Beer (cider): Crispin Bird on a Wire Brewery (cidery): Crispin Cider Co. Style: Apple Cider ABV: 6.9 percent
The beer of the week this week isn't a beer at all -- it's a cider. But it's fermented, in part, with beer yeast. Does that count? I think it counts. Here we go.
For the uninitiated, cider is very much like wine, but is fermented from the juice of apples or pears rather than with grapes. This particular cider is actually a grand cru of sorts -- a blend of four distinct apple wines fermented with different strains of yeast: Irish stout, Belgian Trappist, Sake and Crispin's proprietary Colfax Classic. These ciders were all aged in oaken barrels that once held American rye and bourbon. After blending, cider-makers finished the blend with bourbon-aged Tupelo Honey and a little fresh-pressed apple juice.
Bird on a Wire is related to beer in another way: Crispin was bought out by Tenth and Blake Beer Co., the craft and import division of MillerCoors, in August. You may not recognize the Tenth and Blake name, but you probably know their beers -- the macro-connected brewery sports Blue Moon as its flagship and also owns Leinenkugel's, Killian's and Peroni.
Crispin suggests a solid pour on this one to evenly disperse sediment, so give the bottle a bottoms-up over a pint glass. You'll get a glassful of murky, peach-colored liquid that looks like your average unfiltered apple juice, but sure doesn't smell like it. In the nose, honey is noticed first, followed closely by Red Delicious apple, vanilla and cinnamon.
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The flavor is more apple-forward, delighting the mouth with sweet apple juice spiked with whiskey, pineapple and honey. Oak barrels contribute woody tannins and touches of buttery vanilla, but the bourbon is really only noticeable in the glass-smooth finish.
Bird on a Wire premiered in Arizona at the Beer for Brains Rare Affair and is now available in bottles at better beer shops throughout the Valley. Get some, and don't be afraid to mix things up a little every once in a while.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.