Friday Froth: Sweet, Sour and Stout

James Gribbon

You're hungry, but you sit there, getting hungrier, because you don't know what you want to eat. Spoiled for choice, you end up ravenous and choosing the closest, quickest option for an ultimately unsatisfying resolution. An Italian combo sub is good, but Thai would have been better. Barbeque usually hits the spot, but enchiladas suizas are what you were really craving. Sometimes having fewer options can lead to happier conclusions. This week I'm going to give you a few options in three categories, and hopefully it will make your decisions a little easier the next time you're faced with a giant wall of six packs, or a tap list with fifty options.

How about something fruitier to start? A drink almost like a punch, or a cocktail you'd get at a tiki bar? One answer to sate this need is Birrificio del Ducato Frambozschella. This is an Italian beer made with fresh raspberries and lactic acid, then aged in wooden barrels. It pours a deep, dark ruby red, and had almost no head at all as it was poured for me. You'll be able to smell the pH from four inches away and it's sour, but it never threatened to turn my face inside out. There is big, fizzy carbonation, and the mouthfeel is very thin. The raspberries are very fully fermented, so there is a very definitive fruit flavor, but almost none of the sweetness which would make this seem like a kiddie drink. 

This beer was initially spontaneously fermented with naturally occurring yeasts, and has undergone a secondary fermentation when the raspberries were added, so it would be called a lambic, had it been made in Belgium. Frambozschella made me think it would be an excellent alternative to table wine, and would probably be phenomenal with a chèvre

Can't find Ducato too easily? You might want to try the new Two Roads Road Jam, which should be at nearly all of our local bottle shops. It's not a lambic-style ale like Frambozschella, but it is a beer with berries added. I haven't had it yet, so feel free to give any impressions you may have of it in the comments. 

Not feeling the sweetness? No problem: let's go the other way, and try out a sour, Polish beer called Grodziskie. This is a rare style of beer, even in its country of origin. Lucky us, though, as the crew at B.United have partnered with brewer/academic Professor Fritz Briem in Munich to create, bottle and import it into our fair state. The good prof. enjoys brewing largely forgotten styles, according to original recipes. Grodziskie is from land which was alternately part of Poland and Prussia, depending on what year it was, and dates back to as early as the 15th century. This style was largely extinct by the middle of the 20th century, and the recipe for what you'll drink in Prof. Briem's version was laid out as early as the 1600s. 

The malts are air-dried barley and beech wood smoked wheat, and the brew is hand-hopped with German Perle and Saaz varieties, then aged for three months. The beer itself is a cloudy gold with no head and barely any aroma. There is a mild sourness, but the background is a deliciously rich and smooth wheat. What smoke there is to the flavor is just a whisp, like the faint column from a campfire on a distant hill. The combination of sour and smoke acts almost like a salt, elevating all the flavors and encouraging the next sip. That effect makes this an excellent, refreshing summer beer, and is easily sessionable at just 4%. 

No longer commercially produced, Professor Fritz Briem's Grodziskie is the only kind you will find, anywhere. That makes it a tough buy, but keep your eye out for the lighter, slightly more sour berlinerweisse he makes and bottles for B.United, and is significantly easier to find. It's based on a recipe from 1809, the year which gives the beer its name. Even easier to find than that (starting very soon) is Weiss Trash Culture from New England Brewing Co., and sold in cans - now in its second year. Try Alvinne Phi blonde if you need to be absolutely bitchslapped with sourness. Not my thing but, hey: I don't judge.

Three and four percent alcohol beers not doing it for you, cowboy? You want something special, but you're also looking for a drink with more guts to it?Bust out your navigational aids find some Founders Brewing Co. KBS. The name of this 11.2% imperial stout is an acronym for Kentucky Breakfast Stout, because it's Founders' coffee-added Breakfast Stout aged in bourbon barrels. 

Yes, it's night-sky black, and it sits under a thick, tawney head, but there manages to be a distinctly sweet, chocolatey nose to this lordly stout. There is a big, vanilla lead in as soon as this beer hits your tongue, followed by this malted espresso body which is just miles deep. The tannins and whiskey from the barrels don't seem to be in this beer so much as floating and swirling around it, and the chocolate it's made with (yep) is readily apparent. 

I try not to say this often, especially with a beer this difficult to locate, but - and I'm going to emphasize this point - you absolutely must try this beer. It is love in a bottle, people. If you bat someone else's hand out of the way to land a bottle well, everyone will understand. 

That's the real heartbreaker here, though: KBS is only released after it's spent an entire year in said bourbon barrels, so you'll need to be part Indiana Jones to get your grasping claws on even a single bottle. Significantly easier to find, if not thick as leaves on the ground, is another beer worth fighting for: Brooklyn Black Ops. This strong stout is brewed, aged in bourbon barrels for four months, then placed into large format bottles while flat, and refermented in the bottle by the addition of champagne yeast. I brought a bottle of this to the CTbites Christmas party last year, and I can promise you will love it if heavy, rich beers curl your toes. If the previous descriptions sound like a bit much to you, Keegan's Milk Stout (made with lactose, hence the name) is fairly common, delicious, 
and surprisingly light. An excellent summer stout. 

Speaking of summer beers, I have something brewing for a future Froth. Until then, have fun, and I'll see you out there.