Monkish Brewing Co. has had a bit of a metamorphosis over the past few years. It started with meager beginnings back in 2012 as a low budget self-funded husband and wife tandem. It initially focused on saccharomyces, classic brewer’s yeast, fermented Belgian styles, largely due to the cost involved in securing barrels for sour beer production. For years the brewery cranked out interesting interpretations of classic styles that included ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns, ginger and hibiscus.
The one ingredient you didn’t see much of in there beers were hops.
Monkish didn’t brew an IPA and even went as far as hanging a sign in the tasting room that ready IPA with a circle around it and line through it. Things changed a couple of years ago when it quietly took down the sign and released a New England-style Hazy IPA in cans.
As soon as the craft beer world got a taste of the hoppy beers coming out of the Torrance, Calif.-based brewery they became one of the most sought after breweries in Southern California. In a very short time Monkish has become one of the breweries your out of town beer nerd friends have to visit when they come to town. While the hoppy beers have put Monkish on the national map I am personally more excited about the sour beers it is now producing.
Back in mid-April I happen to be at the Monkish tasting room on release day for Nomelhead which is a collaboration brew with Other Half Brewing Co. out of New York City. The beer is an American-style sour ale brewed with lemons and aged in oak barrels. After getting a pour on tap I quickly decided that I would be leaving with a few bottles.
The beer pours a bright yellow that is absolutely crystal clear. I was able to raise my glass to my computer screen and read the perfectly magnified words on my screen through the beer. The other thing that was immediately noticeable was the complete lack of head retention. After a vigorous pour the thin white head would dissipate to nothing in a couple of seconds. Nomelhead was clearly carbonated judging on the continuous lines of bubbles rising from the bottom the glass but the top of the glass was reminiscent of bright yellow cool aid.
It smells exactly like I would expect a proper lemon sour beer to smell: bright, big lemon character, well-integrated funky brettanomyces and oak barrels. From time to time I pick up hints of acetic acid, but it does not detract from the overall bouquet. The nose doesn’t jump out of the glass, but overall it smells just as good as I remember form release day.
The first sip of Nomelhead hits me with a hefty acidity along with the big tart citrus of the lemons. Once I dig past the sourness, notes of light cracker like malt, oak barrel and classic brettanomyces funk start to emerge. The finish is yet another blast of sour but a sweetness comes in that really saves the day. The sweet blends with the tart and taste just like what I recall Lemonheads tasting like from my childhood.