Today is the one day of the Beer Advent Calendar that I subvert the process and pick something for entirely selfish reasons (which may not even be a Christmas beer), because today is my birthday! And this year is particularly special because this happens to be the big 4-0 for me—yes, that’s right, today is my 40th birthday.
We actually celebrated last night with a big party my wife organized at McMenamins Old St. Francis School, and while I have to give big thanks to brewer Mike “Curly” White for putting a special one-off keg of beer on tap in my honor—”Back 40 Double IPA”—it was only a single keg available for the one time so it would seem a bit unfair to tease you all with it.
So today’s pick comes from another small Bend, Oregon brewery, one that just opened earlier this year and which may well be the most unique commercial craft brewery on the West Coast (if not the country): The Ale Apothecary; and the beer itself is the flagship Sahalie.
Brewmaster Paul Arney is hand-crafting this and other beers in small (1-barrel) batches that all undergo some level of wild (spontaneous) fermentation and every step of the brewing process (except for the boil) is conduction in wood: mash tuns made from barrels (or in the case of Sahati, a large spruce tree trunk!), primary fermenter, and barrels for secondary fermentation. Sahalie is his primary vision and may well be the Platonic ideal of beer (for Arney). The end product is a complex, unique ale that will evolve over time: perfect for cellaring.
(As an additional birthday treat, Arney stopped by the party last night and dropped off the first three bottles of Sahalie (along with two goblets and an extra birthday beer) as part of my newly-purchased Ale Club membership. Happy birthday to me, indeed!)