Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Review: El Oso Agrio (Carver Brewing)

At Carver Brewing Co., I generally read past the usual offerings on the menu board to try whatever seasonal is on tap. This time, it's El Oso Agrio, a sour beer gently cared for by Carver's brewer Erik Maxson.

El Oso Agrio comes in a goblet for $5. It's a big beer, about 11 percent ABV and 90 IBUs. The sour taste is up front. I wouldn't want it to be any more sour, but it stops just short of being excessive.

El Oso Agrio (the sour bear) is a relative of Carver's Big Grizz Barleywine that has been hanging out in barrels. I'll let Maxson tell you about it:

"In 2003 I put some of our 120 Shilling Scotch ale in a whiskey barrel, and it sat in the corner of the upper level of the patio for a while. In 2003 the Big Grizz that was barrel aged was consumed, but for the batches of Grizz 2004 through 2007 we held a whiskey barrel on the patio. I'd check them periodically to see where they were going, and tried to act in their best interests; some were fruited, some were not. The goal I had in mind was to let the character that the barrels had developed to go, with minimal interference from me. I never re-pitched the barrels with yeast or other critters.

"When the barrels were no longer 'clean' I put them to work on this project. In early 2009 we brought the all the barrels (one six-year old Scotch, and four consecutive years' versions of the Grizz) back into the cellar and blended them with some of the 2008 batch of Grizz that was on draught. Once the new blend was allowed to age for several months it was racked into kegs and stored for the remainder of the 2009.

"We did briefly put the El Oso on line at the end of spring last year for a test. We had the pleasure of serving it at the Governor's Mansion local beer and food pairing during the (Great American Beer Festival), and also at the Vail Big Beers (Belgians and Barleywines Festival) in early January."

El Oso Agrio is one of those special beers that doesn't quite exist anywhere else. It's heavy, sour and boozy, and not surprisingly, reminiscent of barleywine with a sour kick. It's not an everyday beer, but it makes a heck of a winter warmer. A-


  1. You could learn a thing or two from this article: http://www.moderndrunkardmagazine.com/issues/01-05/0105-beer-snobbery.htm

  2. The whole concept of beer snobbery is stupid. It's snobbish to look down on cheap products, especially if they're similar in quality to more expensive products. But that's not the case here. I don't go out of my way to bash cheap beer. And if I did, I'm backed up by the obvious differences between something like PBR and El Oso Agrio. They're just not the same, and it's not snobbish to recognize the fact.

  3. If Durango had a macrobrewer, you would see an appropriate amount of coverage by soggy. the coaster is no snob.