Thursday, October 2, 2014

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

Venturing ever deeper into sour terrain, Krista at K & L Wine Merchants, turned up the dial on mouth-puckering intensity with another Flemish style red ale.

Next up was The “Oude Tart” from The Bruery, in Placentia, California, that spent over 18 months in red wine oak barrels.  And its time spent there is reflected in both the nose as well as the mouth.  Deep caramel in color, and with aromas of dried cherry, oak and a touch of vinegar, these flavors all offer a hint at what's coming up next. 

And what's next is a mouthful that's strong, sour and tart and that mirrors the flavors found in the nose.  For a creative food pairing with this old tart brew, I'd suggest a tart of another kind.  Only one that’s baked and filled with a savory egg custard, surrounding rich, caramelized onions finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Moving from sour to wild and fruity is the taste that next fills my glass.  And it’s the “Dulcis Succubus” from the french Canadian brewery, Le Trou du Diable.  Peach colored with a complex nose of apricot nectar, honey and oak, this Wild Farmhouse Ale Saison spent 6 months in French oak barrels that had formally held Far Niente’s Dolce with its botrytisized grapes.

In the taste, you'll find flavors of honey, peach and apricot along with floral and earthy hops, and a controlled tartness that blends nicely with its sweeter fruit notes.

Stone Brewing Company’s Stochasticity Project, “Quadrotriticale” followed the Canadians on the bill.  This Belgian style quadruple brewed with the rye/wheat hybrid, triticale, allowed its Southern California brewers to blend the grainy flavor of wheat with the heartiness of rye.

Dark brown in color as it poured into the glass, its light brown, creamy head gave off aromas of burnt sugar, sweet potato and clove.  The taste continued these autumnal flavors, with added notes of dried fruits and peppery spice, and it was all wrapped up with a savory sweetness.

The brew’s pronounced fall spice blend of flavors would make it a natural partner to a sweet potato soufflé.  Or if instead, you’d prefer to fancy up your entrée, consider adding a splash to the gravy for your roast turkey.

Stone’s Stochasticity Project is really all about encouraging experimentation.  So, when offered a brew bursting with so many food friendly flavors, don't hesitate to bring it into the kitchen, to enhance your menu, too.

The next taste called for a return visit to The Bruery, the innovative Belgian beer specialists of Southern California.  Their “Autumn Maple,” a brown ale with spices, that boasts “brewed with 17 pounds of sweet potatoes per barrel," is the brewery’s fall holiday season alternative to "pumpkin" beer.  And at 10% ABV, it'll sure keep your fires going as the weather gets cooler, and you get a yearning for those heartier dishes.

Dark amber and thick, with an off-white head, the aromas are the usual fall flavor suspects, which continue through to the flavors that you taste in your glass – nutmeg, cinnamon, candied sugar, raisins, vanilla, and of course, sweet potato.  And, all mixed up with some bitterness and well hidden alcoholic heft.

And finally, we arrive at the King Kong of the session - the Imperial Stout, "Mud & Funk," that's been aged in wine and bourbon barrels.  Another collaborative brew, but this one between the Anchorage Brewing Company of Alaska and the Netherlands’ Brouwerij De Molen.

It’s a brew that pours opaque black in the glass, with little carbonation, and delivers a nose of burnt barrels, dark chocolate, funk and black fruit.  In the mouth, more burnt notes with a leading edge of coffee grounds surrounded by funk, alcohol and wood.  Sour, roasty and assertive, this is a brew in a universe all its own.

And closing out the session, a bonus brew was offered as a palate cleanser – the Hell Or High Watermelon wheat beer from San Francisco's 21st Amendment Brewery.  Brewed as a classic wheat beer that undergoes a secondary fermentation using fresh watermelon, the brewery describes its creation as "summer in a can."

Simple, fresh and refreshing, it's a summer sipper with sweet watermelon aromas that do a surprising changeup, revealing cantaloupe in the taste.  Not sweet and yet, not tart, the fruit makes way for some underlying bready notes, before finishing with a small bite of astringency at the very end.

I never expected to finish with watermelon at our early autumn tasting, but this fresh and innovative brew fit in nicely with all the others.

For it, too, pushed flavor boundaries and challenged expectations by taking people places that they'd never gone before.

And now, here’s a peek at what’s coming up next for wine & beer pairing – 

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