Undistributed beer of the week: Erotic City

Brian Mitchell, owner and brewmaster of Pariah Brewing. (Howard Lipin/Union-Tribune)
(Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

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 ...

Pariah Brewing Co.: Erotic City

Style: Ale

ABV: 9 percent ABV

Pair with: Duck breast seasoned in Chinese five-spice and green beans

This beer comes to us from Brian Mitchell, owner and brewmaster at Pariah Brewing Co. This one is an odd ball from the Pariah team that at first sip, may have you saying, “Huh, what the hell did I just sip?” After a few more tastes, you’ll find the ale quite complex, full of tangy fruit flavors, dangerously drinkable - all while keeping an enjoyable and necessary dry finish. This tasty beer is brewed with muscat grape, honey and grains of paradise (a spice mixture).

“The inspiration to brew this beer actually came from my wife,” Mitchell said. “She said, ‘I want to help brew a beer,’ so I told her, ‘Okay, you pick the ingredients and I’ll try to make a good beer out of it.’ I wanted to try to make it taste decent, so I thought about using a Belgian tripel as the base. After that, it was figuring out how to use these ingredients and figuring out the ratios and how to make each flavor come through, without it being too sweet, too bitter, too weird or too Belgian-y either. I like the yeast character because it just makes it fruitier compared to too Belgian tasting,” he said.

This beer, being something quite different than an IPA, a stout, a pale or even a sour brew, has been very interesting to share with drinkers, Mitchell said.

“People either love it or hate it. It’s a weirdo. Some people come up and say ‘oh my god, this is great.’ Some people say, ‘oh this is awful.’ It’s polarizing for sure, but that’s why I like it.”

How does a brewer achieve the dry finish that we find on this otherwise sweet-sounding, grape and honey beer? It’s all in the yeast, baby. At first taste, if you’re like me, you may think, “Belgian yeast?” Nope, wrong.

Mitchell let us in on the secret: a Saison strain from France. Oui, oui! The tasty yeast strain, combined with unique ingredients, creates a brew with characteristics that are able to shine through individually and combine to create a powerful and different, grape-driven ale.

“The yeast strain is what helped create a dry finish,” Mitchell said. “I also mashed the grain super low and the honey and wine are pretty much all fermentable, too. It’s the lowest final gravity beer we have, and it is also the highest ABV beer we have on tap right now.”

The beer is of its own breed, really. I’m not sure I’ve tasted something quite like Erotic City, whose name doubles as the title of a funky Prince song. Mitchell is a self-proclaimed “huge Prince fan.” The beer’s ability to stand apart from the rest of the stellar Pariah lineup is what stuck with me, and it’s also what Mitchell believes makes it enjoyable for beer drinkers, overall.

“I enjoy that it’s totally unique, it differentiates it from other beers for us. When people say, ‘What is it?’ we just say, ‘It’s Erotic City.’ Someone had checked it into Untappd (a beer rating app) and he gave it a good rating, like four stars, and along with the rating said, ‘I’m not sure what I just drank’ and it’s like, yeah, this guy is awesome, he gets it. It’s its own thing.”

This beer is available to try on tap at Pariah Brewing Company. Get it while it’s cold!

Pariah Brewing Co. 3052 El Cajon Blvd., North Park.