Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Wild Streak

There was a time when all beers were aged in wood, and yeasts ran wild and cavorted together. Modern brewing is wonderful, of course, but sometimes a little cavorting is a fine thing. Sometimes it gives you a chance to reveal your funky side.  That is the beginning of the story of how Garrett Oliver and his team at Brooklyn Brewery decided to reveal their Wild Streak.

The Brooklyn Wild Streak starts off as a Belgian-style golden ale, but the brewers work their magic to transform that ale into a Barrel-Aged Brett Beer.  The ingredients are straightforward: Pilsner malts, along with three types of hops: German Perle, Slovenian Aurora and Styrian Golding Celia.  In addition, the brewers use their house Belgian yeast strain for the primary fermentation.  After that fermentation and a brief conditioning, the brewers then age the beer for several months in second-use bourbon barrels, which the brewers describe as giving the beer a soft, round character infused with nicely balanced oak flavors. Finally, the brewers bottle the beer flat and re-ferment it with blend of priming sugar, Pris de Mousse Champagne yeast and the wild yeast strain Brettanomyces Lambicus. And then the cavorting begins.  When all is said and done, the end result is natural carbonation. The beer is aged for almost a year (the cavorting takes a while) and then it is available for craft beer enthusiasts who like "a wonderfully complex earthy funk."  (That includes me.)

The Wild Streak pours a sort of hazy golden color, with a thick foam that recedes with time but never disappears.  The aromas initially reveal the bourbon barrels, with a combination of alcohol, bourbon and oak wood.  Those elements are accompanied by a little earth and grass.  The latter elements introduce the drinker to the funk to come in the taste.  

The earthy funk actually represents the outcome of a epic battle between two very strong flavor elements: the Brettanomyces and the bourbon barrels.  To some extent, the Brett struggles to overcome the bourbon barrels.  Other times, the bourbon barrels seemed to be overcome by the Brett.  There are other elements that also make an appearance, such as tart apple, pear, some citrus and a clear booziness that comes with a beer packing a 10% ABV.  Ultimately, the battle between the wild yeast and the bourbon barrels ultimately ends in a stalemate, as the overall taste of the beer provides a good combination of the wild yeast and bourbon barrels. At the end of the glass, I could not say that either the Brettanomyces or the bourbon barrels had outshined the other, both were represented well in the beer. 

The brewers suggest that the Wild Streak is "particularly great with cheese and game meats."  They particularly suggest washed rind cheeses.  This is an interesting suggestion, one that perhaps invites another battle between the funk of the beer and the funk of the washed cheeses.  

I found this beer at local grocery stores, and, a bottle sells for $23.99 (which is the same price as the Brooklyn Black Ops).  It is definitely worth the purchase, but only if you have a wild streak yourself.

ENJOY!

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