Unibroue master brewer Jerry Vietz made a publicity tour through Oklahoma last week, and I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with him at TapWerks during his Oklahoma City swing to talk beer and sample some of his latest creations.
The highlight of the night was getting to sample three different versions of Unibroue 17 Grande Reserve: a 2011 vintage, one blended with cherries and one aged on rum and cognac barrels.
As a general rule, I’m not a giant fan of barrel-aged beers (although it’s whiskey barrels I’m least partial to), but the rum/cognac 17 was simply out of this world. It’s definitely a beer to slow down and enjoy — it felt like each sip created the perfect warming sensation down the spine. Man.
Another treat was getting to sample a beer Vietz calls Brettart (Brett + tart). The beer is a dark ale made with Brett, Citra and Cascade hops, Belgian candy sugar and multiple rounds of fermentation.
That led me to ask Vietz — who came to beer after studying fermentation science and working with wine and ciders — if he felt like the modern American craft beer boom had a significant influence on him north of the border in Quebec. Did it cause him to want to break free from the traditional Belgian form of Unibroue’s beers?
“Since we’ve been founded, it’s all about the balance in the beer,” Vietz replied. “All the products we produce, we want to have the perfect balance.
“Even with the funky things that I do, what is really important to me, is to have the balance. No matter if I use the Brett, if I use dry-hop, if I go with wood age, it’s nothing over the top. It has to be perfectly balanced. To me that’s what it’s all about.”
Vietz definitely struck the proper balance with all his 17 variations. Each ingredient was present and in its proper place. I highly recommend picking them up if you see them in local liquor stores in the coming months.