Two years ago I got a text message from my local bottle shop 1 stating that I need to get over there quickly because they had a rare treat that just came in and would not last long. Trusting the text message I ducked out of work early and walked into the bottle shop just in time to get the last bottle of Alagash FV13. I had plans of running home and cracking it open but somehow it ended up getting lost in the back of the beer fridge not to be seen until this morning.
FV13 was Alagash’s first foray into foudre aging.2 In 2008, the Maine brewery acquired a 2,700-gallon foudre and in went the base beer that would eventually become FV13. The primary fermentation was done in a stainless steel tank with Allagash’s house strain of brewers yeast. Once primary fermentation was complete it was sent to the oak foudre along with two different strains of Brettanomyces (wild yeast), lactobacillus and pediococcus (bacteria used to sour beers) along with sherry yeast and Alagash’s reserve yeast strain. The beer was then left to age in the foudre for four years.3 The beer was then hand bottled and very limited amounts were sent out through its regular distribution channels the following February.
I have been waiting to open this bottle for quite a while and the forceful pop as I removed the cork was music to my ears. The beer poured a beautiful crystal clear amber with golden edges as I held it to the light. As I raised the glass I was met with a blast of sour cherries mixed with apple cider vinegar. As I buried my nose into the glass other flavors started to appear; funkiness from the brett, a deep sherry or port like note and a bit of oak. While the tartness was definitely there, the other flavors were well represented giving the impression that the beer would not be over overpoweringly acidic.
Finally the moment I had been waiting for. As I close my eyes and swirl around a healthy sip of the beer I immediately realized I was in for a treat. A big sour cherry flavor starts it out and then the acidity arrives as the beer hits the back of the taste buds. I was really impressed with the acidity of this beer. It has a good amount of lactic acid giving it a nice tartness but it was quickly met by a prefect amount of acetic acid which brings an apple cider vinegar quality. The two blend seamlessly to form a wonderful soft sourness that lingers throughout the sip without overpowering the other flavors. The sour cherry notes are very prevalent throughout the taste along with a touch of sweetness that helps cut the tartness a bit.
The extended aging of the beer brings in a bit of oxidation that lends a sherry or deep red wine taste that adds an interesting layer to the sip. The classic brett funk is also there adding a signature alagash touch to the beer while the oakey finish really helps the beer unfold into a very complex brew. This is a bottle you want to take your time with and let it warm up so you can really let the complexities shine through. I was not fortunate enough to get to try this one fresh but I think the two years in the bottle probably helped this beer since everything seems to meld together so well.