Beer Review 0459: Russian River & Sierra Nevada Brux Domesticated Wild Ale
Editor’s Note: Beer 7 of 7 in my birthday beer week, in which I celebrate my birthday by reviewing beers I’ve sat aside for the occasion. I turn 31 on August 14. I advise you to celebrate your birthday accordingly, too!
Last year, California breweries Russian River and Sierra Nevada concocted a wild yeast collaboration called Brux, named after the yeast strain used, Brettanomyces bruxellensis. With the release of the beer, two things that don’t normally happen occurred — Brux was released through Sierra Nevada’s vast distribution channels, giving the much smaller Russian River brewery some nationwide exposure; and Sierra Nevada brewed the beer at their facility, where they aren’t known for producing any beers with wild yeast.
Accompanying this beer was a rather steep price tag ($15.99) and the initial reviews were mediocre. I hesitated buying this at first, despite it being a collaboration with Russian River, which, of their lineup, I’ve only reviewed Pliny The Elder and it was stellar (99 points). Sierra Nevada make extremely solid beers; honestly, I can’t name a weak one in their lineup. Eventually, I did grab this one and decided to let the hands of time perform some work on the beer. With about eleven months on it, it’s time to pop the cork.
As mentioned, Brux is brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, known to change the flavors of beer vastly over time. The beer is 8.3% ABV (alcohol by volume).
Uncorking didn’t provide any fuss, with the cork popping out with little pressure and providing a satisfying pop. The pour produced a huge collar of extremely fizzy head; the foam itself was foamy and billowing, and if you poured aggressively, you’d end up with a glass of all head. The beer was a nice golden-orange color with an opaque body thanks to how cloudy the liquid was. Although cloudy, there were no visible particles or sediment, and lacing never formed, although the head regenerates nicely if just to fizzle away rapidly.
The nose initially offers up earthy spice along with some faint lemongrass; the lemon scent gets more powerful as the drink warms, turning into more of a lemon peel. There’s also a small hint of sour vinegar, but it is balanced out by the spice. The yeast is musty but not quite to the funky level; other aromas include clove, grain, and sweet butter candy. Brux is pleasant in an Earth Day kind of way.
As for the taste…well, there’s a very, very, very light sourness up front that quickly fades into an orange peel and lemon bonanza. Then — nothing. This beer turns to carbonated water, with a touch of a grassy hop/straw taste and a dry hit of the Brett yeast. Wow, but not in a good way. Brux is light-bodied with an extremely dry finish; the mouthfeel is medium simply because of the high fizzy carbonation that makes this quite gritty when swirled in the mouth.
On paper, Russian River and Sierra Nevada teaming up seems to be a definite hit. But Brux is a sure miss — WHERE IS THE FLAVOR, YO? This beer reminds me of Perrier with a lemon wedge. At least they hid the alcohol well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good…but it’s not $16 good; hence the Perrier comparison, because that’s about what this brew is worth. It does say DOMESTICATED Wild Ale — perhaps domesticated in the tame sense.
So much potential here. Wasted.
Russian River & Sierra Nevada Brux Domesticated Wild Ale, 75 points. Price: $15.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.