An epic beer.Notes from the tasting panel for Modern Brewery Age, by Peter V.K. Reid, editor of Modern Brewery Age; with Gregg Glaser, editor of Modern Distillery Age and Yankee Brew News, and Tom Conti and Robert Lachman of the YBN YBN Young Business Network (Australia) tasting panel. Joining us each week is a rotating cast of tasters, to include Dr. Steve Victor; economist Ernie Adamo; home brewer Phil Simpson; Greg Zannella, field sales director for Northeast Beverage; Tess Szamatulski, co-founder of the Maltose Express Homebrew Shop; engineer Mark Szamatulski; Brewers Damian Brown and Frank Fermino; Marty Juliano, Northeast rep for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Renzo Kian-Kubota, artisanal beer buyer for Harry's of Fairfield, CT, and David Talbot of the Ultimate Beverage Challenge. Every month we sample 30-40 beers or ciders. We write up the best; Five-mug rating denotes "Superb."
Gilgamesh Upland Brewing Co. Bloomington, IN.
This week, Brew Notes is somewhat truncated, since we wanted to pay tribute to our friend and fellow taster Von Bair. So alongside our memorium to Von, we include just one review of one extraordinary beer. And, since Von once called Rodenbach "the best beer ever made" we know he would have appreciated the beer reviewed below.
The Upland Brewing Company Upland Brewing Company, founded in 1997, is a brewery in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana. It is currently the largest microbrewery in Indiana. History
Upland Brewing Company was founded in 1997 by Marc Sattinger. of Bloomington, IN, is just your average Indiana brewpub brew·pub
1. See microbrewery.
2. A saloon where the owners make their own beer and serve it on the premises.
Noun 1. , except that they also happen to brew sour beers that are among the best in the world.
We recently sampled Upland's Gilgamesh, a 10.5% abv interpretation of a Flanders Red, and we would rate it on par with the celebrated European beers that inspired it. Some of our tasters thought it was even better.
Upland's success with Gilgamesh is not some kind of lucky accident. Our panel also sampled the brewery's Blackberry Lambic (which we will review at a later date), and would also rate that one world class.
According to the company, Upland's venture into the world of sours started in 2006. That's when head brewer Caleb Staton acquired four white oak barrels formerly used to store red wine and decided to make traditional sour ales. His stated aim was to make sours that were actually "sour," not the sweeter modern variants.
For the Upland version of a traditional Flanders Red, Mr. Staton added flaked maize into a turbid tur·bid
Having sediment or foreign particles stirred up or suspended; muddy; cloudy.
tur·bidi·ty n. mash and put in Belgian candi sugar during a long kettle boil. He then added wild yeasts and other acetic acetic /ace·tic/ (ah-se´tik) (ah-set´ik) pertaining to vinegar or its acid; sour.
pertaining to vinegar or its acid; sour. and lactic acid lactic acid, CH3CHOHCO2H, a colorless liquid organic acid. It is miscible with water or ethanol. Lactic acid is a fermentation product of lactose (milk sugar); it is present in sour milk, koumiss, leban, yogurt, and cottage cheese. producing microorganisms, and gave it a year-long oak fermentation in bourbon barrels which had previously been used to age beer.
Our tasters were astounded at how good Gilgamesh is. One of our panelists noted, "This beer makes you open your mind about what is out there." It's a lambic-y version of a Flanders Red, marked by a luscious fruit/tart/acidic nose, followed by a rich cherry fruit/sour/oaky/funky flavor.
"Funkier nose than your average Flanders Red," said Ernie Adamo.
"Smells more like a lambic," Gregg Glaser commented, "there's a little alcohol, and sourness from the fruit."
"Great fruity flavor," said Ernie, "there's oak and barnyard funk."
"There's a zillion things happening in the flavor," Gregg added. "A red rosey fruitiness on the palate, with sourness and tartness. Phenomenol."
"An incredible beer," Phil Simpson agreed. "A ton of great fruity flavor. You get a berry and tart flavor, and right behind that there is a sweetness, a kind of raw sweetness, not fruity or malty, but very pleasant."
"A great beer with a multitude of flavors," Ernie commented. "A Flanders Red, but lambic-like, has oakiness and cherry like a kriek. The oak is there, just a little bit, but's nice. You don't get too much vanilla."
"I love it," said new panel taster Renzo Kian-Kubota. "If this beer was more widely available, I think everyone would agree this is amazing. This would match very well with a fruit salad, blueberries and strawberries and kiwi fruit."
"So fresh, so complex, so many layers of flavor," said Pete Reid. "This does the Europeans one better."
"Thumbs up on this one," Phil added. "My only regret is that we tasted quite a few beers before this one. I think if we had this when our palates were fresh we would have been totally amazed, even more than we are now."
It is with sadness that we note the passing of one of our key tasting panelists, Von Bair, Lt. Cdr, USN (ret.) 1931-2012. Von was a homebrewer for 30 years, winning many awards and serving as one of our panel's keenest judges of beer style.
Von was diagnosed some time ago with mesothelioma Mesothelioma Definition
Mesothelioma is an uncommon disease that causes malignant cancer cells to form within the lining of the chest, abdomen, or around the heart. Its primary cause is believed to be exposure to asbestos. , a rare form of cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos. (Asbestos was heavily used in Navy ships in the 1940s and 1950s, valued for its flame retardant properties. Unfortunately, there has been a high incidence of mesothelioma among shipyard workers and Navy veterans of the period). Von joined the Navy as an enlisted man in the late 1940s, and was later tapped to attend Annapolis, the U.S. Naval Academy. He served as an officer aboard destroyers, carriers and submarines. One of his assignments was as a radar officer, and he would spend long hours sitting in front of an unshielded Adj. 1. unshielded - (used especially of machinery) not protected by a shield
unprotected - lacking protection or defense radar set. When he developed testicular cancer testicular cancer
Malignant tumour of the testis, or testicle. Although relatively rare, testicular cancer is the most common malignancy for men between the ages of 20 and 34. It typically affects men between 15 and 39 years old. later in life, Von addressed this with characteristic humor, labeling his homebrews as originating at the "Uni-ball Brewing Co." Von was also a loyal father and a distance runner with 60 marathons under his belt. In civilian life, he worked as a museum curator, most recently volunteering at the Peabody Museum in New Haven, CT. Von was a talented brewer, a keen style maven, a witty companion, and a great American. He will be missed.