Amazing Grace Wee Heavy

Olde Burnside Brewing Amazing Grace 2012
One 16 oz fliptop bottle, $11.49 + $1.50 Dep, 10% ABV

Purchased at Parkview Wine & Spirits

Will you people start giving Olde Burnside its propers? Remember back with “Connecticut beer” was a bunch of crap, save for one or two Hookers? And back when even New England’s Sea Hag tasted like a sea hag? Yeah, back then. Back when Olde Burnside’s flagship Ten Penny Ale was the best Connecticut flagship around? And how when you’d order a pint of it over the two or three other “craft” beers available, it would set you apart?

Yeah, well, I remember that. And the brewery has plugged along, through this local boom time, still pumping out quality beers. Sure, maybe their regular rotation isn’t as exciting as some other local offerings, but they are still consistently good. When I go to the Spigot to watch my Eagles on autumnal Sundays, I still often go back to the Ten Penny. It’s a classic stalwart of local beer.

Quietly, over the last several years – probably back to 2010 maybe? – Olde Burnside has been releasing limited batches of beers you most likely have never heard of. There are actually a bunch of them and they all push the envelope. But not in stupid bacon or wasabi or watermelon ways. Rather, in expensive, subtle and patient ways. Did you know they make a wild ale – and have been for years? (The Highland Wild).

The brewery went through a makeover of sorts in 2013. Updated website, a new bottling line, new labels, and a new name and way of distributing their limited releases. And to my mind, it was all done very well.

Although they’ve been making the Amazing Grace for a while, the “new” Olde Burnside has sort of “started over” with it (and the other limited releases) with a newly conceived “series.” Gone are the absolutely beautiful blue swing-top, painted thick glass bottles seen in my picture at the top. Say hello to the new boxed double-bottle set with a backstory:

“Our newly conceived “ClanDestine” Series represents an ever-changing variety of small-batch beers brewed surreptitiously until its eventual release is revealed. Bound by the veil of secrecy, our trusted staff stealthily convene in the bowels of the brewery and, in hushed tones, 101_bigsby2_v6brainstorm the next savory brew destined for greatness. Whether aged in oak barrels or an original take on different styles, we trust intuitively that you will enjoy this series of specialty beers; once the “secret” is uncloaked, you are destined to join the clan.”

Well, count me in. I’m a proud member of the clan. With a ‘c’. Please note that if you’re reading this aloud to your blind uncle. Or to Clayton Bigsby.

Although I’ll probably keep buying the annual releases, I can’t be expected to review each iteration. I don’t do it for the myriad of other beers with annual recipe – but not name – changes, so I can’t really do it with this series. Although I must admit; I am tempted to do so, especially if the beers are completely different. We’ll see.

Amazing Grace is the end product of two other beers. The flagship Ten Penny Scottish ale goes through a longer boil to produce the Ten Penny Reserve, which is their Scotch Ale, a.k.a. a wee heavy. Higher in alcohol, sweeter, darker than the Scottish ale. Then they age it in barrel. Different year, different barrel.

The blue bottle at the top was aged in bourbon barrels I believe. It was good and better yet, it was released before every freaking beer on earth was aged in a bourbon barrel. The oak and bourbon was not overwhelming and it melded well with the sweetness and caramel malts of the wee heavy. It was an B+/A- quality beer, no doubt about that.

Olde Burnside Brewing Amazing Grace 2013
Two 12 ounce bottles, $9.99 ++, 10% ABV

Purchased at Maximum Beverage, West Hartford

But with the (cheaper!) 2013 version came a new twist:

agOlde Burnside says:As ClanDestine #1 – Released November 2013 – “Amazing Grace” started out as a Scottish Wee Heavy which we then aged for 9 months in French oak cognac barrels. The culmination of this rich nectar boasts an amazing depth of flavor. The initial nose of vanilla and cognac leads to a liquid mosaic of caramel, toffee, oak, and plum ~ a celestial brew truly worthy of its name!

Other than the adjective “celestial” that description is spot on. This is a beautiful, complex, well-crafted beer. Everything is there: the oak, the vanilla, the cognac, the caramel, the toffee, the plum. To smell and then drink this absolutely takes you through that progression.

(Okay, wait. I just looked up alternate definitions of “celestial” and it can mean “heavenly.” So okay, I’m now on board with the entire description.)

And moreover, I almost don’t believe this is a 10% ABV beer. You get no – and I mean ZERO – alcohol burn with the Amazing Grace. You could drink this like you’d drink iced tea, which is insane.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Such a beautiful song. Such stupid lyrics. Listen up people: You are not wretches. Are all babies born wretches, destined to remain wretches until indoctrinati- errr – salvation? Ugh, this crap is so ridiculous in the 21st century.

Sorry for that… Seek out this beer. Until you do so, you are a blind wretch doomed to hell. Seriously.

Overall Rating: A+
Rating vs. Similar style: A+

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