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Delightfully Quirky Ales — Beer Tasting at Inari Wines

April 23, 2012

Every Friday between 4 and 7 PM, Inari Wines hosts informal beer tastings / education, which feature five new and interesting beers across a broad range of styles. Cheeses and other specialty food items are offered for pairing. These tastings have become a staple of Bristol’s downtown night life, with many guests enjoying the beverages and camaraderie before they head out to dinner or carry on with their evening plans. Cost is $5 per taster, which includes beer, light snacks, tasting notes, and an informal presentation.

Delightfully Quirky Ales will be tasted!

North Coast "Le Merle" Saison Ale – Fort Bragg, CA
THE STORY: North Coast Brewing Company specializes in Belgian styles, including the Saison or Farmhouse Ale style. This is the traditional spring homebrew of Belgium, made in a light, refreshing style for spring-summer consumption. Saison Ales range in style from yeasty and grassy to fruity, spicy, and complex. As with most Belgian styles, this one is bottle-conditioned, or bottled with some live yeast to continue fermentation in the bottle, just like Champagne.

WHAT TO EXPECT: This is a fruity style of Saison Ale, showing bright citrus and tropical fruit. North Coast uses a Belgian yeast strain to add grassy, herbal notes as well as hints of biscuit or bread dough. The effervescence is delicate and lively, contributing to the light texture of the ale. This one is highly aromatic, showing floral and perfume aromas.

ABV: 7.9%

Recommended Glass: Chalice

Greene King "Abbot Ale" – England
THE STORY: Here is a little oddity – a Belgian-style spiced ale from an English brewery, in a pint can. The brewery boasts that it is “brewed longer for a distinctive full flavor,” whatever that means. We’ll assume that this one shows plenty of malty, fruity mass, along with baking spices such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, with delicate English hops adding notes of grass and hay.

WHAT TO EXPECT: This cross-over style is fairly light in body for all the malt, fruit and spice. The texture is creamy, almost buttery. Wheat and cereal grains, caramel, and toffee round out the aromatics, while hints of dried fruit, perhaps fig and date, linger in the background. The palate carries all of this through, adding a delicate hop crispness to keep things light and clean.

ABV: 5.0%

Recommended Glass: Chalice

Lindemans Kriek Lambic – Belgium
THE STORY: Lindemans specializes in Lambics. In the broadest terms, Lambic is a spontaneously fermented Belgian ale that is typically aged in barrels, then blended with young batches and often flavored with fruit, triggering a round of secondary fermentation. By “spontaneously fermented,” we mean that the brewer allows naturally-occurring yeast cells suspended in the air to inoculate the grain mash, rather than starting fermentation by adding brewing yeast. The strain of yeast that gives Lambics their signature tartness and musty aromas occurs naturally only in Belgium’s Senne Valley, so the style cannot really be replicated elsewhere.

WHAT TO EXPECT: This Lambic is flavored with black cherries, adding intense, tart fruitiness. The body is light and crisp, with no noticeable malt or hop qualities. The fruit really dominates this one, with a curious mixture of tartness and sweetness rounding out the pretty cherry flavors. Carbonation is minimal, which is characteristic of cask-aged ales. As far as beer styles go, this one is perhaps the most wine-like.

ABV: 4.0%

Recommended Glass: Chalice

Laughing Dog "Devil Dog" Imperial IPA – Ponderay, ID
THE STORY: American brewers love to monkey around with international styles. The American IPA style already departs from the comparatively subdued English IPA, and the Imperial IPA or Double IPA style really pushes the limits of what human beings can consume. Hops are added in absurd quantities to impart blistering, palate-scorching bitterness, while alcohol levels are allowed to ascend into double digits. These things are not for the faint of heart (or stomach). You have been warned.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Devil Dog clocks in at 98 International Bitterness Units (the scale supposedly tops out at 100) at nearly 11% ABV. Some brewers attempt to balance the hop bitterness with large quantities of malted barley; not this one. The palate is light and blazingly hoppy. The faintest hints of citrus, apricot, and tropical fruit can be detected as Devil Dog delivers its brutal canine chomp on the esophagus.

ABV: 10.85%

Recommended Glass: Pint or Nonic

Stone Smoked Porter – Escondido, CA
THE STORY: Stone is not known for making balanced or tasteful beers, though this one is actually fairly friendly. In addition to the usual process of dark-roasting barley for a Porter, Stone smokes the grain, similar to the process by which Scotch whisky is made. This does impart noticeable smoke notes, which fit well with the dark chocolate, coffee, and black fruit of the Porter style.

WHAT TO EXPECT: The Porter style is not quite as intense as, say, a Stout. This one is medium-bodied, pleasantly malty, not too hoppy, and not too high in alcohol content. The texture is rich, and flavors of chocolate, espresso, fig, and subtle smoke are well integrated. Overall, a very balanced Porter, with pleasant light smoke overtones.

ABV: 5.9%

Recommended Glass: Pint or Nonic