Style: Lagerwine/ Euro Strong Lager
From: Framingham, MA
Brewer’s Note: “This beer is a 14% abv golden lager that was aged for nine months in Framinghammer barrels. It is named in honor of the recent births of Myles, son of head brewer Mike Gleason, and Molly, Jack and Abby’s daughter./ What precisely is a “Lager Wine”? I have no doubt that the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) will be asking this exact question, if they ever open again. Traditionally beer styles that end in “wine” describe the strength of the beer, comparing in abv to regular wine./ In order to complete this feat, we needed to pull out all the tricks in the brewer’s book. On a normal brew day we need to brew two times to fill a fermenter. Since we needed so much grain, our mash tun could not hold all of it in only two mashes. To create a beer this strong we used a triple mash to fit all the grain. This means we brewed three smaller volume batches totaling the volume we normally would get from two batches. Even adding an additional mash wasn’t enough to extract the amount of sugars we needed. To boost the strength further we added sugar directly to the kettle and employed a longer boil to concentrate the gravity./ Beers of this strength need to condition for extended periods of time. Primary fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks before aging in Framinghammer barrels for nine months. Aging strong beers in wood allows the flavors of the beer to smooth out and, in addition, absorb the flavor characteristics of the barrels.”
The beer pours a deep, golden orange, like blonde syrup. It forms a small head of tight, white bubbles that are just barely off-white, and have little to no retention. As it sits in the glass, I start to detect amber highlights in the beer’s color. In body, the beer is clear and clean, as a lager should be, but with a nice darkness from the amount of malt found in this beer. The beer is translucent, but you can tell there is some viscosity to the liquid found within the glass. On the nose, the beer smells of boozy rum-soaked raisins, rum cake, a touch of plum, and smooth sherry. Hints of caramel and brown sugar tickle at the nose, and the oxidation of the beer briefly touches at wet cardboard, but not in a bad way. The boozy scent is surprisingly rum-like on my nose, especially given the fact that the barrels for this beer were third-use bourbon barrels. As the beer opens up, the sherry becomes more prominent and complex, swaying between candied sugars, maple syrup, and touches of raisin. On the tongue, the beer tastes smoothly sweet with a touch of candy and a definite boozy heat that is not quite out of control, and is richly complex and balancing. Tannic bitters definitely touch the second half of the sip along with subtle herbal hop bitters, which do wonders keeping the beer just shy of cloying. In flavor, the beer is nicely complex. The beer opens with rich maple syrup, which travels into rum soaked raisins, slight plum, maybe even a touch of blackberry, and boozy caramel sugar. A touch of bourbon can be sensed on the middle of the palate, providing vanilla and rich oak flavors to the mix. The heat also gets a bit hot in the middle of the sip, giving a spicy flavor that varies with the sip. As the beer warms richer oak flavors come into play. The finish is smooth and syrupy with sherry flavors alongside maple syrup, vanilla, raisin, and hot booze. The finish is a bit boozy right now, and could stay a touch longer on the tongue. The aftertaste is rich with oak flavors tinged by caramel, sherry, and light booze. In the mouth, the beer feels heavy in body, with a chewy, syrupy mouthfeel and a very mild carbonation. The tongue is left slightly tingling from booze with a sheen of acid-canceling spittle on the tongue and a faint stickiness in the mouth. Overall, this is a tremendous candidate for cellaring for a year or two. The flavors are rich and complex, but the booze is just a touch too hot at the moment. Honestly, I would only cellar this for a year and then pop it, as longer than that may add too much oxidation and might lose some of the wonderful complexity already present in the beer. I love the rich rum, oak, and malt flavors, and I feel that the lager yeast allows for more of these flavors to come through, which I like. It is fairly similar to a barrel-aged barleywine, but the mouthfeel and appearance are really where it varies wildly. This is a great beer. If you can get to the brewery, you should buy two and age one.
For dinner, I was having a Portobello mushroom wellington which I had added none-dairy cheddar cheese to (Being lactose intolerant sucks, I don’t advise it to anyone). The base recipe can be found here (http://www.yummly.com/recipe/external/Mushroom-Wellington-Delicieux-55044). The wellington was crisp and buttery with a smooth umami flavor coming from the mushroom, and a very strong thyme flavor coming from the thyme (I used dried thyme because I had no sprigs available). When paired with the beer, the sweet (fake) cheddar cut nicely through the booze of the beer along with the rich mushroom and flaky bread. Meanwhile, the caramelized onions paired perfectly with the caramel malt qualities of the beer, providing a more savory caramel to the experience. The booze also helped to mellow out the thyme, which was a bit overpowering on its own, allowing for the earthy mushroom flavors to play more of a role in the dish. Buttery flavors and the rich Pillsbury croissant flavors played a big part in the flavor as well, and worked to cut back on the booze of the beer. As a whole, the pairing was unique and tasty. Normally, I would advise pairing this beer with a dessert to help handle all the booze, but as is the Portobello wellington managed the booze quite nicely if not perfectly. For a more perfect pairing, I would advise adding burger to the wellington, in order to fully sop up the booze and add further rich umami flavors. This pairing works, however, and is a nice find, though the beer was a touch too boozy. When the beer was paired with the microwaved peas I had on the side, I was also surprised to find that the flavor matched up perfectly, and the beer provided a lovely caramel flavor to the vegetal peas. The peas, meanwhile, did an admirable job cutting the booze of the beer.