California's most closely followed brewery recently released their highly sought after Supplication. It is a sour brown ale, brewed with cherries and aged in French barrels which had previously been used for Pinot Noir. Incidentally, RRB's brewer/owner Vinnie Cilurzo used to make wine, and as the back label points out the thought of having any Brettanomyces (one of the key bacterial strains which produces sour beer, as well as kombucha for that matter) is anathema to most California winemakers. At RRB they intentionally introduce Brettanomyces in several of their beers to achieve the types of flavors they are looking for. After aging in barrel for about a year (give or take a few months depending on how the beer is developing) the beer is blended and bottled, re-fermenting in the bottle a la methode champenoise.
How is the beer? It's pretty good. It pours an opaque amber hue, with a fairly robust, off white colored foam. As with other American sour beers I have had, there is neither the intensity of sour goodness nor complexity of flavor which you get in its various Belgian counterparts. While you definitely taste the cherries, I would not say it's a cherry explosion. The beer seems to have a bit more of a hop influence, or perhaps I should say a less subtle hop influence, than my favorites from the likes of Cantillon, De Ranke, and Drie Fonteinen, which typically are aged for twice as long, or at least they are by the time they hit the American market. The fruit and beer do not seem to have melded completely yet, so perhaps a year or two of bottle age is required.
Overall, though, Supplication is an interesting beer that should improve with each successive effort. Any brewery who can make a hoppy beer that I actually like (specifically, Pliny the Elder) is worth following and supporting in their sour beer brewing exploration.
Tomorrow, we'll take a mid-week wine break before going back into Beer mode. Prost!