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Beer drinkers covet the strangest things

Evan Benn writes today about the rush to buy bottles of Goose Island Sofie the brewery recalled because “… Goose Island Sofie uses natural products and the hallmark of Belgian-style beers — wild fermentation. This particular natural variation was new and resulted in flavors that weren’t what we expected so we implemented a method for controlling for that variation.”

When he visited the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton (a store I can now walk to) he was a little surprised that he wasn’t the only one looking for bottles from the tainted batch.

He turned out not to be impressed, writing: “Real Sofie tastes slightly fruity, slightly spicy, with a zesty carbonation that results in a champagnelike finish. The Feb. 11 sample had muddled aromas and flavors, including some rancid butter and vaguely sour elements, and dull carbonation. I couldn’t choke down all of the contents of the 22-ounce bottle, leaving about half of it for a beer-loving friend to try.”

But I’m sure there are drinkers who just love the alternative version.

And a few weeks ago Daria (my wife, for those of you new here) poured beer for Boulevard Brewing when she volunteered at the St. Louis MicroFest. They weren’t serving the recently released the Smokestack Imperial Stout, but festivalgoers wanted to know where you could buy Batch #2. Boulevard is offering a refund for those who purchased that batch, because . . .

Prior to the March release our tasting panel sampled several bottles of the new barrel aged beer. Some turned out as expected, while others displayed the unique characteristics of wild Brettanomyces yeast. We immediately posted tasting notes to our blog, announcing the deviation and noting the differences in flavor profiles. Because our tasting panel very much enjoyed both versions, we decided to proceed with the release as usual.

It is Batch #2 of the 2011 Imperial Stout that exhibits the Brettanomyces trait. In retrospect, we should have called attention to this Brett character on the label. Because we didn’t, and because some consumers got a beer that was different from the one they had a legitimate right to expect, we’re offering a refund to anybody who feels shortchanged, and who can reasonably demonstrate that they did in fact buy a bottle of Batch #2 of our 2011 Imperial Stout.

I had Batch #1 and it was delightful, rich and decadent. But what set it apart was its texture; a combination of mouthfeel and layers of flavor not unlike the Firestone Walker anniversary beers. Brettanomyces will literally chew away at that texture.

I like many of my favorite styles, including saisons and IPAs, drier than most (perhaps why once when I was judging saisons in a competition a friend said, “You’re Mr. Attenuation”). And I’m curious about a lot of things. But were I to find Smokestack Imperial Stout in a store I’d buy Batch #1 rather than #2. Sometimes you just want a sure thing.

10 Responses to Beer drinkers covet the strangest things

  1. troymccluresf June 9, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Makes sense. Some great beers are the results of accidents.

  2. Sid Boggle June 9, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Watch eBay and the trading fora of the ticker websites light up as people realise what they have…

  3. Steve June 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    “…as people realise what they have…”

    Brett Porter, the new Goose Island brewmaster (no, really), posted the recall on BeerAdvocate a few days ago. Lots of hyperventilating already going on.

  4. Sid Boggle June 10, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    Brett Porter? 8-)

    Have the BJCP been informed?

  5. Steve June 10, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    Pretty sure he gets honorary membership just for being a pro brewmaster. ;)

  6. Stephen Beaumont June 10, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    “When I heard that Ford had recalled a bunch of cars because of their faulty brakes, I naturally ran out and bought one before they were all gone. Imagine my surprise when I ran into a wall…”

    If a brewery seeks to recall a beer that somehow slipped through the cracks, I find it not at all shocking that it would be unimpressive. Tracking said beer down and paying good money for it strikes me as rather bizarre.

  7. Ron Pattinson June 10, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Imperiald Stout should have brettanomyces in it.

  8. Stan Hieronymus June 10, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Great analogy, Mr. B.

  9. Jeff Alworth June 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Apropos of Ron’s comment, Boulevard might have called it a revival stout. I don’t know which I’d like best, but I certainly know which I’d buy first. Contra Beaumont, this “slipping through” looks exactly like the descriptions of the beer brewed 150 years ago in London.

  10. Martyn Cornell June 16, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    Brett Porter – what an excellent example of nominative determinism Has Goose Island made a brett porter yet? Mind, if you Google Brett Porter, there appear to be quite a few of them about, including one Brett Porter who played a Klingon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

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