Otter Creek 20th Anniversary Ale – 12% ABV
At the beginning of the year, I did a review on Otter Creek Brewing, based out of Middlebury, VT; and their flagship brew – an altbier named Copper Ale. What I didn’t realize is that right around that same time, or just before it, Otter Creek was celebrating its 20th anniversary in the brew game. In celebration of 20 years making beers, Mike Gerhart (brewmaster at Otter Creek) and crew decided to brew up a special one-off batch called – what else? – Twentieth Anniversary Ale. This recipe was to be based on their Copper Ale, which I mentioned reviewing way back in January of this year. You can see the review RIGHT HERE and get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Now, whereas the Copper Ale was a 5% altbier, Otter Creek 20th Anniversary is paying homage to it is actually 12% and would be more appropriately classified as an American Strong Ale. Say goodbye to “Session Beer” designation. No matter, I’ve come to like my beers stronger anyway. I’ve grown into more of a sipper than a chugger. When you take a look at this beauty as it is being poured, you can see the same kind of copper color in the body of the beer, but this time it’s not so clear and a bit thick and murky. It seems much more opaque than what I remember the Copper Ale being like. This should be good. I like beer with some body to it.
The pour on Otter Creek 20th Anniversary Ale left a decent vanilla-colored head, about a finger thick which quickly faded to a thin ring around the glass. Getting a nose of this thing, I detect aromas of roasted malts, dark fruit, plum, caramel and toffee. Something that would tell you this is kind of boozy, but at 12% should you be surprised? It does smell good, much like some of the barrel aged beers I’ve had, minus the oak of course. Without much pause or reflection, I go in for a taste. I’ve already gotten enough aroma out of this to be able to identify it. First sip hits the palate with a blast. Lots of sweet caramel malt flavor right up front, with dark fruit coming in and a bit of that boozy burn that greets the palate and makes your mouth stand up and say hello. The burn stays local, and takes some time to creep down into the chest area. There is a slight smokiness that begins to linger in the finish after each sip. Interesting. The mouth feel to this is creamy and smooth, almost syrupy. I didn’t detect a lot of carbonation in this one. Also missing from the party was any kind of hop presence. The head faded as soon as it was poured and I’m not getting the hiccups after a couple pulls off of this. This is pretty solid. Can I say it’s the best anniversary beer I’ve had? No, but considering some of the great beers I’ve had, this one still holds its own. Certainly much more exciting to me than the beer it was made after.
As I said earlier, this puppy is an anniversary beer. That means it’s not a seasonal, it’s not a year-round selection, it’s a one time showing. Only a few breweries do an annual “anniversary beer” release, and I don’t think this is one of them. I think this is a beer that can be cellared for a little while, so if you have a good liquor store, you may still be able to find it. Better get your hands on it before you have to wait for the 25th anniversary to roll around. Cheers!