Now, what has this got in common with fresh beer in these pages?
-, Santorini Brewing Company crazy donkey 5.5% ABV

One of my summer highlights was rediscovering Sake as wine. My Japanese friend and I bartered Sake for wine made from indigenous grapes. Now, what has this got in common with fresh beer in these pages? Surprisingly, quite a lot, even a terroir connection.

SBC's ambitious new venture was founded by a clutch of cosmopolitan partners. The guiding lights as to three, so far, styles of fresh beer are an Austrian consulting brewer, an English marketing guru with a penchant for brewing, and a Greek oenologist. The resident Master Brewer is Boban Krunic, who is Serbian, and Managing Director is the Californian Magda Anderson. I know, this sounds like an introduction to a joke. In fact, this is a serious effort by players brimming with talent and determination. In the current economic gloom, smiles have been wiped off people's faces in Greece. This effort could not be more timely. Something positive to fuel some passion back into our daily lives.

In search of my hunting terroir, I get to taste unexpected, to say the least, concoctions. A taste apart? A white wine, of sorts, on the island of Evia. It was kept in cask made of Cyprus wood. Taste-wise, let's call it a medicinal elixir. There is something similar, though more sophisticated, on the island of Lanzarote. As those of you who have followed my writing may know, I have never liked beer. This mass-produced, pasteurized stuff is one-dimensional, lifeless, tasteless. What's worse, the morning after, I wake up with a soapy palate. Enough said.

This new crazy donkey ale is of limited production. No hype here, all true. Per batch 200 champagne bottles. The wine connection comes through two unexpected sources. This is the world's first unfiltered, non-pasteurized barley-malt beer primed with Santorini Assyrtiko (2011) must. The wine kinship continues with help from another famous wine producing island, New Zealand. Not in the form of its signature grape, but Sauvin, one the world's prized New-Zealand-grown hops. As the tasting note reveals, though, there is a similarity in the aromatic and tasting profile.

The back label is no crashing bore of legal requirements. It is informative, entertaining too. Not unlike the people involved in this venture. The witty parting shot is, "HIP HOPPY KICK-ASS ALE". Semantics apart, crazy donkey is the first ale as wine that I know of. SBC's other two brews are yellow donkey and red donkey. More about those later.

Cloudy orange in colour. Long-lasting frothy head. Hoppy wine notes reminiscent of Sauvignon blanc. The southern-Aegean volcanic juice seems to lurk somewhere in this briny, yeasty, rich cocktail. As improbable as this sounds, it works. This is an unexpectedly fruity ale, with an IPA-ish mid-palate which goes on to a very fruity finish that seems to go on forever. A rarity. Who knows, it may even convert a few of us wine lovers to what Egyptians called "liquid bread".

24.10.2011     Nico Manessis |      Score: 18/20           

     Santorini Brewing Company crazy donkey 5.5% ABV
Area: Aegean Islands   

Type: Grape Spirit
Variety: Assyrtiko