Thou mayest click on for greater illumination
I have to say that I have really enjoyed everything I have had by the Middle Ages Brewing Co. of Syracuse NY from trips to pubs and the odd beer I have brought back. But last time I was in a central New York beer shop I realized that there is more to life than Syracuse Pale Ale, Kilt Tilter, Wailing Wench and Druid Fluid. Odd to think that - for a micro - there are seven more ales to try when I have already supped and loved four. Then I check the list over at Beer Advocate and there are eleven more to go after these - 22 in all. Ambitious brewers.
To maintain the tradition and tastes of English ales of the Middle Ages, the brewery uses two-row malted barley imported from Munton and Fisson Plc., in Stowmarket, Suffolk, England. The malt is germinated barley that has been kiln dried. "Our yeast strain is a direct descendent of brewing yeast originating in Yorkshire, England. It has been cultivated for the past 150 years," [owner/brewer] Marc [Rubenstein] said. We figure it should bear a resemblance to the Medieval yeasts." Middle Ages Brewing harvests its yeast from batch to batch, mixing it with warm beer to activate it.Interesting to note that Marc trained at the beloved Shipyard Brewing of Portland, Maine and brought its strain of the Ringwood...not "Ringwood" but "the Ringwood"...yeast. Lew Bryson in his New York Breweries (you have bought your copy, haven't you?) has some good things to say and like me, loves the Druid Fluid barley wine. He also notes being dragged to the Blue Tusk by Marc to try the ImPaled Ale cask conditioned on tap:
"You don't have to have the cask," he assured me. "You can have whatever you want. But I'd really like you to try it." As if I'd want anything else! The cask of ImPaled Ale they served up at the Tusk was delicious, with the soft carbonation I've become fond of. The real beauty of cask ale is that the cool serving temperatures and the lack of fiziness lets more of the hidden flavour of the beer come through.I might as well start with the bottle of Middle Age's take on the Imperial Pale Ale and see if it is truely English or more in the northeast US style.
- ImPaled Ale: A light tan lace-leaving head sits over active amber-orange ale. For a nor'easter, it is a notch below biggest in terms of body but there is a mass of chewy hops, some twiggy but mostly candy-cane green-herbed goldings amongst which the 6.5% sits quietly. The water is soft. There is a rich roundness to the malt rather than a pale malt graininess. The Ringwood is there, more subdued than in, say, Shipyard's Chamberlain Pale Ale. It provides a bit of spice as well as a biscuity note well suited for an IPA. BAers say 97% yea.
- Beast Bitter: described as a special bitter, this is a degree less intense than the IPA above, as is the natural order of things - perhaps a third of the way towards the fruit-malt gentleness of their SPA. No where near as big as Nova Scotia's Propeller ESB. Beastly white foam sits over lighter orange ale. There is a citrus note over some twig which sets the brew apart as well. No raisiny notes but some fruit to join the hops in a tangerine thing, just and good. Within the hop, pale malt graininess sits quietly in the shadow of the star - the sharp ex luplis confectam acid. The BAers gave up one more point to give it a 98% rating.
- Grail Ale: This beer pours a tan head over a medium mohogany ale. The brewery calls this an amber ale but I think it is too dark for that and, besides, I am thinking of a lighter form of that old chestnut Old Peculier by Theaksons. There is a treacle note to Grail Ale over graininess and some sweet malt. Also the hop is primarily twiggy bracing but not cutting through the malt. Plummy. Dates, too and maybe a bit of chocolate. Perfect use of the Ringwood. Kind of reminds me of Unibroue's Trois Pistoles as well in the plummy note by not the strength. BAers say 97% up.
- The Duke of Winship: an interesting ale descrobed by the brewery as having the softness of a Scotch ale and the malt profile of porter. The beer pours deep mahogany-garnet under a light brown head. A pronounced fruity chocolate aroma. In the mouth, there is a round soft brown sugar and plum wave up front which goes into coffee and onto maybe chocolate before a long drying finish of slightly astringent hops. A very interesting and singular ale. I don't think there is enough black malt to make it a Scotch ale but it does not pretend it is and, let's be frank, there is many a bad beer out there that abides by the style guidelines. 96% of BAers approve. And I only got the Ringwood on the swish of the final sip. Loverly.
- Wizard's Winter Ale: An off white head resolving to a rim over deep amber orange ale. With the first sip I have an immediate sense of a sort of Scotch ale with soft water and orange marmalade, from the combination of fruity malt and citrusy hops, along with a layer of slightly smoked and burtn toast of black malt. The body is rich with a great cream texture and leaves a warm comforting finish. The brewery calls it their version of a British strong ale which, at 6.8%, is reasonable. Only 2% of BAers deny this its place.
- Triple Crown: amber straw ale with a thin white rim of foam. Not much nose but rich orange - peel and marmalade - heat. There is lots of fruit in the malt and if I have learned anything from this is the is ability Middle Ages has to coax these notes from the malt - cherry, pear and apricot. Really nice. There are two clearly distinct hop notes: green on the tongue and twig at the back of the mouth with the hear. At 10% it ought to have heat but it is so well balanced that it does not stand out. The overall effect is not unlike a tonic. Lots of herbs and spice like, say, a strong gin in a way or like a Scandinavian bread with orange peel and anise...but I don't mean those not those flavours. Thick with taste but not bombastic. Big balance. Very nice.The brewery says they were trying for a Belgian triple with British ingredients. 97% of BAers are with them though the comparison with a triple does not work for me - two styles which are too distinct. Still, quite fine ale.
- X - 1995 to 2005: This is Middle Ages' 10th anniversary ale. It pours orange amber with a rich foamy off-white head. The nose is massive of Goldings, like opening a packet of hop pellets. This ale is big twig bitter, orangey, hot and juicey. Typical of Middle Ages, there is a rich buttery biscuit heart - in this case enveloping the heat. The effect is immersive and huge, honeyed and botanical combining like the Scots liqueuer Drambuie but, even more so, a true hop bath to the point of souring the stomach a tad with those lovely flowery acid. Every BAer approves this ale.