Reviewed: Russian River Intinction – Sauvignon Blanc
Official description: Although we have made this beer once before, it was only available on our guided tour and for special events. The base beer is a Pilsner aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels with the addition of Sauvignon Blanc grape juice from the 2018 harvest for a secondary fermentation. The juice and barrels are from Dutton Vineyards in the Russian River wine appellation here in Sonoma County. There is no lactobacillus or pediococcus added to the beer, only brettanomyces. The tart acidity comes from the wine grapes. This beer is delicate and beautifully balanced, a perfect refresher on a warm summer day!
Russian River Brewing Co – Russian River Intinction – Sauvignon Blanc – 375ml bottle served in Rastal Harmony glass – 8.25% ABV
Russian River is world renown for their wine barrel-aged sour ales. The classics like Supplication, Consecration, and Temptation use Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Chardonnay barrels respectively. Supplication includes sour cherries, Consecration uses blackcurrants, while Temptation has no fruit. These three also include brettanomyces as well as lactobacillus and pediococcus souring bacteria. Intinction, however, diverges from these by using actual wine grapes in the beer, omitting the souring bacteria, and isn’t even an ale in the first place; the base beer is actually a pilsner.
And though in this review I refer to the beer simply as “Intinction”, it’s important to note that there are two versions: Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. Both are currently bottled, though only the former made it into distribution last year. Be on the lookout for the Merlot version this year.
I’m reviewing the Sauvignon Blanc version of Intinction from a 375ml corked and caged bottle that I picked up for a whopping $17.85 plus tax. On the side of the label, there’s a bottling date of 3/26/19. (Freshness probably isn’t a big issue here as Russian River’s sour and wild ales can be aged for several years.) Pulling out the cork produces a healthy pop without gushing. Into my glass, Intinction is perfectly clear straw in color with minimal foam that sits around for a surprising minute or so before dissipating. At the bottom of the bottle is a good bit of sediment, which I omitted from my pour.
Bringing up the glass, the nose starts off with big wine barrel: buttery oak and damp wood mustiness. The Sauv Blanc grapes give off fruity notes of pineapple, white peach, and ripe nectarine. A sharp pickle brine element is the only funkiness I pick up. In fact, this beer smells like 90% of actual peach sours I’ve tried in the past.
Flavor-wise, Intinction dances back and forth with sweet and sour play. It’s extremely vinous as you may imagine with oaked wine flavors front and center. It’s slightly tannic with touches of alcohol but otherwise focuses on crushed white grape and firm nectarine flavors. I do love that it isn’t completely dry, which is the norm for most Brett-fermented beers. That sweetness allows you to really enjoy the beer and not be fully overwhelmed by sharp acids and bracing tannic bitterness. At times Intinction comes across as prickly and salty, but it finishes up clean and neutral with no acetic acid (vinegar) bite at all – another culprit of many American sour/wilds.
Perceived Specs for Russian River Intinction – Sauvignon Blanc
Despite the hefty price tag, Intinction earns its place amongst its wine-centered forebears Supplication, Consecration, and Temptation. Given the intense fruitiness from the Sauvignon Blanc grapes, Intinction could even masquerade as a stone fruit sour ale. It’s a marvelous beer that I’d hold onto for a special occasion – like New Year’s Eve.
Intinction shares many qualities with peach and nectarine barrel-aged sour ales.
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