Being an ACC fan in Big 12 country doesn’t draw you hostile glares so much as confused stares. I wear my orange V-Sabres hat and gear, and have gotten guesses ranging from Villanova to Valparaiso, Vanderbilt to Vincennes. That whole UVa/Virginia Tech distinction is lost on some folks, too, even though they have their own Kansas/Kansas St. civil war going on. It’s not until I talk about basketball do I get that little hint of recognition when the eyes dart open…but even then, the next question is, “so you’re from that school that keeps losing early in the tourney?” As if Bill Self were invulnerable to upsets… What we have here today is another rarity in Kansas, which is a malty beer that lacks the words “amber” and “lager.” Those sneaky good and, um, crafty brewers down in Hardy have done it again with another solid take on malty brews.
Tartan Tent, Sunken City Brewing Co. (Hardy, VA)
Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale, 6.6% ABV, 28 IBU
Presentation: Can pour into pint glass.
Appearance: Dark maple with ocher highlights. The can top pop elicited a spritz of foam, but the pour was surprisingly lacking of either head or lattice.
Taste: Deep, rich caramel malts all throughout. The nose bears a striking resemblance to toffee candies such as Werther’s, with some brown sugar sprinkled in for good measure. If your first thought when sipping is that this is a hard cream soda I certainly wouldn’t fault you. A little bit of vanilla makes its way in as the beer hits your tongue, which is unusual but also a welcome diversion from what might otherwise have been a dominant malt backbone. A few bitters intermingle with caramel for the finish, and again it’s this subdued mask on the malts which keeps the beer in balance and creates a pleasant effect.
Mouth Feel: Most of the flavors coat the sides or even undercarriage of your tongue, and so demands a sipping approach as does the lack of any true acidity or hoppy bitterness. Otherwise you’d risk losing out on most of what this beer has to offer.
Overall: This really is a sweet beer which at times is in danger of becoming cloying. Your mileage may depend on how you use the beer – a lot of Wee Heavys turn into brews which bookend Winter due to those roasted (or at times even toasted) malts which carry flavor which pairs well with hearty stews. Tartan Tent is a little on the other end of the Wee Heavy spectrum, and would do best mid-Fall. Definitely still pair it with rich foods like a chili, but this is less a hearth fire than a leaf fire beer (not that we’re recommending you go burn leaves if it’s illegal in your neck of the woods, mind you…) Sunken City has done great with some of their malt-forward beers, and Tartan Tent is no exception.