DSC02185I got bugs
I got bugs in my room
Bugs in my bed
Bugs in my ears
Their eggs in my head
          — Pearl Jam

Since enjoying Victory’s Wild Devil at last week’s hops festival hosted by the Blue Nile, I haven’t been able to think of much else but bugs in my beer. 

As is often the case when I find a craft beer that I really enjoy, I try to reverse engineer it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? So how best to go about creating my own homebrewed version of an IPA incorporating everyone’s favorite wild yeast strain, Brettanomyces? The interplay of pungent barnyard aromas from the funkified culture punctuated by the citrusy hop bitterness make Wild Devil a fantastic beer, and I intend to celebrate it to the best of my amateur zymurgistic abilities. I haven’t quite worked out all the particulars, such as whether to use Brett as my main workhorse yeast in the primary (something done to marvelous effect by breweries like Lost Abbey and Russian River), or add it to secondary as many brewers tend to do. But regardless, I’ll be brewing soon, after a particularly long hiatus. Looking forward to getting back in the laboratory.

To quench my preoccupation in the meantime, I decided to sit down with another musty, Brett-induced ale, this one from highly regarded Trappist brewery Orval.

First time I tried Orval I was shocked. Maybe it was the elegantly shaped brown bottle that suggested some kind of dark Belgian candi treat, or possibly the fact that I’d been enjoying a handful of other fine Trappist ales like Chimay Premiere and Rochefort 10. But Orval is a beautifully delicate Belgian pale ale, a big departure from what you might otherwise normally expect from many Trappist monasteries producing earthy dubbels laden with dark fruits, or boozey quads. Orval is a nicely hopped beer, marked by a massive dosing of Brett in the aroma. From what I gather, they bottle condition using Brett Bruxellensis, what White Labs describes as a “medium” intensity wild yeast that doesn’t knock you off your socks with overly aggressive sweaty horse blanket characteristics, but rather evokes a “cleaner” interpretation of the strain.

Pours a flowing, creamy head and copper coloring. Whatever mild lemon and pear-like fruitiness there is in the aroma is quickly dispersed by the Brett…highly intriguing. At first sip, a light malt character that quickly turns to a mildly biting, puckering dry finish that’s both sour and bitter. Some phenols mixed in too. Mouthfeel is very full for such a light ale, cleverly disguising the 6.9% ABV.

If anyone wonders what Brett is all about, or fine Trappist ales for that matter, just crack an Orval. A timeless, classic beer.

Rating: A

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