If you have any regard at all for what the term “craft brewing” means in the larger sense – not just stuff to drink or something cold to wash down your pizza or Ridiculous Excess burger – I want you to take a moment, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and remember that one beer you have surely tasted that, when it was described to you, made no effin’ sense at all. The description may have even made you cringe, a little bit. But you cowboyed up, wrestled the glass to your mouth, and Did The Deed…and were astonished – swooned, smiled, made happy little diaphragm noises, wanted more…
Now…imagine having that moment, that startling spark of revelation, that chill running up your spine that whispers, “ There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy!“, and having it not once every two or three years but…almost every day.
Take a look at this…
It seems impossible that The Bruery has only been in business since 2008. It was a classic story: Patrick Rue, a young newlywed who was just entering law school, back in the early 00s, started innocently homebrewing, with the usual results: messy kitchen, aggravated wife, weird smells wafting across the neighbor’s patio. But in that spume of viciously-tweaked grain aromas a passion was born and yet another career path was summarily yanked askew by visions of crowds of happy beer lovers communing peacefully over beers like few of them have ever tasted. Patrick soon left law school behind and, amid shouts of “What, have you two lost your _______ minds?!?“, The Bruery was born.
“Beers like few of them have ever tasted“, to be precise, is what almost every young brewer thinks, when they’re dreaming of their own place and their own success. The catch is, damned few of them are skilled and creative – not to mention brave – enough to actually make beer that’s appreciably different from the other 3,700 other beer producers in the US. The vast majority of brewers struggle mightily, daily, and maybe, if they are very conscientious and persistent ( and lucky), come up with one or two beers in their careers that are distinctive enough to stick in peoples’ minds. Patrick Rue seems not to know how to make anything else. The twelve carefully-chosen bottles above are, with no exaggeration, a tiny fraction of the total number of beers that Rue & Crew have turned out in the company’s astounding 5 and a half year history. RateBeer’s “The Bruery” review list includes three hundred different brews and that’s not counting some that were brief, taproom-only offerings and were never rated. For the math-challenged, that sixty+ beers a year. Many breweries struggle to turn out half that (or a quarter that). It’s especially astonishing when you consider that Patrick Rue still, in the face of all that prolific output, considers his brewery relatively modest and under-equipped.
An affable, quiet-spoken, uber-intelligent man with what some people would call a “baby face” (he’s probably going to be carded in liquor stores until he’s in his forties), Rue is a rather wonky scholar of brewing and beer styles, the breadth of which shows up tangibly in The Bruery’s devout Belgian leanings and in beers drawn directly from other, far more obscure, Euro brewing traditions. One of my favorites is the Rugbrød (second from the right, top row, abive), a Danish-styled Julebryg ale made with three different styles of rye malt. In an era when rye is really just being re-explored as a base grain for beers in the US, (the Europeans have been using it liberally for centuries) only Rue and Seattle’s Adam Robbings of Reuben’s Brews seem sufficiently adept at avoiding rye’s several potential pitfalls and/or cliches to allow them to use it in ways that manage to retain the delightful, chewy spiciness of it without having it dominate and skew the finished ale. Rue, in particular, seems to have a bottomless depth of inspiration, churning out new and innovative brews with a fantastic ease. He creates in beer the way Mozart created in music, and when I try some of the newer Bruery releases, I’m continually reminded of Mozart’s own words: “I make music as a sow piddles.” While I’m a definite advocate of keeping the sow analogy as far away from anything having to do with beverages as possible, it’s inarguable to me that Rue seems to make this near-impossible business of making eye-popping, soul-rattling ales look awfully easy, in a time when many, many young brewers are finding out the hard way how freakin’ difficult is actually is.
Normally, I would do a run-down of and tasting notes for a fair number of the brewery’s ales I’ve mentioned but, if I did that here, we’d both be here all day. To hit just a few of the highlights:
Rugbrød: Literally translated from the Danish, this means “rye bread” and, for a fact, that’s what the basic flavor of this ale recalls: a toasty slice of peppery Danish rye bread. A Julebryg-style ale (in effect, a Danish Christmas ale), Rugbrød shows a yeast-driven layer of sweet baking spices and assorted tree and stone fruit notes that harmonize prettily with spruce-tinged hops. 97 Points
Black Tuesday: A genuinely titanic (19% ABV!) Imperial Stout that I got a tiny nip of at the Festival of Dark Arts in Astoria, recently, this shows clearly that Patrick Rue and his merry henchmen can find their way out of the Belgian milieu long enough to turn out a genuinely ass-kickin’ BritTrad Stout. This stuff is deeper and blacker than the pit of hell and as flawless a Stout as anybody has made in the past ten years. 100 Points
Smoking Wood: The brewery’s website starts its description with “Brewed with beachwood and cherrywood smoked malt, and aged in rye whiskey barrels…” and that’s really all I needed to start saying “Gimme, gimmie!” I was NOT dissappointed. A big, lusty, SMOKY Imperial Porter, SW is mouth-filling, nearly-overwhelming hedonist’s beer, and one of the top two or three smoke ales I have ever tasted. 98 Points
Tradewinds Tripel: This is an absolutely flawless, soulful, light, exotic ale that Works – not only as a near-unforgettable thing to just sit and sip but as one of the best American food beers ever! Brewed with rice and Thai basil, Tradewinds’ glorious spice notes are derived from subtle, complex yeasts and masterfully restrained use of hops. The rather hefty alcohol aside (8% ABV), this is a perfect summer ale that’s THE pairing with Asian foods, seafood, and any green salad. 98 Points
Oude Tart: Flemish-style Red Ale, aged in red wine barrels for 18 months…I don’t know if I really need to say anything else, to anyone who has ever tasted a Belgian-tradition sour ale, but I will say this: Flawless. Tart, complex, different, a tad funky…just spectacular. 99 Points
Fruet: Solera-method aged anniversary ale, this is one of the most complex, genre-bending ales I have ever tasted from an American brewery. Barrel-aged lots of beers from several different years are blended and given additional barrel time, resulting in a dark amber elixir that delivers layers upon layers of flavors and textures, ranging from candy hints to fruit leathers to wood galore to a whole bazaar full of spices to fistfuls of roasted nuts. 99 Points
Sour in the Rye: Again, Rue’s mastery of rye whelps a beer that almost defies both categories and descriptions. Possibly the outright funkiest of their bottled beers, this is a 40% rye mash that spends a full year getting punch drunk on sour yeast and bacteria. What comes out of the bottle smells like an old blanket soaked in sour spiced cider and tastes like what God would give out as a party aperitif. I could drink this stuff daily, for about…oh, forever. 99 Points
The Bruery is located in Placentia, Califorrnia, out in the far eastern LA ‘burbs, next door to Fullerton. If you find yourself in LA and you don’t make the trip out to that tidy little industrial park, just off the intersection of CA routes 91 and 57, just send me an email when you get back, include your address, and I’ll come to your house, ring your doorbell, and slap you silly when you answer. It’s the least I can do…
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Send samples to: Steve Body/The Pour Fool 2887 152nd Ave. NE Redmond, WA 98052