The other day, Sunday to be exact, I enjoyed a most entertaining time being interviewed on The Brewing Network. During our chat — at least I think it was during that particular chat; I haven’t listened to the mp3 yet — I commented on what separates a good, solid, mid-range beer from an exceptional, that’s really frickin’ good beer. It is, to paraphrase myself, the “Wow!” factor.
I have in my fridge and cellar a number of beers from Squatters of Salt Lake City, Utah, that I am sampling my way through in preparation for a forthcoming book, The World Atlas of Beer, which I am co-authoring with Tim Webb. Tonight, I opened one of those beers, a tart ale aged 529 days in oak with pediococcus, lactobacillis and “wild yeast,” presumably Brettanomyces, then blended with younger, hoppeed beer and bottle-fermented wwith Champagne yeast. It’s called 529.
On the nose, this beauty shows candied orange and lemon peel, vanilla, tart raspberries and oaky woodiness. The start is a bit sweet and berry-ish, but moves quickly to a tart and very oak-accented body — one in which the oak works very well, I might add — with notes of lemon and vanilla, cherry pit and mild nutty hop. Funky spice and a dry, moderately tart and lemony finish complete the picture.
Overall, this ale has great complexity, great balance and great flavour progression. Again, wow!