Wednesday, February 20, 2013

RU-55 Barrel-Aged Flanders Red Ale | Jester King Brewing | Austin, TX

Sour ales are complicated little bastards.  They have these weird little arrangements, like an Animal Collective album that is 15 minutes too long but skillfully hypnotizes as the progression unfurls through the denouement before you realize how much you ... wait ... yeah ... how much you just love it.

Its an odd breakthrough, sours.  In regards to the American palate, they were originally but novelty beers designed to expand the hierarchy of sacraments for true beer dweebery.  Those who loved them proved themselves to be worthy of the highest communion of beer.

But quickly, sour ale brewers in The States improved their experimentation methods to about the level of a nice, Belgian knockoff.  While fun and quite-nearly even delicious, the majority of American sours were incomparable to the lambics, guezes, krieks, framboise, and flanders from our Flemish brothers-in-beer across the Atlantic.

But then -- and not nearly as long as one would imagine -- novice wild ale brewers in America became master wild ale brewers in America, a precedent set by the folks in Santa Rosa, establishing a template for expectations by brewers and tasters alike.  As it stands now, even the third largest micro-brewery in the United States (seventh largest overall), has a dedicated Lips of Faith series that mostly honors the American Wild Ale.  And although only a percentage are brewed as sours ales, the ones that are, are universally considered amongst the best sour beers on Earth.

Its fascinating the way Americans -- who were forever ago, disposed to gentle-flavored beer -- trained its collective palate to generally embrace sours the way one would train himself to hold his temper in traffic or how to not whack it all the time.  It was a difficult pursuit, but here we are, on the verge of a full-on sour jihad against hoppy beers.

Or has it always been that?   After all, this is the generation that was raised on Fruit Roll-Ups and Boone's Farm for school lunch.  Acids tighten the screws of our calloused salivaries like purple nurples.  The more tart, the better it is, we might think -- maybe because we've always had our inner Fleming unmolested by beer, and instead shitty fruit candy and shittier fruit wine.  We've not yet begun to discover our threshold for sours.

It's like Sir-Mix-Alot opined, I spot four bad ass sours in a Tercel, They said what's up? And I said whassup?  And then everyone gets in and drives to Houston, or some shit like that.  Its like this, Jester King is the best sour beer brewer in the South/Southwest.  And so its like, whassup Buddha's Brew, Das Uberkind!, Das Wonderkind!, Boxer's Revenge?   Four bootays in a Toyota that everyone should be creepin on.

And while all of those all sours that are gorgeously fuzzy and noisy and complicated -- like listening to Biz Markie through a couch cushion -- what about one with less clatter?

Enter Jester King's RU-55.  The brewery's delicate Serge Gainsbourg chanson.  A sour ale without all the beat boxing and uhg-huh-ugh-ugh-gugh-ugh-ugh-guh-guh-huh-ghhhhhhhhhhnnnng.

Turns out that, after some minor sluething, I've discovering that this beer may actually be pronounced "Russ", and not my own awkward decoding of the symbols as "Are-You-55" -- because, well, that sounds kind of stupid, and "Russ" actually sounds better I think.  Still, if you go into a shop, go ahead and use my colloquial interpretation because you don't want to come off like a hubrish dick to make a point.  Avoid offending the gate keepers of this beer because it is very simply, a MUST HAVE.  So just shut the hell up, order it Soup Nazi-syle, and save all your 'Russing' for home, because frankly, this is Texas' Consecration, the La Folie of La Tejas.  Trust me, its that fucking good.

RU-55 is sort of like a firework -- the taste pretty much explodes with sour cherry tartness up high, then delightfully fizzles out with sweet, jammy raspberries, just before snaking down your tonsils for a nice, deep-dicking of the glands.  There is a shit load to work with here.  A lot to consider.  Go find that b-oh-oh-t-a-y.

(One looong parenthetical note here, possibly inconsequential, but worth knowing:  The first time I opened a RU-55, it had this cap on it:

The second time, it had this cap:

There was a fairly significant difference between the two, with the first being much more tart and textured, and the second a bit undercarbonated and diluted.  I don't know if there is a difference in the seal, or production, or whatever ... but I've read elsewhere that this could be a dilineation between a good batch and a better batch.  Look for bottle cap number 1, if possible. {-AA}.)

ABV 7.3%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? It's limited, but its still out there. And will likely come back again. 
Album Serge Gainsbourg | Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg (1969)

Note: you can also read more [AA] masterpieces on the Austinist and BlockAvenue, so go support craft beer there too.

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