“Owww we want the funk, give up the funk…”

by Katie Pizzuto on February 27, 2014

in beer

IMG_1362Brooklyn Brewery makes me wish I lived in Brooklyn, and other than my friend Joe Carroll’s trio of gastro-bliss joints (Spuyten Duyvil, Fette Sau and St. Anselm) I didn’t really think anything could make me want to live in Brooklyn—I heard a tree grows there, but it continues to elude me. Every beer they’ve ever released to the public has found a place in my heart, but I can get those beers anywhere. It’s the ghost bottles—the ones they’re continually inviting me to taste but only seem to pour on a damned weeknight, when maneuvering my way from Northvale, NJ (where I work) to Brooklyn and then home to the mountains of Ringwood, NJ isn’t feasible for as long as I remain sane—that make me wish I lived in Brooklyn.

BB’s ghost bottles are the ones that never see the light of a shelf. The ones they pour only for a select few. The ones they open at private tastings or small events. The ones I can’t ever seem to put my lips to. But recently, Brooklyn started what they call the BQE (Brooklyn Quarterly Experiment) which launches one of these ghost bottles every three months, and sends a few thousand cases out into the market. In case anyone sucks at math, once you give priority distribution to the 5 boroughs of New York that leaves a handful of retailers in Jersey with maybe 2 cases of the stuff and the rest of the world with their dick in their hands.

I was invited to the launch of their very first bottling—Wild Streak—but was still clinging to my sanity so I failed to show my face. But the lure seemed tasty, so the hunt began. Here’s how they described their first release: ”Brooklyn Wild Streak starts off as a Belgian-inspired golden ale. After fermentation and a brief conditioning, we then age the beer for several months in second-use bourbon barrels, giving it a soft, round character infused with nicely balanced oak flavors. Finally we bottle the beer flat and re-ferment it with blend of priming sugar, Champagne yeast and the wild yeast strain Brettanomyces. As the two yeasts do their cavorting, the beer gains its natural carbonation. The “Brett” takes many months to do its thing during bottle aging, but once it does, Wild Streak is enlivened by a wonderfully complex earthy funk.”

I see “earthy funk” and I get all giddy, like a schoolgirl that just found out her favorite boy band is coming to town, so I emailed their PR folks and got told to wait a few days…then they’d have a list online of where to find the stuff. I waited. Then I was greeted by a list that only included retailers and beer joints in the 5 boroughs. Was I willing to drive my ass into NYC that coming weekend to hunt some down? Mos’ def’. Was I willing to wait until the weekend? Fuck no. So when I saw that a lot of Whole Foods locations were carrying it, I got wise and called one near me in Jersey. Expectations weren’t high but the head of the beer/wine department remained hopeful. I gave him my cell number, my email and my library card number, just for good measure. And when they finally got their two cases I raced down to buy some. I mean, we were talking Brooklyn Brewery AND we were talking funk…I was salivating just talking about it.

But then came the bringdown. And it was probably my fault for having such high hopes. We women tend to have those for the wild ones in our lives, but usually they are hopes that the wildness will eventually subside. I was actually hoping for something really wild, and instead got something that was at most just beginning to roam near the fences. I wanted the earthiness. I wanted the tanginess. I wanted the funk! But this wasn’t Parliament-level funk. It was more like Earth, Wind and Fire-style funk. It teased you with hints of it, but didn’t live up to its name.

Wild Streak wasn’t quite a “sour” beer, but there was plenty of tartness to get the thirst buds going. I was honestly expecting it to lean more heavily towards the Flemish or Lambic style, but that sucker refused to lean for me. It had a light haze and a pale orange body, with a nose that gave off bits of sour berries, vanilla, yeast and tropical fruit. It was beautiful, it was balanced and it was earthy, but I just couldn’t find the funk. So when the $20 bottle was empty, I went to the turntable and put on some Sly and the Family Stone…and that tore the roof off.

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You have to admire a man in his 30s who shows up to his winemaker’s dinner in suspenders and wool slacks. Don’t ask my why—
I don’t make the rules—but it’s really damned cool. Add to that a mop of untamable wavy hair and an attitude towards the American cork-dork blogosphere that clearly has yet to be tainted, and you have the makings of a mad genius. Mostly I am coming to terms with the fact that it might just have been the suspenders, but this is by no means an unbiased, objective blog, just an honest one.

Cerulli_Spinozzi_CortaltoEnrico Cerulli is making mind-blowing Pecorino. It has faint hints of honeysuckle and a distinct floral/herbal character that make it both voluptuous and racy all at once. It’s creamy and citrusy, with legs for miles like that brickhouse you had wet dreams about in high school. And no, you don’t want to put any on Sunday’s spaghetti. Cerulli Spinozzi is one of only a handful of wineries growing and bottling Pecorino in the Abruzzo region, and it blows Trebbiano off the grid, with a style reminiscent of white Burgundy…minus the price tag. It’s what you’ve never tasted and what you don’t even know how badly you want to taste, especially when it clocks in at under $15. Securing a bottle or two may not be any easier than scoring with the high school brickhouse, but some things are just worth the hunt. Simple as that. Only place I know of in the entire US currently selling it is Gotham Wines in NYC. As for me, I’m hoping the additional hectare he is nurturing (he currently only has 1.5 hecatares of pecornino) will be named the brickhouse lot. Given America’s penchant for euphemistic names, the bottling should sell like hotcakes. Then again, it would make it that much harder for me to secure any.

sv_Torre-MiglioriAnd because making a wine from grapes you’ve never heard of isn’t quite enough, Enrico is also making a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo you’ve probably never had because it’s a DOCG. Nearly all the Montepulciano imported into the US comes from the huge Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC. But that region has a singular DOCG subzone so small you’ll miss it if you sneeze, called Colline Teramane (Teramane Hills). The region produces less than 0.5% of the volume of the larger DOC (only 48 producers), and Cerulli owns 10% of it. His Torre Migliori Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is made completely from DOCG fruit.

It’s intoxicatingly aromatic, with lots of earthy and dark-berry tones, and a feel so chunky you’ll want to try to bite it (and no, we are NOT still talking about the brickhouse). And while Cerulli isn’t yet one of the DOCG’s top producers, in true maverick style, he is pole-vaulting the mote and catapulting the walls. Because it’s still not on most radars, the wine is a bargain so astounding it makes you almost feel bad paying so little…almost. Under $20 and I was only able to find it at (again) Gotham Wines and WineChateau.com. Tantalizingly rare, and an incredibly sexy mouthful—It’s the high school brickhouse and soooo much more.

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WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: “Cause I’m just a girl, little ol’ me, don’t let me out of your sight…”

by Katie Pizzuto January 22, 2014
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“Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams…”

by Katie Pizzuto December 25, 2013
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Roasting a pig, for many, is much more than cooking–it is ceremony as sacred as any religious rite divined by man. I mean, sure, I guess the overwhelming majority of religious rites don’t include copious amounts of rum, domino matches and tall tales of the old country, but you know what they say…one man’s swine […]

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“You didn’t have to love me like you did, but you did, but you did, and I thank you…”

by Katie Pizzuto December 1, 2013
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I’m not usually one to capitulate to the whole “better late than never” excuse, but I figure if I combine this belated “giving thanks” post with an early, end-of-the-year “top 3″ list post, it’ll be a wash—like 3 Hail Maries for stealing a candy bar. This year found me extraordinarily reflective, which is certainly nothing […]

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“There is trouble with the trees…”

by Katie Pizzuto October 27, 2013
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The Brothers Grimm were storytellers that rivaled my beloved Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft at times, despite the fact that their fables were often sanitized and diluted for the masses. Their disturbing scenes of violence served as warnings and moral lessons for children, but their public and literary reception wasn’t always a warm one. […]

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“I got the devil in my blood, tellin’ me what to do, and I’m all ears…”

by Katie Pizzuto October 5, 2013
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My relationship with alcohol is an intimate one, for it has known the wide expanses and boundaries of both my elation and sorrow, my rage and contentment, my moments of utter spiritual peace and my paradoxical comfort with chaos. And while there is no question that I could live out the rest of my days […]

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“And you, sir, do not have a pair of testicles if you prefer drinkin’ from glass…”

by Katie Pizzuto September 20, 2013
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Lambrusco has undoubtedly become a black sheep in the wine industry over the last couple of decades. Actually, if I’m being honest, talk to any wine snob and they’ll grimace at the mention of brands like Riunite as if they are far worse than a black sheep…being instead something more along the lines of the […]

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“Don’t, don’t, don’t believe the hype…”

by Katie Pizzuto August 29, 2013
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It used to be that finding a new restaurant to go to was a matter of recommendation. You’d find yourself hearing where your in-laws went last Saturday night, and how amazing the Chateaubriand was, how perfectly reduced the demi-glace was, and what an asshole the waiter was. And based on your circle of family and […]

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“What I want is what I’ve not got, and what I need is all around me…”

by Katie Pizzuto August 19, 2013
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So I’m standing there in the dimly lit kitchen opening my first bottle in Dave Matthew’s Dreaming Tree portfolio and my brain starts singing, “Don’t drink the water, don’t drink the water…” which is rather appropriate because 1. I’m drinking wine instead of water, 2. It’s a lyric from one of his songs and 3. […]

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