Style: Hybrid Spontaneous Cider/Ale Mixed Fermentation
From: Brattleboro, VT
Brewery Notes: “Inspired by the town of Brattleboro, the unique sour ale captures the best of local flavors. Brattlebeer is slightly tart, light bodied and dry with both fruity and malty undertones, and a rocky, champagne-like head. Fermented spontaneously with a blend of local apple cider, malt, and hops, this delicate pale ale pairs well with soft cheeses and herbal entrees, and often compliments seasonal fruit desserts.”
The beer pours a murky, muddy yellow with copper tinges – sort of like an unfiltered cider. It forms a small, sizzling head of tiny white bubbles, but (much like cider) it fizzles away rather quickly. In body, it’s cloudy and full of haze, with just a touch of translucence. Honestly, it’s kind of ugly in the glass in terms of beer. On the nose, the beer makes up for its looks with a hugely expressive funk. There is definite yeasty cider, but without the foreknowledge that this beer was blended with apple juice, I might have said it had a gueuze-like nose. There is some lemony tartness and a touch of chalk, and there is also cherry, fruit leather, and a lick of horse blanket and acetic malt vinegar. As it warms, the apple becomes more prominent, giving scents of sweet hay, slight honey, herbal skin, and yeasty apples, but the funk and beer live on in a fresh sense. On the tongue, the beer tastes tart, though not full on sour. Acidity enters with the beer and nibbles gently on the tongue, but never really assaults the gum-line. As the beer spreads out, a fruity sweetness spreads lightly, though the beer remains quite dry. The finish brings a light bitter quench of tannic apple-skin, but still retains that cider sweetness. It’s dry in terms of cider, but a touch sweet in terms of beer. It tastes like a farmhouse cider blended with a young wild ale. There is a healthy yeasty bread, apple skin, and apple juice, perhaps a touch of cherry and funky brett, but really the complexity of the nose don’t shine through in the flavor. As it warms, an odd little flavor starts to rear its head, which I can’t quite place. There are brief glimpses of grass, hay, must, and funk, but they don’t hold the palate quite as tightly so you are left with the sense of farmhouse cider and odd flavors. In the mouth, the beer feels on the light side of medium in body with a crisp, snapping mouthfeel that is at times sharp. Carbonation is languid, yet the beer feels fierce and prickling, and the mouth is lift tightly astringent, and wet along the gum-lines and atop the tongue. Everything feels slightly burnt with the fierceness of the sip, which is at once refreshingly crisp and slightly unpleasant. Overall, this is an odd bird. I wouldn’t let it warm up, as it gets some weird flavors at warmer temps, but at cold temps it’s crisp and works great as a starter wild to introduce drinkers to some of the odder/most delicious flavors of beer. I’ve been enjoying the quirky experiments that Hermit Thrush has been putting out, and while this beer doesn’t quite hit the promise of its nose, it’s nice to sip. The hybridization just doesn’t quite click, I think, and that leads to those weird flavors as the beer warms. Honestly, it needs the synergy of oak to help mellow and bring some more earthy notes to the sip. With the addition of oak, I feel like the flavors would meld a little better. On a side note, from the can it retains more of its yeasty ciderness, which I really do enjoy as an easy sipping funky beer. Perhaps you should take this one like Heady and drink it from the can?