The Bruery “Tart of Darkness”

95 A

Tart of Darkness is a limited-release Sour Stout brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, then aged in oak barrels. My particular bottle to review is a 2013 vintage. Aromas are super vinous, centering around dark fruit notes of sour cherry, red grape, and black currant. The barrel infuses characters of musty oak and leather. Yeast gives some funky, salty qualities that twist into suggestions of soy or balsamic vinegar. Malts carry a roasted appeal like smoked chocolate.

The palate drops into dark malts with a subtle expression of cocoa, followed by a dull undercurrent of toffee-flavored sweetness. This is quickly engulfed by the advancing sourness, where dark fruit flavors are expressed as balsamic-macerated cherry, plum, and wild berries. The sour element reaches puckering heights in a splash of lemon juice. The barrel infuses an interesting mix of tannins, oak, and perhaps a touch of vanilla. Deeper malt complexities leave final impressions of Ethiopian coffee and toasted cereal grains. Mouthfeel gives low carbonation over a thin, dry body that grows progressively astringent. Lactic acid lingers on the chest. Alcohol is nearly imperceptible.

This is not at all your average stout. When compared to other Wild Ales, the roasted malts give this distinction, but actually carry less weight than its color may suggest. In fact, I wish the stoutness dug a little deeper before being eclipsed, but it’s all good in the end. In order to enjoy this to the fullest, it’s best to let the bottle warm slightly before serving. While this may not be quite as puckering as other Wild Ales, it still packs a sour punch, so I only recommend it to those with an affinity for such intensity. Thanks so much for the trade, Josh (Brewgie Howser)!



Placentia, California

The Bruery Sucre, 16.9% abv

The attractively presented beers from Orange County’s The Bruery are a rare sight on these shores, so imagine my delight when I stumbled across this vision of loveliness at a local apothecary (amongst the healing elixirs donchaknow). I immediately decided had to have it despite the rather extortionate amount of groats they were asking, and soon I was cycling the penny-farthing home with a weighted basket and light wallet.

Sucre is The Bruery’s 6th anniversary ale. It’s loosely based on an English old ale, fermented with their own Belgian yeast strain, and blended using the solera method whereby each anniversary ale is added to a blend of those that came before it (and has been barrel aging all this time). This is then aged again, mine in bourbon barrels though there are other varieties out there, and some will be put aside for next years anniversary brew in order to continue its beery evolution. Sounds pretty special right? 

Time to try it then, after I’ve battled my way through that lovely waxed top that is. The pour is dark, almost black until held to the light whereby its beautiful, deepest of red colouring becomes apparent. The aroma is already making me sigh and I haven’t even performed my nose hole exercises! Huge fruity notes erupt from the glass, plums, dates, raisins, there’s an unmistakable bourbon kick, lashings of caramel, just spectacular. 

A sip. Crikey. it’s like bourbon caramel sauce poured over stewed stone fruits. It’s certainly sweet, but not at all sickly, those massive fruity notes from the plums, raisins, and dates are joined by rows of fig newtons and an entire slab of rich, all butter toffee, there’s whole vanilla pods and a deep woodiness, the bourbon pulling no punches. The level of complexity is extraordinary, layer after layer of intense fruity magnificence unveils itself in all it’s glory upon my tongue. That generous amount of alcohol is certainly noticeable but never overpowering.

A half hour has passed in what seems like a minute. This is a beer to warp the very fabric of time, or at least my perception of it. It’s no secret that I find big, complex barrel aged blends rather special, but this is as delicious and intoxicating as any beer I’ve ever had. That next years Anniversary ale from The Bruery will somehow improve on this I have no doubt, and that thought makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I just hope I can find a bottle. Cheers!


The Bruery Tart of Darkness, 5.6% abv sour stout

Beers from Orange County’s The Bruery are rare to the point of mythical here in the UK, so when the BrewDog shop listed the barrel aged sour stout, Tart of Darkness, amongst it’s guest beers I placed an order that minute! Then I waited. And waited. The days dragged on I began to fear the worst, I had visions of the brave delivery driver falling foul to the myriad of trials and terrors that lurk on the Staffordshire country lanes. Maybe they were seduced by wood nymphs, or devoured by a pack of cannibalistic feral children! But then on the seventh day a parcel arrived, hurrah! My nerves were far from soothed however, because now that the two months of rain had ended the neighbouring villages would be sending out their raiding parties. Hairy, crazy eyed Wildmen and women, whoopin’ and hollerin’ atop their trained war geese. As it turned out the rest of the week passed rather uneventfully, and on a beautiful, sunny Sunday I settled down to open this treasure…

The deep, dark brown liquid rolls into my trusty glass, the thin beige head bubbling like soap suds before fading to nought but a trace. My nose twitches in anticipation as I lean in and inhale, the tartness tickles, there’s red fruits, cherries and plums, a good whiff of wood and a hint of vanilla. I don’t get any roastiness at first, but on a second attempt it’s there, shy, reluctant almost, but there.

A sip and my face puckers, the sourness hits like a lemon juice filled water balloon. The cherries and plums are there, and undertones of mildly charred oak, like someone decided to pickle a load of red fruit in a musty old barrell. Whilst the shy roast is glimpsed only occasionally as it peeks from behind the curtains to observe the craziness goin’ on, the tartness is dancing on the tables all the way to the long, dry finish. The medium body and virtually non existent carbonation feel rather luscious in the mouth, it’s a pleasure to drink.

This is a sour ale first and foremost, and anyone looking for a more traditional high end stout really should look elsewhere. Having said that, I found that as the beer warmed over the couple of hours it took me to drink it the rather hidden stout-like characteristics became more obvious, barely a smidgen, but enough to add another level of complexity and greater balance. It’s a really quite remarkable beer and I enjoyed every delicious, eye squinting drop. Only the price and limited availability would prevent me from buying it again. That and the ever present threat of geese-riding raiders of course.


Spent a few hours today reworking the single-bottle cold cases. We had some brands that have been really selling well for our store (like Dust Bowl) placed near the bottom shelf at shin-height. Just didn’t make sense. I got all of our better-selling brands at eye level and some of the ones that still sell but not as well moved down a little bit. I also organized each brewery’s lineup by style; Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA, IPA Variants (Belgian-Style, Black, Rye etc), Strong Ales, Porters, Stouts… you get the picture, and then Seasonal / Rotating and Limited.

We also had a few Bruery beers on the bottom shelf (foot level) because they were older seasonal beers, but I put those and every other Bruery beer we have in stock on the top shelf and added more “Top Shelf / High-End” beers on the appropriately-located top shelf. It took a little effort but damn, my fridges look bad ass with all those Bruery beers in there. I love it. I feel so good about myself after spending a little time in the cold box. It really does look much better than it did before. The only beer we have on the top shelf that sells well is Lost Abbey’s Judgement Day. Goose Island’s Sofie does ok and actually North Coast’s Le Merle does pretty well, but I’m hoping by making the top shelf look more high end we can draw a little more attention to those beers. Adding a few bottles of Allagash’s Curieux helps lol. Just something I’m trying out. (But really, Curieux is totally an impulse buy, and I think people are willing to be a little more willing to drop $20 on an impulse if the bottle is already chilled).

My ASM has been brought on board to a new beer initiative to try and revamp the way stores handle their beer departments. He told our DM that he was gonna have me help him because of how knowledgable I am in that area. We’re doing the best in our region as far as inventory versus sales and our DM wants us to figure out a way we can get other stores in our district to be as competitive and successful as we are in that department. It’s a pretty big deal and I’m happy to be included in the project.

The Bruery / Beachwood BBQ “Mrs. Stoutfire” Imperial Smoked Stout / Rauchbier (2013 Vintage): A little something I’ve been saving for almost a year now. I tried this in a flight at The Bruery last year and bought a bottle for later enjoyment. Decided to crack it open after Tovarish to continue my celebration of Beachwood’s third anniversary. The malt in this beer is smoked with the three types of wood and the same smoker Beachwood uses to smoke their meat; apple, white oak and pecan. The beer is then aged on those same three wood varieties. The aroma is much smokier than I remember, reminiscent of a beach bonfire. Undertones of smoked, salted chocolate and tobacco. Earthy. Echoes of dark fruit like raisin. Much of the smokiness falls front and center followed by subtle chocolate sweetness. Medium-plus creamy body with mild carbonation and a sticky, lingering smokey finish. Highly palatable. My assumption is the malt was brewed with shortly after it was smoked, lending the beer its intense smokiness. The longer the malt rests after smoking, the less intense that characteristic will be. I’m glad I finally opened this. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. Smoked stouts are one of my favorites, this one being slightly more palatable than Ashtray Heart. That beer was almost cloyingly smokey. Had it not been my appreciation for Lapsang Souchong and for barbecue “bark”, I probably would have been turned off by it.

My only regret is not buying two when I had the chance. The reason I sat so long on this was because I knew once I opened it I would never be able to enjoy it again; the very reason that haunts and prevents me from opening many bottles I own and concurrently why also I’m so good at cellaring. It’s easy to not open bottles if I’m afraid to open them in the first place.


Now THIS is How You Spend a Day Off

Ok, so this not so much a beer review as it is me reflecting over a bowl of Mac N’ Cheese and glass of Sour in the Rye while in paradise at how lucky I am to call eastern Long Island my home. Seeing as how this is my first day off in SO many, I thought it was appropriate that I spend my day off eating where I work, haha. Drinking a delicious sour Wild Ale was, surprisingly, a good choice with the Mac N’ Cheese. The sweet and puckering sourness of the beer helps cut the rich cheese, while the peppery notes of the rye goes with the Applewood Smoked Bacon. All in all a pleasant combo, and not one I mind spending money on…especially when I get an Employee Discount.


Springtime is in full force in The Big Apple, and consequently, so is Spring fever. People get stir-crazy, outdoor adventures are planned, the desire to get a little wild is ignited.

Tonight I chose to embrace both Springtime and wild yeasts with Saison de Lente - the Spring seasonal from The Bruery. I found this babe at the Whole Foods beer room in a 750 ml bottle for only $10.99 - pennies compared to the prices of some of their other offerings! Spring seasonals are hands down my favorite seasonals, and this beer is just one of many examples why.

For those who aren’t familiar with wild ales, they’re created using a process called “spontaneous fermentation” - which basically means that the beer’s wort is collected in barrels and exposed to wild strains of yeast that will then feast upon the wort to produce the CO2 and alcohol that turn that wort into delicious, delicious beer. Science, you guys.

This particular wild ale is brewed using the popular wild yeast strain called Brettanomyces, or “Brett” for short. It’s also bottle-conditioned, which means that the wild yeast is the only party responsible for its carbonation. It pours a hazy golden color and smells like barrel-aged white wine, citrus, and a slight characteristic “brett” funk. It tastes like a spicy, dry cider - absolutely perfect for curing Spring Fever.



I suppose as a beer blogger, I should be aware of events like this one: a small local liquor store two miles outside of the capital square in Madison and for some reason Patrick Rue is just chilling there giving out free samples of his beer. Well I guess I’m just a lazy lucky bastard because I had no damn idea who was about to be waiting for me inside those doors while taking a rather meaningless stroll down Willy street a few days ago. I spotted the sign immediately: free beer tasting, 4-6 PM. I check my phone. It reads 4:19 let’s gooooooo. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Orange County based Bruery, you should be. Simply put, they might be the best relatively young brewery in the country, opening shop in 2008, and making some of the most creative and complex beers out there ever since. Patrick is the CEO and founder, so I can’t really tell you what in the world would bring the incredibly successful brewer to a quaint little store in Madison, WI, but I guess it was just my lucky day. Patrick brought along 7 beers for everyone to sample, four of which I’ve had before. 


A hoppy Belgian Ale, or Belgian style IPA, Mischief brings bright yeast, fruit, and spice to compliment a relatively tame hop backbone, 

Saison Rue

This is one of my favorite Saisons from the US, period. It’s funky, and grainy in that whole grain mustard kind of way, with a little sour lemon and yeast. 

Trade Winds Triple

An unusual take on the Belgian Triple, Trade Winds is brewed with basil and thyme, allowing for a very earthy and almost Italian breadstick like quality. Not my personal favorite but worth a try if for no other reason than its unique flavor profile. 

Oude Tart

Alright onto the really good stuff. Oude Tart is a phenomenal sour and one of my highlights of the tasting. Darker than a lambic but a bit ligher in color than most sour red ales, Oude Tart balanced sour fruits with a sugary sweetness and dry oak finish. 

Tart of Darkness

Never having tried a sour stout before I was the most curious to try Tart of Darkness. I have to say it easily lives up to the potential. Dark sour cranberries, grapes and cherries sting the pallet before dark coffee flavors from the roasted malts sooth your tongue in the finish. Remarkable beer. 

Autumn Maple

I’m not sure why Patrick was sampling this after the super flavorful sour beers, because it really didn’t get the venue it deserved after such pallet-wreckers like Oude Tart, and Tart of Darkness. Still I’ve had it before and can tell you that Autumn Maple is a great fall beer. Brewed with yams and spices, the result is a refreshing alternative to the popular pumpkin beer. 

Smoking Wood

Wood flavors are often infused into beers to some extent, but never really manage to dominate the brew, and even when they do that’s typically not a good thing. Smoking Wood on the other hand proves that wood is good. Using smoked malts, they aged the beer in rye whiskey barrels with a considerable amount of rye malt used as well. The result is a super rich woody, grainy, bready, and smokey beer. This thing tastes like a campfire in the best way. 


The Bruery “White Oak” Wheat Wine (2013 Vintage): One of my first efforts in cellaring. I wasn’t too sure how a wheat wine would turn out, but because 50% of this beer is aged in bourbon barrel and touts an 11.5% ABV I felt it wouldn’t hurt. I realize now that I’ve opened it the back of the label states this bottle will age gracefully for two years. This is perhaps one of my favorite regular releases by The Bruery. The nose on this is killer with beautiful notes of bourbon and accompanying barrel notes of vanilla, coconut and oak. Subtle wheat character with underlaying caramel-malt base sweetness, almost reading like toffee. Moderate fusel notes. The palate is just as pleasant; excellently balanced with a medium body, ample carbonation and a lively mouthfeel. The bourbon character really shines through on the palate, but doesn’t overwhelm and isn’t fusel-y. The alcohol does creep up on you, though.

Looking back at my notes from last year with a fresh vintage, there’s a very real possibility that my palate is just more refined than it was a year ago. The fusel notes almost seem accentuated than they were last year along with the carbonation. My best estimate would be that any hop character used to balance this beer diminished and gave way to the malt bill because I’m picking up an infinitely-larger amount of bourbon and barrel notes. The maltiness appears more pronounced, with less fruity character.

I had read that wheat wine doesn’t age very well, which prompted me to open this bottle. It wasn’t until I read the back of the label I realized this beer will aged gracefully for two years if stored properly. I couldn’t be happier with the way this beer turned out, though. One of my favorite Bruery releases stood the test of time and delivered on something I wasn’t totally expecting; a beer not with subdued, but more pronounced alcohol and barrel notes. Enjoyable nonetheless. Highly palate. If you’re considering cellaring this beer, I wouldn’t hesitate on the opportunity to do so. My only regret is that I don’t have another one in my cellar that can continue the aging process.

The Bruery “Tart Of Darkness” Sour Stout (2013 Vintage): I finally decided to crack this open in my quest to purge my cellar. It’s been in there since January, having purchased it with intentions of immediate consumption. Figured a 100ª Independence Day was as good a day as any to open it up. This 2013 vintage was 7% alcohol, versus 5% on some of the earlier vintages. Slightly vinous coupled with notes of dark fruit like sour cherry supported by roasted malts in the backend. Undertones of chocolate and smoke. Reminiscent of balsamic vinegar. Coupled with malic acid characteristics (perhaps even a touch of lactic acid), this beer certainly lives up to the name with an over tartness throughout. Medium-minus to thin bodied with no carbonation and a lingering tart finish. Definitely one to enjoy at cellar temperature or warmer. Too cold and you’ll lose all the stout character. One of my favorite Bruery labels, too.

The Bruery Saison De Lente

Our Spring Saison is light blonde in color with a fresh hoppiness and a wild and rustic Brettanomyces character. Lighter in color and alcohol than our Saison Rue, yet equally complex in its own way.
The wild yeast in Saison de Lente will continue to dry it out over time, giving a slightly more mature character to vintage bottles. Perfect for warmer weather picnics and Spring celebrations.