The craft beer scene in Arizona has been booming strong and steady for the past several years. Among this new generation of craft breweries is Helio Basin Brewing Co which has quickly been gaining ground in their reputation for delivering quality not only when it comes to beer but also food, providing something truly unique for people to enjoy and more importantly something that stands out as truly unique to Arizona.
In December 2016 Helio Basin began working on a project to produce a beer that would be used for their first bottle release. After some brainstorming it was decided that they would craft a Belgian Honey Blond Ale aged in wine barrels. The amount of effort it takes to produce a beer can be easily and often taken for granted, especially one that gets aged in a barrel. When envisioning a beer for their first bottle release Helio Basin did not shy away from these efforts because after tasting the end result it seems to me that they wanted to make a statement.
They first sought out to use locally sourced honey and found the right fit with Crockett Honey out of Tempe, AZ which has been in business since the 1940’s, selecting honey made from Arizona mesquite flowers which provided the perfect balance needed for this project.The next phase in this process required the use of oak Barrels, more specifically barrels which had previously housed wine, the idea being to amplify and compliment the beer intended to fill said barrels. Enter Paul Hobbs Winery of the Russian River Valley. Having been described as the “Steve Jobs” of wines for imagination, creativity, and diversity with pushing the boundaries of what wine could be these barrels were the ideal host for the beer they had in mind.
Splitting the batch into two separate barrels, one previously housing Chardonnay and the other Pinot Noir, each yielding something different but so exquisitely amazing. When tasted in the middle of the aging process it was concluded that at 6 months the beer had exceeded expectations. Now with an additional 6 months to it’s aging the time has come to share this labor of love with the public so those who will have the privilege of acquiring it will have the same experience the brewers and a select few of us who were able to preview this liquid gold. This beer is nothing short of incredible!
“Barrel Aged Bee’s Knees” is a beer I’m proud to say was brewed here in AZ and is really the best of both worlds for beer and wine drinkers and you don’t have to like both to enjoy this beer. This first thing you will want to do is savor the nose once you’ve poured it. You will catch an undeniable wine presence; aromas of grape, fruit and something sweet lingering in the background. Your first few sips you almost want to fight the urge to chew the beer to appreciate the notes of oak that are now infused into the flavor profile and compliment the honey and fruity aspects of it’s taste. Interestingly the decision to not add any forced carbonation was an excellent choice one that ensured no bite to the back end swallow making the mouthfeel incredibly light, almost fluffy.
Overall the beer was very much like my experience being invited to preview this release: incredibly exciting and leaving me wanting more!