For the past few weeks we've had the luxury of two Badass Taps while waiting for the autumn seasonals to come along (yes, I know several Oktoberfests have been on sale since July... don't even get me started on how I feel about that), and, for a few days at least, we're going to have two local Badass beers pouring at the same time. We're still working on the keg of Independence Jasperilla that was tapped a little over a week ago, and just this morning we tapped a keg of Real Ale Empire.
Empire is another of Real Ale's Mysterium Verum (Real Mystery) series of barrel-aged and experimental beers. Most of you probably know this already, but to recap: Real Ale have taken a selection of their seasonal beers and aged them for two to three months in red wine barrels, some of which are American and some of which are French. These beers are then kegged (Real Ale are not bottling them, alas) in very limited quantities, and so far we've been fortunate in getting a keg of Highlander (barrel-aged Real Heavy Scotch Ale) and The Kraken (barrel-aged Sisyphus barley wine), and now we have Empire (Lost Gold IPA).
The barrel-ageing adds all kinds of extra layers and nuances to the beer, and ageing in red wine barrels is somewhat unusual - beers are more commonly aged in whisk(e)y barrels. While the original character of the beer is still prevalent it's been modified by both the oak and the previous contents of the barrel. In both Highlander and The Kraken the red wine was conspicuous as a component of the beer, but with Empire it's less so, at least according to my palate. There is a perceptible wine-related influence for sure, but it's not as definable as in the other two beers. I thoroughly enjoyed tasting it when the keg was tapped and I'll be ordering a glass of it at the first opportunity.
I feel I ought to add that, as with the other two Mysterium Verum beers we've had on tap, Empire is not cheap, so be ready for that. It's well worth it though.
Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar “If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson