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Friday, July 03, 2015

Beer Sherpa Recommends: Culmination Brewing

Keeping his eye on the beer.
In what counts, in Alworth-world, as lightning-quick response time, I managed to make it out to recently-opened Culmination Brewing within two weeks of the grand opening. I had heard some good things and knew a bit of founder/brewer Tomas Sluiter's work at Old Market. But of course, every time a new brewery opens, you hear good things. People are nice and they are hopeful. So I toddled down yesterday to assess matters for myself.

The buzz is not only warranted, it's understated. Even after two weeks, when Sluiter and crew are still getting to know their system, the brewery has at least three excellent beers on tap. (I now forgo the taster tray in favor of full pours; you can't really get a true sense of a beer in four ounces.) My favorite was his Saison II (he's in the process of testing recipes), made with a variety of malts (rye, wheat, oats ... I think) and the Dupont yeast strain. It was very much unlike Saison Dupont, though. Instead, with a nice dose of fruity American hops (El Dorado--sorry, I didn't take notes and have to rely on this balky memory of mine) and lush esters, it reminded me a lot more of Jandrain-Jandrenouille. He has the next iteration ripening in the tank, and it's also very nice. 

Most people, though, will be more taken with his Brett IPA. Brettanomyces famously give leather and dusty-dryness, but that comes with age; in its youth, Brett kicks off lots of esters, and that's what you find in this beer. It actually smelled like fresh strawberries to me, though the flavors were more generically fruity, fading to wonderful American hops. My guess is that most people wouldn't even notice the Brett, but they will be mighty impressed by the vivid fruit and hop flavors.

Finally, Sluiter had on a kettle-soured lightish beer he called Sour Citrus (I think), which was exactly that. It falls into an emerging category of beer that has no name--sessionable tart hoppy ales that present as little citrus coolers, like beery lemonade. These really came into focus when Breakside released La Tormenta, and I've been seeing them around various places since. This is another great example. When I arrived at the un-air-conditioned pub, it was 97, and that little darlin was a welcome quencher.

I sampled some of Pete Dunlop's glass of double IPA, and it seemed accomplished and impressive. We also tried a forthcoming imperial CDA from the tank and it was (my reservations about the style notwithstanding) also accomplished and well-made. The only beer I didn't love was a 5% wheat beer, which had a funny phenol. Maybe it was just the heat, but it didn't thrill me. Still, that's a hell of a batting average, especially for a brewery that's still working out the kinks. You could do a lot worse than spending some of your time there this summer. I'll definitely be heading back.

"Beer Sherpa Recommends" is an irregular feature.  In this fallen world, when the number of beers outnumber your woeful stomach capacity by several orders of magnitude, you risk exposing yourself to substandard beer.  Worse, you risk selecting substandard beer when there are tasty alternatives at hand.  In this terrible jungle of overabundance, wouldn't it be nice to have a neon sign pointing to the few beers among the crowd that really stand out?  A beer sherpa, if you will, to guide you to the beery mountaintop.  I don't profess to drink all the beers out there, but from time to time I stumble across a winner and when I do, I'll pass it along to you.

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