Monday, January 3, 2011

Alpine Brewing Company - Ichabod

A few weeks ago, I stepped into one of the better liquor stores in San Diego, Beverages 4 Less and saw that they had one of Alpine Brewing Company's harder to find beers, Ichabod. When I asked the manager about it, the following interaction happened.

Me: So, how is this one?

Freddie (the manager): Sour, man.

Me: How sour are we talking?

Freddie: It will give you lockjaw.

Me: (thinking for a second) In a good way?

Freddie: (smiling) Yeah.

Two seconds later, I was driving home with huge expectations for my new purchase. After reading up on the beer a little more, I got even more excited. Ichabod is technically a Wild Ale (one of my favorite styles) brewed with pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon. To get that sourness that so many beer lovers crave, the beer is aged in red and white wine barrels for over a year. So, yeah, I was a little excited about this one. On a side note, Ichabod has one of the best labels I've ever seen: a picture of Ichabod (the protagonist of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") and the Headless Horseman clinking mugs of beer.

Ichabod pours a deep brown and ruby color with absolutely no head at all. With any other style of beer, this might bother me, but I have had a few sours that I loved that didn't have heads so I wasn't too worried. The smells coming off this beer were pretty fantastic. Right away, there was a huge sour/tart smell with a little brett funkiness. I spent a while with this one trying to find a hint of the pumpkin and spices in the nose, but couldn't find much. As the beer warmed, I could pick out a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg hidden in the back of the tartness.

How do I describe the taste of this beer? I would leave it at "amazing," but I don't know how much that would help anyone to get a real sense of this beer. The taste starts with a nice tartness that reminded me of a cross between a sour green apple and black cherries. In fact, it reminded me of another great sour beer that's brewed with cherries- Russian River's "Supplication." Right after the initial tartness, the beer absolutely clocks you in the mouth with a huge hit of sourness that lasts all the way through the finish. The beer is completely devoid of carbonation (which explains why there's no head), but the lack of carbonation helps the sourness shine through in the taste even more. If you like sour beers, this is one you have to try.

Though I didn't catch a lot of the pumpkin, this beer was so good that I didn't really care. So if you're looking to mix things up a little bit, give this one a try. Just be warned: Ichabod is one sour mother.

Final Grade: A

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