(Author’s note: Some of you may remember that my posts used to come regularly…reviewing wines, sharing food pairings, and other assorted wine-related thoughts. Over the last couple years, a lot has been going on that has limited my “spare” time…I won’t get into the reasons here. Alas, I am hoping to get back into sharing in this space again. I hope you enjoy!)
Now, onto the review of of Roots Brewing’s 2005 Epic Ale!
One doesn’t just come across a 3 liter bottle of 6 year-old beer. There’s a story here, naturally.
In early 2005, Lara and I moved to Portland from NY, and upon arriving back into Lara’s house, which had been rented, we discovered a new brewery around the corner. Roots Brewing had just opened. We quickly became very fond of their brews…the IPA was like no other, the Red, their signature beer, was the best Red I’ve ever had. And the Porter? Fuggidabouddit. Chocolaty, silky smooth, and somewhere around 9% ABV, so you’d be tilted without even feeling like you were drinking!
A few months later, Craig Nichols, Roots’ founder & brewmaster, started promoting the release of the Epic Ale, a version of a beer he’d been making as a hobby for years. It was to be released on the Winter Solstice 2005. In addition to the release, they were going to be selling the jumbo bottles, each signed and numbed. To get a bottle, you entered a lottery, and the numbered bottles were sold in order of the names drawn. Once your name was pulled, you still had to pony up $80 for the bottle!
My name was called on number 12. On my walk up to the front to get my beer, I found $40 on the floor, which helped justify the purchase, especially since I’d just started at PSU, and the college debt had begun.
Over the months, Lara and I had befriended Craig. He made me swear I wouldn’t open it for at least 5 years. By then, he said, the beer would age nicely, and the ABV, which was brewed at 14.5%, would be somewhere in the 17-19% range. In truth, the beer was more like a barley wine. But it tasted more like a beer.
So we waited. And waited. We moved twice, and had 2 daughters. Last year, year 5, I could barely contain myself…but we had a 6 month old nursing baby…so Lara wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it too. So we waited some more. This year, I could wait no longer. Our family Christmas happened to be on Dec 22…the Winter Solstice. So 6 years to the day later, the beer was opened.
I can’t lie…I was nervous. I had stored the beer pretty well, mostly in cool dark places, but never refrigerated. I know about wine storage, but not beer. And, sadly, Roots closed its doors 18 months ago…on my birthday, so couldn’t even ask Craig about it.
When everyone had arrived, I unwrapped the wire, and popped the lever, releasing the synthetic cork. There was a release of air, followed by wisps of mist, which were both reliefs. I poured myself the first sample (had to make sure it wasn’t toxic), and quickly confirmed that it was in fine condition to drink.
So how was it? In a word: spectacular. Worth the wait. Wish I had more.
There’s no way to know what the ABV was, but it was quite strong. There wasn’t an overwhelming spike of alcohol, but unlike drinking beer, you could taste the subtle kick of alcohol. And the effects could be felt halfway through the first glass.
The beer itself was very malty. Copper in color, there was also a very subtle copper taste. The overwhelming flavor was caramel, with hints of chocolate, vanilla, and molasses. The carbonation was very soft after 6 years in limbo, so the beer went down very easily. Light and rich at the same time, it was great with enchiladas and even better with dessert.
Before we knew it, the bottle was empty. It was a special beer, and fittingly it was christmastime when we opened it, because I felt like a kid again with all the anticipation. I hope Craig resurfaces again…he’s a superb brewer, and the world is just better with his beers available to the public.