Off to the Growler & Gill for a tasting from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. The presenter–whose name I should have gotten–mentioned that his choices were designed to feature summery brews, most appropriate for this time of year.
The first was Namaste, a white beer that leads with light flavorful lemongrass and coriander and then the fruit arrives, full-bodied orange. There’s a hint of black pepper on the end, a nice spiciness. There’s a little bit of pucker, not so much like sour as like the tannin of a red wine. This has more oomph than most 5% ABV (4.8 to be more precise), so it would make a fine session brew. [I must say that this doesn't seem to be what the instructor had in mind when saying "Namaste" in yoga class. One small step on the road to Nirvana?]
Moving into the “tormented small animals” portion of the evening (to judge by the labels), the next brew was Festina Peche, described as a Berliner Weisse (or “neo-Berliner Weisse”). The classic Berliner Weisse is quite sour, and I’m not sure I would like it, not having acquired a taste for sour ale. THIS beer leads with peach then settles into malt, with just a tiny touch of hops on the end. I find this very refreshing and not at all sweet, but also not at all sour. I definitely want to try more of this. At only 4.5% ABV, it’s another good session choice.
Next was Aprihop, which I have had before, but this has more hops than the last time I tasted it, so I think the recipe has evolved. It’s described as “massively hopped” but I don’t find it so, the fruit brings it into balance. This gives a subtle apricot like an anti-lambic, maintaining dry body rather than sliding into too much sweetness. Easy drinking and 7%.
Positive Contact is dangerous stuff, easy to sip away and it doesn’t taste like 9% ABV. This is like a summer spiced cider, rather than the autumnal harvest ciders. Drinking more of this, it’s a great Belgian-style summer brew. If you drink it too cold you don’t get the cider, but it emerges as the beer approaches a better temperature, then the spice arrives, with just a bit of hops on the end. Let it warm further, and hints of the cayenne arrive. I don’t quite pick up the cilantro, but that must flow into the complexity. It’s a collaboration of Dogfish Head and Dan the Automator . . . and I leave Deltron 3030 as an exercise for the student.
Moving up the alcohol ladder, we reach Red & White at 10% ABV. As a style it’s a witbier, starting Belgian and becoming unique with Pinot Noir juice and a touch of oak. This is rich and very dark for a “white” beer. It’s interesting that it’s so rich, because my usual complaint about pinot noir is that it’s too light and lacks body. This takes care of *that* problem.
Palo Santo Marron has a unique woody flavor from the aging. It’s a brown ale that is very Stout-like, but a dry stout rather than a creamy stout. Lots of roasted malt. The beer is aged in “exotic Paraguayan Palo Santo wood,” described as one of the hardest woods in the world and crafted into 10,000-gallon vessels. The tasting was of bottles that had then aged for a year at home, an aging that you can’t get at retail, and this yielded even greater complexity. Sipping a “new” bottle at home, the nose arrives with a funky, woody, good aroma, then the first sip spreads chocolate, then the woody notes and a certain dry dustiness arrive. The finish is like the scent of dry hardwood with chocolate and coffee notes. Rich stuff, you can practically chew it, and the 12% ABV could be quite a surprise.
That’s something consistent across the whole tasting: all of them have more alcohol than is apparent. All of them have great balance, so you get lemongrass and apricot and cider and red wine, but you always get an ale and a very satisfying one.
This was a nice set of choices in fine sequence, one building on another, and these were interesting choices to act as a wakeup call for those who define Dogfish in terms of 60-Minute, 75-Minute, 90-Minute, and 120-Minute IPAs. Mind you, as I started writing this I was sipping a 60-Minute IPA, and the caramel and butterscotch of that brew leads into a nice citrusy body before the strong hop finish. But now I’m savoring a Palo Santo Marron, and that’s a great way to wrap up an evening!