Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Transmogrification, Continued: Spruce Barleywine, Part 2

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First things first! As some of our eagle-eyed readers may have spied, we've relocated the website to -- a happy step towards Internet respectability. Don't worry about changing your bookmarks; we've set the website code up so that it will automatically forward you to the new address. Our thanks to those of you who have been reading us since the early days -- we'll be sure to remember you when we hit it big. (Ha!)

As for this week's post, we're wrapping up a story from earlier this year; specifically, the story of our Spruce Barleywine. As some of you may remember, I first posted in February about this beguiling brew, discussing the brewing techniques, the multi-stage additions of spruce (first, large branches for filtering the wort, then, later, tender tips for the boiling infusion), and the 1844 recipe that inspired Nolan and me to brew the beer in the first place.

Well, this week, after nearly 10 months of cool, slow fermentation, the beer was finally ready for public consumption. Oh, boy, was it ever good.

First and foremost, the beer is striking to the eye; the ponderously rich tobacco color lets the imbiber know that this is a beverage to be taken seriously, while the honeyed chestnut highlights cast a soft glow from the glass. A slim but creamy layer of foam rests on top, as thick and luxurious as a well-drawn cappuccino.

The aroma is much like the appearance -- austere, serious, and of considerable depth. The effervescence carries up notes of resinous pine sap and muted slate, substantial, but never flashy.

With the first sip, the flavors bloom in the mouth. The hint of pine sap carries over into a river of caramelized maple and chestnuts, like Christmas in a glass; this is followed by broad base notes from the blackstrap molasses and lightly floral enhancements from the hops. Finally, at the very end, a drying, stiff, crisp lashing of wood (a play on traditional oak-aging flavors brought forth from our unusual pine-branch filtering technique) rounds out the swallow.

Nolan and I made this beer to mark five years of brewing together, and, I must say, it's all that we had hoped for and more. Best of all, at just over 12% ABV, it will have the ability to age long into the future. (Like the best friendships, it will only get better with time.)

The bottles, 22 ounces each, have each been specially labeled and numbered; a reproduction of one is below.

When I look at the last five years, Nolan and I have both come far. We've each, on our own, accomplished great things, had new and wonderful experiences, traveled to new places and took new and challenging risks. Brewing allows us to come back together from separate coasts, to compare notes, to practice a ritual of fermentation as old as civilization itself.

What will Nolan and I come up with for the 10th anniversary of brewing together? Who knows; it's going to take some work to top this. That being said, what we make won't be all that important. The path our lives travel between then and now -- that will be the truly interesting story.

Music: The Who -- "Success Story"

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