8 Second Kölsch
Elevation Beer Co.
Perhaps it’s because Kölsch is a hybrid style with toes both in the lager and ale families of beer, but a good one can be exasperatingly hard to find. So many brewers seem to focus heavily on the German style’s lagerlike aspects—light malt character, crisp and clean finish—and completely neglect the fruity ale yeast esters that separate Kölsch from its brethren. Not so with Elevation’s interpretation: the nose is loaded with dried red delicious apples that overlay notes of matzo, cracked pepper and leafy green hops. The flavor, too, balances fruity yeast with flaked corn and crackers before combining them all in a grainy, sake-like finish. It’s heavy on the ale qualities up front but shifts toward the clean lager character in the back—just like a good Kölsch should.
All I See Is Carrion
Adroit Theory Brewing
Aging beer inside bourbon barrels is all well and good, but some beers require a lighter whiskey touch. Adroit Theory handled the spirituous character of this Belgian quadrupel perfectly—an addition of sour cherries soaked in Old Forester bourbon instills in the beer a flavor like Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia chased with amaretto. Deeper sips draw out turbinado sugar, toffee and just a hint of bubblegum, while a lift of plums and vanilla at the swallow offset the subtlest nudge of cherry tartness. Though heavily tongue-numbing, the alcohol is otherwise incredibly well-hidden—this drinks more like 8% ABV than 12%. If you have to drink it all yourself, keep calm and Carrion.
Speciation Artisan Ales
Three things you need to know about Speciation: First, the Comstock Park, Michigan-based brewery focuses on sour and spontaneously fermented ales. Second, it was founded by Whitney Ermatinger and her husband Mitch, who once brewed at Denver’s Former Future Brewing Company and helped create a few of the wild ales produced at Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales. Third—and perhaps most importantly—the brewery’s only open once a month, on every second Saturday, which means you’ll have to wait until August 11 to even have a shot at the upcoming bottles. Certain bottle shops and bars around Grand Rapids and Detroit do carry Speciation brews between releases, however, and you’ll want to search every single one for Genetic Drift. Dry-hopped with Belma and a Slovenian hop called Celia, the “wild saison” intertwines classic ground white pepper and pear aromas with mint-sprinkled strawberries, mown grass and coriander. Green apple skin and dried mint float above the palate up front; the swallow is like a bite of pear dusted with grains of paradise and wiped clean with wet hay. The yeast character is crazy expressive, vacillating between dried fruits and pepper while allowing neither to completely take over, while the beer’s body is like a silk kimono for the tongue.
Classically, Berliner weisses were created via sour mashing, a brewing practice that involves holding a mash at high temperatures for several hours (or days) to allow Lactobacillus bacteria to multiply and turn the mash tart. Most weren’t fermented in barrels, which is why Cellador’s interpretations are called Berlinerish—they’re inspired by the style, but not brewed quite like them. Instead of employing a sour mash, Cellador ages the beers in oak wine barrels with a “Berliner culture” that contains three strains of the classic Lactobacillus as well as 22 different strains of funk-producing Brettanomyces. This edition—Cellador’s third—was also aged on whole tart cherries for a flavor that layers tart cherry pumice, sweet almond and green tea leaves atop vanilla soft-serve before Pinot Noir-like tannins overtake the tongue. It’s less acidic than the other Berlinerish variants we’ve tried so far, which makes it far more drinkable.
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
That’s two for two on Firestone’s “Leo v. Ursus” series. The brewery’s first entrant into its new quarterly release group of “hoppy and intense” beers, Fortem, wound up on this list of our favorites back in March, and Adversus grabbed the baton with ease. Though also a double IPA, it’s a completely different beer than its predecessor: Citra, Mandarina, Simcoe and Cascade in the kettle and Ekuanot, Mandarina, Azacca and Citra in the dry-hop imbue the 8.2% ABV brew with flavors of dry honeydew rind, mown clover, oven-roasted zucchini and plantains. These aren’t notes we’re used to encountering in hop-forward beers, but the unconventional combinations—and the gentle elegance with which they’re delivered—are part of this beer’s allure.