Bourbon Barrel Aged Oblivion
Wicked Weed Brewing
Listen, this space is not for making soapbox statements about our stance on brewery buyouts; it’s about letting you know the beers you need to be putting inside your mouth hole. And this version of Wicked Weed’s flagship sour red ale—made with double the blackberries and dates it usually gets and aged in bourbon barrels instead of the customary red wine—is undoubtedly one of them. Each sip is like a bite of blackberry marmalade dusted with anise and served atop strips of Cola-drenched oak. Tart cherry and a splash of balsamic vinegar emerge as the beer moves across the tongue, while a smooth base of toffee and brown sugar-laden whiskey brings balance to the whole affair. After a finish of vanilla and moist, shredded tobacco, tartness maintains a moderate stance and follows up with a little earthy cherry pumice reverb. It has layers upon layers to pick apart, never gets old and never gets to be too much for the tongue to handle. You can have your opinion about Wicked Weed’s business decisions, but the blending technique is beyond reproach.
Bingo Bango Bongo
The Shop Beer Co./Modern Times Brewery
The Shop was named the best new brewery in Arizona at this year’s Ratebeer Best awards; Modern Times made our recent list of 25 breweries that are just crushing it. Turns out when you get two demonstrably outstanding breweries working together, they can create some demonstrably outstanding beer. Who’d have thought? Denali, Idaho 7 and Ekuanot hops added during whirlpool and dry-hop additions infuse the 7.2% IPA with an aroma of peach pulp, tangerine and mown grass, each in equal proportion and interlocking like puzzle pieces, while the supportive malt base alternates between baked wheat bread, vanilla beans and flaky, honey drizzled pastry crust. (That peach note gets HUGE if you let the beer warm up a bit, which we suggest you do.) Sips lead with tangerine zest sprinkled over grass blades as subtle green pine needles poke at the edges of the tongue. A small amount of smooth peach juice and a large amount of chewy wheat dough immediately softens these bold hop notes at the swallow, though moderate pithy-piney bitterness does linger long after the beer’s gone. Bitterness at first seems a bit lacking, but it’s just not punctual; it arrives late in a big way and, like the creamy body, seems to mold itself to the tongue’s every contour like memory foam. Bingo bango.
pFriem Family Brewers
This beer’s strawberry blonde hue is a bit outside the norm for a Flemish sour ale—they usually come in either red or brown varieties—but any russet tones its appearance may be missing are more than made up for by the rich, oaky red wine character of the nose, which the beer picked up during the 18 months it spent in Pinot Noir barrels. The flavor, however, adds minerally white wine to the red, and with notes of wet cement, green apple and white grape greeting the tongue alongside earthy raspberry jam and vanilla-laden oak, it’s almost like drinking out of two wine glasses at once. Sparkling swallows are packed with horsey brett funk intertwined with eggy custard and a dash of lemon juice; the finish is dry, with lingering vanilla yogurt. With yet another perfectly executed, interesting and drinkable bottle, pFriem continues to pfascinate us.
Smartmouth Brewing Co.
Though a seemingly simple brew to make, a good example of a classic German hefeweizen is tough to find. So very many American-made versions miss the mark by going too heavy on/completely missing the fruity banana esters or too light on the wheat. Sommer Fling does neither. Its fruitiness, in fact, is quite low, and the alternative focus on smoky clove notes is both refreshing and perfectly paired with flavors of amaretto and toasted almond. Pleasant vanilla and very soft pear linger on the palate after the swallow, and the body is appropriately chewy yet soft. It is, as the Germans would say, ausgezeichnet.
Show Me Sour
Boulevard Brewing Co.
First brewed in 2015 as a collaboration between Boulevard Brewmaster Steven Pauwels and Side Project owner/brewer Cory King, Show Me Sour debuted in sessionable 12-ounce bottles in March. There are a couple opposing things happening in the nose; mostly, it’s toast and roasted peanuts, but there’s also a subtle but incessant tug of balsamic vinegar. The flavor switches the two: The balsamic bite is the lead on the tongue, and it’s followed at the swallow by the slow rise of cocoa, peanut and toast crumbles, with just a hint of the whiskey barrels in which the beer was aged. The toasty side remains soft from start to finish and adds interest to the clean, just-right acidity. The beer’s not super deep, but neither is your average backyard swimming pool, and you can still have a whole bunch of fun in one of those.