View Full Version : Called to the Bar - Otter Creek mix the grape with the grain and triumph

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18-08-2010, 12:11
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Otter Creek Brewery (http://www.ottercreekbrewing.com/). Stands next to a cheese factory outside Middlebury, VT. Mike Gerhart (right) is the brewmaster, formerly of Dogfish Head (http://www.dogfish.com/) and a great beer guy. Copper Ale (http://www.ottercreekbrewing.com/otter_creek/beers/Copper_Ale.html) is the brewery’s big seller and as good an interpretation of an Alt as I have ever had. However, it’s a bottle of Quercus Vitis Humulus (http://www.ottercreekbrewing.com/otter_creek/beers/Imperial_Series.html) that I want to write about. Brought it back from the US, put it in the cellar, thought I would like it to stay there for a year, age gently, mature finely, but temptation got the better of me — and boy I’m both glad and disappointed I tried it. Disappointed cause I only bought one bottle back with me and would love to know what this would taste like in a year. Glad because it was gorgeous experience that send my brain scrambling and scrabbling for words to describe it. The nose was reminiscent of a toned-down brandy, a well-deep grape-must aroma that lacked the argumentative fieriness of spirit and then a kind of sweet solvent like note appeared, young and unformed but full of potential; in the mouth it was chewy, oily, peppery, woody, having a hint of bare-knuckle rawness about it, a woodland campfire rawness around which I would sit thinking about the beer and look to poetry for inspiration. It was like a sweet-sour-grape-grain collaboration, a Sauterne of a beer that has more in common with what’s going on in Italy than the US (immense with cheese I would hazard a guess). This young it’s a challenge but utterly delicious and besides I like the challenge, it helps me to think differently about beer as all challenging beers should do (Le Baladin’s Xyauyu (http://www.baladin.it/birra/?id_pg=55) and Cantillon’s Vigneronne (http://www.cantillon.be/br/3_105) spring to mind). As for the techie details, it starts off being fermented with lager yeast, then Sauvignon Blanc grape juice is added, then it gets a secondary fermentation with champagne yeast before sleeping the sleep of the just in French oak. Whisk(e)y barrels and beer no problem, but when the grape meets the grain that’s a different copper kettle of piscatorial delights. If you’re lucky to bag a bottle, try and get two and that way temptation will not be so ruinous.

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