Russian River Temptation Header

Howdy Sour Beer Fans!

My name is Cale Baker. First, a little about me, I am currently a stay at home dad and college student studying Biology with a minor in Chemistry. When I’m not studying, I’m usually chasing my son around the house, home brewing when I can find the time, and I love to read about brewing and fermentation sciences.  Oh, and of course, drink sour & funky beers, of which I do mostly with Dr. Lambic himself!  I also enjoy other craft beers as well in addition to my sour beer addiction. I love a good pilsner and am a sucker for a crisp dry saison, but I dabble mostly in session beers, regardless of style.

I wanted to come out guns blazing on my first review on the sour beer blog, so I chose a 2012 vintage Russian River Brewing Company’s Temptation.

Russian River TemptationTemptation is sour blond ale aged in chardonnay barrels, re-fermented with Brettanomyces and two other bacteria (various strains of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus), that clocks in at 7.5% ABV.  When poured, little to no head formation occurs over a crystal clear golden straw colored beer.

(At this point I had to let the beer warm a tad before really getting into the tasting.  I find that waiting a few minutes and letting the beer warm give you a better impression of the beer right away. When cold, like most beers, a lot of funky smells and flavors are muted and you lose a ton of character, and cheat yourself if you drink the beer too cold or too fast.)

Once it warmed up, I was greeted with a huge funky Brettanomyces pineapple and mango nose. A nice dose of oak, white grapes, and soft lactic sourness rounded out the smell.  As the temperature of the beer increased, I found notes of hay and dead leaves (sort of the smell of autumn), candy orange and a slight hint of banana.

At first tasting I was hit with a solid lactic sourness that was complex, followed by light malt and a dry white wine finish. (Speaking of sourness, when brewing sour beers I’ve typically only used White Labs Lactobacillus delbrueckii. However I find that I may need to explore using other cultures of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus to achieve a greater complexity of sourness.)

Russian River TemptationThis beer features a fantastic white wine character that really adds a whole new dimension to the base blond ale.  Digging deeper, a pronounced Brettanomyces funk of mango and pineapple flavor showed itself as the beer continued to warm up.  One note I’d like to make in regards to all of Russian River Brewing Company’s sour beers, especially since they are barrel aged, is the absence of vinegar (acetic acid) flavors within them.  I find that I can take vinegar in small amounts, but overall I’m not a fan of it in my sour beers. Fortunately, as stated before, there is none in this bottle of Temptation or any of the other Russian River Brewing Company beer I’ve sampled. (Not all of them, but enough, trust me)

Overall this is the paradigm when it comes to American sour beers done in combination with wine barrels.  Russian River Temptation is a super complex sour blond that has a refreshingly light tartness and features a terrific dry white wine profile that really could be a way to introduce some of your wine friends into sour beers.  As all other Russian River beers, Temptation is a must have for any sour beer fan. Don’t pass this one up if you can find it!

Cale “Sour Brew” Baker