Nelson, She Wrote
Noble Ale Works
There are plenty of doctrinaire beer geeks out there who’ll tell you that the tangential style known as Triple IPA is not A Thing, and that any beer that purports to be one would fit perfectly well under the existing umbrella of Double IPAs. Those people have never tried Nelson, She Wrote. At 12.3% ABV and brewed exclusively with Nelson Sauvin hops (a variety from New Zealand so named for its resemblance to the flavor of sauvignon blanc), the beer’s fruity and liqueur-like, with an aroma that brings together orange blossom honey, orange zest and white grape jam with fresh strawberries, grass and vanilla custard milkshakes. Flavors of papaya, apricot and peach pulp emerge as the brew—thick as heavy cream—slides across the tongue; Orange Julius and wheatgrass smoothies linger between sips. Trying to make this beer live among the likes of Dogfish Head 90 Minute or Russian River Pliny the Elder would do it a disservice.
Sour Blonde Ale
Here at Draft we taste more than our share of wild ales that would double as effective rust-removers, so we appreciate sours that dial down the acidity. Sour Blonde Ale, one of the first releases in Hi-Wire’s sour and wild ale program, is a study in restraint and balance. A beautiful peach custard aroma melds well-developed vanilla-laced oak with peach and pear pulp, while pear skin, green apple and some sulfur emerge with a swirl. These fruits have less sweetness and more mineral-like qualities in the flavor, where notes of dried skins and peels give a slight tannic tug at the swallow. Soft tangerine and pear juice combine with a splash of lemon, and there’s a muted flash of acidity at the mostly dry finish. Balanced and drinkable, this bottle would be an easy replacement for white wine or champagne.
Lazy Bird Brown Ale
Birdsong Brewing Co.
When’s the last time you had just a really damn good brown ale? Head to Birdsong in Charlotte, North Carolina, and you’ll find one. Above a pancake-batter head that lasts half the afternoon, the aroma is smooth and roasty, with dry unsalted cashews accented by baked bread and just a hint of orange peel; a soft chocolate-covered raisin note comes out with a swirl. A bolder orange-and-pine combo emerges on the tongue, combining with up-front flavors of blonde roast coffee, raisin guts and baking bread, plus a very soft fennel-like spiciness. These drop off at the swallow, replaced mostly with a burnt toast bitterness that’s at a perfect level. The beer’s medium body has some creaminess but evacuates the palate well; it’s substantial where it needs to be and ephemeral where it doesn’t.
Tommie Sjef Wild Ales
When a member of Draft’s judging panel brought this lambic back from a trip to the Netherlands and told us it was brewed by a barely drinking-age wunderkind, we were skeptical. But we did a little online research, and his story checks out:
Just look at that dashing bastard. According to our intel, young Tommie contract-brews his wort at breweries around the Netherlands and ferments them in his own barrels inside a tiny warehouse/shed; the few bottles that make it to shelves are highly sought-after. After tasting Cassis-braam, we can see why. There’s a beautiful funk to the nose—it’s at once earthy, farmy, minty and savory, almost like a vinegar-based barbecue sauce accented with splintery oak. Tart, almost meaty currants come through clean and clear on the palate—we’re not sure if we’ve ever experienced a more unambiguous currant flavor—with additional notes of blackberry and spearmint alongside medium-high, fruity acidity. The velvet-soft body is a smooth caress on the tongue. This kid’s going to be big.
Blade & Sheath
Burial Beer Co.
Burial continues to crush it; we loved the Asheville, North Carolina-based brewery’s collaborative IPL, Both Ways, last week, and now we can’t get enough of this dry-hopped saison. The nose is full of leafy salad greens and citrus zest that shift into peppercorns and grains of paradise, while hints of crisp pear and pineapple chunks add fruity roundness to the flavor before a swift kick of lemon zest. Soft lifts of pine and pink peppercorns dry out the swallow, with lingering pepper and just a hint of juice-shop wheatgrass. We love how well the flavors meld—you can hardly tell which ingredient is contributing which flavor.