Back in May '08, I reviewed a big redhead who was debuting a new line of "big brews" by BridgePort. The lady was beautiful inside and outside the bottle--leggy, luxurious garnet--ah, but she was a siren. Stumptown Tart looked good, but I found it nearly undrinkable:
The sourness is wrong. I'd describe it as inorganic, like a chemical creation, rather than the interplay of yeast and sugars. Aging it in oak probably didn't help matters; although the berries add some softness and flavor, it finishes with a long, puckery dryness. Although I admired the berries in the beer, and liked the idea, whatever it was the brewery used to sour Stumptown Tart didn't work.I had three bottles (big kudos to BridgePort for releasing these at just five bucks a pop), and the second one, tried a few months later, showed no improvement. Buoyed by that gorgeous spring day, I decided to crack the third bottle yesterday. And lo, it had finally started to taste as good as it looks.
The aroma remains mainly lactic--and now the fruit is very faint. Whatever caused that chemical sour has mostly dissipated. The result is a dryly sour beer, more balanced, light, and pleasant. The sour is still unfamiliar, but it has mellowed and become more pleasing. The flavor is still not as rich and full as I'd like, but the offensive note has finally fallen under the threshold of perception.
I have been a proponent of aging beers on this blog, and let this stand as another case-in-point. When you have as many moving parts as this beer does--high alcohol, sourness (which generally means funky living things, though BridgePort remains mum about their sour), and fruit--it's not suprising to see a change. Generally, aging fruit beers is a bad idea--the fragile vibrancy of fresh berries inevitably diminishes. It certainly did here. But obviously, you trade in that loss for other virtues.
I gave the fresh version a D rating. This is perhaps a B-; still not world class, but a startling improvement.