13 January 2007

Broad Ripple Brewpub's Wee Alec Heavy Ale (Jim's Review)

I'm going to try not to duplicate Chris's review of the Wee Alec Heavy Ale. In fact, I think I'll focus a little more on our review site, which was the Broad Ripple Brewpub. BRB was opened in 1990, which makes BRB the grand dame of Indiana brewpubs because it was the first one to be established in the Hoosier State. The pub has a homey, UK vibe to it. It looks and feels like a typical British public house, complete with an area for throwing darts. The only thing that's missing (at least in this soccer fan's opinion) is a little footy on the telly.

BRB's food menu offers some British pub staples, such as fish and chips, shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and some wickedly good scotch eggs. In addition, BRB has a pretty extensive offering of pizzas, which I have never tried. Many are surprised to learn that BRB is very vegetarian friendly. The pub has at least 27 vegetarian dishes (at least by my count) on the menu.

As for the pub's beers, most of the beers offered are English style ales. BRB has a number of staple beers that are brewed on a regular basis, such as the ESB, the Lawn Mower Pale Ale, and the Monon Porter. As Chris noted, BRB offers a few cask ales in addition to its staple beers.

BRB's beers are rated highly by the locals on a fairly consistent basis, and for good reason--brewer Kevin Matalucci really knows what the heck he's doing. Our chat with Kevin about BRB's beers and about beer in general was enlightening for me, particularly since I'm not very well-versed in beer-making techniques. Before our talk with Kevin, I couldn't tell you the difference between Cascade and Columbia hops. But Kevin was kind enough to explain the basic difference between hop varieties, which he described as being similar to the difference between cooking spices. In other words, you could think of one hop variety as basil, another thyme, and yet another oregano.

So what did I drink? Like Chris, I started with the ESB Extra Special Bitter. This is probably my favorite BRB staple beer. It has a great balance of hops and malt in its flavor. It starts out with a malty smoothness and bites the back of your tongue with the hops. Then, it was on to the feature beer, which was the Wee Alec Heavy Ale. Since Chris has already described the color of the beer and its ABV, I'll focus on the nose and the taste because my perceptions of those attributes were a bit different from Chris's perceptions. For me, the nose on this ale was heavy with caramel and raisins. Consequently, I expected this beer to be on the sweet side. Surprisingly, it was not sweet. Rather, it was smooth, a bit on the dry side, and even a bit buttery. The caramel and raisin notes were in the flavor, but they were not overpowering or even prevalent. I also noted a bit of a coffee flavor, but no chocolate notes like Chris found. And because the Wee Alec is not highly carbonated, it goes down rather easily, which is a characteristic that I like to describe as "milky."

My rating: 4 mugs. The Wee Alec is a high quality ale that any beer aficionado would find extremely pleasing. And a big thanks to Kevin for having a chat with us and for making a fantastic product.

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