I don’t know if it’s like a prayer, but Russian River’s Supplication could be a religious experience
I love wild, sour ales. I can’t stress that enough. I’ve been holding onto bottle of Russian River Brewing Company’s Supplication since Christmas, waiting for the right opportunity to sip on it with a good friend. That day arrived when some dear friends stopped over on their way moving from Madison, Wisconsin, to Tacoma, Washington. After a hot afternoon of walking around Missoula, we retired to the dining room, each with a glass of Supplication to discuss work, family, the future and beer, among other topics.
Classed as an American wild ale, Supplication is a brown ale aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels with three strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus as well as sour cherries. Picking flavors out of this mix is almost overwhelming, but the big sour at the center of this beer is a good place to start. The nose is actually fairly light and fruity with an almost delicate effervescence. Some hints of Jolly Rancher fruit candy are evident, while a hint of something like rain forest vegetation is evident just under the pink fruitiness. It’s not quite dank like mushrooms, but it has a rain-smothered vegetation quality to it.
The taste is almost overwhelmingly sour at first, but it gives way to something bright and complex. I’d be inclined to attribute this to the Pinot Noir barrel aging, but I don’t have any way to quantify how much of that comes through.
My drinking companion commented that the beer was actually light and refreshing for a warm day. I had to agree, but part of me thinks we may have enjoyed the beer a little colder than it should’ve been served. Waiting for my beer to warm up a bit took some patience, but that was when I was able to discern the more complex elements of the beer. The wood didn’t come through as much as I would’ve thought, but some of that structure and complexity must surely come from the wood.
When warmed, the brown ale comes through more, and I have to say this is one of the more enjoyable Belgian styles that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve not always been a big fan of brown ales, Belgian or otherwise, but this seems to hold the fruit so well.
If not a prayer itself, I’ll likely practice a little supplication in hopes of finding another bottle of this soon. I purchased this one at John’s Market in Portland, Oregon.
Great job Missoulians. Missoula finished tied for 5th with St. Louis, MO on the BeerCity USA 2010 Poll. From not even making the list to fifth in less than a week is a great example of why Missoula deserves the title of BeerTown USA 2010.
I think it’s very telling that we placed 5th, but perhaps even more telling is the company we’re in and the cities we beat out. Here’s the breakdown:
Asheville, NC 39.9%
Portland, OR 34.1%
San Diego, CA 4.5%
Philadelphia, PA 3.1%
Missoula, MT 2.1%
St. Louis, MO 2.1%
Seattle, WA 1.9%
Denver, CO 1.2%
Milwaukee, WI 1.2%
Ft. Collins, CO 1.1%
Atlanta, GA <1%
Boston, MA <1%
Boulder, CO <1%
Chicago, IL <1%
San Francisco, CA <1%
Portland, ME <1%
Washington D.C. <1%
Thanks for taking the time to vote and spread the word that Missoula, Montana is the greatest little beer town in the world.
Widmer Brother’s Reserve Cherry Oak Doppelbock gives way to Prickly Pear Braggot, a beer and mead combo
I remember when I stopped drinking Widmer Brother’s Brewing beers. I was on a high road to beer snobbery, and I felt that the brewery had sold out by selling out to a larger brewing conglomerate. Years later, when I came back to their beers because of a number of good experiences with their winter seasonals, I remember lamenting my decision to stop drinking their beers.
This illustrates two things. One, that brewers must produce seasonals and specialty beers in order to keep current customers coming back looking for new and exciting experiences based on the brewery’s reputation. And two, that customers need to realize that just because a brewery might be sold to a larger conglomerate doesn’t mean their quality or reputation should suffer.
OK, lesson learned.
Here’s my latest regret. Last week I was at John’s Market in Portland, Oregon. I saw this beautifully labeled box of beer from Widmer. It advertised a Cherry Oak Doppelobock as part of their Brother’s Reserve Series, a selection of one offs that are hard to find and of really high reputation. I should have bought one, but I was looking for other brands and breweries that I wanted try instead, so I bypassed it. I shouldn’t have. Here’s the description from the Widmer site:
Cherry Oak Doppelbock is a high gravity ale co-fermented with Dark Sweet and Red Tart cherries. After primary fermentation the beer is allowed to condition with and ferment the cherries, and then later conditioned w/ new toasted American oak. The result is a dark ruddy beer with up front malty sweet and cherry fruit notes overlaid on and completed by undertones of caramel malt, dark chocolate, and oak. Cherry Oak Doppelbock is cold fermented with an American Ale yeast.
And now, I’m seeing that Widmer is marketing the latest in their series, which has a description like this:
Reserve release #2, our Prickly Pear Braggot, is now out in full force. Braggot is a style that is a combination of mead and beer. Remember those picture of our brewers dumping the honey in the kettle? Mmmmmm…you’ll love this.
If you happen to run into one of the Brother’s Reserve Series, pick one or two up.
Oregon might be discovering something Montana has known for quite a while. Mainly that there are a lot of West Coast IPAs out there, and finding your place in the mix means being just a little different.
Bridgeport Brewing Company’s Hop Czar Imperial IPA impressed me for it’s rich and deep malt backbone, which provided a really nice ladder on which to stack the copious amounts of chinook, nugget, cascade and centennial hops. In a way, it has a more British feel to it than a lot of the overly hop balanced West Coasters.
But malt comes with a price. The hop profiles don’t sing quite as much, and the beer definitely has a heavier feel to it. You don’t get that oily, hop resin presence you get with West Coasters, and which can actually make a big IPA feel a little lighter than it is.
But I know that this style of beer does appeal to a lot of people who don’t go for the ginormously hopped West Coast IPAs.
The only thing I really don’t like about this beer is the designation as an Imperial IPA. At 7.5 percent abv, it doesn’t ring in with an Imperial feel, and I don’t like when beer companies used terms like Imperial as marketing gimmicks.
Who knows, Bridgeport may feel that this qualifies as an Imperial, what with it’s big, rocking malt body and triple-hopped status, and that fact that it’s brewed from their original IPA recipe, but the term used loosely in marketing still bothers me.
I enjoyed this beer immensely, because I love that it represents the ever-changing whims of brewers who are trying to gauge the differing tastes of the beer-loving public every day. To that end, I thought the plan of going to a much bigger malt backbone really paid off. This beer is a nicely balanced IPA that might appeal to people who don’t mind big beers but who’d rather not have something dripping with hop bitterness in every taste. It is a much more balanced beer in some ways.
And yet you still get the beautiful citrus and fruitiness from those now famous Northwest hops.
And Bridgeport earns even more points for their bottle conditioning. They put a lot of effort into packaging, and I tend to notice their standout bottles in the beer aisles.
You can find Bridgeport Brewing Company’s Hop Czar at Worden’s Market.
While on an epic Easter vacation trip this last week, I convinced my wife to let me stop by John’s Marketplace in Southwest Portland, Oregon. I probably shouldn’t have. John’s Market is the kind of place that someone like me turns into a quivering gelatinous substance completely incapable of rational thought or decision making. Luckily, I sent her in search of beers I needed, while I slithered from aisle to aisle drooling on the likes of Stone’s IPA/Belgique and Russian River Brewing Company’s Sanctification.
Here are a few pictures to give you just a little bit of an idea of the magnitude of visiting John’s Marketplace.
Missoula has several great beer stores. In fact, you know you’re in a good beer store when you notice more than three shelves of cold beer and varieties that you’ve never seen before.
But the sheer awe of walking in to John’s Market in Portland, Oregon is overwhelming. I think I got a bit dizzy looking at aisle after aisle of beer.
I walked by rows after row of Belgian beers, mostly stuff I’d never heard of.
There were Indian, German, Spanish, Italian, French, British, American and even Montanan beers.
It’s truly a pleasure to be able to visit a place like John’s Market once in a while. It’s a bit of a Mecca for beer lovers, and it’s a great way to replace all those collection beers you’ve been sitting on.
We’ll get into what I picked up soon. For now, just enjoy the views.
Each is a great beer city with individual influences.
Denver, of course, has the Great American Beer Festival, while Seattle holds its own with such renowned breweries as Pike Brewing Co., and Portland, well, Portland has more breweries within its city limits than any other city on earth.
The reason for the post is that I have friends who travel to and from these great cities almost weekly. And they do so without the necessary knowledge about where to find great beer and bring it back to Missoula for me. Oh, sure, in Portland you can’t turn around without running into a brewery, but maybe you’ve been to all of them and want to try something new. You know who you are.
While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, I’ve put together a website or two I would check out before a visit to each city.
Denver: Realbeer’s travel guides are not always updated, but they usually contain the most notable breweries and beer stores in town. Realbeer’s City Guide helped me quite a bit when I was in Denver for the GABF last year.
Seattle: I can’t find a single beer resource blog for Seattle. I’m sure they are out there, and if you know of one, send it this way, but for now, all you need to know about great beer in Seattle can be found at the fabulously Flemish Brouwer’s Cafe and Bottleworks. The fellows who run these fine establishments know beer well, and besides featuring a fantastic selection of well-known and not-so-well-known Belgian beers, they keep just about everything noteworthy from Seattle and beyond available to their patrons.
Portland: There might be as many blogs about Portland beer as breweries within the city limits. Maybe more. But one I enjoy going back to for tips on new beers and new places to consume beer is the Portland Beer Blog. Another great beer resource for Portland is PortlandBeer.org, and, if you Google Portland and Beer, you can find any number of beer resources for your traveling pleasure.
If you’re going to Denver, Seattle or Portland, grab something new and unique and bring it back to Missoula. We’ll trade, drink it together, talk about it or otherwise create the modern Silk Road of the Great American Beer Culture.