Rosso e Marrone: Then and Now

Revisiting our #1 beer of 2009 plus a first look at the sour ale's second batch.


Published:

When I reviewed Captain Lawrence Brewing’s Rosso e Marrone, an American Sour Ale fermented with grapes and aged in oak barrels, back in late 2009, I was blown away. I’d long been a fan of sour ales, and the complexity and depth that this brew had to offer was simply out of this world. This Saturday, Captain Lawrence will be releasing their second batch of Rosso e Marrone, and I thought what better time than today to look back on the first bottling of the brew and consider its development as well as how it compares to the new offering.

Published first in the December 1st 2009 issue of Wine Enthusiast and then again as the #1 beer tasted in 2009 in the December 31st issue, here is my original note:

95 - Captain Lawrence Rosso e Marrone (American Sour Ale; Captain Lawrence Brewing Co, NY); 10.0% abv, $12/375 ml.
An amber-brown colored brew, aged in French and American oak wine barrels for over two years with brettanomyces, and Merlot and Zinfandel grapes added. Prominent aromas of horse blanket, wet hay and earth backed by notes of rhubarb, vinegar, sour cherry, wine-soaked oak and tart red grapes. The mouth is as intense as the nose but with more of the oak notes along with leather, grapefruit and barely ripe stone fruit. With high effervescence and bracing acidity, everything is perfectly balanced and integrated. Finishes dry with a hint of lingering sweetness and soft tannins.

As I am tasting the beer again today, I am still impressed by the complexity and integration simultaneously found in the glass. There’s truly so much going on, so many different components, but they seem to dance and spin together in perfect unison, bringing the entire experience to an almost ethereal level. All of the components might be even more well-balanced then they were when I originally reviewed the beer, but still with all the power and fortitude in the world. It just confirms that this is a beer that truly belongs in a cellar, and will be a true joy to watch as it evolves in the years to come.

Don’t have any in your cellar? Have no fear–batch #2 goes on sale this Saturday at 10am at the brewery.

Fresh, jumpy and assertive, batch #2 shows its youth from the very first nosing. The acidity wafts right up at you like a swift kick in the face, followed by notes of strong grapefruit oil and lime citrus alongside prominent licorice, black currant and barnyard. The carbonation is quite assertive in the mouth, and only further augmented by the brisk acidity. The flavors are quite intense: strong wet horse blanket, yeasty bread dough, apricot preserves and sour cherry flesh. The finish is endless, evolving for what seems like an eternity through fresh fruit to animal leather notes to soft sweet spice and finally exotic carmalized wild mushroom. The end result: a brew that sends chills throughout your body.

Showing all the promise of its first inception, and possibly more, Rosso e Marrone Batch #2 is a beer that was designed for ageing, though some people (myself included) will certainly enjoy its vibrant youthfulness now as well. It’s lacking some of the finesse and development that the first bottling is currently offering, but I have no doubt that with time in your cellar and a little TLC, it’ll get there if you want it to. My suggestion: pick up as much as you can to enjoy some now and sample one a year to come. 
 

See the best of last year's brews in our story on the Top 25 Beers of 2009.

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