Continuing a tradition started in 2007, Reunion Ale ’14 is the eighth annual release in a series of beers whose proceeds are donated directly to the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research. Conceived by Alan Shapiro, founder of SBS Imports, and the creator of Pete’s Wicked Ale, Pete Slosberg, it’s brewed in memory of their friend and co-worker Virginia MacLean, who lost her battle with multiple myeloma in 2007.
In terms of a product timeline, the first two beers were brewed by the Bison Brewing Company of Berkely, Calif., while collaborations with other breweries began in 2009. The Terrapin Beer Company of Athens, Ga. came on board that same year, and has been involved with the project ever since.
- Reunion Ale ’07 — Bison Brewing Company — imperial brown ale
- Reunion Ale ’08 — Bison Brewing Company — organic red rye ale
- Reunion Ale ’09 — Bison/Terrapin/Pizza Port/Elysian — double wheat ale
- Reunion Ale ’10 — Bison/Terrapin — Belgian-style Scotch ale
Since 2011, Terrapin has partnered with the Shmaltz Brewing Company of Clifton, N.Y. in crafting Reunion Ale, and for the first three years the two companies handled the production and distribution of the beer independently. However, with Terrapin involved in the construction of a new brewery, those responsibilities fell to Shmaltz exclusively in 2014.
- Reunion Ale ’11 — Ale brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla and chili pepper flavor
- Reunion Ale ’12 — Ale brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla and cinnamon.
- Reunion Ale ’13 — Ale brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee
- Reunion Ale ’14 — Ale brewed with toasted coconut, cocoa nibs, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee
Considering the recent history of Reunion Ale, it’s easy to see that from 2011 and beyond, subsequent recipes are more or less a variation on a theme. The base recipe is an imperial brown ale, to which a few specialty ingredients are added in hopes of crafting a dark ale of distinction.
For 2014, the flavor evolution involves the addition of toasted coconut, although if you ask me I don’t really get a sense of that ingredient when drinking this particular varietal. Even so, at least initially, what’s left of Reunion Ale’s mix of ingredients comes together rather well. An earthy chocolate tone attributable to the cocoa nibs is noticeable right way, followed by notes of graham crackers, cinnamon and vanilla.
After a few sips, though, it’s the coffee infusion that really defines this beer. At warmer temperatures, a raw coffee character starts to muscle it’s way in, more or less taking over the taste and altering the beer’s flavor balance. Depending on your own tastes, of course, that could be for better or for worse.
Regarding the finish and feel of Reunion Ale ’14 , bitterness from the roast is what’s most prevalent heading into the aftertaste, it having an almost charred malt character. There’s a hint of sweetness from a late flourish of cinnamon and vanilla as well, but it’s not really enough to alter the bitter perception. The beer is relatively light-bodied with brisk carbonation, and where in prior years there may have been a touch of warmth, here there’s virtually no hint of the underlying 8-percent ABV.