One brewery that’s fast becoming one of my favorites is The Bruery. The Orange County craft brewery is doing some interesting things both with their beer and their approach. Brewing largely Belgian influenced beers they pride themselves on the use of unusual ingredients (check out their Autumn Maple which is brewed with yams), sometimes in place of ones more commonly used in a particular style of beer. Another aspect of The Bruery’s approach to beer is that they do not filter or pasteurize their beers. In fact all of their bottle beers gain their carbonation through bottle conditioning. This is when the bottle is sealed and the carbonation is allowed to develop through a second fermentation.
But one of their most interesting endeavors is their 12 days/years of Christmas series. Starting in the winter of 2008/9 with A Partridge in a Pear Tree, a Belgian style strong ale, this series consists of a different style of beer every year. Next came 2 Turtle Doves, and inspired by turtle candy they brewed a beer with cocoa nibs, pecans and caramelized sugar. For last year’s entry, 3 French Hens, they took 25% of the produced beer and aged it in French oak barrels and blended it back into the rest of the beer. Which brings us to this winter’s offering – 4 Calling Birds. Let’s taste.
THEM : 4 Calling Birds in a strong ale brewed with gingerbread spices.
ME : 4 Calling Birds pours black from top to bottom with a very light head which dissipates in to a lace ring around the glass. When ever you smell or taste a beer or wine, your first smell or taste is usually the most important. Your senses are used to what they’ve had up to that moment, so the introduction of something new really stands out. In this case what comes through is banana bread. And I mean smack you in the nose banana bread. In the mouth it starts with a touch of sweetness that moves back into a mixture of molasses, chocolate and spices. It finishes with a very mild bitterness with some chocolate notes as well as a bit of fruit (plum?). As it stands right now, 4 Calling Birds is a very good beer with a nice profile of flavors in the mix. However, The Bruery is attempting to do something that’s very hard when it comes to beer. They’re attempting to make their Christmas series drinkable at the moment you buy it, but also make them so they age well until the final beer in the series, 12 Drummers Drumming is released. Will it last that long? Not sure, but there are plenty of flavors here to come together and meld over the years. All I know is that I have a bottle in the fridge awaiting 2018.
But why is the name wrong? Well it’s not really wrong since that is the line we sing today, but apparently somewhere in the song’s travels from 16th century English language to the English language we speak today, the fourth line got corrupted. The line as it was originally sung was “four colly (or collie) birds”. What’s a colly bird? Well, a colliery was the name for a coal mine in England and these birds, who were black as coal, became known to the English as collies – blackbirds. Why would someone give a lover 4 black birds? Well for food actually. Blackbirds were commonly eaten back then, after all you remember that “4 and 20 blackbirds were baked in a pie” don’t you?
But regardless of how the name has come about, I urge you to seek out 4 Calling Birds and give it a try. Will it go good with blackbird pie? I’ll leave that for you to determine.
Time for another beer……