It’s that time of year again! The weather is changing ever so slowly (highs forecast ONLY in the low 80s this week!), folks are starting to contemplate their holiday plans, and the Spurs get ready to make another run to the title.

This also marks Dia de La Muerta, and the annual repost of the history of La Muerta to go with it!

Before we dig into the history, here is a run-down of the release details this year:

And here are the details you need to know for how the release will work:

  • Bottle counts: 1,200 bottles. Please note, another 1,200 bottles will be hitting distribution the following week, and bottles will be available at the S Presa tasting room when we open to the public on November 7.
  • The bottle share will start on the patio at 7:30am. We request that no one come on the patio until this time, and there should definitely be NO ALCOHOL CONSUMED ON THE PATIO PRIOR TO THE OFFICIAL START OF THE BOTTLE SHARE. This is done for our safety and yours.
  • Dia de La Muerta tap list will be available when we open at 11am. Tap list will be posted on Thursday to this blog, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Upon the start of the bottle-share, numbered and color coded wristbands will be distributed from the outside entrance to the patio. Because of the volume of bottles produced, we do not anticipate a sell-out on the first day, but we cannot predict what the turnout will be. Wristbands will determine the order of purchasing.
  • Sales of bottles will begin at 9:30am and there will be two registers open to conduct transactions. Both registers will accept cash or credit cards, but we will state that cash is always appreciated and helps things move more smoothly.
  • Bottles will be $13.50/each + tax. Depending on the number of people who show up, we reserve the right to limit the number of bottles that can be purchased. If we do institute a limit, the lowest it will be is 4/bottles of each beer per person. Note: prices do not include sales tax, which will be added to your total.
  • At 10:35am we will make a 10 minute announcement and at 10:45am the bottle share will need to come to an end so that we may prepare for open of business at 11am.

If you have any questions, hit me on twitter at @beermonkey or @freetailbrewing

Thanks everyone. This is one of my favorite days for a lot of reasons, the biggest one being the organic way this event has grown up. I thank you from the bottom of my support over the years and I look forward to seeing and hanging out with you Saturday!

Read on for the history of La Muerta and details on this year’s liquid.

***Note, this is essentially a re-post of what I put together for the La Muerta V release in 2012. I’ve merely updated with new data.*** 

The seventh iteration of Dia de La Muerta day looms, and I thought it was a good time to reflect on and share how this all came to be.

When Freetail was still in its planning phases, we knew (like pretty much any brewery that opened since 2004 or so) we wanted to brew an imperial stout. A perfectly healthy admiration for skulls & Dia de los Muertos coupled with half of my DNA rooted in Mexican-American culture led me to a name for our imp-y before we had a recipe: La Muerta. I had grand ideas for a line of similarly named brews. Maybe El Muerto could be a supercharged version, a Double Imperial Stout, if you will. Muertito could be a smaller version, meant for more casual sipping by a winter fire. While these other ideas have not yet (and may never) come to fruition, La Muerta was a concept with legs.

Back then, head brewer Jason Davis and I used to have regular brainstorming sessions. What did we want to brew? What ideas toed the proverbial crazy line? Could we pull all that off or did we need more tanks? How the hell would yeast management work? While not every idea from those early meetings ever came into being (or are even stuck in our memories anywhere), they did go on to help mold the general direction of our brewing and how the brewery needed to be set up to supply such ambitions. It was in one of these meetings that I told Jason about La Muerta.

Jason, the evil brewing genius he is, decided to venture slightly from what we were seeing on the national scene where imp-ys tended to be on the sweeter side, with alcohol content going up but apparent attenuation seemingly going down. Pulling ideas from a previous homebrew test batch, we would leave some sweetness, but focus more on the chocolate characteristics along with another that would be specific to our imperial stout–the addition of rauch malt which now makes up almost 20% of the grain bill. Over the years, my occasional glance at review websites reveals comments like “surprisingly smokey”. Well, I can say that it should no longer come as a surprise to anyone… there’s a whole lot of smoked malt in there!

Here is a brief history of La Muerta, both in pictures and narrative, including slight recipe changes over the years. I’m honored that this beer has become appreciated by so many, but also that Dia de La Muerta has become (in my completely biased opinion) one of the best regular beer events in the state of Texas. All of you, and the epic bottle share you have developed over the years, are responsible for this. The laws here in Texas are a little quirky  so we can’t really have things like Dark Lord Day, but I think Dia de La Muerta is the closest thing we have because of all you guys and gals who wake up early, drive across the state, and come hang out on the patio at 8am waiting to buy some bottles. 2013 Update: This statement is no long really true given the recent changes in beer laws, but the point remains the same. You guys have helped make our bottle releases awesome and until someone tells me otherwise I think Dia de La Muerta is the closest thing to Dark Lord Day in the state. A tip of the hat to my friends at Jester King, who are definitely keeping me on my toes with the great job they are doing. They are forcing (in a good way) me to continually try to up our game. Y’all are awesome! 2014 Update: Another tip of the hat to my friends at Jester King, who in my opinion have taken the bottle release/bottle share to the next level with their innovative beers and beautiful location in the Texas hill country. While I have a huge sense of pride for being one of the first to conduct these events in Texas, I have even more pride in our state’s beer culture for continually executing and supporting these kinds of events. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, Texas is a legit beer state!

La Muerta I. 10.2% ABV 50 IBU, 5.9 barrels produced. Brewed January 2, 2009, released on draft January 26, 2009. Approximately 100 bottles released on February 14, 2009. Most bottles had black wax. Bottles sold out in approximately 6 days. Original recipe was 11.4% rauch malt in grain bill.

Unused label concept for La Muerta, produced by The Mad House.

 

Unused label art concept for La Muerta, produced by The Mad House

 

Hand bottling first batch of La Muerta, circa Feb 2009

Wax dipping the first bottles of La Muerta, circa Feb 2009

La Muerta II. 11.2% ABV 50 IBU, 6.3 barrels produced. Brewed October 1, 2009. Released on draft November 1, 2009. Bottles released November 7, 2009. Some bottles black wax, some bottles gold wax. Approximately 250 bottles sold. Bottles sold out approximately 10pm on November 7. Recipe still unchanged from original.

La Muerta moves to its eventual normal release date of November 1 for draft, first Saturday of November for bottles (what we now call Dia de La Muerta).

Promotional photo for La Muerta

Bourbon Barrel La Muerta. La Muerta II aged in a Four Roses distillery barrel. Released on Draft January 6, 2010. Bottles release February 13, 2010. Red wax. 95 bottles sold, initial limit was 1/customer, “coupon” emailed out via newsletter on January 1, 2010. Sold out within 4 hours.

This was a very successful release that provided a very delicious beer, for some people. Some other people ended up with a sour, infected imperial stout that I personally despised. This constituted the end of bourbon barrel projects (with the exception of occasional 5 gallon bourbon barrels we get for draft only releases). After this, all barrel aging was done for our Wild Ale program. 2014 Update: Now that we’ve moved into our new S Presa brewery, there is a lot of whispers in the rafters about a bourbon barrel program returning. I can neither confirm or deny said rumors.

Terribly Photoshopped “coupon” emailed out. Required to get a bottle.

Bourbon Barrel La Muerta labels. Definitely the best part of this infected sour mess of a beer.

La Muerta III. 10.3% ABV 55 IBU, 10.0 barrels produced. Brewed September 30 and October 1, 2010. Released November 1, 2010 on draft, bottles November 6, 2010. Red wax. Approximately 450 bottles produced. Sold out in approximately 2 hours. Slight bump in the rauch malt to 12%, increase in IBUs to 55.

We significantly upped the production, “double-batching” La Muerta.

Dia de La Muerta 2010 t-shirts.

La Muerta IV. 9.3% ABV 50 IBU, 11.9 barrels produced. Brewed October 5 & 6, 2011. Release November 1, 2011 on draft, bottles November 5. Gold wax White wax [Edited on 10/31/2012]. Approximately 800 bottles produced. Sold out in approximately 1.5 hours. Recipe increases rauch mault to 18%, IBUs back down to 50.

Labels switch from vinyl “logo only” to wrap-around pressure sensitive labels with brew info (and Government Warning).

Promotional photo for La Muerta

La Muerta V. 9.1% ABV 50 IBU, 18.5 barrels produced. Brewed October 3 and 4, 2012. Draft release November 1, 2012. Bottles release November 3, 2012. No wax. 1,476 bottles sold. 1,074 bottles sold on Dia de La Muerta. Final bottle sold out on December 6. 2012 recipe 11.8% rauch malt and 7% oak smoked wheat malt.

Our first ever “triple batch” in order to try to keep up with demand. Also the first time La Muerta was not be bottled by hand and instead on our bottling line acquired at the end of 2011.

Labeling La Muerta V.

La Muerta VI. 9.2% ABV 50 IBU, 20.2 BBL produced. Brewed October 3 & 4, 2013. Draft release: November 1, 2013. Bottle release: November 2, 2013. Blue wax. 1,600 bottles available for sale. 2013 Recipe modifications: 12% rauch malt, 7% oak smoke wheat malt (so, a very minor increase in rauch versus 2012). Sold out our Anniversary Weekend (thanksgiving weekend)

 

Labeling La Muerta VI

La Muerta VII. 8.9% ABV 55 IBU, 33.4 BBL produced. Brewed October 2 & 3, 2014. Draft & Bottle release: November 1, 2014. Blueish/Gray/Metallic wax. 1,200 bottles available for sale at brewpub on 11/1/2014, 100 more cases hitting distribution on 11/4/2014. 50 cases for S Presa Tasting room when it opens on 11/7/2014. 2014 Recipe modifications: IBUs back up to 55. New label art for 2014. In all likelihood, we will do new label art every year going forward.

La Muerta VII (2014)