Having tasted many of the delicacies he designed for Prairie Artisan Ales—we see you, Pirate Bomb—we figured we had a pretty good handle on what brewmaster Chase Healey would be working with at his new side project. This oak-aged coolship ale, however, flew right past our expectations. Sharp, lemony acidity flanked by clean hay and smooth, softening peach are initial pickups in the nose; further exploration reveals musty, old-attic funk that rounds off the rougher edges of lemon and vinegar. On the tongue, the brew’s softer than expected, both in body and flavor—while sugar-coated, underripe strawberry tartness leads, the expected wallop of bitterness never actually arrives. Instead, the flavor recedes gently like a tide, leaving some lingering sweet peach and pear that slowly falls off the tongue. Carbonation is low and contributes a sticky swallow, but there’s just the right amount of funk to accent the tartness; we’re excited for this brewery to get going in earnest.
Burial Beer Co.
First, some history, because it’s cool: The Ulfberht blades are about 170 medieval European swords dating back to the 9th to 11th century, all of which have some variation of +VLFBERHT+ inscribed along the metal. Ulfberht is a Frankish personal name that was used by bladesmiths over centuries as a sort of trademark (the Nike of its day). This oak-aged Baltic porter that bears the swords’ name has an appearance worthy of the Dark Ages—onyx-black, with a huge, pillowy khaki head—but doesn’t cut. Rather, the aroma brushes the nose with notes of coffee, graham crackers, cocoa nibs, burnt molasses and nougat before sweet prune and raisin arrive. The flavor does have some edge—cedar, cinnamon and young, sharp oak—but more profound is its heavy fig-and-currant character that morphs into molasses before the finish delivers chocolate syrup, chocolate-covered raisins and dry toast. The body is huge and chewy; the alcohol quite noticeable; the malt heavy and roasted. It’s a beer worthy of a warrior.
Trillium Brewing/Evil Twin Brewing
Not just the swimwear of choice for Total Recall’s most memorable lady of the night, this 3.33% ABV session IPA is also the first canned offering from New England sweetheart Trillium. Its aroma of sweet onion with a mandarin orange twist jumps out of the glass; a swirl brings up wheatgrass fading to pineapple, honey, melon and chive. While the flavor isn’t quite as dynamic, its lemony brightness and pinches of crackers, grass and garlic are bold for such a low-ABV offering.
Chorlton Brewing Co.
American brewers, take note: This is how dry-hopped sour ales should be done. Chorlton brews in Manchester, United Kingdom, but you’d never know it for the potent, Americanish tangerine and peach sorbet blend of the aroma. Clementine juice swirls below, and perfumy rose garden scents mingle lower still, like expensive soap. A sip draws out the beer’s Lactobacillus fermentation in the form of tart lime juice, but it’s spread over a blanket of rosewater, tangerines and gentle parsley. Clean, lingering tangerine is exactly the right flavor to close with in this sour that keeps hops a neat wrinkle—not center-stage.
Black Magick Aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels
Voodoo Brewing Co.
Making its triumphant return after a three-year hiatus, Pennsylvania-based Voodoo’s imperial stout gets the rye whiskey barrel treatment this go-round. If you get a bottle, be prepared to share—the beer’s thick as treacle and quite hot. But the decadence also applies to the aroma and flavor, in which chocolate, tobacco, sweet vanilla, dark cherries and burnt marshmallows swirl. Cola and raisins emerge alongside these on the tongue, while the finish delivers a blast of booze, torched marshmallow and sweet maple. Smooth wood comes out late in the sip, while tongue-coating sugars linger long after the swallow.