Friday Froth: Age Of Exploration

James Gribbon

Due to the relativistic effects of recent travel Friday Froth only APPEARS to have posted on Saturday. Adjust your perceptions accordingly.

We are explorers in this place. Early people trudged or sailed the natural world to see what had never been seen before, as far as they knew - to discover just what was out there. Incredibly daunting missions had deceivingly simple directions: Sail to India. Find the north pole. Go get spices. Head west. When the pilot on the conquistador Francisco Pizarro's ship was asked by another navigator how to find Peru when sailing from Mexico's Pacific coast he answered "Sail south along the coast until you no longer see trees. Then you are in Peru."

Like most people from the 19th century on, it's easy to think we've seen everything. There is only so much to the surface of the Earth, and the natural world often changes too slowly for us to see. Go to Hawaii or Iceland and you can see new Earth being made, but it seems we've already mapped out or looked down on the rest of it, right? The Earth may remake itself slowly, but its people gush creativity. We produce what is new under the Sun. The world of craft beer is a particularly fertile valley.

Evil Twin is the label created by one Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, of Denmark. Mr. J. J-B was a home brewer who loved beer and opened a bottle shop called Olbutikken in his home country before creating the Evil Twin brand and giving its beers names like Even More Jesus and The Talented Mr. Orangutan. The brand is usually contract brewed through Brew Dog in Scotland, but - I hope I'm not giving anything away here - it has recently started to be contracted in the United States, in our home state of Connecticut. At Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, to be exact. 

Evil Twin has a pair of beers called Yin and Yang. Yin is an imperial stout, Yang is an imperial IPA, and they are designed to be served individually, or mixed together as a black&tan the brewery calls "Taiji," the Japanese word meaning "supreme ultimate." I recently had Yang (10% abv) on tap and was surprised by what I got. The menu said "Imperial IPA" but the glass held a reddish/caramel-colored beer with a thick, white head, and only mild hop aromas. 

A Brazilian girl I knew used to want me to wear a Speedo whenever we went swimming. She said she wanted to see what she was getting. What you see, in this case as well, is what you get, because there is a very deep, sweet side to Yang, just like the winter ale you'd think it was on first glance. There's no way I'd identify this as an IPA on first guess. Handed to me blind, I'd deem it a bitter barleywine. This one was a very positive experience, and I couldn't help thinking that, distilled, Yang would make a killer whiskey. [Akin to Pine Barrens, made from distilled Blue Point Old Howling Bastard]  

Sebago Brewing up in Gorham, Maine has been doing a little creative exploration of their own, and it comes to us in the form of Hop Swap. This isn't the first time they've played around with a hoppy ale of this name - last year's had Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops in it - but this time they've gone above and beyond, using the fairly common Amarillos and Cascades alongside the less common, and decidedly more costly, Simcoe and Falconer's Flight varieties.

Based on the bright colors in the glass, this beer could be outwardly mistaken for last week's White Birch, but that notion would be dispelled the second you got closer than four feet, because adding Simcoe hops to a beer is like adding an electric guitar to a string quartet. The nose is sweet with the dominant Simcoes, but there is a symphonic effect of multiple hops: a slight spice from the Amarillos, and distinct citrus from the Falconer's Flight, underlain by the Cascades. 

Aroma is tightly tied to taste, and it doesn't lie here. The Simcoes once again dominate the space, but the other guests at the party certainly make their presences known. Explore the space and you'll experience that floral aspect, but elsewhere there's something dry and English, and maybe someone just walked in from outside with pine on their clothes. 

This is a beer for drinkers trying out the deep end of the pool; it's well beyond a starter or session IPA, but at the same time it won't score your tooth enamel with obscene IBUs. Sebago usually makes good beers, and maybe it's just my hop head talking, but they've stepped up their game with this one. It's a limited release, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Much easier to get locally, and in fact springing forth on this very day, is the new Two Roads Via Cordis Abbey Blonde. The brewers at Two Roads worked with beer geeks in the biology department of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield to create this beer in homage to beer-brewing monks, and the creators used an heirloom strain of yeast kept by a monastery in Belgium to make this 5.2% abv blonde. You can head up to the tasting room in Stratford to be among the first to get this beer on draft or in 22oz. bottles today, or just watch out for it at bars and bottle shops in our area. I'll let you know what I think as soon as I can wrap my hands around one.  

Elsewhere in Belgo-American beers is Picobrouwerij Alvinne Wild West. The brewers from Ingelmuenster call this an American Wild Ale, and I'm pretty sure that first part refers to the high dose (for Belgium) of hops, which are estate grown. The brewery likewise uses its own house strain of Morpheus yeast, and then ages the almost-finished product in Bordeaux wine barrels for eight months before it can go on sale. This is a lengthy, costly process ("picobrouwerij" means "microbrewery") and the end result yields the equivalent of just 65 cases per batch, according to U.S. importer B. United.

Wild West pours a brassy color with a light head that quickly melted off, although maybe that was just the pour. The house yeast lends a sour funk to the aroma, but with a nice wildflower essence. The sour shock is the first thing you'll taste, but it dissipates quickly, leaving a flavor not too far from tart apple juice before that fades away in turn. There is a surprisingly smooth, wheaty, graininess to the aftertaste, and all this finishes noticeably dry. This is a complex, tasty wild beer for those looking to expand their palate, or maybe just check a rather exotic box in their mental checklist. To find this one, contact Jie Yu at, and she can put you directly in touch with a retailer.

The age of exploration may be largely over, but we're currently in a blossoming golden age of creation. Drinkers may not be discovering new lands, but we can certainly keep searching, just to see what was out there.