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Top 100 Beers of 2019

top beers 2019



The Sage, Archetype Brewing

by Sal Mortillaro II
The Sage
Archetype Brewing Co.

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Co-Owner & Head Brewer Steven Anan Talks The Sage

Who was responsible for this beer’s recipe?
This was my own recipe that I started thinking about years before the first batch was brewed. The recipe was heavily inspired by Westvleteren 12. Years back, I had the pleasure of drinking Westy 12 while surrounded by good friends and family and the experience, as well as the quality, of that beer crystalized this style for me – maybe eternally.

What sets this beer apart from other examples within the style?
This beer showcases the potential of every ingredient used in this recipe. Every malt comes through, the yeast expression is obvious, and the candi syrup doesn’t dominate. It’s balanced, yet complex, and evolves as you drink it. All of this said, it has a certain synergy that I have a hard time taking credit for, aside from just being patient.

What makes this beer truly world-class?
I feel like the majority of brewers would agree with this statement: When inspiration drives the creation of a beer (or anything really), the difference is noticeable. It’s an experience I was trying to recreate for myself and share with other people. It wasn’t made to just fill a gap in our beer portfolio. It was made with patience and care in every step of the process (Thanks to brewers Erin Jordan and Tyler Foley, you are the truest ballers). Sometimes less is more, and I think this beer embodies that philosophy.

What is your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc.)?
The drinkability coupled with the flavor, for sure. Every aspect of the beer evolves throughout the drinking experience.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
It’s both a staff favorite and a local favorite. We brew one batch a year and this one saw a small bottle run. The cases didn’t stick around for long! It’s nice to see both craft beer lovers and the uninitiated enjoying this beer.

Judge’s Second Opinion

Sage is defined as “one (such as a profound philosopher) distinguished for wisdom.” Us beer connoisseurs, both readers and judges, all know the sage words of Benjamin Franklin: “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” It is of little coincidence the Belgian Dark Strong Ale style was introduced to the world by sage men who knew God – Trappist monks. As a result, it is also of little coincidence one of the finest beers of all time is also a Belgian Dark Strong, the venerated Westvleteren 12.

This beer style, when executed correctly, marries elements of decadent richness with sublime complexity. Archetype Brewing’s The Sage has achieved this same combination. The brute initial rush of dark candi sugar and malt richness quickly transforms into a sublime ether of well-tempered dark cherry, raisin, dried fig and pleasant alcohol warmth. Being one of my favorite styles, I had the opportunity to judge many beers of this style at a well-known beer competition. So many of them were lackluster and missed the ethereal component that sets the world-class examples apart; I believe Archetype has hit that ephemeral quality.

The deep richness found in this beer, though stylistically accurate, is not easy to create. Recipe formulation, patience, technique, nurturing and (perhaps) a bit of divine intervention are integral to this style. There is an axiom that “brewers make wort and yeast make beer” and truly and patiently loving your yeast in this style yields the fine line of ethyl complexities of warmth, slightly sweet and slightly bitter.

The Sage is the type of beer that turns beer drinkers into beer connoisseurs. There seems to be a rather unfortunate trend in the United States where brewers eschew traditional styles at the expense of the trend of the moment. Beers like The Sage remind us that traditional, hallmark beers are still relevant and a bridge between brewing past and brewing present.

As the colder months come upon us, this beer is good for warming the body and the soul and helping guide beer neophytes down the long, rocky road (as the bottle label suggests) towards beer nirvana. - Sal Mortillaro II


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