Phase Three | A Bushel of Apples
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Beer stores receiving countless phone calls per day. People who have never stepped into a small beer store before asking for it. Moms bringing in their kids wondering about when it’ll be out. Grown men reminiscing about when they would pick up their Affy Tapples as kids. Yeah, this one was going to be difficult to get your hands on.
When Phase Three announced that they partnered with Affy Tapples to make an Affy Tapple-style beer to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository all hell broke loose. Phase Three always commands a certain amount of hype every Wednesday or Thursday, but Bushel of Apples crossed-over. That what happens when there’s a cross-section of beer nerds, moms who don’t normally buy beer, and anyone else that “heard about it” looking for it. So this completely supports my theory that breweries should just brew sweet shit from millenials’ childhood and laugh all the way to the bank. Need an expansion? Inspired by or actually use Cookie Crisp. Canning line? Laffy Taffy beer. It will sell and people will be looking for it and talking about it and not only in beer circles.
Which brings me to Phase Three’s Bushel of Apples. If you told me a Chicago-area brewery made an Affy Tapple beer, Phase Three would’ve been low on that list. It wasn’t that they couldn’t make one, but more so that they didn’t need to make one. Phase Three already has all the hype and instant sell-outs most breweries dream of, so I figured a handful of other Chicago breweries would be in line to create this. But they didn’t, so inherent Phase Three hype plus crossover appeal equals a beer most people aren’t able to try. So I’ll do it for you!
It’s true. I’ve never had an Affy Tapple. I honestly thought they were available year-round. Apparently it’s only in the autumn? (Apparently they are available year-round so I got that right) I do remember other classmates and friends getting them, but never cared to get one myself. So it was super-cool to get an Affy Tapple with Bushel of Apples. My first Affy Tapple was exactly how I expected it to go. Sweet caramel, crunchy peanuts, and a tart apple finish. If offered, I would definitely partake. Probably wouldn’t go out of my way to get one or order multiples for consuming months later. These aren’t Girl Scout cookies here!
A Bushel of Apples
A Bushel of Apples pours a burnt yellow or golden color with about a finger of head that hangs around. Some chill haze exists, but you can see through beer clearly to the other side. A hazy beer it ain’t. Some aromas fill the room upon opening the can, but that’s nothing compared to actually smelling it for the first time.
Nutter Butter. Peanut Brittle. A bakery. Candy aisle. There’s probably so many more aroma descriptors you can pull from A Bushel of Apple; these were just the first ones that came to mind. Putting it broadly, it smells like a confection with caramel and peanuts. Apples are present on the aroma, but you have to get past those other two to get to it. (Just like in real life it’s hard to do.)
And it delivers on that candy aisle/nutter butter aromas. This beer is sweet. As seems typical, the nuts don’t come out much in the flavor, but the apple juice and caramel sweetness just dominate the beer and your palate. It drinks closer to an apple cider than a beer/golden ale. The biggest problem for me comes with the sweetness – there’s nothing stopping it, changing directions, or dampening it down. Everything involved works towards the sweetness with nothing against it. If there was something a bit savory or just not sweet, the beer would work much better. The Affy Tapple has some tartness from the apple and some of the peanuts to ground the caramel sweetness so it works. A Bushel of Apples loses the peanuts in the flavor and the apple juice just goes sweet. It was difficult to even finish what I poured myself.
(A small comparison to this as I was fortunate enough to recently try Bourbon County Brand Caramella Ale, which features both the apple and caramel flavors of this beer. I think the barrel actually kept that beer from going too sweet as it was delightful and a nice comparison/contrast to this beer.)
If you enjoy sweet things unabashedly, you’ll love this. If you don’t, steer clear. I would’ve liked more peanuts to come out in the flavor (which is a very, very difficult thing to do, as per some other recent “nuts in beer” observations, this being excluded) to cut into some of that sweetness. Going into it, I knew it would be a sweet beer, but I was hoping it wasn’t going to be this sweet. To Phase Three’s credit, they nailed both the apple and caramel flavor in this beer.
The Affy Tapple Gangland
I figured something this sweet featuring apple and caramel would work marvelously in a cocktail, so I had Craft Beer Cocktails (Twitter; Instagram) whip something up. And what would you need on a chilly autumn evening? A hot toddy! The Affy Tapple Gangland adds Uncle Nearest whiskey, lemon, and cinnamon syrup to A Bushel of Apples to create something that will keep you warm during that bonfire.