There are very few traditional European beer styles that haven’t been embraced by some portion of the American craft brewing community. There are even brewers in the U.S. who research old recipes that had fallen out of favor decades ago in order to inject new life into previously extinct beers. While much of the beer brewed in Europe comes from centuries of brewing tradition, there are many breweries who continue to innovate. One result of this innovation is the biere de champagne style, a strong Belgian pale ale that is refermented and cellared similar to a French champagne. The resulting beer is effervescent and highly carbonated, with the dry finish you would expect from some varieties of spakling wine. Relatively few American brewers have embraced this style, it seems like a significant process and investment to brew, referment and age the beer. Enlightenment Ales in Everett, MA was founded in part to brew an American biere de champagne. Enlightenment founder Ben Howe learned about the style while working at Cambridge Brewing Company, and set off to start his own brewery with biere de champagne as the flagship beer. Since then Enlightenment merged with Idle Hands in Everett, expanding capacity and letting Ben focus on making great beer. Enlightenment Biere Brut is available semi-regularly in 750 mL champagne bottles. I found a bottle and saved it for my New Year’s Eve celebration. I felt like it was the proper way for a craft beer enthusiast to ring in the New Year in style (I even drank out of a champagne flute!). Happy 2015, look for some updates on the direction of the blog this weekend!
Enlightenment Biere Brut pours a straw yellow with a massive white head and some serious carbonation. The scent is mostly yeast esters, spicy and fruity. The yeast leads the flavor too, notes of pepper, pear and must. There are some bready malts that add just a touch of sweetness. The beer drinks somewhat like a champagne with the light body and high carbonation that results in the bubbly mouthfeel that sparkling wine is known for. The one quibble I would have is the finish, you get a lot of the fruity esters at the end where a small amount of additional hops would have dried it out, similar to a Brut champagne (I’m not sure that is traditional for the style, just a thought). The beer does drink pretty easy for 11% ABV, but I recommend sharing a 750 mL bottle with a friend. This is a very interesting beer. I’m a little surprised the style hasn’t caught on with American craft brewers, but it must be kind of a pain to make. It is worth trying for the uniqueness alone, and a great alternative to champagne for a celebration. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Enlightenment Reviews: