Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crabtree Syzygy Barrel-Aged Black IPA review

Crabtree Syzygy Black IPAFresh off it's release day is a bottle of a barrel-aged Black IPA from Crabtree Brewing Company in Greeley, Colorado called Syzygy. Syzygy? A curious name but I was intrigued.

The word Syzygy has many meanings including:
- a straight line configuration of three celestial bodies.
- a relation between the generators of a module.
- a fictional character in the comic book series Dreadstar.
- an alternative electronica music duo featuring Dominic Glynn.
- an episode of The X-Files.

Take your pick. Whatever the true meaning, Jeff Crabtree took a black India Pale Ale and aged it for over a year in Cabernet Sauvignon oak barrels from Martorana Family Winery (California) and dry hopped the brew with Cascade hops. Syzygy is a new limited edition single batch, bottle conditioned ale for 2011 and comes in 750ml bottles.

This dark brew weighed in a little over 8% ABV and is said to be cellerable for further taste enhancement. I managed to taste a 3oz sample at the brewery's release party on August 20th and was intrigued enough to try a full bottle afterwards at home. This beer will soon be available in Colorado stores for approximately $18 a bottle.

Appearance: Crabtree's Syzygy poured nearly jet black into the goblet glass. A small light brown head rose with a light lacing along the sides that stuck around for several minutes. A nice hiss was heard upon opening the bottle and the beer seemed decently carbonated. Held up to the light, I could see some mahogany brown edges around the glass.

Aroma: Up front I could smell rich roasted malts and citrusy cascade hops. There were hints of chocolate and a light fruitiness from the Cabernet barrels. Having had this beer in a small sampler glass and also in a goblet glass seemed to impart different aromas. I got a much a more fuller aromatic experience from the goblet. It was very inviting to a dark beer lover like myself.

Crabtree Syzygy Black IPATaste: There was a nice roasty malt taste with a decent amount of bitterness here. While the hops were there, the malts and oak barrels imparted a rich, chocolatey taste with a hint of dark fruit (from the barrels). This beer was not as bitter and hoppy as other IPAs, rather it felt like a bonus added to a smooth barrel-aged stout-like beer.

There was along a slight tangy taste here as well that mixed well with the serving. I'm glad I got a full serving of this to enjoy at home. The 8%+ ABV is noticeable after a half a glass and would work well on a cool Fall evening. This beer tasted best a bit colder. As it warmed the wood taste came through more noticeably.

One word of caution, however. You might want to be careful not to pour in the last inch or so of the bottom of the bottle. This brew was bottle conditioned and the taste got noticeably different after I emptied the last part into my glass. I suggest pouring slowly at the end and leaving the last inch in the bottle.

Overall:The sampling I had at home out of the bottle was so much better than the sampling I had at the brewery perhaps due to the shape of the glass (it does make a difference). Syzygy is a brew I could easily fall in love with. I have a second bottle that I will be aging in my basement for several months. It will be interesting to see how this hopped up dark IPA stands up to time.

I've just recently discovered Black IPAs and so far I have been impressed by all of them. There is something about a dark beer with a little extra hop bite to it that hits the spot for me. Add that to a year of barrel-aging and this beer is impressive. Syzygy hit the spot with me. I'd definitely drink this again. It seems worth the extra cost for this big bottle.

I like what Crabtree is doing with their barrel-aged beers and particularly Syzygy. This will be a brewery to watch in the coming years. Check them out at the Great American Beer Festival and try their wares. They will be bringing a wide selection this year.

Update 8/28/2011: Syzygy took a first place Gold at the 2011 Colorado State Fair for best Smoke Flavored and Wood Aged Beer category! Grats to Crabtree on this great beer!

Here's a short video of a pouring of Syzygy:

If you can't view the video via email link, please visit the blog.

Related articles:
- Crabtree beers getting a new look.
- Crabtree releases it's Chunkin' Pumpkin.
- Crabtree Brewing taps its Braggot.

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