The beer: Brainless Belgian-Style Golden Ale
The brewer: Epic Brewing
Style: Belgian Golden Strong Ale
ABV: 8.6 percent
Mistaken beliefs run rampant when it comes to the beer scene in Utah, but the most pernicious is the misconception that you can't find a beer above 3.2 percent ABV in the state. This is wrong for two reasons:
- Alcohol content in beers from Utah is measured by weight, not volume. A beer measured at 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (ABW) is equivalent to about 4 percent when measured by volume (ABV).
- While it is true that brewpubs, restaurants and grocery stores must abide by the 3.2 ABW rule for beers they sell, this law doesn't apply to liquor stores, bars or establishments with the proper licensing. While a brewery might not be able to pour its high-alcohol brews from the tap, it can send bottles over to the local liquor store for happy customers to take home.
Wacky? Yes. But Utah's beer makers are becoming increasingly able to stretch their brewing muscles, and some interesting (and alcoholic) drinks are nonetheless coming out of the Beehive State.
Like Brainless, a strong Belgian ale from Epic Brewing. New to the Arizona market, EPIC is Utah's first brewery since prohibition to brew exclusively high alcohol content beer. Brainless is part of Epic's Elevated Series, made to showcase variability within a given beer style -- in this case, the deceptively drinkable Belgian golden strong ale, which Epic has modified with light Belgian candy sugar and flaked oats, among other additions.
This changeability follows even in Epic's release of the same beer, with the brewers apparently tweaking their recipes by varying the malt and hop bills as well as the ABV every few batches. The release I sampled was Brainless' 16th, brewed in February with fewer Saaz hops than previous iterations, which the brewers claim allows the spice of the other two varietals -- Tettnang and Premiant -- to prevail.
A pale straw gold brew with absolute clarity, Brainless makes an attempt at classic Belgian aromas with notes of pear and apple juice, white pepper and clove, while some tangy grain looms in the background, throwing things just a bit off-kilter.
Sweet pear syrup, apple juice, crackers and some spices appear in the flavor as well, accented by peppery carbonation amidst an expansive, pillowy body. The sugary flavors do a commendable job of hiding the alcohol content, but subtle hints of the booze poke through and become more noticeable as heat warms the chest. Swallow and a gentle dryness will attempt to cleanse the palate, but with limited success -- this is saccharine stuff.
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Despite all the grey matter that went into making it, Brainless is aptly named -- in that you don't need a brain to enjoy it. It's refreshing enough, but a bit too sweet and absolutely lacking the complexity of more established Belgian ales. It may appeal to the masses, but it won't inspire deep thought.
Food Pairing Suggestions:
Strong Belgian pale ales like Brainless work beautifully with seafood. Try it with garlic-spiced mussels or juicy crab cakes. For dessert, pair it with a sugar cookie or two. Brainless is already sweet, but its spicy yeast will temper the cookie's sugary qualities somewhat, while the energetic carbonation chases flavors away and prepares you for the next sip.