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February 6th, 2013 MARTIN CIZMAR | Drank
 

Drank: Sahalie (The Ale Apothecary)

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No matter how crafty they are, modern industrial-scale breweries can’t do things the old-fashioned way. The recipe and ingredients can match a 500-year-old Belgian formula, but when working with mass quantities, it’d be downright irresponsible to haphazardly introduce the variables that allow lambics to develop dozens of tasty microorganisms. Remember, until a few years ago, our craft-beer quality controllers regarded the now-trendy wild yeast Brettanomyces only as a possible contaminant. Paul Arney understands this history from his 15 years at Deschutes Brewery. At Oregon’s largest independent brewery, Arney ran one of the pub-only breweries that functions as an R&D department, developing early versions of recipes that would go on to become Red Chair IPA and the first oak-aged version of Jubelale. Arney, who struck out on his own in 2011, is taking a leap based on the belief that interesting character comes from critters most breweries sterilize away. “Beer is an incredible medium for creativity beyond just the raw materials,” he writes by email. “How the brewer brings the beer through the brewery is equally, if not more, important.” Which brings us to Sahalie, currently on Portland shelves for about $25. It’s difficult to describe, because I’ve never had anything quite like it. The extremely effervescent Sahalie floats more than sips, with thin layers of honey, lemongrass and grape covering the blond base like phyllo dough. This is a nuanced beer: If the funkiness of traditional Belgians is James Brown’s Live at the Apollo, Sahalie is Prince’s Purple Rain. Most exciting of all? This is only the third concoction Arney has made by blending test fermentations gathered at his little workshop in the wilds outside Bend, so we’re only in the earliest trials. Recommended.

 
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