For Brugge's fifth anniversary, the legendary Diamond Kings was brought out for all to try. If you've ever had this beer, it's a powerful and complex sour ale that ranks right up there with what Russian River is doing. We've reviewed it before, so we won't be visiting it again in this post. Instead, we chose to take on Spider, a newcomer to Brugge's sour beer portfolio. At first look, Spider is not a sour beer. Spider is a pitch black ale. When you draw closer, the sharp, tart, vinegary fragrance of a sour ale jumps right out, complemented by a sweet concord grape sensation. Spider now has the definitive aroma of a Belgian lambic, despite its odd hue. At first sip, the sourness is puckering, much like Diamond Kings. Sour grapes and a citric acidity are the notable fruit sensations. A roasted, cocoa middle lies just beneath the dominating acetic experience, which is quite unique in this beer. Continuing on the transition from sour fruits to roasted elements, a dry coffee and oak finish cleanses the palate leaving only a faint sour twist on the tongue.
Spider is certainly a sour ale unlike any I've had before. If you're a fan of lambics and sours and enjoy their underlying complexity, Spider offers up an enjoyable pairing of sour yeast, Belgian fruits and chocolate undertones. I would highly recommend this beer and hope that it becomes a yearly offering.
My own history with Brugge runs parallel to my history with Hoosier Beer Geek. My first KOTBR review was of Brugge's Quadripple, and over the course of six reviews - Quadripple, Impérial, Thunder Monkey, Tripel de Ripple, Bad Kitty and Diamond Kings - the lowest score I've ever given one of Brugge brewer/owner Ted Miller's beers is 3.85 mugs. Truth be told (and no offense meant to any others), Brugge is not just my favorite brewery, but perhaps (along with Pizzology) my favorite restaurant. Getting to know the people behind the effort has been extremely rewarding.
It wasn't so long ago that we reviewed Brugge's Diamond Kings - a beer that carries so much hype amongst the group that it's possible that there's nothing we'd rather (collectively, and not counting Jason) have a bottle of.
Well, until now.
Ted's latest effort continues and expands upon the ideas established in Diamond Kings. Spider, a 1/3 Tripel de Ripple + 2/3 Hibernal Black blend aged in a chardonnay barrel on the same Brettanomyces yeast used in Diamond Kings, is a sour beer unlike any I've had before. A chocolate nose gives way to oakey flavors, accompanied by tart chocolate, a hint of maple syrup, and a vanilla finish.
Ted calls Spider "one of the three best beers I've ever made", and from my three plus years of Brugge experience, I'd agree. He promises that someday these beers will be bottled for public consumption - sure, you've heard that before - but however long it takes, it's worth the wait. 4.8 Mugs.
On first glance Brugge Spider pours dark and thick, not unlike their Black. It has a very slight toffee colored head and has a big chocolate nose with a sour tang to it. It's very funky, very Belgian. On first sip I'm overwhelmed with the chocolaty sweetness of this beer that is balanced with the lactic acid kick of a nice lemonade. I mean this in the nicest way possible - the boys at Brugge have somehow combined Nestle's Nesquik and Lemonade into a Belgian taste experience that leaves me craving more.
This Spider is one that is totally delicious but completely wacky. I give it 4.6 mugs.
Jess: 4.6 Mugs | Rodney: 4.5 Mugs | Mike: 4.8 Mugs | Gina: 4.5 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.6 Mugs