La Petite Mort in its natural habitat
  • La Petite Mort in its natural habitat

If all goes to plan, this will be the first installment in a regular blog feature about two of my favorite things, craft beer and metal, considered singly and in combination. Two great tastes, et cetera.

I’m going to start with a beer that’s kinda metal. I’ll explain how in a bit.

La Petite Mort is the first collaboration by Central Waters of Amherst, Wisconsin. Working with dedicated nerds from the Bierwerker program of Chicago bar Local Option, they brewed the inaugural batch in November 2011 and released some of it unaged on draft in January; the bourbon-barrel version, which spent three months in Heaven Hill whiskey casks, came out in late May on draft and in late August in 22-ounce bottles. It didn’t hang around long either time, and as far as anyone at Local Option knows, the only way to get it in Chicago now is in bottles at the bar. A second batch, brewed in late September, is on the way in a few months—this time they’re just going to get down to business and barrel-age the whole thing.

Loosely speaking, La Petite Mort is a strong dark German-style wheat ale called a weizenbock—sort of an amped-up dunkelweizen, in case that helps (they’re usually cloudy with yeast, with lots of malt character and no conspicuous hop flavor, and they often smell a bit like cloves and bananas). Central Waters and Local Option departed from orthodoxy by abandoning the usual weizenbier yeast, which Local Option brewer Noah Hopkins thought would clash with the bourbon flavor from the barrels. (Central Waters co-owner Anello Mollica had proposed at the get-go that the beer be barrel-aged, since his brewery has one of the largest barrel operations in the midwest.) They ended up using 50 percent neutral ale yeast—meaning it doesn’t impart a significant flavor of its own—and 50 percent Belgian yeast, after experimenting with three Belgian strains to determine which would best complement the bourbon. Hopkins says it was “one of the most fun yet challenging beers to make.”

So how did it turn out?

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.