Peaks and Pints is sure we don’t have to tell you this, but it’s National Raisin Day. In fact, by now your raisin party is likely in full swing, and all your friends are tanked on prune juice and gin. Another memorable April 30, indeed. Anyway, raisins are tiny sundried grapes. While sunlight dries most grapes naturally in vineyards, some are mechanically dehydrated. Raisins are naturally low in fat and contain healthy nutrients. People have been enjoying raisins for as long as grapes have been growing. California produces the majority of the world’s raisin supply. In fact, the first National Raisin Day was celebrated in 1909 and promoted by the raisin growers of California. For those of you who don’t believe this moderately enjoyable snack has its own day, just ask the residents of Raisin City, California, how real the holiday is. In celebration, Peaks and Pints present a flight of raisin flavored beer we call Craft Beer Crosscut 4.30.18: A Flight of Raisin.
Between 1946 and 1992 the St. Bernardus brewery brewed the beers of the Sint-Sixtus abbey in Westvleteren. In 1992 production reverted to the abbey of Westvleteren. By some mathematical equation this means the recipe for the St. Bernardus Prior 8 originated in 1946. And to this day, this abbey beer wears the original Westvleteren yeast. On the nose, expect sturdy banana esters, moderate toffee-like malt and slight clove. It drinks like a dubbel with fruit esters (light raisins, banana, and clove) that finds a spicy counterpoint in sharp black pepper. Subtle earthy hops punctuate these malty, yeasty notes as the beer washes back.
Like barleywine, English style stock ale is a malt-focused strong ale, but it appears to predate barleywine by up to two centuries. Stock ale refers simply to beer one kept in stock, so to speak. It may have served as a so-called “keeping beer,” which in the mid- to late-nineteenth century would have been blended with a “running beer” of more recent provenance. The keeping beer supplied the alcohol while the running beer offered freshness. Three Magnets keeps a stock ale, Welwyn Garden Keeping Ale, which hits the nose with rich, dried apricot and raisin balanced with fresh oak, and even a little wintergreen. Flavor is similar, but with a roasty, caramel and molasses finish.
Brewery Ommegang’s Belgian strong dark ale Sirens’ Song is brewed with Pilsner, Midnight Wheat and soft Red Wheat malts, as well as noble hop varieties for balance. In addition to dark Belgian candi syrup, figs and raisins are thrown into the kettle for not only added complexity but also to represent cargo lost to the sea because of the bewitching sirens’ songs. Aromas of roasted malt and dark fruit are pronounced. The flavor begins with sweetness and caramel notes and finishes smooth with lingering hints of caramelized sugar and balanced bitterness.
10.5% ABV, 25 IBU
The Lost Abbey’s Judgment Day is packed with rich Belgian character. Sherry, raisins and a touch of leather carry subtle hints of smoke, culminating in an elegant bouquet. Sugary dark fruits — think cherries and raisins — splash down and seep into rich toasted bread notes and of caramel almost bordering on burnt caramel. Expect some slight bitterness, which keeps it from getting too sweet. The alcohol warmth in the finish helps to round out this beer. The beer is big and sits on the tongue and lingers.
There are some beers that rarely make it on draft outside of their native tasting rooms. Produced in small quantities, they’re the types of brews that, regardless of what you’re in the mood for, you’ll never pass up when presented the opportunity to consume them. Often, these beers are barrel-aged (hence, low-production and hard to come by). Such is the case with The Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme. One of the finest sour red ales outside of Belgium’s Flanders region (where the style originates), Cuvee de Tomme is made by taking The Lost Abbey’s Judgment Day, a Belgian-style quadrupel made using raisin puree, resting it in bourbon and red wine barrels over cherries, then carefully blending the two aged versions together. The result is an award-winning brew most often seen at bottle shares, making the chance to have it on draft a must-seize moment.