Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thornbridge Brewery: Bracia Dark Ale

To put it simply, the Bracia Dark Ale from Thornbridge Brewery blew me away, and I can almost guarantee that it will blow you away too. When I first heard about this beauty of a beer I never thought I'd have the privilege of trying it. Two months later I stumbled upon a bottle in a shop in Prague. No second thoughts needed here, I walked out shortly thereafter with the bottle in hand.

To say this beer is complex would be an understatement. The grain bill includes: Marris Otter, Brown, Dark Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Peated and Roasted Barley. The brewers utilized four different hop varieties: Target, Pioneer, Hallertau, and Sorachi Ace. But what's in this beer that makes it so amazing? Aside from four different hops and a complex grain bill, it's the brewers generous use of bitter Chestnut Honey that takes this beer to the next level. The dark brown honey is sourced from the alpine foothills of North East Italy. The aromatic qualities of this beer are impressive indeed and the alcohol content of 10.00% is equally so.

Alright so here's the low-down on Thornbridge: it was opened in 2005 in Bakewell, England (central England near Sheffield) and they currently brew an assortment of beers ranging from English mild to IPA's and Imperial Stouts to Vienna Lagers and even a wet-hop IPA! Eight Thornbridge beers are released, as English tradition would have it, in cask, but they also offer twelve in bottles and many are kegged. Many of their beers are below the 5.0% mark with Bracia taking top spot for strongest. Thornbridge may be most well-known for their Jaipur IPA, which also includes honey in the recipe (am I noticing a trend here?). And without further adieu, let's move on to the tasting notes...

Name: Bracia
Category/Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 10.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Marris Otter, Brown, Dark Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Peated and Roasted Barley
Hop Type(s): Target, Pioneer, Hallertau, and Sorachi Ace
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Chestnut Honey
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: Pivkupectvi, Prague, Czech Republic 

The Pour: Dark brown/black, head is dark tan/light brown, nice retention & lacing.

The Nose: Incredibly floral, a sweet honey-like aroma, chocolate, burnt/charred notes, rich, toasty and roasty, a little medicinal and slight twinge of alcohol.

The Taste: Roasty, sweet, bitter, full-bodied and complex, every bit as enticing as the aroma suggests. A slight medicinal quality. The sweetness is retained well but it's not over-the-top sweet. The floral characteristics imparted by the honey are showcased nicely; conjures images of fresh-cut flowers. A little burnt sugar/molasses, chocolate, dark roasted coffee, a touch of licorice and salt. The mouthfeel is silky smooth. I'm also detecting a touch of peaty smoke at the end.

The Verdict: This beer is incredible; from the first sniff to the last sip, this one is delicous! It's definitely one to savour. The aromatic qualities lent to this beer from the Chestnut Honey and use of several kinds of specialty malts sets this beer out from the rest. Simply put, it's unlike any other beer I've ever experienced. It has all the qualities one would seek from a dark beer: strong, roasty, complex, but it's not overly boozy, and has one of the most unique aroma/flavour profiles ever. If you're looking for a rare complex beer or one that deviates from the standard flavour profiles associated with porters and stouts then this is definitely the beer you need. Unfortunately as I found this bottle in Prague, I cannot recommend to you any shops where you may be able to find this in the PNW. Call your local bottle shop and make an enquiry! If you're lucky enough to find some, pick one up, or two, or three! You won't regret it! Ciao for now!

Thanks for reading!