Nepenthe Barrel-Aged Wee-Heavy

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As stated before, winter is the time to sample heavier beers that go with that season. There are so many styles that fit this category that one might get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of heavier brews to try. One style that caught my eye recently made me think of the homelands of Scotland (my heritage) where brewing stronger beers is more a birth right than customary. Under a varied category of Scottish and Irish ales appears Scottish Heavy or sometimes known as Wee-Heavy. The wee means small just like the giant in the fable Jack and the Beanstalk is ‘wee.’ Today we’ll see what Nepenthe’s Wee-Heavy is about.Nepenthe_Wee-Heavy_sml
Candia Road Brewing Company, 840 Candia Road, Manchester, NH, has been brewing and selling 22 oz bottles since 2011. They also have home brew supplies at their location which makes stopping in doubly exciting. Tom, the head brewer started home brewing years before they opened their doors to the public. Since then, they have offered at least eight varieties of brew styles including Picea which is brewed with spruce bows.
Visit them on www.facebook.com/Candia-Road-Brewing-Company-116106775166830
The term Nepenthe (pronounced nee-pen-thA) relates to the banishing of grief or trouble from the times of Homer’s Odyssey. This is the branding used by Candia Road for all of their releases. The plain brown wrapper style of label further adds to the curiosity of the buyer.
At 10% ABV, Wee-Heavy is not small. But it misses the booziness one would expect of that high an ABV. The deep brown color and tan head is inviting. Your nose will pick up the slight aroma of the barrel aging (guessing bourbon barrels) but the taste is where this brew gets me confused. The lower mouthfeel and lack of maltiness made me question what I was sampling. It is not in the league of Founders Dirty Bastard or Oscar Blues Old Chub (both Scotch ales). Less than that, the malt character and barrel aging mixed interestingly, but not to where it was not very memorable.
According to the Beer Judge Certification Program website, a Wee-Heavy style is supposed to exhibit strong maltiness and full mouthfeel… chewy if you want. You should also taste roasted malt and may even hint at sweetness. This example missed the mark by a bit, although it was a pleasant and balanced experience overall.
You can purchase Nepenthe offerings at Case-n-Keg, Meredith and Laconia just to name a few locations… brewed in New Hampshire for the love of the beer!

Jim MacMillan is the owner of WonByOne Design of Meredith, NH, and is an avid imbiber of craft brews and a home brewer as well. Send him your recommendations and brew news to wickedbrews@weirs.com