Wednesday 18 August 2010

Otter Creek mix the grape with the grain and triumph

Otter Creek Brewery. Stands next to a cheese factory outside Middlebury, VT. Mike Gerhart (right) is the brewmaster, formerly of Dogfish Head and a great beer guy. Copper Ale is the brewery’s big seller and as good an interpretation of an Alt as I have ever had. However, it’s a bottle of Quercus Vitis Humulus that I want to write about. Brought it back from the US, put it in the cellar, thought I would like it to stay there for a year, age gently, mature finely, but temptation got the better of me — and boy I’m both glad and disappointed I tried it. Disappointed cause I only bought one bottle back with me and would love to know what this would taste like in a year. Glad because it was gorgeous experience that send my brain scrambling and scrabbling for words to describe it. The nose was reminiscent of a toned-down brandy, a well-deep grape-must aroma that lacked the argumentative fieriness of spirit and then a kind of sweet solvent like note appeared, young and unformed but full of potential; in the mouth it was chewy, oily, peppery, woody, having a hint of bare-knuckle rawness about it, a woodland campfire rawness around which I would sit thinking about the beer and look to poetry for inspiration. It was like a sweet-sour-grape-grain collaboration, a Sauterne of a beer that has more in common with what’s going on in Italy than the US (immense with cheese I would hazard a guess). This young it’s a challenge but utterly delicious and besides I like the challenge, it helps me to think differently about beer as all challenging beers should do (Le Baladin’s Xyauyu and Cantillon’s Vigneronne spring to  mind). As for the techie details, it starts off being fermented with lager yeast, then Sauvignon Blanc grape juice is added, then it gets a secondary fermentation with champagne yeast before sleeping the sleep of the just in French oak. Whisk(e)y barrels and beer no problem, but when the grape meets the grain that’s a different copper kettle of piscatorial delights. If you’re lucky to bag a bottle, try and get two and that way temptation will not be so ruinous. 


  1. That sounds magnificent, might have to hunt down a couple of bottles for the cellar.

  2. Sounds incredible, and I've found recently that grape and grain aren't such unlikely bedfellows. I've got bottle of Birra del Borgo Equilibrista in the cellar (it hasn't even got a ratebeer entry yet) that is a blend of brewer's wort and clear Chianti must, fermented with an ale yeast to 11%abv and then bottled and refermented. The sample I tried at the brewery flick-flacked between a strong golden ale and a prosecco. Stunning.