Monday, April 22, 2013

Green Flash - Rayon Vert Belgian Pale Ale Review

Green Flash Rayon Vert Belgian Pale Ale

Brewery: Green Flash (CA)
Style: Brett Beer / Belgian Pale Ale
ABV: 7%
Grade: B

Despite my best attempt at a slow, gentle pour, Rayon Vert is nothing but foam for a good 10 minutes after opening. That's to be expected with a beer so obviously modeled upon Orval, the quintessential "bottle conditioned with Brett" Belgian pale ale, which I once ordered at a restaurant and got to watch with amusement as my flummoxed server attempted to pour it into a pint glass (and quickly conceded defeat). It's beers like this that give people the idea that Brett is an eternally hungry monster, dooming your bottles to over-carbonation. In this case, it's true, though the high-carbonation is welcome for the style.

The aroma, like the head, is potent. Earthy, spicy, fruity, with a unique Brett character that's not exactly what I expected. It's hard to tell where the Brett leaves off and the spicy phenols of the yeast, plus the possibly oxidized hops, begin — if the bottle said that this beer were spiced with peppercorns, I would never question it. Whatever forms the combination, it's unique, and the flavor follows, with an aggressively spicy, bitter, funky profile. Where I remember Orval coming across as an exotic, fruity Belgian brew, Rayon Vert strikes me as more saison-inspired — again, there's that peppercorn character, spicy yeast, firm bitterness, and a forward but almost stale hop component. Some fruitiness plays a role as well, particularly a zesty orange peel and tart citrus character, with bits of funky ginger. While the hops don't jump out at me as IPA-ish in character, Rayon Vert tastes much like other Belgian IPAs that I've had, with big zest and bitterness combining in that unique Belgian IPA character, both hoppy and yeasty in such a way that it tastes more like a spice than either individual thing. 

All in all, it's not the barnyard funk I expected from a Belgian ale with Brett. I'm certain my bottle is at least half a year old, possibly up to a year old, and I'm surprised the Brett doesn't play more of a role — the flavor seems pretty dominated by the original yeast, whatever it was, and the remaining hop bitterness. It's hard to review any particular bottle of a beer like this, especially when you aren't sure exactly how old it is. The flavor is bound to change so much that one person may love or hate the beer while young and have the opposite reaction when drinking it aged. If I acquire another bottle of this, I'll probably set it aside for a few years and see what kind of animal I'm dealing with then. Otherwise, this makes for a nice Belgian IPA — be prepared for funky spice rather than actual funk, however.

Availability: Year-round 12 ounce bottles.

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