When it comes to New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day, it is of course impossible to avoid the association of sparkling wine and champagne with each evening (and morning) suite of festivities. The New Year, with its ever-optimistic sheen, is the #1 occasion on a yearly basis for the consumption of bubbles, which can occasionally leave beer in the lurch. There is one arena of craft beer that can substitute itself as a very appropriate alternative, though, and that is wild ales.
Your classic, mixed fermentation wild ale (with or without fruit) is the ideal New Year’s Eve beer, for its blend of tartness, funk, fruit and complexity, all of which give these beers the ability to ably stand in for a glass of brut or prosecco. In fact, many wild ales surpass bubbly in terms of their sheer volume of flavor they’re delivering per point of ABV, being more aggressively tart and vivaciously funky, depending on the brand. Regardless, there’s no reason you can’t pop a 750 ml bottle of wild ale instead of champagne, doling it out in flutes for the occasion.
This comparison was clearly not lost on Massachusetts’ Springdale Beer Co., the ale-bound offshoot of beloved lager manufacturers Jack’s Abby. Their NYE celebration brew is titled Gilded & Aged, and it comes not in standard 750 ml bottles, but 1.5L magnums designed to truly lean into the festal vibes of the season. Does that limit the number of occasions you’re likely to crack one of these bad boys open? Sure, but it more than makes up for it with the novelty of decanting a huge bottle of wild ale for a group of friends.
Gilded & Aged takes its champagne parody to heart from conception—this is a mixed fermentation golden ale that was “aged in wine barrels and fermented with champagne yeast and grape must.” As the brewery puts it, the beer “pairs well with countdowns and new beginnings.” It weighs in at a pretty burly 10.8% ABV, which certainly puts it in wine-adjacent territory. Wanting to have a chance to write about this guy in time for New Year’s Day, I cracked mine a little bit early. So with that said, let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, Gilded & Aged is quite tart and fruit forward, to the point that if I was drinking this completely blind, I would most definitely have placed it as a fruited sour—which I suppose it is, given the presence of some grape must/juice. The nose doesn’t suggest wine grapes all that strongly to me, though—instead it’s a lovely and bright bouquet of citrus and especially stone fruit, with big and juicy aromatics of peach, apricot or passionfruit. This is supplemented by a mild funkiness and the brief suggestion of leather and brettanomyces.
On the palate, this one is again quite fruity, with more clean citrus and tons of peach and passionfruit, which meld into moderate tannin and funky, brett-like character. It’s one of those wild ales that opens quite sweet and fruity/tangy, with moderate relative tartness, before becoming significantly more dry as the tannin takes over and brings it to an oakier, funkier conclusion. Again, tasting this blind I would likely think that large amounts of stone fruit had been involved, as this is how the grape element is presenting here.
All in all, it’s quite a tasty profile, the only potential downside being that for me this is the kind of beer that is difficult to drink in bulk, as the mounting level of tartness will eventually become overwhelming. In fact, the champagne flute presentation is ideal in my opinion, though it does mean one will likely need a big group of friends to polish off a 1.5L bottle. For a group of beer lovers, though, I can’t think of a finer way to ring in the New Year.
Brewery: Springdale Beer Co.
City: Framingham, MA
Style: Mixed fermentation wild ale
Availability: Limited, 1.5L bottles
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.