter classics: chicken fried chicken, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and our bowl of red. We are really stoked to bring these dishes back to the Co-op. Personally, these are some of my favorite dishes that we make all year, and if it wasn’t so effing hot here, we’d run them year round. Hopefully, you’re like me and this news excites you, and you’ll be in here to grub tough on some mashed potatoes and tasty treats. 

As we move into 2017, I hope these meals will give a little comfort to all of us. Wrapping up with some irony, when I got home from that trip Leonard Cohen announced his US tour. It opened in with two nights in Austin. 

2016 Co-op Election Results

On Monday October 31st, Black Star Co-op concluded the voting period for the new Board of Directors and the non-profit organizations to support in the upcoming year. There were  3 open  seats on the Board of Directors, and a slate of local non-profits nominated by our membership.

Your newly-elected Directors:

  • Annelies Lottmann
  • Greg Cumpton
  • Kyle Voosen

The organizations we pledge to support in 2017:

  • Capital Area Food Bank (85 votes)
  • Planned Parenthood (83 votes)
  • Austin Habitat for Humanity (80 votes)
  • Austin Children's Shelter (74 votes)

Congratulations, everyone!

Thank you all for Voting! And thank you to our exiting directors, Kenley Maddux and Steve Basile, for their years of service. 

Community Support: Meals on Wheels Central Texas

Attention, community-minded members! Each year, our member-owners select organizations for the Co-op to support. This November, we'll support Meals on Wheels Central Texas. Meals on Wheels Central Texas supports homebound adults and people with disabilities through programs that promote independent living. Some of these programs include meal delivery, grocery shopping assistance, in-home care, home repair, and pet care. They currently provide services to nearly 5,000 people in the Austin community. 

To support Meals on Wheels Central Texas, we're collecting in-kind donations through Thanksgiving. They're currently seeking:

  • Toiletries
  • Meal replacement drinks like Ensure
  • Household items like laundry detergent and cleaning supplies
  • Gift cards to HEB, Walmart, or Target ($20 increments)
  • Microwaves
  • Pet food, cat litter, or gently used pet supplies for pets

As a thank you for your contribution to this donation drive, the Co-op would like to buy you a Rational pint of house beer. Please bring in your donation by Sunday, November 27th. 

If you're interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels and More, you can find out more on the Volunteer page of their website. Thank you for helping the Co-op support community organizations. 

Vote in the 2016 Co-op Elections!

It’s that time of the year again! Become an active member in the democratic process of your Co-op and vote in our Co-op's elections.

The election for Black Star Co-op’s Board of Directors begins Friday, September 30th and continues through Friday, October 30th. Our Board elections are conducted by single transferable vote, so the ballot is extremely simple. Just rank the candidates in your order of preference. Co-op member-owners will be able to vote online or in-person at the brewpub.

Meet the candidates online and then cast your ballot online or in person at the brewpub.

You may rank the candidates in order of preference from 1-3, with 1 being the most preferential and 3 the least. However, you don’t have to rank them all; you can leave fields blank if you’re not comfortable ranking the candidates. The election will close, and all ballots will be counted by the end of the day Sunday, October 30th and the results will be announced the following week. And don’t forget to vote for which community groups we support next year!

The following non-profits are currently on the slate for our support in 2017 based on suggestions submitted to us in the Spring Member-Owners Survey. If there's an organization that you think deserves our Co-op's support, there is a write-in option on the ballot. 

COMMUNITY SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS

VOTE ONLINE

2016 Board Candidate Statements

Hey Member-Owners, it's Election Time! Every year you have the golden opportunity to vote on the directors who will represent your voice in the management of your Co-op. This year there are 3 open seats and 3 candidates running for the Board of Directors. Voting is one of the important ways you can participate in the democratic process. 

Below you’ll find the responses for the slate of candidates:

  • Annelies Lottman
  • Kyle Voosen
  • Greg Cumpton

Elections begin September 30th and run through October 30th. You can vote on the Board of Directors and member-selected community support organizations here


ANNELIES LOTTMANN

 

1. Why are you interested in serving on the Board of Directors of the Co-op?

I am proud of the work that our Board has accomplished in my first three years as a Black Star Co-op Director.  Our co-op is in an exciting time of transition (funny how that always seems to be the case…), and I hope to provide continuity while continuing to learn and grow as a member of the Board.  

2. What goals would you like to see Black Star Co-op achieve in the next year? Five years?

In a year’s time, I would like to see BSC actively engaging more of our 3000+ member-owners as ambassadors for our great beer and food, and our uniquely fair and empowering business model.  In five years, I hope we’re firmly established at two locations, with strong local business and institutional partnerships and a deeply loyal customer base that will help us weather the shifting tides of the local restaurant industry.  

3. What qualities and past experience do you have for serving on the Black Star Co-op Board of Directors?

Since I began my first term at BSC, my career has become increasingly focused upon co-ops and cooperative development as the Central Texas Program Coordinator for the Texas Rural Cooperative Center, which supports co-ops all around the state.  I also serve on the boards of Yard to Market Co-op and the Austin Cooperative Business Association.  I bring to the Board a solid understanding of the cooperative model and a familiarity with BSC’s policies and procedures, as well as a willingness to look at each challenge with fresh eyes in order to reach the best outcome for the circumstances at hand.  

4. Name one way in which you'd like the Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery to stand out from other local brewpubs.

We are built around the needs and priorities of our workers.  This is so rare in the restaurant industry!  I want everyone in Austin to know how great the Workers’ Assembly is at walking the walk of fair worker treatment, and to feel excited to support a business where they can see democratic worker self-management in action!

5. What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

I love Cooperation Among Cooperatives—it inspires us to reframe competition as collaboration to raise the potential of everyone who is invested in this fundamentally just business model.


KYLE VOOSEN

 

1. Why are you interested in serving on the Board of Directors of the Co-op?

I joined the Black Star Co-op in early 2010 and it’s been part of my life ever since.  I had to peel the original wrapper off of the baby station in the men’s bathroom to change my daughter’s diaper.  I was part of the member committee that designed Elba.  When my family and I moved away from Austin for a few years, our going-away party was at the Black Star.  Now that my family and I are back in the neighborhood, it’s time to give back to the “neighborhood beer bar owned by the community it serves.”

2. What goals would you like to see Black Star Co-op achieve in the next year?

Year 1 – Be on a path toward financial stability without sacrificing the tenets that make the Black Star Co-op special.  Create incentives that make member-ownership more appealing.  Take a more active role in the Midtown-Austin community.  Encourage a lighter, healthier, more vegetarian-friendly menu.

Year 5 – Reach a steady-state where more than 50% of Black Star revenue comes from an active community of more than 10,000 member-owners.

3. What qualities and past experience do you have for serving on the Black Star Co-Op Board of Directors

  • I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life living in Germany and England.  I know how great it feels when the local pub (and beer in general) is part of a community’s daily routine.
  • I’ve been a homebrewer for 25 years.  I know a good beer when I taste one (hello, Vulcan.) 
  • My family and I live within walking distance of the Co-op.  We have a vested interest in Black Star’s local community outreach. 
  • I’ve served on a number of non-profit and industry boards over the years.  I’m no stranger to the role. 

4. Name one way in which you’d like the Black Star Co-op and brewery to stand out from the other local brewpubs. 

As the world’s first cooperatively owned brewpub, the Black Star Co-op will always stand out! What should set it apart from all other breweries and brewpubs is an enthusiastic legion of member-owners who actively promote and patronize their brewery.  To be frank, joining the Black Star Co-op today is an emotional decision.  People join because it feels right; like giving to charity.  We can do a lot more to make joining the Co-op a rational decision, with tangible benefits that also encourage more member-owner involvement.

5. What is your favorite co-operative Principle and why?

7th Principle: Concern for Community. Every decision we make should be with our community in mind.


GREG CUMPTON

 

1. Why are you interested in serving on the Board of Directors of the Co-op? 

I reap all of the rewards of Black Star Co-op. I drink countless delicious beers. I eat consistently amazing locally-sourced food. I tell anyone I want to impress to go; they are always impressed. For years now Black Star Co-op made me feel good and look good. It’s time to give back.

2. What goals would you like to see Black Star Co-op achieve in the next year? Five years? 

In the next year, expand our sound fiscal base while continuing to focus on and maintain our fundamental principles. In five years, world domination…or at least a second location.

3. What qualities and past experience do you have for serving on the Black Star Co-op Board of Directors? 

I managed a Starbucks, served as Vice President and President of the local non-profit Capital Area Master Naturalists, co-own (with my wife) a short term rental, and help direct a university research center. I understand the fiscal and operational challenges of running a small business and the need to consistently review and reflect on a long-term strategic plan. I also love craft beers and home brewing. 

4. Name one way in which you'd like the Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery to stand out from other local brewpubs. 

Build customer loyalty by emphasizing our co-operative structure, consistently producing excellent beer and food in a respectful environment, and regularly listening and responding to member questions, concerns, and ideas. Fierce local competition provides several options for quality beer and exceptional food. What differentiates Black Star Co-op from the competition are our principles.

5. What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

Definitely my favorite principle is education, training, and information, though I admit those are always my favorite principles. Black Star Co-op provides a perfect touch-stone for educating the public: visitors who think they don’t like beer can try an irrational pint and customers who come for the beer and the amazing food have the opportunity to learn about co-operatives. Everyone learns, though some get tipsy trying.

Proposed Black Star Bylaws Revision (10.30.16)

From time to time, it’s critical for the health of a co-op to review and revise its Bylaws to accommodate the changing needs of the organization. Due to the sunset provision of our Bylaws, requiring revision at least every five years, the Board convened a committee to review the Bylaws for any potential changes. Directors Beth Beutel and Marcus Wilson along with former directors Jessica Cassidy and Johnny Livesay, also the Kitchen Team Leader, met several times over the course of the year to discussion potential areas of revision. The committee then presented their recommendations to the Board for feedback, and having taken that feedback, the Board will now put the Bylaws to a vote at the October 30th Members Assembly meeting. 

The following is a brief explanation of the changes made to each section:

 Section 1. Membership

The committee recommends changing the phrase in section 1.3 from “filing” to “processing” such that “Membership shall commence upon the processing of a completed application form…” to ensure clarity that membership begins not once an application is turned in, but once the Workers Assembly has processed the application. 

Section 2. Types of Members

2.1.3 Neighborhood Members – the committee recommends striking the section. After more than five years of being open, no one has claimed the voting rights of a neighborhood membership. The co-op is responsive to the needs of the neighborhood and values their business without their have voting rights in the co-op. Additionally, neighbors are welcome to become members by contributing capital as all other members do – and not becoming a full member removes a source of capital for the co-op. 

2.3.4 Reactivation – Under advisement from the Business Team, the committee proposes deleting the final sentence as it does not reflect the practice of the co-op of leaving membership capital as marked to the member. 

2.4.2. Expulsion – the existing Bylaws make expulsion public, taking place at a Members’ Assembly meeting. The proposed Bylaws make expulsion a more discreet matter handled by the Board of Directors, with a process for appeal before the Members’ Assembly. 

3. Members’ Assembly

3.3 Meetings – the proposed Bylaws change the requirement from two yearly meetings to one meeting to present the Annual Report to Members and one gathering of any type. This will allow the Board and Workers’ Assembly the flexibility to decide what type of event will be most beneficial to the organization, while still maintaining our current rate of coming together as body. 

3.3.3 Quorum – to the existing Bylaws allowance of mail-in votes to count towards quorum on the issue, the proposed amendment also allows for electronic voting. 

4. Board of Directors

4.9.4.3 Electronic votes – the proposed Bylaws removes the option for members to “opt in” to receive notice of the Board’s electronic votes. No such process has been created by the Board or requested by any owner. It’s additionally redundant as electronic votes of the Board are included in the next month’s meeting minutes. 

 

5. Workers’ Assembly

5.3 Volunteers – the proposal is to strike the section, as the section creates the false perception amongst members that there is widespread opportunity for volunteering with the Workers’ Assembly. Not having volunteers mentioned in the Bylaws will not prevent the co-op from utilizing volunteers, such as for committees, members meetings and events.

5.4 Board Staff Liaison – strike the phrase “chair their meetings, and shall also” as the Business Team has advised that the BSL does not chair the WA meetings. 

Oktoberfest at Black Star Co-op

Push them legs into them 'hosen and put your pretzel chompers in—it's time for Oktoberfest! Black Star Co-op is going all out for this year's bier festival with enough beer and food to satisfy an Übermensch!

From the 17th through the 3rd (October) we'll be serving the best wurst specials in town. Ready your gullet for Currywurst & Bratwurst specials throughout the length of the fest. But it doesn't stop there—we'll be breaking down a whole pig! That means porcine dishes o'plenty for the last week of Oktoberfest. 

But what's this Oktober-thing really about, y'all? We're gonna have so many good beers on tap for Oktoberfest, we're liable to make all those kids in Munich jealous. We've got beers from legendary breweries, beer stein giveaways, and a Kölsch of our very own—Gemütlichkeitbier! Here's the full list of beer events: 

OKTOBERFEST '16: Southern Star Oktoberfest
Wednesday, September 21

OKTOBERFEST '16: Save the World Brewing Co. Celestis Thesauri
Thursday, September 22

OKTOBERFEST '16: Weltenberger Klausterbraurei Stein Night
Saturday, September 24

OKTOBERFEST '16: Left Hand Brewing Company Stein Night
Wednesday, September 28

Coming Not So Soon, Barrel Aging at Black Star

As many of you know, we just released Aberrant No. 4 in the pub last month. What many of you may NOT know is that was the last bit of the original base beer that was soured in our used bourbon barrels. The base beer that was originally put in the barrels was a malty, slightly smoky beer that was then inoculated with a few different souring bacteria and wild yeasts in each barrel. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years we released individual and blended barrels based the development. We topped off one of the 4 barrels with Dockhand base when Aberrant No. 3 was released, but the other 3 were empty and we needed to devise a plan for refilling them. We knew we had to make something special since the beer would be in the barrels for at least 1-2 years. We set out to develop a recipe that used aspects from certain barrel-aged sour beers and compiled the techniques together to create a truly unique project for Black Star. 

Initially, we were intrigued by the idea of producing a Lambic—but the procedure is not particularly feasible here at Black Star. It was possible, however, to create a base beer that was very similar to a Lambic. So we took some raw wheat from Blacklands Malt in Leander and performed a modified Turbid mash where we essentially had multiple temperature rests during the mash process in order to convert the starches in the unmodified grain into sugars. Next, we asked our friends over at Jester King if they had some aged hops to spare, and not only did they have the hops, but they had a freshly emptied barrel that they said we could have. Score! So we boiled our wort for 3 solid hours with three-year-old hops to create the wort. Since open air spontaneous fermentation was not an option, we did a primary fermentation in a stainless steel vessel using our house strain of yeast. Finally, we moved the partially fermented beer into the open barrels that were already inoculated with souring bacteria and yeasts allowing them to consume the available sugars and begin to produce acids and other flavor byproducts.

All in all, this has been a very rewarding project that has lead us to try a few things that we have never done here before. A huge thank you goes out to the folks at Jester King for being so supportive and generous when asking for help on this beer. 

So what's next? Well, we plan on letting these barrels hang out as long as they need to develop and when the time comes we will taste/blend and then release the beer in a very special way. Stay tuned for more details!

Cheers!