August 13, 2013

A Rare Beer Club Tasting: Best Served Chilled with Cheese and Good People

Rare Beer Club Tasting
The Rare Beer Club offers some
hard-to-find libations.
The Rare Beer Club puts hard to find and limited release beers in the hands of craft beer fans. They were kind enough to send me a few bottles, so I invited some Asheville beer folks over to try the club's summer releases. Included in the lineup were collaborations from some of the United States' favorite brewers, as well as a saison from one of the world's most highly regarded producers of the style.

First, a little more about the club...



The Rare Beer Club, founded by "the Beer Hunter" himself, is just one of the monthly membership clubs offered by MonthlyClubs.com. They also have the U.S. Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club, the International Beer Club, and the U.S. and International Variety Beer Club, as well as clubs for wine, cheese, cigars, and flowers.

When you sign up for a club, you can set up an ongoing monthly membership or a specified number of shipments. It's a fun way to try some beers that your local bottle shop may not be able to get. The Rare Beer Club also offers flexibility. If you find something you really love, you can order more of it as long as the beer is in stock. If there's a style you don't like or if your cellar is maxed out, you can just skip a shipment, double up on an alternative brew, or choose from a beer they have in stock.

Now these aren't leftover bottles that have been collecting dust in a warehouse somewhere. The Rare Beer Club takes great pride in the beers they offer, which was displayed in both the selection and the highly detailed info sheets they send with the shipment.

[Marketing plug! Use coupon code LOCALBEER10 to save $10 on any monthly club membership three months or longer. Makes a great gift for your favorite beer buff!]

Now, on to the tasting...

beer cheese tasting
Yum
With our combined efforts, we put together a pretty awesome cheese selection. I'm not going to get into details like I did with this post, but the cheeses were amazing. Dan from the Asheville Ale Trail brought over Maytag Blue, Caciotta al Tartufo truffle-infused cheese, and Black Mountain Cheddar. My brewing buddy Mike brought over some primo Gorgonzola. We also had gouda and various cheddars on the table.

We started off with the first Rare Beer Club selection:
Brasserie Dupont - La Bière de Beloeil
If you're a fan of Belgian beers, you may well have heard of Saison Dupont. La Bière de Beloeil is a strong saison and is the "least-distributed label of this most famous of the traditional Saison breweries." We noticed a strong, sweet caramel aroma, with a surprisingly dry taste in comparison, a big frothy off-white head, and hugely complex saison yeast character. 8.5% alcohol was well hidden, partly by a dry bitterness from noble hops.
We followed that with Rare Beer Club Selection #2:
Cigar City/De Proef Brouwerij - Tropical TripelI wasn't sure what to expect from a beer made with peaches and coconut (sounded like a piña colada beer), but we were pleased to find that those flavors where actually pretty subtle. It was a potent tripel at 9.5% ABV. There were some very interesting interactions when combined with the different cheeses, especially the Maytag Blue and the Gorgonzola. 
Sierra Nevada Boulevard Terra IncognitaWe then took a diversion through a Heady Topper clone brewed Thom O'Hearn (aka the Asheville Beer Scout), Apollo by Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery, and Terra Incognita, a Sierra Nevada/Boulevard Brewing collaboration. We also pulled out some of my homebrews: a ginger beer and a dandelion beer, which I served at Just Brew It, and a brown ale I brewed with Mike.

Somewhere in the mix, we heard an interesting anecdote about Ingles, our local grocery chain. Apparently, there's a naming convention used to distinguish the different locations:
  • Tunnel Ingles = Tingles
  • Shitty Ingles = Shingles
  • Mills River's "premium" Ingles = Pringles
  • Black Mountain Ingles = Bling Blingles
Awesome. So, now that we have that cleared up...

Terra Incognita was a fascinating combination of wood, sour, spice, and wild yeast that worked really well with the Gouda, or was it the farmstead cheddar? Does it matter?

Before everyone got too hammered to make their way home, we did some damage on the leftover cheese and opened Rare Beer Club Selection #3:
Grassroots Brewing/Anchorage Brewing Co. - Arctic Saison
Grassroots Brewing is a side project by Hill Farmstead's Shaun Hill. The beer features an intriguing herbal/earthy spice character, reminding me of basil or bay leaves. Could it be the oak barrel aging? Brettanomyces? The dry, hoppy finish? Either way, it was a unique and complex brew and we really enjoyed it.
The expertly written materials from the Rare Beer Club suggested cellaring these beers. Obviously I couldn't wait to pop them open with some good beer people. We could have gotten super technical and analyzed the bejeezus out of these beers, but when it came down to it, everyone had a great time...isn't that what it's all about?

Big thanks to the Rare Beer Club for the delicious brews!

Grassroots Brewing Arctic Saison