Deep Wood 2020 Part 4 | Revolution Brewing
Check out our other reviews, including the rest of the Deep Wood 2020 series, here!
Well it’s finally here. The end of it all. With Apple Brandy Ryeway and On & On: Part 1 releasing this Friday, January 22, 2021, Revolution ends its 2020/2021 Deep Wood series. What did you think I was talking about? Let’s jump right into it, with rankings of the entire Deep Wood lineup for the year at the end.
Apple Brandy Ryeway | 12.3%
Finally. Every year the Deep Wood line-up comes out and you look over the list, usually looking for either a re-brew of an old favorite or a new one that’ll get you excited. Apple Brandy Ryeway is that beer for me. Apple Brandy – as far as barrel-aged beers – really hit its stride in the mid-2010s but then receded a bit to the point where an apple brandy barrel-aged beer happens infrequently. (We talked about it more on our Exciting! Barrel-Aged Stouts! show.) So pairing Ryeway to Heaven up with an apple brandy barrel seems like a perfect match.
Apple Brandy Ryeway pours a light brown caramel color with about two fingers of head. That head sticks around a bit (more so than the Deths) but eventually makes its way down to nothing. If held to the light some copper highlights come out. It seriously looks like a cognac or brandy in the glass.
Somehow, despite having two very aroma-forward entities with Ryeway to Heaven and an apple brandy barrel, the nose flavors blend well together. Ryeway staples of caramel, toffee and rye spice mingle perfectly with the green apple and booze notes coming off the apple brandy barrel. You’ll get some serious green Jolly Rancher aroma here. Raisins, figs and some other fruits bubble behind the smells above, but you can pick what you want to smell every time – either the apple brandy or the ryeway. Or both! It’s a Smell Your Own Adventure!
In a rare feat the beer matches the aroma in terms of balance. The apple and brandy hit you first, followed by the rye spices and caramel and toffee notes. There’s some sweetness at the end, courtesy of both the beer and the barrel, but it’s within reason and, above all else, smooth. Unlike most of this year’s Deep Wood beers, Apple Brandy Ryeway drinks all of its 12.3% (and maybe more). The booze lessens as you drink it though, but make no mistake, this Ryeway is a sipper. That booze hits hard due to the lower carbonation on Apple Brandy Ryeway. It coats the tongue, leaving behind brandy, caramel, spice, and the desire to drink more. Ever wanted a green Jolly Rancher dipped in caramel? This beer exists for you.
In my reviews of both Strawberry Jacket and Honey Jacket, my biggest complaint revolved around the fact that the adjunct overtook the delicious Straight Jacket base beer. I realize that Apple Brandy Ryeway has no adjuncts, but this is what I was looking for in those Jacket variants. Perfect balance between the base beer and barrel, with the flavors in balance as well. The best ryewine/barleywine of the 2020/2021 Deep Wood series. Would make a great syrup or sauce!
On & On: Part 1 | 14%
I knew that the collab brewery was Half Acre ahead of the general announcement. My mind immediately shot to Deth by Benthic! Straight Benthic (Straight Jacket in Benthic barrels)! So many possibilities with a beer between Half Acre and Revolution, two of the stalwarts and longest tenured breweries of Chicago’s craft beer scene. (For reference, Half Acre started in 2007 while Revolution in 2010.) What we got, though, is something we could not have expected. At all.
Everything about On & On: Part 1 is just weird. It’s being released as a Deep Wood beer, but not labeled as such. 16 ounce can instead of the usual Deep Wood 12 ounces. Really beautiful artwork by Matt Gordon featuring a – garden beer party with a frog and skeleton. (Reminds me of Alice in Wonderland’s tea party, but weirder if that’s possible.) But the weirdest thing, you ask? It’s a frickin’ 14% barrel-aged porter.
Revolution and barrel-aged porters did not leave on the best terms. The first series of Deep Wood beers in 2012 featured their Eugene porter aged in bourbon barrels – Mean Gene – and one with coffee added – Bean Gene. (Imagine trying to order either one of these beers at the release party with music blaring. No idea if you got the right one when walking away from the bar.) Variants aplenty were released – Blue Gene, Boy Gene, Georgia Gene – but off-flavors ruined the beer almost every time. The last barrel-aged Gene was released no later than 2015 (can’t find records of the last time it was released) and Revolution switched to barrel-aging oatmeal stouts and barleywines/ryewines. So a barrel-aged porter? Not on my radar at all.
On & On: Part 1 pours a caramel brown color with a finger of tight head that goes on and on and on. Eventually it goes off, leaving it look like all the other Deep Wood beers. Light brown highlights show up if you tilt the beer, but yeah, porter all the way.
The aroma blasts. Rye spices – even more so than the Apple Brandy Ryeway – lead the vanguard, with chocolate and a roast note in the van. Also hanging around are notes of toffee, caramel, vanilla and oak while the booze doesn’t hit hard at all. Some oaky notes let you know a barrel took part since the booze won’t. Overall, think Werther’s.
A baker’s chocolate and some roast dominate the flavor, with light vanilla, rye spices and toffee notes supporting. On & On coats the tongue fairly well while the medium carbonation ensures only some roasty bitterness stays behind and not the booze. It’s very easy to drink. Easiest way to describe it would be Ryeway to Eugene/Eugene to Heaven. Or Thunderaker-lite.
While it’s not the thickest, crazy flavorful beer Revolution or Half Acre have released, it does what it set out to do. Again, a barrel-aged rye porter was not what I was expecting at all from these breweries, but it is solid. Barrel-aged porters are in short supply, so if you’re jonesing for one, On & On: Part 1 will scratch that itch.
2020/2021 Deep Wood Rankings
The stouts have won. THE STOUTS HAVE WON! For the first time since the switch to cans in 2017, I’m going to say I was more impressed overall by the stouts than the barleywines/ryewines this year. Lumber guy Marty Scott mentioned they focused on the stouts this year and it showed up big time. If you told me these were my top two beers a year ago, I would’ve called you nuts (along with a laundry list of insane things that also happened in 2020, but I digress). Overall, the Deep Wood 2020 lineup most likely ends up as the best, with a stellar top and a no-so-bad bottom.
12. Honey Jacket
11. Maple Deth
10. On & On: Part 1
7. Deth’s Tar
4. Café Deth
3. Apple Brandy Ryeway
Revolution will release Apple Brandy Ryeway and On & On: Part 1 on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at their webstore. Pick-up will occur over the January 22 weekend. Both beers are $40 per 4-pack with a limit of one 4-pack of each per person.