Beer Review: RUSSIAN RIVER IT TAKES A LOT OF GREAT BEER TO MAKE GREAT WINE

Beer Review: RUSSIAN RIVER IT TAKES A LOT OF GREAT BEER TO MAKE GREAT WINE

The liquid in the bottle of Russian River’s “Great Beer/Great Wine” pours out, revealing a crystal-clear, deep golden hue. The thick buttermilk-colored foam sits atop the beer, refusing to dissipate quickly. The label offers a bottling date of 8/21/19, making it a three-week-old specimen at the time of this tasting. At $6.50 plus tax for a 510ml bottle, it’s not the cheapest brew around, especially considering the mystery shrouding its contents.

Aroma

Lifting the glass to the nose, the aroma of “Great Beer/Great Wine” is nothing short of remarkable. Initially, it bursts forth with intense hoppiness, featuring super juicy tangerine and blood orange, complemented by notes of white sage and rain-soaked meadows. As the beer warms, subtle hints of pale malt emerge, reminiscent of angel food cake and iced pound cake. There’s even a fleeting scent that momentarily suggests wine barrel aging, perhaps influenced by the wooden grape press depicted on the label. Odd complexities, including a touch of buttery oak and mild saison-like yeast, add layers to this aromatic experience, making it one of the most pleasing scents encountered in the realm of beer.

Taste

Entering the realm of flavor, “Great Beer/Great Wine” presents a puzzling profile. The beer boasts a fully attenuated body, rendering it super dry with virtually no sweetness. However, the absence of balancing sugar accentuates the bitterness to an assertive level. The beer delivers a powerful punch of perfumey kaffir lime leaves and Curaçao orange peel, contributing to an overall bitter experience. Underlying these bold notes is a subtle base beer, offering glimpses of fleeting sourdough bread crust. The beer’s drying effect on the palate, coupled with its intense bitterness, imparts a slightly astringent quality. Yet, this astringency, while present, manages to avoid crossing into egregious territory, presenting itself as sharp and woodsy.

Mouthfeel

The end result is an exceptionally refreshing and impeccably clean experience. Despite its light body, one might expect some roughness or sharp minerality around the edges. However, “Great Beer/Great Wine” defies expectations, finishing soft and buoyant in the mouthfeel. Its lightness creates an illusion, almost suggesting a much lower ABV, perhaps closer to 2%. The beer straddles the line between a session IPA, a saison, and a table beer, defying easy categorization.

Overall

In conclusion, “Great Beer/Great Wine” challenges preconceived notions. While it may be labeled as a pale ale in the literal sense, it diverges significantly from the specific style of American Pale Ale (APA). Russian River has, in fact, crafted what could be considered a perfect saison. Its extreme dryness, high bitterness, and designed purpose for refreshing those toiling in the fields make it a quenching, bright beer—ideal for a hot summer’s day. Unpredictable and unconventional, this brew delivers a drinking experience that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Similar Beers

For those seeking something akin to “Great Beer/Great Wine,” Allagash River Trip and De La Senne Taras Boulba offer comparable experiences, successfully marrying high dryness with elevated bitterness. Bright, modern saisons like Prairie Hop and Standard from Prairie Artisan Ales also stand as suitable matches. However, well-known APAs like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale diverge significantly in flavor. Maine Beer Co’s “a tiny beautiful something” approaches the realm of “Great Beer/Great Wine” but falls short in terms of dryness and sharp bitterness.

Today’s craft beer scene thrives on a delicate balance of critique and celebration. Reviews play a crucial role in guiding consumers and aiding businesses in refining their products. A critical review should not be seen as a mere indictment but as an opportunity for improvement. The interplay between producers and consumers, shaped by thoughtful reviews, ensures a vibrant and evolving craft beer landscape.