“Ale aged in pinot noir barrels with cherries added.” I’ve been wondering about this one ever since Shannon brought it back from a west coast business trip and presented it to me. “It was my favorite,” she offered. Oh, the pressure.
As most of you know, Russian River Brewing Company is revered in craft beer circles. Vinnie “invented” the imperial IPA category with Pliny the Elder and has continued to push the envelope when it comes to craft beer. Their location in Northern California gives them access to the freshest hops and a multitude of other raw ingredients (including wine barrels) to make interesting beer. This is definitely interesting. I liken it to the bourbon barrel aged stout from Founders and others, in that it’s a combination of flavors and characteristics that challenge your thought of what beer is and/or is supposed to be.
It pours with a beautiful, billowing head that quickly dissipates to a thin film and eventually to nothing. No lacing remains. It’s smells both funky and fresh at the same time, if that’s possible. The funk is likely from the wine barrels and freshness from the cherries. The first taste is tart. The second taste is tart. This is a tart beer. It doesn’t quite make my lips pucker, but it’s close. The balance is incredible. The alcohol is so hidden it may as well be 3%, not the 7% it says on the label. This may not be my favorite winter beer (it’s currently 30F outside), but it could easily be one of my favorite warm weather options.
Vital Stats: Served at 45F in my trusty tulip. 7% ABV.
Taste: A. Perfect for the style.
Drinkability: A. I wish I had another one in the fridge.
Packaging: A+. Chock full of info. In fact, the info on the back of the bottle let me know this was originally a brown ale when it went into the wine barrels. It sure doesn’t taste like a brown now. That’s was a little Brett and sour cherries will do for a beer.
Value: B. Well, for folks on the East Coast like me, this is a tough one. If you know someone, it’s not too expensive to get, but it’s still hard. If I was in CA this would be a staple in my fridge.