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Classic Pilsner Meets Over-the-Top Experiment: A Tale of Two Deep Ellum Beers

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Deep Ellum Brewing has resurrected several recipes in the past two months, and two of them — the Rye Pils and the Barrel Aged Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout — couldn't be more different. It's the sort of paradox beer writers love, and DFW should thank its lucky stars for such divergent outpourings from the same set of brewing tanks.

The Deep Ellum Barrel Aged Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout (known to lovers of brevity as the "DEBACCDBS") is a kitchen-sink expansion on the recipe for the Double Brown Stout. It comes housed in a silkscreen cardboard box printed with a short list of the beer's many ingredients and several smacks of pink lipstick. If you decant the beer into a snifter in the comfort of your own kitchen, expect a pitch-black pour with a dark tan head that dissipates almost immediately, leaving behind the strong aroma of vanilla and bourbon.
Mercifully, the many flavors in its name space themselves out over the course of a sip. The bourbon character charges forth first, plowing over any subtlety in its boozy wake. The cherry character follows this bold opener, tart like real cherries rather than the cloying sweetness of the maraschino poised in a woman's mouth on the beer's box. As for the titular chocolate, it’s relegated to the caboose of the taste train — besides a candy lacing in the DEBACCDBS’ residual finish, the other flavors dominate the glass. There are some unadvertised dimensions to this bottle, too: the taste of toasted almonds, the bold assertion of oak. Overall, DEBACCDBS is a beer for the Feast of Feasts, where its imbibers can do backstrokes through its flavorful bounty after months of subsisting on a penitent's diet.

If the DEBACCDBS is the Robert Rauschenberg in Deep Ellum’s gallery, the Rye Pils is their Donald Judd. Though they’ve revamped the recipe from a few years back, the premise is still simple: a German pilsner with rye in the grain bill. Sure, there’s been a spate of easy drinkers from Deep Ellum recently, but when one of your personal cerveza gurus describes a beer as possibly the best thing Jeremy Hunt & Co. have ever released, you sit up and take note.

We scouted Rye Pils on draft at Buzzbrew’s Lakewood location. The pint presented like a painting, straw-colored with an unfiltered golden haze. It smelled grainy and light, the more respectable edition of your dad’s post-lawncare cold one. From the first tip of the glass, it was obvious this isn’t your granddad's pilsner: The Rye Pils is a beer with presence. There’s no adjunct-weakened bitterness of certain Rocky Mountain macros here. The Rye Pils is assertive in its mouthfeel, sanding off the bite of the rye but retaining its weight. The hops do their part to keep the beer structurally sound but don’t call unnecessary attention to themselves (good Germans they are). It’s proof that American brewers can take on the Old World styles without always gorging their brewtanks with whole cones of Simcoe. The beer’s finish is immaculate, departing your palate with the slightest taste of lightly salted popcorn. Whatever your beer mood is this week, Deep Ellum has you covered. If you want to dive deep into bold American experiments in brewing, you can do that. If you want a break from the endless pioneering of American craft brewing and just want to kick back with a classic, well, you can still do that too, all without switching labels. 

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