The trouble began right away--it was nearly flat, even when I tried to rouse it with a tall pour. A stray bubble or two--to call them a proper bead would be overstating the point--rose languidly to the surface. The nose was faintly sour, but tinny and hollow like canned fruit, which more or less describes the beer.... [T]he final sentence of my notes: "Like a flat soda that has been sitting out in the sun for a few hours."Over the weekend I had this same beer on tap at the Green Dragon and it was a revelation. An excellent rendition of style, light-bodied, sprightly, and more that a tad tart. Putting peach in a Berliner Weisse is an inspired move: the fruit's sugars had mostly been gobbled by yeasts; what remained was a gentle essence joined perfectly with the beer's sour. The style can be a little aggressive naked; that's why it is often dressed with a bit of sugary syrup. The peach is a better solution; it keeps the nature of the tart beer intact, but adds a summery, fresh note that softens it just enough. Dogfish Head can definitely take a bow--this is a hell of a beer.
But what then explains the difference between the bottle and the keg?
This is one of the problems with shipping your beer--once it leaves your brewery, you have no idea what happens to it. A distributor may leave it on a pallette in the sun or it may languish on the shelf of a store that rarely sells anything but Hamm's. From time to time I'll read a harshly critical description of a Rogue beer I like on BeerAdvocate--inevitably, the sampler picked up the bottle far from Oregon. Like my Festina Peche bottle, they were tasting the death of a beer, not a beer.
(This can be the brewery's fault, of course. A poor batch or poor packaging can ruin an otherwise tasty beer.)
I don't know whether Dogfish is culpable for the condition of the bottle I tried, but I sympathize with them in any case. Getting beer to Oregon (2850 miles, according to Google Maps) is no easy task. This is why Redhook opened a brewery in New Hampshire back in the 90s, and it's why Bud has them scattered all over the country. The closer a brewery is to the point of sale, the more likely it is that the beer will arrive like it left the bottling line.
I suspect there's a beeronomics post in there somewhere, but for the beer enthusiast, it's a good reminder. And I will be more charitable to Dogfish henceforth.