Bend, Oregon’s Crux Fermentation Project has recently plunked its delicious Cast Out IPA and Pilz into cans, but it’s a brewery better known for its Belgian riffs, including a [Banished] Series of barrel-aged specialties. Freakcake, a bourbon barrel-aged oud bruin-inspired ale, releases annually; we got a sneak peek of the 2016 version. Freakcake begins as an oud bruin, which is then spiked with Brett and aged in bourbon barrels. Each barrel ages on a distinct fruit, including figs, currants, dates, cherries and cranberries. After they reach maturity in the barrels, the discrete versions are blended to create the final Freakcake. Look for the 2016 release on “Freaky Friday,” May 13, and at an event tonight, May 12, at Belmont Station. For fun, we stood the new version up to a cellared 2014 bottle to offer some insight as to how this beer develops.
Crux [Banished] Freakcake 2016: This year’s version (which will have labels, unlike our bottle above) pours fairly clear, maroon in hue with ruby highlights and a sandy-colored head. It offers a well-thatched nose of dark Bing cherry, strawberry and spicy molasses. The barrel reads as sharp oak softened by vanilla warmth, with light Brett funk and a touch of balsamic vinegar as the pour warms. It’s not far from the scent of an Old Fashioned cocktail, with cherry, Angostura bitters, bourbon and orange zest as secondary aromatics. But how does it taste? It’s less sweet than the fruity bourbon nose implies, leading with balsamic, raisin and fig tones that dry out into an oaky and orange pithy finish. The Brett character is somewhat reserved when fresh, but it really changes this beer after just two years. Which brings us to….
Crux [Banished] Freakcake 2014: A two-year-old vintage of Freakcake is nearly identical in appearance to its newer counterpart, but the nose reveals what cellaring has wrought: Brett’s contributed bold, ripe pineapple tones that slip in and out of whiffs of vermouth. It’s best to imagine this nose in terms of wine, since a wet stone minerality and a musty, tannic apple skin quality should be familiar to oenophiles. Cherry is present in the aroma, but mostly obscured by the aging qualities. The full, creamy sip offers up a cohesive richness that makes it difficult to pull apart individual threads. Up front, it’s a ball of mild cherry and pineapple funk, but fruits drop off quickly and yield to a rush of molasses and funky wood. The swallow finishes pleasantly dry (thanks, barrel!), leaving the memory of Luxardo cherry on the tongue.