Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hanami Ale

Who's my favorite pro brewer (you didn't ask)?

It's a toss-up. I'm a huge fan of Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River fame, creator of all those crazy, wild yeasty, barrel-aged enigmas--as well as Pliny the Elder. The guy with DogfishHead is pretty interesting too. Whoever really designed the beers at Anchor is extraordinarily skilled. But I'm going with David Yarrington of Smuttynose. He's a nice guy--I base this on the fact that we shared a couple sociable emails and he parted with four of his grain bills to help my home brewing along. There's also the fact that the beers are just shockingly balanced. No, there aren't the bells and whistles you get with the first two guys above, but if you want a perfect session IPA, a gem of a porter, the tastiest brown ale I think I've ever had, an elegantly smooth, surprisingly drinkable barley wine, and so on, you gotta go with Dave.

As an act of faith I bought a sixpack of Smuttynose's Hanami Ale. It's a cherry beer. It's not a lambic. Characteristically, in my view, fruit beers that are not (traditional!) lambics blow approximately 95% of the time. Exceptions might include a couple of odd beers from DogfishHead and the lesser-known Craftsman Brewing of Pasadena, CA. So the Hanami is good. The beer is not pink. They also refrained from just chucking fruit juices or flavorings into the usual ho-hum hefe-weizen base like everybody seems to do. Whatever they built this around, it's got more substance. I just checked their website to make sure I was right about the grist and I am: No wheat at all, but pils, carahell, aromatic, and a touch of carafa for color. The beer is also, shock of shocks, relatively hoppy, with a delicately raspy bitterness engaging nicely with the earthy sourness of the cherries. You get the flavor of tart cooking cherries, not sweet table cherries here. And the finish is dry, earthy, kinda bitter, almost tannic.

Am I going to go buy a case? No. But it really is a damned interesting, well-crafted beer which, as per their m.o., is perfectly balanced. Just like so many beers--craft brews and schlocky industrial ones alike--aren't.


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