Holy Mountain Brewing
Earlier in the week, we discussed the growing tendency among American brewers to erroneously call their intensely acidic wild ales “saisons.” Though fermented and aged many months inside a giant oak foudre with Brettanomyces, The Goat is much closer to what the style should be. The Brett strain is choice, delivering notes of overripe pineapple followed by lime zest, honeycomb, pear and gentle sulfur. A swirl brings out split oak and earthy, lemony wheat—this is rustic, for sure. The flavor illustrates how a tart saison can be done without reaching tongue-puckering acid levels. Dry wheat notes replicate a bite of lemon peel; the swallow kicks back mild sweet pear and white wine that smooth out the finish. The high, spritzy carbonation level makes this an ideal partner for a rich, fatty food like cassoulet.
Six months atop Montmorency cherries has imbued this sour golden ale the scarlet-orange of an autumn leaf. Bright but not intense cherry in the nose combines with wood to read like cinnamon or other baking spices, plus vanilla, cider and cherry cobbler. Even more cinnamon and vanilla beans appear at the sip—this tastes like dessert, a cherry pie with crumbly topping. Tartness is strong but not outrageous, arriving in conjunction with cherry sweetness. While the beer does taste a little young, lacking the well-aged noyaux notes found in the classics, this is also part of its charm: it’s vibrant, fresh and dynamic, begging to be sipped outside, among plant life.
Abnormal Beer Co.
Never have we tried a beer that so perfectly captures the flavor of a campfire-toasted marshmallow than this imperial stout—which is surprising, since no marshmallows at all were harmed in its making. Instead, San Diego-based Abnormal brewed the ale with lactose, ghana cacao nibs, coconut, vanilla, and an espresso coffee blend from Mostra Coffee, also located in SD. In a glass, the ink-black beer has a tight head the color of cinnamon bark and a rich aroma that melds sweet chocolate mousse, mocha and chocolate covered espresso beans. Alcohol combines with nuttiness to produce something like a boozy-nutty liqueur—Frangelico, perhaps—while subtle prunes and French vanilla appear as as an accent that rounds out the other fragrances. But the flavor is all burnt marshmallow, from the waves of sweet fluff that caress the tongue to the torched brulee character that settles in at the edges. The coffee character is reserved, like a topping of silky cappuccino foam, while the body stays light and airy without being thin. The 9% ABV is incredibly well integrated and the flavors are dynamic; this is one memorable mallow.
If you’re not familiar with Prescott, Arizona-based Superstition Meadery, shame on you. Just look at how many of the country’s top honey wines they produce! This bottle is an example of a pyment, or a mead made with wine or grape juice, and combines Mesquite honey with Syrah grapes. Accordingly, it has a blood-red hue that gives it the look of a Macbeth prop, and the smell is exactly as promised: wine plus honey. The grapes in the nose are quite tannic, with minimal juiciness and an intense skin-and-leather quality. A dollop of oaky vanilla gives the whole thing an aroma like cheesecake or funky-sweet mascarpone. On the tongue, the juice appears: blueberry, crushed red grapes, warm vanilla, honeycomb. It’s very sweet, but not cloying; this is for dessert. Preferably paired with a washed-rind goat cheese.