Highland Park Brewery’s Yard Beer Batch 4

Beer Reviews by | Sep 2017 | Issue #128

Hidden in the back of The Hermosillo, an old Mexican escort bar turned beer destination, Highland Park Brewery owner and brewer Bob Kunz and his team craft everything from West Coast IPAs to German-style Pilsners. All tasty, but during my first visit last month it was their mixed culture Yard Beer series that really piqued my interest.

Inspired by ingredients found in yards throughout Highland Park, a historic neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles, the team picks what’s available at the time and builds a recipe. Four batches have been made so far, each using a mixed culture of yeast and bacteria that has continued to evolve for a decade, since Kunz was a homebrewer.

Batch 4 is a Saison brewed with black limes and sour flowers. As Kunz explains, “The black limes came from my buddy Alex Brown. He takes the limes and blanches them in a brine and then dehydrates them by setting them out in the sun. The fermentation concentrates them into one of the most vibrant, punchy fruit [flavors] I’ve ever experienced.” You’ll often find dried limes in Middle Eastern cuisine and drinks, too.

As for the sour flower, Kunz notes that it’s a weed that grows locally. “They have a long skinny stalk, clover-like green leaves, and small yellow flowers. The entire plant is edible and tastes like sucking on a lemon. In the springtime you can find them everywhere in Highland Park. The ones I used for this particular batch came out of a couple of yards on my walk to work.”

Batch 4 was also open fermented in the brewery’s mash tun. Yes, mash tun. “We get a really incredible fermentation expression with this process and most likely a bit of wild yeast and bacteria,” says Kunz.

There’s a good amount of sediment, so even a gentle decant yields a pale yellow, cloudy glass of beer with a thin lace. A soft, but distinct, funkiness in the nose mingles with slight medicinal notes, citrus rinds, and hay. The body is very light with a crisp carbonation that’s creamy on the palate. Massive bursts of lime are sharp and puckering with suggestions of brininess. A floral and herbal tea-like bitterness brings another layer with some lemony and earthy qualities, followed by delicious quinine-like flavors. Very dry with a bready linger of malt and earthy tones, Yard Beer Batch 4 is a real treat to experience, and I love how the urban-cultivated ingredients don’t get lost.

Looking for some? Only 841 bottles of Yard Beer Batch 4 were sold online and over the bar, so you’ll need to trade if you’re not in the area. As for the next batch? “Inspiration hasn’t grabbed us yet,” Kunz says.

Yard Beer Batch 4
Highland Park Brewery | Los Angeles, CA
STYLE: American Wild Ale
ABV: 7.2%
Look 3.25 | Smell 3.75 | Taste 4.5 | Feel 3.75 | Overall 4
Todd’s Score: 4.07/5