A special beer brewed more than two years ago for the BU50 anniversary is maturing nicely and is currently very enjoyable to savour, says local beer expert and BU alumnus Cody Lobreau.
Brandon University recently caught up with Lobreau to sample two bottles of the BU50 beer, from two different brewing batches. Both were brewed in 2018 as BU50 Anniversary Ale, to celebrate 50 years since BU was chartered as an independent university and 50 years since the graduation of the first class with official Brandon University degrees.
“This is something I’d recommend savouring with friends around the bonfire before the snow hits, absolutely perfect for a Manitoba autumn,” he said about the first batch, which hit shelves about two and a half years ago. Multiple batches were crafted from spring through autumn. Lobreau sampled both the first and the third batch, brewed about six months apart in 2018. “Both of these have aged really well, but it’s interesting to see how they are diverging. Each batch was slightly different, despite following the same recipe, but they are coming into their own personalities in the bottle.”
To craft the beer, BU partnered with Nonsuch Brewing in Winnipeg and their head brewer Mark Borowski, a BU alumnus. He created a custom beer, based on a Märzen style, that was enjoyable poured immediately, but also designed to be cellared for up to five years.
Halfway through that expected lifespan, Lobreau says that BU50 flavours are evolving, making this a super sipper now that can also be aged for a couple more years.
“Both batches show a beer that is aging gracefully,” Lobreau said. “They’ve kept their caramel sweetness, their toasty malts, and their yeasty, bready aromas, but the flavours have melded nicely, and they are really coming together into a cohesive whole.”
Both beers are currently great for enjoying on a crisp fall day – ideally shared outdoors, Lobreau says. They seem to be sturdy enough for another two or three years carefully cellared, although he cautions that light and temperature variations can take a toll.
“Each of these bottles is an individual, and they’ll respond in unique ways to the yeasts and sugars bottled inside, as well as to the place they’re kept in,” he says. “If you are storing a few, now would be a good time to sample at least one, to make sure you’re giving it the cool, dark environment that will preserve and enhance it most.”
While BU50 Anniversary Ale has long since sold out on the shelves of Manitoba Liquor Marts, its legacy lives on. A portion of the proceeds from each bottle was donated to the BU Foundation, where it continues to support a legacy of excellence at Brandon University.
Now that’s worth a toast!
Cody’s Tasting Notes:
Appearance: Copper-orange with a haziness to it, much richer in colour than originally. The cork comes out quite easily compared to the original, no need to get a corkscrew for this beer! The BU50’s head is quite a bit lighter than originally, with an off-white appearance to it, mostly concentrated near the side of the glass but with a nice amount of bubbles, lightly carbonated with a bit of a creaminess to it.
Aroma: Notes of saltine crackers, a good amount of yeastiness to it, notes of caramel, a hint of bubble gum, though not everyone got that. It’s quite sweet, though I did find it was a bit oxidized at first but once the beer got a bit of air in it, I didn’t notice that at all. I get a bit of an aroma to it that is almost like it has a bit of a bonfire in it (without the smoke) but others think it’s more of a marshmallow.
Taste: Quite a sweet-forward Marzen-style ale with a lot of caramel in every sip. There’s a bit of a woodiness to it thanks to the toasted malts used, as well as a bit of a marshmallow presence. It’s quite smooth to drink and absolutely perfect for the autumn weather next to a nice roaring fire. Not as carbonated as the original batch but that’s nothing unexpected after aging for two and a half years.
Overall Thoughts: The first batch of BU50 aged really well. When I first tried this beer back in spring 2018, the flavours were quite explosive and competing to get my palate’s attention, but after two years it has mellowed down a bit so now you get more of a presence of caramel, crackers, a hint of wood and even marshmallows. This beer improved with aging in the bottle. It reminds me of more of a sipper kind of beer such as Sam Adams Utopias (one of the strongest beers in the world) or else your typical fall-themed beers without pumpkin spice added to it, perhaps even reminiscent to an Irish Red Ale or an Amber Ale. This is something I’d recommend savouring this batch with friends around the bon fire before the snow hits, absolutely perfect for a Manitoba autumn.
Appearance: Definitely has more carbonation to it over Batch #1 but it doesn’t last long. It starts out with a bit of a frothiness to it with an off-white hue to it, a bit brighter than Batch #1. There’s a good amount of lacing on the glass (bubbles sticking to the side) and a good amount of carbonation taking place in the beer itself. Oh, we can’t forget the body of the beer itself – it’s got a rich Amber Ale sort of appearance to it, with a bit of a haziness to it.
Aroma: Not as sweet as the first batch, though it’s still decently sweet. I get a bit of a toasted malt presence to it that gives off a hint of woodiness to it. There’s a decent caramel sweetness to it but it’s not overly sweet, as well – there is a good fruit presence coming from apple and pear. There’s a hint of an earthiness that kind of has a bit of a peat or tobacco-like presence to it. According to Grant, it’s more balanced, less complex, which he likes.
Taste: Sweet with notes of caramel with a bit of a nuttiness to it, slight amount of woodiness to it. It has quite a bit more of a carbonation on the palate compared to Batch 1, as well as it’s definitely less bready/yeasty, as well has more of a balance of the flavours compared to Batch 1 so no flavour is popping out much more than another. There’s a hint of dark fruit (prune?) Showing up in the beer, as well as a hint of apple at the end. Thinner mouthfeel than Batch 1 while the aftertaste here is more apparent with a bit of an apple and nutty flavour to it that lasts a long, good moment.
Overall Thoughts: Being able to try out both Batch 1 and 3 was quite a treat, seeing how both beers aged differently over the past two to two and a half years. The six month difference in aging certainly seems like it has made a difference in the sampling. Batch 3 is sweet, but more subtle, with a sweet caramel flavour, notes of apple, pear and prune, as well as a bit of a toasted malt presence that gives off a bit of woody-forward notes to the beer. Reminiscent of an Oktoberfest-themed beer meets a classic Amber Ale. This is something worth savouring after raking leaves one last time before the snow settles.
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