Note: At certain points in this video you may have to raise your computer’s volume. Both of Garrett’s speeches at this event were filmed in environments that were not ideal for filming situations where audio quality is an important factor (e.g. outdoors and in a crowded room)
On Monday July 30, 2012 beer bloggers, beer writers, and friends of Brooklyn Brewery gathered to celebrate the release of the newest addition to their Brewmaster’s Reserve Series called Fiat Lux. Prior to the release party at the brewery Brooklyn brewers, staff and a bunch of those invited to take part in the festivities took in the evening air at a smaller event (“Preview”) at the Wythe Hotel; directly across the street from the brewery. While getting early tastes of Fiat Lux brewmaster Garrett Oliver gave an in depth talk about the inspiration behind his latest beer. Afterwards the release party quickly got into full swing and as you’ll see in the above video, Garrett introduced a special video made for the event.
Being that I knew I would mostly likely try more than one Brooklyn Brewery beer during the evening’s festivities, The Preview allowed me to do the following. Firstly, I was able to take my time getting to know the complex flavors of Fiat Lux. Next, along with a small crowd of fellow beer bloggers and writers I was able to learn a lot about what it means to be a good brewer and beer journalist nowadays. Lastly, through his roof top remarks I was able to come to a greater level of appreciation for all the hard work that goes into conceptualizing and then brewing new beers at Brooklyn Brewery.
Tasting Notes (click here for a short clip showing all the beers discussed below and their stats):
Fiat Lux poured a beautiful straw to light golden color with a fluffy white head. Over time it condensed and left a nice amount of lacing along the sides of my glass. The wheat malt used (American Madsen un-malted white winter wheat) contributed some haziness to the beer’s appearance, which enhanced both its attractiveness and stylistic authenticity. At serving temperature the aroma consisted primarily of a pungent herbal and spicy quality along with hints of coriander and sweet maltiness. In fact after my first couple of sips I remarked to a friend that the beer’s taste and aroma reminded me of both Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace and Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project’s Jack D’or (both saison/farmhouse ales). However, as the beer warmed up the hops and lime peel broke through and took on the sweet orangey and grapefruity flavors commonly found in American india pale ales (IPAs). In his remarks about Fiat Lux Garrett mentioned that its bitterness comes from both generous additions of Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, Centennial, and Perle hops along with the tart bitterness of lime peal added in the brewing process. As such to me the bitterness was just right in that it was assertive upfront, but faded smoothly and left my palate clean, refreshed, and ready for my next sip. One final notable quality of this beer was (is) its mouthfeel. Clocking in 6.1% ABV Fiat Lux is a bit higher in alcohol content than most widely available Witbiers. The extra heft brought its body up from light to medium, which to me increases its versatility for food pairings and settings where it can be enjoyed. Rating: 8.5/10
Released on July 20, 2012 The River, a barrel-aged Belgian Pale Ale represents the third installment into The Worshipful Company of Brewers series. A series in which “each member of the Brooklyn Brewery brewing team will design and create a batch of his/her own draft-only beer, to be served exclusively at the brewery’s tasting room.” Prior to my arrival at the brewery all I knew about this beer was that it was a barrel-aged Belgian Pale Ale (7.5% ABV). As a beer geek that was definitely enough to peak my interest. Once it was in my glass I quickly looked at Brooklyn Brewery’s blog on my phone for some additional information. From the malts to the hops to the choice of wine barrels (click picture for more info.), I realized that Dan Moss (its brewer) put a lot of effort into making sure that the finished product would have a layered complexity to it. The River’s color rested somewhere between amber and orange (“burnished gold”) and was topped with one finger of off white head. Its malt character reminded me of a biere de garde i.e. it had a balanced sweet and biscuity flavor to it and was accented by a hint of brown sugar. As the beer moved over my palate I picked up fruit and spice notes reminiscent of a Belgian tripel including sweet peach, pineapple, and some stone fruits. I should note that while putting together these notes I spoke to Dan Moss and he informed me that most of the fruit character in the beer came from the wine barrels that the base beer was aged in. The spice came in as the finish was rounded out by some oak, clove, and additional sweetness. With its unique blend of strong (complex) flavors, medium body, and great drinkability, The River surely lived up to its namesake. Rating: 8.5/10
Continuing on with beers I hadn’t tried before this event, I chose AMA Boinda next. “Brewed by Amarcord Brewery in the small medieval town of Apecchio, Italy, AMA Bionda is a beer made specifically for the Italian dinner table. Designed by Brooklyn Brewmaster Garrett Oliver, AMA Bionda is a golden beer…born of aromatic malts, three types of hops, Italian Orange Blossom honey from Sicily, and water from springs that date to Roman times.” True to its description its body was straw to light gold with some cloudiness. Its one finger white foam quickly dissipated and left minimal lacing. Akin to a Saison its aroma was herbal, spicy, and lemony. In my initial sips these qualities followed through into the taste and were joined by some sweet bready maltiness and hints of honey in the finish. However, as a collaboration beer I hoped the beer’s complexity would increase as it warmed up. So after chatting with some of my fellow bloggers for a few minutes I took a minute to dissect AMA Bionda’s flavor profile. As the herbal flavors died town a nice clove like spiciness lent balance and a pleasant orange flavor joined the bready malts in the finish. Lastly, though the initial flavors reminded me of a Saison, once the beer warms up a bit its flavors were similar to a spicy German hefeweizen (e.g. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier). Rating: 7/10
For my last new beer of the night I went with Radius, “a saison that harks back to the days when farmhouse beers were session beers, full of flavor, but light enough that you could stick with them all day or all evening. At only 4.8% ABV, Radius is among the lightest beers we’ve ever made…Our Belgian yeast strain gives complex spicy notes and some bright orange zest flavors, while Perle and Aurora hops give a zippy bitterness and a pleasant floral aroma. Radius is bone-dry, unfiltered, hoppy, and refreshing.” As the brewery’s description states Radius was pale straw in color with a two finger white head. It’s lemony, grassy, and bready qualities reminded me a bit of German lager, but its clove-like spiciness (in the finish) brought me back to focusing on its designation as a table Saison or “session beer”. Personally I did not pick up the complexity of flavor that I usually look for in beer brewed with a lower ABV yet complex flavor profile in mind. However, I could see myself ordering this at a bar as my first beer of the night for its refreshing drinkability. I should note that Radius is only available in the borough of Brooklyn. Rating: 6/10
As one of my go to Brooklyn beers I chose to split a glass of their Blast! double IPA with a friend before grabbing one last glass of Fiat Lux before ending my drinking for the night. Its complex hop profile is comprised of a blend of English and American hop varietals (Ahtanum, Simcoe, Willamette, Centennial, Palisade, East Kent Golding, Northdown, Challenger, and Fuggle) in order to represent Brooklyn being “half-way between the hop country of Yakima Valley, Washington and the hop country of Kent in England.” As a means of balancing all those hops (5 lbs. per barrel) “Maris Otter and German Pilsner malts bring solidity, balance and beautiful flavors to a golden beer that’s ludicrously hoppy, strangely quaffable and oddly compelling. You won’t even know what hit you.” From the tap it poured a vibrant orange hue with a close to three finger big, bubbly head. As with many well formulated double IPA, the head lasted quite long and left a considerable amount lacing on my glass. Having enjoyed this beer on many occasions I was in hophead heaven when it’s aroma was pretty much bursting out of my glass with notes of grapefruit, orange, peach, and pine. All of which were balanced and made seemingly more juicy by some lightly sweet malt character. The “juiciness” of the hops came full circle in the taste with a balance of bitter grapefruit and orange flavors from the generous hopping and hints of pine and bready malts in the finish. At 8% ABV was a bit lighter in body than some other double IPAs, which made gave the beer a refreshing quality (refreshing for a hop lover). Rating: 8/10
Cheers to the brewers and staff of Brooklyn Brewery for a great night!