Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Russian River Beatification

Posted by jwpiper on February 1, 2009

Perhaps it’s effective advertising. Perhaps it’s the length of the game. Whatever the reason, the Superbowl immediately makes you think of a lager. Gasp, it’s quite difficult to avoid images of some Anheuser-Busch product. But, in truth, why a lager? As a group, they are refreshing session beers. The ones I enjoy don’t necessarily fit that category very well with a couple of exceptions which in reality I don’t crave in the middle of winter.

So, what’s a refreshing session beer which can take me through the 4.5 hour extravaganza? Give me a sour – a gueuze, a lambic, or an wild ale. They’re dry, refreshing, and sessionable ABV. And given the complexity, particularly of the blended and aged on wood varieties, they won’t get old.

Fortuitously, Matt G. gifted me a bottle of Russian River Beatification (Batch 003). I’ve had a few of their sours, but never the Beatification. It is a 100% spontaneously fermented beer, blended between two vintages, and aged on oak wine barrels which have been sufficiently recycled to not maintain oak or wine flavors. It is then refermented in the bottle. Openning the bottle results in a fountain as expected, so as rapidly as possible, this was let into a snifter.

Pours a hazy light orange. Given the force which which it opened and gushed out of the bottle, minimal white head which rapidly dissipates into a ring around the edge and light dusting on top.
The smell fills the room – perhaps that’s because of the half ounce which was spilled. But lifting it to the nose, sends a barrage of sour scents: sour apples, fresh lemons, a swirl brings out a funk with some earthy elements, but still warm. I could keep my nose buried in this.
Wow – that’s nice. Clearly acidic and tart with sour apples and lemons again. But there’s so much more to this beer. There is a sweetness, and I get oak notes – maybe similar a Chardonnay. The finish – well, a minute after the sip – there’s a hint of bitterness. To minutes later, there are warm, earthy, woodsy flavors. As I move the air around my closed mouth, I get a distinct oak impression at he back of my palate – not sure if that’s the taste or smell or the intersection of the two. Drinking this beer slowly allows the complexity of flavors to develop, rapid sips really build the lemon flavors in particular.
Palate cleansing, quite dry. Tiny bubbles and dryness are reminiscent of a champagne. Moderate level of carbonation.
I love a good sour like this as an aperitif, but a 750ml bottle is a bit excessive for this purpose. The acidity may be slowing, depending on what is paired with it or eaten before it. The low ABV and refreshing taste and palate are what caused me to think of this as a Super Bowl session beer. It fit the bill quite well, taking me from halftime through the end of the game, when it proved prophetic to have selected a sour given the outcome.
This is a fine beer. I probably wouldn’t reach for it as much as some beers which are clearly lower rated and less fine examples of craftsmanship. But a lot of that is due to the price and the fact so few people I drink with enjoy sours.
$25/750ml. This stuff ain’t cheap. But you’re not buying it as a daily drinker anyway, and good, multi-vintage, oak aged sour beers aren’t cheap.

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