Monday, June 11, 2012

517. Cigar City Guava Grove

Our friend Jeff came over for dinner this evening, and he was strapped with liquid gold. After a couple of preliminary beers to open the evening, he pulled this out—he said he’d been saving it for us to try since he went down to Tampa a year ago (same trip that brought the José Martí American Porter into our lives). So we cracked that sucker and got down to business. Tragically, this is only our second beer from Cigar City (well, that we’ve blogged about—there may have been others we kept a secret); the last one was José Martí American Porter, and it was delicious as well. Methinks we need to go to Tampa.

Guava Grove pours a crystal clear dark urine color—pretty much the color you’d find in the morning after a night of drinking—with a profuse creamy tan head fed by the streaming small bubbles up the side of the glass. I did get mocked for my color description; Jeff called it a buttery caramel edging on copper, which certainly sounds prettier, while Elli just shook her head. The nose was fantastic: dirty band aid mixed with tropical fruit. The balance between the tart and acetic character sour character was fantastic—it did get more citric as it warmed. As well, while the nose (and the flavor) was reminiscent of a Flanders Red-esque beer, most of this appears to be fruit derived rather than yeast derived: Jeff called this bottle much much much more approachable than the bottle he had a year ago in regards to the tartness. So doubly interesting. Anyway, flavors open with fruit and candy of the tropical/passion fruit variety. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this is the guava, but never having had guava, I don’t want to lay claim to that which I don’t know. The sharp tartness starts in the front and builds into the middle, leaving the tongue dry and clean; with warmth, this shifts more towards a clean citric tartness. The finish is slightly creamy and tart, but with a mineral tang that gets left on the tongue. Underlying this profile, there is also a soft malt character that is slightly chewy. There is a lot of contradiction in this beer: the beer is soft on the palate while simultaneously tangy and tart on the tongue, and the mouthfeel is light, sharp, tart, but clean. Whatever it is, it is fantastic—it left small sweaty rosettes on my cheeks from the sourness, which is always a good hallmark for any sour beer in my book, even if this is not a yeast-derived sour beer. If that actually is the case, I’m certain this beer has fooled many an unsuspecting drinker. It is also hard to detect the saison characteristics underneath the fruit and tartness; regardless, it is a delicious and delightful treat. If we had one, we’d give Cigar City the official what we’re drinking seal of approval. Money in the bank!

Update: Looks like I was wrong. I e-mailed Cigar City regarding the yeast and process, and got the following reply from Wayne Wambles, Cigar City’s head brewer: “Initially, we used what we thought was just a mutated biere de garde strain. Come to find had brux in it. So the very first batch that we made was what I believed to be fruit tartness but in actuality did have a small amount of brux in it. The following year it became outrageous. The owner decided to use a 30 bbl horizontal dairy tank that we bought to initially use as a cold liquor tank but decided that the footprint was too big. It was a big open fermenter that had no cooling apparatus. We used the same yeast as year one but this time we knew we were using brux. Things went well during the colder months. I was washing the yeast with chlorine dioxide between pitches to kill the bacteria and allowing the brett and mutant strain to be the top dogs. The weather became much warmer as we moved into summer and acetobacter started to become more prominent. It eventually became so forward that we had to cease production in this particular fermenter. The following year, we switched to a clean saison strain and stayed the course.” Thanks, Wayne! Looks like we need to score a bottle of the new, clean version to compare with the older version.

Photo by Phil Farrell

From the bottle: “Guava Grove is a Belgian-style ale that sees a secondary fermentation and extended aging on one of Tampa’s favored fruits, Guava. The complex flavors imparted by both the Belgian yeast strain and the Guava are unlike anything you are likely to encounter in other beers. The flavor is a complex weave of banana, guava, and tropical fruit with hints of clove. This elegant beer pairs well with fresh fish, mussels, fresh tropical fruits, and earthy cheeses. It also makes a fine accompaniment to Guavaween festivities.”

From the Cigar City website: “One of Tampa’s nicknames in addition to the Cigar City is the Big Guava. It earned the moniker from local newspaper columnist Steve Otto in the 1970's. The nickname eventually gave rise to one of Ybor City's most popular annual events, Guavaween. We brew Guava Grove in tribute to Tampa’s fruity nickname. Guava Grove is brewed with a French strain of Saison yeast and sees a secondary fermentation on pink guava puree.”

ABV: 8%
IBU: 18


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