When Aged Beers Are Still Green and Other Minor Discoveries

Although a last minute crap-out is often in the cards when I plan to go to a beer event (introversion, decrepitude, alzheimers--pick one), I did manage to make it to Roots last night. For my troubles I was rewarded with a great bounty: snifters of both '06 and '07 vintages of Epic, three bottles of 2008 Epic ($22/22 ounces or, inexplicably, $45 for 40 ounces--methinks the Roots boys skipped the business class where they taught the "volume discount" lesson*), and an introduction to Bill, the illustrious blogger from It's Pub Night. As a cherry on top, Bill was sporting a fine Honest Pint Project t-shirt. (It with embarrassment that I tried to explain, inadequately, why I wasn't wearing my own.)

But you care about the beer.

As I sniffed and sipped the icy Epics (and tried to warm them with chilled hands), a couple things came to me as snow does, lately, in Portland--softly and tentatively. The first is more an admission than a discovery: with beer as strong as Epic (14%), one travels to a land where the signposts don't mean anything. The aromas and flavors are saturated and dense--beyond the ken of someone with only a good palate. I was picking up notes I didn't recognize and couldn't describe. In the middle of the '06, for example, there seemed to be something toasted, but this made no sense; shouldn't anything toasted be swamped, Tsunami-like, by the liquor and hops and malt alcohol?

Observation two: big beer, more than other styles, has no fixed nature. The constituents wink in and out of expression so that in a vertical tasting, the best years might be dominated by different elements--alcohol here, oxidation there, hops in another one. (A point relevant to the Epics--see below.)

Finally, and this is the most surprising discovery: a one-year old beer can be green. The '07 wasn't quite done yet; its notes were too sharp-edged. You might not have noticed had the '06 not been available--but there it was, creamy, rich, softer, more appropriately stewed. I picked up a bottle for the larder, and I don't plan on cracking it for years--three at a bare minimum, five more likely, and maybe longer. Homebrewers know that you can tell what your beer will taste like when you bottle it. Sure, it's flat, warm, and unfinished, but you get the idea. That's what young Epic is like--halfway done. You don't spend a dollar an ounce on a beer so that your reaction is "I get the idea." Let it sit and you'll experience the idea, not intuit it.

Okay, some notes. We picked up a pour each of the '06 and '07 and tasted them side by side. Both were a very dark brown, but the '06 was murky while the '07 was brighter and had red notes. The '07 had zero head (could have been the pour), while the '06 had a gorgeous, creamy (if quickly-dissipating) frosting. I got more nose off the '06, something like those traditional fruit cakes that are made with liquor--lots of fruit and alcohol. Also a note of wood. The '07 was sweeter and smelled more like straight liquor. On the tongue, the '06 was a lot creamier, while the '07 seemed thinner and more viscous than creamy.

The '06 had a clearly identity in terms of flavor: the malt alcohol came forward while the liquor notes remained that, notes. I got a lot of toffee more than fruit, some roastiness and that toast. The '07 was liquor-forward, sharper and less refined. However, and here's the thing about age, it had a wonderful vanilla middle wholly absent in the '06. My attention went back to it on each sip. I wouldn't say it's worth cracking a bottle of '07 to find this note, but it shows how beers are not fixed entities, but evolutions of flavor and aroma.


Two other Roots-related items. First, they now have a full kitchen. I don't know how long, or how long I've missed it (though more than once, for sure), but you can now get cooked food. I haven't a clue whether it's good, but it's pretty fast. Even amid the rush last night, a friend I was with got a burger in about 20 minutes from ordering it.

Second, the side room is sort of open (see pic, circa 5:45 last night before the crowd arrived)--Cheers to Belgian Beers-goers will recognize the space. It's pretty raw, with the adhesive still on the cement floor, sheet rock unpainted, and no heat to speak of--but it made it possible for a lot more people to enjoy the Epic release.

*Okay, this may not be true. A commenter on another thread says they're 50 ounces--which would make them a slightly better per-ounce deal than the 22s, restoring order to the universe.
Jeff AlworthEpic20 Comments