This month’s beer report was derived from a recent purchase at our local beer outlet. The brew team of Stone Arch Brew House are hopheads at heart so we wanted to focus on more of a malty brew for this article.
To get off our normally beaten path a bit, we chose to go with a Belgian-style that accents the maltiness of the brew. Another reason this was purchased is that every year, to celebrate our anniversary, we brew a Grand Cru. Ours is named Inaugural Brew Grand Cru and when we release it each year on January 11th, we bring out samples from our previous batches. We offer lateral tastings of the Grand Cru and this past month we offered four years worth. It is astonishing the changes that transpire during the years of cold storage. It really adds complexity to an already very complex beer and really rounds out the smoothness. So with the Inaugural Brew Grand Cru fresh on our minds, we chose to report on Ale Asylum’s Mercy Grand Cru.
The blue, black and white label of the Mercy made the purchasing decision a bit easier. Three very unique, demonic figures standing as if on guard with arms crossed almost daring you to buy it. Above their confident heads is a brief description of the beer that resides within. A nice touch for those who may not be all that familiar with the Grand Cru style.
As we poured the long neck bottles into our snifters (which is the glassware we would recommend for this style), very little head appeared on the surface. The carbonation is evident in taste but not so much in its appearance. As we worked our ways through the samples, there was little evidence of lacing.
The appearance was pleasant in the glass. Deep mahogany amber with off-white, almost khaki colored head.
In the nose of the Mercy Grand Cru, several very distinctive notes were recorded. We detected plum, dates, fig, banana, clove, cherry, brown sugar, dark fruits, malt and strong Belgian yeast tones. As a Grand Cru style dictates, complexity in the nose is a must and Ale Asylum did not leave us hanging.
The flavors detected by our team were even more complex than the nose produced. The same dark fruits, fig, clove, and cherry tones came through in the flavor as well as red wine, spiced fruit, fusel alcohol, candy sugar, caramel, and intense fruitiness.
The Mercy Grand Cru finishes with an obvious warming sensation, very tart and a little on the sharp side. As time passes, a whisky smooth finish was experienced, and a bit of a CO2 prickle at the very end.
Food pairings for this beer should start with dark fruits, aged cheddar cheese, brie or better yet, bleu cheese. A beef stew or shepherds pie would certainly work as well as a rich cheesecake for the dessert aspect.
Head brewer Craig personally paired it with that days Stone Cellar lunch special; Uphoff Farms ham and brick cheese on a pretzel roll, and he claimed it was destiny. A good music pairing would most likely be an old 90’s jazz band with sharp horns on vinyl.
On to the makers; Ale Asylum. Housed at 2002 Pankratz Street in Madison, Wisconsin you will find the makers of the Mercy. With an industrial motif you can enjoy their tasting room and unique menu items that focus a bit more on simplicity and aggressive flavors. The menu is a bit limited, but all items come with a suggested beer pairing. They will fill growlers as well as sell their six packs and have a decent array of Ale Asylum gear available for purchase as well. They do offer tours every Sunday on the hour between noon and 5:00 p.m.
Founded in 2005, Ale Asylum outgrew their original facility and has since moved into a 45,000 square foot building on Pankratz Street at a cost of $8 million. With the goal of going statewide in distribution they are experiencing crazy growth as many other craft brewers around the country are experiencing. With their new facility, larger tanks and super-fast bottler, they are set for success. Of course it helps they make awesome brews and have captivated their customer base, or “inmates” as they are called.
FINAL WORD: Have Mercy! You will not regret that decision.