The United States has come a long way in a very short amount of time, as far as the history of beer is concerned.
Just a scant twenty years ago, if you were to ask someone out side of the U.S. about it's beer they would have poo-pooed it as flavorless, fizzy yellow beer. Which most of it was. That's obviously not the case now. American Brewers are embracing every style and technique conceivable.
Long before the advent of stainless steel, the use of wooden barrels imparted many unique characteristics to beer. These new brewing technics all but wiped many old world styles.
This past weekend The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild put on the Eighth Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel-aged Beer. The festival spotlights beer that has been aged in a wooden barrel or in contact with wood.
All of the beers entered are aged in new or used wine, whiskey or Bourbon barrels and take on many of the characteristics of that libation. Brewers of traditional or not-so-traditional Belgian-inspired beers often prefer used barrels so different resident microorganisms will impart a refreshing tart and acidic character. Fruit, spices, coffee and syrup may compliment the already complex character of wood-aged beers.
One of the beers that really shined this year was Squatters Fifth Element. It took Gold in the Wild Beer category and was also runner-up for best in show.
There are only two breweries in Utah making "sour beers" right now and Squatters is clearly leading the way.
Fifth Element, pours a cloudy apricot/straw color with a fizzy white head. The nose has a bit a of barnyard funkiness to it, with hints of lemon. The tastes starts with light citrus notes then transitions into tart green apples and peach. Next comes a dry oakiness that compliments the tartness well. The finish is a combination a champagne like dryness and bitter florals. Light and dry but highly drinkable. It's 6.75% ABV is well hidden.
I believe there are still bottles of Fifth Element available at the Squatters Bottle Shop. If you've never tried a sour beer, I invite you try this one. It's one of the best in the world.
Congrats Squatters Brew Team!