The Bruery - 11 Pipers Piping
- ABV: 11%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- Serving Temperature: 45–52° F
- Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Teku, Tulip, or Pinot Glass
We’re loving the latest release from The Bruery’s 12 Days of Christmas series: a rounded and layered Scotch-style ale with candi sugar and coriander, coming together in a perfect, heftier-ABV packaging for these cooler temps. We’re starting to look forward to increasingly burlier beers into the later months, ultimately seeking out examples that provide a potent impact of flavors, but in seamless, carefully executed fashion. It’s not hard to use a lot of stuff. It is to get all of those ingredients to play out in a way that feels integrated, pleasant, and purposeful.
Watching The Bruery’s brewing staff collectively mature over the years in this regard is one of those unexpected upsides of watching an industry grow and evolve. Edges are smoothed. Lessons learned. And we’ve greatly enjoyed the results of those years of effort. This is The Bruery’s 11th year in business, and we’re thankful to have known them since near the start.
This is the second-to-last release in The Bruery’s 12 Days of Christmas series, and it’s easily one of the smoothest, well-rounded in the series to date. 11 Pipers Piping is a Scotch-style ale with candi sugar and coriander, bringing forth a ton of rich, caramelized malts and fruity warmth from the start. It’s a perfect entry for the second to last, nicely suited to pop now or age for a year, before tasting through the full series in 2019 with the release of 12 Drummers Drumming. It definitely feels like we’re seeing fewer well-made, generous Scotch-/Scottish-style ales from American breweries, and this one’s especially well constructed and detailed.
11 Pipers Piping pours a deep, reddish-amber color, quite dark but showing off its rich core of malts. There’s a resilient cap of light-tan foam, which lingers despite the potent ABV and provides some nice lacing. It’s got a dense, honeyed look. This gets continously generous as it warms, starting with a wide range of red fruits and caramelization—from toffee to brown sugar to ripe fruitiness. The alcohol, despite this beer’s 11% ABV, is nicely restrained in the aromatics, offering vinous warmth but staying generally tucked away. As we have seen them develop over the years, The Bruery’s gotten pretty comfortable with nailing the plush feel.
Fulfilling the aromatics, this is quite smooth. There’s a plushness to the texture: bright pops of red fruit, softly rounded caramelized sugars, gently tucked away vinous warmth along the edges, and emergent character that just kind of rolls out like a red carpet as this warms. This is one of the most generously malty beers that we’ve crossed in a while, and yet it maintains its poise: not sticky-sweet, always round and plush and highly sippable, managing to tuck the heat to the side, with nothing close to any roughness. This continued to surprise us: building in layer after layer of a subtle cherry fruitiness, cotton candy, ripe pear and apple, hints of a profile like a Manhattan, and just lots of malt character that rewards taking a touch of time to dig into this one. It’s a precise behemoth—from a brewery that’s had some practice.
This is drinking exceptionally, and it should still be just delicious when the 2019 release of 12 Drummers Drumming rolls around. Just keep an eye on the steady increase of caramel that can steer this to stickier-sweet things. This feels, with the core subtle caramels and red fruits, to be perfectly suited to something like roasted pork or duck or even seitan: those not-quite-steak-level dishes that sync well with that section of the spectrum. Grilled, chili-rubbed pork loin? Cherry ice cream seems like an ideally creamy counterpoint for a dessert pairing.
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 the country and beyond. They’ve continued to develop their extensive barrel aging-program, launched the Bruery Terreux line, opened The Tasting Room at Bruery Terreux in Anaheim, and ultimately become one of the most respected breweries in the nation. They even recently added a third Bruery outpost—The Bruery Store at Union Market in Washington, DC, establishing a wee East Coast outpost.
As a result of their unbridled creativity and skilled brewing practices, The Bruery’s beers are still some of the most highly coveted out there. Period. It was back in 2009 that they released a beer that took the brewing community by storm: Black Tuesday, a massive imperial stout (clocking in around 20% ABV) that was aged in bourbon barrels for well over a year. Massively oaky, rich, velvety smooth and borderline nourishing, it caused quite a stir and an annual tradition. The demand for this beer led people to drive and/or fly from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. A handful of breweries take the “limited release” concept to another level like The Bruery has done with their beers, with annual vintages that sell out in a single day. And some take it one step further, creating the beer equivalent of a serial novel.
The Bruery remains in the midst of just such a release. Modeled after the verses of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”—they’re now up to verse eleven and the 2018 release: 11 Pipers Piping! This beer was brewed in limited quantities in Orange County, California, which despite being in a state known for its brewing prowess, was a beer wasteland for quite some time. The Bruery has been one of the spots to help change that. Their ascent’s been inspiring to witness—and we’ve been very lucky to have been with them since near the start of their Twelve Days of Christmas series—bringing members a bottle of each since 2 Turtle Doves.
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 12 Drummers Drumming. So, you can certainly expect these releases 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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