07 November 2011

KOTBR # 136 | Trinity, Part 1

We at Hoosier Beer Geek try to do our best to promote locally- and regionally-brewed beers. Though I haven't looked at the statistics, I'm pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of beers we've reviewed are either brewed in Indiana or can be purchased in Indiana.

But sometimes, craft beer that can't be bought in-state just falls into our hands. In this case, while Matt and Rod were out in Colorado for GABF, they visited Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs and brought back eight 750 ml seasonals from the brewery. So we decided to sit down last week and roundtable four of them. Our reviews of the remaining four will be coming in the near future.

Before we go any further, we wish to emphasize that we're not trying to rub in the fact that we drank a bunch of outstanding beer that you can't have. In fact, we realize that Colorado is a prime craft beer destination and that some of you might travel there in the future. Thus, we want you to be well-informed about the beer choices that you might be facing. And besides, you can still obtain Trinity's beers even if you don't travel to Colorado, though it may take some ingenuity to get them (e.g., finding the right connections in the burgeoning beer trading market). So here's the first part of our Trinity review.

Farmhouse Provisional Saison - Pours pale yellow, a bit cloudy. Nose is herbal and flowery with notes of oak. Flavor reveals oak, lavender, and oregano. Not really heavy on the peppery notes like many saisons, which suits my palate just fine. I dig it. 4.00 Mugs.

Double Rainbow Saison - Copper coloring. Nose is dominated by banana notes. Mouthfeel is a bit slippery; flavor reveals berries, bananas, and herbs. A busy beer all around. Not very saison-like to me. Tastes more like a fruity dubbel. 4.20 Mugs.

TPS Report - Cloudy, pale yellow coloring. Funky, barnyard-like nose with a back note of rubber (which is not unpleasant, actually). On the softer side of tartness; more citrus tartness than acetic tartness. I like the name of this beer, which is a nod to the movie Office Space for those of you who haven't had the privilege of viewing that fine film. 4.20 Mugs.

Old Growth - Pours a dark, reddish brown. Acetic/fingernail polish nose backed by oak notes. The flavor is on the acetic side and is the kind of sour that makes your salivary glands cry for mercy (in a good way). The sourness carries faint chocolate and cherry notes as well. I first had this beer at Dark Lord Day 2010 and thought it was outstanding then. This experience was the same. Earns only a B- on Beer Advocate, which I don't understand. Those people are nuts. 4.80 Mugs.

When I think of the word Trinity, I think of Scooby Doo. I know I am not the only one, Jim. But the three sides of Trinity Brewing Co.’s are a little more my cup of tea, or beer, in this case. The trinity for Trinity is Artisanal Beers, Slow Food, and Good People. Sounds like a great time to me.

Trinity is a very small brewery making a pretty wide range of styles. They have a house lineup consisting of a few random things, like a coffee stout. A year round coffee stout: sign me up for that, please. But among their regular lineup is a range of belgian-inspired beverages. Here’s what I thought of our samplings:

Farmhouse Provisional - I wasn’t too sure about this one at first. The nose at first was citrus and funk, which I dug, but the flavor went a bit off the deep end for me. Not with intensity, but with some medicinal phenols that I seem to be particularly sensitive to. However, as it warmed up, the flavor morphed into a lovely bouquet of lavender and herbs. 3.66 Mugs

Double Rainbow - The nose reminded me of Sprees and bananas. Slightly tart and fruity. The flavor was quite spectacular, like a wild strawberry, but very mild. I failed to read all of the ingredients that were listed on the bottle, but there were a ton of them. Sprees, bananas, nor wild strawberries were any of those ingredients. Take my review however you will. 3.8 Mugs

TPS Report - The first thing I will say about this beer is that I kept going back, sip after sip. When I was finished, I wanted more of it.  It had a little earthy funk to it, and it also reminded me of a natural (unbuttered, of course) popcorn. That was rounded out by a citrus finish.  From the scores, it looks like we all wanted to show it the "O" face.  4.1 Mugs

Old Growth - I had a tiny bit of this beer two years ago at Dark Lord Day. The fact that I have a clear recollection of this beer says one of two things, probably - that the beer was pretty damned amazing, or I might know how to keep myself from passing out in a flowerbed. I'm pretty sure it's the first, but the second isn't probably far off as of late. This beer is super funky and sour, but it seemed to be like there was a little bit of chocolate flavor on the front that melts into the sour. I am a huge fan of the mouth-puckering sourness in this beer and its drying finish. 4.3 Mugs

The explanation that Matt gave of Trinity as I remember it: "They do mostly saisons, weird stuff in barrels, everything they bottle costs $100."

I've probably got most of that wrong. In any case, I had no idea what to expect from this brewery. If we suffer from anything locally it's a lack of old and/or wacky style beer. I'm all for stuff that's nothing like I can find at the bars I frequent.

Farmhouse Provisional Saisons sometimes have this thing.. this "Grandma's tiny decorative hand soaps" thing. Maybe your grandma didn't decorate her bathroom with tiny soaps in the shapes of shells and flowers, but mine did, and the flowery scents that came off those things sometimes show up in the beers I drink. That's not a complaint; I miss those soaps and the innocence washed away with them.

Hoping that a beer brings back your childhood is probably a lot to ask. Luckily this one also had a hint of pineapple. My grandma hated pineapple. 3.5 Mugs

Double Rainbow - The minute I mention hippies on this site I get email from some guy down south insulting me. Never fails.

Of course I'm not going to go out of my way to insult hippies, and everything I write is a joke (you should see my newspaper work), but this double rainbow thing.. I don't always get the internet - unless it's Puppies vs. Babies, but that's the internet filtered through television.

In the world of Puppies vs. Babies, Double Rainbow is neither. But it does have a grape candy plus licorice plus chalky-pepto-bismol sort of thing going - fruit plus medicine. It's big and biting, and reminded me of soda suicides. Interesting and stupid. 3.1 Mugs

TPS Reports - I saw Office Space at the theater on the weekend it came out. I was underwhelmed. Of course once anything is beaten into your head it feels like it belongs there, and... well I'm still not a fan of the movie. I "get" it, it's just that I don't like to be reminded of work. Who likes to be reminded of work?

The beer, on the other hand, was pretty similar to Farmhouse Provisional, but with fewer flowers, an easier-to-drink flavor, and an agreeable tartness. 3.8 Mugs

Old Growth Dr. Seuss bottle. The funkiest of funky noses. A giant tart bite on front, and then.. tootsie roll? I can appreciate this. I always liked those fruit tootsie rolls most. Except the banana variety. Fuck the banana variety. 4.4 Mugs

Matt and I have a bit of a love affair with Trinity.  It all started two GABFs ago when we visited Trinity at every session just to drink The Flavor over and over.  It was actually really nice, because the beer was outstanding and the general public didn't know about them so they didn't really have a line.  If you had the opportunity to drink an awesome sour over and over for free when it retails for over $30, wouldn't you?  When we visited the brewpub this year, we found out that it's not just The Flavor that's pretty expensive, it's all of their bottled beer.  All of the locals in the bar kept looking at our box of champagne bottles as if to say "you're seriously buying all of that?"  We were, and this is its story.

Farmhouse Provisional - This smells exactly like you expect a saison to smell.  It has that wonderful barnyard-funk-meets-hay aroma, coupled with lemon and white pepper.  Despite the huge nose, the flavor of the beer was surprisingly mild.  So mild, that at first sip I almost didn't taste anything, but it came around.  This was a very flowery beer, with lavender being the most noticeable element.  The tartness was light and the lemon was reminiscent of lemon zest instead of lemon juice, while the sweetness came from very balanced honey notes.  Overall, it reminded me of a slightly more tart and less sweet version of the honey lemonade they sell at the state fair.  Super drinkable.  3.8 Mugs

Double Rainbow - Ok, seriously, what the hell?  Reading this bottle gives you the impression that the beer is going to be a retarded trainwreck of flavors.  The idea here is that each color of the rainbow represents a flavor, but it's a double rainbow so each color represents two flavors.  Red was saffron and rose hips, Orange was pumpkin and tangerine, Yellow was turmeric and honey, Green was green peppercorns and parsley, Blue was blue corn and blue agave nectar, Indigo was purple barley and Syrah grapes and finally Violet was violet blossoms and roasted eggplant.

At this point you're surely thinking that this beer is going to be terrible.  But it wasn't.  It was actually really good.  Despite everything going on here, the aroma was of red raspberries, raisins, red wine and rose hips.  Well at least two of those were ingredients, so that makes sense.  The beer was filled with flavors of like red raspberries, sherry, orange, figs and a moderate warming alcohol.  Everything was actually really well balanced.  It reminded me of a stronger version of the New Glarus Raspberry Tart.  For all of the stupid crap going on in this beer, I really enjoyed it.  And I couldn't taste any eggplant.  3.9 Mugs

TPS Report - PC Load Letter?  What the fuck does that mean?  If I had to pick a style for TPS Report, I would guess it was a Berliner Weisse. Although it's probably a Saison, because it seems like everything is a Saison.  The characteristic barnyard funk was back in the nose, but this one was accompanied by a distinct sour aroma.  Maybe lemons.  This was another beer that was surprisingly light and not nearly as tart as I expected it to be.  Lemons and honey again in the flavor, but not in the same way as Farmhouse Provisional.  This one was definitely closer to a mild version of a Berliner Weisse.  3.9 Mugs

Old Growth - Nose destroying, mouth crushing sour.  This is a sour beer for people who are crazy about sour beers.  Right off the bat it just smells like acetone and vinegar.  No complex fruits or barnyard animals.  Just sour.  Luckily the beer itself had some rich, red fruits going on.  Raspberries and strawberries came to mind.  But make no mistake, the primary experience here is a huge, mouth puckering sour slap to the face.  I don't imagine this is a beer that you can "kind of like" - you're either going to love this or hate it.  I loved it.  4.2 Mugs

As Rodney already stated I really fell for Trinity at GABF two years ago.  I think Saturday night session of GABF is the worst shit-show of a beer festival, but Rod and I both went back to the Saturday night session just to drink more of their beer.  This year as GABF we jumped off the plane and jumped in a rental car and headed right for Colorado Springs to hit Trinity.  I am drawn to places that are doing something different or creative.  One of my gripes about the rise of craft beer and the many new breweries coming online is how many more browns, pales, or reds do we need in the world?  I am also price sensitive on beer prices and Trinity isn't cheap. Normally I just about always pass on beer when it hits the $15 dollar a bomber price, but Trinity is doing something unique and it tastes delicious.  I don't have a problem spending money when creativity and deliciousness comes into play.  I don't understand why I have problems spending money on clothes, but put a good meal in front of me and I will pay for it without much thought.  Onto the beer:

Farmhouse Provisional - Here is what Trinity says about the beer:

Farmhouse Provisional: If you ever wanted to time and space travel to rural southern Belgium during the 1800’s, this is the beer to do it with. The malt bill consists of a combination of barley, oats, wheat, rye and spelt. For the fermentation we use a blend of Saison yeast with wild Brettanomyces, then we spice this beer with lavender and age it on French oak. 6.5% ABV 

The lavender was the main smell upfront with a musty-barnyard-funk and wheat on the backend.  The flavor though was really balanced among the tartness, wheat, and soft lavender flavor.  I didn't pick up much of the oak barrel, but this was a really pleasant drinker that just begged to be paired with food.  This beer would very much be welcomed at about any time for me.  3.5 Mugs

Double Rainbow - I liked the idea of two different ingredients from each color of the rainbow.  When was the last time you had a beer with torched roasted eggplant? I applaud them for the effort that must have gone into this beer. With everything that went into this beer I couldn't really pick out any of the flavors individually, but that isn't a bad thing.  What was left was a combination of dark fruit (figs and plums) and sweet red fruit flavors (strawberries, cherries, and raspberries).  This was a cool experiment that I think went right.  3.9 Mugs

TPS Report - This was one of the first beers I had from them at GABF.  It was recommended we start with this beer and it is the most approachable of the wild beers that Trinity makes. This beer is only 4.8% ABV and it is a drinker.  I find this more of a nice table beer than anything else.  The trend in the sour beer arena seems to be moving to who can slap you in the face the most with mouth puckering tartness, but this is a beer that is a drinker and I would like to think that is more of what  the Belgians had in mind when they first started making open air fermented wild beer. This beer reminded me of what I would have thought was a wild Belgian wit to be honest. It reminded me a of wit base anyway. It smelled a bit sour, but the flavor profile is tart with hints of lemon and cherries.  This is the kind of beer I want in the summer like I enjoy Berliner Weisse beers in the summer.4.0 Mugs

Old Growth - This is the one I was really looking forward to enjoying.  My buddy Dan brought this beer to Dark Lord day several years back and this was the first beer I ever had from Trinity.  This one is the mouth puckering sour that many people are really looking for out of of US craft brewers. The nose is full on acetone and vinegar, but luckily the flavor doesn't taste like that.  The flavor is still mouth puckeringly sour, but more complex flavors of chocolate and funky dark fruit flavors.  This is the sour beer that sour heads are looking if they enjoy the full on sour experience. 4.5 Mugs

Farmhouse Provisional - The nose on this beer is very floral.  I mean, seriously, this is like sticking your nose into a bouquet of flowers.  The taste begins very dry up front but finishes slightly sweet.  There's some pepper, less so than many other saisons and a dash of lemon zest for fun.  Not bad.  3.6 Mugs

Double Rainbow - Holy ingredients Batman!  How can this possibly mesh?  I don't think it does.  Lots of fruity notes -- strawberry and raspberry pop out to me, though they're not ingredients themselves -- but too much going on overall.  It's not a bad beer but this could be a negative case study in "final product is greater than the sum of its parts." 3.2 Mugs

TPS Report - Based on the nose, my notes have a quote from Matt, "That's how you do it, son."  It's certainly got the nose of an overwhelming sour beer, though that doesn't exactly follow through to the taste.  That's not a bad thing -- I'd call this an easy drinking sour, if there is such a thing. 3.9 Mugs

Old Growth - With more than a little bit of sour cherry and lots of oak, this is a great sour beer.  But man, the strong sour up front fades cleanly at the end!  That's a testament to Trinity's skill here, because I think this is such a strong sour beer that it's drinkability would be nil if it didn't finish and fade so nicely.  My notes literally say "I LOVE IT."  I could drink a ton of this and that's amazing given how acidic it is up front. 4.51 Mugs

Trinity Farmhouse Provisional Saison
Gina: 3.66 Mugs | Matt: 3.50 Mugs | Rod: 3.80 Mugs | Chris: 3.60 Mugs | Mike: 3.50
Mugs | Jim: 4.00 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.68 Mugs

Trinity Double Rainbow Saison (collaboration with Black Fox Brewing)
Gina: 3.80 Mugs | Mike: 3.10 Mugs | Chris: 3.20 Mugs | Rod: 3.90 Mugs | Matt: 3.90 Mugs | Jim: 4.20 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.68 Mugs

Trinity TPS Report Experimental Flanders Sour
Gina: 4.10 Mugs | Mike: 3.80 Mugs | Chris: 3.90 Mugs | Rod: 3.90 Mugs | Matt: 4.00 Mugs | Jim: 4.20 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.98 Mugs

Trinity Old Growth Flemish-Inspired Wild Brown
Gina: 4.30 Mugs | Mike: 4.40 Mugs | Matt: 4.50 Mugs | Chris: 4.51 Mugs | Rod: 4.20 Mugs | Jim: 4.80 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.45 Mugs

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