11/9/18: Braxton Brewing Company's Mélange

5:47 PM

It's a bleak, autumn evening here in the Greater Cincinnati area. It's been grey all day, and I've heard rumblings that we're due for flurries tonight. All of this is fine with me; I've had something special stashed away from a day like this.


A few weeks ago, on October 27th, Braxton Brewing Company released a taproom-only exclusive ale: Mélange. While I had work that day, my brother came through with the pickup. He told me he'd tried it on tap and that he was duly impressed. I've managed to keep myself from it since its release, but tonight I break the wax seal.

I've discussed Braxton frequently enough lately (they've really been killing it with their releases!) that I'mma write about the company behind the beer strictly from memory. Evan Rouse, the man behind the company behind the beer, started brewing in his parent's garage as a teenager. Once he'd realized that beer was the right fit for him, he sought out to found Braxton in Covington, KY (there's also a Braxton Labs [which specializes in experimental beers] in Bellevue, KY). Since then, the company's sought to bring good beer to good people. The official information can be found here. How'd I do?

Mélange is a brandy barrel aged apple ale, that enjoyed a limited release in Braxton's Covington location. While it's not listed on the company's website under their "Beers" tab, I did manage to find an official write-up in the company's online store. The 12.1% ABV apple ale was aged in Cooper & Kings brandy barrels, and shares notes of apple, oak, and brandy.


After pouring Mélange into a snifter (this is the second time I've consumed a Braxton special release in a glass instead of the from bottle. I'm making a new official rule: If a bottle has been dipped in wax, it warrants an out-of-bottle experience) I get a strong apple bouquet. There are playful brandy notes tied into it and there's plenty of oaky warmth here after taking a giving my glass a swirl to open up the beer. Purrl, who was drawn to the wax on the bottle more than the ale it contained, still have it a healthy seven whiffs.


The apple-forward quality of the ale carries through to the flavor. I'm hit with a wallop of apple first after taking a swig. Well, it's more of a sip, really; this isn't a beer you'd want to swig. There're boozy brandy notes here and the oakiness still factors in. But the apple is the showcase and during the warmth of the finish (it's here you find the alcohol content--the ale's deceptive because it's doesn't taste as strong as it actually is), I find that apple sweetness lingering on my lips.

Mélange is a fizzy ale. It has a champagne bubbly quality to it, that ties into the special feeling of the beer exceptionally well.

I'm sure that as a kid I went apple picking at some point But, I don't remember visiting an apple orchard for apples at all. I remember picking peaches, various berries (straw, blue, rasp, etc.), and visiting a maple syrup farm. Picking apples? Nothing from my youth springs to mind.

The time I do remember picking apples was late last summer. Michelle's dad had recently discovered some mature heritage apple trees growing along the edge of his property. He invited us up to help pick some apples to be pressed into a cider. I jumped at the chance.

We rolled up to their homestead and rode with her dad, mom, and brother in a cart out to the edge of the property. Two trees bore fruit--both apples varieties were perfect for cider: small and slightly sour. We filled the back of the cart with what we picked and headed towards the barn. All five of us pitched in with pressing that apples that evening. I took the juice home with to ferment and bottle (I split the last of the stuff with her extended family at the end of September this year), while her dad keep the pressed apples to make some ciderkin (which turned out better than the cider itself, by the way). The finished product of what I made was sour and dry, but maintained a healthy amount of the apple flavor, which I'm reminded of as I sit here quaffing my snifter of Mélange.

Braxton's brandy barrel aged apple ale is fantastic, and just might be the quintessential autumnal beer for those of you worn out on pumpkin and brown ale. Apples always remind me of fall and, unless you live in a place where the fruit ripens in some other season, they probably do the same for you. If you ever have the chance to give Mélange a try, you need to take it. The apple ale, which is far and away the best apple ale I've ever had, gets an easy 9.5/10 from me. And I haven't mentioned it yet, but I have a second bottle that I'll age for a few years. I'm excited to see how well the brew holds up over time.

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