Lucky Seven at Brewvival

Seven beers to put on your must-try list

Written by T. Ballard Lesemann for charlestoncitypaper.com

The Brewvival (Feb. 26, 2011) ain’t a typical kegger or guzzle party. It’s a civilized celebration of beer appreciation, a craft beer festival for the super-fanatical (and geeky) beer aficionados in the Lowcountry. Presented by downtown retail shop Charleston Beer Exchange and local microbrewery COAST Brewing Co., the outdoor festival taps kegs of seasonal ales and lagers, high-gravity knock-outs, wood-aged sour beers, and bizarre rarities. Here’s a six-pack (plus one) of suggestions to help you navigate the offerings.

Westbrook Brewing Co.’s Uberbier #3 (17.5 percent a.b.v.)

Westbrook Brewing Co., the new kid on the local scene, offers a hefty rendition of the classic style of barleywine. It looks like one for the malt heads. “It’s basically a really strong barleywine with about 15 percent rye in the grist, tons of high alpha hops [Cascade, Chinook, and Amarillo] in the boil, and fermented with a Belgian Trappist yeast,” says Edward Westbrook. They add S.C.-produced wildflower honey to boost the alcohol content. “It drinks very easily for such a high gravity beer,” Westbrook says. “After two months of aging, we dry hopped it with more U.S. hop varieties.”

COAST Brewing Co.’s Blackbeerd Imperial Stout (9.3 percent a.b.v.)

A big hit last year, COAST’s bold version of the black-as-night classic organic ale features roasted, sweet, and smoked malts for a deep, rich taste and big-bodied feel. “It also has a healthy dose of hops to finish it off,” says co-owner Jaime Tenney. Like most of COAST’s big seasonal ales, this one will offer a balance of textures and flavors. Imagine Guinness on Soviet steroids. A barrel aged version will be available next month.

New Holland’s Charkoota Rye (7.8 percent a.b.v.)

It’s never too warm or too chilly to enjoy a nice smoked beer. Michigan-based New Holland’s Charkoota Rye is a smoked dopplebock lager — a variation on the classic Bavarian style. The name refers to the age-old tradition of charcuterie. They use rye malt and malted barley smoked over cherry wood, describing the final result as “balanced with tones of deep molasses and caramel, with a crisp, clean lager finish.” Proßst!

Duck-Rabbit’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter (n/a)

This little brewery in Farmville, N.C., makes terrific traditional and experimental dark ales — many of which are barrel aged. Their sour cherry ale was a huge hit with patrons last year. This year, their cask-conditioned porter might make a splash for its malt complexity and oaky/wine-like notes.

The Bruery’s Cuádruple (10 percent a.b.v.)

In recent years, the Bruery, a micro based in Orange County, Calif., has emerged as one of the more adventurous and consistently tasty West Coast craft breweries. A specialty within their Provisions Series, the Cuádruple is a Belgian-style “quadruple” strong ale brewed with a ton of malts and dark agave nectar. Sip with care.

Avery Brewing Co.’s Rumpkin Ale (13.8 percent a.b.v.)

The Colorado-based Avery has a strong reputation for huge-flavored high-gravity ales. This one is an amber-colored barrel-aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale brewed with pumpkin purée and a blend of spices. It’s aged in Gosling’s Rum barrels for six months. Expect a creamy-sweet flavor and a pronounced woodiness.

Bell’s Brewing’s Hopslam (10 percent a.b.v.)

A new “extreme hop” Double IPA from Michigan’s popular Bell’s Brewing, Hopslam lives up its name. It boasts a pungent aroma of fresh red grapefruit, tangerine, and newly mown grass. It initially tastes like a pine tree, but mellows with each sip (likely from a sweet touch of honey). Certainly, it’ll be teeth-rattlingly bitter.