Beer Review 0493: Olde Hickory Eiraphiotes Imperial Pilsner

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Olde Hickory Brewing is located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Hickory, North Carolina. Founded in 1994 by Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates, production started on a seven barrel system and quickly outgrew, forcing upgrades.

Still, this brewery isn’t a giant mega facility, instead choosing to make beer in small batches, 800 gallons or less at a time. Just to show you how small batch Olde Hickory are, all of their bottled offerings (as of this writing, the brewery only produces 22 oz. bomber size bottles and few scattered 750 ml containers) are hand dated. Distribution is limited to Tennessee and North Carolina, so most of my readers might have trouble finding anything Olde Hickory.

We’ve got an extremely limited beer from the brewery today — only 1980 bottles of Eiraphiotes, an Imperial Pilsner aged in Chardonnay barrels, were produced. The barrels come from Shelton Vineyards in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, which you might recognize as the inspiration for the fictional town Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show. Mr. Lyerly acquired the barrels, which he equates to nice furniture when compared to bourbon barrels, in 2011. The beer aged inside the barrels for six months at 38 degrees Fahrenheit; each barrel was sort of an experiment, but in the end, all the barrels were combined to create the final beer. The name Eiraphiotes refers to Dionysus, the god of grape harvest and winemaking in Greek mythology. It means “twice born,” which fits the bill here considering the barrel aging.

Eiraphiotes is 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and in a nod to winemaking, is packaged in 750 ml bottles. It should be noted that this beer was made available in early 2012; I only recently purchased a bottle (more on this later), so it does have some age on it and I will factor that into my review.

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The pour produced a very small, fast diminishing head that was soapy in texture. It regenerated better than it poured out of the bottle; color is a very pleasant burnt orange, much darker than your typical Pilsner. The body was cloudy, making this brew opaque, and there were no particles or sediment. Lacing only existed in very small groups of suds.

On the nose, we’ve got some subdued aromas but a nice interplay, especially between the hops and the Chardonnay characteristics. Obviously faded by now, there’s some sweet grapefruit hops, herbal notes, and a big white grape hit. It’s sweet with hints of honey, caramel, and some sweet breads; there’s also some noticeable alcohol.

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The taste is full-throttle up front, and only fades from there. Big notes of faded grapefruit, herbs, honey, and Chardonnay open the palate before fading a bit into a general honey sweetness. The sweetness continues until after the swallow, bringing on a finish that is laced with heavy white grape, then turns bitter with woodsy, oak notes from the barrels. Eiraphiotes is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel that leaves the tongue parched. The carbonation is very soft, nearly flat.

Unfortunately, I don’t think age has been kind to this extremely limited beer. Fresh, I’d expect the hops to be amped up and provide another layer of flavor. That said, this is still decent, but it makes you really wonder what it was like several months ago. Chalk this one up to being my fault; I could have purchased this when it first came out, but I balked because of the price (regularly $14.99). A couple months ago, I found this in the discount bin and decided to give it a shot. I’d call it worthy of what I paid for it now, but I wish I had bought into it much earlier. Perhaps Olde Hickory will brew this again in the future; sometimes, they do bring back old recipes.

Olde Hickory Eiraphiotes Imperial Pilsner, 77 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle (deep discount).

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