There can only be one undistributed beer of the week. The competition is fierce in San Diego's beer community, but someone has to take the title. This week's best undistributed beer is ...
MIKKELLER BREWING SAN DIEGO: JUNIUS BRUTUS
Style: Belgian Strong Golden Ale
ABV: 8.1 percent
Pair with: A variety cheese plate
This week's beer comes to us from Bill Batten, head brewer at Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. Batten brewed this delicious creation that we will surely be sipping on as long as we can get our hands on it. It's quite ideal for drinking as the sun begins to peek through during the San Diego winter months.
Junius Brutus is a flavorful, somewhat bitter brew that is full of flavor from hop characteristics, yet it also offers a winelike taste and a slight bite of fruit. Notes of grapefruit and citrus ring through from the hops (most notably, Nelson), making this a playful barrel-aged beer that comes in at a drinkable 8.1 percent alcohol by volume.
"This beer is one that we took inspiration from a beer that Mikkeller makes in Europe, called Nelson Brut," Batten said. "It's kind of taking the similar base beer, and it's a Belgian Strong that's 8 percent and it's hopped heavily with Nelson hops. We then take that, once we ferment it and everything, we put it into Sauvignon Blanc barrels.
"We age this beer for around eight months and we don't add any other yeasts or anything at that point - no Brett or bacteria or anything," Batten added. "We add just a touch of fresh beer to it at the point of bottling it, just to kind of brighten up that Nelson note a bit."
The brightness of the beer, combined with the Sauvignon Blanc barrel it is aged in, makes it a much less barrel-aged tasting beer than you would find with, say, a red wine barrel. It's not too heavy. The flavors of beer and that lighter wine influence play together in a delightful, interesting way.
"I love the pairing between the Nelson hops and the wine barrels," Batten said. "I like that it's kind of dry; it offers a nice dryness in the finish.
"It's a barrel-aged beer, but it's not boozy. It has just an unusual profile that makes you want to come back for more, while still leaving the palate pretty clean," he explained. "It's not overpowering, and the Sauvignon Blanc barrel gives way to some nuance in the beer, which is what we wanted."
Batten said the team at Mikkeller Brewing hopes to release this beer as a seasonal, winter brew each year.
Junius Brutus is currently available both on tap and in limited-release bottles sold only at Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. Get it while it's cold!
Mikkeller Brewing San Diego, 9368 Cabot Drive, Miramar. mikkellersd.com