In “Sunday in the Park with George” Stephen Sondheim sets forth a tragic song Finishing the Hat, in which an artist, George Seurat, becomes so obsessed with his art that he loses touch with other aspects of his life.
Barleywine can be gripping and powerful, waking up to a cold Doordash order you fell asleep and never retrieved. Art can be all consuming.
The thing about pointillism is that small distinct dots are meticulously applied. It takes forever, and in the process you create a larger work. This works for lagers and main line beers but the barleywine world needs a cohesive whole. When I heard that Cellarmaker was throwing its hat into the ring, I immediately wondered if they could finish the hat.
The name Batch 1000 tips the brim to the likes of Midnight Sun M, for their 1000th batch, but also echoes Fremont’s B1k which set the barleyworld ablaze in more modernity. It’s a loaded beer name. It’s like naming an album “Self-Titled” or “The White Album” people are gonna have some expectations.
Thankfully, this doesn’t get mired on Seurat pointillism and presents a cohesive whole. At points, too much a whole. This is a collaboration with Anchorage Brewing, but it feels leaner and more spirit driven than the Devil line, despite the 17% abv callback. The fig jam is dolloped on rye bread, burned bagel chips provide the structure for the absolutely intense sheeting in the form of bruised plum, overripe peach, butterscotch, with a wafty Madeira meets fortified wine finish.
Finishing the Hat involves sacrificing experience to finish your art. You may be unable to finish this beer. The taste is sinewy and firey like DOMS, rye Manhattan crackling in your veins like speakeasy C4 pre-workout. The swallow provides a wave of fruit leather and slight unagi sauce.
It’s a beer for people who pretentiously back into parking spots. For dudes who take hoodies off overhead and slovenly show their entire abdomen. The bottle equivalent of the Fight Club assignment to start a fight and then lose on purpose. It is fantastic, but a loose cannon.
[drunk, to MS Paint] “Look, I made a hat. Where there was never was a hat. I called my ex nine times.”