Memory is a tricky thing.
Because sometimes one specific one can be so good, that it can completely get in the way of any attempt to revisit it. Be it that favorite album from high school, that pizza place you went with friends or that one post college haunt, sometimes you just cannot go home again. Especially if that was your post college haunt.
So the other night, I picked up a bottle of Orval to put this theory to the test. It is widely considered one of the great Belgian Trappist beers and, personally, it was one of those drinking experiences that really opened my mind up to the complexity of not just Belgian beers, but to the potential of all beer in general. So, yes, the bar was set kind of high.
After I poured the bottle in my glass and admired its brown, opaque color, I realized I was already coming into contact with some brettanomyces. The brett, as I will here forth lazily refer to it as, is a wild, naturally occurring yeast. It is the famous tart and funky character that is the calling card of traditional sour beers. I was already starting to smell it, even with the glass six inches from my face and it was alerting my senses that something unique was en route.
On the first taste, it was a ripe red apple. It is certainly sweet, but with a soft, but bitter bite to the finish. The brett shows up seconds later with the malt, bringing that musty bit along with that tangy yeastiness. The tone of the flavor stays very bright, and with a little time, it stays bitter, but a cedar/woody/cherry sort note begins to develop. The malt seems to come alive a bit as it warms to add a nice richness to the proceedings.
Sometimes things arent as great as you remember, but other times they are. However, if you can find a way to surpass them to create an even better memory, that is a real trick.