Sometimes I wonder if Dionysus, the Greek god of intoxicating drinks, sends his spawn into the world in the form of brewmasters.
Take Eric Johnson, the brewmaster of Wild Heaven Beer, for example.
Brewery: Wild Heaven Beer
Alcohol by volume: 10.5%
Style: Wine barrel-aged cuvée
Bottom line: A bold tango between beer and wine
How can someone incorporate tomatoes into a beer and make it taste good?
How did Wild Heaven become the first brewery in Georgia to successfully can nitrogenated beer?
Very, very peculiar.
When I tried Wild Heaven’s barrel-aged wild ale — Dionysus Cuvée — my suspicions were confirmed.
This brew is a cuvée, meaning it’s a blend of multiple brews.
Johnson said the base beers for the barrels were different variants of a Belgian quadrupel. For those unfamiliar with quadrupels, or quads, I describe them as a bold, dark brown Belgian-style with a high alcohol content.
Johnson aged the beer for 12-18 months in around eight different wooden wine barrels and a couple of whisky barrels.
“With Dionysus specifically, we wanted to highlight what beer and wine merged together could be,” Johnson said. “We wanted to create something with the robustness of big beer and elegance of a refined French wine.”
The final product came from finding the perfect ratio of beer. Johnson said when he blends the beer, he usually has one of the cellar staff members pull 6-ounce samples from all the barrels to evaluate the flavor.
The brewery currently has more than 100 barrels full of aging beer.
With those that haven’t developed to their full potential, the cellar staff will make a notation and revisit the brew later.
“Each one is something different,” Johnson said. “It’s a fun thing that (the brewery staff are) able to be a part of. In the process they end up learning a lot about beer.”
With Dionysus Cuvée, Johnson wanted to see how far he could nudge beer into the world of wine.
He said one of the challenges with wine is that most people have a clear idea of what a certain type tastes like.
“Wine makers can only be so playful,” Johnson said. “If a chardonnay doesn’t taste the way a chardonnay should taste, it gets rejected by the industry. With beer, there’s no rules.”
The Dionysus Cuvée demonstrates how diverse and ridiculous and fun beer can be.
This dark brew pours beautifully with cascading bubbles reminiscent of nitrogenated beer.
The first sip hit my taste buds with a punch of tartness, then faded into sweet vanilla and toffee notes.
There’s a lot going on with this beer, but it works.
The shock of the sour flavor wore off quickly, making for a bold, full-bodied brew. The aftertaste reminds me of the blonde brownies my tiny Southern grandmother used to make when I was a kid. So it’s safe to say, I’m quite fond.
Since the beer is barrel-aged, it has a long shelf life. Johnson said the bottled beer can remain good for up to a decade if properly stored.
If you want to try Dionysus Cuvée, drive over to Wild Heaven’s location at 135 Maple St. in Avondale Estates. For more information about the brewery’s upcoming beer, visit wildheavenbeer.com.
Kelsey Richardson is the education reporter for The Times. She makes a weekly sacrifice for the newspaper by drinking tasty beer and writing about it.