Hiver – Cherry Wood Aged
1 22 oz bottle, $?, 9% ABV
Procured by a friend
I’ve made mention of Relic’s incredible number of bottle releases before. At the end of 2014, the little brewery-that-could in Plainville had released 36 different bottles in a little over two years. Bottles are the most expensive means of getting beer into the hands of consumers – they require label licensing, paying for the label art, the bottles themselves, distribution costs, materials costs – but Mark at Relic is resolute about doing them.
And I think it’s wonderful. The labels are almost always excellent and fun. I mention all of this because this special release consisted of only 72 bottles (!) And while this was a variant of “regular” Hiver, the label was still a tiny bit different with a thicker red border and I assume the words, “Cherry Wood Aged” on it as well.
Oh yeah… the Hiver. My experience with the original was not a good one, as I let it sit a bit too long I guess and the butyric acid overwhelmed the aroma. If you’re not familiar with that smell, next time you throw up, well, there you go.
But with this I figured, new batch, new day.
Brewed with pale, Munich and spelt malt this Biere de Provision has been aged on cherry wood barrel parts for about 3 months, extracting wonderful cherry and toasted vanilla flavors adding to the complexity of this spicy saison.
New batch, yes, new day, yes… but another saison of some sort from Relic. But in this case, I was pretty excited for it because now at least I’d get to have the Hiver as it was meant to be – just with some additional flavoring added.
Which got me thinking… does cherry wood do what the name cherry wood would imply? Short answer: Yes. For a (much) longer answer, go do what I did and read all about the science of barreling in cherry wood here, from the Academic Wino.
Cherry gives a reddish hue (true with is special Hiver batch) as well as some cherry notes. Of course, Relic used “cherry barrel parts” and not a true cherry barrel, but clearly that didn’t matter much. And with oxidation an issue with cherry barrels, perhaps it was smart not to barrel this stuff in the traditional sense anyway.
(Though Deschutes nailed a cherry barrel aged stout – The Abyss – so it certainly can be done, and done very well.)
Ok, so how was it? As compared to my first Hiver experience, it was divine. Nothing was wrong with the beer at all, and it was even pretty look at! The saison spice bite was present, but tempered by the sweet cherry and woodsy barrel notes. There was a lot going on here – too much, really – but it more or less worked well for me.
Of course, who knows if anyone other than the 72 people who got these bottles when they were originally done will ever have a Relic Cherry Wood Hiver, but that’s the way these things go.
Once again Mark at Relic got a little creative and it worked. Well done.
Overall Rating: B
Rating vs. Similar style: n/a