Saturday, July 28, 2007

Beer O' the Moment: Dogfish Head Festina Pèche

Dogfish Head is known for pushing the envelope when it comes to their beers, hence the motto, "Off-centered ales for off-centered people." There is Midas Touch Golden Elixer, originally called "the oldest known fermented beverage in the world," and formulated based on residue found in drinking vessels from the tomb of the real life King Midas, which supposedly dates to 700 B.C. Midas Touch was displaced in seniority with the introduction of Chateau Jiahu, a fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit reconstructed from remnants in 9,000 year old pottery found in a Northern China province. 120 Minute IPA is a mind-blowing 20% ABV and 120 IBUs, and sells for roughly $10 per (450 calorie!) 12 oz. bottle.

Anyway, you get the picture; Dogfish Head is not afraid to push the envelope, or even to tear it wide open. It doesn't always work, but it ain't boring, either. We weren't all that enamored with their sour peach lambic offering, Festina Lente, at last July's Belgium comes to Cooperstown festival at Brewery Ommegang, but that doesn't a second peach-based beer, Festina Pèche, isn't worth a try.

Described on the label as a "Malt beverage brewed with peach concentrate," Festina Pèche is Dogfish Head's admittedly unique version of a Berliner Weisse, fermented with real peach juice. At 4.5% ABV, this is a bit stronger than is typical of this style, a real shock coming from these guys. It pours a pale straw yellow with a foamy white head that quickly disappears, leaving only a ring of lace around the edge of the Belgian-style chalice. The tart peach aroma is present, but not at all overpowering, as there are also hints of apple and wheat present. The taste is very sharp and sour, but with some dry sweetness coming through from the peach and malt. There is almost no hop presence detectable. This one is a very interesting drinker, definitely helped out by the strong sun overhead on a hot summer day. Though Berliner Weissebier is a low ABV style basically designed as an all day summer drinker, this version seems a bit too much to have more than a couple at a time. It did prove very quenching, and very different than most typical summer offerings, though. Did we mention that it is somewhat sour?

Dogfish Head compares Festina Pèche with Pinot Grigio, and recommends pairing it with chicken or fish, which sounds about right to us, as it definitely has a wine thing going on. Pick up a four pack during one of those unbearable dog days of August and see what you think. We promise you'll have a unique experience, at the very least.

What the brewer says:

A refreshing, neo-Berliner Weisse fermented with honest to goodness peaches to (get this!) 4.5% abv! Because extreme beers don't have to be extremely boozy! Available in 4-pack and draft during the sweaty months. Sadly, there are only two breweries left in Berlin still brewing the BerlinerWeisse style which is characterized by its intense tartness. There were once over 70 breweries in Berlin alone making this beer! In addition to fermentation with an ale yeast, Berliner Weisse is traditionally fermented with lactic cultures to produce its acidic or green apple-like character. It is delicately hopped with a pale straw color and served as an aperitif or summertime quencher. To soften the intense sourness, Berliner Weisse is traditionally served with a dash of essence of woodruff or raspberry syrup.

In our Festinal Peche since the natural peach sugars are eaten by the yeast, the fruit complexity is woven into both the aroma and the taste of the beer so there is no need to doctor it with woodruff or raspberry syrup - open and enjoy!

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