Otter Creek, Quercus Vitis Humulus

Grade: A-
Otter Creek Brewing Co.

Pours a nice bright red, with tinges of brown at the edges. An offwhite head forms quickly, but dissipates into a coating after a few seconds. Banana, peach, earth, and vanilla mix in the aroma. There are some fusel, slightly plastic off-notes there as well. The mouthfeel is medium to a little thick, the carbonation kicking up a little tingle. The oak plays tricks with the mouthfeel, adding a slight tannic, drying element that is rather enjoyable. It adds a dimension to beer that usually only exists in wine.

The flavor is complex, but not overwhelming or unbalanced. The yeast throws a lot of the banana, fruit, and clove-spice that you might expect from a Bavarian lager. The juice from the wine grapes add vinocity and a little acidity, which play really well with the slight plum and date notes from the yeast. The alcohol is very big in this beer (12%), but you only notice it from the warming sensation as you drink. The complexities of this beer are many and varied, changing with every sip. Sometimes it's the elements of the barleywine that comes through, sometimes the grape juice, sometimes the oak; even the champagne yeast used to finish the beer comes through.

For Otter Creek to put out a beer this complex, this mature, this daring, is completely unusual of the brand. They have been known for solid ales in their production lineup, and even a few winners in their limited edition 22oz series. However this beer tops them all in design, execution, and thought process. A surprise, but a welcome surprise. For a jaded beer drinker such as yours truly, this is a wonderful, weird, and crazy deviation from the norm. Would I drink another pint of this? Perhaps not. The alcohol level alone would relegate me to a snifter-full. But sip for sip, I would suggest this to any beer-geek who has been bored by the endless parade of imperial stouts and double IPAs on the market.