Off the Beaten Track

It’s funny, but in this age of brewing equipment made of metal, a craft beer aged in casks is a luxury item, whereas previously it was commonplace. For centuries, beers were brewed, fermented, and shipped in wood barrels. These days, aging in barrels is a hot trend, and as such is also more expensive.

Before, oak barrels were treated with a type of tar (pitch), in order not  to impart other flavours to the beer. Today, we look for those flavours. Since wood barrels are porous, and barrels are an ideal habitat for bacteria and wild yeast, brewers are interested in bourbon, whisky, and even aquavit or mescal barrels.

In this case, the packaging says enough about the high-end market being targeted. That said, it’s not improper to trade a special beer in an attractive way. And it’s easily seen that this beer is an up-market product.

The bottle contains 66 cl  (22.32 oz) of 9%-ABV beer aged for four to six months in whisky barrels from Ardbeg Distillery (Islay, Scotland); the batch I tasted was from September 2013 (“best before 5 years”, says the leaflet).

What we have here is a stout from the Brouwerij Dochter van de Korenaar, founded in 2007 in Baarle-Hertog, a small Belgian enclave in the Netherlands, by Monique and Roland Mengerink.

Embrasse announces itself as being peated. And frankly, there would be nothing more to say if we slavishly followed the nose! The domination is total. But we need to be patient, for there’s an amazing mouthfeel to be discovered. For that, one has to accept an omnipresence of iodine. Only then do we detect a candied taste dotted with orange, dates, honey, caramel — and even, in the finish, a wood-ash feeling.

We’re really off the beaten track here. It’s winter, and you’re alone. It’s freezing and the horizon is deserted. To warm up your soul and your body, you have Embrasse, a stream of huge peat and liquorice warmth where you can dip your glass.