Brewers have always taken cues from the wine world, but perhaps the most interesting integration of wine production and brewing involves the solera system, a method used to produce sherry that involves filling a series of barrels from the top and allowing wine to evolve over time as it descends into lower barrels before being replenished from above.
St. Petersburg’s Dissent Craft Brewing Company has installed a solera of its own, a 10-barrel pyramid comprised of both neutral oak barrels as well as ones previously used to age red and white wines. The first batch from the solera, over a year in the making, hit the taps late last month.
Summer Solera 2019 is a strong debut for a young brewery’s attempt at both mixed culture fermentation (a mix of acid-producing bacteria and funky wild yeast) and a solera system. It’s wonderfully complex and layered, with an intense vinous quality from the red wine barrels, which were freshly dumped before being refilled with beer.
The beer has an intensely juicy apricot and grape nose, which is a perfect setup for the creamy vanilla and spice notes contributed by the oak. While it’s tempting to describe this as a “sour beer,” its acidity is actually quite subdued, lending an excellent balance and depth to the beer.
Carbonation levels are very low on this one, so it drinks a bit like a wine. The finish is crisp, floral and dry.
What’s more surprising? That Dissent’s first attempt at a mixed-culture solera beer is such a success, or that the brewery is selling it at $7 a pint? There’s only one way to find out. Summer Solera 2019 is the first release in an eventual series of related beers that evolve over time, so visit Dissent’s tasting room at 5518 Haines Road N soon if you want to try its first iteration.
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