Willibrew Willi Wonder! (2013)
1 sampler, 7.7 % ABV
Purchased at Willibrew, Willimantic
If you are a reader of my Connecticut beer reviews and you appreciate things like parenthood, cute little boys, and being alive, you probably enjoy the random beer reviews that feature my son(s) in background.
Full disclosure: I love opening up a draft and finding out that the picture cracks me up in a paternal kind of head-shaking-with-a-smirk way. Sorry, that’s how I feel about my kids. Deal with it.
But this one… this one almost elicited the rare LOL from me. That’s Calvin. He was two months shy of his second birthday here. He never fails* to crack me up and in this instance, the reason I find it enjoyable is that his countenance matches the beer-in-question’s name AND taste.
*”never fails” is a ridiculous exaggeration on my part, for he has an acute ability to do just the opposite several times per day. But hey, that’s what little kids do, right? We tend to remember the good stuff and smooth over the rest.
And this was a good day. I had carted the boys out to Canterbury for some Finnish sledding day thing and then we had lunch at Willibrew. Who in their right mind takes a 22-month old and a special needs seven-year-old to lunch by himself? That’s a long drive and a long day with two kids in diapers. Yes, I’m a true hero.
Our barrel aged tart blend of various non-hoppy dark beers. We have a proprietary concoction of wild yeasts all in a weird harmonic symphony of flavors which are ever-changing. This unique one keg release is not your macro brew.
Yes folks, this an American wild ale, a.k.a., a sour. Certainly not for everyone. I can’t quite figure out the deal with this particular batch, but what I think Willibrew did was fill up a bunch of kegs of this “weird harmonic symphony of flavors” and release one every mid-winter. I have no idea how many kegs they did, or when they first released them, but I think there have been at least five. This was the 2013 version.
The waitress, obviously unfamiliar with my immeasurable skills as a beer reviewer (ha), hesitated when I ordered a full pint of the stuff. “Are you sure? You probably want to taste it first. It’s… different.”
Yeah, okay, whatever. I’ve had sours. I’ve had awful sours and I’ve had great sours. (And, unfortunately, I’ve had unintentionally infected beers a year short of becoming a sour.) But now that lunch was finishing up and my two charges were getting antsy, I took her up on her sample offer – if only in the interest of getting out of the brewpub with my sanity intact (and, more importantly, my sobriety maintained).
Whoa! Look at Calvin’s face again. Yeah, that’s pretty much what I looked like after tasting this. A little scared and confused, but full of (Willi) Wonder! just the same. It’s a vexing and complex beer to be sure. There is a LOT going on here. Sour cherry, tart apple, acid, vinegar, zest, alcohol… it’s nuts. It deserves the exclamation point in the name.
Part of me thought that maybe this was a bit “too sour” or “too wild.”
I think I was glad I didn’t go for the full pint, although I’d be interested to see how it’s profile changed with warmth and a palate getting used to it. Very few brewers in Connecticut do wild ales – or at least not before 2014 which I suspect they’ll become a bigger thing. NEBCO had their Chardonneighbor of the Beast and Olde Burnside their Highland Wild and frankly, I think that’s it.
So massive credit goes to Willibrew, who actually do more than this one – or at least release this one under a different name every so often? Like some are in oak barrels I guess? Oh who knows. I do think I want to get back up there when they have another one on tap, just to have full glass AND to see what I think of it with a slightly more educated palate under my belt.
Which makes no sense. But you know what I mean.
Overall Rating: B-
Rating vs. Similar style: B