Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Two Brothers - Bare Tree 2010

Another day in June means another craft beer from somewhere local.  This is a bottle from Two Brothers brewery in the Chicago suburb of Warrenville.  I have had it in the beer fridge for a little while now and having just been to their brewery I could hold off no longer.  In fact, the packaging of this beer is so pleasing that I am surprised that I was able to fight the urge to open it for so long.  There are several photos at the end of this review to show this visual appeal.  I am actually housesitting for a friend this week, so I do not have my normal "neutral" backdrop, but I think the pictures are effective nonetheless.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 11/12
As the soda-like carbonation is fizzing away, the beer gave off an almost German-like funky smell.  It is not a good start, but it more than redeems itself.  The banana esters soon show themselves and are only moderately spicy.  A light clove aroma is the only spice that makes itself readily apparent.  Eventually, some paler malts show through as do honey and a barely a bit of alcohol warmth.  Halfway through the bottle, the bananas become much more subdued and the rich caramel malt starts strutting around the glass.  Very nice.

Appearance 1/3
The sediment in this bottle is unlike any other.  It is large, almost like pulp in orange juice, but hovers in the glass without moving.  It is very unusual and not all that appetizing.  The color is handsome, slightly darker than your average lager, and offers a few more orange hues.  The head is a bit fizzy, will show up exactly in proportion to how hard you pour it, dissipates fairly quickly and leaves no lacing.

Picture is my own.

A close-up of the gravity defying sediment.
Flavor 19/20
The style is listed on the bottle as a "Barley wine style weiss beer," and boy do they deliver!  It starts out with caramel malts and a sweet apple that stops appropriately short of being crisp.  Neither lasts long as this beer barrels into its backbone of a much more intense, silky caramel and all his friends.  Banana and caramel are the showcase flavors here, but they are escorted by a little alcohol warmth, faint hop bitter, and hints of raw sugar and apricot.  The fruits, with the exception of the banana, are hard to detect, but they are there.  The finish is a bit of an abrupt transition from the sweet, warm goodness to something distinctly more bitter.  The mild bitter starts suddenly, but tempers a bit with raw sugar and a fruit flavor like a mellow apple or a barely tart pear, take your pick.  The aftertaste is remarkably clean considering how sweet the rest of this beer is.  This is aided by a light bitter.  The bitter with still a bit of sweetness behind it yields mouthwatering results and a yearn for another sip.  In fact, 2-3 minutes after taking the last sip, there is almost no aftertaste at all except for a very faint bitter.

Mouthfeel 4/5
Toward the end of the bottle, one has to search for any remnants of carbonation left in this brew.  It has a great creaminess which is appropriate for the style, and a medium heavy body which lends to this beer's significant feel.  Warmth is all but invisible - an impressive feat for a beer with a 11.3% ABV.  I had to look it up because I never would have imagined that level would be possible with its current flavors.

Overall Impression 8/10
Wonderful style accuracy without going overboard.  Bananas are present, but not thrust upon us.  Spice is light and complimentary.  The body is nice, the creaminess is excellent, and the flavors diverse and nuanced.  The sediment was off-putting, but thankfully did not effect the mouthfeel, only the appearance.  Besides the look and the carbonation's vanishing act this beer is remarkably well put together.  However, this only goes as far with respect to the weiss style.  One often expects their barley wines to be a little more robust, but this offering's lack of "attacking" flavors is just as easily a praise.

Total 43/50 (Excellent)
How does this beer have 11.3% ABV?!  I still do not believe it.  It is perfectly camouflaged.  The weiss style is complex without throwing in a grocery cart full of ingredients, and subtle enough to let us appreciate each one.  Reason #1 to like this beer?  Caramel and banana.  Who cannot appreciate that combination?  It lends itself well to the rest of the beer to make a cornucopia of round, mellow sweetness.  Cheers to the Ebel brothers on another fine brew.  Prost!

Now some gratuitous pictures.

Bottles with corks mean business.

Bottle art just short of Ansel Adams' work.

Salivating yet?

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