Before the New Year we warned you about a beer release party held at the High Noon Saloon by Furthermore Beer. Chris Staples described it thusly: "A freaky Aran Madden creation involving bretanamyces, organic red beets, black pepper and some black malt for a high-alcohol, used band-aid sort of vibe."
On Monday, we talked about the effect of temperature on the aroma and flavor, the experience, of a beer. We've talked in the past about glassware. In this beer, Aran Madden's Thermo Refur, we see the perfect reason why we, consumers, need to demand proper serving temperatures and proper glassware.
Some background on this beer. Aran Madden himself admitted, the most improvisational beer he's ever made. It is made with organic beets. A lot of you may be thinking "EW! Grody to the max", and we'll get to the flavor in a minute; but the basic procedure for using them was for Aran and Chris to sit around one day, peeling a bunch of organic red beets. These beets were then run through a food processor to rather fine pulp to keep it from clogging up the fermenters at Sand Creek. This pulp was then added to the secondary fermentation. Like the Knot Stock, this beer is also made with cracked pepper. It has some black malt. It has brettanomyces, a squirrelly, bizarre yeast that makes beer funky and somewhat sour.
We were served a pint glass from a chilled tap line at the High Noon Saloon at promptly 10:30pm. It looked black. Of course, in the dim lighting of a bar, anything remotely dark looks black. Shortly before I ordered, Aran had suggested that we find a light source to look at the thing, so we bid him adieu to go find a source of light and taste this thing. Held under the light hanging over the pool table, it was a murky purplish, garnet, crimson, blood-like color. There was virtually no aroma, save a faint earthy muskiness. It tasted thick and bitter. It tasted like a hop bitterness. And that was it. There was a faint earthiness to it. A fellow-reviewer thought she detected some medicine or stale prunes. The mouthfeel was definitely full. In fact, it had the consistency of blood. It was definitely dry and the taste, mercifully slackened.
We were left not really sure what to do with this cold, mostly full, pint glass of a beer that could, charitably, be called "interesting." We were standing there debating whether it would be rude to just leave it on the pool table and back away from it when Mr. Staples came by.
We chatted with him a bit about the beer, mostly about how it was made and the marketing plans for it, and tried to avoid looking him squarely in the eye lest we betray what we were planning on writing.
But, a funny thing happened while we were talking. The warmth from our hands warmed the beer up a bit. Some of the hop and roasted malt aroma started peeking out. The musty sourness of the brett started receding a bit. But the flavors changed completely. Gone was the harsh bitterness. Now we were greeted with a big malt complexity that was "rooted" (HAHAHA!) by the sweetness of the beet. It wasn't a harsh beet flavor; the roastiness of the malts and the sourness of the brett kept it interesting. The finish was crisp and peppery, complimenting the dark flavors very well. I thought it tasted almost like a muted version of Stone's Double Bastard. It arrived at almost at the same place, in an entirely different manner. Indeed, one might be attempted to compare it more to a peppery red wine. Furthermore Wine? Ha!
This beer is going to be available in VERY limited quantities. I've been told that about 10 cases are headed for Milwaukee, while Madison will get about 50 cases. It will be sold as a single 12 oz bottle. They wanted to do 22oz, but they aren't set up to bottle in that size. The rest of what they brewed will go to select restaurant accounts, although I forgot to ask where (maybe someone who knows wants to let people know where they can get this?).
But, some serious education needs to accompany this beer or you, retailers, will have some very disappointed customers on your hands. To start, please do not put this beer in your refrigerators - both retailers and consumers. You are far better drinking it at room temperature than refrigerator temps. If you have a cellar, put it there to keep it chilled. If you must put it in the refrigerator, let it sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes before you open it. Second, you will do yourselves and your customers a disservice to serve this beer in a pint glass. Let its colors shine in a red wine glass. Trust me, you can reasonably split a 12 oz bottle between 2 people; it was 8.5% ABV before the beets were added, so it's probably closer to 9% ABV. For restaurants, six ounces is about a normal wine-glass pour.
The moral of the story here is that this beer completely changed from what it was a refrigerator temps (38 degrees) to warmer temps (closer to 55 degrees).