“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!”
Before I begin, it must be said – this exclusive, underground offering from Great Lakes is indeed a ‘Mischmasch’, but by no means nonsense. A monster of a beer with jaws that bite and claws that snatch. The story of its origin is legend amongst the Cleveland beer scene, whispered about for several years and doubted to even exist by some. It turns out that 6 years ago, a batch of Belgian ale ended up not attenuating to a satisfactory level. Rather than dumping the apathetic ale, the brewers placed it into some sherry casks, added fruit and sugar, and re-fermented with lactobacillus and brettanomyces. After 6 years of stewing in its cage, the leviathan has been liberated, never advertised or added to the boards and tapped only on Tuesdays in September 2010 – one 1/6bbl a week, until it runs out.
And so I took a trip, not through the looking glass, but down the parking lot that was I-480 West towards the wonderland that is Ohio City. I arrived at 5:30, hoping I hadn’t missed out. After all, I didn’t want to be late for this very important date. I was in luck, as I arrived in time for tea. And, for $8, a 12 ounce tulip was filled and the sizeable savage was mine to savor.
The beer is an orange color with a little white head that disappears quickly. When I brought it out to the patio, I could see it’s cloudy with slightly noticeable carbonated bubbles and some gold and yellow edges. It’s not the prettiest American Wild Ale I’ve seen, but no one can expect such a beast to be beautiful. In fact, it’s probably best it’s not, lest we forget what lurks inside.
As I take a deep sniff, I’m taken into a dark forest of oak, surrounded by perhaps the most woody tastes I’ve encountered in a beer of this style. Six years has imparted every nuance that oak can add – vanillin, butterscotch, almond and even some slight tannin. There are some sour notes from the lacto, mostly giving impressions of sour cherry and slight lemon. The brettanomyces have added some wild notes as well, but not a whole barnyard just a funky animal or two. The sweet grape and nutty notes from the Amontillado sherry come through, and there’s even a hint of unripe melon.
When I raise the glass to my lips, I must admit I’m fearful. It seems like this savage sour may be too much for me to handle, but, armed with the trusty glass in hand, I relinquished control and let the tulip do whatever it wanted to do – in this case, it made a straight and skillful slice straight to my mouth. Immediately, I realize that the first sip has buried me in so many flavors I’m speechless. There most pronounced flavors were on account of the sherry and wood. Vanilla and Moscatel grapes dominate, dry and slightly spicy with just a touch of leather. The sweetness of the fruit (cherry and melon) makes this more of a sweet and sour than a lactic dominated sharp, puckering beer. There is a lactic note but it is quickly fleeting. The malt comes across as sweet toffee/graham cracker/buttered toast combination, and there’s a lot of nuttiness, mostly toasted almonds from the sherry/malt combo. When I finish exploring for new nuances, I’m convinced this Jabberwocky is a devilish delight – not overly sour, but considerably colossus and complex like its namesake.
In my mouth, this beer has a nice medium body. The lower carbonation makes it reminiscent of a wine, but adds just enough pep to keep it lively. Finishes sour with lingering fruitiness. One needs to be in the mood to do battle with the wood to appreciate this beer, but it’s more drinkable than any other huge ABV sour I’ve had.
Has thou slain the Jabberwock? I have and I lived to tell the tale. And you may too. Just be warned – there is no need for a vorpal blade, just a desire for adventure, a lust for experimentation and 6 years of patience.
Does Bobby Like Great Lakes Jabberwocky?
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