Cricket Hill Brewery is one of New Jersey's little secrets. On a national level they don't get much attention, and heck, not even locally, what with Kane and Carton stealing all the recent spotlight and Flying Fish being seen as the gristled veterans.
But Cricket Hill is very quietly making some excellent beers, both approachable and experimental. One that falls in the latter category is #15 in their reserve series, a sour porter aged in bourbon barrels.
Allegedly, only nine cases or so were produced of this beer. I don't know how accurate the number is, but I do know I paid way more for this bottle than I normally would (mostly because I didn't check the price before getting to the register). It's limited as hell, so you'll pay for it. And take note, it came out last year, so if you see one GET IT because it's one of the last bottles in existence.
The beer is certainly intriguing. There is a sour tang on the aroma but it is not strong. It overpowers the porter -- no chocolate or roast to speak of in the nose -- but it doesn't overwhelm the senses. If there is some bourbon in the nose, it's subtle. The head retention is for crap, though. Ignore my photo. The head
you see disappears quickly and doesn't stick around for long. While
that's not highly unusual for sour beers, it happens particularly fast
But a beer is all in the taste, and this one ... is challenging. Challenging, but worthwhile. The sour in the taste is a wonderful balance between pronounced and yet not so dominant that it's all you can taste. It's sour, yeah, but there is brown malt that comes through in the middle, with a nice yet gentle wash of bourbon at the finish. There is sour dark fruit in here, too. Quite complex and for damn sure a beer you'll mull over.
New Jersey's craft beer scene is better than people give it credit for when it comes to nice, drinkable beers, but is low on the "wild and offbeat" list. Cricket Hill makes a good go at it with this beer. It's complex, challenging, tasty, but not for everyone.
(If this sounds like a beer you want to try, drop me a note or email. I can still get my hands on some, but not many bottles are left.)