July 4th Beer Flight - Sours & Cider
On The Fourth of July, we took a trip into Downtown Saratoga Springs to attend the annual BBQ Cook Off event. After a few nibbles, the rain lead us to Henry Street Taproom, one of our favorite places in town. The Taproom has an ever rotating list of 20 beers on draft, and for $8, you can choose any four beers you like to have as a flight. The list is written artfully on a large chalkboard, and there is always a wide variety to choose from. The two of us, as it turns out, were both intrigued by a few of the same beers. We chose beers 4, 5, 8, 10, and 16, from this very enticing list of 20.
4. Allagash Session Brett, Sour, 4.5% abv
Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine, makers of the widely popular Allagash White and Allagash Curieux, have released a Session Brett. "Brett," is short for Brettanomyces, a type of wild yeast used in beer and wine making. It's known for the distinct "barnyard-like" character it lends to the final aromas and flavors of the beverage. It's an experience that may take some getting used to, but once your palette has adapted to the unique flavors, you'll find yourself loving some deliciously weird beers. The Allagash Sesion Brett has an intriguing aroma of classic bretty barnyard and dried hops. Smelling this beer causes my imagination to conjure a scene of very relaxed goats smoking marijuana together in a cow pasture on a cool day. Each sip is pleasingly tart, as most (and the best) sour beers are. That initial sharpness leads to a slightly bitter and delightfully astringent midpalette, and concludes with a light and refreshing finish. Though the finish is somewhat quick, faint notes of slightly under ripe nectarine linger on your tongue long after the beer is gone. This would be brilliant with food. The brett flavors help to cleanse your palette with each sip, and the medium high levels of acidity keep your mouth watering and ready for more. This offering from Allagash, while not for the faint of heart, is super fun, and an excellent example of both an approachable sour beer, and the wondrous things brettanomyces is capable of. Definitely recommended.
5. Avery Brewing Company, The Maharaja, Imperial IPA, 10.2% abv
This IPA from Avery Brewing Company is not your average IPA. This is an Imperial IPA, which basically means it's an IPA on steroids. It's noticeably malty, and aromas of baking spices, Saigon cinnamon, and caramelized orange zest dance on the nose. As expected, the medium weight body of the beer is loaded with floral and bitter hops, but if you can wrap your head around it, you'll find complimenting flavors of oranges, grapefruits, melons, and peaches. Sweet medium malt notes bring depth and balance to the whole experience. Avery Brewing proudly refers to The Maharaja as a "monster hop bomb," and it certainly is, but with a little bit of time and attention, you'll find that this beer is full of fascinating complexity.
8. Captain Lawrence Brewing, Liquid Gold Belgian Pale Ale, 5% abv
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, based out of Elmsford, NY, makes a variety of everyday and specialty beers. Their Belgian Pale Ale, dubbed Liquid Gold, is available year round, and is an affordable, tasty, food-friendly ale. Lemon and citrus notes mingle with a slight vegetal hint of green peppers. The hops lend the usual herbaceous and floral flavors, as well as notes of grass and apricots. It's light and fruity, with enjoyable fizz. The floral notes are sweeter, reminiscent of orange blossoms and lilies, and are balanced well by the bitterness from the hops. Very easy drinking, and at $5 a pint (in a craft beer bar, no less), what's not to like?
10. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Luciérnaga, Sour Session 6.5% abv
This beer from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is sour as helll. It pulls the saliva right out of your cheeks! A truly sour beer, this beer will wake up all your senses. If it were slightly more acceptable to drink beer in the morning, I could drink this one instead of coffee, and achieve the same results. Sipping this beer causes your lips to immediately pucker and your eyes to squint. (very fun to watch other people take their first sip of this one) The tartness carries through from start to finish, mingling with flavors of lemon juice and lemon pith, grapefruit pith, hoppy bitterness, and a slight floral note. The citrus and hop notes stay with you on the finish, and each sip is just as refreshing as the last. It's wonderful and perfect and weird and exciting.
16. Beak & Skiff, 1911, Blueberry Cider, 5.5% abv
Located on the eastern edge of Upstate New York's famous Finger Lakes wine region, Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard has been producing hard ciders since 2001. 1911, their line of hard ciders that are available both on draft and in bottles, gets its name from the year the orchard was founded. Their blueberry hard cider is just beautiful in the glass. It's an orangey pinkish reddish hue with undertones of blues, and a fine stream of bubbles darting towards the top. Sweet apple and berry notes on the nose are just what you'd expect, and it's marvelous. The cider is medium sweet on the palate, and a fierce acidity keeps it all nicely balanced. Blueberry notes linger on the finish. Somewhere in the midpalette are notes of biscuits and yeast. In a light and inviting way, it tastes like apple blueberry pie. But it's not nearly as sweet, and the carbonation keeps the flavors from being heavy or cloying. According to Brandon, "It's very American. It tastes like freedom, like humans have given themselves a chance to develop something, and this was the result." We also found that it had "hints of white and red Smarties," and it should also be mentioned that we had drunk all the others before we got to this one.
Though it was not ideal weather for the Fourth, it was a great way to spend the afternoon!