Jerry Nelson's Une Annee brews are earning a position as one of the more high-minded, refined products in a market chock full of B&D-inspired DIPAs, pale ales that make fun of your bitch hands and stouts that tell you to go eff yourself. With a Belgian/French style focus, minimalist labeling and collaboration efforts with top partners like Bangers & Lace, Une Annee's beers seem positively genteel by comparison.
Chicago-based Une Annee is also the only Midwestern brewery that I've seen other than St. Louis's Urban Chestnut to use a 500ml bottle. This newly released "in-between" sizing allows Nelson to be a little more price-competitive with the breweries in 12oz. bottles and cans, while also offering drinkers the option of not committing to a full bomber or 750ml bottle of beer.
The Enkel (meaning "single" in Dutch) is Nelson's version of an Abbey-style summer beer, and one of their first beers spiked with brettanomyces. The "brett" adds a little tart flavor and earthiness on top of a fluffy Orval Belgian yeast strain. Munich and Bohemian pilsner malts are topped off with acidulated malts and just a touch of lactic acid to add "a little extra tartness, beyond what the brett is going to do," Nelson says. "It's a pretty simple beer."
Simple or not, Enkel pours from that 500ml bottle a hazy golden-amber with an exuberant amount of head that you couldn't pay cash money to dissipate—it's there for the duration in a cloudy, pillowy froth. The aroma begins with a pop of hop bitterness but develops a sweet amber malt note as it warms.
A flash of SweetTart brightness and fruity acid on the front end quickly washes away with a very light body of barely there bready malts. Another wave of tropical citrus with lemon and lime covers up any potential flavor-hop presence. A little astringency on the finish clears away any lingering malt from the palate, not that there's much there to speak of. I'd warn folks hunting for a super sour brew that they won't find it here (though Nelson has a Flanders brown ale that's currently aging for an early-2015 release).
The body is light, creamy and as thirst quenching as you'd want a light "table beer" to be. It's tempting to simply describe it as "a perfect alternative to your average summer beer" and call it a day. But really, the balance and lack of any overwhelming characteristics makes this relatively season-free. It'd work as well with dinner on a winter night as it would on a boat on a sunny summer afternoon.
Enkel is available in bottles and on draft around town and was part of Wirtz Distributing's first foray into Wisconsin—call your 'sconnie relatives and tell them to try this stuff on their next Spotted Cow run.