Beatification is the process by which the Catholic Church reviews a deceased person’s life, and decides that the person was a saint. And when it comes to this saintly ale by Russian River Brewing Company in Guerneville, California in Sonoma County, it is a fitting name. This is a very special ale that is based on the tradition of Belgian monks and their ales. Russian River calls this ale’s style Sonambic, combining Sonoma and Lambic, Lambic being a style of ale traditionally brewed in and around Brussels, Belgium.
What makes a traditional Lambic very special, besides many being brewed by monks, is that it the brewer does not ferment it by intentionally adding brewer’s yeast. Instead, wild yeast and bacteria from the local environment are allowed to contact the wort simply from the blowing wind. Since every particular strain of yeast and other microorganism produces different aromas and flavors, this means that a wild-fermented ale will represent it’s terroir, meaning the influences of its geographical locality.
Like a Belgian Lambic, Russian River’s Beatification (5.5% ABV) ale is also wild-fermented (alternately called spontaneously-fermented) from yeast and bacteria found in the Sonoma area. Once the microorganisms have been naturally-introduced to the wort, it is put into American oak wine barrels, where it is allowed to ferment, and age, for months. This allows the terroir of Sonoma County — a place where lots of good wine is made, therefore lots of the wine yeast are in the air — to really shine through in the ale. The result is a delightfully sour, golden ale.
Bottle: The bottle has a lovely shape, like a small Champagne bottle. It is brown glass, with a Champagne-style cork and binder on top. The label is medium-yellow, with the Beatification logo on it, and black and brown lettering.
Pour: This ale is golden-pineapple in color, with intense clarity. It is highly carbonated, producing a very fizzy pour. The head is about two fingers thick and bright white, but it quickly reduces to nothing, leaving no lacing. After the head dissipates, it looks very much like a glass of Champagne.
Aroma: A very Champagne-like and white-wine-like aroma is evident upon opening of the cork. Undertones of apple and grape permeate. After a couple of minutes of oxidation, these aromas developed into a strong earthiness with a slight barnyard element, and a strong alcohol acidity.
Flavor: Intense sourness and bitterness slams your tastes buds. As an IPA fan, I enjoyed this characteristic, sour intensity, but other drinkers might find it off-putting. Beyond the sour bitterness you can detect flavors of lemon juice, white vinegar, and green apple, producing a nice depth. In addition, the oak aging imparts layers of oak woodiness, leather, and earthiness.
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is crisp, astringent, and highly fizzy. It is light and refreshing.
Structure:The structure is light but balanced. The intense sourness is offset by the oak barrel aging.
Food Pairing: This ale would go very well with raw or cooked oysters and other shellfish, or hard cheeses like Swiss.