Jester King SPON – Methode Gueuze 2016 (spontaneously fermented, blended wild ale)
Though crafted in Austin, this beer’s funk-for-days nose is pure Belgium: Lemon juice and wet hay overlay split oak while sweet verbena, pear skin and peach syrup meet the underside of a horse saddle. Even more lemon emerges on the palate (though there’s less acidic burn than one would imagine), then rhubarb and dry vanilla bean fade as oaky tannins bite. It’s an outrageously vibrant and accurate version of this hard-to-replicate style.
Cellar West God’s Eye 2017 (oak-fermented wild ale/porter with blackberries)
A purplish-brown hue clues you into the fruit addition, as does the nose: smooth milk chocolate first, followed by sweet blackberry jam, toast char and sarsaparilla with soft peanut scents around the edges. On the sip, wood character emerges right away as a sort of fresh oak greenness before blackberry skin quickly takes the reigns. The swallow is where things get interesting, as the dark malts unfurl with notes of cocoa and the lightest hint of black licorice. Tartness is very mild, more tannic than acidic. Though sweet blackberry is perceptible up front, the finish is very dry, with a focus on malty char evincing a well-made porter base.
Triple Digit Belsnickel 2016 (brandy- and bourbon- barrel-aged strong ale)
Time spent in brandy and bourbon barrels gives this strong ale a fruitcake aroma that melds scents of fig, orange and rum-raisin. The flavor’s energized by impish spice additions that layer ginger, nutmeg and orange peel between milk chocolate, sugary vanilla, fresh coconut and robust red wine. Boozy but not hot, this is one for sipping in front of a fire.