Thursday, September 25, 2014

Off the Beaten Taste at K & L Hollywood – Part I

It was a Saturday lineup meant to test the taste buds – a colorful collection of craft ales from around the globe.   

And although they spoke many languages, all had one message to deliver – to push flavor boundaries and challenge expectations, and perhaps, take people places they'd never gone before.

And it seems they succeeded, judging from the crowd's reaction, here at  K & L Wine Merchants’ tasting bar in the heart of Hollywood.  Beer Buyer, Krista Johnson, was master of ceremonies, offering up tastes from a lineup of lightest to full-bore funk.

First up was a French speaker, the “Lupulus” blond ale from Belgium’s brewery in the Ardenne, the Brasserie Les 3 Fourquets.  Topped with a cage and cork affair to contain its bountiful effervescence, this pale yellow, straw colored abbey tripel had a head of creamy foam to push through before revealing flavors of crisp lemon and hops.

Tripels acquired their name from the brewers, who used up to three times the amount of malt to create this style.  And the results are ales that are higher in alcohol, yeasty, bready and hoppy, with a refreshingly crisp finish that is typically dry, just like the "Lupulus.”

Re-fermented in champagne bottles and casks, “Lupulus” is unpasteurized and unfiltered to maximize its aromas and flavors and, like its champagne cousins, will pleasantly accompany foods that also pair well with wine bubblies – think salty or fried hors d'oeuvres or entrées like shellfish, tempura or panko crusted fish or cheese and egg quiches.

Following our beer bubbly kickoff, was a homegrown creation from a two year old microbrewery based in Anaheim, California – the Big Whig IPA from Noble Ale Works.  Golden yellow orange in the glass, this American IPA, with its pronounced hop and earthy pine aromas, offered up a mouth full of citrus along with bitter hops.  And it's a bitterness that's pronounced (listed at 77 out of 100 IBU – International Bitterness Units) and lingers in the crisp and dry, resinous finish.  So, for those hop lovers who seek out strong IPA's, the Big Whig is one that really delivers.

The third ale in the lineup was brewed in Flanders at De Proefbrouwerij  and is an international collaboration between Mikkeller of Copenhagen and Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales.  Their Mikkeller/Prairie “American Style” IPA  with its eye-catching label (based on Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" album cover), is a brew that just like its label artwork, hopes to stand out from the rest.

But what's different in their spin on the American IPA is the inclusion of a strain of Brettanomyces yeast called Claussenil.  And it’s the Claussenil that gives the beer its aromatic quality, but with only a light amount of funk.  Golden, hazy copper in color with a thick fluffy head, this brew has a nose of hay and barnyard, with a bit of funk from the Brett, and ends in a finish that’s woodsy, long and dry.

Their international effort, with its dry hop, slight funk and light tropical note flavors, would pair well with fattier or spicy dishes, so give it a try with jambalaya or some meaty, grilled pork sausages on a bed of grilled pineapple.

And after our funk and hop outing, I was ready for something different.  Then, along came Cascade Brewing with their "Sang Royal” sour red ale blend.  Aged in Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels on Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the “Sang Royal” pours dark brown sugar in color with a nose of dark wood, sour cherry, molasses and a hint of soy.  A sour celebration, with a minimal white head and very sour, earthy and dry flavors (the last most likely from spending over a year in oak), this puckery brew from Oregon, is one for fans of sours who really enjoy their sips with an earthy bite.

Now, continuing the sour theme, but in a slightly fruitier direction, was the very next pour – Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom’s “Devil’s Kriek.”  The devil is in the details, and “Devil’s Kriek” got lots of personal attention, with its Bing cherries picked nearby at Double Mountain’s orchard, located near the Hood River in Oregon.  Cellared for 13 months before being released, the ale is tart and earthy, from the use of the Brettanomyces yeast during its long fermentation.

With a light, hazy red cherry hue and a small, fizzy head, the nose is, as to be expected, a blend of cherry tartness and slight sweetness with a predominantly sour cherry note.  Medium bodied with good carbonation, the flavors echo those found in the nose and conclude in a finish that is tart and dry.

This style of beer, known as a lambic, is a traditional type of Belgian wheat beer made with spontaneously fermented wild yeasts, that give the brew its sour and tart character.  After fermentation has started, whole fruits are added – either cherries (“kriek”), raspberries (“framboise”), peaches (“peche”) or black currants (“cassis”).

With its sour and yet, more fruity characteristics, the “Devil’s Kriek” would be a wonderful pairing for cherry cobbler, adding its tart, yet fruity character to the sweetness of the dessert’s baked fruit.  It would also make a great addition to more savory dishes, such as adding its earthy, sour/tart character to cherry sauces served with game.

However, we aren't done yet, for more sours lie ahead, and some of them really turn on the funk.  So, check back next Thursday for the rest of the tasting, and a look at Krista's boldest brews –

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