Beer Review 0170: Bottletree Imperial Red Ale

Today’s beer could be considered a local beer for me, but it technically isn’t. Bottletree Beer Company have offices in Tryon, North Carolina — by the way, Tryon is the name and location of a big beer distributor here; probably no coincidence that the Bottletree office is close by — but the brewery actually contracts out to Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville, South Carolina.

While this isn’t a new company, their beers have only recently started to show up on shelves around my area — I blind reviewed their first offering a few months ago, a Blonde Ale, and it scored 79 points.

In March, Bottletree put their second beer into bottles, an Imperial Irish Red Ale. Coming in at 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), which is higher than one would typically expect for this style, I was quite intrigued and excited to try this beer when I saw it on the shelf. As you might expect, Bottletree is named after, well…a bottle tree. Check out the logo on the bottle.

The pour produced a small and creamy head, which rapidly diminished. The beer had a clear body, free of particles and sediment, and imagine this: a Red Ale that is… RED! Ruby red, to be exact; a beautiful color, vivid and bold. This one left behind some good lacing, with thin but solid sheets all the way down the glass.

This Red Ale was hands down the best I have ever smelled in the style — there’s a very nice underlying pine hop setting the stage for a malt explosion, with caramel and chocolate taking center stage with a black coffee support. There are notes of bread and general roasted aromas, and of course, a touch of butter. It’s very sweet smelling, even with the hop bite. I awarded a perfect score here, simply because I couldn’t keep my nose out of the glass!

And YES, ring that bell; we have a winner here! This beer slaps your palate with sweet caramel up front, leading to all those wonderful malts opening up in the middle, especially the chocolate, which starts out more on the faint and light end before transitioning to a finish where it becomes rich, dark, and decadent. Couple that with a heavy coffee, balanced by a grapefruit hop bitterness, and heap on how creamy the mouthfeel is…this beer is damn good, and I was surprised.

As I’m writing this, I’m sipping on the last of it…still surprised. The only faults I can dole out here are that I thought the finish was just a smidgen too bitter, and while the mouthfeel was creamy, it did have a drying effect that just doesn’t seem to work with this style. But speaking as a drinker who absolutely does not like Irish Red Ales (thanks to the buttery flavor prevalent in so many of them; this one does not even verge on that for one second), and someone who had this in the fridge for a long time before reviewing it, not looking forward to sampling: this is the best Irish Red that I have ever had, and this is a unique take in the style that you ought to seek out.

Find it!

Bottletree Imperial Red Ale, 94 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.


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