Wagner Brewing, Sled Dog Reserve Triplebock

Wagner Valley Brewery
Grade: B+

One of the best things about craft beer is discovering new and interesting breweries and sharing them with friends. I received this bottle from a friend who recently took a trip out to the Finger Lakes region in New York. There he found Wagner Vineyards. Yes, I said vineyards. This brewery is actually part of a winery, but don't think that this means the beer takes a back seat. These brewers are serious about their craft, and it shows in their beers.

The brewery itself is a testament to this seriousness. It consists of a 20 barrel imported German brewhouse, designed specifically for decoction brewing (a process that results in a signature caramelization of the beer). The brewers abide by the German Purity Law (called the Reinheitsgebot) which allows only water, yeast, hops, and malt to used in the brewing process. This attention to tradition has garnered them more than a few medals from the Great American Beer Festival, considered the most prestigious beer competition in America.

My friend gifted me a 750ml bottle of their Sled Dog Triplebock, one of the brewery's reserve offerings. It pours caramel brown, almost mahogany with a head that settles out very quickly. The aroma is of caramel, molasses and toffee, with some slightly earthy notes. It's very aromatic, immediately leaping up from the glass into my nose. The body is chewy and big, creamy but not coating. The carbonation scrubs just enough of the beer from your tongue that you're not overwhelmed. The flavor continues the caramel/toffee notes with a hint of the molasses. It's a sweet, very malty beer, but an earthy bitterness gives enough balance to not make it too cloying. Alcohol comes through a bit as a spicy, hot note, but it you have to look for it. Very well hidden for a 10% abv beer. It's a sweet malt bomb to be sure, certainly something I'd want on a cold winters night in front of a fire.