Meet Casa Agria Specialty Ales: Sour to the Roots

In my recent post, I spoke of the 2015 sour beer movement with the arrival of new advents like The Rare Barrel. Within this explosion, there are a few names that have truly stood out from the crowd of American sours. In fact, it was the folks over at RB (Rare Barrel) that nudged me to this group I’m about to introduce.

Roll red carpet…Casa Agria Specialty Ales. Known as the “House of Sour”, Casa Agria seems quite the rising star in the fields of Oxnard, CA. Throwing my interviewer hat on, I scored an interview with these nice folks and here are some findings.

So, who are they?

Headed by four gentlemen, (Ryan Exline, Mike Weyandt, Eric Dew, and Terre Haff) this underground but soon-to-be brewery first originated amongst the gatherings (and competitions) of like-minded homebrewers and lively atmospheres of generous bottle shares. The four amigos shared a common goal to deliver high-quality local wild ale offerings to their local community. If you look at the California market for sour ales, you’ll find big names like Russian River Brewing and Almanac Beer Co. in the north and The Bruery and The Lost Abbey in the south. This leaves a lot of room for small to medium sized breweries to serve an ever growing audience.

What do they offer?

Some of their sample offerings include, but are not limited to, the Stricklambic Albaricoque, a tangy apricot spontaneously fermented ale, the Zarzamora, a Berliner Weisse inspired blackberry sour, and others such as the Casa Blanca, brewed with chardonnay grapes, and Fresa, their strawberry offering. These farm-to-table techniques all draw from seasonal fruits born and raised by local farms.

I got a chance to taste an experimental ale using plums poached in spiced black tea and aged on American oak bourbon barrels. (Recently named La Primera, or “the First”). We threw around some ideas and Eric mentioned some projects he’s pursuing like the Avena - a golden ale brewed with oats, lactose, brown sugar, spices and coffee.

Sounds amazing, when/where can I get a tasting and/or bottle?

Currently just signed the lease to their new facility (701 Del Norte Blvd, Oxnard, CA), they’re still looking at a few more months to be fully operational. Follow them on Instagram (@casa_agria), Twitter, Facebook, and their new website at www.CasaAgria.com to be on the lookout for future bottle releases, individual tastings in pop-fashion across US cities, and innovative new offerings.

With that said, brewing wild ale is no easy task. From deciding which ingredients to utilize to choosing a suitable micro organic environment for spontaneous fermentation, the brewer’s job is just beginning. Not to mention the additional process of barrel-aging and then finally control blending to adjust the flavor and taste, every step of the process can be artfully difficult. When “working and listening to the beer, [it’s always a balance between] the founder’s idea of a beer and the customer demand”, says Eric.

Will they distribute bottles to my area?

“That’s the dream”, says Ryan. But during its early stages, local distribution and serving the community is where it begins first. To understand their passion for service, one must realize the rich culture and history of agriculture that Ventura County has always carried. “It was an amazing moment when we handed our beers back to the farmers who helped us. The beers brewed with the same ingredients that originated from their own fields”. To me, this was a true “beer for the people” philosophy.

In conclusion…

With so much spirit and finesse, these folks are sure to raise a lot of industry eyebrows. It’s still a small circle of brewers who contend in the “sour” space and so each newcomer is always welcomed to bring their own creative approach to making ales – whether it’s through open fermentation concepts, utilizing exotic fruits, an/or masterful blending techniques. What I find enjoyable is the overall mutual respect and open-mindedness to collaborate and share insights these brewers have for each other, and how this has continually propelled the industry forward. Our Casa Agria folks agree that this positive affirmation and encouraging environment has been imperative in their confidence to build and expand.

At the end of the day, their beer is a tribute to their locality and commemorates their passion for fresh, high-quality drinks. So stay fresh because Casa Agria is coming to town!

Justin Tung

San Francisco, CA,

Justin Tung is a San Francisco resident, amateur homebrewer, and big beer lover. Often traveling for work grew a natural habit - an obsession - with exploring new regions and beers. The best way to understand a locality? Hang with a local and buy them a beer, hear their stories and the rest is history. This is the golden age of beer revolution and innovation. Fortune rewards the brave.