This fall has been awesome with so many new beers, but Ale Asylum has come up with my favorite. Dean Coffey, the brewmaster and co-owner of the brewpub on the north side once again shows why he is the Madison dean of making Belgian-style brews with a new offering named Mercy Grand Cru.
Mercy belies its name with a bold aggressive malty warmth and a take-no-prisoners assault on the taste buds. But available in a mere 600 cases, a handful of tavern accounts and at the Ale Asylum tap room, this beer won't be here long. Coffey hopes Mercy will last on store shelves until mid-December, but when I checked this past weekend at Star Liquor, nearly a third of its 19 cases were already gone in just four days.
What is it? Mercy Grand Cru from Ale Asylum
Style: Grand Cru is a winemaking label used to note the high quality of a given vineyard and its terroir. Among beers, it gets applied to Belgian brews, superior small batches, or special vintages. Historically, the term Grand Cru has also been used to designate beers made for special occasions such as weddings and holidays. This style of beer is generally pale in color but high in alcohol content.
Background: Ale Asylum brewmaster Dean Coffey says calling Mercy a Grand Cru lets him be creative. "It not a defined style," he says, "more like a blank canvas that I can paint or brew something original and artistic."
Mercy is made with Belgian yeast and lots of malt. "It takes a crazy amount of malt to make this beer, and twice as long to brew," adds Coffey, referring to the eight weeks this beer ferments. The result is a Belgian ale that shows off a spicy aroma and deep caramel flavor, with 9.5% alcohol by volume and a warmth that grows beyond the finish.
Coffey says Mercy is the highest gravity beer he's ever made. "It took two full mash tuns to fill one kettle, and at one stage, the hydrometer reading was -- literally -- off the scale," he explains. If you don't know what these things mean, ask your homebrewing buddy and wait for them to drop that lower jaw. You'll find Mercy in four-packs in local stores for around $10.
Co-owner Otto Dilba designed the logo for Mercy, which features three sinister looking griffons. "I think it looks a lot like Dean," he jokes about the central one, "and he hates when I say that, so I say it often." Mercy is the first seasonal brew to be introduced by Ale Asylum, but others will follow, including an India Pale Ale called Ballistic that is planned for January.
- Aroma: Light hints of fruitiness.
- Appearance: Clear bronze body, with a tan head.
- Texture: Medium to full bodied, round.
- Taste: Sweet maltiness, a light fruity background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Warm and malty.
Glassware: The chalice or goblet shows off Mercy's brilliant bronze body. Pick one with a heavy stem to accentuate the big beer feel. This will also allow you to sip the beer, and to avoid grabbing the body of the glass, helping to keep it at serving temperature. You'll want to drink this beer cool, not cold nor at room temperature.
Pairs well with: This is my pick for the hearty Thanksgiving meal! It'll go well with roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Just about any big traditional holiday fare will be complimented by a little Mercy.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: This beer will be on my Thanksgiving table, and if you like a good brew it should be on yours too. Mercy has smooth assertive malty flavor that is underpinned with a sweet earthiness from the Belgian yeast and warmth in the finish. Mercy is a perfect "big beer" for the big holiday meal. But it'll also work as an after-dinner dessert, especially in front of a fire relaxing after the dishes are washed and leftovers are put away. This is indeed something for which to be thankful.