Unique Would Be an Understatement
A Review of Arquebus by Cambridge Brewing Co.
Posted on 10/10/2012 by Chops
                   
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In my last two reviews, I highlighted brews from the Cambridge Brewing Company. One was the Tall Tale Pale Ale from their core line. The other was the Coach and Four Belgian Dubbel from their seasonal line. Both were very tasty brews and I was pleased with the experience. But, I still needed to fulfill my unwritten obligation as a beer geek and sample the craziest thing they had available. That search didn't take long. Arquebus, a 14% ABV Summer Barleywine. Yes, let that nugget mull around in your brain for a few moments. At this point you are probably scratching your head much like I did. Summer Barleywine? That's a bit like saying ''winter witbier''. It just doesn't make any damn sense. But, I applaud any attempt to give birth to a new beer style, so my taste buds gave the green light to proceed.

But before diving in, I should note that Arquebus refers to ''a primitive firearm which came into use in the 15th Century, and was a predecessor to the musket and rifle. A smoothbore with a flared muzzle, similar but more refined and accurate than its predecessor the Blunderbuss ... it was capable of piercing the strong, full-plate armor worn into battle.''

A beastly brew named after a primitive armor-piercing gun. Needless to say, this beer's description damaged my calm.

In the glass, this beer has a hazy charred orange coloration. It comes with a sudsy eggshell white head that dissipates very quickly. After one whiff you can't help but lean back and shake your head. This beer is a monster. My very first impression was that of a potent candied orange liquor resting on top of a toasted bread base. The alcohol aroma itself is very sweet, like candied citrus or tropical schnaps. To be perfectly honest, it smells like someone pureed a bag those candy orange slices with a fifth of vodka. And being adverse to liquor in general, it took me a few minutes to build up courage for that first sip.

My first taste can be summarized in a single word: fascinating. Arquebus drinks like a mixer. To me, it actually tastes a lot like an amaretto sour with beery undertones. A strong alcohol burn follows you everywhere you go, so best to make peace with it. But, it's more of a sweet tang than a warm burn. It should go without saying that this beer is an obligate sipper despite its fruity nature. The mouthfeel is really interesting to study. It's smooth as silk to start, but immediately morphs into a powerful tart fruity middle ground. It finishes strong and sticky with lots of alcohol presence. I would say the most surprising aspect about this beer is its approachability. It's actually pretty light for a barleywine, despite the huge ABV. The concept is easy to grasp once you've had a few sips.

Overall, the Cambridge Arquebus Summer Barleywine is a fascinating brew. It's huge, meaty, fruity, tangy, and a lot of fun to study. Unique would be a gross understatement and I have to recommend this beer to any seasoned drinker with a honed imperial palate. Everyone else should treat this beer with the respect it deserves. Novices especially should stay away from this beer. It's mean and merciless, despite the summery vibe. Sure, it's a flavorful dessert-type beer, but it packs one hell of a punch.

And so concludes my experience with the Cambridge Brewing Company. I greatly enjoyed my visit and look forward to the day I can return. So to anyone visiting the Boston area, be sure to stop by the CBC. You won't be disappointed.

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Arquebus by Cambridge Brewing Co.
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