Monday, February 24, 2014

Allagash - Midnight Brett Review

Brewery: Allagash (ME)
Style: 100% Brett Beer / Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8%
Grade: A-

I've always viewed Allagash and Ommegang as counterparts in the craft beer world. They are far from the only American breweries specializing in Belgian-style beers, but they might be the best known for it in the Eastern US, are similar in size (large), and rarely stray far from their Belgian inspirations. One is the Armageddon to the other's Deep Impact, I guess? I don't know why that was the first example that sprang to mind.

Which, anyway, is to preface my comparison between Allagash's Midnight Brett, a Brett-fermented dark ale, and Ommegang's Wild At Heart, a 100% Brett amber ale, which I bought with intentions to compare, and drank (and reviewed) on consecutive nights. Perhaps it's a little unfair to compare beers by different breweries that likely had different intentions. But as there's still much confusion about Brett beers in the marketplace, with the genre evolving and establishing itself right before our eyes, I think it's important to highlight what works, and what doesn't. So I'll get it right out of the way — Allagash knows how to make a beer like this work.

Midnight Brett is, unsurprisingly, midnight-colored. A rather bold choice for a Brett beer like this, but the color is more decoration than commitment. The main issue with Ommegang's Wild At Heart was the intensity of the malt base — despite the pale color, it was way too sweet, to the point of overriding any subtlety from the yeast. Not so here — in spite of the SRM, Midnight Brett rises slow on the palate, light bodied yet with prickly carbonation, low in rich malts, and actually rather clean. At the same time, there's a nice suggestion of funk in the nose, some cherry and chocolate; insinuations that this will be dry, nuanced and complex. It is only mildly tart, which actually plays well with the hint of roast and coffee, and the funk is mainly tied to the fruit character. Sour cherry, dried berries, and yet mercifully little of the raisin and fig that turn me off sweeter Belgian beers.

I'm sure there will still be people disappointed that this isn't funkier, but hopefully, in time, consumers will learn to appreciate how balanced a 100% Brett beer like this can be. Even describing this beer to the average person would be incredibly difficult. What is it, after all? Simply calling it a "wild ale" tells you almost nothing; it's close to a Belgian dark ale, but that still seems misleading. But that's the nice thing about Brett: it's versatile. There's no reason to try to pigeon-hole it.

Availability: 12.7 oz bottle. Limited release.


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