Artifacts of Sound – Private Press
Brad Clark’s been doing this beer thing for quite some time now. Previously of Jackie O’s, he went out to the coast to brew some beer, throw it in barrels and sell it in a membership-only club. (For more on that, listen to our Private Press episode featuring an interview with Clark.) He understands beer and barrel-aging, so it would make sense that Oil of Aphrodite – one of his most notable barrel-aged creations at Jackie O’s – would get re-imagined at Private Press. Artifacts of Sound receives that honor.
Oil of Aphrodite features a unique ingredient not in a whole lot of beer – walnuts. Artifacts of Sound has those same walnuts but also adds cacao nibs. (Oil of Aphrodite has Belgian candied syrup which Artifacts of Sound lacks.) Much like the rest of Private Press catalog Artifacts of Sound has multiple barrels (or threads) used in the blend to create this liquid symphony. And my expectations are high, as I like his Jackie O’s beers and his Private Press creations have been off the charts good (they’ve finished in the top 3 in two years of my year-end lists.) I’m ready to get nuts!
Artifacts of Sound pours with a half finger of brown head with some red highlights. All that remains after 30 seconds rests on the rim of the glass. Typical for a stout, Artifacts allows no light through its pitch black color but does have some red or crimson highlights when tilted. Clocking in at 15.5% ABV, the alcohol stain and legs on the side of the glass are expected.
It was impossible not to smell Artifacts of Sound while looking at it. Aromas hit me almost a foot away. Cherry, allspice and dark chocolate lead things with some nice bourbon notes joining things. The cherries come off more akin to a sweet luxardo cherry than a maraschino cherry. Some nuttiness does actually come through which is more than I say in most beers with nuts as an addition. Those walnuts, however, are way down in the mix. A slight hint of roast shows up. All together Artifacts of Sound smells closer to some amazing chocolate/cherry cocktail as opposed to a beer with cocoa nibs and walnuts.
Artifacts of Sound reminds me of a band where the drummer is usually low in the mix and then on their one album (usually the experimental one) is the star. Walnuts do that here. That low-in-the-mix nuttiness on the aroma absolutely shines on the palate. Not oppressive at all, it weaves in and out throughout the sip and lingers long after finished. And that flashy lead guitarist usually all over the mix? In this case the cherries pull that off, still existing in the flavor profile but much lower than others so, you know, the drummer can shine. Since I’m stuck in this metaphor, the reliable bassist represents the dark chocolate notes, simultaneously moving things along and providing a flavor foundation the rest of the beer works with. (Lacking a lead singer for this beer though. Drinkability maybe? Ugh. Maybe not.)
A nice medium mouthfeel causes Artifacts of Sound not to stick around too long on the tongue, leaving only the walnuts behind. Everything still combines to form a cocktail-like beer, with some light sherry notes seeming to show up and adding to the overall expression of the beer. Any sweetness additional to the inherent beer sweetness is limited, meaning Artifacts of Sound as a whole isn’t too sweet at all. It would pair very well with a sweet dessert, contrasting with it while still remaining in the same realm.
Artifacts of Sound fits nicely into the Private Press universe. A delicious, balanced barrel-aged beer that features some surprises and isn’t too sweet. The cherry aromas and the walnuts on the palate really shine while the dark chocolate adds a nice foundation for the beer. While it doesn’t hit the highs of, say, a Third Press or Electric Roads, it’s still better than a vast majority of barrel-aged beer in the market. Another excellent offering from Private Press that would make me happy to be a member.