Tom: One weekend in the Summer I purchased at sample pack of Summit beers which included their Pils, Belgian Wit, Hefe, and Pale. This was my first experience with this brewery and I was not left wanting. The beers were solid and close to style. I had their Horizon Red ale in the Fall and fell in love with it. Apparently, and without posting anything on their website, they started an Unchained Series. These brews are special because they have are limited. They come with different labels (see picture) and carry the signature of the brewer (if that validates anything). I missed trying the 1st batch which was a Kolsch, but found a six pack of Batch #2.

It is a Scottish-style 90/- (strong ale) brewed with Heather. It was a deep copper beer that held a beige ¼ inch head for a couple minutes then settled. The aroma was very unique with the addition of Heather which is found in the bogs and marshes of Scotland. The aroma had a sweet caramel, toffee, and biscuit overtone with a flowery herbal layer. The way these two complimented each other reminded of the Sam Adams Honey Porter. Before the days of hops, other plants were used for their bittering qualities. I found myself wondering if Heather was one of these plants. It had a slightly bitter/spicy aspect giving a bite while helping to sweeten the nose and flavor in the finish.

The taste had a big toasty malt body and a subtle hop presents. The ABV added some warmth coming in a 7.0%. The mouthfeel was medium-heavy and the aftertaste had hints of caramel, light honey, and a low medicinal herbal spice. It was smooth, rich, and distinct. I’d give it another try, but enjoy it with some meat and potatoes. Grade: B-

Michael: For whatever reason, I still had a single of Summit’s Unchained Series in the back of my fridge. With no date to indicate expiration or non-peak tasting time, I decided to divulge. Today was a busy one, with spring cleaning and nursery set-up, all in order to be prepared for the little one that soon will enter our world. I know full well that 20 minutes to sit, sip and scribe will be an oft-lacking gift in just a few short days, so with a porter already down, this brew was the next on deck.

First off, I love Summit. I’ve sampled their beers and many are delightful. But more than that, their home, is my old home, St. Paul, MN. So with that bias in mind, I poured and endulged. It seems to be an ever changing, bubbling mess of amber, brown and edges of orange. The head stays nicely, settling in comfortably at just a fraction of an inch. The smell isn’t pungent, my sniffs mostly taking in the paint and dirt on my hands, evidence of a hard day’s work. The taste is mostly spicy. I don’t mean like Cajun or Mexican, but more a blend of kitchen spices. I can envision the inspired Summit brewmaster, tossing in bits of heather and malt and yeast like a crazed scientist, seeking the breakthrough invention. While the malt presence held its own weight, the rest of the flavor was pretty much the spice and it left a bit to be desired. I had a home-brewer’s Scottish ale a few nights ago and while a seemingly well-crafted brew, it too was a one trick pony.

While I would sip this beer on occasion, I probably wouldn’t put a vote in for this Unchained to be a year-round regular either. Grade: B-

ABV: 7.0%

Final Grade: B-