Harriet Sour (Barrel-aged) Divine Oculust, Belgian-style Golden Ale, 8.5% ABV., Harriet Brewing, Minneapolis, MN.
Before I get to the beer, if the reader would allow some indulgence to the author of this beer blog, I'd like to give you an update on my personal and professional life. (If you don't care, skip down five paragraphs.) Perhaps you read the posts in April when I announced a major change, as I left the bar where I made my name and left my mark, the Blue Nile, and went on to take a management position at a well-regarded south Minneapolis brewpub. There were many perks and benefits to this new role, despite all the things I would miss when I changed jobs. I was no longer in charge of the bar, nor making any real decisions about it. That was a little frustrating, but I knew what my station was, and what I was asked to do. I chose that position because I needed a transition away from the Blue Nile, because, as I believe I previously stated, there were just too many things I had to deal with there that left me utterly exhausted, and had nothing to do with craft beer.
I really enjoyed myself at this new place, and I especially appreciated the excellent staff, without whom it not be the success that it is. But I did I miss my old role, and so did my former customers and my friends. Some wondered why I wasn't pouring their beers, some wanted me to talk beer with them, while I found the bartenders would rather take that on themselves. I saw myself sticking around for quite some time, at least a year, perhaps, in order to enjoy the perks and benefits, perhaps taking on new responsibilities that I was better suited for, and then I was shocked when I was dismissed without warning on returning to work after a 3-day vacation to Madison, Wisconsin for the Great Taste of the Midwest (only one day of which was part of the 5-day paid vacation I had earned after 3 months on the job.)
I'm putting a firm leash on my personal feelings about this, or my ideas about why they acted in this way. I can say in all honesty that our management styles were not in synch. If I were to elaborate further, I'd be making a very unwise move that I may regret. I was left unemployed for the first time in 25 years, and spent my immediate time after walking out their doors visiting my favorite places, and received some sympathy, a few beers on the house, but no job offers. Three weeks later, I'm still waiting for unemployment benefits to arrive, and I'm still looking for that next full-time job that really lets my talents shine. I've sent out resumes and taken some interviews, but nothing yet. The question persists: do I take the first, best, closest bartending gig I can find just to fill my wallet as fast as I can, or do I hold out for another bar management job? Without money in my pocket, it's hard to argue for the latter, opposed to the former. Without money in the checking account, it's hard to pay the rent. Clearly, I can't just look, I have to find. The time has come to really get out there and find something, somehow, somewhere.
I had another question on my mind, as there was a beer that was released 5 days before I lost my job, and a growler of it sat in my fridge. I spent so much time mulling over whether I should write about their beers while I worked there, and now I had to consider whether I should include their beers here in the future. In April, in between the transition, I started writing a history of my time at the Nile and how I turned, to the best of my abilities, an Ethiopian restaurant and nightclub into some kind of a beer bar. I had another idea for a post consisting of a pictorial essay leading up to the end of my Blue Nile tenure. And I thought perhaps part three would be that review of the Bridge Hanger Belgian strong dark ale, with a note about this news. I nixed that notion and chose not to write about it, and not to write about them again. I drank down the growler, and took no notes. Am I bitter? A little. Who wouldn't be? (Those two posts mentioned above will be here, some time soon.)
Meanwhile, I have found some part-time work with my friends at Harriet Brewing Company, which long-time observers may have noted is a brewery I have a long and close association with, since their inception. I hosted their initial tapping at the Blue Nile on February 9, 2011, as well as their 1st anniversary in 2012. March of 2012 brought the opening of their taproom, and I played DJ all day for that, and continued to play records there, sometimes for pay, always for fun. I've been pleased with all of their beers, although there have been rough patches along the way. I still believe that they are making some of the best, and most interesting beers in the state of Minnesota, and their identity remains intact. They have continued to make authentic interpretations of European style ales and lagers, with an occasional twist. I do sort of wish they'd break that mold just a bit, or maybe even try some English-style beers, but Jason's doing what he wants to do, and that's fine. Nothing wrong with having a solid identity.
Now, finally, on to the beer, one of the rare ones I haven't written about here. The barrel-aging program at Harriet is over two years old, and has produced sour versions of the saison, dubbel, and this, the Belgian-style golden ale. All in the series have been aged in used wine barrels, and have been inoculated with wild yeast strains for further souring. In the past, I've asked for growlers and been told no. Since I've started at the taproom, I have seen them filled, and so I filled one for myself, enjoying it at home for the first time. So, here we go….
Appearance: clouded, bright golden hue, large, looming snowy white and staying head, looking good.
Aroma: light spice and citrus fruit, overcome by the funk and the barrel. A celebration of the sour and the wild. I'm digging it.
Now, to taste it: a flash of the sour blazes the palate, grazes the tongue, and lingers long. The work of the barrel (used Chardonnay) and the wild yeast dominates over the mellow flavors of the Divine Oculust, and there may be a case made that it improves on it. Not by me, though, I like D.O. just fine as it is. Now and then, the flavor of the wine left behind shows up and adds to the deliciousness. My, but this is tasty, tasty stuff, currently only on tap at the taproom, though it may occasionally show up at selected bars and restaurants. I'm thrilled to have it in my home and my ready disposal.
Okay, so I am admittedly biased, but it's solid stuff. Fresh, zesty, lively and amazing. Maybe the best thing they've produced, with the sour saison close behind.
|No, Harriet doesn't have custom growlers. I took a sticker for the 750 ml bottles of D.O. and stuck it on a generic Harriet growler.|