Some things in life are simple. Some aren’t. When it comes to Aether’s Barrel Aged Cherry Sour, the artwork on the can is complex - it looks to me like the cosmos as seen from a psychedelic galaxy, with the view partially covered over by bunched-up cobwebs - and so is the beer.
It’s a Berliner weisse that spent nine months in French oak with “a hand-picked mix of European yeasts,”* developing nuance and complexity and farmhouse character before being slammed with Kütahya sour cherries - about 300g/L - and blended with a new batch of Berliner weisse for balance.
The fruit in Barrel Aged Cherry Sour isn’t exactly shy. If you weren’t tipped off to the presence of cherries by the almost blood red liquid topped with pink foam, the cherry aromas pulsing from the glass might give it away. Bright fruit intermingles with bretty funk; it’s like the whole cherry harvest is currently being stored in a wooden barn, in the loft above where the horse equipment is.
Then in the mouth there’s a full-on sour attack to boot. It doesn’t exactly bash you around the head, but it doesn’t go easy on you either. Who’d have thought sour cherries in a sour beer would taste sour?
When Aether released Creature of the Night back in 2019, I talked about how it stood apart in a world of decadent lactose-rich dessert beers. Well, the decadent lactose-rich dessert beers have kept coming in increasingly super-sweet droves, and Aether’s renamed Peanut Butter Stout has held its ground as a lactose-free bulwark. But I reckon its decadence level has stepped up a notch.
Jet black with a dense brown head, this beer gives off a smell that’s utterly entrancing. Imagine sniffing peanut brittle from close up - the nutty goodness with the buttery and creamy and sticky caramel - while a nearby glass of Kahlúa releases its thick, sweet coffee liqueur notes into the air.
Now, if I were to drink peanut-brittle-infused-Kahlúa, my teeth would shatter. But Aether’s Peanut Butter Stout is more restrained on the palate, bringing a pleasing sweetness but not the supremely saccharine flavours suggested by the aroma. Alongside its (non-tooth-shattering) peanut, caramel and oily coffee notes is a dry roastiness and a background of bitter chocolate, all held together in a body that isn’t as thick as treacle, but is notably thick enough for me to get the word ‘treacle’ in my brain and subsequently use it twice in this sentence.
Oh, and as for the label: it portrays a pair of damn creepy currawong birds who have better abs than I do. I don’t like that. I mean, I know art is meant to make you feel things, so I suppose it’s succeeding at that. I feel simultaneously afraid and jealous of two-dimensional birds.
*Is anyone else imagining some kind of European yeast orchard full of hardworking backpackers? No? Just me?
Published April 14, 2023 2023-04-14 00:00:00