Home Beer Meet the winner: Shady Oak Barrel House

Meet the winner: Shady Oak Barrel House


Shady Oak Barrel House
Santa Rosa, California

Shady Oak Barrel House’s owner, Steve Doty, deliberately does not call his year-and-a-half-old operation a brewery (despite his inclusion on this list).

It’s a blending house; all of his actual brewing occurs at other breweries around Sonoma County. He brews there, packs up the unfermented wort, and brings it back to his sunny, garage-door-enclosed space, which is stacked with bourbon barrels, Hungarian red wine puncheons and barrels that previously held wines like sauvignon blanc, pinot and French chardonnay.

Fitting, for a guy who spent years working as a technician in a wine lab.

“A lot of the work I did was blending from the barrels, working with barrels, monitoring fermentation, cell counts…” Doty says.

A large component of his job was also to detect the first sign of Brettanomyces yeast, considered a problematic infection in wine.

“I was the weird one who was actually into Brett,” he says.

The Brett obsession led to Shady Oak, which is dedicated to sour, wild and farmhouse beers, most of which are fermented at least in part by Brett. Doty rarely creates the same beer in exactly the same way; he’d rather play with series including a golden sour series, two farmhouse series, a darker sour series and more to come.

“I make maybe four or five beers, but with what I do with blending, fruit additions and hopping, I don’t know how many unique beers I’ve created. My full catalogue has yet to be reached,” Doty says. “With this type of brewery and these type of beers, I don’t think consistency is as important. That’s not really my job, nor do I want it to be.”Currently, Shady Oak isn’t open to the public, but Doty’s beers can be found throughout the state of California at Whole Foods and high-end bottle shops.

“My batch size is 30 barrels, which is about 1000 gallons. For sours, the more beer in barrels you have, the better for blending options so I really wanted to make sure I had a good array of barrels to choose from when creating a blend,” he says. “And because I’m a one-man show, I do larger batches less frequently just so I can handle everything.”

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Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.


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