Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
I occasionally find myself becoming fascinated with a brewery. Sometimes, it happens very quickly — I fell in love with the beers of Maine Brewing Company almost immediately. Other times, though, I find a brewery that sneaks up on me as I try more of their offerings and become more familiar with their style. Such was the case with Picobrouwerij Alvinne.
I started bringing in some of the beers of Alvinne last year, and they’ve become staples of my Sour Ale collection at Arrowine. In ten short years, Alvinne has become a worldwide phenomenon with the most modest of facilities — with the average batch of beer at Alvinne being good for only about 65 cases of beer, the ‘Picobrouwerij’ title (“small brewery”) Alvinne self-applies isn’t just a joke — it’s the truth.
Alvinne’s uses wine and spirits barrels along with their distinctive Morpheus yeast, a blend of their own proprietary strain and Lactobacillus cultivated in Auvergne, France. (Side note: Auvergne is home to some of our favorite cheeses at Arrowine, including Bleu d’Auvergne, Fourme d’Ambert, and Cantal.) The Morpheus yeast makes for a Sour Ale that has plenty of acidity but also complex, fruity notes. Here is a rundown of some of the Alvinne beers I’ve been able to try over the past year, most of which are available right now.
Cuvee d’Erpigny: A version of Alvinne’s Quadrupel aged in barrels from Monbazillac, a region of France that produces Sauternes-like sweet white wines. The already sweet, rich Quad is pushed to the brink by the heavy influence of the wine barrel. There’s a lot of interesting fruit and brown sugar notes in Cuvee d’Erpigny, so don’t let its sweetness distract you. Most Quadrupels are very big but approachable on their own or with the right cheeses or meals; Cuvee d’Erpigny is for dessert only.
Cuvee De Mortagne: Another Quad variant, Cuvee De Mortagne is aged not in dessert wine barrels, but barrels from Pomerol, a region within Bordeaux’s right bank. While not as sweet as Cuvee d’Erpigny, Mortagne is sweet, with earthy malts and subtle vinous cherry flavors.
Cuvee Freddy: You might remember Cuvee Freddy from my last column, when I threw it into our staff beer and cheese pairing as a wild card. A blend of Stout and Flanders Red Ale aged in barrels for 8-12 months, Cuvee Freddy shows off Alvinne’s Morpheus yeast along with its playful, innovative approach to blending and brewing. The malts from the Stout cut the intensity of the acid a bit, and contribute roasty flavors that traditional Sours just don’t have.
Cuvee Freddy Zymatore: The Zymatore project is an effort of Alvinne’s importer, B. United, featuring unique combinations of brews and barrels. The Cuvee Freddy Zymatore sees the beer spending time in Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Gin, and Whiskey barrels. The result is full of sour cherry, chocolate, and vinous notes with a boozy edge riding along with the base beer’s acidity. Very rare, but available now.
Wild West: This is the most recent Alvinne to arrive in Virginia. A blond Sour, Wild West is fermented at a very high 99-degrees. The high-temperature fermentation is so that the Lactobacillus in the Morpheus yeast will lose its mind and bloom like crazy, bringing an intensity of tropical fruit notes to the final beer unseen in most Sour Ales. Following fermentation Wild West is aged in Bordeaux wine barrels to smooth some of its rougher edges and contribute more complexity of flavor.
I’m hoping more of Alvinne’s beers will become available to us soon, but for now that’s it. Until next time.
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