I’ve never wanted to write a love letter to a beer, but if I did, I might want to write one to DuClaw Brewing’s Strawberry Letter 23. A sour IPA brewed with strawberry puree, the beer was named after a 1971 funk song written by Shuggie Otis about a couple who exchange love letters in musical form. "Strawberry Letter 23" is a reply to the song received from the other lover. Made famous in 1977 when The Brothers Johnson covered the tune, it topped the Billboard R&B chart and reached #5 of the Billboard Hot 100.
DuClaw’s liquid version of Strawberry Letter 23 could be considered a love letter in beer form. With a cornucopia of ingredients, the Baltimore-based brewery blurs the lines between multiple styles, creating a beer that is neither IPA, sour ale, nor fruit beer, but something entirely original.
Appearance and Aroma
On Strawberry Letter 23’s can, the beer’s name, ABV, and volume is displayed on a postage stamp-like graphic. The fitting phrases “Sealed with a kiss” and “Liquid love crafted in Maryland” adorn the side of the can. Letter 23 pours a medium straw-golden hue with a cream-colored head that dissipates quickly. Swirling the beer in my glass, I smell fresh strawberries and flowers. It reminds me a lot of the strawberry bonbon hard candies my grandma used to keep in her candy dish. (You know the kind. They came in a wrapper that looked like a strawberry!)
Strawberry Letter 23 is ridiculously good.”
I’m not sure what else to call the flavor of Strawberry Letter 23 other than ridiculously good. It starts out with a light biscuity malt profile and quickly transitions into strong notes of fresh strawberries. A distinct tartness is present, balanced by the equally herbal and fruity hop flavors of Mosaic hops. The addition of lactose lends a slightly creamy mouthfeel. The beer finishes crisp and dry with a lingering sour berry taste that stays on the tongue and entices you to take another sip.
As I've said, Letter 23 is ridiculously good. It’s not often I run across a beer with such flavor complexity. At 7.1% ABV, it’s so deceptively delicious and drinkable, I could easily get carried away with it. So I say, “Enjoy, but proceed with caution.” Not being able to get this beer year-round could break your heart.