I’ve been doing reviews for ATBC for a while now, and recently made a trip out to Washington D.C. for my day job, and took advantage of being pretty close to Adroit to try and get a peek at their brewery. My timing was off though, and when I was there, the brewery was in the process of being dismantled so that it could be rebuilt bigger and better in preparation for their grand opening, which will be very, very soon. Actually, ATBC just recently announced their “Black Heart Society,” a beer club where different levels of subscription get you different rare beers and discounts on your other purchases. They just recently rolled out their merch website – http://adroittheory.myshopify.com/ – so check them out and you can see all about the BHS as well as their first real, honest to goodness for sale release, Ghost 028: B/A/Y/S. Back to my trip; since I wasn’t able to see anything cool at the brewery to be, head brewer Greg “SASKO” Skotzko picked me up and we hung out at Mad Fox brewing for a few beers and some conversation, and he sent me home with some stuff to review.
About the Beer (from the Brewer):
An IPA (Plus) made with Agave Syrup
Style: American IPA
I was pretty damn excited to be the first person ever, ever, to check this beer in on Untappd. To most people that means very little, but the beer geeks out there know that’s pretty awesome, especially when it’s a beer that is going to be commercially available, eventually. When I got the bottle, it had no art (and this might end up just being a placeholder name, I’m guessing it’s going to get some moniker that is much darker and more metal than AGAVE), just a hand-written label. I shared it with a couple of friends (check-in’s #2 and #3) at a bottle share who had never had a chance to sample any ATBC (like, well, most of Texas). There will be a Bourbon Barrel Aged version of AGAVE that will soon be fore sale at the brewery, but the version I had was the straight, non-aged.
AGAVE pours a deep burnished golden hue, with a luxuriously fluffy head that overtakes the glass. It’s almost like an ice cream float, but there was no ice cream in there. When the head finally does back off, it leaves a perfect map of where it’s been, just to remind you that there used to be more of this nectar in your glass and now you can be sad about that which has gone. I know I was, since I’ll probably never get a chance to drink this again! Taking a whiff, the agave sweetness is first and forefront. Being here in Texas (and New Mexico before that), agave is a bit more familiar, I wonder if this somewhat distinct scent will be recognizable to those up there in NOVA that only know their agave from the Tequila that was made from it. The bouquet is good sweetness, with an undercurrent of hops of the more citrus less piney variety, but the hops aroma is most assuredly playing second fiddle in this orchestra.
Taking a taste, the sweetness is there but not as overwhelmingly so as I found it in the nose. There is a light hoppiness that shines less reticently than it did when my nose was the only player. This is not an overly bitter IPA, and if I had to guess what it was based on look and taste alone, I’d call it a Pale Ale or maybe an Amber before an IPA. Most certainly a mild IPA, this. The body on the beer is in that medium mouthfeel range with a touch of velvet; not super thin, not stout-like thick that some malt-heavy IPAs bring. While it opens with a lot of carbonation, the rest of the drink is not overly bubbly; there’s enough fizz to facilitate the flowing of its flavors, but it’s not ridiculously bubbly. This is a pretty easily drinkable IPA as the sweet balances the bitter beautifully, and the hops to build but not to a crescendo that is overwhelming. Overall, this is just a nice twist on an IPA and I’d love to get my hands on a BBA version of it (I’m jealous, you people in NOVA that get to be there when ATBC opens)!
Overall 7 / 10
Bourbon Barrel Aged Lux
About the Beer (from the label):
Tears, blood, and bone-shards attend the transcendental mystery of the Ram. As with every true ritual, the altar is a killing floor. The more sacred the ritual, the more gruesome the blood-letting. We see the Ram as the primordial purging of Evil. Life feeds voraciously on the silence of the dead…
Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Wheatwine
BOURBON BARREL AGED LUX is a beer I’ve really wanted to try for a long time now. Wheatwine is an odd style, a strange cousin to Barleywine, which is one of my favorites. While I love Barleywine (probably a little too much), I have yet to find too many Wheatwines that really speak to me the same way. When I saw that ATBC was not only making a Wheatwine, but BBA LUX was to be aged various types of barrels (mine was in a Woodinville Bourbon Barrel, bottle number 43 of 75 produced this way), that really got me excited about what they could do with this style, especially since I know the type of innovation they employ with their beers. I have to admit though, I was also a little bit hesitant, because it seems that with ATBC, they’ve made me like a lot of styles I don’t usually like so much (chile beer, brown ale) but then with some styles I love they haven’t fared as well on my palate (their non-BBA Barleywine, for example). Since Wheatwine falls into the “beers I haven’t usually cared for” side of things, I had hope, but on the other side my brain is saying, “this is almost a Barleywine, and you remember how that turned out…” so there was a bit of an internal struggle going into this one.
To match the sacrifice theme on the label, BBA LUX drains into my glass a deep rusty-red that makes me think just a little bit of blood. There are apricot highlights when I hold it up to the light, in tribute to the gods of beer, but when it is down the color is much closer to a crimson hue. BBA LUX had pretty much no head whatsoever, which on some beers would be a bummer, but on a lot of Barleywines the lack of foam has not been a bad thing, so this didn’t dissuade me from continuing. The little froth that does top the head of this ram quickly fades to just a halo rimming the glass, and this lightly kisses the side with wisps as lacing as I remove this offering from its chalice, um, snifter. The bouquet on BBA LUX is bewitching: heavy bourbon in the forefront, stabbing your nose with its pungency, followed by thick malty sweetness behind it. There is a breadiness that comes in the aroma (again, as an undercurrent to the bourbon), matched with some slight toffee and nutty notes. If I didn’t know any better, I would tell you I’m drinking a Barleywine; the few Wheatwines I have quaffed before (probably in the neighborhood of 10 or so) have been much earthier in the nose, and much less sweet. This may be a byproduct of the barrel, or it might just be the grain bill that was used, but BBA LUX has less of that dirty, earthy taste I expect from the wheat (not a bad flavor) and more of that dried fruit, caramel type note I would expect from a Barleywine.
This, in my glass, is what I had hoped TENEBRIS (and BBA TENEBRIS) would be. I’ve always been under-whelmed with Wheatwines in the past; it sounds like a good idea but in execution it’s never something that I really enjoy… BBA LUX is awesome. TENEBRIS had some good notes to it, but there was an odd, off-flavor that really threw my palate for a loop that I hope will fade (and lucky lucky me, Greg passed me a second bottle of BBA TENEBRIS when I was in D.C., so now I have one to cellar to see if my suspicions were correct! Man, sometimes I think I’m one of the luckiest beer geeks in the world – in the first run there were only 50 bottles of BBA TENEBRIS made, and I am/was the owner of two of them!), BBA LUX does not suffer from that off-note. Flavor-wise, this is like Barleywine-lite. By that I mean: BBA LUX tastes like a Barleywine that is not as heavy or cloyingly sweet, and not as thick on the tongue, but not at all “lite” on flavor. BBA LUX brings great bready caramel and toffee notes, nice slight fruitiness along the lines of figs or dates, and a good warming astringency from the alcohol. While not as strong as some Barleywines or Wheatwines out there, at 9% ABV this is no session beer. As the beer warms, more of those earthier Wheatwine flavors I expected start to shine though, and I get the wood, some tobacco, and some peppery bitterness from the hops. When it’s cold, the whiskey dominates, but as it warms all the other flavors open up magically. For a beer that is listed as 95 IBU, this is not very bitter, but this is something I find with a lot of American Barleywines, and this has to do with the fact that these beers are made for aging; hops fade with age, so they need to be heavy up front so that they will still be present a year, or two, or five from now. While there are certainly some hops on the back end, BBA LUX is not the hop bomb its stats would make it out to be.
On the palate, BBA LUX is a thin to medium viscosity, again like a Barleywine-lite. Barleywines are usually a bit on the heavy/thick side from all the malt that it takes to make the style, and the wheat additions in this beer help to thin it out. It slips down my throat smooth and slick, slightly oily, and with just enough carbonation to remind you that this is truly a beer, not a wine as the name suggests. BBA LUX is not a beer to be chugged, but rarely are any beers that are served from a snifter. You can taste every little bit of the 9% that this beer brings, and I’m sure some time on this bottle would mellow the alcohol burn a little (though I kind of like it in this context, it offsets some of the flavors very nicely). With some age, I would expect the caramel and fruit to become more present, and the bourbon to fade a bit, and you would end up with a more well-rounded beer. That being said, unless you get two of these, drink this now. Because good goddamn, it’s amazing.
Overall 9 / 10