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Beer Here: Bedlam! Trappist IPA from Ale Asylum
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Credit:Robin Shepard

A beer called Bedlam! made by a brewery with "asylum" in its name is a bit whimsical, with its implications of chaos and reference to the infamous London mental hospital. The folks at Ale Asylum let loose a little bedlam of their own on local store shelves this week.


What is it? Bedlam! Trappist IPA from Ale Asylum of Madison.

Style: Ale Asylum calls Bedlam! a "Trappist IPA," which is a combination of Belgian character melded with the hoppiness of an India Pale Ale. The term "Trappist" in the Belgian beer world is applied only to beers made in monasteries by Trappist monks, and only six such monasteries have authority to use the claim on their labels. In the U.S., these beers are commonly designated as "Trappist style."

While it seems rather beer-geeky to debate the use of the word Trappist, the style purist may bristle a little at Ale Asylum's liberal use of the term. But brewmaster Dean Coffey insists that they're not trying to mislead anybody with it. "Look at us," he says, "anyone who knows us, has seen us, or visited us understands there's no confusion between us and monks brewing in a monastery!"

The Belgian IPA is considered an emerging type of beer and not that widely accepted as a judged style. Think of it as a combination of the aggressive IPA bitterness with the spicy-yeastiness of the Belgian Tripel, showing off a light golden to a hazy orange-copper color. Its alcohol content can be quite high, exceeding 6% ABV.

Background: Bedlam! is made with the type of malts found in IPAs, along with a new northwest variety of hops called Citra that imparts citrus and other fruity qualities. The beer is fermented with a Trappist yeast strain.

Brewery co-owner Otto Dilba suggested making the beer to Coffey a few months back. Initially, the brewmaster was hesitant because he felt the beer was too much of an amalgamation of styles. But Coffey eventually formulated a recipe for a half-batch with the agreement that if he didn't like it, it would never be served.

By mid-March, head brewer Chris Riphenburg had it ready for inspection. After tasting it, Coffey was surprised, even ecstatic about the beer, and it was immediately placed on tap in the tasting room to gauge reaction from patrons. Coffey then moved into full production and just released about 700 cases of it this week, which is equivalent to 2,800 six-packs.

Bedlam! joins the Ale Asylum lineup of seasonal six-packs that sell for around $10, or in the brewery's tasting room for $5/pints and $15/growlers (w/$3 deposit). Its alcohol content is about 7.5% ABV.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: An assertive hoppy spiciness way up front, followed by a light hint of yeastiness.
  • Appearance: Hazy to cloudy and orange-golden, with a medium marbled white head.
  • Texture: Medium-bodied and bubbly.
  • Taste: There is lots of flavor to Bedlam, with crisp-citrus hoppiness and fruity accents of apricot and plums. Those fruity-yeasty tones blend well with the firm malty backbone. All that adds to a very complex flavor profile.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: Clean with a light fruity crispness and dryness.

Glassware: Try this beer in a stemmed tulip glass to show off the beautiful hazy orange-golden hue. The flared lip will allow the aroma to dance above the soft marbled head.

Pairs well with: Bedlam! will go well with Mediterranean dishes or pastas dressed with pesto and olive oil. Sharp cheeses such as blue and well-aged cheddar also make for nice companions.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).

The Consensus: A- (Excellent) rating witha limited number of reviews at BeerAdvocate, and not enough ratings to be evaluated at RateBeer.

The Verdict: Bedlam! is a fitting name for Ale Asylum's latest beer because there is so much going on in every pint. A tamer version might still fit into the Belgian Pale Ale category; however, Bedlam is much more flavorful, with malt and yeast tones along with enough hoppiness to live up to the "India" Pale Ale expectations. I like this beer for its striking orange-golden color, and the Trappist yeast, which offers blended fruity aromas followed up by the hoppy dryness. Bedlam! has interesting flavor contradictions, as its name implies. Expect a frenzied burst of flavors that make a wonderfully inviting and crisp spring seasonal.

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