Perhaps you already knew that Bellwoods brewery was planning on releasing in the Fall of 2014, just in time for Cask Days, a beer called Barn Owl, which they described on their blog as “Monogamy Centennial Barrel-Aged-With-Apricots-and-Peaches-and-Brettanomyces”.
This is not that beer.
I’m sorry to confuse you. I was confused myself, and perhaps you were too if you’re a) like me, an obsessive Googler/searcher of all things or b) have a much better memory than I do.
Confused, but not disappointed. When I initially saw the blog post a couple of weeks ago, I immediately wanted to give it a try. Barn Owl Blend No. 1 is the first release of a new (planned) series of one off, barrel-aged beers (According to Bellwoods, it fits in your beer lineup under “The barrel aged blend that isn’t Motley Cru”). It’s a sour brett ale, barrel-aged 12-18 months with apricot, cranberries and ginger.
We live in the east end of downtown Toronto, so Bellwoods is a bit out of the way for me, but sour beers are my jam so I made some time to swing by over the weekend and picked up a couple of bottles.
Bellwoods Brewery has distinguished itself in Toronto as an innovator through its barrel-aged and bottle-conditionned beers, and one-off brews and this one is no exception.
The beer pours a straw-gold colours, with maybe some pink, which I’m assuming are from the cranberries. There’s some white head, but it’s thin and dissipates quickly. It’s definitely veiled, if not cloudy.
I initially poured it cold, straight from the fridge. You can smell the sour, and it really took me back to Belgium and its lambics. At that temperature, the flavours were reminiscent of a traditional kriek (not the sweetened, commercial kind…), dry, sour and bretty with a touch of fruit.
As it warmed, it developed a lot more sweetness and the fruit aromas became more present. I could really see a “wine drinker” loving this beer, because it’s not very beer-like, at least not in the way most people think of beer. It’s sour, fruity and a bit astringent. The apricot is present, but it’s fresh and natural, not overpowering. I personally can’t say I could really taste the cranberry, but maybe it’s blending in with the sour flavour for me. The ginger is felt as a very subtle spiciness in the finish. Coming in at 8.5%, this could be one of those beers with a hot alcohol aftertaste, but that’s definitely not the case.
This is something out of the ordinary, but worth a try especially if you’re not familiar with sour beers. It’s delicious, balanced, and and a very pleasant drink. I wish I had more than one bottle left, and I’ll be saving my last one for a special occasion. If you get a chance to try it, I highly recommend it. If not, keep an eye out for the next release in the Barn Owl series. I’m sure they have great things in store.