BrewView on 2012 VINTAGE BRUX – 2016 update
This is our second BrewView on the 2012 Vintage BRUX, and it is part of our LAMBICS, SOURS, AND WILD ALES feature for Febrewary 2016. Our first BrewView was from December 8, 2014 (click here to read it.) As mentioned in the first BrewView, we first discovered BRUX just under a month after it was released to the public in July 2012. As with beers that are bottle-conditioned with “Brett” yeast, we knew that this beer would evolve and become more complex over time. We had read through various sources that BRUX was going to be a very limited release, but did not realize HOW limited it would be!
We found the last three bottles in our area at the LIQUOR BARN in Redding, California. They were displayed on a shelf, gathering dust. I had inquired with the manager as to how long they had those three remaining bottles- she told me she had no idea, but said “it’s been a LONG TIME!” Well of course, we had to pick one of them up and BrewView it! (We were having the additional two bottles being held for us… but one was sold, and we got our hands on the last one back at the end of December 2014). The overall profile of the beer changed in the additional 14 months we cellared it, and was a nice surprise…
ABOUT RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING COMPANY
Russian River Brewing Company was born out of wine- literally. Owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo both worked in the wine industry before venturing into beer. Vinnie comes from a winemaking family, and taught himself how to homebrew in the basement of Cilurzo Family Vineyards in the late 1980’s. Natalie began her wine career in the early 80’s as well, immersing herself in the administrative and sales aspects of the industry. The couple met 24 years ago, and have never looked back since. With Vinnie’s brewing experience and Natalie’s business pedigree, it was the making of a potent business partnership.
Korbel California Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, CA actually owned the brewery up to 2003, when they decided to get out of the beer business. Korbel generously offered the rights to the Russian River Brewing brand to Vince and Natalie. Shortly afterward, Vince began experimenting with creating different and funky beers in wine barrels. Today, Russian River Brewing Company is one of the leaders in brewing beers with wild and funky yeasts, with such beers as Santification, Supplication, and Consecration. They are also known for their prized Double IPA, Pliny the Elder. Their beers have won numerous awards at various brewing competitions, creating a demand much greater that they can supply… a good position to be in!
ABOUT SIERRA NEVADA BREWING COMPANY
The craft brewing scene today gives thanks to Sierra Nevada as being one of the original trailblazers and pioneers in the beer industry. Before Sierra Nevada became a company, the beer industry was nowhere near what it is today. There were only a few craft breweries on the United States landscape. The industry at the time was dominated by the mega-brewers producing tasteless, adjunct filled beer.
In the 1970’s, Ken Grossman became fascinated with beer brewing from a father of a close friend. Over the years, he developed a lifelong passion for the art of fermentation. During a cycling trip, Ken made a stop to visit friends who were attending Cal State Chico. He immediately fell in love with the area, and decided to move to Chico.
Some time later, Ken opened up a homebrew supply store named The Home Brew Shop. He and fellow home brewer Paul Camusi delved more intently into the craft of brewing, and began creating interesting beers. It was during this time that Ken and Paul’s creations caught the interest of a curious beer drinking public. Good quality hops for homebrewers were very hard to come by, so Ken decided to obtain his hops from a grower in Yakima, WA. He was able to obtain 100 pounds of fresh hops from them, and began brewing the hop-centric beers that Sierra Nevada is known for.
Ken launched Sierra Nevada in the fall of 1980 after much planning, and sourcing used equipment from various dairies throughout California and Oregon. He even taught himself welding and refrigeration during this time to fabricate the equipment exactly the way he needed to brew the beers he liked. Ken always wanted to brew hoppy beers and knew that he wanted to keep the quality consistent.
Throughout Sierra Nevada’s 34-year existence, they continued to innovate with their hop-forward beers. From their earliest beers (Pale Ale, Porter, and Stout) to one of the first “extreme” beers brewed in 1983 (Bigfoot Barleywine) Sierra Nevada has been the standard that craft brewers measure themselves against. With their 10,000 + solar panels providing much of the brewery’s energy, to their research and development process, to their beer camps, Sierra Nevada continues to innovate and inspire.
THE CREATION OF BRUX DOMESTICATED WILD ALE
*Russian River Brewing Company’s Vinnie Cilurzo and Ken’s son Brian Grossman teamed up to brew BRUX® Domesticated Wild Ale®, a Belgian-style beer bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces bruxellensis. Because of the voracious appetite of Brettanomyces, Sierra Nevada devised a new way to handle the “wild” yeast and installed a high-tech pharmaceutical-grade dosing device that would measure a precise shot of Brettanomyces into each bottle just before corking. This was the first time this has ever been attempted in the brewing industry. (*Source: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company)
We contacted Sierra Nevada to obtain more details about BRUX. They advised us that the last time the beer was brewed was in 2011, with bottling in 2012 after a vigorous fermentation process. Brux was first released on July 5, 2012 at Russian River’s downtown Santa Rosa, CA pub, with it being released at Sierra Nevada’s Taproom 4 days later. The draft version was available only at the Russian River’s pub and Sierra Nevada’s Taproom at the time of release. It was welcomed with much and anticipation and fanfare. Sierra Nevada advised us that BRUX is not in production at this time; they are watching the development of Brettanomyces bruxellensis yeast in existing bottles, and see how it shapes the character of the beer as it ages. They were not specific as to when they will decide to brew it again.
BEER STYLE AND COMMERICAL DESCRIPTION
Style category: Belgian-Style Wild Ale
What began as mutual admiration between Sierra Nevada’s Grossman family and Russian River’s Cilurzos has grown and progressed into genuine friendship. Brux began as an idea and has grown into something altogether different.
The liquid menefestation of change over time.
Refermented in the bottle with Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Brux will change and develop over time. Copper-colored, dry, and complex, with slightly tart notes of green grass, pear, spice and lemon- this ale will progress in the bottle for many years.
OUR BREWVIEW OF BRUX FROM AUGUST 3, 2012 AT RATE BEER.COM
750 ML bottle purchased at BevMo in Redding, CA. THE POUR / APPEARANCE: Pours a medium hazy golden color. AROMA / BOUQUET: Classic Gueuze aroma- pear, spices, grassyness, hay, barnyard funk. TASTE: Sherry dryness with champagne. Appropriate sourness with just a hint of herbal hoppiness to remind the drinker that this is a California brewed beer. PALATE: Correct fizzyness / carbonation, quenching, evokes memories of drinking the classic Belgian Gueuze beers. OVERALL: The moment I tasted BRUX, I was reminded of an beer that is a cross between a Boon Gueuze and a Saison DuPont. This is a great beer- pair it with a great goat cheese or blue cheese, foie gras, or enjoy as a great session beer. Blessings on this one! (LINK)
OUR 2016 BREWVIEW OF 2012 VINTAGE BRUX DOMESTICATED WILD ALE
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
8.3% ABV. Poured into a Sierra Nevada tulip-shaped glass, and served at 48°F. Pours a dark golden / light peach color. The white colored head poured a little over a 2 finger height, with bubbling somewhat similar to a Gueuze. However, due to the acidity of the beer, the head collapsed within 2 minutes- 30 seconds longer than the 2014 BrewView. (The picture you see was taken almost immediately after the beer was poured.) The rim variation color is the same. There was nice gentle bubbling in the beer as we held it up to the light. We purposely held the yeast back in this pour to view the clarity of the beer, and in subsequent refills of the glass did the yeast decant, which changed the flavor profile somewhat.
As the head collapsed, there was a bit of spotty lacing- a bit different from the 2014 BrewView. The meniscus was medium rising. Even though we were very careful in decanting this version of BRUX in the glass, there was a still a faint cloudy haze to the beer, due to the bottle conditioning and extremely heavy yeast sedimentation. We did ensure that this was a “Beer Clean” glass to get the best experience- and saw several “champagne bubbling” streams in the glass. When we put our ear to the open part of the glass, there was a lot of effervescent pop and sparkle to be heard. 10 minutes later, there was no head on it at all, and took on the appearance of a Fino Sherry or a Single Malt Scotch in the glass.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
This time around, the aromas that we experienced before (tropical fruit, lemon, apricot, mango, and a good amount of funk) have mellowed quite a bit and softened. The grassiness, straw and hay aromas was even less intense from the 2014 BrewView. The other aromas- star anise, basil (in the herbal mix), the barnyard / horse blanket Brett aromas were still there, but have mellowed even further. The black pepper aromas dominate more now. The “funk” aromas are best described as a peach that was bitten into, and then left out on the counter for a while- how it develops that “sourness” if you will.
This 2016 update finds BRUX even softer in taste from our December 8, 2014 BrewView. You still get that peppery, tart, funkiness. The dryness is similar to a Fino Sherry. The Brett character is still there, but more mellow. Breathe in through your mouth immediately after sipping it, and you will still experience that black pepper sensation.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
Dare we say, since the beer has aged and mellowed out, the mouthfeel is a bit more balanced. The tartness and acidity are softer, but still hit the front of the tongue, and the dryness hits the sides and the back of the mouth. The dryness is more peppery now versus the lemony tartness found in the 2014 BrewView. It was extremely drinkable, not as aggressive as before. Make no mistake, it was still a palate scrubbing beer.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
The food pairing suggestions remain the same from 2014, but since the beer has mellowed out even more, any foods you do pair with it will take on a slightly different taste or characteristic.
APPETIZERS: We would suggest pairing the following cheeses- raw white cheddar, stilton, gorgonzola, goat cheese. Fennel, Sunchoke and Apple salad.
ENTRÈES: Apricot and currant chicken, Moule en Frite, Crab Louie, Duck a l’ orange, Eggs Benedict, Asparagus Frittata.
DESSERTS: Apple or peach pie, plain cheesecake, Liege waffles, poached peaches in Belgian Candi sugar and BRUX.
To enjoy our last bottle of BRUX was indeed a rare and special moment, due to the fact that Sierra Nevada nor Russian River (to this day) can say if and when BRUX will ever be brewed again. If you happen to find a bottle somewhere, you could present this beer to people who enjoy dry Fino Sherries and Chardonnay. The funkiness has rounded out much more now that the beer is 43 months old.
We would say that there are no more bottles of BRUX anywhere on retail shelves- more than likely, devotees are cellaring them patiently. Perhaps you may be able to obtain a bottle from a collector via a beer trade. If so, expect to pay a premium price, due to its rarity. Aging should still be good for at least 1-2 more years.
As said before, we hope that these two fantastic brewers look to collaborate again in brewing this wonderful beer. If and when they do, pick several up and cellar them. Bring a bottle out on festive holidays and family events. A very sophisticated beer- we wish you the best on finding any existing bottles now. Super drinkable now. It was so worth the long wait to drink BRUX in its 2016 state…
RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING COMPANY:
SIERRA NEVADA BREWING COMPANY: