What the Funk is in My Beer?

On November 5th, 500 beer connoisseurs flocked to Boston’s South End for “”The Night of the Funk,”” produced by Beer Advocate and sponsored by Allagash. In good spirits and sporting an impressive quantity and variety of facial hair, attendees were afforded the opportunity to sample some of the most unique-tasting beers from around the world.

Several brewers made use of Brettanomyces, or “”brett,”” a wild yeast that has been the scourge of winemakers seeking to avoid its flavor-altering influence during vintage. Matt Reiser, wine director at Upstairs on the Square, says that brett is a double-edged sword. Brett fermentation “”produces smells and flavors ranging from Band-Aidsr, to horse hair, to smoke, and even bacon or spice. I liken brett to kim chi, where food has decomposed and entered a new role-explosive on the palate and the nose-whereby exposure can either be incredible or incredibly off putting. “”

In the name of providing value to the Harbus readership and equipped with a 2oz. tasting glass, your correspondent sampled a sizeable number “”funky”” beers. In terms of taste, standard deviation was high. Jim Koch (MBA class of 1974) was not present, but his Boston Beer Company contributed Kosmic Mother Funk to the festivities. Flat, insipid, and lifeless, the beer did not live up to its name.

Residents of Cambridge should take heart, however. The Cambridge Brewing Company’s Cerise Cassée dominated the field, perhaps a vindication (celebration?) of the decision by Massachusetts voters to repeal the alcohol tax earlier in the week. In addition to malted barley, the brewers added 300 pounds of sour cherries and aged the mix for several years in French oak wine barrels, using not just brett but Lactobacillus and Pediococcus during fermentation. As fans of blue cheese will attest, bacteria can be delicious outside of an Intensive Care Unit.

Firmly in the left tail of taste distribution, the Cranberry Lam-B-Q, a lambic from the Just Beer Brewing Company, triggered flashbacks from TOM class, and left your correspondent convinced that cranberries are better in a bottleneck than a bottle of beer. More traditional fruit beers fared far better in the unscientific testing. Weyerbacher Brewing was pouring just one “”funky”” beer, but it was a knockout The Riserva 2010 is an American Wild Ale fermented for over a year with 88 pounds of raspberries added to each barrel. Incredibly well-balanced, the Riserva packs a 10% ABV punch that adds a pleasing warmth to the palette, complimenting the delicate sweetness from the raspberries and tartness from the brett.

Readers looking to expand their beer horizons need not wait another year. Marc Kadish, owner and head chef of the Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston, calls funky beers a “”hugely growing popular category.”” He cites Duchesse De Bourgogne, a traditional Flemish red ale replica breitling Aeromarine , as an excellent gateway beer for those familiar only with American lagers and pale ales. “”It’s not so much sour and sweet and sour,”” said Kadish, who keeps Duchesse in stock at Sunset, within walking distance from HBS. Sunset’s selection of lambics, gueuzes replica breitling bentley 6.75, and other wild ales is impressive. Standouts include the Avery Dépuceleuce (made with sour cherries, aged in zinfandel barrels and fermented with 100% brett yeast), and Vichtenaar, a Flemish red-brown ale from Brouwerji Vernhaeghe.

November 15, 2010
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