American Craft Beer Week kicked off Monday, offering a week-long toast to do those who brew and drink it. One of the best parts of this week is that breweries all over the state release small batch "one off" beers to commemorate the occasion and to show their skills (case in point, Big Shikes, a stellar double pilsner brewed with orange blossom honey courtesy of Ska Brewing and Westword managing editor Jonathan "Beer Man" Shikes).
I geek out for beers that I can't find anywhere else in the world and that won't last for very long and I plan on trying as many of them as I can this week.
First up is Bull & Bush's Funky Cougar, a never-before-released sour ale, aged in a Folk Machine pinot wine barrel.
Bull & Bush only made sixty gallons of this limited-release sour. But when a friend and I got there on Monday, they hadn't tapped it yet, so we grabbed a seat at the bar and waited diligently. Our patience was rewarded an hour later when they threw a keg of it on and we were lucky enough to be the first patrons to try it.
Truth be told, sour beers (beers that are purposefully contaminated with wild yeast) are hit or miss for me. I find that they're often one dimensionally sour. Not the case with the Funky Cougar, a complex and wonderfully balanced beer that's surprisingly drinkable despite weighing in at a hefty 11 percent alcohol by volume.
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Initially, it was sour and tart, but not overwhelmingly so. It had notes of chocolate and currant, with a slight vanilla oak from the wine barrel and as it warmed up, I could taste the grapes from the wine lingering in the background. It's a truly phenomenal beer and totally worth the price tag ($7 for seven-ounce pour).
Given that there's such a small amount of the Funky Cougar, I highly recommend making a trip to the Bull & Bush Brewpub as soon as possible. My guess is that it will be all gone by the weekend.