When an artist loses a loved one, feelings are expressed through the art. Poems and books written; drawings and paintings created; music made. This cycle-of-life inspired art and craft can be as grand as the pyramids of Egypt or as humble as a child's drawing of a lost pet. Be Still from Ale Apothecary is somewhere in between.
Paul Arney's mother passed in 2013, and like any artist and craftsman, he started planning a beer in her honor. She was a woman who loved stouts, so the tribute would be as well. Known for boutique farmhouse and sour ales, Ale Apothecary's dark beer is destined to be for a narrow audience with adventurous palates.
Taking notes from other dark sour ales, Arney determined the best way to achieve the widest range of flavors was to remove the carbonation. This is risky because "still beer" doesn't fit into what most drinkers want beer to be. The Bordeaux bottle packaging and name both signify that Be Still isn't carbonated, but that still doesn't prepare the average beer drinker for this unique experience.
Be Still is a beer best served to wine fanatics. Some beer folks will enjoy it, but the perfect palate would be anyone who loves both Oloroso sherry and Oregon pinot noir. When served cold, the aroma is overwhelmingly that of the barrel influence: red fruits of pinot noir and the intensity of rye whiskey. As the beer warms, floral coffee and subtle chocolate notes expected of a stout come out.
The flavor is tart with a punchy sour finish. While cold, sherry-like flavors of dates and gold raisins are most notable. Closer to room temperature the cocoa nibs become a feature flavor.
Despite—or because of—the similarities to beer, sherry, and red wine, Be Still doesn't fit neatly into any category. It's a mysterious beverage that would puzzle any expert who didn't read the label before tasting. That could be the most entertaining way to enjoy this beer. Cover the label and pour it for a table of people who fancy themselves experts in wine and beer. The debate and conversation would be great.
As a tribute, Arney couldn't have done better. The purpose was to honor his mother and no doubt, she would have been. Be Still is more than a beer, it's a contemplative drink suited for getting lost in thought. It's a craftsman's expression of love and loss. Even the name Be Still is more than just a name, it's the words of a mother comforting her child. This beer is not for everyone; in fact, it's only for two people—Paul and his mother. Fortunately for us, we get to share in her memory through this complex beer.