The beer: Cuir
The brewer: The Bruery
Style: Old Ale
ABV: 14.5 percent
It didn't take long for The Bruery to make its mark in the world of beer. Founded in Placentia, Calif., by Patrick Rue (get it?), the beer-maker has a penchant for putting out liquids the craft beer community routinely goes ape-shit for, including barrel-aged stouts, brews based off the 12 Days of Christmas, and yearly anniversary ales.
It is to this last group that Cuir belongs, and its creation celebrates The Bruery's third year in operation (Cuir is French for leather, the traditional gift of the third wedding anniversary). How did Rue, after a mere three years, make his beers some of the most sought-after in America? Cuir, crafted using the complex Solera blending method, is a prime example.
Put simply, the Solera method is a process for aging booze by fractional blending so the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years.
It works like this: In the first year, a collection of oak barrels is filled with beer and allowed to age a year. At the end of the aging interval, the barrels are tapped and most of their contents put into bottles. These partially-empty barrels are then refilled with a new batch of beer of the same recipe, and the new batch mixes with the old.
The original anniversary ale, Papier, was brewed as an English-style old ale using The Bruery's house strain of Belgian yeast. Coton, the second anniversary ale, is the same recipe as Papier, but was blended with the older, aged brew. Cuir is, again, the same recipe, this time mixed with the Papier/Coton fusion that had been aging in oak barrels since Coton's release. Since none of the barrels is ever fully drained, some of the beer from previous years will always remain in each container, allowing the older beer to lend its maturity to the young and developing intricate, multifaceted flavors.
Poured into a tulip glass, Cuir shimmers a deep, opaque burgundy. A full two fingers of fluffy sandy tan head caps the liquid, but high alcohol content rarely allows bubbles to stay for long. The head soon pops away, becoming a thick and silky top layer.
The aroma is your first hint of the complexity Solera blending can deliver. Brown sugar, brandy and maple syrup dance among light hints of hoary oak, vanilla, figs and dark rye. The flavor expands further on this storyline. Take a sip and you're awash in brandy-soaked raisins, brown sugar, chocolate syrup and leather. The sweetness of the beer, paired with buttery notes and an impressive amount of booze, combine to remind of sugary bread pudding.
Lovers of port or dessert wines will appreciate Cuir -- it's a beer that lets you know it's boozy. The alcohol hits like heartburn, burns through the nostrils and numbs the tongue. Matching the intense ABV is an equally substantial body. Its full, buttery softness is a delight to roll across the tongue, letting the beer's minute bubbles massage the tongue before the swallow and long, sweet, tangy finish.
Cuir's bold flavors will overpower most dishes but would stand up well against the rich meatiness of roast duck or lamb. If you feel like breakfast for dinner, the beer would play perfectly off pancakes. Layered with flavors of dark fruit, vanilla and burnt sugar, Cuir's an excellent stand-in for fruit-based syrup.