Style: American Quad aged in Apple Brandy Barrels for 6 Years
7.85% ABV (?)
From: Portsmouth, NH
Brewery’s Note: NA
(Poured at Cellar Temps without Cooling)
The beer, if we can call it that, pours out thick, syrupy, and full. The beer carries a dark, ruby coloring, but sits in the glass as blood black. Except for the faint ruby tinge, I would say this sucker looks more like a fat stout. It pours –surprisingly- with a miniscule head of dark khaki bubbles that also look like they have been muddled with blood. The beer looks positively stately and still in the glass. When splashed along the edges it leaves a quick storm and schism of slippery thin lacing, along with a huge, shimmering mirage of legs that coat and ooze on the glass walls. This is succulent treat, and you can tell just by looking at it. On the nose, the succulence only continues… Thick, sweet, musty barrel and brandy linger on the nose with baking spices, moldering apple flesh, and deep, caramelizing brown sugar syrup and molasses, which coats the nostril in indulgent latherings of opulence. The scent’s finish carries a layer of hot liquor, similar to the brandy that initially filled the barrels (Flag Hill’s Josiah Bartlett I believe), yet this is never overpowering, and simply adds further nuance to the sniff. It smells like a sweet cross between port wine and long-aged whiskey. Old wood to apple must, to gushing caramel/brown sugar/molasses richness with hints at stale milk chocolate, slight cacao, and even touches of bitter dark chocolate. The nose is massively nuanced, stretching across different spectrums of alcoholic beverage and lovingly synergizing them. I could shove my nose into this forever and not get bored. On the tongue, the beer tastes sticky sweet, yet never cloying. It moves from dark fruit plums and raisins, to sticky toffee, peanut brittle, to sea salt chocolate, to honey and apple pie drowned in caramel sauce, a kiss of sweet cherries, and finishing with a gentle breeze of the beer’s former heat and the brandy’s. Barrel-bitter tannin tingles in between the decadence, giving structure and complexity to the sip, and ensuring the drink never becomes cloying. In the mouth, the beer is thick, oozing, and flat save for a soft tickle of carb. Alcohol, though hidden in flavor, dries and nips the tongue to a gentle numbness that seems dry, despite the sweetness of the beer. The mouth is left neutral when the beer leaves, save for a torrent of spittle in the cheek pouches and seemingly on the roof of the mouth. The aftertaste is hugely complex and evolving, giving hint to rich old barrel wood, chocolate, hot toffee, sea salt chocolates, maple syrup, and so much more. It is oddly balanced for such a sticky sweet sip. This is a dessert beer for sure; a fire-contemplator of the highest degree, more aligned with the likes of Entropy or Utopias than anything else that the beer world can offer, yet less boozy and restrained than those two. This is a dessert treat, a study in barrel aging and oxidation, and a delicious endeavor that I hope is repeated. Port wine apple brandy with a splash of cherry, a dollop of chocolate, and more than its fair share of caramel sauce. This is unique to me, and while there may be analogs somewhere in the brew world (feel free to name them in the comments as I am intrigued) this doesn’t quite fit into any neat boxes. It’s not a super ale like Utopias, and it’s certainly not a simple barrel aged quad, but it has so many components that sit nicely in so many varying places that I think it is best to simply call this its own thing and move on with it. Smuttynose/Smuttlabs has made a real beaut here. They should make a 6 year plan and repeat this. Yum.