It is safe to say that Casey Brewing & Blending is no stranger to sour beers; in fact, the small brewery located in the small town of Glenwood Springs, Colo. has become extremely proficient at producing them since it opened in 2014.

The vast majority of the brewery’s creations are produced with local ingredients, and it is not usual to see a blend of three or more fruits in one beer. However, while it may seem that Casey had tried just about every combination of ingredients in the book at some point, there is at least one that it had never incorporated into a bottled creation until April of this year.

That was when the brewery released its first sour ale that included Madagascar vanilla beans. Named Funky Blender Preserves – Apricot & Vanilla, the sour ale was conditioned on four pounds of fresh, organic apricots per gallon before being conditioned on whole Madagascar vanilla beans. That was followed by East Bank Preserves – Benton Sweet Cherry + Vanilla (Aged In Bourbon Barrels), a new ale release in August that was conditioned on “super dark” Benton sweet cherries as well as a “healthy dose” of Madagascar vanilla beans and packaged in 750ml bottles that we sold on-site at the brewery.

Those two first blends were followed by a number of other new creations incorporating vanilla beans, including Funky Blender Preserves Blueberry + Raspberry + Vanilla, a beer sold exclusively to Extended Family members who pick up 24 or more bottles from the brewery at a time; and most recently, Vanilla Jammy, a very small vanilla variant release of Casey’s blackberry sour ale collaboration with Side Project Brewing.

However, the beer I am reviewing today is Funky Blender Preserves — Raspberry + Sweet Cherry + Vanilla, a 7 percent ABV sour ale conditioned on raspberries, Sweet Benton cherries sourced from Palisade and “an absurd amount of Madagascar vanilla.” The new ale debuted on Oct. 2—which happened to be a day before the official start of this year’s Great American Beer Festival that took place in Denver—priced at $32 for each 750ml bottle with a two bottle per person purchase limit.

So far, Casey has announced or released five different beers in bottles that include vanilla:

  • Funky Blender Preserves — Apricot + Vanilla
  • East Bank Preserves — Benton Sweet Cherry + Vanilla (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
  • Funky Blender Preserves — Raspberry + Sweet Cherry + Vanilla
  • Vanilla Jammy
  • Casey Family Preserves  —Dry Hopped (Nelson) Apricot + Vanilla

The Casey Funky Blender Preserves — Raspberry + Sweet Cherry + Vanilla pours an almost shockingly contrasting deep murky red color with two fingers of hot pink head that dissipates slowly, leaving behind a thick ring around the edge as well as a well-defined island in the middle. Aroma from the glass is a combination of sour cherries, oak, jammy raspberries and slight vanilla sweetness.

When cold, the tart raspberries in the blend easily dominate the palate, although the sweet cherries are fairly easy to pick out at certain points. In addition, I am a bit surprised at the small amount of oak present in the profile and while there is some obvious vanilla sweetness present on the finish, it is not as aggressive as I was expecting after trying other blends that included vanilla.

However, things change dramatically as the beer warms: perhaps most importantly, the profile becomes significantly more balanced as the vanilla sweetness becomes more obvious. The result is a beer that tastes almost exactly like a liquid raspberry sorbet, with the sourness and sweetness playing off each other on the palate.

Casey Funky Blender Preserves — Raspberry + Sweet Cherry + Vanilla
BREWERY: Casey Brewing & Blending
LOCATION: Glenwood Springs, Colo.
STYLE: Barrel-Aged Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 7 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $32
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 2, 2019
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml Bottles
Over the years, I have come to believe that Casey consistently brews some of the most balanced fruited sour ales on the planet, but the addition of vanilla takes this blend—and others where it is included that I have tried—to a whole different level. The vanilla tempers the sourness of the base beer while accentuating the jamminess of the raspberries and cherries. Having said that, this is a beer that is wasted by drinking it cold, as the closer it is to room temperature, the more the vanilla becomes more prominent in the profile. Nuanced and balanced, this flavor-bomb of a fruited sour ale is an excellent example of how vanilla can be used to add complexity to a beer’s profile and is well worth tracking down if you get a chance.
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