UPDATE – We Re-Reviewed this beer March, 2012 (7 months later). It’s much different now.
We were invited to be a part of a large beer blog collaborative review of Buddha Nuvo, organized by Westword’s Jonathan Shikes. I think there’s at least 15 Colorado beer bloggers reviewing the beer, just as there were 14 breweries that helped make the beer. The section that Isaac and I submitted is, so far, a bit more negative than the rest of the reviews, and I wanted to take the opportunity here to clarify some of the things we say in that review and really to talk about the rest of the beer from our perspective. The full collaborative review is located here, but for now, here’s our portion:
Complex, strange, and original, yes, but worth $40? The quickly dissipating head is a major flaw. And we think the beer is too young, the alcohol gives it a hot finish and the citrus gives it a solventy feeling that with age may mellow out.
Ultimately the reason why we decided to bring these things up was because in the collaborative review no one had done it yet, and we thought it important to say. Overall we liked the beer, and we have our own subjective rating system where the beer ended up getting an ‘excellent’ score despite some of it’s flaws but the flaws are important things to talk about. We were there for the brewing and bottling of the beer, so we’ve been really excited about sampling it, and we are really happy to be able to do so. So let’s get an actual review going from our perspective:
Buddha Nuvo Review:
This is the second bottle of Buddha Nuvo that we opened. The first we opened on the very
first day it was sold to the public. The beer is bottle conditioned so it will change with age and even though it’s only been a month we thought this ‘older version’ was already seeing some nice changes. We think in a couple years it will be fantastic, and we think the beer could potentially win awards in experimental categories, but we also still had a few questions about it.
Appearance and Aroma
As mentioned above, the biggest flaw of the beer is the quickly dissipating head, and this is the very first thing you get to see of the beer. If you take a look at the picture above, the huge head is reduced to nothing within 20-30 seconds and won’t come back by swirling the glass. The color of the beer is absolutely gorgeous however, a wonderful bright gold with fantastic clarity. We thought the aroma of the beer is possibly it’s best trait, it really smells fantastic and makes you quite eager to start drinking it. We smelled sugar, white wine, a light oak, there’s a light Farmhouse yeasty smell from some of the Brettanomyces and as it warms up the Brett turns into a slightly cheesy aroma (not in a bad way, in a Brett way). And there was definitely a lemony citrus that must be the Buddha’s Hand fruit that the beer is named after. A very fun and complex aroma to say the least.
Flavor and Mouthfeel
The beer is highly complex in flavor with a lemony citrus that battles and plays with some nuttiness and oak characteristics. Actually, Isaac thought the nuttiness was from the Brettanomyces, a nuttiness that reminds us a bit of some of the Crooked Stave beers we’ve tried, and I thought it was some of the oak characteristics from the Chardonnay barrels. He’s probably right, I’m probably wrong. The beer also has some definite white wine notes and feel, and some of the peppercorns subtly shine through in the background. The pumpkin contributes to the mouthfeel, not to the flavor, by giving a medium-light body that is round and creamy, just like a pumpkin pie. There is definitely an alcohol burn. Some have suggested this beer has no alcohol burn but we thought it for sure tasted like it was at least 12%. We think the burn will mellow out with age and will actually be really nice in the future. Lastly we thought that when the beer was cold the citrus notes were much too solventy, reminding us of medicine or cleaner, not in a good medicinal-beer kind of way. However, as the beer warms up that solventy feel/taste disappears and some of the Brett characteristics come out. We enjoyed the beer more when it was warm.
For $40 I want a perfect beer. $40 is a price I’ve never paid for a beer before, and I’m really uncomfortable paying that, even if it were for the best beers. This beer, as has been suggested by other bloggers, is definitely complex and original, but there are a couple problems with it that were hard for me to ignore…for $40 (although we might want to keep in mind that a portion of the profits go directly to the Colorado Brewer’s Guild). Also for $40 I’d like to see the label a little nicer, the label is a bit pixelated. If the beer was $20-$25 I may not be saying all this. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the beers that Trinity releases (Trinity was one of the collaborators on this one) are in the $30 range and I think they are fantastic, some of the best sours and saisons I’ve ever tasted, but this one is not quite at that level yet. It’s complex, it’s wildly different than almost all beers ever, and it’s a pleasure to be able to try this beer, but it’s not ironed out yet. We think with 2-3 years of age this beer will be really really great though so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt.