A noble bridge between two worlds
A Review of Noble Rot by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Posted on 3/6/2012 by Chops
When reviewing beers from the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, I would say the most common question I ask myself is, “how the hell do I rate this?” No other brewery highlights the subjectivity of brew reviewing like Dogfish Head does. I find it painful having to ding an otherwise fantastic brew just because it fails to fit in to some predetermined stylistic definition. It makes me want to establish some sort of Dogfish Rule, kind of like a “get out of jail free” card. It would be used on any brew that is extraordinary enough to warrant a total disregard of conventional wisdom. Luckily I didn't have to apply said rule when sampling the Dogfish Head Noble Rot. Due to its usage of grape must, I can slap the catch-all label of “fruit beer” on it and give it the recognition it deserves.

In the glass, Noble Rot has a clear golden coloration that is on the lighter side of the spectrum. It comes with a frothy white head that dissipates as a normal pace. The aroma is where things start to get interesting. The first impression I got was that of a quality chardonnay. Seriously, this brew actually smells like a fine wine, complete with a pure grape essence. From there it didn't take long to notice that unmistakable Belgian yeast, which perfectly compliments the grape sweetness. I also stumbled upon a faint lemony citrus that reminded me of a good Kolsch. At this point my curiosity had peaked, so I consulted the Dogfish Head website for more info:

This saison-esque science project gets complexity and fermentable sugars from two unique wine grapes sourced with our friends at Alexandria Nicole Cellars in Prosser, Wash. The first addition is unfermented juice, known as must, from viognier grapes that have been infected with a benevolent fungus called botrytis. This noble rot reduces the water content in the grapes while magnifying their sweetness and complexity. The second is pinot gris must intensified by a process called dropping fruit, where large clusters of grapes are clipped to amplify the quality of those left behind.

Wow, how cool is that? I think Dogfish president Sam Calagione sums it up best with his company motto: “off-centered ales for off-centered people”. He goes on to describe Noble Rot as “the absolute closest to equal meshing of the wine world and the beer world that's ever been done commercially.” With heightened anticipation, the only thing left to do was dive in for a taste.

That first sip instantly reminded me why tasting better beer is so much fun. Noble Rot offers so much to digest right off the bat that it causes your brain to spin. Perhaps the most immediate observation is that this beer drinks much like a fine wine. As obvious of a statement as that is considering the concept, this truly is remarkable in the beer world, especially if you know a little about wine. You can definitely taste the grape must, which comes complete with a savory floral bouquet. The Belgian yeasts add a delightfully airy compliment to the mix without the usual bready heftiness. A lemony citrus is also easy to find dancing around in the mix. This is a very interesting balance that the beer freely plays with. Imagine the pungent grape profile of a chardonnay perfectly merged with the crisp hop citrus of a quality Saison. It's simply amazing and creates an easy drinking hybrid that can be enjoyed by anyone.

I found the mouthfeel to be somewhat sticky, which isn't that surprising when considering the ingredients. There is also a hint of hop sting that nicely reigns in any runaway sweetness. It finishes with a burst of savory fruitiness that likes to stick around for a while. I should also note that the 9% ABV is extremely well hidden, so be careful. I was able to power through an entire pint bottle without so much as a flinch.

Overall, Dogfish Head's Noble Rot is a unique and delicious brew that plays freely with stylistic interpretation. Of course, this statement is fairly redundant when describing Dogfish Head brews. Noble Rot is one of the few beers that I can recommend to beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike. It highlights the many delicious traits of both fine wine and craft beer without being too complex or aggressive. This is a beer you save and open for special occasions. To put it another way, Noble Rot is a perfect date night beer, so treat it with the respect it deserves. I guarantee it will reward you handsomely.

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Noble Rot by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
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