A Year of Beer 2009 #8 - Russan River Beatification
Another part of our (hopefully) year-long video project, A Year of Beer. looking at the idea of beer and seasonality - how different styles of beer are more appropriate to different seasons, weathers, festivals and so on. There will also be a bit of beer and food matching thrown in because, hell, we love to eat as much as we love to drink.
This week: Russan River Beatification
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Russan River Beatification
I don't really know where to start with this one. Actually, let's be perverse and talk about the beer I don't taste in the video - Russian River Supplication. I mention in the video that I tasted it earlier that day, and shared it with a member of staff from Leeds' ever-excellent North Bar. I have to admit that I blithely opened what turned out to be one of the greatest beer experiences of my life, and shared it with someone I barely knew.
But you know what? It was the right thing to do. These beers (and a few others besides) were very generously given to me by Phil Lowry of beermerchants.com, and so it seemed appropriate to spread the love and share it with interested people. To be honest, I'm not sure the young lad from North Bar knew what he was drinking. I had second thoughts when he said he'd only vaguely heard of Russian River, but hey, the cork was out by that point.
Anyway, suffice it to say that Supplication was one of the best wild yeast fermented fruit beers that I've ever drunk. It's not a style that I'm crazy about (we're all allowed to have likes and dislikes), but the stunning elegance of the fruit, enhanced by pinot noir barrel ageing, along with the fruit sitting cradled in a tart, slightly funky bed of wild yeast fermentation - it's a defining moment in my beer appreciation. And as you might be aware, I've appreciated an awful lot of beer over the years.
Now, onto the main act. Russian River Beatification is a gueuze, a blend of young and aged wild yeast fermented beers. There is no fruit influence, it's just the unmediated action of yeast (saccharomyces and brettanomyces) and "barrel flora" (pediococcus and lactobacillus) on a source of fermentable sugar. It's a primitive, slightly unpredictable process, and the results of the refermentation after the blending are greater than the sum of their parts (although Girardin's unblended lambic challenges this claim - I must put that to the test soon). Gueuze isn't high on my list of favourite styles, but despite this, the tart, lemony quality of this beer, combined with the suggestion of dusty old barns and musty cellars, makes this a thing of beauty.