Sprecher Brewing Company - Night Demon
Serving Temperature:48–55° F
Suggested Glassware:Chalice, Tulip, Goblet, Snifter or Pinot Glass
This Belgian-style dubbel aged in bourbon barrels is one of the most expressive and unique beers we’ve sampled in a while. The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan makes some world-class strong beers, including their Wheat Trippelbock, and this is one of the very, very few of the beers we’ve sampled over the years to approach that flavor turf—this is velvety and lush terrain, courtesy of some serious legwork and ingredients. The malt bill includes Pilsen, Dark Munich, Aromatic, Victory, and Melanoidin varieties, along with flaked oats, wheat, and dark Belgian candi sugar. Hops: Czech Saaz and Tettnanger. This beer sees primary fermentation and lagering of eight weeks, at which point it still retains quite a bit of residual sugars, before it heads into a once-used white oak bourbon barrel for an aging period of one full year. The result’s a beer fully worth some cellaring time, and worth setting aside for a good occasion.
Sprecher’s Night Demon pours a dense, well-aged coloring that lands somewhere between a Pinot and brown sugar. This is dense, chewy-looking nectar, with a bit of extra viscosity and heft in the glass—golden at the edges but a dense caramel brown at the core. While this gets referred to as a Belgian-style dubbel, you can leave any preconceived notions aside, as this is transformed by its time in those bourbon barrels. The aromatics land with loads of cherries and caramelized sugars, dense dried fruits and some warming vinous alcohol. There’s a lot of ripe fruits and fruit leather, and impressive underpinnings of crystalline sugar. Night Demon quickly proved itself to be one of those offerings that resides inside a framework all its own.
In front of a roaring fire, keeping away the chill at a campfire, this beer’s perfect. There’s just an enormous layering of dried dark fruits, bright Pinot-like vibrancy, and chewy caramelized notes that slowly build as Night Demon is allowed some time to warm. The degree of flavor layering here is pretty fantastic: there’s effervescent cola (or at least hints of it), deep cherries, sweet berry character, and nuance upon nuance of flavor turf to explore. This is a big beer… But it is one of those glorious big beers, whereupon, after a million and one green-apple-ish imperial stouts have saddened you to the state of affairs on this planet and beyond, you’re a bit more like: someone made this delicious and magical thing, and now I can almost, almost, almost forgive those million and one. It’s that kind of big beer. We like that kind of beer.
With 10% ABV and a whole lot of bells and whistles, this dubbel is ready to go for cellaring. Those caramelized layers will expand as time goes on, most likely with significant sherry-like notes as well (given the current profile). Definitely worth holding on to a bottle of this one, at least for year or two to see how things are developing. The cherry and dried-fruit elements have us thinking in terms of creamy cheese plates, pâté, duck confit, and anything with pork.
Randal (Randy) Sprecher, a former Pabst Brewing Company brewing supervisor, founded Sprecher Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1985 with an emphasis on German-style beers—an emphasis that continues to this day with beer options such as the Mai Bock, Oktoberfest, Hefe Weiss and, of course, Black Bavarian, their world-class Kulmbacher-style lager. After about a decade in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point area, the company had grown to the point where they needed a larger facility. In 1994, the brewery was moved to its current location a few miles to the north in Glendale, Wisconsin, in a space that once manufactured elevator cars. The new, bigger brewery offered the company room to keep growing, and they have established themselves as significant contributors to the city of Milwaukee’s impressive brewing tradition, which extends far beyond the presence of the current mega-brewery that’s based in the city. Toward the end of the 19th century, Milwaukee boasted over 80 breweries, with most Wisconsin communities having a local brewery serving them, before Prohibition led to the demise of most in 1919. The breweries that survived often did so by switching their infrastructure over to not-quite-beer options, such as near beer and soft drinks. Today, the city can be spoken of historically as a craft brewing haven, with local standouts including Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee Brewing Co., Urban Harvest Brewing Co. and MobCraft Beer. The success of Sprecher and other Milwaukee-area breweries in recent years has shown that local enthusiasm for great beer in the state of Wisconsin is certainly still alive and well.
If you’re ever in the Milwaukee area, check out the Sprecher brewery and snag as many beers as feels comfortable. You might need an extra suitcase, though, as in addition to a multitude of excellent German-style brews, they’ve also been releasing a number of limited beers out in less-lager-focused turf, including their Abbey Triple, Russian Imperial Stout, IPA2, Piper’s Scotch Ale—and this month’s featured Night Demon, a delicious bourbon-barrel-aged take on the dubbel style from Belgium. Visiting Sprecher in person, you’ve got a lot of different, intriguing options, including a reserved tour that takes you through the brewery’s lager cellar and past Bavarian murals, plus Reserve Tastings available that pair 10 of Sprecher’s beers to different artisan cheeses. There’s also an indoor beer garden with 20 beers and 10 sodas, in the event you aren’t already convinced. Note: tour reservations required. You can get more information about Sprecher, scheduled tours, tastings, details on their soda line and a bunch of other info by visiting sprecherbrewery.com, or by giving them a call at 414-964-2739.
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