Allow Me to Introduce Bolero Snort

As a Jew, I never had the opportunity to eat fruitcake come Christmastime. It was potato latkes or bust! But as a beer journalist, the opportunity to taste brews with crazy flavors arises on a daily basis. And few beers were more peculiar than the Wee Heifer's Fruitcake, hailing from New Jersey's Bolero Snort Brewery.

The Scottish-style brew was loaded with dried cherries, Himalayan figs, golden raisins and sweet orange peels, before being sent to slumber in bourbon barrels. It reads like a kitchen-sink disaster, but it's surprisingly appealing: warming with a complex fruitiness and an enticing nose of oaky booze. Unlike a fruitcake, it's not cloying in the least. I wanted another bottle. I couldn't have it.

See, Bolero Snort is an in-the-works brewery from New Jersey's Robert Olson. If all goes well, Bolero Snort beers will hit shelves in 2012. Till then, you'll just have to wet your whistle with this e-mail interview with Olson:

Q: Fruitcakes tend to elicit negative associations. With Wee Heifer, what made you decide to mash up a Scottish ale with classic fruitcake flavors?
RO: That's the reason the label for the brew prominently touts it as "the fruitcake you won't want to re-gift!" The holidays were coming up, and I started thinking about a wee heavy. Once I started thinking about spices/fruits that could go into the beer, it just dawned on me to try taking all the components of a traditional unwanted gift and throwing them into the beer.

Q: Tell me a bit about Bolero Snort. What is your vision for the brewery?

RO: While we are just homebrewing right now, we have set the ambitious goal of contract brewing by the end of the year/early 2012. Our goal is to open a full-scale production brewery by late 2012/early 2013.

Q: What was the inspiration for the name?

RO: After my fourth batch, my friends said I needed a better name than Bob's [insert type of beer]. While bored at work over a chat session, we plugged my full name—Robert Olson—into an anagram maker, scrolled down the list and someone saw Bolero Snort and said, "Why not a bull in a bolero?" My friend sketched the original logo, which has since been redone by pros to what it is today.

Q: How long have you been homebrewing? When did you decide to take the leap from amateur to pro ranks?

RO: I did my first partial-mash batch in June 2009 and casually did three others between then and January 2010. I went to a homebrew meetup where I didn't have the greatest experience, but one of the guys who had been brewing for six years said that a brewer wasn't legit if he couldn't brew all grain (with six years experience, he had yet to master the art). I took it as a self-imposed challenge and made the switch in April 2010 and started formulating my own recipes shortly thereafter. In May 2010, I met Matt Steinberg at the New Jersey Beer Co. launch party and realized that maybe there could be more to it. I decided to start working to make the jump to pro. I currently feed my passion (i.e., pay the bills) working in construction consulting.

Q: You tend to produce flavorful, inventive beer. What do you see as a niche that needs to be filled in the craft-beer world, and New Jersey.

RO: I think New Jersey is an emerging market for great beers. I want to be along for the ride. I enjoy brewing different beers that people will remember and go back to the store for. I think it's easier to set yourself apart with a fruitcake or a bananas foster beer rather than just another IPA.

Q: What are the specific challenges of opening a production brewery?

A: The same as almost anyone trying to make the jump: money and time. There's plenty of information out there on what the process takes. It's about ponying up the cash for the fees/lawyers/etc., then raising the start-up capital for the brewery itself.