There are so many places in the world that produce unique styles of beers that are hard to find in the United States. Unfortunately, I can't afford to visit them all, to try a couple of Finnish sahtis or a beer brewed with rice and sake yeast in Japan.
There are so many places in the world that produce unique styles of beers that are hard to find in the United States.
Unfortunately, I can't afford to visit them all, to try a couple of Finnish sahtis or a beer brewed with rice and sake yeast in Japan.
Thankfully, the Otter Creek Brewing Company of Vermont is lending would-be world beer travelers a helpful hand, brewing unique brews as part of its World Tour series of beers.
"We've always been kind of a conservative brewery, and this gave us an opportunity to really celebrate these beers," said Max Oswald, director of sales and marketing for Otter Creek. "A lot of breweries do these 'classic brewmaster' series, but we wanted to figure out how we could do this without using 'brewmaster.' Then we started thinking of concert tours, and they call them world tours, so we settled on World Tour. It lightens it up."
The idea behind the series, which started in 2006, is to find a unique style of beer not commonly produced, particularly in the Northeast, and have the brewery make its own interpretation of the style. Unlike most of its labels for Otter Creek, and its sister brewery Wolaver's, the World Tour series labels stand out. Each one features the mascot, an otter, in different situations.
"My favorite is the Helsinki Gold label," said Oswald. "The otter is in a towel, hanging out in front of a sauna with two hot chicks, and he's kind of oggling them."
The latest stop on the World Tour is Japan, with the Otter San. It's a Japanese-style pale ale, brewed with sake rice. It's a unique style, with interesting flavors. You can definitely taste the sake, and the beer starts off a little sweet, then becomes sour. It is a beer, if you haven't had anything like it, that's worth seeking out.
"It's kind of interesting," said Oswald. "You've got to try this beer. If you've never had that Japanese yeast, it's an experience. It's really pairable with food. There's not a lot of similar beers out there. When you get into the beer, you get a nice fresh taste, and then boom, the sake comes in. It's an impactful flavor."
In fact, most of the World Tour series beers are like that. I'm not sure if I had any that I'd want more than one or two of, which works out perfectly for a limited series.
It's a fantastic way of trying the hard-to-find styles. Oswald said that was the idea, to give beer drinkers something memorable.
"Most of us who drink a lot of beer and try a lot of beer, they hold onto those unique tastes," he said. "Those are the ones you remember."
My favorite of the World Tour beers was the Helsinki Gold a Finnish-style sahti. Sahtis are an ancient style brewed with several types of herbs and do not use hops.
Another standout was the Cervesa de Cow a South American-style beer brewed with a light, chocolatey flavor.
Other World Tour beers included the Otter Kilter, a Scottish-style ale, the Holy Otter, a Belgian-style tripel, the Double Decker, an English strong ale, and the Otter Bahn, a German-style lager.
"Steve Parks (head brewer) will go through a lot of research and go through a painstaking process trying to find authentic ingredients," Oswald said.
There will be two more stops on the World Tour this year. At the end of July, the Otter Sphinx is expected to hit stores. It's going to be Egyptian-style ale brewed with five different grains. This is one I'm definitely looking forward to. I've never had an Egyptian-style beer.
"We haven't even tasted it yet," said Oswald. "We haven't brewed it yet. It's going to be kind of a celebration. The Egyptians were some of the earliest brewers."
Later this year, the World Tour will take a second shot at a traditional Belgian double. The name hasn't been chosen.
If these experimental beers are not your cup of tea, Otter Creek still has several traditional beers on the shelves. Along with its normal line of beers, the brewery produces four seasonals.
Some of the traditional beers are the Copper Ale, a German-style alt; the ESB, a British extra special bitter; the Stovepipe Porter, a pale ale; and White Sail, a wheat ale.
The Wolaver's beers are organic, if you're into that type of thing. The beers are solid and worth drinking at anytime. The highlight is the Brown Ale, while the oatmeal stout, the All-American Ale and the India pale ale are all decent beers.
Wolaver's will also be introducing a new line that highlights the local farmers they buy ingredients from. The first one will be this fall called Will Stevens' Pumpkin Ale. Stevens is a Vermont organic pumpkin farmer and his pumpkins will be used in the recipes. His picture will be on the label. "The Wolaver's line really shows our focus and commitment to organic beers," Oswald said.
Now it's time to hit the store and jump on the bus for the next leg of the Otter Creek World Tour.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.