Style: Wild Ale, Barrel Aged Brown Ale
Brewery: Captain Lawrence (Pleasentville, NY)
Availability: single brew, limited release
Summer has descended upon New York with full force at that means it’s time to feverishly drink through my winter storage of brews before the heat takes a toll on them. The result is early summer nights filled with rare brews, obscure barley-wines and delicate Saison’s that just won’t last the heat in a Brooklyn apartment without air conditioning. It’s the perfect excuse for me to snap a few new bottle photos and get back to writing reviews! First up in this series is the Captain Lawrence Barrel Select Batch #1, an aggressively sour American Brown Ale blended from a 6 barrels ranging from two to three years old.
Appearance: The Barrel Select pours a hazy, amber brown with aggressive carbonation and ecru head. The pour leaves slight lacing on the glass that fades away quickly.
Smell: The nose here is a blast of sour cherry that almost overpowers the other scents. As I get accustomed to aroma, notes of chocolate and oak come forward along with the traditional hints of wild yeast (barnyard funk, horse blanket, etc.)
Taste: There is quite a blast of acidic bitterness here as the Barrel Select leads with a puckeroushly sour hit of unripened cherries, tart green grapes and – in a throwback to my childhood (or last trip to the movie theatre) – Sour Patch Kids. Once you dig through the sea of sour, you get more flavors of Hershey’s chocolate bar mixed with lactic acid and a bit of musty malt. There’s also a hint of astringent tannins and oak notes but they are bonded well with the acidic overtones and don’t really stand out on their own.
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is pretty straightforward for a bottle aged brew… fine carbonation, medium body and a nice, dry finish from the barrel aging.
Drinkability: While the mouthfeel and finish are easy on the pallet, this is an abundantly sour beer that may be overwhelming for some people. For such a complicated, blended brew, the flavor is surprisingly straightforward which may keep you from reaching for another glass. Splitting (and sipping) the bottle amongst two people, however, should fair quite well.
Overall: The Captain Lawrence Barrel Aged Select #1 is another milestone for the brewery. It’s incredibly tart and and unlike any of their other offerings. While it was a bit over-acidic for my taste – which is a rarity so non-sour beer drinkers be warned – but it would pair really nicely with a farmhouse cheese and it is a great non-traditional brew to help open people’s eyes to the potential of beer. People who like Flemish sours such as a Rodenbach should take notice and seek this one out.