I received a bottle of this limited-edition wild ale from Rick at Big Foamy Head. It's been in the back of my beer fridge since it arrived here in February. My intent was to allow it to age for a year or two, but then a cloud of WTF came over me recently. You know the drill. So I decided to break it out and pair it with something I thought it might compliment, or vice versa.
Brabant is a barrel-aged wild ale from Avery Brewing, and was extremely limited in production (only 624 cases produced). It was brewed using the infamous Brettanomyces yeast, which gives wild ales their sour flavors. After fermentation was complete, Brabant was aged for 8 months in used Zinfandel barrels.
The result is a beer that, while definitely sour, retains a complexity and depth of flavor that required several sips for me to wrap my head around. The oddest thing I've found about wild ales is that they tend to smell a lot like they taste. That is, at least to me.
The first sniffs of this beer didn't smell sour at all. So I expected that the beer would not approach flavors as sour as I initially figured it would. I guessed wrong. Very wrong, in fact. This thing was deep with flavors of tart currants and unripe cherries. There was way more going on than I'd anticipated.
It wasn't until I allowed the beer to rise in temperature a little that the aromas I was looking for started to lift off of the beer, and began to match the flavor almost exactly. In fact, the warmer this beer became, the deeper those flavors of bitter fruit began to come through. And I love that about this style.
In addition, Brabant was the perfect compliment to what I'd decided to pair it with. Left on my own for dinner, I tend to eat things my wife would rather not. Tonight, it was Boudin Noir, or blood sausage. Earthy, mealy, laden with spices, and protein rich -- Boudin Noir got along quite nicely with Brabant. It was Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman all over again.
At the Great American Beer Festival two years ago, I ran into this couple who'd been to Belgium on several occasions. They said that one of the most common things they saw wild ales paired with was horse meat. I'm not 100% sure I'm ready to pair a beer named after an actual horse, that has horse blanket aromas, with meat from an actual horse. But for this meal, it more than sufficed.
Thanks again to Rick for an excellent experience with an American Wild Ale not many people get a chance to explore. It was truly art in a bottle.