I apologize for this nearly-late entry – it has been a very, very long week. It started with a trip to Novare Res for a casked beer fest (sponsored by NERAX) and a beer and food tasting festival in Portsmouth NH’s historic museum, Strawberry Banke. After a long week of extended hours at work and a lot of frustrating dead-ends, I popped into Lion’s Pride in Brunswick, ME to see what I could find.
When I originally read the call for The Session, I thought I’d write about casked 75 minute IPA from Dogfish Head that I sampled at the NERAX event – because it was a strange mix of two different beers put together and funkily aged in a cask – and that seemed to fit the Frankenstein topic – something undead, made up of pieces… But I started to think about the real spookiness and creepiness that October brings and decided to pull in and explore the tap list on a very blustery evening.
But then I looked at the Lion’s Pride menu. “Got anything sour, funky?” I asked.
After being described several different options (quite expertly by the staff, I might add) I chose the weirdest abomination I could find on tap. t’Smisje (pronounced smee-juh) Catherine the Great. Why is that weird? Because it was once a strong stout, but has been aging so long (since 2004… when I graduated from college) that the malts have been devoured, leaving a funky, hollow and soul-less (yet delicious) monster behind.
It pours a cloudy brown, a color that one does not see very often. I ponderd its weak coffee color and took a big whiff – expecting to be hit with funk and rot. Not so. Just a sweet yeasty overtone to an otherwise quiet smell.
The taste was like nothing I’d ever sampled. What was once a stout was now… oddly empty, but deliciously weird. It is like someone pulled the rug out from under a stout. Picture drinking a stout with no backbone – no stoutness , no sweetness form the malts- but retaining the carbonation, a little bit of plum flavors and some sourness. It has almost a dirty aftertaste, which is certainly a new experience for me. Though, as freaky as this brew is, it’s been growing on me.
Returning to the Frankenstein meme for a moment – perhaps this is the same story. it’s a beer that was once strong, proud and beautiful, but has been altered to become “something else.” On first blush it’s ugly and strange, but when given a little bit of time and attention, can really be loved. Or maybe that’s just the October sky getting to me. But either way, it’s been a fun excursion into the weird side of beer.