Style: American Quad aged with toasted Cherrywood from White Rum Barrels
Part of the Off the Grid Series
From: Henniker NH
Brewery’s Notes: “This beer was made in celebration of our breweries 3rd anniversary. Company is a Belgian Quadruple which we brewed using house toasted cherrywood that was aged for months in white rum barrels from our friends at Flag Hill Distillery in Lee, NH. Look for notes of banana, rum, marzipan, and cherry. Perfect for cellar aging and vertical tastings. We drink this beer in appreciation of your support over our first three years and hopefully many more into the future, cheers!”
The beer pours a rich and rubied amber; it’s translucent, but with a haze and deepness to its color that mystifies an obscures the other side of the glass unless you really gaze into it. A small head of bubbles the color of white sand form and then fall way, leaving a tight and unbroken ring around the beer. When splashed against the sides of the glass, the lacing is for the most part a slick, briefly seen curtain, though small islands of spatter do last slightly longer before melting back into the beer. The alcoholic legs shimmer in a nice, light coating that evaporates even as it befuddles the eye. The color of this beer has me quite entranced, honestly, and despite its lack of head, I find it quite alluring to look at. On the nose, it expresses big banana notes that are briefly soaked in white rum or vodka with a fusel turn at the end that is a little too hot at present. Unripe, green banana also plays tentatively upon the nose, and there is a light spice of black pepper, too. Further sniffs suggest cherry liquor and spiced bread crust, giving lovely phenolic laps at the nostrils, though the banana scent remains strong. It seems more of delectable amalgamation of a Tripel and a Dubbel on the nose, sharing rich banana esters and booze with rich spicy phenols and bready notes. I do get hints at rich raisins and brown sugar as the beer warms, but less so than is more often found in quads. This is not displeasing, however, but is unique and interesting to the nose. On the tongue, the beer tastes mildly sweet with a bounce between fruity and bready. Booze enters on the mid-palate to dry out and spice up the sip, rolling lovely phenolic waves over the mouth with pepper-flesh and cracked peppercorns. Mild acidity – kind of like in a dry raisin, but with a little bit of cherry added in – makes an appearance, and there is a touch of cidery acidity, too. The finish occasionally brings a brief burp of something like light-struck character, which tastes phenomenally authentic and right in the beer, though I honestly could not tell you what I am tasting nor why it tastes great… Bitterness is a background player, but definitely plays a superb and subtle game coming in soon after the sweetness, and just lightly nipping the tongue. There is a woodiness that probably comes from the woodchips, but has a certain hoppy flair to it, which provides a drying, mellow bitterness, and tastes lightly of oak. As a whole, there is a certain, savory flavor that I get from the beer, demonstrating a bit of meaty umami, almost like a tomato sauce without the tomato flavor… if that makes any sense. Interestingly, throughout the sip, the rum remains hidden in flavor, and blends quite nicely in with everything else. The flavor, if summed up in choppy words would be: green banana, banana bread, dry raisins in a bread crust with black pepper, green pepper flesh, meatiness-that-doesn’t-taste-like-meat, touch of cider, fresh oak wood, a hint of green bottle lager (Heineken?), and cherry liquor or cough syrup (they honestly taste about the same to me… is that weird?). In the mouth, the beer feels full and weighty, with a light liveliness from the carb that tingles the tongue alongside the bite of tannin and booze. It is smooth yet crisp, with a mild syrupiness that doesn’t quite ooze over the tongue, but moves at a nice slow pace. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left slightly astringent. Everything is dry, despite the sweet cherry flavor that sits atop the tongue. Spittle bubbles slightly onto the tongue, but does not reach the cheeks. Overall, the beer is complex and lovely to slow sip. It is not my favorite expression of the style, and I honestly think it would fit better under the Strong Dark Belgian classification, but that is just semantics. For a quad, I want more dark fruit, but for this beer I think it has a beautiful balance of a slew of different flavors that all come across as classic-Belgian, which doesn’t often happen with American made Belgian ales. The beer has a unique, bready, fruity, spiciness that melds the rum beautifully in. I can see how a little honeyed oxidation will do very nicely with the beer, and am excited to crack my 2015 version of this beer (bought at the brewery by my beautiful fiancée…) I’ll report back when I do. In short, the beer is delicious and interesting to drink. New Hampshire needs more complex takes on Belgian ales, and it looks like Henniker is perfectly placing themselves to provide that. This is the second fresh bottle I’ve sampled from their Off the Grid series, and I am supremely impressed. Their work with oak chips just makes me want to see what they can do with a barrel! More of this Henniker, and put your beers in a barrel, because I would be exited to drink it. Breweries make decisions based on obscure and little read beer blogs, right?