I normally shy away from fruit/berry beers. I generally find them too cloying and light on actual beer flavor. While there are a TON of examples of great fruit beers, there are certainly many that just don’t cut it.
This one avoided the filter by having its base beer be a Black Ale. Black Ales are one of my favorite styles, and I couldn’t imagine a way that the addition of a bit of berry flavor could completely dominate the roasted malt and burnt acridity that comes with a Black Ale. Here’s how William’s Brothers describe Ebulum:
Introduced to Scotland by Welsh druids in the 9th Century, elderberry black ale was part of the Celtic Autumn festivals when the “elders” would make this strong ale and pass the drink round the people of the village. The recipe was taken from a 16th Century record of domestic drinking in the Scottish Highlands. Elderberries were used for many natural remedies to cure sciatica, other forms of neuralgia, influenza and rhumatism as they contain tannins and fruit oils. Ebulum is made from roasted oats, barley and wheat boiled with herbs then fermented with ripe elderberries.
I can enjoy a bit of anthropological brewing, especially when it falls right in a style that I really enjoy.
Ebulum pours a dark brown with mocha-brown head that lasted only seconds. Fruit dominates the nose with roasted malts coming through underneath with some caramels and burnt sugar.
There is a fruit sweetness up front which is quickly covered by a deep roast malt flavor, flowing into a nice acrid bite. There’s a lingering berry flavor without any sort of cloying sweetness. Very nice. The beer is smooth without being very heavy with a nice, crisp carbonation.
Overall, a very nice beer. I’m usually not one for fruit beers, but the roasted, acrid notes work really well to cut the cloying sweetness you sometimes end up with in a fruit beer.