Occasionally I’ll come across a beer that still gives me that “oh wow” moment. Not that I’m not impressed with many finely crafted beers, but I generally go in knowing (to some degree) what to expect and set my expectations accordingly so I’m not that surprised most of the time. Today’s review (taken from notes a few months ago) is one of those “oh wow” beers for me. This is a beer that I knew was special, even before I took the first sip. Unfortunately, this beer is from a clever little craft brewer in Santa Rosa, California known as Russian River Brewing Company. Vinnie Cilurzo has been making quite the name for himself among craft beer aficionados for some time now and rightly so. They have crafted some of the finest beers available anywhere. Despite their popularity, however, their distribution (partially by design, I’d imagine) is limited and their beers aren’t found just anywhere. Anywhere includes Illinois … and the majority of other states as well.
Thanks to my California connection, however, I have been fortunate enough to try several fine Russian River beers over the last few months. Some have been of the “wild” variety, utilizing brettanomyces, and some have just been barrel aged. I say “just” barrel aged as if this is a small thing – every beer that I’ve tried so far has been excellent. Of those I’ve tried, though, Temptation has been exceptional. Here is my review, from notes, for your consideration and probable envy:
Pours a brilliant medium gold color with a tall, bubbly white head of foam that seems ever expanding and long-lasting. Ample carbonation is visible rising up in the glass. A sight to behold.
The nose is wonderfully complex and replete with brett character – slightly acidic and quite musty with the obligatory “horsey” notes for which these wild strains are famous. Hiding behind the marvelously funky notes are wisps of oak and citrus, making this beer an incredibly intricate and challenging subject. This just from the sight and smell.
The palate is not to be outdone, of course. The fine, almost effervescent carbonation delivers a startlingly dry and exceedingly tart experience in the mouth. At the same time earthy, floral and citrusy with notes of dry white wine, wood and tree fruit. Nothing short of incredible.
Medium bodied with a full, voluminous mouth feel and bone dry finish. Some residual tartness with hints of oak are left on the palate, but otherwise this beer finishes completely clean – almost astringent – and as tart as they come. The oak, rather than mellowing this beer, has accentuated the subtleties and only served to make the ale more complex than it was already destined to be. In every regard an incredible beer by a master craftsman. Vinnie, you do astounding work. With a tartness that might exclude some, this beer is a wonder in the wild ale classification and a must-drink experience for the senses. One of the very best I’ve sampled – be it from this country or another. Outstanding.