Until recently, acquiring one of Crux Fermentation Project’s beers required the good fortune of living in Oregon, Washington, and parts of southern Idaho—or attending one of the occasional tap take-over events scattered throughout the country. But that’s about to change. This May, the Bend-based brewery announced that they’re widening their distribution to include Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, NYC, Vermont, and Maine, bringing former Deschutes master brewer Larry Sidor’s brews to a whole bunch of thirsty craft consumers.
This is a decidedly good thing. And while all the beers in the brewery’s arsenal deserve attention in this crowded marketplace (especially the Cast Out IPA, made with galaxy hops from Australia), serious beer aficionados should keep their eyes peeled for their Banished series, where Sidor and company delve into their love of barrel-aging.
Witness In the Pocket, a barrel-aged rustic saison brewed with brettanomyces, released this April as the fourth beer in the Banished line. The ale is a blend of two imperial saisons, a younger version fermented with brett lambicus and bruxellensis, and an older saison first fermented with a saison yeast, and then aged for 16 months in red wine barrels sourced from Northwest.
Its name alludes to slang used by jazz musicians for when a player falls into a perfect groove, and the reference is apt. There’s a lot going on here. It pours a deep gold, with modest effervescence and hints of fruit on the nose, an impression that carries through on the palate. A pleasant, sour tartness, partners nicely with the oaky notes from the barrel. The beer delivers pear, citrus, but with a strong backbone of brightness typical to saison, and whispers of tannins at the finish. The complex yet smooth brew belies its 9.9% ABV. It’s a perfect illustration of what a wild/sour ale can really accomplish. Here’s hoping some of the one-offs currently on offer at their tap room in Bend, OR—the Albarino Sour, the Pinot Gris Sour, and the Viognier Sour—soon join the roster of these now-more-widely-distributed large-format bottles.
Brewery: Crux Fermentation Project
City: Bend, OR
Availability: 750 ml bottle, draft