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Partnerships are vital to the success of Tie & Timber Beer Co., say its owners, Curtis Marshall and Jennifer Leonard. But collaborating on a new beer with Ozarks Lyric Opera is a whole different tune for the 4-year-old brewery. The result was Obligato Ale, Tie & Timber’s first-ever beer and wine hybrid called oenobeer (pronounced N-O-beer). The ale is brewed with a Kolsch yeast and pinot grigio grapes to produce a lightly fruity and crisp, clean drink. Obligato Ale debuted March 20, just in time to tie in with the opera’s season-ending production of “Pagliacci,” and it’s expected to become a seasonal beer to be brewed each fall.
SBJ: Did you taste oenobeer somewhere else that inspired you to create your own?
Jennifer Leonard: About three years ago, I was in Denver visiting and I had some friends take me to a brewery called Liberati. Sadly, they’re not there anymore. But they specialized in oenobeers. Oeno means wine. The guidelines are up to 49% of fermentables are wine grapes. For my first oenobeer, I was conservative and used 15% because fermentation can get a little tricky when it comes to grapes. I was just really inspired and wanted to make one. I found the collaboration with the opera the perfect opportunity to stretch those muscles and really dig into the craft.
SBJ: How many iterations of it did you create before arriving at this one?
Leonard: This is the first one. That was where it was like fingers crossed moments. The experience that I’ve had just brewing beer and creating recipes for the last five years kind of led me to being able to put together something that I feel pretty satisfied with from the get-go.
SBJ: The Ozarks Lyric Opera was a partner in this drink. What inspiration or involvement did they bring to its creation?
Leonard: They had reached out to us to do the collaboration. When we got together, they were interested in having a red ale. I pitched them the idea of the oenobeer and the initial thought was using red wine grapes. With spring being here, I really just wanted to do the pinot grigio so that it was light and crisp. To achieve the red color, that was when we brought in the hibiscus. We just went back and forth on the visual of the beer, the flavor of the beer and came to what it is today.
SBJ: What’s behind the name Obligato?
Leonard: I was looking at various opera terms. I found the term obligato, which is basically an obligated piece of music that needs to be played during a certain part. An instrument with a voice. What I really liked about that is it was to either give voice relief or complement the voice. I felt that name was just perfect for the beer because the wine is coming in and it’s complementing the beer.
SBJ: What are your goals for the ale?
Leonard: I’m hoping to really educate our customers. A lot of people don’t know what oenobeer is and part of that is we do have posters coming to kind of help with that education. Going forward, I do want to try and work with a local vineyard and see what we can do to create another oenobeer, and just try to make it a series with the seasons. I’m targeting fall because that’s when harvest starts again.
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