Saturday, November 5, 2011

Empyrean Winter Tilt Festiv'ale review

Empyrean Winter Tilt Festiv'aleWhen the cold winds and snow start to fall, it is a good time to start looking for winter seasonal selections. I was offered the chance to sample another seasonal brew from Empyrean Brewing of Nebraska. This time, it was their Empyrean Winter Tilt Festiv'ale.

This beer was billed as "A different spin on Belgian Red Ale. Ruby in color with the aroma of fresh biscuits and caramel, with a tart center to the caramel-biscuit sweetness and crisp, cedar-citrus finish".

Winter Tilt Festiv'ale was labeled as a non-pasteurized and unfiltered beer weighing in around 6% ABV. I was curious to find out what they meant by a "cedar-like finish" as that isn't something that I normally find in a beer.

Appearance: Winter Tilt Festiv'ale poured a very cloudy dark orange that held a narrow off-white head that lasted a just a minute. I could see a silty-like cloud floating around the beer just after it was poured. Empyrean Brewing stated that this was unfiltered so I let this go, but it was worth noting. Swirling the beer didn't yield any lacing as it all slid off the sides quite quickly. The beer seemed carbonated enough

Aroma: Here was a surprise. I expected a malty brew with a hint of biscuit and caramel, but I got something else. Malty, yes, but what I detected was something more like vegetables, but not cedar. I got a hint of citrusy hops in the nose, but something else smelled like the beer hadn't been stored properly.

Now granted, this brew was mailed out as a sampler directly from the brewer via UPS during days of 70 to 80 degree heat so I don't know how quickly it was sent or under what conditions. I picked up the package on my porch just minutes after it was dropped off and I put it in the fridge immediately. Sadly, this particular bottle of Winter Tilt Festiv'ale had an off aroma that didn't seem right.

Taste: My fears had been confirmed. Winter Tilt Festiv'ale started off with a typical Amber taste, but right at the end of the sip a rather bitter and strong spoiled taste erupted. A combination of the off-aroma and spoiled taste told me this brew was definitely not kept under optimal conditions and as a result, ruined the sampling. After a big sip, the burp it gave back had a nasty taste as well.

To be fair, I had a second beer of Winter Tilt in the fridge that I followed up with soon after to see if the other was spoiled also, and sadly, it tasted just the same. I don't feel I can give this beer a fair shake given the samples I had.

Overall: Unfortunately, I could not finish either of these beers after just a third of each bottle. The taste and smell were a total turn off. I've never had a beer taste as spoiled as this, with the exception of some of my old troubled homebrew.

I contacted the brewery rep and told them my dilemma. They apologized and promised to send me out another sample when the weather was a bit colder so to ensure that heat wasn't the culprit here. I'll withhold final judgment until the next one, but be aware that this brew seems susceptible to spoilage rather easily.

Have you ever had a bottled beer that left you utterly unable to finish it? I've sampled hundreds of beers before but rarely come across one that I didn't want to finish just after a few sips. Let me know if you've ever had the same experience.

I don't blame the brewery for this (at least not yet), but rather suspect it got heated up in transit to me. I wish I could say better things, but that'll have to wait for another time. I'll be sure to update this review upon getting another sample.

Video showing the pour of Empyrean Winter Tilt Festiv'ale:

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Related articles:
- Empyrean Dark Side Vanilla Porter review.
- Empyrean Brewing coming to Colorado.
- Jolly Pumpkin Nøgne Ø Stone Special Holiday Ale review.

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