My phone rang. It was Madison, my girlfriend. “Max. I don’t know what happened, but I just purchased $50 in beer for us from the liquor store.” How do you respond to that? For me, it involved a few fist pumps, a few bouts of clapping, and maybe a little bit of loud cheering that disrupted all the passengers on the B Line. While someone buying me some beer to drink is always cause for celebration, I have to remember that this is the girl who barely drank beer when I met her two years ago. I couldn’t be more excited. In short, her haul was epic. Beers for our cellar? Check. Beers that pair well with dinner? Check check. However, we both agreed that the one we wanted to start with was the Oak and Orchard – Dark Sour with Plum from Epic Brewing Company.
If this isn’t the first article you’ve read from Rocky Mountain Brew Review, you’ll know that we are quite fond of Epic Brewing Company. You’ll also know that we all generally have a strong affection when it comes to sour beers. Based on the description alone, this Oak and Orchard creation pressed all the right buttons. Billed as a dark sour ale aged in whiskey barrels with some plums thrown in for good measure, this is one that I simply couldn’t wait to crack open and sip.
Oak and Orchard – Dark Sour With Plum: The Basics
- Brewery: Epic Brewing Company (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Style: Dark sour ale (with fruit adjuncts)
- ABV: 7.5%
Oak and Orchard – Dark Sour With Plum: The Details
This particular beer is part of Epic’s Oak and Orchard series. As the name would imply, these beers are all aged in oak foeders or casks and are blended with seasonal fruit. While most of these beers have hovered around recreating the delicate subtleties in red wines, the one that Madison picked up is quite different. Capped with a charming plum wax seal, this incarnation of the Oak and Orchard has been aged in whiskey barrels. The beer pours a hazy amber brown color, much like the color of root beer, with a tan head that dissipates quickly, as is the case with most soured beers. Sitting on our patio, Madison and I began exchanging words that we used to describe the aroma – this beer is complex! From our descriptors, you could describe the aroma of the beer as “tart, funky, oaky, with a hint of vanilla and coffee.”
Fortunately, the flavor of the beer is just as complex and interesting. At the front, this beer is sharp, tart, and puckeringly sour. However, letting this beer hang out on the tongue creates a complex tasting experience. The sour bite mellows and some of the beer’s secondary characteristics take center stage. This beer has a warm, oaky flavor with a hint of vanilla, chocolate, and dark fruit. A few more sips in, and the flavor of dark fruits – cherries, sweet red plums, and blackberries, shines through the oaky malt characteristic. The whiskey flavors are a bit more reserved in this beer. Finally, the Oak and Orchard finishes dry, with a relatively long, rich finish.
It might be unfair, but I hold Epic Brewing Company to some of the highest standards. They’ve rarely produced a beer that I’m unhappy with, and the Oak and Orchard – Dark Sour with Plum is no exception. This beer is rich and complex, yet incredibly balanced. It’s certainly not the kind of beer you’d want more than one or two of, because of how rich and filling it is (plus, at 7.5%, you probably wouldn’t need too many). For me, this is the perfect beer to drink all by itself. I talk a lot about what beers could pair with, but this one is deserving of your entire palate’s attention.
Unfortunately, each incarnation of the Oak and Orchard is extremely limited release. So, here’s my honest and humble advice: if you see one of these lingering on your liquor store’s shelf, take it home with you. This is a beer you bring to impress your craft beer friends.