Serious Eats: Drinks
One Big Bottle: Ithaca Brute
Editor's Note: So many beers, so little time. One Big Bottle spotlights the brews we're sipping, one by one.
Though wild yeasts are gaining a good deal of traction in the U.S., straight-ahead sour ales from American breweries are still few. Sure, there's Brettanomyces this and wild that, but often they're a lefthand tweak on a brewery's existing beer or style. Ithaca Beer Co.'s Brute is one of the few, and a fine one at that. It's brewed with barley, wheat, corn, and three varieties of aged New York hops. To really dial up the sourness, the beer incorporates an unusually high percentage of acid malt, which is produced by developing the lactic acid that naturally occurs on grain. Brute is then aged nine months in American oak barrels with Brett before being finished with three different Champagne yeasts.
The beer pours gold beneath a huge pile of white foam. Pleasant barnyardy Brett aromas meld with oak, honey, and vanilla cake. In the mouth, bold lactic tartness precedes oak and funk. Lemon, white wine, wheat, and some sweet grain flavors follow with a bit of orange juice.
Brute has a great, bright acidity, and overall it's remarkably clean-tasting, with a sourness that seems to build with each sip. The flavor finishes with a snap and a lingering tartness. Lively, refined carbonation amplifies the beer's light body and bone-dry finish. In our estimation, Brute is definitely in the top tier of American sour ales.
Sample provided for review.