Peticolas' The Duke Is Better The Second Time Around.
Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it's local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!
This week, we sipped on Peticolas Brewing Company's 12-months-aged The Duke.
Fast Facts on Peticolas' 12-months-aged Duke
• Style: Barley wine.
• ABV: 12 percent.
• International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 35.
• Color: Burnt orange.
• Availability: Special release.
Last August, I first reviewed The Duke, then a new limited edition offering from Peticolas Brewing Company. The Duke was — and still is — interesting due to brewer Michael Peticolas’ decision to deviate from his normal patterns of brewing beers within traditional style guidelines. With this beer, rather than follow those traditional guidelines, the brewer turned to inspiration from Wisconsin craft brewery New Glarus as a guide.
At the time of that first review, The Duke was only about six months old, but had only been released to the public for consumption on brewery tours. Clearly, that meant that it was fair game for a review. But the results weren't pretty: It turned out to not only be my lowest-rated Peticolas beer, as well as, at the time of this writing, the seventh-lowest-rated beer of this entire series.
But here's the thing: Barley Wines are a style that, unlike many other types of beer (read: IPAs, Pilsners, Pale Ales), really benefits from an aging process. Flavors change over time, harsh edges are smoothed over and new flavors and aromas emerge. This is something I knew when I wrapped up the first review, saying, “I'd like to revisit this beer when it has a little more age to it. Six months from now, The Duke will be a completely different beer; many of the stronger flavors will have mellowed. In a year, it could sing.”
So when Peticolas contacted me the other day with the news that The Duke was, in fact, finally singing, I jumped at the chance to take another look. And here we are, seven months later, with another look at The Duke.
Background on Barley Wines.
See our first review of The Duke for a good primer on the Barley Wine style.
This time around, instead of pouring golden orange, The Duke now looks to be more of a burnt orange, having turned a few shades darker. There's still some haze to the beer (it clears up as the glass warms) and not much of a head. The few bubbles that you do get quickly reduce to a thin ring around the sides of the glass.
There are definitely no hop aromas to be had anymore, but that's normal with a beer this old. Hop aromas are typically one of the first flavor compounds to break down in a beer. Instead, there's a mellow but rich scent of sweet grain with an almost a dull molasses quality. The strong alcohol levels still create a faint aroma of tart raisins.
The Duke has definitely mellowed in its old age. In its younger form, I was overwhelmed by a heavy sweetness that I thought ruined the balance of the beer. Frankly, it was almost the only component I could taste. And, while the sweetness is still quite present, it's faded back into the rest of the beer so that it's no longer as overpowering. In its place, more hop bitterness and flavors of wood — so much so that you could tell me this was barrel-aged (it's not) and I wouldn't blink an eye. I can also no longer detect any flavor components from the alcohol, though there is a very subtle warming sensation that you may pick up after a few sips.
This aged Duke has a thick, almost chewy mouthfeel, with medium to medium-low levels of carbonation.
It'd be hard to argue that The Duke at 12 months isn't a much improved beer from the version I sampled at 6 months. Many of the issues I had with the younger version have been corrected, and the beer is much more representative of the type of product I have come to expect from Peticolas. An almost non-existent aroma profile has now been replaced with one that's subtle, yet rich and rewarding. Flavors that were once disproportionately sweet have now become much more balanced, allowing other flavors to play stronger supporting roles.
Still, though, I come back to the sweetness. Even mellowed, it hits the palate too strongly, particularly in the back of the throat, post-sip. It's this sweetness, in my opinion, that holds this beer back from being great.
All of that said, however, The Duke has gone from an OK beer to one that's pretty darn good. Maybe all it needs is another six months to get to great.
On a scale of 1-10, I'll give Peticolas' 12-months-aged Duke an 8, which is an improvement of 1.5 points from the original review.
What's happening in the area beer scene this week? (Powered by Dallas Brew Scene.)
• Friday, April 4. Big Texas Beer Fest Unofficial Pre-Party with Real Ale Brewmaster Erik Ogershok at the Flying Saucer (Garland).
• Saturday, April 5. Big Texas Beer Fest at Fair Park.
• Tuesday, April 8. Odell Brewing Company's Brewsday Tuesday at The Common Table.
• Saturday, April 12. Grapevine Craft Brewery's Inaugural Tour.
• Saturday, April 19. Dallas Brew Bus' Great White North Tour.
• Saturday, May 3. Dallas Brew Bus' Cinco de Tour.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House's Imperial Texas: 9.
• Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House's Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
• Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
• Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.