TRVE is a heavy metal brewery. It employs all the iconography of metal music. The team there embraces black colors, and dark imagery of death and the devil. Their bottled beer label designs are straight out of a heavy metal album design playbook with designs of the devil, dark symbolism and colors, favoring some sort of mix of black and one other color. But TRVE’s beer is anything but thrashing guitars and bass lines.
Started in 2011, TRVE specializes in aged and wile wild ale (or sour) beers that continue to gain popularity in the American Craft Beer scene. They’ve created a lineup of well crafted and nuanced beers that play with the darker elements of metal while also honing on those deeper cuts, the more nuanced view of music and beer where the grim exterior is brought to life through subtlety and craftsmanship.
TRVE has slowly rolled out distribution to major markets across the country. Their wild beers come in beautiful glass bottles. Recently, I sat down with a bottle of their dry-hopped, foeder aged saison, Ancient Bole, which means old tree trunk or branch. The beer’s name is inspired by the beautiful trees that became the foeder the beer matured in. Foeders are large wooden horizontal fermenting and conditioning vessels that wineries have traditionally used to age large batches of wine.
Foeders have become popular in beer as people become more interested in aging beer. A foeder allows a brewer more control over larger batches of aging beer generally, and allows brewers to experiment with wild yeast strains on a larger scale specifially. Instead of having to taste and blend smaller batches of barrel-aged beers, brewers have a more consistent product in a foeder. As more beer drinkers become interested in sour and wild ales, the use and demand for foeders grows. In turn, so does the need to chop down ancient trees.
Trees are civilization builders. While we continue to chop down forests, it’s easy to forget how important trees have been to humans.
The foeder adds a nice touch of notes of spice and wood and a tart edge.”
We build homes from timber. The Vikings and other explorers used wooden boats to traverse the Atlantic Ocean. They give us life and fire, allowing us to cook and stay warm in the winter. They’re homes to wildlife. They’re food for animals and grow food for us – its not an apple rock after all. Religions have created their own motifs around the “tree of life.”
In norse mythology there is the “World tree.” It’s a huge tree that holds up the heavens and its roots touch the underworld. In between is the world we inhabit. Norse mythology and its gods, as well as its dark intones and stories, are important in literature and in heavy metal — there’s even an entire sub-genre called Viking Metal.
For Ancient Bole, the foeder adds a nice touch of notes of spice and wood and a tart edge, compliments the barnyard nature and dry-finish of a saison. The only drawback is the El Dorado dry-hopping. In theory, adding some of El Dorado’s tropical fruit notes makes a lot of sense in today’s beer market, which craves juicy, fruity beers, and orange milkshakes. But, the hops’ watermelon aromas reach into Jolly Rancher territory and take away from it’s beautiful golden hue and sour touch. I wanted more of the tart barn notes with more of the rare pear notes El Dorado can give off.
This homage to a slower, more melodic metal song, something in the middle of an album or set to reset the mood and tone, was well-balanced and intentioned. I did thirst for another when i finished thanks to its sour notes, which get the mouth watering.
Thinking about the name of the beer, it brought me back to the wood and the possibilities of foeders. Some of the best beers I’ve drank over the past few years have aged in wood and resisted the power push for more potent hops. They’re subtle and easy to drink and feel alive. They dance with a certain rage but know when to let go and linger in the silent moments.