Join the ranks of the beer-obsessed and suddenly your calendar is inundated by notable events. You’ve got to squeeze in that epic pilgrimage to Russian River to join the line of hop-heads waiting to taste Pliny the Younger. Then there’s Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds, and the annual Savor Craft Beer event in Washington, D.C
. the problem soon becomes less about trying to find something to do and more an issue of finding the time—and money—to do it all.
Seasonal beers speak to the heart of what makes craft beer so special. The limited-release brews originate from a particular time and place—the heady confluence of seasonal ingredients, the perfect mixture of climate and barrel-aging, and of course the salivating anticipation of knowing something really good is coming soon.
Such is the case with Odell’s annual Friek, which drops each year in late November, an anniversary that’s celebrated at the Fort Collins, Colo. taproom with live music, special food pairings, and lots and lots of the beer.
This lambic-style ale is fermented with wild yeast and sour cherries before being moved to oak barrels and then aged to let the fruit’s tartness really come to the fore. Then, just prior to the final blending, they toss in a bunch of framboises, delicious wild raspberries from Colorado. This results in a bright, somewhat bracing mixture of funk and fruit, with a defined, deep backbone from the oak barrels.
The beer sizzles with carbonation when first poured, and a bubbly head disappears in the blink of any eye, save for a thin film that floats in the glass like a cloud. You get the expected burst of dried cherries and raspberries on the nose, floating over a deep copper color that seems lifted from some Renaissance painting. The brightness hits your tongue, bursts of tart fruit, a slight funk, and acidity that develops as the glass warms. The wood comes through as well, controlling the vibrant flavors to create a balanced mixture of sweet and sour, without a hint of hoppiness, to deliver a smooth and refreshing finish.
Better still, like most seasonal offerings, the Friek’s release in late fall is perfectly timed with the holidays—the beer pairs nicely with the robust, rich meals that weigh us down each December.
City: Fort Collins, Colorado
ABV: 6.5 percent
Availability: Limited Release Late November, 750ML bottles