Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Day 2 (7/26/2011): Solitude by Brewery Vivant
A couple weeks ago I was in Grand Rapids for a couple of friends' wedding. I actually went to undergrad there, but this was before my beer (or at least good beer) drinking days. Now whenever I go back, I am amazed at what the city has going for it in the beer scene and a little jealous that my much larger city doesn't have anything that approaches the likes of Founders Brewing or a bar like HopCat. Not to mention, it's is a hop, skip, and a jump from Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo and a few hour drive to other notable standouts like Dark Horse and Kuhnhenn.
Before I left to head home on Sunday I headed to the store to pick up some singles from small Michigan breweries. I was able to find a number of selections and settled on six of them. One of them is Solitude from the Grand Rapids-based Brewery Vivant. Brewery Vivant focuses heavily on Belgian beers, so this Abbey style ale seemed like a good choice to judge them on. I'm not entirely certain when they opened for business, but I believe it was after I graduated and moved away so it must have been within the last four years or so.
Enough about the brewery; what did I think about the beer? All of Brewery Vivant's retail offerings are available only in pint-size cans, which seems to be the direction a lot of breweries are going. It's strange having a Belgian-style ale out of a can, though. Definitely a first for me.
The first impression is a good one. It pours a dark brown, almost Tootsie Roll, color with about an inch of cream-colored head. The smell is your typical Belgian yeast spiciness and banana esters, with a slight scent of roastiness. The smell isn't blowing me away, but so far so good.
The taste - oh, the taste. It starts off well, tasting just about how is smelled: a good sweetness coupled with cloves, bananas, and the tiniest bit of roasted malts. Not bad at all. The finish has strong notes of - wait for it - stale cigarette smoke. Yuck. This is not the pleasant, clean smoke flavor found in a good smoked porter or a rauchbier; this is a bowling alley with no fans, just before opening smoke. Not understanding why an abbey style ale would have smoke characteristics, I visited Brewery Vivant's website, which has no mention of smoked malts or any other reason why it would taste that way.
Just as salt in the wound, the body and carbonation were pretty much spot on for the style. This would be a very good representation of an abbey ale from a very new brewery if is wasn't for the terribleness of the nasty smoke flavor. I thought it might just be my palette, but other reviews on Beer Advocate mention the same thing. I ended up pouring about half of the can down the sink, which is very, very rare for me. Luckily I only bought one of this.
Despite being solid in pretty much every other aspect of the beer, the weird taste just ruins it for me. I give Solitude by Brewery Vivant a C- and I think I'm being very generous doing so. If anyone else has tried this beer before and had a different experience or would know why it tasted that way, let me know. I'm bamboozled.
Style: Abbey style ale
Beer Advocate: B-
Ratebeer: (Not enough reviews for a rating)
Purchased a single can from Siciliano's Market (Grand Rapids, MI) for $2-something. Widely available in Grand Rapids in four-packs of cans.