Spinnakers’ barrel-aged sour smells like delicious wet leather

Written by Rob Mangelsdorf

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Photo: The Growler

When Spinnakers Brewpub opened in Victoria 34 years ago, there was little indication that it would help spark a craft beer revolution not only here in Canada, but the U.S. as well. Story goes that Spinnakers served as an inspiration for brewers in Oregon to push for changes in state law to allow for the manufacturing and sale of beer in the same premises, thus permitting the modern brewpub.

More than a third of century later (and after recently recovering from an unfortunate fire), Spinnakers is still on the cutting edge, as is evidenced by their Brewer’s Reserve series.

The first two instalments are barrel-aged sours: Prunus is brewed with locally-grown plums (and named for the Latin genus of the fruit), while Rubus is flavoured with locally foraged blackberries (ditto).

Barrel-aged sours can be somewhat intimidating beers. For the uninitiated, the intense acidity, funky brett notes and punishingly high ABV can be off-putting. Storm Brewing’s Imperial Flanders Red Ale (11% ABV!), for instance, could probably be used as a salad dressing. Not for the faint of heart.

However, with Prunus, Spinnakers has done a bloody marvellous job of creating a barrel-aged sour that is not only approachable, but very well-balanced. Which is not something you see too often.

The beer is a blend of golden and brown ales that had been barrel-soured for a year, then spiked with Saanich-grown plums and back in the barrel to age for another four months. The method is typical of sours you’d traditionally find in Belgium or the Netherlands, but the execution, the balance, even the strength, is almost British in nature.

At 4.8% ABV, this is a complex, flavourful, refreshing beer that you can drink all day long. I think anyone with taste buds will appreciate this.

Spinnakers Brewpub’s Prunus Plum Sour (4.8% ABV, 2 IBU)

Appearance: Light hazy brown, with a thin, almost non-existent off-white head

Aroma: Dark fruit, vinegar, wet leather,

Flavour: Plum, dried apricot, tart acidity, subtle caramel malt character, mild funk, leather, oak, mild tannins, a hint of vanilla.

Body: Light bodied with a bright, tart finish and touch of lingering funk.

Pairs with: Cioppino, a kickass burger with blue cheese and caramelized onions, and cozying up in a leather chair with a blanket and an old book.

For more craft beer goodness, visit thegrowler.ca