On the way to perfection: Funk Factory's latest bottle pre-sale blows the doors off

Deputy Tommy ‘Hawk’ Hill: My people believe that the White Lodge is a place where the spirits that rule man and nature reside. There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge. The shadow self of the White Lodge. Legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it The Dweller on the Threshold.

Special Agent Dale Cooper: Dweller on the Threshold.

Deputy Tommy ‘Hawk’ Hill: But it is said that if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.
— Twin Peaks, episode 2.11

With O’so Brewing’s annual anniversary party coming up in November, the brewery has once again teamed up with Funk Factory Geuzeria to release two limited-quantity beers. Those bottles went on sale at noon on Thursday on the ticket-selling site Brown Paper Tickets.

Within 90 seconds, every one of the roughly 900 bottles each of White Lodge Reserve and Frampaars were in placed in electronic shopping carts.

Photo credit: Brad Fedie, used with permission

“That was crazy,” Funk Factory proprietor Levi Funk told me, about an hour after the sale went live. “I’m in the process of getting things ready to find investors,” he said, “so this should help.”

Funk has been prepping his barrel and tasting room, located on Gilson Street just off of Park, for an opening date still a year or two off, but his star has been rising steadily in beer circles throughout this build-out. He threw a packed Great Taste of the Midwest pre-party back in August. His bottle releases at O’so Brewing have cleared the decks every time; no bottles sit around waiting for buyers, not for very long anyway.

Funk Factory had gotten some solid hype in the weeks leading up to today, with five posts from sarcastic tastemaker Don’t Drink Beer mentioning either Funk Factory beers or branding since the end of September. The Beer Advocate “Wants” pages for these two beers, where users request beer-for-beer trades, already had entries yesterday, and there are another three posts in the “In Search Of” message board forum for them.

The beers themselves are definitely of the type to draw lusty refresh-clicks on beer fans’ web browsers. Frampaars is a lambic-style sour beer, aged on purple raspberries. It’s a continuation of Funk Factory’s fruited lambic series, which has included Cassis (currant), Door Kriek (cherry), and Framrood (red raspberry).

White Lodge Reserve has been referred to by Funk as “Dweller 2.0,” a callback to Funk Factory’s one-off Dweller on the Threshold lambic-style blend from January 2014. Both beers bear Twin Peaks references in their names, and Dweller is still sought-after in beer trading circles. White Lodge is a blend of 1-, 2-, and 3-year aged lambic-style beers. Funk has called it his “thousand-day geuze.”

Photo credit: Brad Fedie, used with permission

Today’s lucky buyers had the choice between two options: retrieve the bottles in-person at the release party in Plover on November 14, or designate a proxy by name, providing a scan of a valid (21+) ID for that person to present on the day of the release. There will surely be a significant number of buyers taking advantage of the proxy option, which not all brewers offer in limited release sales like these.

Chicago mega-craft brewer Goose Island will release its Bourbon County Stout Rare on the same November weekend, and will not allow proxy pick-ups. Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis put bottles of its lauded imperial stout, Abraxas, up for pre-buy at the same time as Funk Factory’s sale, and similarly will not allow proxies for its release party on November 10.

To address the speed of today’s rapid sell-out, Funk told fans on the Geuzeria’s Facebook page that per-person limits will likely be lowered for future releases, but that proxy buying is a gesture toward the broader beer community that he’d like to retain.

“I like the proxy system,” he wrote, “and I think it help(s) alleviate the trading demand.” That may be an arguable point, but there’s literally no way to keep everyone happy when high-quality lambic-style beers hit limited release.

“Lambic-style” is how folks typically refer to beers produced in America that would be called lambics if produced in Belgium, since there’s an inference of place in the name. Funk Factory, along with Allagash Brewing in Maine and Side Project Brewing in St. Louis, is among the leaders of a growing American lambic movement. The unqualified success of this week’s bottle release certainly seems to be proof of that.