Finally, with a house full of friends, I popped it open and poured it out into half-a-dozen glasses. Then I promptly went outside in the cold spring wind and spent some time alone with this beer.
The expectations were high. Since reading about the brewery in December, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this and other beer styles. At first it was just label infatuation. I’d heard the story of Babayaga growing up in a Slavic household, and I was familiar with the old witch’s woodland abode, a crooked shack perched atop four chicken legs. And I was even more familiar with the stories of all the children she’d eatin’, naughty children who’d run away from homes and not finished their work. The old Baba was good motivation for a kid like me.
Those memories came flooding back as I sipped the silky smooth stout with hints of chicory and smoke and an herbal fruitiness that I assume comes from the Rosemary smoked malt.
Deliciously complex and lively just underneath a refined exterior, Babayaga is a thing of beauty that does not even remotely resemble the evil old witch for which it’s named. Gorgeous layers of malt meld with bready Belgian yeast characteristics in a fusion of dry Irish stout and Belgian Dubel.
I sipped through a first tasting and let the characteristics wash over me as I stared at the now familiar label design. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I envisioned a low, wooded area with a wide stream and frozen shoreline. Bare trees with white bark and frost-tinged tips mar the skyline, while forest sounds emanate from undetermined locations. And that old witch is always in the back of my mind somewhere. She still calls me home when I’m out too late, and she stands over me with an evil grin when I haven’t finished my chores.
The good folks at The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project did a pretty good job of capturing some of the woodland beauty that defines this beer, and they put it all in this video. Enjoy!
If you live in Western Montana, spring can be a long time coming. That’s if it’s not an El Nino year and the bizarro weather patterns that produce trees full of dead leaves in February and 60-degree, blue bird days in March, do not throw a kink into the rotation. You might find yourself tiring of the heavy stouts, porters, Scotch-style ales and other big beers of winter as you do the deep snow drifts, river icebergs and sub-zero temperatures of bygone winters.
And if that should happen to be you, you might find yourself looking forward to something crisp and floral, like fragrant flowers or a newly mowed lawn.
The good news is that spring seems to have sprung in the west, where very mild temperatures cause one to almost forget that last year’s winter seemed to extend into late May.
And to go along with the great weather, western breweries seem to be suffering a bout of El Nino madness as well. I mean who can believe that Big Sky Brewing Company would release Summer Honey in February.
Without further delay, because who knows when this El Nino thing ends for sure, I’ll introduce a few spring-ish beers for your tasting pleasure.
1. In the big-producer categories, we have Full Sail Brewing Company’s new Hop Pursuit. I’ve not tried it yet, but it claims to be 55 IBUs and is brewed using Cascade, Willamette and Mt. Hood hops. It’s reportedly dry hopped for two weeks.
2. Another big producer is Big Sky Brewing Company and their upcoming Saison, to be released April 1. Big Sky brewed a Saison a year or two ago, so I’ll be excited to see how similar or different this one turns out. The best part is this beer will be available in bottles in Missoula only.
3. White Rabbits Hoppy Tripel from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project in Massachusetts. I know we can’t get this beer in Montana, but I had to include it, because fluffy white rabbits remind me of spring. And I’m just really impressed with this brewery and almost anything they do. (Anyone in Mass. want to do a beer trade?)
There are a lot of great spring seasonal beers hitting your local brew pubs in the next few weeks. Holler when find something good, and I’ll stick your review on the blog.
Just saw this beer over at BeerBews.org, and now I’m on a mission from God. I have to find this beer.
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project just released Babayaga in bottles, which is described as woodland stout. Apparently this beer is made with smoked malts and rosemary, which I think is a very interesting partnership, and one that I wish I could have had with our Thanksgiving meal.
The other reason I have to have this beer is that I grew up with the stories of Babayaga, a witch from Eastern European folklore. There’s not a Slavic kid out there who doesn’t know about the crazy, old witch and her propensity for eating children.
Time to start calling all my Massachusetts friends to see if I can line up a bottle of this for Christmas.