It’s always a delight to stumble across something new. Something you’ve never seen before.
As I was perusing the aisles of my local package store – simultaneously searching for something to drink and escaping the intense late summer heat – I happened upon a tall, amber bottle, with a magenta label. Leaning in to examine the bottle, I noticed white lettering, looking almost handwritten, that read: cranberry; 2015.
Mind you, I was not in the wine section.
I was in the beer section.
Cranberry Woods, by Cisco Brewers of Nantucket, is a sour ale that has been fermented in oak tanks, courtesy of Nantucket Vineyard, and aged for an average of two years. It’s been infused with Nantucket cranberries, lactobacillus, and brettanomyces. I’m with you if you have no idea what those last two terms are. Any scientists or fellow brewers reading who do understand, bravo to you.
I do, however, understand cranberries. I like cranberries. I like them a lot.
The gulp-inducing price of $20 was dwarfed by my desire to try this unique looking beer. I also knew it would likely be a once in a lifetime drinking experience. How often does one come across a beer that’s been aged like wine?
Of course, now that I’ve said the quiet part out loud ….
Anyway, off to home and into the fridge this beer went. There are no specific drinking instructions for this beer, but I felt it was one that needed to be ice cold.
My instincts were correct.
To say this beer was tart would be an understatement. This lip-puckering sour hits you immediately with its cranberries. It’s acidic and crisp and almost too sour to properly experience any of the other flavors. Until you take another sip. This is a beer whose character is only truly revealed once the bottle is empty. It takes several long, intentional sips to break through the tart and experience the woodiness imparted by the oak barrels. It’s intense and powerful. Not a light or easy drinking experience by any definition.
I truthfully can’t say that I enjoyed Cranberry Woods. It’s very harsh on the palate and has to be drunk slowly in order to fully appreciate the complexity of the flavor. However, it was a totally new and unique drinking experience, which certainly counts for something. It’s not often I have the opportunity to taste a beer that truly has a flavor profile of its own. So many are copycats these days, which is a real shame.
So, if you happen upon an amber bottle with a magenta label that reads “cranberry” and you’re a fan of sours, swallow your fiscal pride and pay the $20.