The Supermoon is rising over Bay View.
The new Supermoon Beer Co. is ready to release its first two rustic wild ales next weekend, and they are good.
These beers were born 13 to 16 months ago, spending most of that interlude fermenting in wine barrels and developing the funky and exotic flavors that define them.
Just about everything owner Rob Brennan does is intentional, including the pre-Thanksgiving release of the first beers, Many Phases and Deus Ex Forager. They are meant to be shared, and while he insists they are not fancy, he does acknowledge that they are pretty enough to join a celebratory feast. “I think this has a place at that table,” he said.
Deus Ex Forager ($13 per 500-milliliter bottle) will particularly look the part of a Thanksgiving table beer. It’s a blend of 9- and 11-month mixed-fermentation ale that was referemented on whole, freshly picked Montmorency cherries from Door County – a whopping total of 2 pounds per gallon.
The cherries were used to bring color, some body-building tannins and some flavor to the beer, but it’s mostly almond and vanilla from the pit rather than the sugary, cherry pie or candy flavor we often associate with the fruit. Brennan tested Deus Ex Forager on family and friends who aren’t beer geeks, and their first comment was usually, “This doesn’t taste like cherry.”
It’s true – the cherry sweetness has almost entirely fermented out, leaving behind essence and impression rather than outright flavor. The beer has an almost cherry Tootsie Pop type aroma, and the flavor is the intersection of the French oak wine barrels, the mixed-ferm culture and the fruit – primarily its skins and pits.
It’s a subtle and not over-the-top beer, and in talking about how it turned out, Brennan said he valued “authenticity over intensity,” citing one of his beer role models, Troy Casey of Casey Brewing and Blending in Colorado.
Deus Ex Forager a very nice beer, but Many Phases ($11 per 500-milliliter bottle) is the star of this release. It’s a blend of 9- and 14-month farmhouse beers with spelt and wheat included in the grist.
The result of this patience is simply spectacular, a truly singular intersection of flavors that you can deconstruct with phrases of approximation, but all these flavors and aromas are happening at the same time in total cohesion.
There’s the kind of earthy fruitiness of apricot. There’s citrus – grapefruit, maybe, and lemon – a kind of rindy, pithy take on it. There’s a kind of honeylike sweetness, and a woody note. And while Many Phases will never be mistaken for an IPA, there is some bitterness here from Brennan’s judicious use of aged, whole-leaf hops.
In no small part because of this, for all of Many Phases’ complexity, it’s also a hell of a drinker – crisp and refreshing.
Brennan intentionally avoids using the word “sour” in talking about his beers, and it’s not just branding. Wild beers often are sour, and there is a hint of acidity in both of these, but it is far in the background. Anyone turned off by “sour” will be fine with these.
Another element they share is an absolutely delightful frothiness. Thanks to bottle conditioning with Champagne yeast, both beers are zippily carbonated and have thick dollops of long-lasting foam. It’s an essential part of the drinking experience that many wild beers forgo.
One beer that was planned for this release didn’t make it. Oaxen, Brennan’s love letter to legendary Belgian pale ale Orval, didn’t hit the correct Brettanomyces brux character he wanted, so it was dumped. Brennan describes Rob and his wife, Maria Keegan, trying the beer, looking at each other, and basically saying “meh.” Supermoon is not interested in releasing “meh” beers, Brennan said, and being as small and flexible as they are allows them to dump even a beer many months in the works without having to answer to investors. “We’re not trying to take over the world,” he said.
That nimble size has allowed Supermoon to ride out the pandemic as well. Brennan was hoping the first release would be accompanied by a packed taproom and dozens of beer fans sampling his first wild beers – as well as more standard non-wild offerings that are coming when the taproom can open. As much as Brennan believes these first two beers stand on their own – and they do – it’s hard to put them out into the world without being able to share their story with people as they enjoy them. Hopefully that happens next year. Supermoon’s next release is planned for March.
Preorders of Deus Ex Forager and Many Phases opened Friday morning, with pickup Friday through Sunday in the outdoor doorway of the taproom at 3145 S. Howell Ave. A limited number of bottles will be available for walkup purchase without preorder.