I recently spent a rainy Atlanta afternoon sampling beer at the Wrecking Bar in Little Five Points and was pleasantly surprised at both the depth and breadth of their beer offerings, which ran from a light Cream Ale to a Russian Imperial Stout. Brewer/owner Bob Sandage began brewing professionally at the Wrecking Bar early this year so it was impressive to see a variety of ten different styles all available on tap.
Of the nine beers I sampled, three were very impressive, three were average and three were less than I was hoping for. The stars of the lineup were the Jemmy American Stout, the Victor IPA, and the Siberius Maximus Imperial Stout.
The Jemmy American Stout was outstanding. A full bodied beer with a chocolatey malty smoothness, a well balanced hoppiness that settled into a slightly sweet roasted finish. Easily one of the best stouts I’ve had in Atlanta.
Normally, I am not a big IPA fan but I really enjoyed the Victor IPA. The munich and crystal malts provided nice body and a sweeter caramel platform to showcase the hops. While many IPAs suffer from an over abundance of either bittering hops, finishing hops, or dry hopping (or in some cases all three) the Victor IPA has a nice balance of hops from aroma through aftertaste.
The Siberius Maximus Russian Imperial Stout was another favorite. Russian Imperial Stout is a very tough style to get just right. There is a fine line between brewing a good RIS and ending up with something that taste like a thick syrupy alcoholic coffee. Sandage has navigated that line and the result is an enjoyable malty RIS that showcases the dark fruity chocolaty coffee flavors indicative of this style without losing its identity to a single overpowering flavor. Well Done! — pass the vanilla ice cream, please.
More average in scale (when compared to the above) were the Halfwit, the Stifler Cream Ale, and the Ryezing Sun Saison. The Halfwit (a combination of a Hefeweizen and a Belgian Witbier) was a light, slightly fruity wheat beer. Smooth and drinkable but lacked both the flavor and texture of wheat beers, and the orange peel coriander indicative of Belgian Witbiers. The Stifler Cream Ale was the lightest in body, color and flavor of all the beers sampled, which might be expected with a grain bill consisting of 30% corn and corn sugar. Standard American beer drinkers, particularly Miller fans, would love this one. While billed as Ryezing Sun Saison the rye flavor (25% of the grain bill) was not particularly noticeable.
The three beers that could use some tweaking were the Sauvation Pale Ale, the Piper Down 70 Shilling Scottish Ale, and the In Quad We Trust.
The Sauvation Pale Ale was brewed solely with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops so it may just be a personal taste, but I found the flavor of this hop to be piney, pithy, and grapefruity. Some may describe it as winey and/or tropical. Either way, a little stronger malt bill that built a little more body and added some contrasting sweetness might be another way to showcase this particular hop.
The Piper Down 70 Shilling Scottish Ale was a beautiful rosewood hue very light in body equally light in flavor and lacking any of the smoky or peaty flavors often associated with Scottish Ales. It is hard to believe that the same brewer who built the well balanced malt profile for the Victory IPA would be equally satisfied with either this Scottish Ale or the previously mentioned Sauvation Pale Ale.
Brewing a Quadruple is a daunting task and after the excellent Russian Imperial Stout I was excited about sampling the In Quad We Trust. It is a powerful beer at 10.4% ABV brewed with lots of dark candy sugar and darker Belgian malts and a very low hoppiness of only 25 IBU. Sadly, it just missed the mark for me. A sweet syrupiness with a hint of burnt sugar dominated any promise of malt complexity of dark fruits and raisins. I would like to see this one perfected and perhaps using a more attenuative yeast, lengthening the ferment time, and/or easing the hoppiness might help. In the meantime, order the Russian Imperial Stout.