Ale Apothecary – Sahalie

It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog, so I thought I should come back with a stunner. Ale Apothecary is a recent addition to the BC distribution circles, and one that both surprised and elated a lot of beer fans here. We’ve been getting a lot of great Oregon beers added to the BC beer pool, but Ale Apothecary is an especially exclusive and limited label to see this far north. As far as I know, you’re not even going to find it in Seattle.

Ale Apothecary has garnered a lot of respect largely due to the approach its brewmaster and owner, Paul Arney, takes to brewing his beer. While barrel programs have really taken off over the past few years due to a booming interest in such beers, Paul takes it a step further. He doesn’t just age on oak, he brews on oak. You won’t find the large stainless mash tuns and fermenting tanks that are a symbol of the common brewery here, instead, as much of the process as possible is done in barrels. The idea behind this, in addition to being a more traditional approach, is to allow the various yeasts equal opportunity to “infect” the beer throughout the brewing process, resulting in complex and unique beers each batch.

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Sahalie is their ‘flagship’ beer, the anchor of the lineup. Its ABV can vary from batch to batch slightly, this one tips the scales at 10.1% and was bottled in December 2013. Sahalie, like all Ale Apothecary’s beers, uses only locally grown Cascade hops. Its dry hopped in oak barrels after having spent about a year maturing, and this comes through with bright, sweet lemony citrus that integrates wonderfully with the deep, oaky beer.

Sahalie has a balanced, wine-like acidity which offers depth and indicates its age without being puckering or overpowering. Over time, I am sure this component would continue to strengthen and deepen. There is a hint of honey sweetness, and fruitiness of apricot and peach. Some grassiness from the hops and plenty of lactobacillus and brettanomyces character as well.

The only reason to not drink this regularly is the rather prohibitive price; it lists in the mid-$30’s on local shelves for a bottle. It’s easier to approach this price-tag when thinking of the beer like wine, and in a lot of ways it has more in common with the typical wine than the typical beer anyway. Even so, there are a lot of good wines under $35, which leaves Ale Apothecary as a “once in a while” beer for all but the most spendy of beer nerds.

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