Friday, March 16, 2012

Sour Brett & Cranberry Ale Tasting

I brewed this beer, Vaccinium, over a year ago (part one, part two, part three). It was inspired by Ithaca Beer Company's Brute, a beer with Brett and soured only with acidulated malt. Putting my own spin on this idea, I used a wine yeast for primary fermentation and added local cranberries in secondary. It's been in the bottle for about 5 months. Overall, I probably shouldn't be disappointed in this beer given how experimental and off-the-wall it is, but I am. In general it lacks complexity and is missing a certain "brightness" and fruitiness that I was hoping for. Honestly, and unfortunately, it's just not that exciting of a beer.

Appearance - Pours a hazy orange-rose. Not quite as pink as I would have thought with using the cranberries. I think the beer would actually pour clear, but the high carbonation caused the sediment in the bottle to kick-up. Next time, I'll chill the bottle down (this one was probably only chilled down to about 50°F - the temp where I've got these bottles stored in my cellar). A large foamy head quickly subsides to a thin layer. No lacing is left on the glass.

Aroma - Slightly fruity with oak and a phenolic Brett component. Not at all overly funky or barnyard-y, most likely from using Brettanomyces claussenii, which is known to be the most mild species of Brett.

Taste - Sour, but not nearly as much as I would have thought given that acidulated malt made up 13% of the grist. Definite carbonic bite from the high carbonation. Much less fruit flavor than I had hoped for, though really, I wonder how fruity I should have expected using cranberries. Probably, unreasonable expectations on my part. The Brett seems to be coming through as plastic-y, for lack of a better descriptor. There's also an astringency - probably from the tannins in the cranberries and/or oak.

Mouthfeel - Thin and highly carbonated (both as intended). The high carbonation prickles the tongue. There's also a drying sensation on the tongue and throat, presumably from the tannins in the cranberries - my mouth feels the same way it does when drinking cranberry juice (shocker, I know). I suppose it could be the oak tannins as well.

Overall - Unfortunately, I am disappointed by this beer. It has more tannic astringency than acidic sourness. It is lacking the complexity and brightness that I thought it would have. I suppose it is still young and the Brett character may continue to develop over time, so I'll leave it alone for a while and come back to it. Not sure cranberries were a good choice. Or maybe it was a bad idea to add oak cubes. I'll probably try cranberries in another beer at some point - I like the idea of using such a local and native fruit - but I'm not sure I'll try to make a sour beer with just the acidulated malt. Instead, I'd probably go the traditional route of using Lactobacillus and Pediococcus bacteria.

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