Brux: Domesticated Wild Ale Review

Apparently “brux” means to clench or grind one’s teeth, often during sleep, as the day’s stresses seep into your subconscious. Which might not bode well for this beer. I mean, they’re supposed to help us relax after a hard day’s work, right? Right.

Then again, wild ales are an odd, seemingly unfriendly bunch. They’re made using nonstandard yeast species, typically Brettanomyces instead of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the standard brewing yeast. Without getting too sciency (nonetheless, WARNING: SCIENCE AHEAD), these wild yeasts can process more of the complex sugars in beer than normal brewing yeast, resulting in less sweet and thus dryer and funkier flavors. I’ve enjoyed most I’ve tried, but I can definitely understand why they might not be everyone’s cup of, uh … beer.

But what makes Brux domesticated? Apparently, they used Belgian strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for primary fermentation and then introduced Brettanomyces bruxellensis for secondary bottle fermentation. Basically, it’s a beer gone wild. Maybe Brux simply has low self-esteem.

Brewery: Sierra Nevada and Russian River
Style: American Wild Ale
ABV: 8.3%
Price Range: $10-$15 per 750 ml bottle.
Food Pairing: Probably light appetizers, cheese, etc.

My first thought after pouring the beer is that it does look a bit, well, wild. A rocky head froths up and settles above the rich amber body in a quarter-inch cap of pillowy white foam. The head smells of bright, sour Belgian yeast, citric with hints of earth and hay. The funkiness the style’s known for isn’t overwhelming, but it’s there.

The first sip reveals a bit more hop bitterness than expected, but it also isn’t overpowering. Mostly it’s sweet, bread-like malts mixed with caramel and cherries, which mask the mild farmhouse flavors running just below the surface. The body is thin but palatable, with a dry, sparking finish. It’s a crisp, enjoyable beer.

And it’s surprisingly drinkable for an American wild ale with Belgian twist … both Belgian and wild beers tend to be challenging styles. But that may have been the brewers’ primary goal: to make these strong ales appeal to a wider U.S. market by ratcheting up the hops and toning down the funk. If that was their aim, they succeeded. Brux, despite its name, is a great starting point for the style, and definitely worth the scratch — if you can avoid grinding your teeth.

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