Tales from a Not-So-Grimm Beer Release

Matt Murphy, March 24, 2015

My first encounter with Grimm Artisanal Ales was at the opening bash for NYC Beer week. After speaking to co-founder/owner/brewer Joe Grimm about the brewery’s approach and tasting their Tessarect Double IPA, I knew that I needed to have more. So when I heard that they were releasing three new beers at Bondurants on the Upper East Side of Manhattan last week, I immediately marked my calendar. This was a no-brainer.

As I sat down a table with my drinking partner (a.k.a. my wife), I found five Grimm beers on the draft list. The three new releases, along with the aforementioned Tessarect and a previously released wild ale. Naturally, we decided to get each of the four beers that we had yet to try.

We started off with Gradient, a sour ale fermented with blackberries. Grimm is calling the beer a “Young Bruin”, similar to the Oud Bruin style of sour brown ales from Flanders but, presumably, with a shorter fermentation time.

The Gradient poured brown without much in the way of head. The aroma had some ripe dark fruit and a faint sourness that is characteristic of the Oud Bruin style, along with some hints of caramel and toast. The blackberries served their purpose of heightening the fruit component on the nose. Given the aroma, I was a bit surprised by the malty body. Hints of cereal and tea balanced out the acidity on the palate, which gave way to blackberries and currants on the finish.

I loved the balance of the fruity and malty aspects of the beer, and it was immensely drinkable for a sour. I think that your impression of this beer will depend on what you expect when you approach it. If you’re expecting it to be sour (as I did after seeing the beer’s description) you might find yourself noticing more of the malt and caramel. However, if you expect it to be maltier (as my wife did, upon seeing the brown color), the sourness will stand out more.

Next up on the list was BFF, a Belgian-style “Tripel IPA”. This was another beer where your expectations may define your experience. I was expecting something closer to a Belgian Tripel, a style with alcohol content in between the Dubbel and Quadrupel, but with a golden color and a moderate hop character. So when I caught my first whiff of this hop-bomb I was caught completely off guard.

The hazy gold brew had an intoxicating aroma, full of citrus, grapefruit, and pineapple. It smelled as good as any hoppy beer I’ve ever had, including the likes of Heady Topper and Pliny the Elder. And it smelled so fresh, which makes since, as the beer was kegged the morning before the release.

The first thing I noticed when I took a sip was the restrained bitterness. While BFF features a whopping five pounds of hops (Falconer’s Flight and Centennial) per barrel, much of the hop bill is pushed towards the back end of the brewing process via hop bursting and dry hopping. At 75 IBUs, it is closer in bitterness to IPAs such as Sculpin (70 IBUs) and Flower Power (75) than Heady Topper and Pliny the Elder (both 100+). This gives the beer its massive hop aroma while keeping the bitterness under control, and allows the drinker to pick up on some more subtle notes that might otherwise be masked. I picked up some yeast and spice on the palate, along with a light sweetness on the finish (and maybe a hint of bubble gum).

If you’re in NY and manage to get your hands on BFF, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

We took a quick break from the new beers to try Color Field, a wild ale brewed with chamomile, hibiscus, and rose hips. It poured a rosy amber with a bit of haze. The aroma was a bit funky, and while I had trouble distinguishing the individual components, there was definitely a floral, herbal element. It smelled a little bit like spring. The body was fairly light, and there was no real bitterness. It was certainly a unique beer that I was happy to try, but I wouldn’t actively seek it out again.

Closing out the evening was the final new release, a barrel-aged version of the Double Negative Imperial Stout, which spend some time in 12-year bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill. The beer was opaque black with a dark brown head that lingered for a while and left some nice lacing on the top of the glass, the kind of appearance that gets you excited for a big, bold stout.

The aroma was full of dark chocolate, along with a hint of booze from the bourbon. The taste is more chocolate and coffee with some bitterness that is offset by a light sweetness and some hints of vanilla from the oak. There was a trace of smoke on the finish.

After a few sips, I commented on how it was surprisingly drinkable for a 10% ABV barrel-aged stout. A few sips later, I made a mental note that I should reserve any judgment on a beer’s “drinkability” until I’m at least halfway done. The beer was by no means harsh, but the barrel-aged Double Negative, like most beers of its style, is best enjoyed in a small serving, sipped among friends while seeking refuge from the bitter cold outside.

As we finished off the last of the beer, I was quite pleased with our outing. The four beers we tried were all complex and flavorful in very different ways: Sour, hoppy, funky, and malty. I could not, however, stop thinking (and talking) about how delicious the BFF was; surely it will haunt my dreams until I can get my hands on some bottles (or growlers).

In addition to looking forward to enjoying some more BFF, I’ll also make sure to keep an eye out for future Grimm releases. As Joe told me at NYC Beer Week, they rarely make the same beer twice, so you can be sure that whatever they release will be new and unique. And as NY breweries grow and expand, the gypsies at Grimm could find themselves with more brewing opportunities.

Whatever, whenever, and wherever they brew it, one thing is for sure: I’ll be waiting in line to try it when it’s ready.