Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company
Country of Origin: United States
City & State: Santa Rosa, California
Style: Wild Ale
Alcohol Content (ABV): 7.00%
First Brewed: 2005
Pours the color of a not-quite-ripe cherry, with an off-white head. Sour cherries and ripe grapes on the nose, supplemented by raspberry and strawberry notes, and smokiness; an incredibly complex nose. On the palate, fruit flavors are balanced by tart acidity and oak tannins.
This is our last beer from Russian River. This is also the highest rated on BeerAdvocate. We need to take a trip to the Russian River Valley so we can visit the brewery. Their beers are made in pretty small batches, and they don’t get great distribution. I landed this, and all of the other beers from them, in a trade. Speaking of trades, I just bought 14 bottles/cans tonight for a massive trade I am doing with Ashley Bower. REALLY looking forward to that one. She is sending us a bottle of Mexican Cake. It’s not on the list, but I am pumped to try it.
It was cool learning about the owners of Russian River Brewing Company and their love for Pinot Noir wine. I like Pinot Noir, too. This beer was aged for a year in Pinot Noir barrels. I am fickle when it comes to barrel aged beers, but I have some pretty big expectations for this one. I bet this is sour, too. I could smell this as I was pouring it… and it smells quite sour. I am going to stop talking… let’s drink!
In the Glass: This is quite carbonated, and it was producing a ton of bubbles and a nice thick white head as I was pouring it. I could smell, as I was pouring it, the subtle sourness that I am looking forward to. The head just sits there and while the beer doesn’t have much lace, the head makes me want to grab a spoon and start eating! I hope this beer smells good.
Oh, the beer has a nice amber color to it. I am sure some of that color comes from the Pinot Noir barrels. It says on the bottle that this is aged 9 to 15 months. I wonder how they decide how long to age a particular beer like this.
Nose: It doesn’t smell as sour as I expected it to. I am getting some of those tannins that you get when smelling a well balanced Pinot Noir. In the back of my mind I want this to taste more like a glass of wine than a beer. The bubbles, however, leave me to think I am going to have an experience as if I was drinking champagne. A second sniff has me smelling more fruit and I am sure it reads weird, but it smells expensive. Is that weird?
Flavor: The beer is not as carbonated as I expected it to be, but it is quite sour. Good thing I like sour beers. There is a lot going on here with the flavor and it really changes as it slides across your palate. There are some bubbles when it first hits your lips, and then it begins to really open up as you swallow. There is a ton of flavor in the aftertaste, too, leaving this beer a wide range of awesome! The sour quickly fades leaving you a hint of those tannins that I keep talking about.
Mouthfeel: There are a ton of bubbles at first, but it’s not overwhelming. I wouldn’t recommend swishing this around in your mouth much. I did that on my second sip, and the sour flavor really comes through. But the bubbles become overwhelming. If you don’t like sour beers, stay away. As you swallow, the beer mellows out and you are left with a nice thin layer of sweetness every time you swallow. This beer is well produced and that is obvious every step of the way.
Aftertaste: That is my favorite part of this beer. As soon as you swallow you are hit with some subtle dryness that just coats your tongue with flavor. I have been sitting on this last sip for a good 5 minutes and I feel/taste like I just took a sip. I don’t know the process of aging a beer in a wine barrel, but there has got to be some trial and error to realize the beer is ready after 9 months or not quite ready until it hits 15 months.
Speaking of barrel aged beers, the last time we tried Sirius Black, a killer beer from Four Peaks Brewing Company, I talked with someone from the brewery. He said the batch we were trying, at a tap takeover at Hops On Birch, had been aged for 12 months in a barrel. I am not sure I could be that patient pouring a beer as good as Sirius Black into a barrel just to wait a year! That is what makes cellaring beer so tough.
We can’t get Russian River beers here, but if we could I would be broke. This, along with all the other “-ation” beers we have tried/reviewed, is great. The more sour the better. Cheers, people!
Supplication – The can says: “The beer inside this bottle took nore than year to make – a reasonable length of time for fine wine but not for beer. This is, in fact, a brown ale aged in used pinot noir barrels. During the barrel aging, sour cherries, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus were added to each barrel imparting a nice cherry flavor and sourness. While most winemakers and brewers cringe at the idea of adding Brett and bacteria to their wine or beer, our brewer Vinnie Cilurzo embraces these unusual ingredients in beer, despite his winemaking background. Ironically, Vinnie decided his winemaking days were through when he discovered it takes just twenty-one days to make beer. Years later, it takes him over a year to make this beer! Supplication is refermented in this bottle to create its carbonation – a process commonly used to make fine Champagne and sparkling wine. Spent yeast forms a thin layer of sediment in the bottle, adding yet another layer of complexity and flavors. Pour slowly as to allow the natural yeast sediment to remain in the bottle.”
I find it funny their labels are in Comic Sans. At least they make good beer!
Once again, I’m not really sure what beer we are doing tonight. But Ricky claims it’s good, so we’ll see. When he opened the bottle to pour it, he exclaimed “holy bubbles”, so I guess it must have been pretty frothy. Mine has quieted down a little bit since it’s been sitting there a while. Now it just has a little bit of head left. It’s kind of a dark orange color, kind of thick, with lots of tiny bubbles and sediment floating around in it. The smell… Oh heck, this must be a sour. Definitely a sour. The sour smell grabs your nose when you go to take a whiff. I can only imagine how it tastes.
This is one of those beers that you can just tell is going to be quite sour. I went to take a drink, and I think my tongue got scared. I was a bit resistant to the first sip just because I knew a pucker was coming. And I was right.
Let’s start with the mouthfeel. It really does feel as thick as it looks, almost syrupy. It’s a good mouthfeel. Now the taste… Well, remember those candies you used to buy as a kid, the ones with the picture of the guy making a pucker face on the wrapper? I think they were called Warheads, actually. That is what this beer reminds me of. I remember getting those as a kid and your mouth would almost go numb from the sourness. That is how I feel drinking this beer. Now, I know some people don’t like sours, but I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. I mean, I did eat those candies as a kid. Maybe this is just the adult version of them.
Would I buy this again? Maybe. Ricky is way more into sours than me, but I do tend to like them more than IPAs. Oh heck, there really isn’t a beer style I hate. Well, maybe domestics. Can I count that as a style? If I was in the mood for a sour, I might select this one again. It’s a good representation of the style.