Thursday, December 12, 2013
We all have one of those friends. The guy or gal that takes a fountain soda cup to the soda fountain and starts pouring together everything from orange soda to Dr. Pepper and Sprite (or Moxie?). With a knowing glance, they look over at you and profess that they've made the perfect blend, and that they've been working on it for years.
While the resulting blend might either have been brilliant or downright awful, the crew at Sebago Brewing have pretty much nailed the art of blending - as seen in their latest version of the Grand Crue.
In beer, a grand cru is not so much as style as it is a descriptor of a more elaborate version of a beer or a more complex version than a regularly-released beer. Grand cru can also mean that the beer is a culmination or a pinnacle of the year's brewing efforts, and is usually a special beer given an elevated status.
This year's Grand Crue from Sebago is a blend of Midnight Porter and Slick Nick that's were aged in Bourbon barrels, and then combined with fresh Barleywine Ale and Lake Trout Stout. The result? An orchestra of flavors that are perfectly in tune.
The color is brown to red in the glass, and the Bourbon does come out in the aroma quite a bit. That took me aback at first, I was afraid it would be too boozy, too fresh. But instead, the inviting Bourbon aroma was just a teaser for the well-blended and complex beer that shows up in its taste profile.
There is a bit of vanilla and bourbon there, but mostly what comes through the strongest is the slightly roastiness and the malt notes from the Slick Nick and the Lake Trout Stout. However, on top of that, a layer of sweetness (likely from the Barleywine) and almost candy-like tastes show up. The hops come in at the end, giving a nice bitter finish to something that may have otherwise been very sweet. It reminds me of what a slight touch of acid does to really rich foods - the hops here are the great balancers, and without them, this beer might feel too heavy. Also, coming in at 6.4% ABV, this beer won't get you into too much trouble too quickly.
I happened to have visited the downtown Cabot Creamery Farmers' Annex store earlier in the day, and paired this with their deliciously smoky bacon cheese. The smoky notes played well with the sweetness and bitterness in the beer, and I'd recommend that this beer's complexity could be very fun to experiment with when pairing beer with food as it can pull out some unexpected tastes.
What's the most fun about this beer is if you are familiar with the component beers, you can take a sip, close your eyes, and try to find each beer in there individually. They're blended, for sure, but finding the pieces of music that each of these bring to the whole composition was a lot of fun. It really does harmonize and is a great way to celebrate these strong offerings as one great mix.Tweet
Carla Companion is a craft beer lover and investigator of all things beer. She started a craft beer website and blog thebeerbabe.com in 2007, sharing her thoughts as she explored what was new in beer, as well as brewery visits, trips and "beer adventures." Moving to Portland in 2009, she found herself surrounded by the Maine beer community and has been exploring it ever since.
In her blog, Carla profiles craft beer (and some mead and cider, too) being brewed in Maine, as well as looks into the people, places and stories behind the beer that makes the community so vibrant. Join Carla on her beer adventures and advice on where to get the best, newest, and most interesting fermented drinks around.
Carla can be contacted at askthebeerbabe [at] gmail.com or on twitter at @beerbabe.