How We Taste & Test

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Wood-aged Beer -

Re­view­ing beer may sound like a dream job, but our tast­ing and re­view panel takes the role se­ri­ously. Com­posed of pro­fes­sional brew­ers, cer­ti­fied Cicerones, and Beer Judge Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram (BJCP) judges who have all stud­ied, trained, and been tested on their abil­ity to dis­cern char­ac­ter­is­tics in beer, our panel is in­de­pen­dent and doesn’t in­clude any CB&B ed­i­tors or staff. The panel tastes all beer blindly—they do not know what brands and beers they are tast­ing un­til the tast­ing is com­plete.

Our goal is to in­form you about the strengths and weak­nesses of these beers as well as their rel­a­tive dif­fer­ences (not ev­ery­one has the same taste in beer, so ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tors are more valu­able than straight nu­mer­i­cal val­ues). The quotes you see are com­piled from the re­view panel’s score sheets to give you a well-rounded pic­ture of the beer.

As our re­view­ers judge, they score based on the stan­dard BJCP com­po­nents: Aroma (max 12 points), Ap­pear­ance (max 3 points), Fla­vor (max 20 points), Mouth­feel (max 5 points), and Over­all Im­pres­sion (max 10 points). We’ve listed these in­di­vid­ual com­po­nent scores, and the bot­tom-line num­ber is de­rived from adding then dou­bling these com­po­nent scores to pro­duce a rat­ing on a 100-point scale. Note that we’ve rounded the printed com­po­nent scores to the near­est whole num­ber, so the math won’t nec­es­sar­ily add up.

Our judges use the fol­low­ing scale in valu­ing scores:

95–100 » Ex­tra­or­di­nary World-class beers of superlative char­ac­ter and flaw­less ex­e­cu­tion 90–94 » Ex­cep­tional Dis­tin­guished beers with spe­cial char­ac­ter, style, and fla­vor 85–89 » Very good Well-crafted beers with note­wor­thy fla­vor and style 80–84 » Good Solid, qual­ity, en­joy­able beers 75–79 » Above Av­er­age Drink­able and sat­is­fac­tory beers with mi­nor flaws or style de­vi­a­tions 70–74 » Av­er­age 50–69 » Not rec­om­mended Keep one thing in mind as you read these re­views—your per­cep­tion of a beer is more im­por­tant than that of our re­view panel or ed­i­to­rial staff, and read­ing re­views in a mag­a­zine (or on the Web or in a book) is no sub­sti­tute for try­ing the beer your­self.

What the brewer says

“3 Fon­teinen Oude Geuze Cu­vée Ar­mand & Gas­ton is a blend of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old tra­di­tional lam­bics, all brewed at Brouw­erij 3 Fon­teinen. Spon­ta­neous fer­men­ta­tion, pa­tient mat­u­ra­tion in oak bar­rels, and con­tin­ued evo­lu­tion in the bot­tle re­sult in a dis­tinc­tively com­plex beer.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Funky and wild with some woody Bret­tanomyces that leads into light lac­tic sour­ness and some trop­i­cal pineap­ple fruit notes. With a touch of pep­per and smoke char­ac­ter, this is in­ter­est­ing and in­trigu­ing.” Fla­vor: “In­cred­i­ble depth of funk, with slight pep­per­corn char­ac­ter, light briny caper notes. Back-end acid­ity, with a nice cit­rus and peach com­po­nent cleans up and rounds out the broad funk. Fin­ish is soft, not overly dry and puck­er­ing, with a very pleas­ant lin­ger­ing lemony sour­ness and a hint of white pep­per.” Over­all: “Un­der­stated com­plex­ity with­out the rough edges you of­ten get from wilder fer­men­ta­tions. A rec­og­niz­able ‘beer’ char­ac­ter that of­ten gets lost in this style. Re­fresh­ing, com­plex, well-crafted, ex­quis­ite.”

What the brewer says

“Com­posed of 25 per­cent Bokkerey­der 2-year-old lam­bic, 25 per­cent Amal­gam 14-month pinot noir cask, 50 per­cent Amal­gam 12-month pre­miere blanc cask.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Com­plex spicy, pep­pery char­ac­ter, with some stone fruit and a wee bit of barn­yard weird­ness. Light flo­ral ‘aged’ hops. Slight pa­pery notes with bis­cu­ity whiffs.” Fla­vor: “Funky malty sweet­ness that fades to a slightly tart/sour note. Tart fruit notes of pear, ap­ple, and cit­rus. Malty sweet fin­ish that be­comes dryer and nut­tier as it lingers in the mouth. Slight neu­tral oak fla­vors that be­come more prom­i­nent as it warms. Fin­ish is slightly tan­nic, which dries and cleans up the swal­low in place of hops char­ac­ter.” Over­all: “This beer tastes like lightly sour funk bis­cuits that have been liq­ue­fied and clar­i­fied. Balanced fla­vors of honey, pear, and le­mon com­ple­ment the light but vig­or­ous malty back­bone. Enough wood char­ac­ter to con­trib­ute but not dom­i­nate. Very easy-drink­ing and re­fresh­ing.”

What the brewer says

“Aroma of dark malts and black cherry com­ple­ment the notes of dark fruit in the fla­vor. A blend of Bret­tanomyces with Lac­to­bacil­lus and other sour cul­tures con­trib­utes the char­ac­ter­is­tic sour-fla­vor pro­file of this style.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Tart ap­ple sour­ness with un­der­ly­ing dark malt, dried fruit (cherry and black cur­rant) notes, dark unsweet­ened cho­co­late, and a pleas­ant woodsy char­ac­ter. Per­fect for a Flan­ders red­dish/brown­ish old ale.” Fla­vor: “The malt com­plex­ity has dried cher­ries, prunes, black cur­rants, cho­co­late, and to­bacco but comes across rel­a­tively dry on the fin­ish. This is balanced by a pleas­ant un­der­ly­ing sour­ness that adds to the fruity char­ac­ter. The woodsy char­ac­ter adds nice as­trin­gency on the fin­ish and adds to the per­cep­tion of dry­ness.” Over­all: “A fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of a com­plex, dark, sour beer with wild fer­men­ta­tion char­ac­ter. Great bal­ance through­out. Sub­tle com­plex­ity from the ini­tial sniff through the lin­ger­ing swal­low that gets bet­ter as it warms. Ex­pertly crafted Oud Bruin–style beer.”

Lam­bick X Pri­vate Do­main 2014-2016

LOC: Coop­er­stown, New York ABV: 6.5% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says “Tra­di­tional Bel­gian lam­bic ale.” What our panel thought

Aroma: “No­table wood aroma, but not very oaky. More of a wine-bar­rel note. As­sertive lac­tic sour aroma. Medium strong fruity es­ters—cherry, cur­rant, peaches.” Fla­vor: “Tart and dry. Lots of Bret­tanymyces funk (barn­yard, musty, leather). Medium as­sertive sour­ness com­ple­ments the fruity es­ters (pear, green ap­ple). Slight aged-hops bit­ter­ness melds with wood tan­nins. Fin­ishes crisp and dry. Some no­tice­able car­bonic bite, which may be ac­cen­tu­at­ing the dry fin­ish.” Over­all: “Com­plex and in­trigu­ing, but an Old World com­plex­ity. Wood-for­ward with slightly over-tan­nic lin­ger­ing bar­rel notes in the fin­ish.”

New Bel­gium La Folie 2018

LOC: Fort Collins, Colorado ABV: 7% | IBUS: 18 | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says

“This wood-aged sour brown spends 1 to 3 years in oak foed­ers. When the beer fi­nally hits the glass, La Folie is sharp and sour, full of green ap­ple, cherry, and plum-skin notes. Pours a deep ma­hogany. The mouth­feel will make you pucker while the smooth fin­ish will make you smile.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Brown malt and dried dark fruit—cur­rants and dried cher­ries. Light sour notes well in­te­grated with the fruit notes plus a touch of cof­fee, unsweet­ened cho­co­late, and some dark caramel. Over­all, earthy, woodsy, with some mush­room.” Fla­vor: “Sharp acid­ity up front that quickly gives way to com­plex dark malt char­ac­ter, with toasted bread crust and sweet bis­cuit and roasted cof­fee. The sweet and sour are well-balanced. Fin­ish is a touch musty, with a dry woody char­ac­ter that adds a bit of def­i­ni­tion.” Over­all: “It’s like eat­ing a thick piece of toasted sour­dough bread with a healthy slather­ing of ex­tra tart mar­malade. Malt notes, fer­men­ta­tion es­ters/phe­nols, and acid­ity, all work in gor­geous har­mony.”

So­ci­ete Brew­ing The Swindler

LOC: San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia ABV: 6.2% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says

“The Swindler’s ...nat­u­ral as­sets were im­printed over time spent in Cal­i­for­nia wine bar­rels and in­clude re­strained tart­ness, quaf­fa­ble body, and light ef­fer­ves­cence, but of all his en­vi­able traits, this sil­ver-tongued match­stick man boasts an im­pres­sive bal­ance of sim­plic­ity and rar­efac­tion.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Like a white wine. Some light fruiti­ness with a hint of Bret­tanomyces funk. Touch of hay. Very del­i­cate over­all with notes of tart ap­ple, wood, to­bacco, and a pleas­ant un­der­ly­ing sour­ness.” Fla­vor: “Bright acid­ity that height­ens the beau­ti­ful funk com­plex­ity. Funk is less horse sta­bles and more fruit or­chard. Re­ally nice sour char­ac­ter— hints of le­mon, ap­ple, and ripe peach. A soft grainy malt char­ac­ter adds some body and lingers nicely on the swal­low. Faint Brett-like woody/smoke char­ac­ter keeps things in bal­ance.” Over­all: “Light fruit tart­ness through­out with a pleas­ant back­ing grainy malt sweet­ness. Enough fer­men­ta­tion com­plex­ity to keep in­ter­est while not over­whelm­ing with wild­ness. A great beer that is in great bal­ance.”

The Rare Bar­rel The Search LOC: Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia ABV: 6.2% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says

“Ten Oak Bar­rel Blend of Golden Sour Beer.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Sub­tle flo­ral and per­fume hops with mod­er­ate funk that re­veals a lit­tle wood char­ac­ter, some vanilla, and a lit­tle cit­rus. There’s white-wine grape, some Bret­tanomyces, and wisps of stone fruit that feel fresh.” Fla­vor: “Lots of wild, mixed-fer­men­ta­tion fla­vors and a touch of musty com­plex earth­i­ness mix well with the earthy and herbal hops fla­vor. Wood as­trin­gency is a bit in­tense, stone fruit and pear, mod­er­ate-high sour cit­rus pith. Bit­ter­ness lingers in the fin­ish. The oak over­shad­ows some of the more sub­tle con­tri­bu­tions of malt, wild fer­men­ta­tion.” Over­all: “Wine bar­rel in­ten­sity leads to a taste that borders on beer/wine hy­brid, but it brings most of the pleas­ant as­pects of each. Fruity, dry, and crisp like a nice chardon­nay, but malty, funky, and tart enough that you know it’s not wine.”

Beach­wood Blen­dery Kriek

LOC: Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia ABV: 6.4% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says

“‘Kriek’ starts out as a blend of 1-yearold lam­bic-in­spired bar­rels, com­bined with a mix of frozen tart cher­ries at a rate around 2 lbs per gal­lon. The beer has bril­liant jammy notes rem­i­nis­cent of cherry pie, slightly sweet while fin­ish­ing crisp and dry. That clas­sic Blen­dery funk and acid­ity peek through the cherry notes to back it all up.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Sweet and tart cher­ries mix with a slight funk and light bis­cuit malt, giv­ing it an al­most cherry-pie sen­sa­tion. But, there’s com­plex­ity, too, with pep­per, le­mon, hay, and an un­der­ly­ing nutty note.” Fla­vor: “Funky and slightly cin­na­mon spicy fla­vors that meld with tart and sour fresh cher­ries. A slight malty sweet­ness cuts through the tart fruit and comes across bread-like. High car­bon­a­tion gives it a nice pop to cleanse the palate. Plus, a fin­ish with co­conut, oak, and a lin­ger­ing as­trin­gency gives it a slight pucker.” Over­all: “Awe­some! Funky and slightly sour liq­uid cherry pie! The car­bonic bite on the fin­ish is the per­fect palate cleanser to bring you back for more!”

Cas­cade Brew­ing Fram­blanc

LOC: Port­land, Ore­gon ABV: 8.4% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says

“Fram­blanc is a blend of sour blond ales aged for up to 14 months in oak wine bar­rels with more than 3,500 pounds of white rasp­ber­ries. Fresh fla­vors of rasp­ber­ries, green grapes, white peaches, and pears.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Lam­bic-like sour and wild char­ac­ter is funky and leath­ery, teem­ing with tart white rasp­berry and slight oak. There’s an un­der­ly­ing nut­ti­ness and slightly per­fumy hops.” Fla­vor: “Leath­ery and Brett-funky malti­ness and aged hops fla­vors. Tart and slightly sour rasp­berry works well within the funk. Slight stone-fruit notes. Slightly acidic with neu­tral oak tan­nins. Crisp car­bon­a­tion en­hances the tart­ness of the rasp­berry and the

Brett-de­rived funk. Pretty puck­er­ing on the fin­ish, but that’s off­set a bit with some tan­nic bit­ter­ness.” Over­all: “Great lam­bic-like char­ac­ter and some fer­men­ta­tion com­plex­ity with a strong, but not over­pow­er­ing sour­ness. The fruit is balanced well and doesn’t come across par­tic­u­larly dis­tinc­tive but rather ac­cen­tu­ates the other char­ac­ters in the beer.”

Crooked Stave Sour Rosé

LOC: Den­ver, Colorado ABV: 4.5% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A What the brewer says “Wild ale fer­mented in oak with rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Dry cider-like im­pres­sion with a seedy and nutty char­ac­ter and just a hint of funk. Bright fruit fla­vors of rasp­berry and cherry that are well blended to­gether. Very invit­ing.” Fla­vor: “Up­front bright, al­most lemony, acid­ity cou­pled with a rasp­berry tart­ness, but it doesn’t linger too long, en­cour­ag­ing fur­ther drink­ing. Slight malt notes and acid­ity washes most of ‘beer-like’ fla­vors. Very lit­tle funk. Fin­ish is softly tart, not acetic, though the rasp­ber­ries add a slightly as­trin­gent twang. Good car­bon­a­tion makes it sparkle on the tongue.” Over­all: “Very nice bal­ance of the sweet­ness and sour. Tasty and com­plex, but not over­done. The fruit adds a lot of in­ter­est, and the tart­ness bal­ances very well with the un­der­ly­ing sour­ness in the beer.”

de Garde Brew­ing The Kriek

LOC: Til­lam­ook, Ore­gon ABV: 7% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A What the brewer says “A wild ale aged in oak bar­rels with tart cher­ries.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Clean, rich, and bright cherry notes. Slightly flo­ral note from the hops and wisps of leath­ery funk.” Fla­vor: “Pleas­antly tart and tan­nic cherry and cherry-must com­bi­na­tion.

Bret­tanoymyces-de­rived funk com­ple­ments the fruit. Some car­bonic bite that cuts through any no­tice­able sour­ness or acid­ity. Fin­ish is dessert-like with­out be­ing overly sweet—spiced cherry pie with al­mond.” Over­all: “The invit­ing fresh cherry aroma is sweeter than the taste. If Glade made a plug-in called ‘Cherry Gummy Saver,’ that’s what this beer smells like. But it tastes like gourmet sour-cherry candy with a gor­geous red color and notes of vanilla, cloves, and cin­na­mon.”

Dog­fish Head Amer­ica the Bret­ti­ful LOC: Mil­ton, Delaware ABV: 8% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says

“A fruit-for­ward, bar­rel-aged Amer­i­can wild ale brewed with Pils malt, wheat, oats, and spelt. Af­ter rasp­ber­ries are added, the beer is aged in red-wine bar­rels with Bret­tanomyces brux­el­len­sis and Lac­to­bacil­lus for 9 months. It’s fin­ished off with fresh blue­ber­ries and refer­mented with a Bel­gian sai­son yeast. Softly sour with bright berry notes and a mild Brett funk.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Boozy and funky sweet rasp­berry with hints of blue­berry, but it’s pretty re­strained. Slight leather and aged hops mix well.” Fla­vor: “Pleas­ant nutty malt sweet­ness up front that gives it a slightly chewy char­ac­ter. The fruit com­bi­na­tion is well-done, adding com­plex­ity and sweet­ness with­out be­ing overly tart or cloy­ing. Very pleas­ant fin­ish, lin­ger­ing fruity tart­ness, hints of oak and pep­per spice, with a nutty al­mond char­ac­ter.” Over­all: “The fruit com­bi­na­tion is com­plex, sweet, and tart, and has dis­tinc­tive as­pects of both rasp­berry and blue­berry. Great bal­ance, not overly sweet or sour, and the fin­ish has lin­ger­ing sub­tle com­plex­ity that is re­ally well-done.” High Branch Poke (Black­berry) LOC: Con­cord, North Carolina ABV: 4.7% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says “Black­berry Ber­liner weisse.” What our panel thought

Aroma: “Mod­er­ately strong red plum and cur­rant. Mod­er­ate cran­berry, rasp­berry, and cherry. Very red fruit– for­ward. Be­hind the fruit, there’s a bit of bready malt, a bit of Brett funk, and very low hops aroma.” Fla­vor: “Not par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able as black­berry, but a red-fruit party— es­pe­cially rasp­berry and cran­berry. A pleas­ant fruit punch–like char­ac­ter. A slight as­trin­gent husky dry­ness is ac­cen­tu­ated by the oak-bar­rel char­ac­ter. Fin­ish is dry and tart, lin­ger­ing with fruit and tan­nins.” Over­all: “The ‘wild’ char­ac­ter of this beer is ev­i­dent with­out over­shad­ow­ing the fresh fruit. Oak and woody Bret­tanomyces linger into the af­ter­taste. There’s not much beer char­ac­ter, but the fruit and bar­rel qual­i­ties add com­plex­ity and are balanced nicely with each other.” Lam­bickx Oude Kriek 2013-2015 LOC: Coop­er­stown, New York ABV: 6.5% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says “Kriek-lam­bic ale with cher­ries added.” What our panel thought

Aroma: “Lots of oak, al­most soapy with a flo­ral, herba­ceous note. Sub­tle fruity tart­ness with earthy notes that blend with the fruit to pro­duce an over­all sub­tle but rich aroma.” Fla­vor: “Rich vi­nous cherry char­ac­ter, rem­i­nis­cent of a semisweet red wine. Some ox­i­da­tion that pairs well with the oak-bar­rel char­ac­ter. Fin­ish is lightly tart, juicy cherry char­ac­ter. Comes across a bit flat de­spite a sig­nif­i­cant head ini­tially.” Over­all: “Dis­tinc­tive as a kriek. Heavy on a ripe cherry char­ac­ter with an aged-bar­rel qual­ity, though it’s not overly sweet. Wine-like com­plex­ity, with a fin­ish that high­lights the oak and sweeter as­pects of the fruit.” The Lost Abbey Ver­i­tas 019 LOC: San Mar­cos, Cal­i­for­nia ABV: 5.8% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

What the brewer says

“Ver­i­tas 019 is a blonde Amer­i­can sour aged on French oak for more than a year be­fore be­ing spiked with rasp­ber­ries. Pour­ing shock­ingly pink, Ver­i­tas 019 be­gins with sweet aro­mas of rich berries and no­table pep­pery Brett. In­tense, vi­brant rasp­berry char­ac­ter leads to a sour mid­dle with notes of funk on the fin­ish.”

What our panel thought

Aroma: “Ex­cel­lent bou­quet of fruit. Rasp­ber­ries dom­i­nate, but some cherry fla­vors as well. Light barn­yard funk, light le­mon.” Fla­vor: “Rasp­berry fla­vor is prom­i­nent and even more jammy than in the aroma. Very dry. Quite tart, clean, a bit of funk.” Over­all: “Bright, clean, full-fla­vored fruit, a very good use of rasp­ber­ries on an en­joy­able base. You’d sip this one on the lake dur­ing the spring.”

TOP RATED3 Fon­teinen Cu­véear­mand & Gas­ton LOC: Beersel, Bel­gium ABV: 5.5% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A Amal­gam Pre­mière GoatLOC: Den­ver, Colorado ABV: 6% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/AFunkw­erks Oud Bruin LOC: Fort Collins, Colorado ABV: 7.5% | IBUS: N/A | SRM: N/A

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