Kelso Beer Co. Brett IPA
Our first beer of the day was Kelso’s IPA (6% ABV) with a dose of Brettanomyces Claussenii added after its primary fermentation. Forget what you think you know about “wild yeast,” there isn’t a hint of funk here. Instead, the Brett amplified the hops’ big citrus character, bringing out orange, grapefruit and tangerine. Complex and perfectly dry.
Lawson's Finest Liquids Bretty Cider
Cider is slowly becoming more common at beer festivals and we were delighted to find one from Vermont nanobrewery Lawson's Finest Liquids. Their Bretty Cider was fermented entirely with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, a wild yeast gaining popularity amongst adventurous brewers, and juice sourced from Vermont's renowned Lost Meadow cider orchard. The finished product was off-dry with nice acidity, lingering tannins, and complex yeast flavors similar to those found in Spanish Sidra. Needless to say, there were more than a few cider converts on such a hot, summer day.
Allagash Brewing Co. Mattina Rossa
There’s plenty of world-class beer on the list at BCTC, but some of the true thrills are the samples pulled from bottles off to the side. Mattina Rossa (6.9% ABV), a barrel-aged sour with raspberries rarely seen outside of certain tasting events, was the best we had all day. Tart raspberry, strawberry and lemon meld with the Brett’s funkiness and the oak’s tannin. Sharp acidity draws a pucker. Beautifully balanced. Wow.
Peekskill Brewery Zeitgeist Berliner Weisse
When Jeff “Chief” O’Neill left Ithaca Brewing Co. to take the helm at Peekskill, it was a given he was taking his passion for sours with him. Zeitgest (3.5% ABV), an unusual but commendable choice for a staple beer in the brewery’s lineup, is a pleasantly not-too-tart thirst-quencher with a soft grain and wheat backbone and a crisp effervescence. As refreshing as lemonade, and at this strength, we could drink it all afternoon.
Brewery Ommegang 2012 Belgian Independence Day Tripel
Combining yeasts from Ommegang, Duvel, and Chouffe along with Belgian candi sugar, the BID Tripel (8.3% ABV) was a standout in the traditional vein. The combination produced a bold aroma of dried fruits with a hint of spice. This textbook Tripel also had a slight, welcome residual sweetness midsip before finishing dry.
Brasserie Dupont Posca Rustica
In the grand history of brewing, using hops is a relatively recent development. Before that, brewers incorporated all sorts of spices, often in mixtures called “gruit,” to flavor their ales. Posca Rustica (8% ABV), a Belgian gruit beer, harkens back to the time when Belgium was controlled by the Roman empire and includes about a dozen different spices. Similar to a slightly tart saison, there’s a wonderful herbal character that offsets its malty base.
Brooklyn Brewery Fiat Lux
Fiat Lux (6.1% ABV) starts softly in Belgian wit territory before heading stateside for a hefty blast of citrusy and spicy Pacific Northwest hops. It’s finished off with a bit of Indian coriander and lime peel, which brighten things up in the glass. There’s a clean, firm bitterness that clears that palate after each taste. We tried this at the brewery’s release earlier in the week and happily went back for more.
Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild Geueze
With plenty of California Chardonnay character left in the barrels, this one had Sonoma written all over it. Lagunitas took their Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ added some yeast from Belgium’s Westmalle Abbey (and who knows what else), tossed it in a barrel, and let it rip. They say it’s “Geueze-ified.” The beer (8.5% ABV) had a lot of oak along with a bit of orange peel and spice around the edges. It wasn’t as sour or funky as we’d expected, but had a pronounced tartness and finished clean.
Stillwater Artisanal Ales Premium
Brewer Brian Strumke often has a playful approach with his beers. For Premium (4.5% ABV), he created a “Post-Prohibition” ale brewed with rice and corn to poke fun at mass market swill. The joke turns seriously delicious after being fermented with farmhouse ale yeast and two strains of Brett. The result is a fruity, light-bodied refresher with a little sweetness, a little funk, and a bracing carbonation.
White Birch Brewing Apprentice Series Patersbier
Apprentices at New Hampshire’s White Birch get the opportunity to create and bottle their own beer to cap off their tenure at the brewery. Apprentice Kerry Walker brought along his terrific spin on a Patersbier (6.1% ABV), a style of beer brewed by monks for their own consumption and typically not available to the public. The lean-bodied blonde ale offered soft, semi-dry Pilsner malt offset by spicy hops.
Custom Brewcrafters White Hop Belgian IPA
Belgian yeast, lots of wheat, 4.3% ABV. I’ll let someone else decide where things stopped being an IPA here. Fact is, with the huge citrus punch of Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe and the tart and tang of the wheat, this was near-perfect session beer, so don’t get hung up about style guidelines.