The first time I tasted The Pit & The Pendulum, SweetWater’s new cork-and-caged brettanomyces beer with peaches, it was at a little media gathering and we mulled over other potential Edgar Allen Poe-inspired beer names that the brewery might be able to use in the future. You know, “Raven Black IPA.” “The Tell-Tale Tart.” Or my personal favorite, “Cask of Amontillado-aged Imperial Stout.” Pointless, yes, but you gotta admit there’s a lot of source material there.
But I digress. Pit & The Pendulum is one of SweetWater’s first releases since acquiring a cork-and-cage bottle filler from Brooklyn Brewing, and the brewery is looking at the series as a chance to experiment with more eclectic, limited styles. It’s a Belgian ale of the unspecified sort, fermented with a traditional Belgian ale yeast before then being inoculated and aged on a bunch of fresh Georgia peach puree. Inquiring about the quantity, it works out to roughly a pound per gallon of peaches, which is, suffice to say, a bunch of peaches.
On the nose, this beer displays a lot of its Belgian yeast characteristics, along with some of the brettanomyces influences. Funk is light but detectable, with a bit of barnyard aromatics but lots of Belgian spice as well as some fruity esters—more “farmhouse ale” than “American wild ale.” The peaches are there too, but the peach aromatics are well-balanced with the spice and don’t really explode out of the glass.
Where the peaches do pop, though, is in terms of flavor. On the palate, the fruit of Pit & The Pendulum comes forward much more strongly, with beautifully rounded, juicy peach flavors—quite literally like a freshly juiced peach. Residual sweetness is moderate, but not so much that anyone would accuse it of being overly so, and it still manages to finish dry. The funk and spice of the nose is pushed more to the background, and here you’re just reveling in the stone fruit flavors—like lightly sweet peach custard.
At this point, as they hit stores, bottle-conditioned containers of Pit & The Pendulum are certainly more fruit-forward than funk-forward, at least in terms of flavor. It will be interesting to see how they develop, if the fruit fades away some more and the brettanomyces continues to work in bringing the funk to the foreground. Regardless, though, this is probably beer meant to be appreciated now, at its freshest and most lively, and I believe that’s the spirit SweetWater’s brewers created it in. Lovers of peach beer will want to check this one out.
Brewery: SweetWater Brewing Co.
City: Atlanta, GA
Style: Belgian-style ale with peaches
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles
Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor, and he wants every future SweetWater beer to be Poe-themed. You can follow him on Twitter.