668 The Chardonneighbor of the Beast (Belgian/American Wild Ale)
500 ml bottle for $10, 10% ABV
Purchased at the brewery in Woodbridge
[2013 Update: I wrote this several years ago and I hate it. My palate has evolved and matured since I wrote this and I bet I’d probably like this beer abit more now. Oh well.]
You know why I love New England Brewing Company? Because even when they make a beer I am not a fan of, they come up with a clever naming convention and only produce 300 bottles of the stuff. I was one of the lucky few who was able to purchase one during one of my forays to the brewery.
(With a NEB one-off 300 bottle rarity, you have to figure only about 150 people, tops, got to drink this stuff. This also brings to mind a dilemma I have with these local craft brewery beer reviews. That is, what is a “real” beer and what is an experimental run that one shouldn’t use to judge the brewery? With this, they bottled it and sold it, so I’m comfortable slotting it into the NEB line-up – even if you will never, ever get to have one yourself. But with the smaller brewers like Relic, where Mark does not shy away from single batch experiments, I’ll have to separate those reviews somehow.)
Anyway, as you can see from my pictures here, I had this bottle before I started reviewing every Connecticut beer. Fortunately, like an annoying food flogger blogger, I actually took two pictures of the bottle. One at the brewery before I purchased it – I was told it was one of the last 3 or 4 – and one at home.
Otherwise, as we all know, the Chardonneighbor simply wouldn’t have existed.
NEB fans know the name is a play off their incredible Belgian strong ale, 668, The Neighbor of the Beast (my review here). I’ll let my friends at the brewery describe the rest.
Our infamous 668 Belgian Strong Golden Ale was aged in Chardonnay barrels with a touch of Brettanomyces to bring you this limited run bottle. Goat Lord Approved!” One of only three hundred bottles.
Yes, they really do say “Goat Lord approved.” Reason #45 to love NEB. By the way, I’ve seen the 668 getting put on draught at more places up here in Hartford County. Go. Drink it. Thank me and the Goat Lord later.
Anyway, Matt and Rob decided to age their 668 in chardonnay barrels for almost a year. The Brettanomyces is, of course, what makes it a “wild ale” in that they are live yeast cultures that make the brew complex and sour. Some people LOVE wild ales but let’s be honest, more people hate them.
This is one of only two Connecticut-made wilds that I know of – the other being from Olde Burnside. I can dig the sour and the whole idea behind American wild ales. (I can also admit that they are certainly one of the last bastions of beer snobbery in that average beer drinkers most likely hate wild ales and sours. Therefore, in late 2012 anyway, wild ales and sours are the “hip” beers of those in the know.)
If you check the Beer Advocate reviews linked below, you’ll see that this is a very highly regarded beer. For me, it’s the worst NEB beer I’ve ever had.
It was not the sourness that killed this beer for me. It was the oakiness from the chardonnay barrels. The chardonneighbor is a super complex beer – the fruity hops of the 668, the sour of the Brett and wine aging… and the oak from the barrels. Just way too much oak for me – a person who absolutely hates oaked chards.
I can understand why people love this beer. I feel pretty darn cool to have been able to buy a bottle. I will lose sleep over how many other special releases I have and will miss through the life of CTMQ.
But I will never like anything that tastes like aged oak. Sorry.
Overall Rating: D.. or A, whichever.
Rating vs. Similar style: n/a