I know I am a bit late to the party with these brews. It was kind of one of those things that has been on the back burner and then there was a new release I had to drink, and then another… You know the feeling I’m sure. The Spoonbender series is basically a collaboration series between the Yeastie Boys and other industries, other crews and people that do not necessarily think the way they do. What they are looking for is the strange. Something that may not have been thought of before because of the variance between the industry. With this series the Yeastie Boys have teamed up with South Australian winemakers Some Young Punks and have used their already fermented and aged botrytis Viognier and have created a candi- sugar to use in the brewing process.
What’s botrytis you say? Very simply put it’s a form of good ‘rot’ on grapes, sometimes known as ‘Noble Rot’. It shrivels and decays the fruit but at the same time greatly intensifies the sweetness of the fruit and adds some very interesting complexity. Noble Rot is found in wines like Sauternes from Bordeaux, Tokaji from Hungary and a lot of German Rieslings and are known for their sweetness, stickiness and a certain ‘honey’ quality. Candi- sugar may also be a familiar term to you as well; it is a brewing sugar used mostly in Belgium to brew styles such as Tripels and Dubbel. It boosts alcohol content without adding too much body, giving that warming, sticky feeling so well known with those richer belgian styles. So with this in mind you can already sort of form a picture of how this will translate to the beer, particularly with the styles they have chosen to brew: Pale Ale, Imperial Porter and a Tripel. So let’s kick off the series and see how it translates ourselves.
The Sly Persuader
Style: Pale Ale / ABV: 6% / IBU: 20
Pours a pale orange lemon with minimal stark white head and fine lacing.
On The Nose:
Getting plenty of stewed apricot on the nose, fleshy orange and candied orange pith, lime zest, fresh peach and smatterings of tropical fruits: think mango, honey dew melon and lychees. Picking up faint floral notes of honeysuckle, chamomile and orange blossom with cereal/ hay dryness.
Extremely well balanced pale ale here. Packed full of chewy, stewy apricot, nectarine and peach with plenty of citrus acidity: orange blossom, preserved lemon and lime juice. A slight sticky sweetness in the mouthfeel with a refreshing dry finish of honeysuckle, clove and candied ginger.
A really well structured, balanced pale ale. I expected the candi- sugar to shine through a bit more on the palate but it was definitely there. I guess you don’t want to make a pale ale cloying, that kinda defeats the purpose… Plenty of sweetness shining through with slight sticky sweetness in the mouthfeel with some dried stewed fruit characters and a dry, refreshing finish. A very interesting little pale ale.
The Last Dictator
Style: Imperial Porter / ABV: 10% / IBU: 72
Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black, with light brown tinges on the edges and minimal light tan brown head.
On The Nose:
Getting a sticky vinous grape must quality on the nose with boozy Christmas cake, rum and raisin, burnt toffee, espresso, vanilla bean and sweet, rich milk chocolate. Plenty of roasted nuts too finishing in sticky red fruits: think cranberries, currants and stewed plums.
First hit on the palate is all about rich, roasted malts, espresso bitters and burnt toffee. This softens out to rich chocolate fudge, chewy caramel, vanilla bean and boozy rum and raisin with that sticky grape must sweetness returning again. Getting lots of sweet spice in the mix too: clove, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks with light star anise/ liquorice notes. Mouthfeel is rich, luscious and sticky, coating the entire palate with a hint in honeyed alcohol, just warming the mouth.
This is an absolutely cracking imperial Porter. I feel the botrytis does actually bring something to this brew with that grape must quality, and it appears in every aspect. The nose certainly has a musky, sticky grape muscatel quality to it, the palate also brings a sticky vinous quality to the table too with honey beeswax characters. The mouthfeel is an absolute knockout for me; sticky, unctuous and all kinds of deliciousness. The label puts it perfectly, the botrytis is really ‘infused’ in this brew and plays to the strengths of the style. This brew in my opinion really hits the brief the Yeastie Boys set out to accomplish. Really well done.
The Sun Before The Darkness
Style: Tripel / ABV: 10% / IBU: 50
Pours a hazy burnt orange with minimal off white foam.
On The Nose:
Sweet as sweet can be on the nose with heaps of candied fruit sweetness straight up front. Lots of candied orange zest, sweet orange flesh, dried apricot, notes of bubblegum, citrus blossom, juicy ripe peaches and preserved mango. Notes of cinnamon, sugary caramel and vanilla in the finish.
Palate is sweet, spicy and fantastically warm, spreading to all the extremities. Getting those sugary candy fruits here too: stewy orange, candied citrus pith, dried apricot, mango and a grapefruit bitterness with sticky caramel, honey notes and grape must. Sweetness gives way to warm, boozy spices and notes of cedar. Mouthfeel is silky, warming, rich and completely coating. Brilliant complexity.
This one seriously hit the spot and was a clever choice to build around botrytis Viognier. Plenty of sticky sweetness with classic botrytis characteristics: almost like a good olorosso or other sticky sherry it is honey sweet and sticky with layers of complexity. I would have to say, this is one of the best Tripels I’ve ever tasted. Completely and utterly brilliant.
Final Thoughts On The Series:
I have to say, it is seriously commendable for thinking outside the box with this project. It would have been so easy to go for something obvious like barrel ageing but the idea of taking botrytis Viognier, reducing it to candi- sugar and brewing with that was some ingenious thinking. The idea of designing the beer around the botrytis was also very clever as they have been able to ingrate it into the various styles, and it worked brilliantly for the most part. I don’t think it worked quite as well for the Pale Ale as it should have; there are aspects but it didn’t quite hit the brief to me. The Tripel and Imperial Porter on the other hand were absolutely outstanding with the botrytis shining brilliantly and complementing the styles perfectly. Seriously looking forward to the next series if it’s this kind of thinking and ingenuity, this kind of thinking is what makes industries move forward and think outside the boundary of their own profession. Here’s hoping this sort of experimentation continues…