2016 Arquebus (Cambridge Brewing Company)

Style: French Oak Barrel Aged American Barleywine w/honey and Semillon grapes

12.0% ABV

OG: 1.130/32.5*P

FG: 1.130/32.5*P

From: Cambridge, MA

Brewery’s Note: “Well, in our continuing quest to change the way people think about enjoying beer and beer styles, we have created a barleymalt-based interpretation of a dessert wine, meant to be sipped on those sultry summer evenings on our patio. It is also brewed with local New England honey, plus Semillon wine grapes./ Our 2016 release is full-bodied yet light and drinkable, and smooth in texture despite its heroic 12%abv. Arquebus’ deep golden mien contains complex notes of peach and apricot fruit, loads of wildflower honey, and sweet white wine grapes. Subtle oak character combines with a soft, tannin-hinted, wine-like finish. Malolactic fermentation in the barrel adds a hint of soft acidity to balance the sweetness of this beer’s finish./ Aged in French oak Tokaji barrels, the residual flavors contributed by the wood offer a mellowness of character not provided by stainless steel fermentation, as controlled oxidation deepens its color, enhances its rich texture, and concentrates notes of fruit.”

This beer pours a regal, pale gold with a small cap of eggshell white bubbles that dwindle to a fluffy scrim. When splashed against the sides of the glass, it leaves fat sheets of clinging legs alongside a thin curtain of quickly receding lacing. The beer appears fat and sluicing, yet with a nimbler physique hiding beneath the heavier notes. The beer’s body is clear and clean, but nearly opaque, with a deep rich coloring and haze blocking out the other side of the glass. The beer looks stately and pristine in the glass. It’s a pretty cup-of. On the nose, the beer smells of slightly oxidized, fruity imperial red ale, yet in more complex and delicate layers. I get wafts of sweet Moscato and Welch’s white grape juice. Alongside that comes the tinge of a boozier mead, and lurking beneath it all is soft toffee, mallow, and warm oak with a touch of nuttiness. It’s like a boozy Moscato blended with a gently oxidized, heftier red ale. As it warms, slight spice, a touch of wet cereal grains, some candied apricot and mango, and just layers of subtle complexity. This beer is not full throttle in the nose, especially for its build, it instead layers complexity upon subtly upon complexity. On the tongue, the beer tastes softly sweet building into stickier caramel and toffee malt sweetness, this is rounded by bitter and spicy booze that touches upon slight heat. Subtle vinous acidity oozes through the edges of the sip, perhaps with a touch of lemon meringue, and loads of Moscato. The bitter and spicy flavor build into the backbone of the juicy, sweet Moscato taste with just the faintest touch of minerally salinity. There is the faint wisp of fresh baked white bread in the exhale, and the sense of sweet honey is unanimous throughout the sip, too. It is taking me awhile to pick apart each and every intricacy of this beer as there seems to be so much built into such a laser-focused and balanced beer. The Moscato/white dessert wine flavor is the biggest flavor, tampered by a sultry honey undertone, and the backbone of the flavor is delicate, boozy pale barleywine with fruity and spicy fermented overtones. In the mouth, the beer feels dense and full, yet with a boozy bitter bite that really keeps the sip balanced and integrated. It’s sultry, smooth, and yet with a rougher outer covering. A true pleasure to sip. Overall, as with all Cambridge Brewing Company beverages, this is skillfully executed, delicious, and wonderful late summer sipper. Complex, full of its adjunct flavor, yet wholly a beer as a whole.

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