Thornbridge Brewery – Bracia

thornbridge-braciaTHIS BEER was made for the cask. Brawny black, 9% ABV, and liberally dosed with bitter chestnut honey from northern Italy’s Alpine foothills, Bracia blends seven malts and five hops in a best-guess interpretation of an Iron Age strong dark ale. The malt bill is a robust parade of Maris Otter, Brown, Munich, Dark Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Peated and Roasted Barley, while hops are comprised of Target, Pioneer, Hallertau Northern Brewer and Sorachi Ace. This last, being derived from Japan, is hardly a traditional choice for this kind of brew, but it’s parentage of Saaz and Brewer’s Gold certainly cleave more closely to classic European flavors–spicy, earthy, some light floral and lemony citric notes, and a fairly clean bitterness.

Admittedly, not much of that hop melange comes forward in the glass–rather an alluring and potently dense blend of grape, syrup, rounded coffee, a slight daub of sweet peat, dark chocolate (not quite bitter cocoa), amaretto, and other nutty derivations. Grape is truly one of this beer’s calling cards, especially on the nose, and it’s more prominent from the bottle. But that quintuplet of hops does come through sufficiently to back up the full body, stake out some balancing earth and slightly woody bitterness in the midpalate, and prevent this beer from becoming too heady and sweet. Indeed, it’s altogether deviously easy to drink, showing limited alcohol heat, a long but not gummy finish, and just enough crinkle of effervescence to scoot it across the tongue. Truly a prize and a refreshing change of pace from the vanilla/coffee-infused bourbon bombs of imperial stouts that have become de rigeuer for so many American craft brewers looking to stake their claim to winter. Let them make their splash: through millennia, Bracia endures.

Served: On cask (Fountainhead)

Rating: 94

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