The summer wind-down is on us, but I am holding onto the season like a starfish attacking a clam. The days are starting their slow slide, and I've been thinking about light changing over to dark, so that will be our theme this week - day to dusk to demonic.
Southern Tier Tangier is your high-noon-in-summer brew. It's a session IPA - light in alcohol and color - but heavily dosed with Azacca hops and tangerine peels to arrive with swirling flavor. Tangier pours a cloudy amber with a thick head. The flowery Azaccas pair excellently with the citrus in the creation of a very, very nice drink that is more IPA-ish, than straight up IPA. Sometimes a beer can get in its own way, and the heavier malting of other citri-fied IPAs like grapefruit Sculpin can sometimes lend them a bit of drag in some situations, but Tangier's weight and execution make it outstanding for hot, humid days. This isn't a life changing beer, but it is refreshing as hell. The brewery suggests pairing it with grilled food, soft cheeses, and mild cheddar. I suggest you do just that.
There is a town called Pescara, up in the hills of Abruzzo, which may be famous for something or another in its history, but one of its most precious exports at the turn of the 20th century was confetti di Sulmona, the region's excellent candied almonds. Imagine women in long skirts, sitting inside a sandy colored brick building, or outside in the shade, steadily cracking and sorting nuts. Imagine the shell shards in their thousands, and the sound of chattering people at work. Those are gone now, but the mental image remains, and was enough to give Birrificio Almond '22 its name.
The beers produced in this ex-almond processor are made with water from the mountains near Farindola. None are pasteurized or filtered, and all undergo refermentation in the bottles or kegs in which they're sold. My first Almond '22 beer was their Pink IPA. It's also the only one I've ever seen.
Pink IPA pours a honeyed amber with a thin head, but a determined one. There is a sharp bit of hops to the aroma, a bitterness you can smell. The pink peppercorns used in its brewing may contribute a card or two to this particular hand, but the overall nose is like springtime. It rises off the pint like Vivaldi's ghost.
There is a strong, English kind of bitterness to this IPA. Think Kent Goldings on maximum overdrive, and not the woodsy or colorful, bursting flavors of American hop varieties. Pink IPA's bitterness is there to give traction to the coconut-oil smoothness of the beer's body, which I adored.
It's definitely an American-style IPA, for all this - there's no English-style Wall 'O Biscuit malts. The hops are definitely center stage. At their extremes, west coast IPAs can be like cozying up to metal spiked rhino leather, and east coasters like overly perfumed skin, but Pink IPA is the equivalent of sumptuous glove leather. It is quality that can be experienced by several senses, simultaneously.
A beer so dark, they call it Malefactus. When I saw the name, and the letters "OEC" next to it - I decided it was the one for me. I was in that kind of mood.
Malefactus is an imperial wheat stout, made with roasted and de-bittered abbey and wheat malts, and fermented with the odd-duck brettanomyces yeast strain. Coriander and black pepper both make their way into the recipe, and the beer spends the last six weeks of its preparation in exhausted whiskey barrels. This one poured infra-brown, and it smelled like a witch's milkshake.
A heavy hand with the Brett makes this a typically challenging OEC beer. It is a stout, but the brewers say it's like crossing one with a Belgian quad. Let your palate dream of those two, and you're getting pretty close to the flavor profile, here. The body is smoothed right out by the wheated malt, but finishes dry and slightly tannic thanks to the roast and the barrel aging. All this means you don't, can't, detect the 11% alcohol in each sip until you notice yourself feeling positive about humanity, and start wondering when your generalized misanthropy wandered off.
Light to dark, and back to light again. See you out there.