Brewery Feature: Solemn Oath
Solemn Oath of Naperville has been brewing some of Chicagoland’s best Belgian inspired beers since 2011. For this year’s BeerHoptacular event, founder and president of Solemn Oath Brewing, John Barley, vice president Eric Hobbs and head brewer Tim Marshall are bringing a real treat with them: 2012 FoBAB bronze medal winner Radth; a chardonnay barrel-aged blonde ale made with cherries. Normally a beer that’s in limited quantity and rarely make it outside brewery of walls, Barley is excited to share this award-winner with people who may not have a chance to try it otherwise.
“Radth was actually batch number one that we ever brewed here in our facility. We wanted to get beers aging in wood right away. We take Oubliette, a Belgian pale it. It’s a base beer with kind of a tropical fruity hop character. We age that in chardonnay and sauvignon blanc barrels, American oak, for about five months. After the beer comes out of the barrel, we add tart cherry. Just enough to give it a light kind of copperness to the color and a really effective balance of wood, beer and fruit.” — Tim Marshall
“A lot of tart wine character comes from the barrels, so we wanted to add a little bit of fruitiness and we figured cherries were just the best way to do that. The first time we did it, we did a bunch of barrels; we tried different blends. We did a passion fruit one, we did one with apples and toasted fennel, we did the cherry. We played around with that base beer in those barrels and used it as an opportunity to experiment and ended up winning a bronze medal at the Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers. First time we ever made it. That was fun.” — Tim Marshall
“This is an important beer for us and the brewery, it being representative of ‘batch one.” It’s exceptionally small in volume and quantity, so we’re excited to share it because we never really bring it outside these doors,” says Eric. Solemn Oath typically only releases Radth to their member’s only “hold order.” “It’s a quarterly thing we do. We’ll take a wood-aged beer and release one or two every quarter depending on the availability of the beer and what’s ready. So we have enough going to be able to a release every quarter for those hold order members,” adds Tim.
“This batch [for Hoptacular] has carried a little more hop bitterness and hop flavor than the previous batches, which I actually kind of like. It retains that beer quality a little better. It’s got a nice kind of rose note to the color. We don’t want to clobber anyone over the head with cherry character, we just try to kind of make it an accent to the existing beer. Although, we do cram a lot of cherries into it.” — Tim Marshall
“The foundation of this brewery is rooted in Belgian-inspired beers. We had the whole staff here talking education with Belgian beers. This is what Belgian beer is about, how does that relate to what inspired us here at Solemn Oath. Radth is a little more hop-forward for most wine barrel-aged beers, but his is an example of the innovative side of things that we’re trying to do going forward.” — Eric Hobbs
“This is a beer we’re excited to bring outside of these doors since I don’t think we ever have. It’s not a beer we’ve made every year. It was fun for us to try to make it again and see what happens. At an event like Hoptacular, you have to bring your best stuff to stand out in some way. It’s such a unique experience. It’s going to be pretty awesome to be able to bring what we consider one of our best beers.” — John Barley