Beer: El Cuatro
Brewery: The Ale Apothecary (Bend, OR)
Style: American Wild Ale
11.16% ABV / N/A IBU
El Cuatro is not one single formulation, but a series of wild ales brewed with wildflower honey, each with subtle variations in color, character and, perhaps more importantly, alcohol content. El Cuatro has been getting progressively boozier since The Ale Apothecary introduced it—early versions of this American wild ale hovered in the 8.5% ABV range, while the newest batches (the label will specify bottling date and alcohol content) clock in between 10-11% ABV. This is not a bad thing.
El Cuatro pours a translucent caramel color akin to a Brown Ale, with little carbonation and a quickly dissipating head. It sis sweet and dry like a dessert wine, and can be enjoyed in a stem glass, as a before-dinner accompaniment to cheese and crackers or as an aperitif. What’s radical about El Cuatro is that you can taste and experience every element of the brew—the Oregon barley malt and the wildflower honey are particularly prominent, but you also get lactic sourness from the mixed culture (lactobacillus and brettanomyces) fermentation.
Like a lot of American wild ales, El Cuatro shifts its shape through bottle-conditioning. You’ll want to buy two bottles, so you can drink one immediately and cellar the other for a couple of years to really draw out the funkiness. To bring a little joy to my quarantine routine, I cracked open an El Cuatro that had been bottled nine months prior—the smell imparted by the Pinot Noir wine barrels, where the wild ale is aged before being finished in brandy barrels, was particularly intoxicating. El Cuatro is sweet but not cloying, and sour but not bracing—sugar and spice and everything nice in one bottle.
For more info, check out The Ale Apothecary here.