Post-ride Beer: Wicked Weed Serenity
“Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed.”
– King Henry VIII, 1519
While a lot of these PRB posts are focused on the occasion that led to a fantastically great beer, this one is actually just about the beer itself (although it did follow a nice ride).
The Serenity was my foray into the Funkatorium division of Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing. I have been on somewhat of a sour kick since I’ve been back, and a fellow at one of my favorite bottle stores, Tasty, highly recommended it.
Last summer I nurtured my taste for saisons, sours, and wild ales while in Vermont. I was immediately floored by the complexity, brightness, and layering that these beers offer. Credit is definitely due to several summer seasonals I tried from Hill Farmstead, which sealed my love for Belgian influenced ales. Born from Wallania where farmers brewed during the colder and less active winter months, the farmhouse summer ale was close to endangered not too long ago. Now it seems the style is alive and well in the states; American brewers have fanned the flames and are making interesting and varied interpretations of the style. All of the sub-genres are different, but some seem to have one very funky common trait. The ‘barnyard funk’, as it’s commonly referenced, comes from hijacking the barrel aging process with various strains of wild yeast. These tiny creatures often leave a calling card that can be complex, sour, strange, and sometimes quite dazzling.
I had never heard of a ‘Brett’ until I laid eyes on this bottle. It’s short for Brettanomyces, which is a particular genus of yeast that winemakers attribute to adding complexity and an aged character to some reds. Lambic and Gueuze owe their unique flavors to Brettanomyces, as do some saisons, farmhouse ales and American wild ales (thanks Wikipedia). This past December, Serenity was awarded gold at the Great American Beer Festival for ‘American-style Brett’, although it actually falls into the slightly wider ‘American wild ale’ category. It’s open fermented with 100% Brettanomyces and aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels.
I had no doubt that this ale would be perfect after an eastern North Carolina backroad ride on a sizzling summer afternoon. The chilled Serenity poured pale blonde with a fizzy white head. The nose burst with earthy grape, tropical fruit, lemon, and musty leather. The taste got fairly complex as the crisp carbonation mixed flavors of light grape, oak, and barnyard funkiness, with the slight presence of grain and yeast. A nice sour tang led to a crisp finish. This was one of the best beers I have enjoyed in some time. Save me another, Tasty.
P.S. That bike in the background is doing some aging of it’s own. ‘Blue’ is a 1978 Schwinn Tandem that Virginia and her partner Amy rode (a couple years in a row) in the New Belgium Urban Assault Ride. They took 2nd place one year…
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