This weekend I went out and picked up some New Glarus Unplugged ABT. This release snuck up on me. Normally, I am monitoring New Glarus’s Beer Schedule, and I am that guy who walks into the liquor store during the month looking for the latest unplugged or seasonal from my favorite brewery. Most of the time I am in there days, or even weeks before the store gets it. But this time, I was looking at the beer and they got it before I started hounding them for it. I don’t know if that is a good thing, for me it is a sign at exactly how busy I have really been.
Beer Advocate lists ABT is a Belgian Dubbel style ales, however from what I can gather from Internet searches, ABT is actually a style all its own. It appears that ABT falls in line with a Dubbel, but is a bit bigger. This example is pushing 10% with a listed ABV of 9.75%. Since most Dubbels end at 7%, you can think of it as an Imperial Dubbel, or some people call it a Quad. Just like Ommegang’s Three Philosophers. Since New Glarus doesn’t officially list its style. I will use my interpretation of what it would be. Which is ABT, as an Imperial Dubbel or Quad. The BJCP category would be 16E, Belgian Specialty, which is also the official catch-all listing for any Belgian Quadrupels. As always, you can judge it yourself using the BJCP scoresheet, which is the format I use to review beers in this blog.
Aroma: The aroma is very complex, you could spend a lot of time finding something new with every sniff. Up front I get some raisins, doughy malt, sweet chocolate, and over-cooked caramel. If you have ever been in someone kitchen who was making candy and let the sugar get to the dark stages, you will know what I mean. There is not a lot of alcohol coming through for me for a 10%, but you do get some, which gives the impression of booze soak raisins. Those are the big hitters for me in the aroma. A few more minor players are some honey aroma, a bit of sour fruit (mostly cherry’s), and hint of allspice. All in all, I think this is a very well put together, and complex beer. The spicy notes are likely from the yeast used, and with Randy Theil (formerly of Brewery Ommegang) onboard at New Glarus, it makes sense that this Belgian style ale is spot on for big complex Belgian style quad. (9 points)
Appearance: A deep garnet ale, with some very good clarity. The light tan head is very dense and long-lasting. Not much lacing on the glass, perhaps because of the high alcohol content. (2 points)
Flavor: Here is where the strength of this beer is quite evident. In the flavor, for me I get a lot of chocolate and spice, which is a very unique flavor. I don’t know if this beer is barrel aged or not, but I swear I am getting some oak. The alcohol and fruity esters again give me the impression of booze soaked raisins, and cherries. There is a nice sweetness in the middle, but the beer really does not finish dry. If you wait a long time between swallows, you will notice a slow caramel sweetness re-emerging later, which reminds you to drink again. The doughy malt and overcooked caramel is present, but for me it’s about chocolate, spice, alcohol, and oak for the big players. One thing you can really appreciate is how good this beer really is. I can appreciate the thought and effort put into this beer. In a world where balance seems to not be as appreciated as it should be, this beer is a very good example of complexity with balance. (16 Points)
Mouthfeel: For a big beer, this beer is fairly light. It has a medium mouthfeel, and enough carbonation to further lighten the feel. It gives a crisp feel to this malty complex beer. (5 points)
Overall: Overall, I think this beer will easily be lost on the big and bold crowd. They will see the 10% (9.75 actually) and think of big bold flavor and aroma, and be sort of disappointed in finding a well-balanced big Belgian. Granted, when I think of a big Dubbel, like a Quad, I would think of more malt and more sweetness. Sort of like a big barleywine, only the Belgian version. But to be honest, I kind of like this as well. There is not that sweetness that would prevent you from drinking a few of these, but enough complexity to keep the beer interesting. There is enough alcohol present to remind you that you should be careful, but not hot and unpleasant. I really can’t think of anything in this beer I would want to change, but as far as a Quad goes, it is quite nice. (please keep in mind that although a Quadruple is generally thought of as a big dubbel, you can have Quads that are similar to Tripel’s, but bigger) (8 points)
Overall I gave this beer a 40, which is a B or B+, either way it is an Excellent beer.