Beer Review 0302: The Bruery Tart of Darkness

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One promise I made to myself for 2013 was to get around to sampling more beers from The Bruery — so here’s one that touches on something I haven’t been too fond of in the past: sour beer.

The Bruery (Placentia, California) was founded by Patrick Rue, his brother Chris and wife Rachel; the three brewed a batch of Amber Ale using Cascade hops and the beer was so good that Patrick abandoned his future as an attorney and became a full-time brewer.

All Bruery beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized; they are also all bottle conditioned, meaning the carbonation naturally occurs through a secondary bottle fermentation. The name “Bruery” is a fusion of the word ‘brewery’ with the family name Rue.

Tart of Darkness is a limited release American Wild Ale, brewed to 5.6% ABV (alcohol by volume) that is aged in bourbon barrels that previously held another Bruery beer (Black Tuesday, an 18% ABV Imperial Stout). The base beer is a roasty Stout, but the brewers add souring bacterias and wild yeasts in the barrels, producing a tart and sour Stout.

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On this pour, Tart of Darkness delivers an average size head, creamy around the edges but with a large amount of big, soapy bubbles in the center. The color of the beer was deep ruby red when held to bright light; out of the light, this is Stout dark, but the edges are translucent. The body was clear and the labeling tells you to keep the yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle, which I did. Lacing simply did not exist.

Initially, the aroma is arresting, greeting the nose with sharp, acidic white and red wine vinegar. The smell made me cough at first blush; returning, and as the nose gets used to the sourness, a nice layer of roasted chocolate malt is revealed, coupled with a touch of oak and woodsy scent.

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On the taste, this is mega-sour up front, reminding me of Warheads candy; there’s plenty of red wine vinegar and sour cherry to be had, which continues through the middle of the taste until the finish, which brings out a creamy and delicate milk chocolate with a hint of caramel. The interaction between the classic Stout flavor and sourness is interesting at the end, with the sour becoming like a sharp fruit juice and the chocolate becoming almost powdery.

For my taste buds, there’s too much sour and not enough Stout to be had. As this warmed, it did become much better, so if you have a bottle, pull it out and let it sit for about thirty minutes before serving. That being said, I didn’t really enjoy this beer. If you’re like me, and you don’t particularly like sour flavors, this is not for you. In my reading about this beer, it seems like the overwhelming opinion is more recent batches have amped up the sour and dialed down the Stout. I’d love to try it with the chocolate and caramel flavors more in the mix — dare I say even if you are head over heels with sour, you will want to split this bottle.

The Bruery Tart of Darkness, 80 points. Price: $9.99 US for a 750 ml bottle. (This was a deep discount price — regular price is $19.99.)

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