Smuttlabs Barrel Aged Tripel (Smuttynose Brewing Company)

Style: American Tripel Aged on Chardonnay Barrel Oak Chips
9.5% ABV 25 IBU’s
Malts: North American 2-Row, Aromatic, Wheat, Carahell Hops: Sterling Yeast: Trappist Ale
Bottled On: 8/18/14
Brewery’s Note: “Following the debut of our Belgian-style Tripel, comes a Heritage Avenue-brewed Smuttlabs tripel, aged on chardonnay oak. You’ll notice a few differences between this and the Big Beer Series version. Vanilla and pear highlight the aroma, while a soft malt flavor is accentuated with juicy fruit notes.”

So I’ve had a couple bottles/draughts of this now, and finally decided to getting around to reviewing it. Of course, this is a year old bottle, so technically this is a Revisiting Series review… Only I never reviewed the fresh bottle. Suffice to say, this was delicious fresh, but carried more of a hot booze nose. With time, the scent and flavors have melded together into something truly beautiful. Before, the beer was good. Now it is great.

The beer pours a rich, burnt orange color, like tea, forming a healthy head of creamy, off-white bubbles that almost turn the color of sand. The head sits a healthy distance above the glass, and lasts wonderfully. When it hits the sides of the glass, it seems to hold together, morphing slightly like the tendrils of some syrupy wave. The beer’s body is clear and clean, but hazy with proteins and such. It is nicely peppered throughout with a steady stream of lazy, tiny bubbles that work to replenish the healthy head. [A note on Glassware: I’m not quite convinced that the Smuttlabs glass is the best vehicle for this beverage to be riding in (seems like one needs some stemware for a classy brew like this) but I’ve been a sucker for branding lately, so it went in the stange.] On the nose, the beer smells rich and complex, blending fresh pear flesh (Bartlett?) with white wine and a touch of grape juice that avoids the sweeter nuances of the juice. Around the edges I find marshmallow, soft vanilla, and smooth oak luxuriously painting the cilia of my nostrils, while at the heart of the scent is something akin to La Fin Du Monde, yet layered in such complexity that you really have to dig for it. As it warms, I occasionally get a gentle nuttiness somewhere between cashews and hazelnut. The smells is decadent, yet never noxious or overstated. It blends its subtleties beautifully beneath its heavier scents, creating new combinations every time I sniff it. This is easily one of the most complex-nosed, non-sour beers that Smuttlabs has put out, and a year in the bottle has evaporated the hot booze away to leave rich nuance in its place. On the tongue, the beer tastes hotter than the nose, with a definite –though soft– boozy burn over the tongue that radiates heat and some spice. Below that there is fruity sweetness and acidity akin to a rich apple, not quite malic green apple, but dancing around there. The finish is rich with bitter oak tannin, which helps build the thought of apples in my mind but reminding me of apple flesh, only with sweet vanilla overtones. In flavor there is very slight green banana melding into rich pear lathered in soft vanilla, oak, bitterer apple skin, and touches of boozy white wine (not expressly chardonnay I think, though I admittedly do not drink much Chardonnay). As it warms, barrel character continues to become more and more prevalent, bringing the marshmallow from the nose into the flavor, while adding rich woody touches. In the mouth, the beer feels properly heavy and compact, traveling across the tongue smoothly, but with hot bites all the way down. These bites are never too much, and actually do wonders in balancing the sweetness of the beer, but do leave the tongue taught and a little dry when the beer leaves, though spittle rushes in from the sides of the mouth. Overall, this is superb stuff, and definitely has come together even more with a year of age. I almost wish I had more bottles, as I think this will continue to grow and evolve nicely for years to come. Superb complexity and balance make this beer a real treat to drink, and though he doesn’t need the praise, Charlie really has made a nice one here… You guy’s should make it again! It would be great to have vintages of this.

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