Fancy Pants Sunday: Oude Northwest Gristle v2
Stillwater Artisanal, now known as just Stillwater, is the brainchild of Baltimore native Brian Strumke, whose past life as an internationally renowned electronica DJ and producer led him down a path to crafting some of the world’s most unique and highest rated beers slapped with haute couture can and bottle labels. A homebrewer turned pro in 2010, nomadic brewer Strumke slapped his Stillwater sticker on many a brewery’s cooler around the world before the pandemic nudged him to place roots at the Talking Cedar Brewery in Thurston County, Washington. That said, Strumke is anything but still. During the pandemic, he also launched Fast Fashion Brewing with Matt Storm of the intensely curated, beer-obsessed pizza joint Masonry Pizza in September 2020 and Oude Northwest, a project formed with Talking Cedar that utilizes old world techniques and modern innovations to create ales with a sense of place and depth of character. Oh, there’s a subset of Oud Northwest, Gristle. Named after Strumke’s little dog, Gristle sports the tagline, “Big Stout, Little Dog”, and is the focus of this week’s Fancy Pants Sunday: Oude Northwest Gristle v2, a weekly column focusing on complex, pricey, and unique beer.
The Gristle line launched with Gristle v1, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout aged 18 months for flavors is dark toasted malt, bourbon, dried plums, dark chocolate, and raisins with a boozy finish. V2 is all about added vanilla. A lot of vanilla. A love letter to vanilla showcasing vanilla from Tahiti, Madagascar, Uganda, and Mexico.
Just like coffee beans, vanilla bean origins have a huge impact on flavor. A Ugandan v. Planifolia species vanilla bean is earthy with hints of raisins and figs. A Mexican v. Planifolia bean has hints of mocha, caramel, and a vanilla spice. A Madagascar v. Planifolia bean is buttery, creamy, and traditional vanilla. They are all the same species of vanilla, but they all have different tastes based on their growing environment. Tahitian vanilla beans are produced from the Vanilla Tahitensis species of orchid and are grown throughout the French Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific, including Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. Vanilla beans are currently the second most expensive spice in the world, just behind saffron.
Every dog has his day and it’s Gristle v2’s day, indeed. More than a day. Gristle V2 (13.8%) is aged 24 months in whiskey barrels conditioned with the four different vanilla beans. Dip the nose for fantastic chocolate, vanilla, and bourbon. The mouthfeel is the silkiest of silky smooth. The taste follows the nose with sweetness from the vanilla and milk chocolate, but we get a little maple, and, of course, bourbon.
You fancy, Oude Northwest Gristle v2!