Bearded Eel's Purple Unicorn Is A Strange Beast.
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 Bearded Eel Craft Brewery's Purple Unicorn.
Fast Facts on Purple Unicorn.
Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale / Specialty.
ABV: 5.72 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 50.
Color: Cloudy Golden.
Availability: Limited Release.
As abundant as seasonal beers are these days, we often forget that certain styles were originally brewed out of necessity, crafted during a limited period of amenable conditions, and then enjoyed later. Saisons, for instance, were traditionally brewed in the winter and reawakened in late summer to nourish and refresh farm workers when water wasn't safe to drink. Of course, it was also then consumed well into fall and winter, too.
Today, the Saison style is all the rage. What once was a rare lineage of brews just 10 years ago is now seeing quite the upswing — especially for the ever-rambunctious microbreweries of North America. It's a welcome and exhilarating trend, for sure. Among others, notable local Saisons include Lakewood Brewing Company's Till & Toiland Martin House's River House.
Now, the Fort Worth-based Bearded Eel Craft Brewery has also stepped up to the plate to pay homage to the Saison's rustic roots — but with an interesting twist. The name says it all and with a quick glace at the beer's description you might have guessed why they named it Purple Unicorn. Long story short: This beer just sounds too ridiculous to exist. Built upon the base of a Wit Beer, Purple Unicorn is hopped up like an IPA and fermented with a blend of farmhouse yeast. It's an audacious approach to the style, for sure.
Today, we not only aim to prove the existence of this mythological beast, but we hope to enjoy the many complexities this beautiful remnant of centuries past contains.
Background on Saison / Farmhouse.
See our take on Lakewood's Till & Toil for a good overview of the Saison style.
Purple Unicorn pours a hazy gold with a one-finger white head. The head holds strong, very slowly fading over time to leave a fantastic foamy lace on the sides of the glass.
The beer's smell is grassy and hay-like, mixed with wheat and a prominent yeasty cake smell. There are also spicy notes of lemongrass, coriander and ginger, as well as some hints of pepper that works to create a rather robust and inviting aroma.
Purple Unicorn opens with bright, peppery notes of tropical fruit, lemon, green pepper, ginger and coriander. There's a lot of crisp carbonation up front, with some fairly strong bitterness and subtle funk qualities from the farmhouse yeast. The middle is nicely balanced with spicy, earthy citrus characteristics and sweeter notes of lemon, banana and fruity esters. There's also an almost a yeast-like quality that Hefeweizen drinkers may find familiar, plus a noticeable, but not overwhelming, hop bitterness that compliments the spice and makes for a crisp and quenching long, dry finish.
Purple Unicorn is medium-bodied, with medium to high carbonation. The combination of these two elements makes for a smooth feel, which is rather appropriate for the yeasty and bready flavors of the brew. It's not going to be the lightest sitting beer, but it's a wonderful pairing to Texas' spring and summer months.
If you want to be a “serious” craft brewery these days, then it seems you need at least two things — an IPA and a Saison. I'm OK with that: These light and dry, full-flavored and typically lower in alcohol farmhouse ales are remarkably complex and make for a perfect spring release.
Overall, Purple Unicorn is a refreshing representation of the Saison style. It's complex, clean and well-balanced with some good aroma and flavor. The higher IBUs are a great compliment to the peppery farmhouse funk, too.
Unfortunately, every Bearded Eel beer is brewed using the breweries 1.5-barrel system. In other words: If you happen to come across a Purple Unicorn, you should seize the opportunity and grab it. For one thing, it's not likely to last long. For another, it's just a beer worth trying.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Bearded Eel Craft Brewery's Purple Unicorn a 7.
What's happening in the area brew scene? (Powered by Dallas Brew Scene.)
• Saturday, May 9. Untapped Fort Worth.
• Tuesday, May 12. Gumption Launch Party at Braindead Brewing.
• Sunday, May 17. Brew Riot at Bishop Arts.
• Saturday, May 23. Dallas Brew Bus May Tour.
• Saturday, June 6. Brews Travelers 365/Dallas Brew Scene Campout at Cedar Creek Benefiting Open the Taps.
• Saturday, June 20. Best Little Brew Fest in Texas at Old Town Lewisville.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community's Legion: 10.
• Peticolas' Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House's Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners' Block Party Porter: 9.
• Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek's Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House's Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas' The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum's Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver's Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works' Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House's Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek's Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood's Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood's Hop Trapp: 8.
• Lakewood's Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Martin House's Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Antigoon's Revenge: 7.5.
• Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek's Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Shannon Brewing Company's Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project's Somethin' Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company's Cellarman's Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers' Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver's High Brass: 7.
• Community's Pale Ale: 7.
• Martin House's River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's Brown Ale: 7.
• Community's Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity's Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Peticolas' Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Rabbit Hole's Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works' WunderMelon: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Deep Ellum's Numb Comfort: 5.
• Audacity's Sunset Boulevard/a>: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company's IPA: 4.
• Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.