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The Twelve Days of Christmas series continues! So far, each year’s beer has been a strong, dark ale. In the initial years of the series, the brewers worked some ingredient(s) or technique into the recipe that suited the verse—French oak in 2 French Hens, for example. But we were advised by the brewery a couple years back not to expect future releases to integrate ingredients that have anything to do with the verses, since this was never part of The Bruery’s original concept. If it happens, so be it, but they will not be bound by such limitations! That being said, we like creating myths that will fill the Internet and beer blogs, so this year, we’re making the completely unfounded and unsubstantiated claim that the “5” in 5 Golden Rings refers to their 5 GABF Gold Medals. Disclaimer: that’s not at all true (but beer bloggers, run with it!) So, what image does come to mind when we think of 5 Golden Rings? How about slices of pineapple? Pineapples in beer? Uh-huh. Notes of pineapple are not that uncommon in barrel-aged beers actually, as Brettanomyces fermentation can kick off quite a bit of that juicy, produce-aisle kind of funkiness inherent in that wild-crazy spiky-skinned lunatic-haried tropical fruit—so it’s not as uncommon a flavor note as you might think. But this beer actually features pinapple juice, as well as some other spices. Suitably, it’s also the first beer in the series that isn’t a deep dark color, as this is a Belgian-style Golden Ale.
5 Golden Rings pours brassy in color with a slide haze from the bottle conditioning. The head is massive at the start, especially for a 23 proof beer, but collapses under its own weight after a period of time, leaving a nice draping lace to coat the sides of your glass. On the nose, look for notes of pineapples, tangerines, horseblanket, straw, melon (suggestions of cantaloupe) and honey. Wonderfully sweet and fruity stuff here. Cloves and mulling spices also jump out, with allspice seeming to lead the charge. There’s a lovely, caramel malty aroma as well that is very alluring, and as it warms, notes of rum cake and icing develop. Tasting this beer provides a sensation quite unlike any other beer we’ve ever had. We encourage you to try it before you read ahead. All the hallmarks of a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (BSPA) are there—clovey spice, gentle tart, subtle funk, alcohol warmth—but then the pineapple and melon notes really develop. These fit so well within the context of a BSPA, it’s a wonder more pineapple beers don’t exist. Cantaloupe notes are prominent enough that the beer reminds us of Midori, and the high ABV contributes to the triggering of that particular sense memory. It also takes us back to our early explorations of extreme beer, when we first tasted Samichlaus (once the world’s strongest beer at 14% ABV.) It’s the pineapple and cantaloupe-booze notes that do it for us, but the point it, it feels “familiar” somehow yet still novel, like your first Christmas with the in-laws, but, you know, more awesome and with fewer hideous holiday sweaters and fruit cakes.
We love that the fruit and funk don’t run amok here—the spicing helps keep things in check, and there’s even a much appreciated hop bitterness that help dry things out. But it’s the mélange of fruit-funk, sweet-tart, rich-bitter and old-school meets new-school that makes this beer so damned interesting. Put those extremes on opposite ends of lines, and then make an asterisk with them, and this beer sits right at the confluence. We wanted to draw a graphic for you to illustrate that last point, but we’re lazy and have had too much of this 11.5% ABV beer to operate a computer.
Summed up: another lovely Brue to complement the series. This bottle-conditioned beer will dry out as it ages, so check in on it anywhere from 6-months to 7 years out when all verses have been sung. But be careful—a vertical tasting of such big beers is certain to render you horizontal if you don’t divvy up the bounty. Happy Holidays!
What The Bruery has done for beer in Orange County, California, while impressive, is just a part of their contribution to the brewing landscape. Once just a confusingly named obscure little brewery from an oddly named little Southern California town, “The Bruery” is on the minds of the vast majority of beer geeks across this country and beyond. They have continued to develop their barrel aging program to become one of the most respected in the nation, often focusing on truly unique sour ales. Lately, they’ve delved into dark sour beers in the porter and stout vein. Sour Stout? Tart Porter? You betcha.
As a result of their unbridled creativity and skilled brewing practices, The Bruery’s beers are some of the most highly coveted out there. Period. In 2009, for example, they released a beer that took the brewing community by storm: Black Tuesday, a massive imperial stout (clocked in around 20% ABV) that was aged in Bourbon barrels for well over a year. Massively oaky, rich, velvety smooth and borderline nourishing, it has caused quite a stir and an annual tradition. Each year since then it has been released on the final Tuesday of October. The demand for this beer led people to drive from hundreds, even thousands of miles away, and some ended up empty handed due to the four-hour line that wrapped around their facility and the limited quantity produced. Not bad for a beer that was selling for as much as $50 per bottle. And yes, we’d love to tell you that we’re going to get that beer for you, our beloved members, but if we somehow managed to pull that off, there would be riots in the streets of Placentia, congressional inquiries would follow, we’d be tried for treason domestically and probably war crimes in The Hague.
But we’ll look into it.
A handful of breweries take the “limited release” concept to another level like this, with annual vintages that sell out in a single day. And some take it a step further, creating the beer equivalent of a serial novel. The Bruery is in the midst of just such a vertical release. Modeled after the verses of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’—they’re now up to verse five, hence, the 2012 release is “5 Golden Rings.” The beer is brewed in limited quantities in Orange County, California, which despite being in a state known for its brewing prowess, was a beer wasteland producing pathetically limited options in local beer until the very recent past. The Bruery is one of the extraordinary breweries helping to change that. Their rise to fame in such a short span of time has been nothing short of dazzling—and we’re very happy to have been with them since the start of their Twelve Days of Christmas series, bringing our members a bottle of each since 2008’s Partridge In A Pear Tree.
Each beer in their Twelve Days of Christmas series is made only once, and was designed to be enjoyed now, or, if you can wait, alongside the other 11 in the series in a vertical tasting, which will wrap up in 2019 with Twelve Drummers Drumming. So, you know these early releases in the series are going to age well.
For more information about The Bruery, check out their website at: www.thebruery.com or dial them up at 714-996-MALT.
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