Four Winds – Juxtapose IPA

Of all the impressive local breweries who’ve opened their doors in the past couple years, none of them impress me more than Four Winds in Delta. I’m not alone on this. It’s not just that their beers are great, it’s that they’re great AND they’re unusual. Four Winds consistently takes on difficult styles and continues to have great success at each, including a couple different brettanomyces-infused beers now.

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Enter their Brett IPA called Juxtapose, which has been on the market for a few weeks now. Not a huge IPA at 6.5% ABV and 50 IBU but driven well into the category. Bottle conditioned as well, which is always a bonus when it comes to the feel of the beer. Plus, of course, the addition of brettanomyces, a family of yeast strains that add sourness to a beer through its production of acetic acid.

I’ve had a good number of brett IPA’s at this point, including Mikkeller’s Green Gold and Farmhouse IPA. My general feeling on the style is that it’s unique, interesting but I’d rather have a saison-brett. Just seems the saison base suits the style better, and there are incredible examples such as Dulcis Succubus with a great oak character as well. The tough thing about the IPA is that the base beer is best fresh, but brettanomyces can work wonders given time.

I don’t mean to suck up to local breweries but Four Winds has thrown a wrench into my whole assumption by producing the most satisfying brett-IPA I’ve had to date. It’s a perfect example of how brettanomyces can service an IPA: subtly. The nose is full of bright citrus with sweet grapefruit leading the charge plus some honey, and the brett character is ever-so-gently on the back end of things. Taking a sip is a mixture of pink grapefruit sweetness, light pine, and a nice modest acetic finish. It finishes with a clean acidity completely devoid of that “funk” character that wouldn’t suit the bright character of this beer anyway.

In the end, this beer drinks mostly just as a sweet citrus IPA that stops short of what most would consider a “double IPA” but absolutely does not lack in flavour. The brett only surfaces to put a little bit of an acidic touch on things and otherwise does not get in the way – exactly what I want in this style of beer. I’m all for pucker-fest beers, but this was exactly what I wanted this particular beer to be.

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Mikkeller / Anchorage – Invasion Farmhouse IPA

IPAs brewed with brettanomyces are a good example of how beer styles tend to cross-pollinate, so to speak.  It’s not a new thing, but with the huge insurgence of creative brewing going on these days there are now all kinds of combinations such as brett-IPA’s you can get your hands on.

One such example is produced by one of Danish brothers Mikkel and Jeppe, and I hope you can guess which.  The other is the man behind Evil Twin.  That’s a whole lot of amazing beer being produced by these siblings, and more impressive yet is neither one of them actually has a brewery.  They are both “gypsy brewers” who basically just rent space at whatever brewery has the space and the is the right fit for whatever beer’s up next.

This particular Mikkeller brew was produced in Alaska, at Anchorage Brewing Company.  Seems like a bit of an obscure place to go for such a delicate beer, but it is not by chance.  Anchorage has a whole lineup of beers brewed with brettanomyces. It can be said it’s kind of their thing, and I’m confident that they’re pretty damn good at it.

mikkeller_brettIPA

Anyway, I better get to this beer before I run out of energy. Labelled a “Farmhouse IPA” which alludes to the “wild yeast” nature of the beer.  As an aside, using the term “wild” has kind of become a legacy term – modern “wild ales” are often brewed with store-bought lactobacillus, brettanomyces, and the like just because it’s easier and more predictable.  I guess you could say the flavour is the wild part now.

Appearance: It looks like an IPA for the most part – tangerine orange in colour, though its colour appears almost to be at half-saturation, with kind of a greyness to it.  The head starts out strong but doesn’t last all that long before it’s just a ring.

Smell: It’s a familiar smell, like a saison brett.  The brett character is there but well integrated in with other notes.  Grassy must, earthy, and orange citrus.

Taste: Tangerine skin followed by lemony acidity. Complexity is very good, there is a deep seated mustiness that is gentle enough that it’s additive to the flavour and not the flavour itself. I kind of expected this to taste like I’m used to an IPA tasting like, but with some funky side to it. It’s not really like that though, because the brett is much more integrated into the beer.  It lacks the spice of a saison brett and it has more citrus than one, but otherwise it’s pretty damn similar to a well executed saison brett.  And to me, a well executed example is one that almost has a gueuze-like quality that gives the beer a feeling of age and oak.

Feel: The carbonation is mild and the body is silky.  Quite nice for the style.

Overall: This was a good buy. It wasn’t cheap ($25) but I’m happy I spent it. I’m not sure I’d stock up on it but I’d buy it again.