It’s the beer with three faces! Well, I suppose since it’s a beer it hasn’t actually got any faces, but it’s certainly a perplexing brew – complex and full of wonder. It’s Green Flash’s Belgian-style pale ale – Rayon Vert¹.
Released in January, this beer has actually been in the making for the past four years! Rayon Vert is the result of a self-imposed challenge: to produce a Belgian-Abbey style ale to express the spirit of Green Flash, if they were a brewery producing just one beer and operating under the conditions of pre-WWII Belgium. Why? BECAUSE THEY CAN.
Green Flash even went out of their way to develop a new, sturdier bottle for their entire range, because the old design couldn’t handle the pressure of the highly carbonated Rayon Vert.
The brewery claims it’s the only is the only year-round front-line beer in the US of its kind – that is, a beer that’s bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces². And it is amazing.
The 7% beer pours slightly hazy, is honey-golden in colour and has a fluffy white head. It smells slightly sweet, a bit fruity – like red berries, but it’s the tart brettanomyces which dominates the aroma. A full-bodied beer, it tastes tart, with lemon and berry flavours coming through, before making way for roasted malt, brown sugar and then a big hit of the brett sourness. There’s a dark fruit character on the finish too. Dry, more-ish and drinkable, it’s actually a very well-balanced beer.
This beer is a circus act. Despite the difficulty in pouring the beer with its high level of carbonation, it looks pretty and harmless. The aroma is delicious, but not unexpected in a Belgian-style ale. But the flavour – oh the flavour! It’s sweet, yet sour. It’s full-bodied, yet dry and refreshing. It has a big brett character, yet is well-balanced. And the best trick of all: it is oh so drinkable – which is incredibly difficult to pull off in a brett beer.
I was lucky enough to try Rayon Vert at Hashigo Zake’s ‘New from California’ tasting last week, less than a day after it arrived in Wellington from the brewery. I’ve already tried it again, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time before the New Zealand stocks run out. Being bottle-conditioned with brett, the yeast will continue to change the beer as it ages. So I’ll have to make sure I buy a few bottles and leave them to age – that is, if I can stop myself from drinking them all now.
¹Rayon Vert is French for Green Flash.
²Brettanomyces is a wild yeast which is often an unwanted characteristic in beer. It’s airborne, so can find its way into a brew anytime after the boil, infecting the beer (that’s why brewers are so paranoid about sanitation and cleanliness and leaving beer open to the air). But brett is actually a desired flavour in some beers – usually Belgian-styled – which tends to give off a dry, tart character to the beer.