Like many folks who head down the path of micro-brewed beers, Patrick Rue ultimately became curious.
So curious, in fact, that the young California lawyer did what many curious beer lovers do -- he cooked a batch of home brew in his kitchen.
It's addictive, and a pattern that has lured many now notable brewers down a path of no return. Which is exactly what happened to Patrick.
He opened his own micro-brewery in Orange County, Calif., barely two years ago and has since set the craft-brewing industry reeling as it tries to keep pace with the imaginative young brewer's take on classic Belgian-style beers.
His beers have been spotlighted twice in Gourmet magazine, named among the top 25 beers in America by Draft Magazine and are the darlings of the ultimate beer geeks to post to the online beer-rating site BeerAdvocate.com.
But unless you're a well-traveled beer aficionado or among the legions of aforementioned beer geeks, you've probably never seen beer from The Bruery, much less tasted these unfiltered, bottle-conditioned brews. Until now.
A limited supply of at least three beers from The Bruery are going to begin appearing on Savannah package store shelves and on the lists of the city's best beer bars. At first, the beer will be hard to find, and in very limited quantity -- but that should improve as regular orders insure a steady stream of beer from Orange County.
What are Belgian style beers?
The type ranges from ales, to sour lambics, to stouts and Dubbels, triples and saisons. Each has a unique flavor profile. There is no singular defining element -- other than being made in Belgium.
Patrick embraces tradition, but also embellishes. All Bruery beers are bottle-conditioned -- a dose of yeast is added after bottling to create a secondary fermentation. Bruery beers are also unfiltered, meaning they are slightly cloudy with traces of yeast in the bottom of every bottle.
In a Los Angeles Times story, Patrick explained his passion for the Belgian style:
"The Belgian style offers a lot of opportunities for creating and flexibility," Patrick says. "They're not afraid of using flowers and spices and wild yeasts." Some varieties are barrel-aged as long as wine -- from six to 36 months -- compared with less than a month for most beers.
I've tasted three beers from The Bruery, and here's what I found:
Orchard White is a witbier. This hazy, straw yellow beer is spiced with coriander, citrus peel and lavender. A spicy, fruity yeast strain is used to add complexity, and rolled oats are added for a silky texture. The beer is luxurious in the mouth -- and paired nicely with spicy Mexican food.
Saison Rue is a farmhouse ale. These beers were historically made by farmers to quench the thirsts of field hands -- and were low-alcohol brews. Modern versions are typically higher in alcohol than the historic predecessors. This is a beer of subtlety and complexity, with malted rye, spicy, fruity yeast notes, biscuit-like malt backbone, and a slight citrus hop character. What's really cool is that this beer will continue to evolve in the bottle, becoming drier and more rustic.
Autumn Maple, a brown ale, is brewed with 17 lbs. of yams per barrel and is a vastly different take on the fall pumpkin beers. It is brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup. Plan on a first taste of these great fall spices, but be prepared for a spice-driven kick.
All of these beers come in 750ml bottles -- roughly two traditional pints. Each is very rich -- which makes sharing one bottle the perfect way to experience the big, flavorful beers.
In fact, I encourage diners to treat many of the new, powerful craft beers like they would treat wines: Share a bottle with table guests and work at pairing the beers. The resulting meal is an evening filled with variety, flavor and new experiences.