Rare Review: Splinter Gold

Splinter GoldOn Thursday Mike and I traveled to Hershey, Pa to visit Tröegs Brewery. While I had gone up before to check out the semi-locate favorite it was Mike’s first time visiting their modern, clean, and well designed brewery, food bar, and taproom.

We ventured up for this visit after having learned that Tröegs’ had released an extremely limited run of their Splinter Gold beer.  The official release to the tasting room and general store was on May 17th, 2013 and by our arrival on the 23rd they were sold out of bottles to take home.  Thankfully there were still numerous bottles in the tasting room so that Mike and I could purchase one for sampling.

The bottles were limited only to on location drinking and limited to one bottle per person.  It also came with a hefty price tag as a single 750ml bottle cost over $22.00USD.  While there we spoke to several customers who were reeling from sticker shock being unaccustomed to paying anywhere near that price for a Tröegs’ beer.

Splinter Gold is described by Tröegs thusly:

 Splinter Gold originates from the Scratch #3 Triple recipe and is fully fermented with Westmalle yeast. The beer is then inoculated with two barrels of Splinter Gold (2010) infusing the beer with Brettanomyces for a secondary fermentation in oak wine barrels from Allegro Winery & Vineyards and virgin Pennsylvania oak barrels sourced from Keystone Cooperage. Three years in the making, Splinter Gold is a highly-carbonated, bone-dry wild ale boasting a rich Bret “funk” married with lush vanilla, toasted coconut, and oaky tannins.

Cellared to perfection – pop the cork, pour into a chalice… and savor!

As you can imagine the limitations on barrels, the remnants of a previous batch, and the three year incubation period makes this beer an extremely rare find.

On the initial pour I was surprised to see how cloudy the beer was.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but the visibility of beer implied it was an unfiltered beer. The consistency close to an apple cider more than a traditional beer.  There was little to no head to the beer to speak of and it left barely a trace of lacing on the goblet as we drank.  However viewing the plethora of bubbles ascending in the beer itself it suggested that the beer was actually highly carbonated.

The nose was extremely sweet and fragrant.  It had a very strong, potent white grape smell to it.  Not quite the same level of tart, dryness of a glass of white wine but the immediate feel of the aromatics was a strong resemblance of a sweeter white wine coupled with a hint of something akin to pineapple.

Upon the first taste the immediate sensation was that of carbonation.  This beer was carbonated to the point of having the same dry, bubbly mouth feel of a glass of champagne.  Following the feel of hundreds or thousands of bubbles exploding on your tongue the next most immediate sensation was the sweetness.  This beer is extremely sweet.  To match the aroma the primary flavor is white grape with hints of other citrus flavors.  But any other flavor is mostly overwhelmed by the sweetness of the white grape.

What was most surprising was that the body of the beer was quite light, resembling a champagne or sparkling cider despite the intense approximately 11% ABV.  What came later, after the initial swallow was a burn on the throat as the beer descended to the stomach betraying the high level of alcohol in this beverage.

The reason for the intense sweetness was to balance or offset the high alcohol taste that a beer like this has.  While perhaps too sweet for drinking in bulk (and given the price tag who would want to) overall the balance of the sweet, the tart of the grapes, and the alcohol turned out to be wildly successful.  The experience was like drinking a much lighter beer with a much higher carbonation level.

Overall Mike and I both felt the beer was at too high a price but understood this to be a result of the essentially three-year gestation period of this very nice beer.  Were this priced down to perhaps an $16 or even $18 750ml bottle we felt it would be much more representative of what you were getting.

Yet we both felt the beer to be delicious, we split our bottle without complaint, and both rated it four star out of five on untappd.  So overall it was an experience well worth having.  And if you have the disposable income, want to visit the brewery, and have an unique and quality drinking experience we highly recommend it.