Friday Froth: Negative And Positive

James Gribbon

I like beers from Otter Creek and Jack's Abby, but their collaboration beer, Joint Custody, is a can full of nope. Thankfully it's also exceedingly rare, so chances are you'll be spared from drinking one. I don't usually talk about bad beer experiences in this column - and feel free to skip down to the two contrasting examples I give below - but this one's been nagging at me.  

The collective German heritage of the OC and JA brewmasters inspired them to seek out two newborn German hop strains, Huell Melon and Mandarina Bavaria, in the creation of what they call a Nouveau Pilsner. Joint Custody pours cloudy gold, and has a slightly odd lemony scent - both fine - and then you take a drink and taste fresh Band-Aid. There is the unmistakable pils malt underneath, but what in the hell with this plasticky flavor? In beer-nerd terms, we sometimes call this ortho-chlorophenolic, because it's a medicinal smell/flavor which usually comes from residual sanitizers, or using chlorinated water to make the beer. I don't think that's what happened here, we're dealing with seriously talented brewers, so the only remaining explanation is they've done this on purpose.

Fair being fair, my tasting notes did include the phrases "will grow on you as your palate adjusts to straight up weirdness," and "I appreciate this the way I appreciate odd art," but I don't want any Dadaist pieces in my home, either. There are a billion different tastes and preferences in craft-beerdom, I just don't know how many people could think "wound dressing" is a desirable flavor profile. 

NOW, what has slightly odd ingredients, is available in limited quantities, but is both fairly easy to find in Connecticut, and delicious? Two Roads Bergamonster, that's what. This imperial wheat ale is available on tap or in 750ml, champagne-corked bottles, and is flavored with the peel of inedible (mildly poisonous!) Bergamot oranges from Italy. I don't know how much of this you'd have to drink to reach the point of (non-alcohol) toxicity, but I may find out before this release is all gone.

Bergamonster pours gold with a burly, lasting head. It smells almost pilner-y, but a single mouthful reveals a biscuity wheat character that is both polo-club rich, and sharp as Tilda Swinton's cheekbones. The malt base is overlain with a ghostly sheen of bitter, Bergamot citrus which diffuses gradually into nothingness, like an oil rainbow on water. Whatever your feelings about their other beers may be, Bergamonster is up there with Igor's Dream and Philsalmic as one of the best liquids Two Roads has ever produced. 

Up in Plainville, CT, Relic Brewing came up with a recipe for a 5.5% pale ale they call The Fletcher. I'm going to let that preliminary info stand for a minute and come back to it. 

When The Black Angels first album, Passover, came out, I read a review which said there was absolutely nothing new or innovative about the band - their dark, psychedelic rock sound wasn't anything that Black Sabbath and its modern spawn hadn't done a million times over - it was just that they did it so well. Thus you can understand what it's like to drink The Fletcher. 

It's a bog standard American pale ale: clearly transparent, a medium to dense head that lasts, an earthy, slightly citrusy aroma, and enough bitterness to hold the attention. All present, none remarkable in their own right, but they've been combined with a certain elegance which elevates the final product. Stick me on an island with a kegerator of this and I'd be happily marooned for a week. Where Joint Custody is weird for weirdness's sake, Fletcher is a beer asking how to convert boredom into excellence. I like both those outlooks, but sometimes Icarus falls while Daedalus soars. 



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