Brewery: Otter Creek Brewing Company (Middlebury, VT)
Big Beer Month kicked into high gear the other night as I got a chance to taste all the new offerings from the Otter Creek Brewing Company at their NYC relaunch. Each of the new beers was impeccably crafted but their new barleywine, the Quercus Vitis Humulus, was my hands down favorite. QVH is an amber sipper somewhat akin to a strong Belgian Ale but with a load of complex flavors from the use of two yeast strains (including warm fermented lager yeast) and Sauvignon Blanc grape juice.
Appearance: Pours a rich orange with light head and very nice lacing
Smell: There is no overpowering nose on the QVH and comes across bready at first. As it warms, subtle notes of honey and citrus come forward along with hints of chalk and oak.
Taste: The taste here not overpowering but, instead, is loaded with several complex layers that change as the beer warms. Initially, there are honey and citrus notes in line with the nose as well as some limestone flavors from the use of lager yeast. But as the temperature changes, more pine notes come forward in the hop character along with subtle flavors of oak and dry red wine. The alcohol is balanced well and does not interfere with the flavor palate at all.
Mouthfeel: QVH holds a fine carbonation and – while a bit dense in the mouth – it is not as syrupy as you would expect at 12% alcohol. Crisp, dry finish.
Drinkability: The alcohol is hidden so well in this one that it creeps up on you. With its lighter mouthfeel, I could easily put a few of these back in an evening. They sit somewhere between a sipper and casual drinking beer but pack a punch at 12% ABV.
Overall: If QVH is any indication of what’s to come from Otter Creek then I’m fully on board. This is an incredibly complex ale with layer upon layer of subtle flavors that result from an intense and unorthodox, brewing process. I’ve never tasted a lager yeast perform this well and it combines flawlessly with Champagne finishing yeast. Quercus Vitis Humulus is an excellently crafted beer all around and one to stock up on and share with friends.
Brewing Note: “QVH is our brewers’ tribute to the mighty oak, luscious grape, and humble hop. The homage begins with a bold 27 degree plato barley-wine, warm-fermented with Bohemian lager yeast, then blended with Sauvignon Blanc grape juice and fermented a second time with a pure culture of Champagne yeast. When this intricate brew was complete, our brewers aged it on lightly toasted French Oak. The six week journey through our brewery results in a deeply complex ale which clocks in at 12% ABV, with 38 IBU.”