They’re known as the Brett Pack (a pun derived from the unwieldy Brettanomyces yeast): Rob Tod of Allagash, Avery’s Adam Avery, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River. Following a trip these brewer buddies took to the beer mecca of Belgium, they made a pact: Together, they would craft a beer inspired by the spontaneously fermented sour ales of the Senne Valley. With a treasure chest of brews, including 98 that rank above the 90th percentile on RateBeer.com, and seven “Brewmaster of the Year” awards among them, this dream team was well-equipped to tackle one of the trickiest styles in the world.
In November of 2006, the pack gathered just outside San Diego at Lost Abbey, where they all rolled up their sleeves and took to the brew kettle until their masterpiece was born. After 16 months of aging in oak barrels in Lost Abbey’s sacred barrel room, Isabelle Proximus was bottled.
Isabelle Proximus is as light, dry, sour and crisp as the traditional blended lambics of Belgium. The biting bouquet has intense acidity, sharp and sour enough to raise neck hairs. Once the aroma’s initial shock has passed, notes of musty hay and a distinct funk from the Brettanomyces become clear. Its flavor starts off with a punch of lemon-acid sourness, before aspiring to tart wheat, more lemon, yellow plums and the Brett’s signature “horse blanket” flavors, which are similar to breathing open-mouthed in a barn. Isabelle isn’t entirely brash; delicate, bready, pale malt flavors dance on the tongue. The oak is also understated, barely tickling the sides of the mouth.
Isabelle is bottled completely unfiltered, producing a cloudy appearance and allowing the wild yeast to continue the brew’s maturation process. This means a bottle of Isabelle Proximus will age for decades, if stored properly. As it ages, the beer will become even drier, as the yeast continues to consume residual sugars and proteins. However, aging this brew is not necessary. Right now, it is as beautiful as it is flavorful.