Gilgamesh, the latest sour brewing adventure from Upland, will be available soon. Beginning at noon on January 25th, you can reserve up to four 25.4 ounce bottles at http://gilgamesh.eventbrite.com for $25 a bottle plus tax. The bottles will be available for pickup at the Bloomington Pub or Indy Tasting Room from February 1st – 22nd.
A description of the beer from Upland: Continuing our adventure into the realm of sour ale brewing, we designed a recipe to create an Upland version of a traditional Flanders Red. Melding flaked maize into a turbid mash and adding Belgian candi sugar during a long kettle boil, we prepared this ale for epic proportions. We then incorporated wild yeasts and other acetic and lactic acid producing microorganisms for a year-long oak fermentation in bourbon barrels which had previously been utilized to age beer. The journey was worth the hardships.
We were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of this epic project. Gilgamesh won Gold in the Wild Beer category and was runner-up for Best of Show at Chicago’s Festival of Barrel Aged Beers in November so we certainly looked forward to the opportunity. Special thanks to Andrew Korty for contributing to the following write-up and keeping my opinions in check.
After pouring the beer we were confronted with an intense fruit aroma (cherries), some acidic tartness, oak character, and a hint of bourbon. The flavor revealed a bigger oak character on the palette, big cherry character, and hints of apples, figs, and spicy phenols. The flavors were balanced by a moderate acidic sourness – very complimentary and not overpowering. Carbonation was definitely high for the style but this may have served to make the body seem lighter and mask the alcohol (which was extremely smooth at 10.5% ABV).
One note on the bourbon character – I’m not a big fan of bourbon barrel aged beers that end up tasting like you’re pretty much drinking bourbon. Gilgamesh was aged in barrels that were previously used for other beer that likely stripped away a lot of the bourbon character. This allows the bourbon to add complexity without overpowering the other flavors. And the sour character was kept to a refreshing, and again not overpowering level. This fit my tastes but may be somewhat of a disappointment to drinkers who enjoy very sour beers and were expecting more.
Some aficionados will probably be inclined to cellar this beer for several years. We felt the beer was very drinkable and quite enjoyable now. Additional aging may coax a bit more of the sour character out if that’s what you’re looking for. Overall, a very unique and enjoyable offering that would be welcome at any special occasion. I tip my cap to Upland for pushing the envelope again on what craft brewing can do in our humble state.
Note: We paired Gilgamesh with a Maytag Blue Cheese that accentuated the spicy phenols more than we preferred. A sweeter cheese like Gruyere might be a better option. (I totally ripped this part off from Andrew)