Avondale Brewing Company is the focal point of Birmingham’s trendy Avondale district. It has that wonderful charm of a place you look for a reason to stop in for a pint after work. It’s not loud, the bartenders are friendly, and it always smells like they’re brewing. Located in a century old brick building that has been a myriad of things (including a brothel!), Avondale Brewing Company, or ABC, has been making quality beer since 2012.
Today, I was lucky enough to be given a bottle of their extremely limited Barrel Aged Brett Saison by their Head Brewer, Ben Solfronk. This beer isn’t too fancy in its brewing method, in that it is ABC’s standard fare saison. However, the magic comes from inoculating it with healthy doses of brettanomyces and lactobacillus and then aging for 8 months in French oak barrels.
In addition to the Brett Saison, ABC has also put out their own lambic, dubbed a Birminghambic, and they plan on more unique offerings in the future. Ben told me that he’s not really sure what they are going to release from their next batch of barrels, but that “they have a lot of stuff in barrels right now and are going to be getting into them really soon.” I can’t wait. Now on to this Brett Saison!
It pours clean and clear, with a golden hue, but a minimal head. What head there was dissipated quickly, but a slight swirl in my 10oz goblet roused the carbonation easily.
The aroma has an immediate blast that’s tart and lemony, but with a definite underlying sweatiness from the Brett that adds complexity. No “horse blanket” here, but just a nice funky citrus. There is just a touch of wood, but it’s very faint and barely perceptible. There is no hop aroma and no malt.
The taste is as complex as it is big. The tartness is up front, but that immediately morphs into the more deep and complex flavor that the Brett imparts. I wasn’t told what strain was used, but I suspect it was brettanomyces bruxellensis. The acetic tartness is not mouth puckering, but it does seem to stimulate every single one of the taste buds on your tongue.
There is a lot of fruit in this beer. Apples, oranges, and even white grapes are readily apparent, but the funky, sweaty character of the Brett stands up to that fruit and makes this a very nice and multifaceted beer to sip. Medium-light bodied, I would have liked to have had more carbonation to give it a more bit more effervescence and bite. It wasn’t flat, but it certainly didn’t have the head that most Belgian style beers such as this will showcase.
The complexity and just the clean nature of this beer make it the ultimate sipper to appreciate what Brett can do. If you can get your hands on a bottle and you are unfamiliar with brettanomyces, try ordering a regular Spring Street Saison and sipping them together for comparison, just to see what those wonderful Brett bugs can do to a beer. I can’t wait to see what comes out of Avondale’s next batch of barrels!