This is an interesting one to say the least. The Brooklyn Brewery has created a series of beers branded as BrewMaster’s Reserves. Brooklyn’s BrewMaster is the much renowned author and beer and food advocate Garrett Oliver. Garrett has been the BrewMaster at the Brooklyn Brewery since 1994, and has helped propel Brooklyn to the highest ranks of American Craft beer – it is beers like the Manhattan Project that prove this feat.
This beer is a collaboration between Garrett and one of America’s leading cocktail experts David Wondrich; it has been inspired by the traditional Manhattan made with Rye Whiskey rather than Bourbon. This really is a new and amazing realm of beer then, one driven by the power of spirits and cocktails. If done masterfully, this could really begin a new genre of great beers. Already brewers take flavors from foods, herbs and spices to create great beer; spirits and cocktails is just the next step.
The Manhattan Project is a rye beer than has been aged in Rittenhouse 100-proof Bonded Rye Barrels from the Heaven Hill Distillery. It has been brewed with malted rye, crystal rye malt, Canadian Two row pilsner malt, British Maris Otter malt, German Perle hops, and a slew of ingredients used solely to impart a true Manhattan flavor into the beer such as organic cherry juice, better orange peel, sweet orange peel, lemon peel, gentian root, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and cloves. Get the picture? This is shaping up to be largely complex and spicy beer.
It finished at 7.5% abv and is only available on draught at select locations. I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy it at Cole’s Pub in Buffalo this past Monday. If you are not familiar with what a Manhattan cocktail is, go try one. It is whiskey (Bourbon or Rye), sweet vermouth, bitter, and typically garnished with a maraschino cherry.
It was served to me in a Brooklyn Pint glass and came out a murky brown beer with a short airy white head. The beer showed dirty red browns and oak like amber with some traces of flat burnt orange. There was sediment floating everywhere in the beer. Literally, it was easy to spot flecks and specks of unfiltered beer perfectly suspended in every cubic inch of the beer.
That all being said, it was completely opaque and pretty dirty looking. This though enticed me even further. This beer will easily dispel the idea that good beer must be clear – that could not be farther from the truth. What I had in front of me what pure and real ale with no artificial cleansing or filtering. The way it should be.
The nose is sweet and malty, filled with herbs, tart cherry, and that distinct bitters touch. So far it definitely smells like a Manhattan, with a fresh and crisp hop aroma and soothing malts. Oak is warming and floats to me with cinnamon, clove and sweet orange peel. Mostly though the cherries and malts balance off each other and win the battle in the nose.
Drinking the Manhattan project is really fun; the flavors of a malty, lightly hopy Manhattan glide over your palate like they have never before. It comes in cool and clean with a silky burst of rye malts, big dark cherry sweetness, oak, vanilla, spice and herbal bitter sensations (I expect that would be the gentian root). The malt is soft and round showing classic malted rye flavors, soft caramel, hints of toffee, touches of pale malt and biscuit with a gentle balance; it is never overpowering.
That is the backbone of this beer, now layer on top of the a myriad of spices. The orange and lemon peels come in and meet coriander, clove and nutmeg to burst open a fresh wave of spicy whiskey. When combined with the oak ageing and the herbal and floral flavors that blanket the entire beer, a Rye Manhattan becomes extremely obvious. The Perle hop is relatively gentle, and should be for this concoction – it adds just enough to the herb and floral bitter tartness to the cherries to balance the beer and provide that angostura bitters feeling.
The finish is sweet and warming with a smooth silky touch – ok Garrett, well done – this truly is a beer Manhattan. It was very satisfying and even slightly refreshing. One of my favorite pleasures with a good Manhattan is a big robust cigar. I am going to have to find the opportunity to try that with the Manhattan project.