Friday Froth: Bouncing 'Round The Room

James Gribbon

A while back, I was reading about the defenses ostensibly neutral Switzerland has constructed around its countryside. Mountainsides rigged for landslides, underground fortresses capable of protecting most of the population, alpine meadows, dotted with cows, under rocky peaks which would rotate away and send forth squadrons of attack aircraft from interior runways - the punctual, predicable Swiss were capable of some pretty heavy surprises. There's a part of the Jura mountains with a nickname I like: "Franches Montagnes": the Free Mountains, which holds another surprise, beer from Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes. 

An import this exotic is, of course, the work of Oxford, Connecticut's own B. United, which is how I had several pints of BFM's La Douze. "Douze" is French for "twelve" - from the Latin "duodecim" and giving us our word "dozen" - and was brewed for the BFM's twelfth anniversary. The best categorization I can offer for this one is a Belgian Pale Ale. Douze is an unassuming golden color and had a light head as it was poured when I encountered my first pint. There is a light floral aroma, but it's very subdued. Richness - that's what comes through on the first taste. The ethereal essence of Belgian yeast floats its bouquet above a surprisingly toasty body. 

The hops are quite gentle in this case - Cascades and Amarillos lay a thin mat of bitterness underneath the flowertops of yeasty aroma and sweetness from the European Saphir hops. The BPA style is not for everyone, (I like the style, viz. Ommegang BPA) but the hopped grain ushers out the unfamiliar esters of those odd yeasts and transforms Douze - from a gauzy, ghostly brew on the tips of nose and tongue, to a substantial, even masculine beer - in a single gulp. The toasted grain sort of swims up from the bottom of this beer and ends up permeating the experience. The afterthought aftertaste ends up being the takeaway. I have no idea how much the various flavors are enhanced by the brewer's additions of Fleur de sel de Guerande/Bretagne, but I can absolutely tell you this beer is as deep as those mountain strongholds. 

When last we left Froth, I was telling you about the new Supernaut IPA from New England Brewing, and I finally got a chance to sample six or seven gallons (probably) of this much anticipated beer. 

Sometimes you get a sense of what it's like to work at a brewery by the names of the beers. The music, for example, at NEB probably tends to wail on most days. Their Belgian strong ale's name is a nod to Iron Maiden, and I'd venture to guess this newest IPA is a headbang to the fifth song on Black Sabbath's fourth album. (And my second favorite of theirs - I maintain this is the album where Tony Iommi found his sound.) 

Supernaut is made using 100% Mosaic hops, and the beer exudes a very sweet aroma of orange blossom, pineapple and, well, ultra fresh hops. It's a cloudy, semi/unfiltered ale roughly the color I've seen in first pressing cider made from Gala apples, but with a bit of orange tint. 

This is a beer with some bounce. Supernaut enlivens the mouth. The hops burst out of the brew like a beaching humpback whale. There's no tongue-raking bitterness, just an initial twinge and an aftertaste. The fruit and freshness of the Mosaics is what really takes the mind on a trip. I want to roll around in these hops... if I had my way, I'd fill a vault with them and dive in like Scrooge McDuck. I ... suppose this is pretty good beer. Find it yourself by taking a trip to New England Brewery's newly redesigned web site, which is no longer a total pile of crap. 

We're jumping around our regions this week, so it's a perfect time to mention Wild Hare, a new beer from Shiner (Kosmos Spoetzl Brewing) in Texas. As far as I knew, K. Spoetzl only made the mildly famous Shiner Bock - a dietary staple on the Lone Star state for a hundred years, now - but I stepped into a San Antonio ice house to see tubs overflowing with this new specie. Shiner Bock is not common of the style; the Teutonic environs of the beer's homeland were abandoned by its brewers in favor of incinerating Texas heat, necessitating a commensurate change to a more refreshing, less cloyingly malty beverage. S. Bock can be a very welcome option when a gentleman finds himself in the macro-brew strewn wastelands of America's longitudinal middle, so I was keen to see what the story was with this Wild Hare.

I can't comment on the color since I drank this one out of the bottle, forgoing a plastic soda cup, so just think of it as "light." Wild Hare is one zesty pale ale. There's a good body from U.S. barley and Euro-style malts, and a crisp bitterness, but every bubble which shimmies its way to the surface pops with a burst of invigorating Bravo hops. There's a delicious cocktail of light malts and funky, citrusy hops which make me think this is one of those perfect sunny-day beers because it's pleasingly complex, but so light on its feet. Shiner doesn't have distribution in Connecticut yet, but their beers can be found by anyone crossing the western border (appropriately) into New York.  

Have a good time out there, people - whatever you have on tap this weekend.