When somebody describes something as “epic” there is usually hype and disappointment to follow. Epic Brewing Company, from Colorado, has put a lot of pressure on itself to create some epic beers. For this particular libation, they reached out to their neighbors, Crooked Stave Brewing, to create a funky saison collaboration. As the name would suggest, this farmhouse was doused with copious portions of everybody’s favorite wild yeast strand, brettanomyces to funkify the liquid. If that wasn’t enough, it was housed in oak wine barrels to add a little more curiosity to the brew. Will this beer live up to the brewer’s name? Time to run then numbers…
Appearance: This beer didn’t pour as hazy as I expected it to. It had a little yeast floating around in it, but it was fairly clean with a white head that vanished quickly. Very mild lacing as I drank.
Smell: Lemon, lime, distinct bitter brett character, orange oils, sour, and a little oak. I get some fruitiness from the aroma – green apples and sour grapes come through as the wine barrel aspect is given away here.
Taste: First sip was sweeter than expected – you still get a mild tartness, however the grain and alcohol sweetness really cuts through the brett and barrel. Some saisons I’ve had are a touch heavier in body, and it would appear that this one fits that mold. My buddy Cody and I have homebrewed a couple of saisons together and I can identify sugary banana yeasty flavors from this as we could with our saison. There is also a caramel toffee flavor that I can pick up on either coming from the malt, yeast, or alcohol (or all three). The brett does a great job to instill its funk on the saison, but it’s not overly bitter or assertive like many other brett forward beers I’ve had. There isn’t a ton of orange oily bitterness brett typically has. Even the barrels this brew was aged in add distinct flavors – sour grapes from the wine allow this beer to have a touch more puckering than non-barrel aged brett beers. Other fruit flavors emerge like apples and pears. The finish isn’t overly dry and has a nice balance between sweet and tart… very unique beer, but you have to really pay attention to identify that.
The ABV in Elder Brett is again very high for a saison coming in at 9.1%. It’s almost less of a saison and more of a barrel aged Belgian Strong. The alcohol thickens up the body to a medium/full bodied beer and the carbonation is perfectly acceptable. Since this saison has a fully body and inflated ABV, it’s not the most drinkable saison, but one shouldn’t have a tough time finishing 22 oz’s in a couple of hours.
Overall: A distinctly different saison with flavors emerging from all elements. Way more complex than other saisons I’ve had, but all those flavors coming together can make Epic’s offering seem a bit muddled. The flavors work well, but there could be more harmony from start to finish. At the end of the day, this beer was enjoyable and I’d give it a B+/A- overall. I appreciate the uniqueness it has, but I don’t think I’d describe it as epic.