Evora (Allagash Brewing Company)

Style: Mixed Fermentation Belgian-style Strong Pale Ale aged in Brandy Barrels

9.0% ABV

From: Portland, ME

Grains: Maris Otter Malt, Flaked Oats

Hops: Sorachi Ace, Hallertau, and Northern Brewer

Yeast: Classic Belgian, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis

Barrels: Aged for One Year in Portuguese Brandy Barrels

Total Fermentation and Conditioning Time: 18 months

Brewery’s Note: “Evora is a golden hued ale with aromas of tropical fruit, honey, and spice. Citrus, oak, and earthiness dominate the flavor and give way to hints of bread crust. Malty and robust, this medium bodied beer finishes fruity, dry, and slightly tart./ We brew this beer with Maris Otter Malt and flaked oats, and hop with Sorachi Ace, Hallertau and Northern Brewer. Evora begins fermenting on stainless steel with a classic Belgian yeast strain, then moves over to Portuguese Brandy Barrels, where it ages with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis for over a year.”

The beer pours a rich, clear golden color. Tumultuous and full of swarming torrents of bubbles, the beer forms a gorgeous chapeaux of creamy bubbles, like the whipped top of a nice latte. The sheeting is thick, fluffy, and absolute. It slowly slips apart and fizzles back into the beer, but that takes some time, and it leaves fat sheets on the sides of the glass. The beer’s body is clear, clean, translucent, and just gorgeously bright in color. When you dig into it, there is a slight haze in the body, but this is still one sexy glass of beer. The snow globe of bubbles torrenting through the body is also gorgeous and expressive. This beer looks like a glass in a Budweiser commercial, not in that it is watery-clear piss colored brilliance, but in that the glass looks doctored… only I’m the one that poured it? Enough about its look. On the nose, the beer smells of rich, secondary-fermented bretta. I’m talking damp hay with peaches, apricots, barnyard gristle, a little mineral water, a faint touch of banana, and cracked pepper and other phenolic spice. The barrel is subtle, yet omnipresent, and I get the sense of rich, boozy brandy from the beginnings of the beer, yet I never really smell anything remotely boozy or brandy like. There are creamy turns to the nose, and the definite starts of rich vanilla wafers and ice cream, but these are artfully and delicately blended with the rest of the beer. They are just one of many acts in a beautifully tight, expertly executed nose… Shit, this beer better taste good. On the tongue, the beer tastes of overripe fruit sweetness, with touches of soft, minerally acidity. Earthy pool water flushes in, providing a rich counter balance to the bretty fruit flavors, and there is a prickle of barrel-like bitters alongside a warming, boozy buzz that is never too sharp, but definitely connotes some weight on the taste buds. The barrel character moves in and out of the boozy brandy, rounding out the sharpness and providing rich oak sugars, vanilla, and a beautiful almond cream finish alongside earthy sweet oak. There is a light woodiness to the taste, perhaps of lacquered pine, and there is a definite background bitterness that really clamps down on the tongue in the finish, providing a nice quick nip of astringency, followed but a long and slow unclenching of the buds. In the exhale, you get amazing nuanced notes of sweet flowers, vanilla, light caramel sauce, and a hundred other delicate flavors. In quick, vanilla bretta and Belgian-sacchro funk (peaches, apricots, barnyard, etc…) with the beautifully integrated barrel. In the mouth, the beer feels fuller, rich and creamy, yet with a full carbonation that prickles and keeps the beer lively as the tannins of oak and the hops layout the nice finishing astringency and subtle bite. When the beer leaves, the tongue puckers inward slightly, and its top feels dry despite the light drool pooling along the back of the lower teeth. The mouth is relatively neutral in all, though definitely leaning to a sticky, bitter, dry sense (read: Not the IPA kind). Overall, this is a beautifully expressive and evolving beer. The barrel character is supremely built into the beer’s character, and really shows the talent that Allagash has quietly developed with its barrel program. This beer is beautifully complex, and perfect for fire-sipping, summer sipping, richer dishes, and maybe even a light cigar. Allagash is one of the old forces of New England craft beer, and they aren’t always traipsing in the spotlight, but damn they have the best large-scale barrel-aging program in New England (if not the East Coast). They are building Old World-style, balanced, delicate, and beautiful ales in Portland. Back at the start of this blog I had a couple bad bottles from them (FV13 :/) and kind of wrote them off for a time. That was plain stupid of me. They are supreme and everyone should be hoarding them. Breweries will come and go as the craft beer movement ebbs and flows, but Allagash will be here centuries from now, mark my words.

 

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