Among beer geeks, it's hard to find a brewery more sought after than Russian River. They're tiny tiny tiny, but get acclaim across the U.S. despite being available mostly in California and a few connected states. (Philadelphia, PA is an exception.) Their best known beer is Pliny the Elder, a big double IPA.
But the beers the hardcore look for are their sours. Russian River are known for being one of the great brewers of sour beers in the U.S. Temptation is among them, a sour beer aged in French oak wine barrels.
The beer has a mild bready aroma with clear Chardonnay tones throughout. Looks golden, crisp, and kind of ordinary. When it hits your palate, however, it's something new. The tartness pushes forward in the middle – it’s sour, but not mouth-puckeringly so – with a very dry finish reminiscent of, you guessed it, Chardonnay. It's crisp, but only because it finishes so dry. Quite dry. The more sips you take the more it all smooths out until you're drinking a tart, effervescent, fruity beverage that manages to be more complex than the white wine it initially hints towards. As it warms the yeasty bread starts to come out to play and the tartness (unfortunately) runs and hides. Delicious overall, but slow to reveal itself.
But here's the rub: on the East Coast I paid $15 for a single bottle. One bottle. Worth it? Only for the adventurous, or if you love sours (which are sadly rare on the East Coast scene).