5/24/19: Blue Owl Brewing's Wee Beastie

5:40 PM

Back in February, I went down to visit some good buds in their new-to-me town of Austin, TX. It was a just a long weekend, but I had a blast on what was a well-needed beercation. One of these buddies, who was in our wedding party, took me around to a ton of Austin-area breweries: Jester King, Family Business, Fairweather Cider, Austin Beerworks, and Celis, among others. I brought some Ohio and Michigan brews down with me to drink and, by the end of the whole thing, I was pretty beered out.

But I knew that I wouldn't be beered out forever. So, I brought a ton of ATX beer home with me: some to split with people when they came to my place to visit (most of these were consumed with my brother before he left for New York), some to age, and, most importantly for our purposes this evening, two to feature here on the blog. The first of these two I'm visiting is Wee Beastie, a sour wee heavy from Blue Owl Brewing.

Blue Owl (that link, if you're new around these parts, will take you to their "about US" page) is a sour brewery owned by Jeff Young and Suzy Shaffer, aimed at making approachable sour beers. Sour beers are a trend that was going strong in Austin long before they were a thing in Ohio. In fact, the friend who took me to Blue Owl is the one who initially told me about sours years ago and I remember thinking they sounded hella gross. But, on his recommendation, I tried what few I was able to find, and I got it. Just like how Blue Owl Brewing obviously gets it.

Before I go into the details of Wee Beastie itself, I want to quickly talk about the ass-backwardness of Texas beer laws, because these are exemplified by Blue Owl. See, here in Ohio (and in many other states) you can go to a brewery, buy beer to consume on site, fill a growler, or buy some cans to take home with you. This isn't necessarily the case in Texas. Blue Owl, for example, can't sell beer for on-site consumption. They can sell cans of to-go beer. They can also sell glassware, which they then fill with courtesy pours for your on-premises enjoyment. Other breweries can sell you pours of beer, but not growler-fills or cans/bottles. EDIT: While reviewing this post before publishing, I found this article, which has good news for my Texan friends: Starting in September, breweries will be able to sell to-go beers on top of pints for on-site consumption. No word, to my knowledge, of lifting the weird laws governing Blue Owl's situation.

Wee Beastie, found on this page under "Special Releases," is a sour 9.3% ABV fall seasonal. This is a malt-forward wee heavy with a warm, toasty and nutty finish. Personally, I'm a fan of darker sour ales: My brother and I brewed with my dad for his first time on Christmas two years ago. What was supposed to be a standard chocolate oatmeal stout turned sour and, ever since, I've been seeking similar styles. In Ohio, there aren't many dark sours to be found. Leave it to Austin breweries to lean into this intriguing style.

The nose from my can mirrors that of a scotch ale (matly, roasty, slight booziness) pretty perfectly, with one major, glaring exception: it has a sour twinge. Imagine the aroma of bitter black coffee. That's similar to what I'm getting from my can. I should note that this isn't on the fore of the bouquet, and there's a slight chance that I'm only finding this sourness because I'm specifically looking for it. Overall, I really enjoy the ale's nose. Purrl, on the other hand, doesn't. She wouldn't even keep her sniffer near my can long enough for a good picture--she gave it three hiffs. Henrietta, on the weird, disembodied third hand, does like the aroma. She gave it thirteen whiffs but was way too speedy for me to get a super good picture.

Not a fan.
She's so big now!
That sourness that took a backseat in the bouquet is in the ale's flavor in full force. It overpowers all else, but still lets the touted flavors make themselves known. Beneath the sour, Wee Beastie is all malty sweetness and coffee roastiness with a mildly boozy warmth. Honestly, if I didn't know this was 9.3% ABV, I wouldn't peg it as > 6%, meaning that I'd be in trouble because this is an insanely quaffable brew.

The ale is certainly lip-puckering, but it also has a hearty combination. If the champagne of beers wasn't a title reserved for a certain macrobrew, I'd be tempted to give this can the same title.

One fall a few years ago, Michelle and I went to Lake Hope State Park (this was the exact trip when I proposed). I snuck off for a brief time one morning before she awoke. I followed a little trail leading from our cabin down to a much larger trail winding around the lake.

I followed this larger trail for a short time before coming across a log overlooking the water. Here I sat, enjoying the warm mug of cider I'd brought with me in the stillness of the bright, autumnal dawn. A wood thrush landed on far end of the log as I sat, and I marveled at it until it flew away. That still, October morning is running through my mind as I take pull after pull from my Blue Owl can.

Wee Beastie may not be for everyone; sours are, unfortunately, a damn divisive style, but I'm pleased with what Blue Owl has done. The Austin brewery has crafted a mighty fine dark sour. I'm giving my can a 9.5/10 and I encourage you, if you're ever down ATX-way, to drop into their taproom to sample their beers from the source.

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