Odyssey Ale from Allagash Brewery

With the return to grad school, I have been negligent in posting a Beer of the Week.  I cannot promise that this will fully return to form during the school year, but I will endeavor to imbibe fine libations as often as humanly possible.

One of Harry’s last recommendations is an ale created by Allagash Brewery located in Portland, Maine.  Their offering, Odyssey, is a Belgian strong dark ale.  Allagash ages and blends this wheat ale in a two stage process.  During the first segment of the process the batch is divided into two portions and some is aged in New American Toast Oak while the remainder is placed into stainless steel.  Allagash states that this segment of the process takes over six months.  Once the ale is sufficiently aged, the second stage is to combine these disparate batches and then bottle condition the ale with Candi sugar and inject another round of yeast.  These additional measures are quite evident in the fullness and strong flavor structure of this ale.

My Odyssey was served in a 750 ML bottle that was corked and bottled in January of 2010.  Per the recommendation on the label, I poured my ale slowly into a wide mouth glass.  Odyssey pours a beautiful rosewood color with a sandy white head that retreats quickly from the middle leaving a small white ring along the glass with little to no lacing.

The nose is strong with unsweetened vanilla bean and brown sugar.  A touch of dark fruit clings to the aroma with a tease of slight oak and spice – clove and the faintest whiff of nutmeg –  that is almost to subtle to detect, but gives a preview of what is to come.

My first taste is full of explosive flavor.  I am overwhelmingly thankful for the aging.  The traditional and almost severe fruit and yeast flavors that are found in the traditional Belgian flavor profile have been tamed and submissively sit in the corner.  There is only the mildest hint of banana flavor.  Instead, I am welcomed with big malty brown sugar and fig flavors that are controlled by the fabulously dry finish.  I was concerned when I first inhaled the aromas.  I thought Allagash had made the mistake of aging Odyssey in bourbon oak barrels.  I have yet to find a bourbon barrel beer that has not been cloy to the point of being undrinkable.  (However, I have been informed that my search is about to come to an end.  Bourbon County Imperial Stout by Goose Island is apparently the nectar of the gods.  We shall soon find out).  I will go out on a limb and speculate that Allagash has procured old wine barrels for their aging process.  There is a very distinct dry wine like finish that is slightly tannic and completely wonderful.  Even for me, this is a hearty beer.  There is distinct heat from the high ABV of 10.3%, however it isn’t so hot that I would have guessed that high of an alcohol content just from flavor.  Nevertheless, if there is one flaw in this ale (and an admittedly small one at that), I think this heat somewhat detracts from the overall experience of this delicious ale.  With the strong vanilla nose and high ABV, bourbon is never far from your mind with this ale and that is not necessarily what you are expecting or want from this style.

Nevertheless, this is a fine, fine ale.  The mouth feel is smooth and lively with little carbonation.  This is a delicious dessert beer that will fantastically pair with a caramel bread pudding or sticky toffee.  Odyssey will also match well against a robust Dominican or Cuban cigar.  The delicious flavors of a Cuban Montecristo #2 – specifically the leather and wood – will match beautifully with the middle spicy notes of nutmeg and wood flavor of the Odyssey (if Cuban cigars were legal that is).

If you don’t want to cellar this ale (and you certainly can; store it around 50-54°F), now is the perfect time to have it.  This the right beer for a crisp autumn evening: warm, dark, and fulfilling.  So, pop the cork, pour a glass, and enjoy it with your favorite Cuban cigar of the legal pre-embargo variety, of course.

Saúde!

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~ by its12oclocksomewhere on October 19, 2010.

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