Brewery: Elder Pine Brewing & Blending (Gaithersburg, MD)
Style: Red Ale – American Amber/Red
7% ABV / 66 IBU
Elder Pine’s status as a metal brewery has never been in doubt; the first time I stepped into the tap room, they were blasting metal. End of story. They’ve also developed an interesting relationship with the metalcore act August Burns Red over the last few years, starting with a fruited sour (Constellations: Antares) and a DIPA (Constellations: Pollux) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the band’s third studio album. Bones, a saison named after the centerpiece of the band’s newest album Guardians, followed last spring. And that brings us to the latest Elder Pine x August Burns Red collaboration Leveler, part of the tie-ins (including a livestream) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of that album. Suffice it to say, this brings a completely different meaning to the idea of a brewery’s “core line-up.”
Located just outside the D.C. Beltway, Elder Pine Brewing & Blending typically knocks it out of the park with anything tied to the Nordic brewing tradition. All of Elder Pine’s farmhouse ales are worth seeking out, but the brewery has undergone a more subtle evolution since its founding and now sports a secondary mission of experimenting with hops for bittering. When deployed thoughtfully, this can have a transformative effect on a more malt-forward style, like a lager. Or, in the case of Leveler, an American Amber – a highly specific style which is the accompaniment for Hill Country-style Texas barbecue.
In truth, a red ale can be pretty underwhelming and recent trends towards ennobling maligned styles by cranking up the ABV for “imperial” versions sacrifice drinkability for extremity. Leveler is unlike any American Amber I’ve sampled, but it is easily one of the best. It presents as a typical Amber ale, with lower carbonation and a beautiful color that almost resembles a glass of rosé wine. But it’s a red ale conceived like a West Coast IPA, with bold pine-y notes from the hops and an appealing bitterness that clings a bit to your palette. It’s pretty righteous and all you could ever want out of this style. Leveler is the truth, the truth, the truth, the truth.
For more info, check out Elder Pine here.