Monday, January 28, 2013

Funky Old Ale - Last Bottle

On Saturday, my friend Drew had invited me and a few friends to an autobiographical beer tasting. His concept was for everyone to bring a couple bottles that represented their personal beer history. I brought Ommegang Hennepin, one of the first really interesting beers I sampled, thanks to my friend Jason. It was as good as ever, especially compared to a light-struck bottle of Saison Dupont. My second beer was Flanders Fred, a collaboratively brewed version of Hair of the Dog’s barleywine Fred, brewed at De Proef, that was then blended with Flemish Lambic (Gueuze Fond Tradition?). I’d never had it before, but Alan Sprints' high gravity creations at Hair of the Dog were big influences early on (my Adam clone), as was Dirk Naudts at De Proef with his weird and interesting Flemish Primitives series. Sadly their collaboration was underwhelming, without the complexity of either of the base beers.

My final pour of my 78 month-old Old Ale.Finally, I brought the last bottle of one my of the first funky/sour beers. Brewed way back in 2006, an old ale finished with Brett C. I was sad to say goodbye to an old friend, but happy I could send it out in style.

Funky Old Ale - 2006

Appearance – Pours into my sample glass with a thin tan head that dissipates quickly. The leathery brown body is nearly clear, despite a delay-filled subway ride to the tasting.

Smell – Apple skins and sherry lead. There is oxidation, but it is mostly positive, no wet paper or cardboard. Like the color, leather is a prominent character in the aroma as well. Brett is a terrific oxygen-scavenger, and a big reason this beer still smells as good as it does.

Taste – Dry, dusty, farmyard-Brett character. Some dark/dried fruitiness, vinous. There is a hint of toasty oak, but it has mellowed considerably. It is too dry for what old ale is expected to be these days, but I don’t think it is too dry to be enjoyable. I’d love to try the oak aged portion (5X) of Strong Suffolk to see how they compare.

Mouthfeel – The body is the only place where this beer really lacks. It has smoothed over the years, although it is still slightly tannic, but drinking it you understand why blending well-aged stock ales (like this one) with younger, sweeter beers was so popular a couple hundred years ago. The carbonation is slightly high, but it always has been.

Two De Dolle Reservas, side-by-side. Stille Nacht and Oerbier.Drinkability & Notes – I'm really pleased that this one held up so well. It was pretty popular, even with one of the tasters who doesn’t usually care for funky/sour beers. It could probably have survived a year or two longer, but better to enjoy it now than risk waiting too long. Luckily I’ve got a 10 gallon share of a barleywine aging with Brett lambiucus in a bourbon barrel that should be ready to bottle soon. Nathan recently reported that it has developed a lovely sherry character. Hopefully that one will be doing just as well as this one sometime around 2019.

Some of the other highlights from the tasting: Allagash House Beer, a 4.5%, citrusy-funky Belgian table beer that was all kinds of deliciously sessionable. It was generously provided by Greg, who played host at Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont. I also really enjoyed the bottle of Olde Rabbit’s Foot (23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle barrel aged blended Imperial Stout) from Olde Hickory, Foothills, and Duck Rabbit, that Drew had waited in line to buy. It was also fun to try a five-year-old bottle of Orval next to a relatively fresh one, brought by two people who’d both been inspired by the classic Brett-finished beer.

To cap the afternoon we bought a 750 of De Dolle Stille Nacht Reserva 2010 to split. The original 2000 version was one of those beers I always wanted to try and never got to, this one was worth the wait. Apple, caramel, damp basement oak, fruity funk. I still prefer Oerbier Reserva for its greater malt complexity (Nathan brought a bottle of the 2008), but I wouldn’t turn it down if I have the chance to try it again!


Anonymous said...

Did you see/notice that Orval doesn't add Brett to the beer anymore. Since over a year, maybe even two.
There has been some microscopic images of different bottles/batches that show no signs of Brett, only of Sach.

Interesting in the Allagash, but that sadly will never reach Europe.


Anonymous said...

I should have said 'apparently'. But can't find any at the moment online. Will post it later if I stumble onto it..

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The fresher bottle still certainly tasted like it had Brett in it. Given it is their signature flavor, I'd be surprised if they had removed it and no one had made a big deal about it. Goût d'Orval and what not? The younger bottle was certainly mellower, but it still had the characteristic flavors of young Brett. Not sure exactly how old it was, could have been older than a year.

I know not too long ago they switched from adding the Brett in secondary with the dry hops, to waiting until bottling. Maybe that is what you are thinking of?

Jason Lyle said...

Mike, here's to those memories. Going to pick up a few Hennepin tonight, as it's been a few years since my last bottle and you've certainly inspired me here. Cheers!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

How is your re-entry into brewing going?

Jason Lyle said...

Going well! Thanks to your suggestions I have a modified recipe at the ready, and only a few more items yet to pick up on my shopping list. At this point, we're just collecting bottles. Might still be a while yet though, since we have only maybe two dozen so far...