|Image credit: Deep Ellum Brewing Company (click to enlarge).|
Conventional is not a word we're accustomed to using when describing the Deep Ellum Brewing Company (DEBC). Up to now, their two year history has been defined by their drive to defy convention and to not be bound by even a loose interpretation of the so-called style guidelines. So, what are we to think when they dare to do something traditional? As assistant brewer and Hop Czar David Hauptman explains, it's simply a matter of showing the brewery is capable of more than just the unbridled approach to beer we've come to expect.
Introducing Four Swords, a classically-styled Belgian quadrupel brewed with dark candi sugar and fermented with an Abbey Ale yeast. Its name is derived from an allusion to King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, something symbolized in the label artwork with four swords drawn in a circular arrangement. The round table represents the brewhouse and each sword a knight, or in this case one of DEBC's four brewers: Jeremy Hunt, David Hauptman, Matt Young and Kyle Wilborn.
The recipe is attributed to Hauptman and is one he's been working on since his days at the Climax Brewing Company in New Jersey. In fact, he brought along a sample of it to share when he originally interviewed for the job. Not only did it help him land the position, it clearly made enough of an impression to warrant eventual inclusion in DEBC's regular seasonal rotation.
Once you try it, the first thing you'll notice is the beer's dark fruit intensity and how it lingers throughout both flavor and aroma. The use of Special B malt (raisin-like character) may enhance the effect, but according to head brewer Jeremy Hunt's description, this is primarily the result of fermenting at warmer temperatures to promote higher ester formation. For this same reason, you may pick up hints of banana and bubble gum in this beer.
Beyond that, Four Swords offers layers of caramel, molasses, cocoa, burnt brown sugar, toasted bread and grain. Phenols are subtle, but their interplay gives this brew what seems like a note of holiday spices. It finishes slightly sweet, but not cloying, with a faint bitterness and little or no trace of alcohol. Despite the latter there's ample strength (9.5% ABV), which becomes apparent the more of it you drink.
Hauptman looked to classic Belgian quads like Rochefort 10 and St. Bernardus Abt 12 for inspiration, though his aim was to hit on a flavor profile falling somewhere between the two. Naturally, you'd have to drink these brews side-by-side to get a sense of how well he's met his goal, but on its own Four Swords comes across as a very good beer. It may also be one of the brewery's best efforts to date.
Four Swords makes its debut on Tuesday, December 17, as part of a Deep Ellum Tap Takeover event at Goodfriend. Tapped alongside it will be 2011 and 2012 vintages of Darkest Hour, along with 2013 editions of Dreamcrusher and Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout.
This beer will also be the first from the brewery to be packaged in 750mL bottles, with retail deliveries to follow once labels are approved.