Living in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais, I am surrounded by some really outstanding breweries. Lagunitas, Moylan’s, Iron Springs—they’re all just a skip, hop, and wobble from the front porch here at at Camp Larsen. One gets spoiled by the local bounty, but an hour’s drive north on 101 rewards the intrepid with some of the most adventurous brews available anywhere, consistently created by Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company—truly the vanguards of the Northern California craft brewing scene.
Russian River’s Belgian style beers all are aptly named after different stages of religious conversion. Their Supplication, a sour brown ale “aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels” is an example of craft brewing at its finest. A ménage à trois of brettanomyces yeast and lactobacillus and pediococcus bacteria (as well as an addition of sour cherries to the barrel) all contribute to an incredibly complex melange of tart flavors.
Supplication pours the honey color of an aged port producing minimal head with some lacing. Its nose hints of champagne and the delicate carbonation extends the comparison, until … the first sip of hits your mouth and intense flavors flood your palate—the sourness running around to tantalize the glands in your neck. With another taste, the high cherry notes ring out and are balanced by a wonderfully mellow oak finish at the back of the mouth. I wish I could walk around with that taste every day.
After letting it breathe and adding a little more of the yeasty goodness, Supplication becomes even more complex with more high notes and incredible mouth sizzle; adding in the lees really takes the sour cherry down a peg without losing the oak-fueled finish.