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Top 100 Beers of 2019

top beers 2019



by Michael Heniff
Brouwer's 14th Anniversary
pFriem Family Brewers

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Head Brewer Gavin Lord Talks Brouwer's 14th Anniversary

What sets this beer apart from other examples within the style?
The fruit! Huckleberries have yet to be successfully cultivated anywhere in the world. As a result, although the fruit is often referenced in pop culture pertaining to the west (think Doc Holliday), few are actually familiar with its flavor and aroma. I love the idea that this might be someone’s introduction. The base beer has delightfully preserved the attributes of the fresh berries.

What makes this beer truly world-class?
Balance. I love the interaction between base beer, barrel and fruit. We value balance very highly in all of our beers, and the fruited mixed-culture offerings are certainly no exception. At times it can be a tightrope walk to find equilibrium between all of the many elements at play. As if that wasn’t enough, in this case we introduced some new variables. We’d never worked with huckleberries, and we’d never fruited directly into a barrel. I was delighted that despite presenting these new elements into our process, the beer found that elusive balance.

What is your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc.)?
This beer belongs to a larger family of beers to which I tend to gravitate. The aroma is very fruit driven, with notes of oak, acid and a touch of funk. The initial “attack” is again very fruit forward, fooling the sipper into expecting either the overly sweet or the overly acidic. Instead, the finish is dry and complex, with each sip revealing a little more of what this sly little beer has to offer. I’m a sucker for beers that are complex yet quaffable.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
We enjoy four very distinct seasons here in the Pacific Northwest. We released the beer in March to coincide with the Brouwer’s Anniversary, and it was almost as though you could taste that summer was on its way. It’s a reassuring feeling after a long winter. That feeling, coupled with our brouwers’ reputations as stalwarts of the craft community, contributed to the great enthusiasm and excitement that surrounded this beer.

Judge’s Second Opinion

Brouwer’s 14th Anniversary was a fruited “lambic-inspired ale” fermented with a blend of Brettanomyces and lactic acid bacteria cultures and aged in oak with huckleberries. The resulting beer was a fantastic marriage of fruit and funkiness without having too much of either of those elements. The key aspect that made this beer fantastic was balance; there are plenty of very sour funky beers available as well as plenty of overly sweet, singularly flavored fruit beers. But what is hard to do, and what should be celebrated when it is done well, is balance.

A topic that is frequently discussed with regards to beer and food pairings are complementing flavors (such as stout and chocolate) and contrasting flavors (such as stout and oysters). These same philosophies apply to ingredients in a beer recipe and resulting flavors in beer. A very typical complementing balance in American IPAs is to blend hops that impart slightly different flavors such as Citra, Mosaic and Cascade. When this is done well, you can make a lengthy list of adjectives to describe the hop flavors; when this is done poorly, one hop outshines the rest and the beer is still singularly focused – despite having a number of different hop varieties.

Brouwer’s 14th Anniversary has both elements of complement and contrast. For complementing elements, the lactic sourness works well with the Brettanomyces funkiness and the slight sourness of the huckleberry fruit. For contrasting elements, the slight sweetness of the malt and huckleberries contrasts with the sourness imparted by the Lactobacillus blend. When all of these elements are brought together in perfect proportions, you have balance! And pFriem Family Brewers was able to balance all of these different elements perfectly. Well done! (And one may also give extra credit for the high degree of difficulty in the brewing process, which featured oak aging, multiple wild cultures, unusual foraged fruit, fermenting fruit in the barrels, etc.)

This beer helped to drive home the idea that balance is always worth thinking about when you are drinking or brewing your favorite beers. Every beer does not have to be a “hop bomb” or have a single over-the-top flavor. Look for both complementing and contrasting flavors. Seek out balance and enjoy the interplay between flavors that is inherent with balance. Cheers! - Michael Heniff


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