We met a couple of friends tonight down at Flying Saucer to pick up their first year's harvest of Nugget hops. Despite the belief that you only start to get hop flowers in your third year, they acquired a reasonably-sized hop harvest. Perhaps it's because this summer has been more akin to the climate of the Northwest or Germany. Or, perhaps modern strains of hops are taking less time to produce hop cones. Regardless, we scored ourselves some nice little Nuggets tonight.
I ordered New Belgium's latest in their Lips of Faith series, their Dandelion Ale. I suspected it might be a hop-free Gruit, but wasn't sure and the internet on my phone wasn't working very well so I went for it. Sure enough, gruit. And I have to say - it's the best one I've had yet.
First of all, it tasted more like beer than the others. It didn't have the mouth-numbing experience the others imparted (from wormwood, anise, or whatever the breweries were using) and it had significantly more bitterness than the others. It tasted a little like tropical or summer stone fruit: apricot, peach, or maybe mango. I'm sure a large part of that came from the Belgian yeast New Belgium uses. The mouthfeel was awesome for a beer this light in color and taste, and I've never experienced something like that before. At first "creamy" and "velvety" came to mind, but then the perfect word hit me: silky. This beer is silky! Overall, I'd rate it a top-notch gruit and a perfect accompaniment to the meat & cheese plate we ordered. I could also see drinking this with a slice of cheesecake or maybe a bowl of fruit salad. Fresh, summery, fruity, and easy to drink - I wouldn't have guessed this beer was anywhere near 7.8% ABV.
This is a very well-executed version of Gruit and I recommend trying it, even if you're a dyed-in-the-wool hop head and skeptical of anything under 70 IBUs. After all, part of the fun of drinking beer is trying something different.