We’re sensing a theme with these Cellador beers: They’re very, very flavorful and very, very sour. The label on this blended wild ale refermented in French oak with pineapple, mango and guava even indicates as much—it lists the pH at 3.1, which is, not joke, somewhere between Diet Coke and hydrochloric acid. You don’t need the label to clue you in, though; the bracing acidity is clear with the first saliva-inducing whiff, menacing below swirls of juicy peach and guava, mango, vanilla custard and creme brûlée with a little too much torch. It attacks the tongue, too, drawing your whole face into a pucker before peach juice and dried mango smooth things out and give the long-lasting finish the impression of Spree. That said, though, the flavor is outstanding, with all the fruit and bacterial complexity represented. It’s just a supersour sipper; you need to pair it with a slab of fatty meat and maybe follow up with some Tums.
Chickow! Barrel Aged in Maple Bourbon Barrels
Listermann Brewing Co. / Triple Digit Brewing Co.
Last year, Triple Digit’s Chickow!, a 10% ABV imperial brown ale brewed with hazelnuts and aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, won best in show at Chicago’s annual Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beers—no small feat. (Triple Digit, by the way, is the side project of Cincinnati’s Listermann Brewing Co. with a focus on “honking huge” high-gravity and barrel-aged beers.) How do you make a beer like that even better? Swap out those barrels for ones that held bourbon and maple syrup, obvs. The result was released in bottles in May, and it is. Not. Subtle. The aroma pile-drives your nose with bourbon, maple syrup and enough hazelnut creamer to put you into diabetic shock, while a base of brown sugar and graham crackers interlocks with the upper notes nicely. Whiskey leads the sip with splintered oak and more moist brown sugar; maple syrup is milder than in the nose, but does rise slightly after the cheesecake snap in the finish. Even our taster with a tragic aversion to bourbon really dug this one.
Garden of Earthly Delights
Burial Beer Co.
Though released yearly, this mixed-culture saison is like one of those weekly mixed baskets offered at farmer’s markets: You never know exactly which fruits and veggies you’re going to get. When the beer first sprouted up in 2015, for example, it was flavored with golden beets, hibiscus, cherries and ginseng; the next year brewers dropped in white peppercorn, cucumber, turmeric and tangerine peel. For 2017, the lineup is carrots, grapefruit, ginger, lemon verbena and sea salt—and it’s our favorite iteration yet. Spicy ginger and minty lemon verbena interlock with funky-peppery yeast notes up front, while the finish is a dry, Champagnelike burst of carrot shavings, pear skin and ocean spray.