Revolution and Beer… of the week: Boulevard Brewing and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Terra Incognita


You don’t just get Beer and activism at Revolution and Beer. You get a good story and a bit of history as well. My travels and explorations have always had an element of beer somewhere within those various, sometimes risky and occasionally epic adventures. Beer always held an element of destination, and as a student of history, an indication of place and time as well. I wrote about beer in Sarajevo amid the siege in my memoir, and wove several scenes in my 2011 e-novel “Burn Down the Sky,” over a potent Vietnamese wartime brew called 33 1/3, fermented with formaldehyde in a Saigon café.

Trolling the selections at a local Binny’s, looking for something interesting and new for the Beer of the Week, my buddy, CJ, mentioned that he had a couple bottles of a new offering in back. A collaboration between Boulevard Brewing and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, both of which create consistently good quality beers. This new brew is called Terra Incognita, with a dark mahogany color, reminiscent of Brazil’s perennial Xingu. I poured it into a heavy chalice, one of a dozen (a baker’s dozen until the cat broke one the other night) of those old heavy pub chalices. Terra built a foamy and light chocolaty ¾ inch head that evaporated quickly, leaving minimal lacing behind.

I’d first come across the words “Terra Incognita” while sifting through classical Roman sources researching a now extinct southern European civilization. Little remains of those ancient Illyrians, but for neglected archaeological sites and all too brief mentions in Roman and Greek literature. Perhaps fewer that 50 words remain of a language that dominated the region for thousands of years. The Illyrians were apparently prolific beer drinkers. Their reportedly very bitter recipe was called “Sabaia.”

I pulled up a couple old photographs and pulled out a worn and dog-eared journal I’d kept. I flipped through the softly yellowing pages, my scribbles and sketches still vibrant as I explored a bottle of Terra Incognita. The 8%ABV helped coax details I’d believed were long forgotten. The taste was sugary and malty, with hardly any hint of hops. The Espresso warmth was tempered in fruity plum and raisin notes.

Terra Incognita means unknown land. Certainly that’s what the Balkans were for the Romans and Greeks, but that isn’t what reminded me of Boulevard and Sierra Nevada’s beer, which was modestly priced to compete with any casual bottle of wine. Pausing for dinner the wife and I mulled this beer over a couple of Rib eye steaks, grilled and blackened with a cardamom, cayenne and cumin rub, warmed yellow corn tortillas, homemade black beans fork mashed with fresh cilantro and a bit of mole sauce, and a salad of sliced avocado, fresh jalapeño, tomato wedges, cilantro, red onion and crumbled Queso Fresco with a squeeze of lime. The beer reminded me of one truly amazing moment.IMG_3851

There is a place on the mountain overlooking the Sarajevo valley. The city fills the valley below, surrounded by the Dinaric Alps, like frozen green and gray waves upon a stormy sea. It’s a quiet place, the solitude intruded upon now and again by a church bell, the momentary rattle of a tram or the call to prayer from one of the many Mosques that add their spindly texture to the terra cotta rooftops abounding throughout the valley. When the light is just right, mid-summer clouds collecting at the horizon, in which the sun appears to set into the mountains. It is a most magical spectacle, the sunset colors rich and bold. I found something in the lightness of Terra Incognita’s body that reminded me of the breeze coming across the valley as I beheld that rare sight.

Make a memory with this beer. Its light enough to enjoy its complexity on a warm summer’s night. Act quickly though, This one is a limited run, and we may not see it again.

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