An Article by Noah Forrest
Most of the time when we think about the illustrious wild yeast genus brettanomyces (or brett for short), we picture sours, lambic, American wild ales, brett IPAs, or maybe bretted saisons. Basically, we think of beers that are dry, or hoppy, or tart, or sour, but generally rather drinkable. However, brett can really be used in any beer, and today, I want to talk about Sutton Brouërie‘s big bretted beers that came out just in time to say goodbye to winter. As well, I’d like to talk about the latest Sutton Brouerie and The Wild Shack collaborative barrel-aged sour called Sutton Goes Wild 2, which also dropped recently.
For those unaware, brettanomyces is a genus of wild yeast strains that aggressively attenuates the beer that it ferments (making it dry). It often creates a “funky” aromatic profile that can be described as dusty and earthy, and is often compared to farmhouse aromas of horse blanket, goat or dusty old books – depending on the style.
Sutton Brouerie uses brett in every single one of their beers. They generally use it as a primary fermenting yeast as opposed to a secondary fermenting yeast. What this means for the layman is that the brett “funk” is generally more restrained in their beers, while still carrying the beautifully dry and fruity flavours that the yeast can impart.
As I was mentioning, Sutton released several big beers recently. There was a bretted imperial stout, a brett barleywine and then the same imperial stout aged in Ardbeg Scotch barrels before being bottled. Generally speaking, these styles are not brewed with brett, however I have the utmost faith that Pat (head brewer and co-owner) will do something special.
If you’re not familiar with The Wild Shack, they are a Montreal-based brewing duo that has collaborated with many breweries in Quebec and Ontario. They specialize in everything wild – and in my eyes – they are brewing some of the best sour beer in the province. Once again, they got with Pat and created a sequel to the highly acclaimed barrel-aged sour called Sutton Goes Wild – and I’m excited to try it. Let’s get started.
Imperial Brett Stout
To begin, let’s crack open the non-barrel aged Imperial Brett Stout. It pours out luscious and thick. It’s pitch black. The nose is a rich mix of dark-roasted espresso beans and loads of chocolatey goodness. A light fruitiness comes through as well, giving that signature Sutton brett ester profile that I just adore. There is a charred-sugar quality here as well.
Oh man, the body is luscious and lovely. It’s silky and extremely creamy as you take each sip. There is an ashiness as well, but not too much so, and it works well with the fudgy and rich chocolate presence. Some blackberry and dark cherry comes through as it warms, but it’s minimal.
Despite the big malt base, this is exceptionally dry, with a clean finish that echoes roasted malts, bitter espresso and some subtle brett fruitiness. The alcohol is super well hidden, but there is a slight astringency in the finish that gets more intense as it warms. This is a solid RIS indeed.
Imperial Brett Stout (Ardbeg Scotch Barrel-Aged)
Let’s move onto the barrel-aged version. This beer was aged in Ardbeg Scotch barrels from the Islay region, which are known for their intense peat-forward flavour profiles. I expect some serious smoke on this one.
The nose is a rich mix of dark-roasted malts, backed by some very apparent peaty scotch smokiness. Some chocolatey aromatics mixed with the campfire, which rounds things out nicely.
The palate is rich and robust, carrying a luscious mouthfeel and perfect carbonation for the style. Like the nose, the peaty scotch is the star here, lending an ashy, freshly stomped-out campfire flavour to go alongside the stout attributes.
This beer is dry, but there is just enough maltiness to balance the slightly astringent barrel characteristics that lend an almost chemical component to the finish. There is a lingering hop bitterness to go alongside everything, leaving a relatively clean finish. You certainly need to enjoy smokey beers to like this, but if you do, it’s a treat for sure.
Brett Barley Wine
Although this isn’t actually the first bretted barleywine I’ve had, it’s certainly not a sub-style of beer that’s particularly common. The nose begins with some bright hoppy aromas, providing citrus and pine. Slight estery fruitiness come through as well, alongside some subtle spicy phenols and a touch of caramel.
Up front this is rather bitter and intense. There is an unexpected hoppy punch, lending floral and piney notes to the flavour profile. It’s quite dry, but there is enough sweet maltiness to balance the lingering bitter finish. It’s not particularly caramel focused like most barleywines, and instead displays more of a bright fruitiness and some slight clovey phenols
Apple, pear and grapefruit make up the fruit profile with some piney lingering resins. As it warms, overripe stone fruits emerge, with plums and peaches coming through. Overall, this wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was an interesting and tasty take on a barleywine.
Sutton Goes Wild 2
This is now the second collaboration between The Wild Shack and Brouërie Sutton. Sutton Goes Wild 2 is a sour beer, barrel-fermented and then aged for 10 months in Chardonnay barrels. Additionally, Sutton’s Session IPA was blended into the beer, making up 25% of the beer’s overall volume.
The nose is a bright mix of fruity acidic aromatics mixed with a hoppy citrus punch. Mango, grapefruit, papaya and some floral notes meet a spicy oak presence.
The palate matches, with subtle acidic tang, balanced against a light but present hoppiness. Lemon, grapefruit and lots of tangerine make up the fruit profile, with hints of stone fruits in the finish.
Everything is balanced here. It’s sour, but not bracingly so, and the barrel provides just the right amount of oak. There is a brett profile, but it’s not overly dusty or funky per se. As it warms, the vinous components come alive. As well, some light acetic notes start becoming apparent – which I’m normally not a fan of – but they are very subtle and actually work with the whole flavour profile. Great Stuff!
Every time I get my hands on bottles from Brouërie Sutton, I’m always so excited to dive right in. Pat’s ability to wield brett in so many directions from a flavour perspective is truly amazing. It was a ton of fun to try these big and burly beer styles after having gone through wild yeast fermentation, and we’ll just have to see what comes next.
If you want to try more beers from Brouërie Sutton, they have a good distribution around Quebec. Ask you local beer depanneur about it. However, I highly recommend taking a trip to Sutton and visiting the Auberge itself – you won’t regret it.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest