Elevation Beer Company - Red Wine Barrel Aged Apis IV
Serving Temperature:50–57° F
Suggested Glassware:Tulip, Goblet, Snifter or Pinot Glass
This is only the second time that Elevation has ever made this beer, and who knows when it will come around again. Aside from the allocation for our Rare Beer Club members, the only public availability of the Red Wine Barrel Aged Apis IV will be about 140 cases sprinkled to select areas in Colorado. We’ve been loving these higher-ABV beers that Elevation has been producing, and this combination of a rich, honeyed quadrupel with the tannins and vanilla-minded contributions from the time spent in oak barrels is just exceptional. Though we taste a ton of barrel-aged beers as part of our vetting process—this stood out for epic drinkability.
Elevation’s Red Wine Barrel Aged Apis IV pours a dense maple-syrup/cola brown with a bit of burgundy tint coming through. The tiny-bubbled foam is well formed and a lighter tan in color, leaving solid lacing on the edges of the glass. From the moment that this is poured, its exceptional aroma lays out very clearly what this beer is about—combining a precise amount of caramel and honey alongside just the right proportion of barrel. There’s a massive, velvety midsection to this, with complex esters and spice, plus hints of vinous warmth and amaretto.
Even poured quite chilled, this beer opens up beautifully right from the beginning. There’s a plush core texture throughout this, a combination of smooth caramel and cola and red fruits and toasty vanilla/almond notes from the wood that comes together seamlessly. There’s not any sort of distracting tartness, as one could associate with aging in red wine barrels, and the oak-barrel presence lands much more like soft oak and vanilla than a strong show of the cab sauv that previously occupied this barrel. It’s a perfect counterpoint for that generous quad.
With some time to warm up to proper temperature in the glass, though, this red-wine-barrel-aged quadrupel shows its full depth. The honeyed elements expand into further herbaceous, almost-minty dimensions with other contributing notes, while the depths of the quad’s malt bill become apparent, offering up brown sugar, dried fruits, toast and toffee. There’s a rich, tannic element from the Cabernet Sauvignon barrels that slowly emerges, with more of that red-wine character, and overall this beer just continues to add in levels as it warms up. This is one of the most unique quads we’ve ever tasted—an epic limited release from Elevation.
A bit more caramelization should fit in just fine here, and the 10% ABV suggests this should be prepared to tuck away in the cellar for six months or more. Just pop a bottle occasionally, checking that the extra caramel isn’t making it overly sweet. For pairings, Elevation suggests grilled pork loin, dark chocolate and/or waffles—and we’re not going to argue even a little.
We first featured Elevation Beer Company in The Rare Beer Club in late 2012, which is right around the time they first opened. We knew a good thing when we tasted it, and the smoked doppelbock (known as Prostator) that we featured was in support of the Pints for Prostates project, which seeks to raise prostate-cancer awareness through the shared language of beer. That smoked doppelbock was a big hit with our members, so much so that we made sure to get four more Elevation beers offered together for a special offer early that next year: Signal de Botrange (a farmhouse ale aged in Napa Valley Chardonnay barrels), Apis IV (reminding us of a honeyed Belgian quad), Oil Man (their potent but highly drinkable barrel-aged impy stout), and Señorita (an imperial porter with just the right amount of vanilla and cinnamon).
At the time of the original smoked doppelbock feature, we included a quote from the Head Brewer and Co-founder at Elevation, Christian Koch: “Our plan is to build a reputation for brewing rare artisan beers. We are going to focus on adventurous specialty beers and barrel-aged seasonals that will appeal to craft beer fans like us.” Looking back, it didn’t take them very much time to get there. The brewery’s been growing in leaps and bounds, with multiple incremental expansions to try to craft enough Elevation beer for a thirsty public.
They’ve been running at full capacity for a while now, and we were grateful to (once again!) be able to snag a special, highly limited offering from these folks for our thirsty Rare Beer Club members: this time, their fantastic quadrupel with honey, aged in Cabernet Sauvignon oak barrels. Even following all of the fanfare and excitement (including a number of major international beer awards, and countless top-scoring listings at your online beer review site of choice), Elevation remains the shared vision of friends who, over a backyard barbecue and beers, decided they should build something together. As with countless small, up-and-coming breweries we’ve featured over the years in The Rare Beer Club, it’s been an absolute pleasure to support a producer dedicated to world-class beers.
We’ve been particularly impressed by the way Elevation handles their higher-ABV offerings, and this barrel-aged Apis IV proves to be a perfect encapsulation of that. This beer’s part of their Freestyle Series, and has only ever been released once before. Rare Beer Club members will be the only folks outside of Colorado likely to see this one, as its distribution is going to be limited to select markets in the brewery’s home state. This Red Wine Barrel Aged Apis IV weighs in at 10%, and it’s packed with a melange of malts including German Pale, Two Row, Special B, Munich and Caramunich, plus the aforementioned honey and Belgian candi sugar. It’s a masterful massive beer—and a perfect snapshot of what the Elevation folks are up to.
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