The Sixth Glass, a Quadrupel by Boulevard Brewing Company.
I must first state that I am in love again. It is a new love after the loss of an old one, but love nonetheless.
This summer, I discovered that my favorite beer, Thomas Hardy's Ale, had been retired by its brewer. It was too costly to create, and became increasingly so in our current global economy. I have a couple of bottles cellared, but after they are gone I will only have memories of a great beer. Or so I thought.
I found a beer that reminds me of Thomas Hardy's Ale in many ways.
The pour into my snifter delivers a hazy light brown body, with an orange aura and thin tan head. The head is mostly gone soon after the pour. What little bit does linger leaves behind no lacing.
The nose is complex. There is a scent of sweet, dark bread followed by molasses. Underlying this is the smell of brown sugar, dark rum, prunes, and spices of some sort.
The flavor is more complex than the nose. It is rich and sweet, but somewhat drier than my favored barleywines. The flavors bombard me, one after another. There is brown sugar and prune, an alcohol "bite" and a hint of vanilla, a nuttiness that keeps trying to peek through. Once I get through the initial shock of sensual overload and allow myself to settle down, I really appreciate the craft of this ale.
Each sip I take warms my tongue, then palate, then esophagus. As it warms, the rum characteristics come to the forefront and a faint hint of tobacco creeps in. This is intriguing and extremely pleasant. The taste of tobacco mimics the smell of the best pipe tobacco. It's almost like drinking a small cloud of pipe smoke, without the harshness of the smoke itself. It is pure essence.
I am not a smoker, but I imagine that if I smoked a pipe the taste would be similar to this ale as it warms. I was initially serving it at around 50ºF. I found that if I let it warm another five degrees that the tobacco and rum elements were slightly stronger, so that is where I started the next couple of times I had it. Each experience was just a wee bit better than the last.
Make no mistake: this is a sipping beer. It is best enjoyed in small amounts over a period of time. The experience of the ale changes as it warms, as the aromas and flavors shift and intermingle and shift again.
To quaff or chug it would miss the opportunity to properly savor it.
I am a sucker for a good story.
Thomas Hardy's Ale had a literary background. On the bottle's label were these magical words:
In 'The Trumpet-Major' Hardy wrote: "It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset."The inspiration for what the bottle contains is spelled out before the contents are even poured. Once the ale makes it into the glass, the words begin to play with the reader/drinker.
The Sixth Glass has a similar message on its label:
"Do you know what dwells in a glass?" asks Ole, in Hans Christian Andersen's The Watchman of the Tower. Better known for stories such as The Little Mermaid, Andersen wrote this short, cautionary tale for a somewhat older audience. Our quadrupel ale, also meant for the mature connoisseur, is a deep and mysterious libation, dark auburn and full-bodied, its sweetness deceptive. As Ole describes the glasses in turn, their contents become more ominous until, in the sixth glass...And with that simple paragraph I am hooked. It makes the experience that much more flavorful, that much more special, something that I want to keep for myself and treasure as I sit in my home library among my books and with my snifter of The Sixth Glass in hand.
Boulevard Brewing Company plays up the mystery by placing the web address to an excerpt from Andersen's short story on the label as well. This excerpt describes the six glasses in detail that is mesmerizing, tantalizing. It is a siren song that calls to you as you drink and enjoy.
The Sixth Glass Quadrupel Ale: highly recommended.