Brew Of The Week
Prairie, Apple Brandy Noir
Something remarkable has been brewing deep within the Bible Belt. Recipes passed down for generations in Oklahoma before its statehood in 1907 & refined from 1919 on through the 1959 repeal of prohibition & turning back of local option have been brought to light by Choc Beer Company in Krebs. State-of-the-art malt facilities such as that of 46 Grain Company have been contributing to production of locally sourced beer. There are, however, few beers able to represent the state in as refined a cadence in regard to array of styles, packaging & cultural exposé as those distributed in limited allocations to just about every corner of the world by Prairie Artisanal Ales. Of these rarities, a variant of their Bomb! imperial stout aged in apple brandy bourbon barrels has found its way to Downtown Wine & Spirits.
Apple Brandy Noir is a decadent, slow sipping stout that has made a return into distribution at the cusp of a milestone in Oklahoma history. August 26th will mark the first time that brewers in that state will be able to sell full strength beers directly from their taprooms. This barrel-aged variant of their most celebrated offering is an aromatic pour that has dominant notes of apple, chocolate & vanilla, complimented by a subdued backbone of brandy & oak. Pitch black in color & resembling motor oil in appearance, it has a lightly syrupy viscosity & distinct yet mellow sweetness that comprises a profile as smooth as it is intense. The body of the beer reveals layers of roasted espresso & fig entwined, surrounding a milky, molasses-like textural density. With virtually no head retention, the camouflaged carbonation presents itself elegantly in finish with a burst befitting the name of the brewery’s flagship imperial stout, masking its boozy nature & pleasantly cutting through its unmistakably rich, round thickness with warming astringency.
Quietly bubbling to the surface of the craft stratosphere with a variety of beers that come & go within the blink of an eye, it is no surprise that bottle shops are vacant of the lauded Tulsa producer’s ales with months in between before an appearance.
De Proef Brouwerij X Trillium, Bouket
The tenth anniversary of De Proef Brouwerij Brewmaster’s Collaboration series has once again brought together the best of the old world with the supreme architects of the new. Explorative farmhouse style producer Trillium Brewing Company was the collaborator of choice for the apropos 2016 offering Bouket. Rooted within stylings often designated to their India pale ales, this saison hybrid fermented with yeasts from both Belgium & New England is dry hopped with Citra & Mosaic, emphasizing a distinctly modern & bountiful American hop profile. It is a masterfully refined ale, brewed once & available at Downtown Wine & Spirits for a very limited time.
Lightly hazy & pale straw with a cadmium yellow hue, Bouket comes alive in pour with notes of zesty citrus, dried pineapple & black pepper; a seamlessly interwoven array of piquant, weedy floral components blend well with exceedingly mild dry hop bitterness & noticeable fruit aromas. The pronounced body & juicy consistency are retained well throughout the experience with perfectly zippy effervescence intact for soft mouthfeel & ever so slightly frothy head. Modestly displayed brettanomyces funk & tart powder candy edge give way to a pleasantly round finish. This marriage of styles combines an array of flavors strewn over a canvas of textural bliss that authenticates specialty standards & the induction of this beer into an illustrious lineage of collaborations brewed at De Proef in Lochristi, Belgium.
With a surge of new alliances now regularly in development between Trillium & the craft elite, this brewery from the lively Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston has rapidly elevated to a level of worldwide renown for quality, consistency & flexibility yet to be surpassed by any Massachusetts producer.
Evil Twin, Food & Beer
In celebration of Evil Twin mastermind Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø’s Food & Beer book release with chef Daniel Burns, a round & fantastically mild all brettanomyces pale ale brewed with peaches has made its way to Downtown Wine & Spirits. The namesake beer counterpart to the book is a limited edition offering with a unique palette of flavors interwoven within the framework of an ale that is soft in texture & pairs well with wash-rind cheeses & charcuterie. Accessibility in style & food-friendly appeal are hallmark to the intent behind its creation.
An elegantly composed, Belgian reinterpretation of the American pale ale, Food & Beer is a hazy, layered pour that is lightly translucent & straw in hue, emitting only the slightest glow from within its apricot tan body. The scent of fermented, pithy peach infused with undertones of balsa & sandalwood are clearly dominant, while assertive notes of pineapple & grape substantiate a moderately tropical hop profile. Initial taste reveals caramel, graham cracker & peach with pronounced farmhouse funk & considerably sizable mouthfeel. Peppery, powder-dry & oaky in finish, a finale perfume-like trail of candied fruit & earthy musk provide this ale with compelling allure.
Food & Beer is an entirely appropriate launch beverage & accessory for the book by the same name as it identifies parallels between edible & potable; it resides as a graceful example of delicate complexity & the precedent on which Evil Twin may be identified as a world-class brewer.
Castle Island Brewing Company, Jetty
A journey of over five years has led founder Adam Romanow & brewer Matt DeLuca to establish their South Boston-inspired brand in Norwood, Massachusetts. Fortified by quality & a clean branding aesthetic, Castle Island Brewing Company has been sensationalized for their felicitous lineup of beers that have managed to stand out in a most competitive state for craft producers. The brewery has since garnered national acclaim & was nominated by the New York Stock Exchange & investment bank Consensus Advisors as one of the “Next Great Consumer Brands” just four months into production of their beers. With several timely releases catering to modern, American audiences, their Candlepin hoppy session ale, Keeper new age India pale ale & Jetty dry-hopped sour ale are interchangeably sought after at Downtown Wine & Spirits.
Debuted on March 30, Jetty is a Spring & Summer release that has distinct aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, lime, lychee, melon & passionfruit from use of Citra hops, blended with pungent, herbal & spicy notes attributed to Mt. Hood. Light in body, moderately frothy & pleasantly tart, this straw-hued pale pour is built over the foundation of pilsner & white wheat malts & soured by way of lactobacillus & brewer’s house yeast. Initial taste reveals layers of black pepper, curry, licorice & subtle citrus, characteristic of the Columbus hops applied for bitterness. A chewy, round, biscuity malt texture substantiates a rather engaging mouth-feel that provides depth to the dry & actively effervescent appeal of the beer & leads up to a finish that is both slightly bitter & sour. Fairly high levels of carbonation & low alcohol content add up to justifying a compelling option for anyone searching for a taste of summer that may be enjoyed in session.
An accessible offering & clear example of Castle Island Brewing Company’s intuitive understanding of the ever-changing landscape of beer, Jetty showcases the brewery’s growing diversity & promising development of its personality.
Almanac Beer Company, Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry
An especially delightful offering from a producer dedicated to the development of seasonal, artisanal beers made in limited quantities, Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry is a uniquely Northern Californian example of farm-to-barrel brewing from Almanac Beer Company. This sour blond ale aged in wine barrels with strawberries is a remarkable collaboration between a brewery & its local terroir.
Founded in 2010 by Damian Fagan & Jesse Friedman, Almanac Beer Company has exemplified an embrace of the eons-old tradition of aging beers in oak barrels. Their now famous house “Dogpatch” sour culture, a combination of wild Belgian & American yeasts, including San Francisco sourdough starter, has been catalyst to the success of their growing line of American wild ales. The search for & addition of only the best locally sourced fruit at the dawn of each harvest has yielded a new partnership with a different farm that would be a supplier for their next brew.
Memorialization of the summer harvest has inspired the duo’s latest release & allocation to Downtown Wine & Spirits. Grown & hand-picked at Swanton Berry Farms in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California, a batch of juicy, coastal Seascape Strawberries conditioned by the Pacific climate bring alive in aroma & flavor the vinous, delicate beer that is Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry.
Coral in pour, this lovely bouquet of ripe berries accented by the light haze of a morning dew retains a mild acidic bite that is complimented by oak & vanilla from the wine casks in which the wild ale was aged. The voluptuous sour blond blend from the barrels provides a refined, lambic-like base that emphasizes the tart qualities of the fruit & allows the strawberries to take center stage.
Exclusion of the overwhelmingly funky & astringently acrid finish that is often attributed to many barrel-aged sours & old world Gueuze style beers spotlights its exceeding accessibility to enthusiasts of any style. Though one of many impressive contributions that have been made available in the state of Massachusetts by this San Francisco / San José producer, Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry stands out as perhaps the most perfect introduction to the summer as we pass its solstice.
Anderson Valley, GT Gose
Originally produced in Goslar, Germany at the dawn of the 16th century, gose is considered a regional specialty to its namesake locality, as well as Leipzig where the beer was cultivated. It was thus classified exempt from German Beer Purity Law known as the Reinheitsgebot. Following a history of breweries opening & closing, eventually ceasing production of the beer almost entirely from 1945 to 1988, the style has found exponentially rising levels of popularity in the United States & beyond since its return.
The once spontaneously fermented ale is now soured with a combination of both top-fermenting yeast & lactic acid bacteria ever since it was discovered the desired effect is similar. Traditionally brewed with salt, coriander & at least fifty percent of the grain bill being malted wheat, a gose is characterized by astringent sour notes with briny, herbaceous undertones & a light mineral aroma.
For many Americans, the first exposure to this style of beer came by way of an offering from the Boonville, California-based Anderson Valley Brewing Company. The pioneering producer, founded in 1987, was one of only twenty craft breweries in the United States at the time of its inception. The acquisition of its 100 & 85 barrel capacity copper kettles rescued from two German breweries in 1995 allowed the brewery the opportunity to introduce a variety of beers then new to the country.
In their continued exploration of the style, following distribution of the first gose made available anywhere in packs of six (The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose), Anderson Valley has released three variants of this unique beer in Blood Orange, Briney Melon & Gin & Tonic spins. The latest & quite possibly most sought after, abbreviated as GT Gose, is at Downtown Wine & Spirits for a very limited time.
Emanating qualities that are strikingly evocative of the cocktail, its crisp display of botanical aromas, light, citrusy & effervescent body & astringent, momentarily bitter, yet clean, peppery finish align for a truly unique palette of flavors to be experienced within a beer. A delicate use of lemon peel, lemongrass & juniper accentuates this gose with a notably refined sense of experimentation, harkening back to the very soul of how this German style came to be.
The decades of experience as translated by the centerpiece copper kettles housed within their Bavarian-style brewhouse have provided Anderson Valley with a time capsule to resume perfection of the gose & achieve new levels of appeal.
To Øl, Sur Citra
Contemporary & uncompromising, Tobias Emil Jensen & Tore Gynther have been garnering international recognition for a marvelously hip approach to brewing since first commercial release in 2010 as To Øl. The nomadic duo has relayed an understanding of the youthful nature of beer with whimsically modern branding & a consistently evolving product line. By deconstructing classic recipes & accentuating the deeply embedded qualities of added ingredients, these dedicated disciples of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, founder of Mikkeller, have discovered a niche within which they would thrive.
The latest offering at Downtown Wine & Spirits is a reintroduction to the To Øl experimental Sur series of sour mash pale ales that have been dry-hopped with single strains of hops. Sur Citra, a sour pale ale dry-hopped with Citra, respectively, retains an aroma of citrus, grapefruit & pine, complimented by the astringent pop of lactic fermentation. Hazy & pale in appearance with substantial head retention, evidence of old world influence may be unearthed beneath immediately tart & bitter first impressions cast by wild yeast & Pacific Northwest hops. Sweet undertones of Pilsner malt & the Melanoidin-intensified, bock-like backbone of honey & biscuit centralize the funky elements of the beer on a traditional stage. The use of Cara Crystal & unmalted wheat provide a light, textural graininess which lay in contrast to the bolder malt elements & provide for a crisp, effervescent edge & finish.
This now popularized & increasingly replicated style of beer has established an accessible appeal by way of its synthesis of refreshing hop bliss & sour decadence. As breweries new & old begin to boast such mashups in greater quantity, the often resolute philosophy of sacrificing business for upheld control of quality has once again redefined the chasm between micro & macro. For To Øl, the worth of a brewery lay within the story that its beers will tell… nothing else.
Amidst an industry overrun by breweries with the desire to stand out by altering traditional recipes in an attempt to achieve the extreme, only few have masterfully exemplified commitment to the field of innovation. For Henok Fentie & Karl Grandin, a Swedish duo of gypsy brewers known as Omnipollo, the ambition to alter the perception of beer has become an obsession.
Since the debut of Milkshake, a smoothie-inspired India pale ale collaboration with Tired Hands, Omnipollo has set a precedent for the exploration of texture with the use of lactose. Their latest offering, Abrahadabra, is an India pale ale that features a creamy yet dry consistency as a result of the unfermentable milk sugar added. Brewed at Crazy Mountain Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado, this beautiful, coral parfait of strawberries, vanilla, lactose sugar, oats, wheat & citra hops is hazy & fantastically fragrant.
Perfume-like aromas of cereal, ripened berries & vanilla interweave with notes of tropical fruit & citrus for an inviting appeal. The elements blend well with the added lactose & achieve a silky body that is truly reminiscent of a smoothie. Retention of the light Citra-induced bitterness is accentuated by the astringent tartness of the fermented strawberries, leading into a pleasantly chalky finish.
Abrahadabra exemplifies the unique nature of the niche plateau that Omnipollo occupies in the beer world. A dyad synesthesia of creatively concocted potions & evocatively psychedelic design are substantiated by a foundation of quality, assuring promising experiences beyond the alluring visual presentations.
Aeronaut Brewing Co., Hop, Hop & Away
In anticipation of thousands that would roam the streets of Somerville on Saturday May 21 for this year’s Porchfest, an annual festival where passerby are serenaded by musicians from porches throughout the city, our friends at AERONAUT Brewing Company delivered fresh batches of three of their finest beers canned just hours before first appearance in the bombers fridge at Downtown Wine & Spirits.
Most notable of these 32-ounce cans was the northwestern Citra & Mosaic-based Hop, Hop & Away: a single barrel, session India pale ale that features a bright haze of whirlpool & dry-hop additions for a subtropical palette of both grapefruit & citrus. A high proportion of pale malts gives this beer a light color & reinforces an earthy foundation with crisp texture & only soft bitterness, resulting in a clean finish.
Perfectly blanched & effervescent in pour, this assertively hopped beer is a very current embodiment of what is considered to be the modern American ale.
Night Shift Brewing, Pfaffenheck
There are few local breweries that have had as much success in as short a length of time as Everett-based Night Shift Brewing. Whether it be the continued appeal of their hop-centric ales that are delivered to stores within days of being canned, the devoted curiosity of India pale ale enthusiasts who snatch up quickly depleting four-packs of their ever-evolving Morph, or even the aesthetically hip hop owl that graces their products, it is clear that there is a multitude of reasons they are a top name associated with Massachusetts craft brewing.
In light of a recent $250,000 investment into a new Wild Goose 4-head canning line & the freedom therein of being able to can their beers independently, Night Shift set forth to rerelease two of its popular pours: One Hop This Time, a rotating single hop India pale ale, & Pfaffenheck, a German-style pilsner. The latter of the two is now currently in the lineup of weekly new arrivals at Downtown Wine & Spirits.
Bright, crisp & refreshing, Pfaffenheck is a traditional representation of a pilsner with soft notes of biscuit, grass & honey accentuated only by the zesty hop profile that is attributed to many of Night Shift’s beers. Following several refinements of the recipe since its draft-only debut at the brewery’s taproom, it has developed into a beautifully simple offering that is a notable American homage to its origins.
Much like the can design which serves as an allusion to the art of Mondrian & utilizes colors of the German flag, this reintroduction to Pfaffenheck is fantastically elemental & a timely appropriation of a classic style of beer for a modern audience. It should be no surprise if something so perfectly rudimentary were to reside at the forefront of Night Shift Brewing’s movement into a new era.
Birrificio Rurale, Seta Special
In anticipation of warmer weather & the onset of refreshing beers reentering the market with steadfast demand, improvisations on & variations of Belgian-style ales are at a forecasted height of production. Innovative interpretations of classics from producers both domestic & international provide for seemingly infinite choices of beers that boast creative recipes, attractive artwork & seasonably adventurous appeal for those interested in something new.
Amidst the hullabaloo, a fantastically effervescent & delightfully complex spin on a Belgian-style wit beer has fared its way from Birrificio Rurale to the illustrious lineup of Italian specialties available at Downtown Wine & Spirits. Flavored with bergamot & coriander, this lightly hazy, pale pour is an inviting experience that is seductively aromatic & beguilingly complex. Notes of fresh cut grass & wildflower on the nose introduce a medium bodied blend of barley malt, wheat, oat flakes, hops & yeast. The delicate spicing that is interwoven translates as an homage to Earl Grey tea, lacing the crisp zest & light bitterness of this top-fermenting ale with undertones of a slight oil consistency that rounds out the edges for a clean, herbaceous finish.
Seta Special is a fine embodiment of & ode to the experimental roots of many artisanal breweries hailing from Italy, a country so often overlooked by Western consumers too cautious to pierce the veil of its old world mystique.
Wicked Weed Brewing, Oblivion
With allocations that are rotating in availability, Wicked Weed Brewing is swiftly acquiring a vast following for their unique brand of experimental sour ales. Oblivion, the most notable recent offering from their Funkatorium, is a sour red ale aged with blackberries & dates in red wine barrels for up to 12 months.
Dark, lush & rich with aromas of oak & fermented fruits, this younger variant on the traditional recipe for a Flanders sour red ale is both assertively tart & cavernous in its complexity. Oblivion pours a deep red hue with medium head & thin lacing. Notes of malt & a pronounced wine mouthfeel consummate intense character that is most notable when served slightly below room temperature.
Grounded by an exemplary standard of redefining classics, it is no surprise that this brewery’s imaginative palate for subtle innovation & poetically driven aesthetic has grown far past its roots in Asheville, NC.
Urban Family Brewing Co., Through The Eyes Of Babes
A limited offering from the first brewery to establish a foundation in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, WA, Through The Eyes Of Babes is a 100% brettanomyces fermented farmhouse ale that has introduced Urban Family Brewing to the collection of bottle conditioned beers at Downtown Wine & Spirits.
This saison comes alive with a potpourri of floral notes as it pours a translucent golden hue with thick head & illuminates the glass. Clear overtones of pine & citrus rest delicately amongst tropical fruit aromas layered with subtle brett complexities. A beautiful example of wild yeast fermentation & dry-hopping with Azacca, this beer presents an effervescent & bountiful bouquet that is frothy, peppery & lightly bitter, as well as dynamically zesty & tart in the finish.
With such a fine reinterpretation of a Belgian classic as a nationwide debut, there is no telling what we may see from this Pacific Northwest brewery in bloom.
Mystic x George Howell, Reko Saison
First introduced to Massachusetts by George Howell in 2004, a complex offering of heirloom coffee bean varietals from the Reko region of Yirgacheffe in Ethiopia have been blended into a refined batch of saisons by Mystic Brewery. Reko Coffee Saison is experimental in nonconformity to established traditions of integrating coffee into porters & stouts; it offers a harmonious balance of bright, acidic notes from the beans with the floral, spicy flavors of a farmhouse ale.
Alive with the rich aroma of a fresh roast, beer enthusiasts are greeted by bold flavors of apricot, candied lemon & watermelon that are seamlessly interwoven with a zesty medley of orange peel & pepper. Moderately assertive hops provide the body of this saison with an exceedingly approachable, light bitterness that bids subtle contrast to the malts, yet does not dominate the foundation of the beer.
This hazy, dark amber pour is a tribute to the skin-stripped & fermented fruit of independent farmers that have washed, sorted, dried & shipped Reko overseas to enrich our palates in more ways than one.
Down The Road, Pukwudgie American Pale Ale
The flagship beer of Down The Road has made its way to mark the inaugural release of this brewery’s canning operation & appropriated reintroduction to the already famous lineup of hoppy beverages at Downtown Wine & Spirits.
Pukwudgie American Pale Ale is a spritely blend of select American malts & hop varietals that provide for a bright, citrusy splash into a haze of tropical fruit delight & light pine bitterness. Aromas of passionfruit, mango & savory caramel interweave with a redolence of fresh vegetation & floral notes that welcome both dilettantes & aficionados to a delicately fashioned session ale.
From the tributary forest mythicism embedded within the history of the Wampanoag to the imagination of a local brewmaster that prides himself with an active pursuit of perfecting tradition by adding subtle hues to colorful simplicity, this contribution is a testament to a masterful, evolving canvas sustained by Massachusetts breweries.
Jack’s Abby, Excess India Pale Lager
Fresh from Jack’s Abby Brewing, a celebratory first canning of Excess IPL is now available at Downtown Wine & Spirits.
This exorbitantly hopped India pale lager boasts 80 international bitterness units & a bouquet of five hop varietals that align for a complex yet distinctly refreshing pour. Beer enthusiasts are greeted by a massive, tropical hop aroma of passion fruit, guava & citrus with undertones of grapefruit, pine & floral notes. A palette of lime, papaya & bell pepper are introduced upon first sip, only to be succeeded by a chewy, moderately bitter & lightly sweet foundation of melon, apple & mint. Blackberry, peach & a return to pine are unearthed within the finish.
A fine representation of the triple dry hopping process involved & a synthesis of layered hop flavors comprise this exceptional offering from a uniquely lager-centric producer of beers in Massachusetts.
On December 3rd, a limited allocation of six 750mL bottles of the latest vintage of Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze will be available at Downtown Wine & Spirits.
A blend of 1, 2 & 3 year-old lambics aged in-bottle for at least one year after blending, this Geuze is famous for its champagne-like spritziness (a result of fermentation). Comprised of 60% barley malt, 40% unmalted wheat, aged hops & water, each lambic is spontaneously fermented by wild yeasts & aged in oak barrels. Drie Fonteinen is renowned as the last traditional geuze blender in Belgium, using only pure lambic bought from three breweries in Belgium. The result: a tart, earthy & delightfully complex beer that, if cellared properly, will only get better with time for at least 10 years.