Growing up during the 90s in California there was no “craft beer,” only cheap beer and good beer. If you had the extra cash that day you spent the extra couple of bucks for Sierra Nevada or Stone. If you were a college kid in Chicago or New York those extra funds may have went to Goose Island or Brooklyn Brewery but the story was the same. Those small local breweries that were our pay day splurges back in the day are now the regional giants sold across the country.
Victory Brewing Co. is a perfect example. They started brewing beer in 1996 in Downingtown, Pa. and have since grown to a distribution footprint that includes 35 states and nine foreign countries.1 Last year, Victory sold 141,671 barrels of beer that included over 25 different brands. Personally, I have been able to try a dozen or so of its offerings and have enjoyed most of them but today I am excited to make it a lucky 13 by cracking open a bottle of Tart Ten.
Tart Ten is a Belgian-style dubbel brewed with my favorite little critter in the world: brettanomyces. According to Victory’s website the beer starts with a malt bill consisting of Acidulated, Cara 150, Cara 350, Munich, Pilsner and Vienna along with saaz hops and brettanomyces. After a solid minute of effort I finally prey the cork from the bottle to a nice pop. The beer pours a hazy copper color reminiscent of apple juice with a thick off white bed of foam that dissipates very quickly.
As I begin inspecting the beer I take a deep whiff of the glass and get a slight tartness that immediately results in a smile. The faint tartness is wrapped in bready malts, cherries, pear and sweet hard candies. I get some brett notes but not an overpowering funk or barnyard aroma that has become synonymous with brettanomyces beers.2 My first taste of the beer brings many of the same qualities as the nose but the first thing that jumps out at me is the overall lack of acidity. Even though as a beer science nerd I should know that without bacteria fermentation you will not get a pronounced sour character I still for some reason expected a bit more sourness form the beer. Mainly due to the fact that tart is in the name and I was able to get a noticeable tart aroma. The brettanomyces has produced a noticeable tartness but is more a light component of the beer rather than a dominant characteristic. I also get some of the fruit that came through in the bouquet including the cherries and pear along with a very sweet bready malt. As I continue through the beer the sweetness starts to become more and more pronounced as the beer warms. After each sip I start to notice a slight bitterness that combined with the big sweetness that makes for a unique finish to the beer.