About three years ago, over a small batch of beer shared in Aspen, renowned chef and co-owner at Boston restaurants Coppa and Toro Jamie Bissonnette kicked around the idea of teaming up on a brew with Dave Yarrington, Director of Brewery Operations at Smuttynose Brewing Company.
And while collaboration beers have been coursing through taps for some time now, the term usually referrers to what emerges after multiple breweries gather around a brew kettle, swap tricks of the trade, and eventually shoot the shit over a fresh cold pour of their newborn brew. Projects like this offer brewers a chance to let loose and create a sudsy concoction outside their usual style or with unorthodox flavors. But projects like Bissonnette and Yarrington’s are redefining the term by moving beyond a brewery-based partnerships, with restaurants and chefs getting in on the craft beer action with impressive results.
Like Pure Biss, the collaboratively-forged witbier; a style chosen with intent by two self-admitted beer geeks. “Witbier is fun to pump flavor into,” says Bissonnette, noting he wanted to use ingredients that would create a unique, yet approachable new brew. When brew day finally came, Bissonnette armed himself with spruce tips, kaffir lime leaves, and twenty-five pounds of grapefruit zest as substitution for the traditional ingredients found in Belgian witbier (think: coriander and orange peel). “Dave started it, and then we threw in the flavoring and hoped it wouldn’t suck,” he says.
Hope no more. It’s good. The unconventional witbier—available in bottles at both Toro and Coppa, and in kegs and bottles around New England—starts with a strong smell of fresh pine and subtle lime leaf, and tastes of hops, sappy pine and faint lingering lime with an appealing bitter end. “It’s like a brighter Campari beer,” Bissonnette explains. Far from sucking in fact, Bissonnette describes his initial reaction to the beer as “wicked good.”
Even the name was decided on with some collaborative compromise. Bissonnette says he originally wanted to name it “Bromance,” an homage to the two dudes teaming up, but settled on Pure Biss which is an obvious play on the chef’s surname.
So cheers to bromance.