Nothing sets off my skepticism meter like reading marketing speak for a beer that uses an abundance of overtly lofty tones. I mean, of course the brewery that produces said beer is going to think it’s great, otherwise they would have never released it to the public in the first place. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer to let a beer speak for itself.

At the same time, though, I guess you can’t blame brewers for wanting to shout from the rooftops whenever they craft a beer they think is fascinating and wonderful, and one they believe fits into the extraordinary category. Take Mélange À Trois from the Nebraska Brewing Company, for instance. The words fascinating, wonderful and extraordinary all appear on either the product label or in the commercial description. Reading them, you’d no doubt be curious as to what lies beneath the bottle cap, but the obvious question then becomes whether the beer lives up to such praiseworthy prose.

Nebraska Brewing Melange A Trois bottle

In terms of history, Mélange À Trois has been around since 2008. It was the first beer produced in Nebraska Brewing’s Reserve Series, and since then it has gone on to win widespread acclaim at competitions around the country. The baseline beer is a Belgian-style blonde ale, which according to the brewery, is made extraordinary by aging it for six months in French oak chardonnay barrels. Those same barrels, incidentally, are sourced a second time to create Barrel Aged HopAnomaly and again a third time for Apricot au Poivre Saison.

Getting back to Mélange À Trois, this is a beer whose flavor profile features a fruit medley consisting of not only the chardonnay grapes, but also tropical fruits and tart green apples. Wood tones and a hint of funk add complexity to both taste and aroma, as does a soothing vanilla sweetness that helps to give the beer a sort of creamy texture that begins mid-palate. From there, oak tannins work to dry things out as a mild bitterness emerges ahead of the slightly warm finish.

Nebraska Brewing Melange A Trois

From the standpoint of body and feel, I’d describe Mélange À Trois as being medium-full, with bright, but not biting carbonation levels. The latter isn’t really enough to lighten the load, so to speak, but the beer still maintains a high degree of drinkability. That said, Mélange is a sipper, thanks in no small part to an ABV of 11.3-percent.

Nebraska Brewing Mélange À Trois
BREWERY: Nebraska Brewing Co.`
LOCATION: La Vista, Neb.
STYLE: Belgian-style blonde ale
ABV: 11.3 percent
IBU: 31
PRICE: $17.49
RELEASE DATE: 2008
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml bottles
BEERS POURED: One
Answering the question of whether or not Mélange À Trois stands up to its billing, at least for me it's probably one of the better applications of chardonnay barrels I've had in recent memory. More often than not, beers like this come across as too dry and vinous for my particular taste. That's not to say Mélange isn't dry or infused with a wine-like character, it's just that here these qualities don't define the beer. Rather, they become a part of something greater built on the foundation of what was probably a pretty good Belgian to begin with. It's like I always say, when it comes to barrel-aged beers, it's all about the balance.
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