The Beer Nut: Say cheers with this cherry beer
I usually don't write a column after trying a 2-ounce sample of beer, but I was absolutely blown away by Cisco Brewers' Cherry Woods.
I tried the Nantucket, Mass., brewery's Cherry Woods at a local beer tasting and had to write about it.
Calling any beer "the best" is always tough, but I've tried more than 400 beers brewed in Massachusetts, and there have only been three or four that stood out to me as much as Cherry Woods, and those beers are draft only.
Cherry Woods is one of Cisco's beers in its new The Woods series.
The creation of Cherry Woods was sort of a happy accident, head brewer Jeff Horner said. If it wasn't for delivery of the wrong type of cherries, Cherry Woods may never have been brewed.
Horner had ordered cherries for another of The Woods beers called Monomoy Kriek, another wood-aged cherry beer. But after he received the shipment of the wrong kind of cherries, Horner did not want them to go to waste.
"I put them into this wheat beer and six months later, here you go," he said.
What you get is simply amazing. Served in a 750 ml corked and caged bottle, Cherry Woods is lightly carbonated. However, the aroma of cherries is intoxicating, and the flavor just makes you say, "Wow."
The beer is tart and sour thanks to the addition of wild yeasts and bacteria, and the cherry flavor is perfect. It's refreshing and complex all at the same time.
Although Cherry Woods, with a suggested retail price of $16.99, is the standout, The Woods series has some other excellent beers.
Monomoy Kriek, named for Monomoy Creek on Nantucket, is a Flemish-style ale, which is another tart beer, and costs a whopping $25 a bottle.
It's brewed with 100 pounds of sour cherries with the pits. It had actually been aging in the barrels for two years before the addition of the cherries.
"I'm particularly fond of the Monomoy Kriek," said Horner. "They're all my babies, but that's my go-to beer."
The rest of The Woods series suggested retail price is $16.99 a bottle.
Dark Woods may be the most unusual of the beers. It's a blend of several different Cisco beers (they do brew many non-barrel-aged beers) and then aged in different barrels along with some cranberries in some of the barrels.
"The most experimental in terms of blending is hands-down the Dark Woods," said Horner. "Even at beer geeky events, it's pushing the envelope. It's a lot of fun, as a brewer. There's a lot of depth in that one. You try it at one temperature, and you get something from it and then you try it at another temperature, you get something completely different from it."
Full & Bye is a rye ale aged in rye whiskey barrels, and is extremely drinkable. It picks up the whiskey flavors, but does not overwhelm the beer flavors. Its whiskey flavor isn't so strong that it turns off those who are not whiskey fans.
Back from last year is Lady of the Woods. It is a version of its Belgian-style witbier, Gray Lady, fermented in chardonnay barrels.
"Every batch is hand-blended," Horner said.
The development of The Woods series made a lot of sense, Horner said. Cisco Brewers is owned by the same people who own the Triple Eight Distillery and the Nantucket Vineyard.
With all of those barrels in the same facility, Horner said it gave him a lot to play with.
"I'm really pleased with how The Woods are turning out," he said. "It's really my passion. It allows me to use my unbridled creativity with no constraint to a brand. It's a lot of fun and it's educational to me as a brewer."
Norman Miller is a MetroWest Daily News staff writer. For question, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut/.