Brooklyn 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.