Beer From a Barrel


As we settle into the midst of football playoffs, many folks have prepared their palates for the crisp, cool taste of beer. While flavors may come to mind, not many have tasted a beer with hints of blackberry, cherry or even grapefruit; where the first sip is compared to having the tartness of a lemon. For those who have, it is likely they’ve come across the rare charm of sour beer. Thanks to Morgan Hill native, Alex Wallash, this special beer is getting a boost in recognition and availability.
Wallash is a co-founder of the all-sour beer brewery, The Rare Barrel, located in Berkeley. He and fellow co-founders, Jay Goodwin and father Brad Goodwin, create this unique beer by using a slow aging process and the right blend of microorganisms.
According to Wallash, the love of sour beer and the interest in running a business is what led him and Jay to the birth of their brewery.
“We wanted to find the sour beers and they’d be tough to find,” he said. He explained he would have to be “at the right place at the right time” to get the sour beer, and that batches would be gone the same day they were released.
“Those who love it have a tough time finding it,” Wallash said. Luckily for him, his experience and skills not only resolved this problem, but proved to be the cocktail for success.
Raised in Morgan Hill, Wallash, 28, attended El Toro Elementary School, Martin Murphy Middle School and graduated from Bellarmine High School in San Jose in 2004. Growing up, he was active in soccer and the Boy Scouts and went on to become an Eagle Scout. He attributes the leadership skills and confidence he has today to his experiences as a scout.
“It gives kids an opportunity to try a whole range of different things,” he said. “It had a significant impact on my ability to try something new and gave me the confidence to try.”
While studying biology at UC Santa Barbara, he said he was “fascinated by the science of life” and planned to attend medical school or do research after graduation. However, brewing beer in his apartment kitchen with Jay led to an epiphany.
“We thought, we both love craft beer and both want to run a business,” Wallash said. “Let’s start a brewery.”
As Wallash was finishing his biology degree, he took entrepreneurship classes through the university’s Technology Management Program. After graduating from UCSB in 2008, these classes proved beneficial to his long-term goals as he landed a job in in biology research.
Meanwhile, Jay, also 28, was learning the process of making sour beer during his four years working at The Bruery in Orange County. Jay worked as a brewer and eventually became head of The Bruery’s barrel aging program.
In early 2012, both Wallash and Jay quit their jobs and began working in the brewing industry. They began brewing and barrel aging for The Rare Barrel in February 2013 and opened its tasting room Dec. 27, 2013.
It didn’t take long for the world to notice the quality and flavor of the product. Wallash, Jay and Brad Goodwin entered their beer in the 2014 World Beer Cup—where 5,000 beers are entered from 1,000 breweries worldwide. The Rare Barrel received a gold medal in the American-Style Sour Ale Category and a bronze in the Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale category. On Oct. 4, The Rare Barrel was again awarded, this time with a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in category 22: American-Style Sour Ale.
Wallash is excited about the early success of their brewery.
“This is huge,” he said. “GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world. The fact that we won gold medals in the American-Style Sour Ale categories at GABF and World Beer Cup competitions in our first year is insane.”
According to Wallash, sour beer is unique from other styles of beer. Normal beer ages for one month, while the sour beers at The Rare Barrel age in oak barrels anywhere from six months to three years.
“It’s not hoppy—it’s far from an IPA (India Pale Ale),” he explained. “It tastes tart and acidic and has the same PH as wine. It’s a nice variation of wine, cider and beer. It’s more comparable to a wine than a beer.”
Wallash said anyone new to drinking sour beer should follow the three-sip rule.
“The first sip is going to shock your palate; be ready for that. It will affect the trigeminal nerve,” he said. “Second sip, you’ll be cruising. Third sip, you’re good.”
Wallash is currently keeping busy managing the tasting room and maintaining the brewery’s beer club, “The Founder’s Club.” When a new bottle is released, sometimes non-members run into the same problem Wallash and his friends did when they were in college searching for sour beer: they needed to be at the right place at the right time to purchase. Members of The Founder’s Club avoid that hassle.
“We have 200 to 300 people waiting in line to purchase (on release day),” Wallash said.
Select beers from The Rare Barrel can be found at Trail Dust BBQ, 17240 Monterey St. in Morgan Hill. The tasting room at The Rare Barrel, 940 Parker St. in Berkeley, is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
For more information, visit, email [email protected] or call (510) 984-6585.

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