June 3, 2013

Billberries and Blauw van der Jon Berry

Two and a half years ago, I'd started to blog about the last of our (Half Pint's and mine) beer dinners. They were always great fun. Ostensibly focusing on the pairing of beer and food to fit some goofy theme, but as with all dinner parties, really just about enjoying great company for a sit-down meal. I'd started to blog about it as I did all or most of them, but somehow only got so far as three paragraphs. So I'll start with those and then wrap it up somehow, since I'm never punctual, but I always finish writing my stories:

"Until just a few weeks ago, I was in possession of not one, not two, but three bottles of Cantillon Blåbær. (Apparently, a blåbær isn't a blueberry after all but a billberry.) It's a beer that uber beer geeks go bonkers for except that most of them haven't had it--it's that rare. As part of a story I did on beer trading where the mag assigned me to track down 3 near-impossible to obtain beers and then write about the experience, I obtained bottles of the 2005, '07 and '09 vintages from a "ticker" in Copenhagen who I sent 2 large boxes of beers he's never had from small American markets. Who knew driving through Arkansas for the first time would pay off?

So, before we moved out of San Francisco, I had a few friends over to open 'em all side by side and suggested that they should each bring a dish made with blueberries. The vegetarians brought blueberry lasagna! Two other chefs brought duck confit w/ 2 different blueberry sauces and another couple prepared grilled chicken (and salmon) with blueberry-jalapeno sauce. I made a blueberry-lemon buckle. I've never had buckle before.

Oh man was it awesome. The beers (including other blueberry beers; there was one that Half Pint and our friend Gail made over a year ago that Gail later added blueberries and wild yeast to it...and it was great). The food. The friends. Good times."

Not sure why I never hit publish. Probably because I intended to write up the beers themselves! So I'll cheat now and past Tiila's review from her now-defunct blog (she did get pregnant and just gave birth to a daughter, Aurelia--congrats Tiila & Dave!!--so that's perfectly acceptable). In her words:

The 2005 Cantillon Blåbær poured a clear, golden orange amber. It looked like beautiful sparkling resin. It smelled like slightly sweet grapes, touch of berry, touch of cereal and horseblanket funky sour. It tasted incredibly sour, pucker lemon, funky-cole-madina, lots of oak with a touch, and I mean a touch of berry. It was good. I was aching for a bit more fruit; but don’t get me wrong, Cantillon has an amazing capacity to create incredible back-of-your-throat sour puckers, which a lot of people love and crave. And it was good; I just wanted a bit more complexity and fruit flavor like in some of their other beers like their Lou Pepe Kriek.
The 2007 Cantillon Blåbær Batch II poured the most beautiful color I have ever seen in a beer. I wanted to just stare at it all night long. It was this incredibly sparkling, brilliant ruby red with a touch of aubergine. Absolutely gorgeous. It smelled like a bucket of tart blueberries. It tasted like tart cranberries, tart blueberries, oak and back of your throat pucker sour. This had the complexity I was looking for. The beer starts tart to sour and then metamorphose into ripe and tart blueberries with the oak rounding out the transition. Beautiful. Elegant.
The 2009 Cantillon Blåbær was the weakest link of the evening. It poured a cloudy, murky mahogany. It smelled like mulled cider mixed with berry pie. It tasted a little apple cider-y, with hint of cinnamon, sour green apple and cranberry. Was there a touch of bandaid as well? Hopefully, this was just an off bottle. It was not much to my liking, but I didn’t want to pour out this rare beer. It actually helped when it was paired with the blueberry buckle. The spices in the beer helped to bring out the crumb topping in the buckle.
How can one top a Blåbær vertical? Well, you probably can’t but next we had Dark Horse Brewing Company Tres Blueberry Stout. This beer poured a deep, dark chocolate. It smelled like blueberry pie and roasted malt. It tasted like sweet blueberries, melted dark chocolate and roasted malt. Blueberry maple syrup malt- tasty.
As a post script, right after moving to Portland, the notorious House of Sour, Cascade Barrel House, released a blueberry beer that seemingly took a stab at our friend Blåbær that they called Blauw Van Der Jon Berry. Fruitier, less complex, but overall amazing and I have a few vintages of Cascade Blueberry now that another blueberry-themed dinner might not be far off.