You may drink a particular beer from a local tap, or from a bottle, or from a can, but these are all the same beer. Brewers may use a variety of retail options and packaging but the beer (ordinarily) originates from a single batch, a quantity brewed once and fermented in one of the massive steel tanks you see on brewery tours.
To get any sense of the real variations from batch to batch is difficult given the time, scheduling and capacity constraints most small brewers face. The same beer from two separate batches may be many months or even a year apart, and comparing them side by side is troublesome given the unknown influences of conditioning, transport and aging.
Lakewood Brewing has just begun a special-edition line of one-off beers they are calling the Legendary Series. Number 1 in this series is out now, the Belgian-style dark strong ale Brabo’s Cut named after a myth surrounding a Roman soldier and a giant. At 9.4% ABV, it’s a bold start for a brewery we can forget is not even a year old.
But brewer Wim Bens did something unique with Brabo’s Cut. Two batches were brewed, the first packaged exclusively in kegs and sold on draft and the second exclusively bottled in 22-oz bombers and sold at retail. For the first time I am aware, the beer you drink on tap is deliberately not the same as that found in the bottle.
The recipes for these two batches were identical, and brewed with an addition of locally sourced honey. But yeast will do what yeast will do, and a slight difference exists. Perhaps a more accurate name for craft brewers would be artisanal brewers, as these small operations rely more on personal skills and the variances of ingredients than industrial regularity.
Brabo’s Cut is a ruby-brown beer with an aroma and taste dominated by dark fruits, rich malt and faint woody elements. It is somewhat sweet and the bottled version perceptibly dryer, with hints of maple syrup and turbinado sugar flavors. It is balanced short of cloying and almost textbook basic for the style, providing a great, clean canvass for experiments of aging and barrel series if they ever choose to make more.
Availability: Brabo’s Cut has been available on tap for a couple of months, with some places holding back kegs for special releases or festivals. Bottles are on retail shelves now, and there are no immediate plans to brew this beer again.
Legendary Series No. 2, the La Dame du Lac, debuts tonight at The Common Table.