Sunday, February 19, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Quercus Vitis Humulus Oak Aged Barleywine (2009) | Otter Creek Brewing | Middlebury, VT

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
Sometimes my beer cellar can resemble a sock drawer in that occasionally, some mismatched cast-away resurfaces after a few years, and I'm like, "The fuck?  I remember you, Tommy Maddux".  And when this happens on rare occasion, it becomes the Selection of the Night for Melissa and I -- which is how we came upon this bottle of chemistry from Otter Creek Brewery somewhere in Vermont.

After studying it and trying to remember when and where I picked up this undrafted free agent, I somewhat recall it being a random one-off at Spec's somewhere in the territory of 2009.  And when I looked up the label to do a bit of research for this entry, the Otter Creek people were like, "very limited release, y'all", except they didn't say y'all because they're probably a bunch of Ben & Jerry's eating, carpetbagging beatniks.

No use waiting to see if this thing gets any better.  Three years was probably too long to wait anyway.  Plus, I was already buzzed, and being buzzed makes me generous with The Cellar. [side note: At my unending requests, Melissa -- and others -- have finally learned to call it The Beer Cellar, as opposed to The Beer Fridge -- because this ain't fucking HEB.  Love takes time, as my buddy Alex always said when I wanted to start his car's A/C at Level 4 during the hot El Paso summers.  Indeed, Alex -- beer takes time.]

As you will note from the label, Quercus Vitis Humulus is a bit of mouthful, both verbally and consumably.  From the Latin meaning, [Of the] Oak and Vine, Hopped, QVH is a very contrived, heavy-handed barleywine -- much in the same vein as Garret Oliver's failed The ConcoctionQVH is fermented with French savignon blanc grape juice and re-fermented with Champagne yeast, then asked to take a time-out in French oak barrels for the duration of at least six weeks.  Sounds, delightful, oui?  

Eh.  Sure.  It was nice -- and as is usually the case, drinkable enough.  But, there were so many distinct flavors struggling with each other -- not to mention in the slightest that this is a high ABV old-ale barleywine; a style that commands a major amount of regard from an individual's palate on its own.  The beer was bittered, but not by hops I thought -- something else, like too-charred oak.  While champagne yeast is a magnificent ingredient in beer, combined with the grape juice, it was tart in an odd fashion; in other words, soured without bacteria, which made it seem just a bit off.  And at 12% alcohol, it was really making a tough go of things, particularly since I'd already been happily consuming dense Belgians at Drink.Well.

I admit, aging isn't always kind to beer.  Hops, alcohol volume, time, temperature, leakage, light, et al can basically alter an entire style from what the brewer originally intended.  However, that is what is part of the fun of cellaring -- aside from the volumes of liquid Charles Dickens to read back there -- being able to test the beer's longevity, and observing taste profiles of the same beer from one month (or months, or even years) to the next.  At least that is why I find it expensive fun.

ABV: 12.o%
Acquired: In a galaxy far, far away.  Spec's, I think.

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