Review: Hidden Cove Barrel-Aged Jali Sour Fruit Ale

Review of Barrel-Aged Jali Sour Fruit Ale from Hidden Cover Brewing Co. in Wells, ME.

Beer Type: Sour Fruit Ale  ABV: 8.5%  IBUs: 10  Tried from bottle.

Their Description: “Primary fermentation in Herradura Tequila Barrels with a secondary fermentation of agave nectar, apricots and grilled jalapenos. The nose explodes with jalapeno while the attack is more fruit forward with a slight warmth on the back end. Jali finishes relatively dry with slightly acidic, funky notes from the wild brettanomyces.”

The Reality: Their description really hit on all the important stuff. The scent has a ton of jalapenos with a touch of funk and apricot, making you believe you’re in for a very spicy beer. However, the flavor is definitely more “fruit forward” as they suggest, with bold tart apricot and mild pepper flavor drenching your palate. There is a pleasant background heat in the finish, which is semi-dry with a nice smoothness from the barrel-aging.

Final Verdict: This beer has a lot of things going on, but the barrel-aging is the linchpin that makes them work together. Strong flavors like hot peppers, apricot, sour funk, etc. are able to become balanced. The barrel aging mellows the acidity and rounds out the fruitiness with subtly oaky notes. It also keeps the heat from the peppers in check, along with the wise decision they made to grill them. You end up with a very tasty and very drinkable finished product. It’s also worth noting that their choice to label this as a “sour fruit ale” is important because the fruit really is front and center more than in a typical sour beer. Lastly, the name “Jali” is smart in its brevity, because it allows for future variations (basically, a whole line of “Jali” ales). They could age it in a Tennessee Whiskey barrel instead of a tequila barrel and call it “Jali Parton“. Or, they could add some hemp to the mix and call it “Jali Shore“. You get the idea…