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Top 100 Rated Beers of 2017

Delve into the best beers of the year as judged in BC's Official Review.

 

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#1

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98
by Dan Martich
The Topsail
Cape May Brewing Co.

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Brewer Q & A

 


Brewery Impressions
by Cape May head brewer Brian Hink  

Who was responsible for this beer's recipe?
When we first started our barrel-aging program, a lot of the wort was pulled from core brands as we slowly started building up our barrel stock to house 60 wine barrels worth of souring beer. The Topsail was the first beer to go into barrels a second time so I had a little more time to figure out what I wanted to do with this one. Prior to blending The Keel and emptying the barrels, we brewed up a simple golden base beer with an expressive yeast characteristic. The base beer for the Keel had a firm malt backbone, but very little in the way of esters and phenolics, so I wanted the beer going into these second-use barrels to be on the opposite end of the spectrum and let the yeast do all the talking to see what kind of flavor interaction we'd see in the barrels due to the Brett and friends. 

What sets this beer apart from other examples within the style?
I think the alcohol content really makes The Topsail stand out. A lot of sour blondes or golden sours are in the 5-7% range, but The Topsail sails in at 9.9% alcohol by volume, and I think that really helps contribute additional mouthfeel and complexity to the beer. It has a fullness to the beer despite its ridiculously low finishing gravity, and I think a portion of that comes from the alcohol content. There's the slightest hint of a warming quality because of it, and I think that really melds nicely with firm acidity and upfront sourness. 

Our original sour cultures came from our friend Al Buck over at East Coast Yeasts, and they were a hearty bunch and really did a nice job making some world-class sour beers. But by selectively harvesting, culturing and pitching these microbes we’ve come up with a great house culture that has started to really shine on subsequent batches, which is really starting to offer a unique take on these beers.

What makes this beer truly World-Class?
I think it's a great example of each component working in a harmonious blend. We thoughtfully planned out the base beer: the barrel choice for this project was based off the successful lineage of the barrel's history, and the artwork was the culmination of a years-long series with each bottle building off each other. Our design and marketing team really knocked it out of the park with this beer – really making it the perfect package with the liquid inside. The team effort really shines during the packaging runs on our sour beers – usually around 2,000 bottles are filled by our production team: hand-filling, capping and waxing each bottle. This labor of love really comes across in the finished product, and that is what defines a World-Class beer – not something any one person could achieve, but a culmination of a number of working parts.

We had several barrels in play for this blended sour blonde ale, and during the blending trials the entire production team was super excited about the direction the beer was taking – we knew pretty early on we had something special on our hands! In fact, we were so happy with how this blend was progressing we actually withheld the best/most representative barrel of the bunch as an inoculant for future projects, and having recently sampled that barrel, I can't wait to use that soon to start a spin-off from this beer. 

What is your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc.)?
I love how vinous and fruity the beer is despite it being bone dry. It finished below zero degrees plato, so almost wine levels of dryness – yet you would never know that based on the mouthfeel and flavor profile. It's also wildly complex, going from tart and sour to fruity and vinous, to refreshing and enticing all in the matter of a few sips. Now that it's been bottled and conditioned for a year, the flavors are continuing to develop and evolve. Originally, the balance leaned more to the tart/sour end of the spectrum, but now, thanks to the stressful conditions of being bottled up under pressure, the Brett is starting to show off a little more, bringing the balance back ever so slightly to the funk end of things. Still present is that juicy vinous note, and I just really love this beer.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
The Topsail has definitely gotten some stellar reviews and great accolades, which has made everyone here at Cape May Brewing Company exceptionally proud. It's been a popular choice for cellaring, and The Beer Connoisseur's stellar review of it has given this beer the opportunity to grow in popularity even more. It's mainly sold out of our brewery in Cape May, only making its way out to a handful of our best accounts, and that adds just another reason to visit Cape May: America’s Oldest Seaside Resort. 


Judge's Second Opinion
by Dan Martich

The Topsail by Cape May Brewing Company is being evaluated as a Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer (Category 28B) from the 2015 BJCP guidelines.  

The aroma of ripe pineapple, green mangoes, red apples, ripe pear and light citrus fruit esters makes this beer very fruit-forward and inviting. The subtle grainy malt character is secondary to the bouquet of fruit. Sink your nose into the glass, and you'll find the straw and hay notes of this typical sour ale.

Poured into a chalice glass, this beer is a light-golden hazy yellow and is crowned by a thick and foamy white head.

The first sip reveals a medium-light ripe pineapple note with a nearly imperceptible hop flavor. This beer is well attenuated and finishes semi-dry. The balance is toward the tart/sourness without overwhelming the palate, and the fruitiness keeps this beer active throughout every single sip. This beer is fun; it’s alive, young and freshly flavored. The oak barrel and mustiness that most blended sours are known for are positively absent. 

The medium-light body and high carbonation accentuate this world-class beer's refreshing character. The astringency from the Brettanomyces strain may at times come across as alcoholic warming, which makes it hard to imagine that you're actually drinking a 9.9% ABV beer. This beer drinks more like a 4% ABV, given its light palate sensation.

In closing, you'll want to seek this beer out. The refreshing fruity notes make this a summertime favorite. I can see anyone enjoying this beer in a backyard, by the shore, lake or mountains with chargrilled veggies, fruit or white meat fish to complement the fruity notes of this stellar brew.


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worthel's picture
So,I'm a member, but I must pay another two bucks to read the rest of this article? Are you kidding?
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worthel's picture
So,I'm a member, but I must pay another two bucks to read the rest of this article? Are you kidding?
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Hello Worthel, Our magazine articles are premium content and are reserved for premium subscribers. We researched your account and it does not appear you have purchased a premium subscriptions. If you feel this is in error, you may complete a customer service ticket by clicking "account services" at the head of the website. Cheers! BC

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