Next up, Allagash’s latest foudre-aged beer, FV 13:
It’s notable that I’m reviewing a beer that was aged amongst wild yeast and bacteria. With daughter 2.0 only three weeks old and daughter 1.0 at her prime in germ factory output, we are currently engaged in a pitched battle against bacteria and other such nasties around the house. Unfortunately, we’re leaving behind that dastardly 0.1% that hand sanitizers and soaps shamefully acknowledge in their fine print as unable to eliminate.
I’ll admit I don’t know how this 99.9% kill rate is measured, but there are an estimated 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bacteria in the world. So, according to my calculations, 0.1% of that still equals some crazy-ass number that pisses off calculators into using a big exponent. In fact, 0.1% of all bacteria would still likely amount to more biomass than all humans on earth. They’re everywhere. They eat ore and crap gold. They survive in the most inhospitable places (Chernobyl, pools of arsenic, New Jersey). They even help Jamie Lee Curtis poop.
This is Allagash’s first foudre beer. It was aged in a 2,700 gallon foudre (an oak tank formerly used for wine) named FV 13. For four years, it got all sexy in there with two types of Brettanomyces yeast and with lactobacillus and pediococcus bacteria. Although, it seems Allagash’s lab nerds determined that most of the souring work was done by the pediococcus, while the lactobacillus further disappointed its parents by taking the four years off to “find itself”.
It pours a hazy copper with a tight, but small, off-white head. It smells lightly funky from the Brett, and it has definite vinous, cherry, and caramel aromas. Also, there is a sycamore tree smell that I sometimes get from sour beers. It smells like the spot I would fly fish after class on the Clark Fork near some sycamore trees; but the Haybag says that’s creepy and nobody else smells sycamore trees. In any case, it smells like it is going to be sour.
First taste, it’s not as sour as I thought it would be. It IS sour, but there is a pleasant, malty background sweetness to it that slightly blunts the sharpness. It has a definite red wine character with cherries and oak (I swear the oak is there even though this is from a big foudre rather than a smaller oak barrel). It also has a little bit of an oxidized port/sherry character and some caramel.
Further, although it seems we have lactic acid bacteria at work here, the malt, caramel, and sour give it a little malt vinegar kick. It’s relaxed, though. It’s not all like a drunken hobo on a Carlo Rossi and Long John Silver malt vinegar packet bender. The finish is somewhat dry, as the sour definitely wins out. And the carbonation is pleasantly fine and moderate, and not all prickly and obtrusive.
I loved it.
The Haybag (whose post-pregnancy tastebuds were still a little wonky when we had this): This doesn’t immediately strike me as being beer. I usually hate sour beers. I’m OK with this one.
*In the interest of full disclosure and so as to not spoil any of the goodwill I have generated from foul language, fart jokes, and barely competent beers reviews over the last year and a half, I should note that Allagash sent me this beer, along with several others. Although I don’t doubt my capacity to whore myself out for free beer, I promise that I review all beer as if I had bought it with my own hard-earned cash.