PENNINGTON, NEW JERSEY
A magical place for sour ale heads looking for aggressively sophisticated and spontaneously fermented oak barrel-aged wonderment, THE REFEREND BIER BLENDERY began its journey to success in 2016. Creating authentic Old World lambics in a professional brown stucco Industrial complex at the one mile square mid-Jersey borough of Pennington, The Referend is the brainchild of its master bier blender, founder James Priest.
A Chicago native whose past includes a stint at Maine’s Baxter Brewing, Priest works in conjunction with local brewers to produce wort for Referend’s cellared sour ales, using locally sourced fruits for several intriguing coolship-inoculated offerings.
A beer bottle collection lines the centering metal crossbar and exposed pipes fill the black ceiling of this small barrel-decked tasting room (with one community table and two wood laminated four seaters). There are five tap handles and three casks at the makeshift bark wood serving station and bottles are available to go.
Barrelhouse blues piano artists of yore play on the stereo while I indulge my senses during an initial February ’20 draught perusal.
I’d like to recommend The Referend to any serious wine lover as well since many ‘blends’ create fermentable sugars, sparkling grape esters and tartly puckered malic acidity.
For starters, grabbed spontaneously fermented witbier, The Blue Book, a sharply sour blueberry-fruited ale with mild chamomile florality seeping into vinous Sauvignon Blanc/ Cabernet Sauvignon resonance and mild pinot noir sedation above oats-flaked pilsner malting.
Its unique red grapefruit hue gave leathery oaken cherry-soured A Ghost Is Born a distinct visual aspect to go alongside its cognac barrel-aged brandy, rosé and Grand Marnier subtleties.
Utilizing sour cherries and tart raspberries, ruby red-hued Berliner Messe: Kyrie brought lactobacillus acidity, horseblanketed barnyard acridity and dry oats-spelt graining to its puckered cherry-raspberry piquancy and whimsical lemony cranberry tinge.
Serene sour saison, Mont Sainte-Victoire guided muskily leathered white wine acidity and lemon-soured orange juicing into dry buckwheat-rye malting.
Spontaneously fermented golden ale, Ice-Nine Riesling, brought brisk white grape-perfumed Riesling ice-wine juicing to acidulated pilsner malts in a mildly acidic setting.