Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Tree Brewing Serendipity no. 2

Serendipity no.2 is the sixth whiskey barrel-aged beer I've had to date. A few of those beers were great. Serendipity joins Innis & Gunn in being merely OK, but mildly baffling as a product.

The term "whiskey barrel" returns 825 beers on Beer Advocate. Spelling it "whisky" gives another 798. So I'd be a curmudgeon to call it a gimmick, but that's how I feel when I put my nose into this nice murky-looking brown ale and get a toasty blast of damp bourbon-cask in my face.

I like whisk(e)y. Uncapping a Laphroaig brings me to a state of physical arousal. I bet there's plenty of beer drinkers who really appreciate the depth of infusion you can achieve by aging beers in various casks. But a generic whiskey-whiff rising off the head of a beer doesn't move me. Maybe I'm damaged in some way.

Port casks are also involved in the aging of this beer, and word has it their next releases in this series may well be exclusively port-casked. I'd be interested to try one, if only to see which barrel is responsible for completely overwhelming the taste of the beer.

The nose is almost pure whiskey, with just a faint apple-ish odour coming through. It tastes like an old brown ale, but with whiskey supplanting the toffee. The aftertaste is dry, a little treacly, and suggestive of the bottom third of a good cigar. Five sips in and the head becomes a memory: flat cola-looking.

Halfway through the bomber I got hungry and exhumed a forgotten piece of brie from the back of the fridge which had grown a luxurious fur-coat. It completely resurrected this beer and I strongly recommend getting some powerful cheese if you find yourself with a whiskey-aged beer you can't quite bring yourself to love. The fat and sweetness meet the whiskey head-on. It stops being a beery experience, but I'm finishing the bottle with a grin and what else do you really want?

For the record, Old Rasputin XII is the best whiskey-aged beer I've had. Don't buy it, it's $30 or something stupid. But take my word for it, it's lovely.


  1. I've heard lots of people be a little disappointed with the Tree releases - too bad. Would love to see a Canadian brewer really own barrel aging.

    Old Rasputin 12 was delightful but I think my nod goes to Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

  2. I can vouch for the Hop Head and Double Hop Head as two of our finest IPAs in BC. The rest are a mixed bunch — some good some "meh". But I enjoyed most of those in the "character pack" mixer. The Serendipity just happens to be an average example of a beer style I'm not attuned to.

  3. Enjoyed the #2 but definitely over-rated for what it is. Tree do a good IPA and Double IPA but this was pure marketing. I won't be buying #3 or #4 or how ever many they are making..

  4. Oh, I can vouch for the IPAs as well! I should have been clearer, I meant the Serendipity releases. Hop Head was one of my go-to beers for a night out, quite drinkable.