The Bruery - Arbre (Medium Toast) (2017)
- ABV: 10.8%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- Serving Temperature: 52–58° F
- Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, or Teku Glass
The Bruery’s Arbre series explores the various contributions of different degrees of barrel toasting, courtesy oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky. This 2017 version has a big wheatwine-style base that’s brewed with chocolate wheat malt, that was then divided in three and aged inside of new American oak barrels of varying toast levels.
This has a dark, maple-syrup-brown color with tan foam and modest retention. Golden-brown edges, and nice complexity of color. The aroma shows maple syrup, brown sugar, dates, and some rounded cherry fruitiness. The alcohol’s nicely tucked aside even after this warms. The barrel impact’s comparatively subtle, with toasted almonds and vanilla.
There’s a subtle underpinning of carbonation, with generous degrees of brown sugar, dark caramel, crème brûlée, and burnt sugar. The base beer’s emphasis on sweet components is tempered by vinous, well-integrated warmth along with some bittering components from the barrel. The medium-toast new American oak barrel aging comes through with rounded char and spice, nicely balancing out the core caramelized sugars here. Ultimately, it’s a beautifully handled wheatwine that gains balance from its time in new American oak.
Arbre’s up for some further aging, with its caramelization at the moment at moderate levels. The pairing elements of barrel char, rich chocolate maltiness, and toasted almonds have us considering vanilla- or chocolate-focused dessert courses to counterpoint.
What The Bruery has done for beer in Orange County, California, while impressive, is just a part of their contribution to the greater brewing landscape. Once just a confusingly named, obscure little brewery from a curiously named little Southern California town, The Bruery is now known to the 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’ve even recently added a third Bruery location: 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 the beer that took the brewing community by storm: Black Tuesday, a massive imperial stout (clocking in around 20% ABV) aged in bourbon barrels for well beyond a year. Hugely oaky, rich, velvety smooth, and borderline nourishing, it caused both a stir and an annual tradition. The demand for this stout led people to drive and/or fly from hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away.
A handful of breweries have managed to take the “limited-release” concept as far as The Bruery has done with their beers, with annual vintages that sell out in a single day. Some folks have even gone one step further, creating the release equivalent of a serial novel, as The Bruery did with its recently completed 12 Days of Christmas series of annual beers.
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