For this week’s installment of Tasting Notes, we recognize Tampa’s Gasparilla festivities in our own little way by getting into a bottle of The Partner Ships Wee Heavy from Heavy Seas Beer (Baltimore, Maryland) and MadTree Brewing Company (Cincinnati, Ohio).
Brewed as a locally-infused collaboration with MadTree Brewing Company, this Wee Heavy comes to us as Heavy Seas Beer’s latest release from The Partner Ships Series, a line of Limited Release “beers produced in collaboration with other regionally and nationally recognized brewers in the spirit of friendship, creativity, and adventure.” To create this offering, the brewing team began with a pretty straightforward recipe for a Scottish-style Wee Heavy and then “loaded [it] with local flavor” by adding Burundi Mpanga coffee from Deeper Roots in Cincinnati, Ethiopian Harrar coffee from Chesapeake Bay Roasting Co. in Baltimore, and cocoa nibs from Maverick Chocolate in Cincinnati. This creative approach resulted in a robust, 8.25% ABV Wee Heavy that is “deep mahogany in color with layers of malt, chocolate, and roasted complexity.” A limited supply of The Partner Ships Wee Heavy was released back in November, but there still might be a few bombers and kegs floating around out there at craft beer establishments located within Heavy Seas Beer’s distribution footprint.
Now that all the background information on this brew has been properly handled, what do you say we lay siege to this bottle and get into some Tasting Notes?
Tasting Notes for Partner Ships Wee Heavy from Heavy Seas Beer & MadTree Brewing Company
Appearance: Partner Ships Wee Heavy pours as a dark brown, nearly black brew that is wearing a half finger of brown sugar colored foam. Other than a touch of light forcing its way through at the edges, the beer remains mostly opaque. With that said, a slow but dutiful carbonation presence can be seen feeding the head at the top of the pour. Despite the effort, that head does quickly fall to a thin but lasting ring that leaves some spotty lacing on the glass.
Aroma: Sweet caramel and chocolate notes rise up first before being overtaken by a gorgeous layer of roast. The roastiness has qualities of coffee, grain, toasted bread and just a touch of smoky peat. Dark fruits then surface with tones of prune and plum. The aromatics ultimately close with a parting waft of milk chocolate.
Taste: The flavor profile nearly mirrors the nose, but the cocoa and chocolate notes have more of a foothold in this arena. Lovely tones of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, light fudge, and cocoa powder are all accounted for. Caramel, toffee, vanilla and almonds then move in to support. A comforting presence of roasted coffee and grain then saturates the previous flavors to cut away at the sweetness. Earthy hops and a touch of dark fruit (plum and date) supply further balance and close the profile.
Mouthfeel: Medium to full in body with a light carbonation, this Wee Heavy is smooth and slightly creamy in texture. Although most of our descriptors would lead you to believe this beer is sweet, earthy hops and ample roastiness balance the ship and avoid any possibility of cloying. At 8.25%, a warming ABV presence builds in the throat and settles in the belly. Aftertaste allows dark fruit, roast and chocolate to linger.
Final Thoughts: This is an incredibly nice, subtly dynamic Wee Heavy. What we mean by that is the first sip seems innocent and direct, but each subsequent sip builds upon the experience with a growing complexity. Most of that complexity resides in the roast as the coffee acts as more of a complementary note that accentuates the roasty characteristics of the grain bill. That deeply layered roastiness is skillfully achieved, but in a manner that never forces the beer to declare itself a “coffee beer”. Although this clever approach results in a truly unique Wee Heavy, it remains respectful of tradition and values the expected characteristics of the style. I guess what we are ultimately trying to say here is that The Partner Ships Wee Heavy is a hidden gem that you need to seek out. Prost!