Freakcake by Crux

It is no secret that Oregon is a Mecca for the craft beer enthusiast. According to a 2011 Oregon Brewers Guild report, there are more than 150 microbreweries in the state. It ranks third in the United States in breweries per Capita, and it is home to some of the best known craft breweries in the U.S. like Full Sail, Widmer Brothers, and of course Rogue Ales. However, for of us on the wrong side of the Mississippi, we do not often have access to the lesser known breweries that do not have the distribution power of the bigger players. This is why I was ecstatic to receive a package in the mail this afternoon that contained not one, but two bottles of beer from one of the smaller breweries in Oregon, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was in Portland recently and while there, I was able to sample a number of the smaller local beers. One of them was an American IPA: Mosaic by the Crux Fermentation Project in Bend, Oregon. A former colleague of mine noticed that I was drinking it when I checked in on Untappd and said that they had much better beers than that. I was quite taken aback because I thought the Mosaic was an excellent and one of the better American IPAs I have had in some time. To make an already long story short, this good fellow sent me a bottle of their Freakcake and Doublecross beers from their Banished Series in an attempt to prove his point.

Tonight I cracked the Freakcake. Part of this was inspired by a conversation I had with the erudite gentleman who doesn’t blog nearly enough at Fine Day for a Beer. I had been contemplating cellaring the beer, but he made an excellent point that the lemon and orange zest characteristics would get lost if left to age. I agreed. So, I cracked it open and poured myself a glass. Surprisingly, we were both wrong.

Freakcake styles itself an Oud Bruin Ale (BJCP Category 17C) and comes in at a hefty – and well above style – ABV of 10.5%. Usually, I’m okay with this. I like big bold beers and many times the higher ABV enhances the beer in my opinion.

The packaging is simple: a 375 ml bottle sealed with wax. As I pop the top, I notice that the bottle is corked.

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I am not expecting this and I realize that I have probably made a huge mistake in not aging the beer. Nevertheless, I remember that regret is for suckers and I get to work.

The beer is gorgeous. It pours a beautiful ruby with a creamy white head. However, the head dissipates quickly with little lacing. Nevertheless, I am transfixed by the color of this beer as I hold it up to the light. The clarity is superb and it is positively glowing. I eagerly take in the first note of the beer. It has an excellent sour nose that is heavily laced with cherries and plum, but the brightness that I expect from the zest is non-existent.

The taste is not at all what I expected from the nose. Again, the zest is nowhere to be found. This is a decidedly brown ale, which is absolutely correct for the style and something that I love, but much different than is suggested on its label. There is a distinct chocolate taste up front and noticeable notes of caramelization. The mouthfeel is silken as it glides over the tongue. Raisin and plum poke through, but the deep complexity with the overtly sour notes from an Oud Bruin, especially one that is this big, are missing.

Reading what I have written; this may seem like harsh criticism. It isn’t. I like this beer, I really do. However, there is something distinctly missing from this ale: time. Oud Bruins age fairly well and the fact that this beer is corked suggests that the brewers intended it to be cellared for some time. Oud Bruins flavor will continue to sour as time progresses and I think that time is the only thing needed to make this good beer great. I hope I can have my friend grab me a couple of more bottles so that I can report back in a year and then three to see what complexities have arisen in this soon to be great beer.

Saúde!

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~ by its12oclocksomewhere on December 26, 2013.

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