Just when the gales of November seem to come early, Autumnal Fire to an entirely different level with the special release of a winter-hardy version named Eisphyre. This intensely malty, yet incredibly smooth doppelbock is capable of taking the chill off.
However, don't wait for that first snowfall -- better grab this beer as soon as you see it, because Capital made a mere 400 cases and a handful of kegs for the Madison market. This brew has been packaged and awaits the distributor to pick it up from the brewery so it can be delivered it to a store near you within the next week or so.
What is it? Eisphyre by federal alcohol code, which says that brewers can remove only up to 0.5% of the volume; otherwise it's considered distilling.
Background: Eisphyre was originally brewed for Capital's 20th anniversary in 2006 and hasn't been available since. Brewmaster Kirby Nelson says he wanted to "intensify" the character of his Autumnal Fire, a beer that he calls a doppelbock with an Oktoberfest personality. The brewery's description of this very limited release brew states that its malt intensity and alcohol warmth come from the modification, manipulation and concentration of Autumnal Fire.
"The Fire is a relatively rich beer to begin with, and Eisphyre was designed to be even more intense," says Nelson. "It's all about the malt, and Eisphyre has depth and intensity to its maltiness, yet it's not overpowering on the palate." He actually brewed the beer in mid-August, and bottled it after 10 weeks of fermenting and conditioning. It finishes around 10% ABV and is sold in-four packs for around $12. It is currently available at the brewery in its Bier Stube, but it should start turning up in stores over the next couple of weeks.
For those who enjoy the flavors of Autumnal Fire and Eisphyre, Nelson says he's tucked away a few bourbon barrels with both, along with his Imperial Doppelbock called Barbara. However, you'll have to wait until December 2010 for a taste.
- Aroma: Malty with a light hint of toffee.
- Appearance: Deep reddish-bronze and a bubbly tan head.
- Texture: Full bodied, round and soft.
- Taste: Smooth caramel and chocolate maltiness with warmth throughout.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, a little toffee flavor and lots of warm.
Glassware: Such a special beer deserves a special glass. For the malt aroma and brilliant reddish-bronze color, try one usually reserved for fine single malts -- a small tulip style with an outward flared lip gives the aroma the chance to dance from the beer. Such a glass and a deliberate contemplative consumption also allow it to warm slowly, which will bring out even more of the smooth malty flavors of caramel and toffee.
Pairs well with: This is a great sipping beer, and goes well with an assortment of hearty cheeses; among my favorites would be a well-aged cheddar or a Gruyere.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Eisphyre is indeed full-bodied, malty, smooth and warm. Its parent brew, Autumnal Fire, is a great beer for an outside bonfire. But Eisphyre is a beer that deserves to be sipped before a roaring fireplace with your feet propped up while the snow flies outside. This is a beer to appreciate and marvel over what beers can, even should be -- not an assault on the taste buds but refined, smooth yet still assertive.
It's a great beer just in time for the upcoming holidays. For reasons already stated, this is an excellent beer for Wisconsin's finest cheese platter, but it'll also stand up to a big meal with poultry, potatoes and gravy. My ultimate recommendation is to grab a four-pack of Eisphyre for dessert and a toast at the end of the Thanksgiving feast. It's a safe bet that family and friends will be impressed -- and very thankful!