St. Louis-based Schlafly has reinvigorated their lineup this year with the systematic release of two different limited series of beers, the large-format “Ibex Rare” series, and the four-pack, less limited “Ibex from the Cellar” series. If you don’t know what an “Ibex” is, don’t feel too bad. I had to look it up. It’s a wild goat that lives in the European Alps. Cool. I like wild goats. Even though both of the beers we’re reviewing here share the same wild goat lineage, they couldn’t be more different. One is a bright, summer-friendly sour and the other is a deep, rich imperial stout. They’re both worth your time and money. It’s just a matter of what kind of beer you’re craving.
Gooseberry hits all of the gose style points: It’s low ABV at 4.5%, made with sea salt and coriander and a bit jarring on the first sip. Schlafly took it a step further with the addition of gooseberries. This is the third release in the Ibex “From the Cellar” series, and one that’s more suited to the warmer weather than the previous offerings. It pours cloudy yellow with a thin white head that disappears as soon as the beer settles. It smells mildly sweet. I’d say it smells like gooseberry, but I don’t think I’ve ever smelled a gooseberry, so I don’t know.
It’s more tart than some other goses I’ve encountered. It’s legitimately puckering and the layer of salinity is subtle when I first dig into the bottle. It’s there, on the backend, but I’d like to see more of it to help balance out the sour notes. Gooseberries themselves are usually pretty tart and are typically mixed with other berries when cooked in pies. Keep that in mind when you pick up this beer—it’s not a “beginner” sour. Nothing entry-level about it. The fruitiness that’s there comes off like tart cherry. It’s enticing, but I could honestly use a little more sweetness to balance out all the sour. But it’s a gose, so it’s refreshing, crisp and light and has “hot summer day” written all over it.
The Variant is a well-thought-out, well-executed beer. It’s a blended imperial stout, with some of the beer being aged in port barrels and some of the beer being infused with cocoa nibs. Put it together and you have a hell of a stout that’s worthy of a trip to St. Louis to try to track down.
The beer pours jet black with just a hint of rose around the edges. The chocolate head disappears pretty quickly and the whole thing smells like chili powder and chocolate. It has a full, creamy body but there’s also a chalky element to the mouthfeel. I like the idea of aging the beer in port barrels, and the port plays a pretty heavy role in the beer’s character, providing a tannic, wine-like quality to the taste and helping to contribute an astringency to the backend. There’s a mild layer of sweetness, mostly in the form of chocolate, but the port dominates the sip, especially as it warms in the glass.
It’s not a natural choice for a spring beer; Between the rich mouthfeel, the port character and high ABV (it’s no joke at 9.4%), it’s a beer that begs to be poured into a snifter and set on a table beside a roaring fire inside a library with many leather-bound books. But who am I to judge the timing? I’m just glad it’s here.