In our first beer review on The New School in years, we decided to break the dry streak with Deschutes Brewery’s new barrel-aged and Gueuze-inspired beer, “The Ages.” This is the latest in the brewery’s highly esteemed Reserve Series that includes The Abyss and The Dissident, which is now available in smaller 500ml bottles with a new look. The Ages is 8% ABV and 14 IBUs and entirely barrel-aged.
Before trying The Ages, I wanted to know more about it. Deschutes only has a blurb about the beer (along with its specs) on its website, so I reached out to Deschutes Assistant Brewmaster in charge of Barrel-Aging, Ben Kehs. My first question was on how close to a gueuze this beer actually comes. First off, it’s not a spontaneously fermented beer that gets its yeast and bacteria from the environment as traditional Lambics do, nor is it made in Belgium. A Gueuze is typically a blend of 1,2 and 3 year old lambics or more. The recipe for The Ages is close to how a real Belgian Lambic would be made with unmalted wheat and aged hops. It was fermented in primary by an English ale yeast, but was inoculated with wild brettanomyces yeast and lactic acid bacteria in the barrel. Like a Gueuze, The Ages is a blend of various barrels of beer at different ages, “a mix of foeders and small format oak barrels,” says Kehs. The smaller barrels are a mix of neutral red wine barrels.
Deschutes The Ages
Our Tasting Notes:
After you time consumingly remove the wax from the cap of “The Ages” the fizz and froth threatens to overtake the lip before dying down just short of overcarbonation. Unlike some still gueuze, this one pours with a bit frothy head that dies down fairly quickly.
The nose is all fuzzy peach skin and apricots with some of that farmhouse funk. Look hard and you willfind notes of a funky champagne or Pinot Gris in there. It’s sour up front on the first sip, still with an overwhelming amount of stone fruit flavor. It’s juicy, not like a hazy IPA but like slurping the juice running out of a fresh apricot after your first bite. The fruit pit is in there too, somewhere around the figurative middle of this beer is a round almondy-pit flavor that may or may not be wood from the barrel. The woody oak barrels definitely come through on the flavor, a fresh neutral oak like fresh cut lumber mixed with a earthy Belgian yeast funk. The juicy sourness is not completely dry, it definitely leaves some sweetness on an orange hued body that would be hard to call malty but definitely lives on a strong grain bill of wheat and pilsner malt layers. It’s a moderate-medium level of sourness that satisfies but finishes quick and fairly clean with just a bit of that wood and yeast on the finish.
The Ages is a very good beer that doesnt quite have the dryness or full wild yeast and bacterial funk but does a splendid job as a young gueuze inspired-ale. This should age very well in the bottle
The Ages through the ages:
“So far these batches have been inoculated with brett and LAB that are commonly used for beers of this style (wyeast brett brux, brett lambicus, lacto, and pedio),” says Kehs. The Ages is an ongoing experiment though, in the future they have a portion already aging in Tequila barrels, and in the future, Kehs says, “we are bringing other brett strains in to trial, and would not be opposed to introducing them to this project if we felt it would make for a better beer.”
Perhaps even more exciting is that a large brewery like Deschutes is experimenting. ‘”Wwe are going through spontaneous trials in Bend and hope to incorporate spontaneous beer into this or a similar project in the future,” says Kehs.