The Celt Experience Brewery “Dark Ages Ale”

July 31, 2013

There seems to be this notion that certain populations are notorious drinkers. Many European and Baltic nations’ peoples are traditionally portrayed as glassy-eyed, red-nosed lushes. This stereotype simply isn’t true.

Stereotype is built upon the most demonstrative examples of appearance and behavior. Consider southern Germany… Because some monks came up with a new method of making beer there a very long time ago and there just happens to be one of the world’s biggest keggers held there annually, there are other people in the world who prejudicially consider all Bavarians as permanently gassed-up.

As a matter of fact, comparative to most American craft beer, much of the world’s brews are actually very low in alcohol. What has happened here is, in a probable attempt to lure drinkers of macro-produced beer to these small-batch beverages, brewers upped the fermentable sugars to develop a higher alcohol by volume (abv) than was normal for the styles. Once drinkers were hooked on the craft scene, they began to expect all craft beer to average above 6% abv. Now there’s this myopic, overtly-macho American notion of bigger equating to better and consumers have been staying away from beer that doesn’t deliver a bang for the buck.

This is foolish to the utmost degree. The point of enjoying a well-made beer isn’t to get potzed. It should be the combination of appearance, smell, flavor, texture and finish. Do people think they’re being cheated if they buy a beer that costs a lot but is low on the booze content? It’s not as if the beer has less flavor if there’s less alcohol.

Craft brewers here in the States are finally wising up and delivering more and more flavorful session beer – 4-5 ½ % abv – closer to the European originals. For an example of European traditional beer, we’ve just gained access to a Welsh brewery with stunning examples of big flavor, low alcohol.

Celt Experience Brewery is charmingly rooted in Caerphilly, Wales. The shadowy, romantic ideas of Druids, Avalon and the Arthurian legends influence the brewers’ approach to making their beer. History and tradition are the two key concepts for Celt and it shows in their product.

Dark Age sounds ominous and foreboding, but it’s really dark mild ale that’s been extremely well conceived. A pretty mahogany with ruby highlights and long-lasting head, Dark Age delivers everything that’s fantastic about malted grain. Scents of walnut, caramel and chocolate take center stage with a trace of smoke. Flavors are of toffee, brown sugar and biscuit with very, very mild leafy hop character. The abv is a miniscule 4%, so enjoy an extra one or two.

Celt is a perfect example of function before fashion and quality, not quantity. It’s high time for American palates to respect this notion.