Home Beer From the Cellar: Wicked Weed Dark Arts 2014 and 2016

From the Cellar: Wicked Weed Dark Arts 2014 and 2016

A tale of two wild and barrel-accented imperial stouts.
SHARE
CATEGORIES: Beer   Our Cellar   South Breweries  

Wicked Weed Dark Arts 2014 and 2016

Here at DRAFT, we love pulling beers from the cellar and comparing them with fresh-brewed versions to see how—or if—they’ve developed and improved over the years. But brewers, tricky bastards that they are, often add extra wrinkles like changes in barrels or fermentables to their annual-release ales, making them even more interesting to taste side-by-side.

So it is with Dark Arts.

Asheville, North Carolina’s Wicked Weed Brewing released the first edition of this barrel-aged imperial stout in 2014. That year, it was brewed to come it at 15% ABV, aged in bourbon barrels and spiked with Brettanomyces yeast. An ABV of 15% seems high—and it is. But it was also chosen deliberately: The alcohol content of beers made in North Carolina is capped at 15%. (The limit was raised from 6% in 2005.) Dark Arts was the first beer made in the state to reach that cap.

In subsequent years, the Brett and high gravity stayed, but the barrels changed. The 2015 edition was aged for about a year in tequila barrels; last year’s batch spent time in rum casks.

So what difference does an adjustment in barrels (and two years in the cellar) make? Quite a big one. Yeast and bacteria have done their work in Dark Arts 2014: While the sip leads off with notes of cocoa nibs, smoky whiskey, dry oak, vanilla bean and hints of toasted coconut, the swallow shifts toward a surprisingly high tart cherry acidity before flavors of burnt, crumbly toast and prunes wash in. It’s a sharp flavor, very different from the decadent sugars it displayed when fresh, but there’s zero hint of the substantial ABV—a feat in itself.

The 2016 batch, however, is still loaded with sweetness. Initial sips are like bites of a dessert blending rich vanilla, brown sugar, milk chocolate and baked dry graham crackerlike malts; bitter orange peel and sweet cherry emerge later to give the impression of an Old Fashioned. Things shift back toward rum again at the swallow, with soft charred malt and funky citrus lingering like a dark-chocolate-covered orange. The Brett plays a minor role here, just a soft pineapple character that merges into the fruity rum—smart pairing there. It needs a year to chew through some of the malty sugars, dry this monster out and impart more of its own flair.

With the oldest vintage of Dark Arts tasting a little dry and tart and the newest still coming across a bit sweet and underdeveloped, the sweet spot can likely be found between the two. If you’re sitting on a bottle of the tequila-aged Dark Arts 2015, pop it open soon.

 

Author
Zach Fowle is DRAFT's beer editor. Reach him at zach@draftmag.com.

Brewery Travels
draftmag.com

Brewery Travels: My Favorite Brewery/Beer from Each State

In my ongoing quest to visit breweries all across this great land, I have now surpassed the 400 mark, and they’ve been spread across 37 states and 175+ cities. To celebrate this landmark, I’ve put together a ‘Special Edition’ of Brewery Travels: A rundown of my favorites in each of the states visited so far.

CATEGORIES: Beer   Feature   Midwest Breweries   Midwest Feature   Northeast Breweries   South Breweries   Travel   West Breweries  

draftmag.com

Why a Miller Lite Was the Best Beer I’ve Ever Had

I’ve worked in craft beer for nearly five years now. I’ve had the fortune to try some truly amazing brews: Pliny the Elder, Heady Topper, Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout. Supplication? I’ve got one in my mini-fridge. The reason I’m telling you this is because I want to frame my statements here properly. I’ve had good beer, trust me. The best beer I’ve ever had, though, was a Miller Lite.

CATEGORIES: Beer   Feature   MIDWEST   Midwest Feature  

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

202 queries in 2.908 seconds.