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Great beer meets a great barrel at the Freakin’ Frog

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Freakin’ Frog owner Adam Carmer holds court — and the tap — during the cask tasting of Saison d’Erpe Mere Sunday night. About 40 showed up for the event, and the cask was completed drained in less than two hours.
Photo: Adam Bucci

It’s less than 24 hours after Sunday night’s cask beer tasting at the Freakin’ Frog, and I am still feeling the after-effects—not that I mind in the slightest.

Sunday’s tasting, the third in Freakin’ Frog’s cask beer series, featured Saison d’Erpe Mere from Brouwerjj de Glazen Toren in Belgium. This cask came courtesy of the Zymatore Project, sponsored by B. United International, which, on its website, explains its mission: To blend beers with barrels (in the case of Saison d’Erpe, fortified wine barrels with brandy residue). “With the direct cooperation of our breweries, we are introducing a line of barrel-aged beers/meads/sakes/distilled spirits that challenge the imagination, tantalize the palate and stimulate the imagination.”

Freakin’ Frog owner Adam Carmer told the group of 40 attendees that only 45 barrels of the Saison d’Erpe exist in the country (35 of those in Philadelphia. Go figure). “We are guaranteed a keg every month,” he added, failing to hide the excitement he clearly felt at the prospect. After all, Freakin’ Frog is where Las Vegans go to experience unheard-of beers. This cask series is taking that experience to a whole different level.

As Carmer inserted the tap into the keg, he explained that the 7.5 ABV Saison d’Erpe would likely be much higher in actual alcohol content due to the wine barrel mingling, leading many in the crowd to exclaim “Yeah!” As the first pour emerged, mostly foam, Carmer told everyone to get ready for “a complicated beer.”

This was the color of the Saison d'Erpe Mere -- at the beginning of the event. By the end, it was much darker and much cloudier (but still delicious).

This was the color of the Saison d'Erpe Mere -- at the beginning of the event. By the end, it was much darker and much cloudier (but still delicious).

He wasn’t wrong.

Most of the fun from Sunday night came from listening to everyone share what they were tasting in the beer. My first thought upon inhaling that massive head was “champagne.” Another gentleman offered, “Smells like fruit.” And still another said, “Lambic.”

As the pours continued, the beer’s color changed hue, from slightly cloudy with a muddled orange color, to stout-like clarity, but not as black. And as the colors changed, so did the flavors. Now I was tasting cider—or was it pears? One man could be heard to say “Glorious!” while another called it “Exquisite!” The line for seconds, thirds and fourths was never-ending.

Then there was the food Carmer served during the event. First up was a garlic-heavy pizza, which really brought out other flavors in the Saison. Sausage with peppers and onions was a welcome bit of protein, but the real winner of the night were the cold noodles Carmer served up in plastic bowls. They contained small chunks of carrots and onions, and had a nice spicy bite to them. Carmer quizzed us all on what the “secret ingredient” was. No one could figure it out. Carmer then reached back on a sideboard in the corner of the room and produced a 138-proof bottle of Absinthe. “This is what you’re tasting!” he said. Let’s hope this gets added to his menu soon. These babies will be popular with at least one regular customer.

As the keg emptied, attendees didn’t want to leave, finding much to talk about with fellow alcohol enthusiasts. My thanks, by the way, to a man named John, who bought me a shot of The Knot, an Irish whiskey that’s the closest thing to bourbon I’ve ever tasted.

Now if I can just shake this hangover in time for the next one …

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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