Here are my thoughts on bottling year 3 (2015) of the Solera, Unblended first.
Unblended Solera: Bottling Year 3
Appearance: High carb, had the glass ready when I opened it but there was no concern of a gusher, however when I opened one a few months ago it did gush. It's been awhile since I have had a beer from the Solera and forgot how great the color is on this beer, it's like a copper-ish yellow, like the color of some really dark yellow urine. Yum? Head for days, and days, and days, frothy head and it last with 1/4" on top throughout the entire glass. Pretty remarkable for a glass of dark yellow urine "Blegh*.
|Stockings hung by the chimney with care...|
and then my 1 year old rip them down and stomped on them.
Aroma: Minerality to the aroma, maybe even slightly metallic, notes of tree bark and sap from a pine tree almost coming across as sweet, no nail polish, quite earthy with subtle pear skin quality and an underlying pineapple aroma thats come out as the bottle has aged for a year.
Flavor: When these bottles were young it was bracingly sour, but as they have aged it has seemed to meld a little better, or maybe perception has. There is some body to the beer, an almost fluffy texture that gives way to an assertive acid note, slightly acetic but dominated by the lactic. A little bit of a spice tinge on the tongue, earthy but mostly dominated by the fluffiness and the acid. Really very drinkable for how old and sour the beer is. It's considerably less sour than year one, more complex and much more enjoyable.
Overall: I am actually happier with this than I had expected to be, young bottles were sharply sour with a background sweetness that distracted and frankly put me off. The acid has melded well and seems to be a bit more restrained, however that "sweetness" (not sure thats the best descriptor) bothers me a little. I enjoy it but do I like it? I don't know that I can say that exactly, but I don't hate it. The struggle is real.
Blueberry Solera: Bottling Year 3
Appearance: Big pop of carb when I opened the bottle, some foam grew in the neck but no Gush, love the geometry of these bottles for high carb. This beer actually has significant legs, like a red wine, there is a nice body to the beer.
Beer poured with a white-ish pink head, fading quickly to virtually nothing at all, the complete opposite of the "unblended". It's an amazing color, deep Crimson/purple, almost the color of a light red wine. Carbonation is visible in the glass, clarity is good.
|Listen, I get it, Die Hard is set during Christmas time, |
but it is NOT A CHRISTMAS MOVIE!
Aroma: There is a touch of a solvent/ethyl acetate note in the nose upon first whiff, but the second time I jam my nose in there I'm adjusted and get a remarkable blueberry, cherry aroma. Either I needed to adjust or became numb to that aroma but at first I thought "Oh crap, this is a stinker" but once I did adjust the blueberry and dark fruits really popped.
Flavor: Whew, very tart, very blueberry jam like. Silky smooth body with a lactic and carbonic bite. Super refreshing jammy blueberry thing going on here.
Overall: This turned out pretty great, much better than the "unblended" version. Maybe the Blueberry is playing well with the underlying sweetness of the base beer or the refermentation blew that out of the beer. This is without a doubt the most enjoyable beer to have come out of the Solera yet. However, the fruit beers coming out of my barrels are much better.
Solera Overview to date
After the first year I felt the beer in the Solera was pretty one dimensional, overly sour, apple-y, with a slight troubling ethyl acetate note. At that point it would have worked better as a blender than bottling up unblended but I stayed the course and packaged it untouched. I still have a bunch of bottles left from that first year, most recently I have been blending those finished bottles into fresh Saison for Bier De Coupage, more on that down the road. The changes I've made over the years, both in wort production, fruiting, and blending, have resulted in some solid beers but I would be lying if I reach for the bottles super often. Looking back at the project I feel like I have been making those changes to fix issues, not to take something that is solid and make great but to rectify issues. A fun exercise, but feeling like throwing good money after bad at times. While the Blueberry turned out quite nice here, my excitement for the Solera is waning, I plan to brew a new top off beer and age it out another year but if it's not considerably better I will likely end the project.