It’s a special kind of beer event where you hear unique heralds of praise such as “this one has a more fungus quality than last year’s batch” or “this tastes like bird poop and cat piss.” But, to some, these are desired flavors in the world’s most complex category of beers; wild/sour ales. And these were just the endearing qualities that dozens of lacto-lovers came together to celebrate this past weekend at Brooklyn’s second annual Where the Wild Beers Are, a communal gathering of spontaneously fermented beer lovers. So hold on to your tasting cups boys and girls, because what follows are some serious rare and delicious beers cultivated from some of the city’s finest private cellers.
“This isn’t your typical beer festival, it’s a collaborative effort where fans of the funk and bacti-curious people come together to share and celebrate the often rare and certainly unconventional wild and sour ales. These beers have been produced for hundreds of years; but after shriveling to near extinction in the age of pure yeast cultures, they are on the rebound due to artisan brewers and enthusiast imbibers like you.”
Held in the courtyard of Park Slope’s Mission Dolores, wild beer lovers from the tri-state area (and a few visiting from Minnesota) braved the onset of winter to share their passion for the funkiest of brews. The only cost of entry to this event was a bottle (or three) of sour or wild beers to donate to the party. In exchange, guests received a certain amount of “pours” from the other communal bottles. Armed with 20 pours a piece – thanks to our Captain Lawrence, Ommegang and Monk’s offerings – Lindsay and I set out for what quickly became an afternoon of serious palate abuse.
Standouts were present on every table but one of my favorites was the ultra-rare Cantillon Zwanze 2009 with its notes of straw, rotting lemons and musky herbs. While that may sound a miss to those unfamiliar with the style, the result was incredibly balanced and drinkable. Also notable was the overlooked Brouwerij Timmermans-John Martin Bourgogne Des Flandres which married a murky, malty cherry quality with a very light finish and more reduced sour character. The result was an easy drinking version of the flanders style. But, by far, my favorite of the afternoon was the New Glarus Enigma. This is one of the most complex and intriguing beers I’ve ever tried… a potpourri of smokey malt, aged tart cherry notes, hints of maple syrup and an underlying layer of oak. If you like your beers to push limits then hunt this one down (and send me a bottle!)
Other opportunities at the Where the Wild Beers Are event included tasting a three year vertical of Ithica Brute as well as two year verticals of both Panel Barrique (both were very “poop-like” to me) and Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton. There were also horizontals from New Glarus (including the rare R&D) and Jolly Pumpkin (including the new Biere de Goord) which made for great crash courses in these revered mid-west breweries.
Where the Wild Beers Are was definitely one of the more unque and exciting beer events I’ve attended this year. For those of you worn out on massive festivals with mini-pours of flagship brews, I urge you to seek out events like this that bring the community of beer-drinkers – and the beers they love – to the forefront. Where the Wild Beers are is held annually in Minnesota and Brooklyn so if you missed this years then definitely get on the list and keep an eye out for the 2011 edition.
[flickr album=72157625151733919 num=30 size=Square]