Like many others, my introduction to San Diego’s Council Brewing Company was through the brewery’s sizeable Beatitude Tart Saison series. The outfit has crafted over a dozen versions of the beer with a number of different fruits alongside a few dry-hopped installments. I have tasted a handful in the series and those all consistently showcase the fruit listed on the label with base beer that’s fermented with a blend of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Saison yeasts.
Last month, Council released a higher ABV Beatitude brewed with boysenberries. This Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Tart Saison pours a deep purple that’s near black in appearance. It certainly resembles the fruit with which the beer is brewed, that’s for sure. There’s a thin, perfectly white head when you first pour, but it disappears entirely once the beer settles in the glass. The nose is loaded with boysenberry aroma as well, a tart smell that’s equal parts raspberry and blackberry. You start to get a hint of what’s about to hit your palette.
I can only recall a few bourbon barrel aged sours that I have had in the past, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect here. What I encountered was an eye-opener. On the first sip, this beer delivers a punch you expect from a pour of a Cascade or Jester King fruited sour. It might be a tart saison by name, but this is a full-on sour ale. There’s plenty of tart pucker, but there’s also a ton of fruit flavor and some barrel character on the back end. It’s a very balanced, yet significantly sour brew. This imperial version on the Beatitude series is considerably more sour than the more readily available options. That’s not a bad thing at all, but if you think those are sour enough, this might be too much for you.
A few sips in, I start to get a bit more oaky vanilla flavor from the barrel-aging process. The jammy berry flavors remain throughout as well, which helps cut through the sourness of the beer. This is also deceptively easy to drink for near 10%. About half-way through a 12-ounce pour, I started to feel it. Admittedly, I wasn’t taking my time drinking this glass of tart berry jam. Just remember to pace yourself here, because once you get started, it’s easier said than done.
If you’re familiar with Council’s other Beatitude beers, “imperial” is good way to describe this barrel-aged Boysenberry version. Not only is it twice the ABV, but it’s also a lot more sour than those brews. If you’re new to sours beers, I recommend you start with the non-barrel-aged offerings first. They offer a good introduction to the style that’s more tart than sour which makes them a bit more approachable for most folks. However, sour fans should consider giving this brewery-only imperial release a good long look. It’s truly a stunning beer and as of this writing, it’s still available at the brewery’s tap room.
Brewery: Council Brewing Company
City: San Diego, California
Style: Sour Ale
Availability: Brewery only, 750ml bottles
Billy is the host of The Brewcast, a beer podcast that never records on a regular schedule. You can follow his drinking habit @beardbrews on Twitter.