Review: Oaken Barrel Epiphany 2021

By Michelle Railey, the palate-deficient.

You can see last year’s review of Epiphany here

Here we are at the Oaken Barrel in Greenwood, Indiana. Again.

And, it’s the holidays! So the annual winter blend of Epiphany is back.

The facts? Belgian Tripel. Roughly 9.5% ABV. Limit 2.

They sold out of the six-packs today because, as the staff say ”it’s good” and ”people like it.”

It’s still on draft and will be until they run out of it. So let’s review this seasonal delight, shall we?

Note number one: Anecdotally, I’ve seen lots of people order it, drink it, like it, order another. I’ve also heard people say things like ”oh, the epiphany is very good this year.”

If you like Belgian Tripels and wheat beers, of course it is very good this year. The Barrel is good at what they do and all.

I was talking to a guy who, himself, brews. He said that it was one of the best beers Oaken Barrel has ever made and a superior version of a Belgian, known for its yeast. (He then extemporized on phenols and such and, well, he was very friendly, scientific, and knowledgeable but the end result was: Epiphany = good.)

Person two at the bar (a Real Person) said he got apples and citrus on the first drink and on the scent. He said his second drink and the back end went straight to wheat.

Person three at the bar (also Real Person) said ”bitter bananas” and gave thumbs down. But then she added the qualifier that she doesn’t really like that kinda beer.


Bartender L, whom we love, said that general feedback on the Epiphany has been very positive overall.

And then we come to my review. (And I write all this with no disrespect and apparently a severely broken palate. Oh, and so much affection for the Oaken Barrel, their staff, and their brewers.)

As a preface to how broken my palate is when it comes to, say, wheat beers: (1) I don’t like ’em. I like hops. All the hops. All the time. (2) Most wheat beers/non-hopped beers taste to me like choking to death on a dinner roll. I mean it. (3) Last year’s Epiphany reminded me of wonder bread plus those sour cherry candy things that are crunchy outside but gummy inside? And (4) this year’s review:

Epiphany smells and tastes to me like, in this exact order: King’s Hawaiian Rolls, Turkey Gravy. Raw Bacon/under-cooked bacon. Ham. Spam. Spam residue. HOT DOG WATER.

I took a pause. I ate a couple ice cubes. I tried again.

Sodium nitrite (which the internet assures me is used for pork products and not used for beer). Ham, bacon, SPAM, and hot dog water.

(I just smelled it again to make sure. And I tasted it. It is quite smooth. And I’m still getting pork product from it. And maybe the banana thing?)

Again: I am not the prototypical Epiphany experience. Most people love it. And I was never built to.

But the hot dog factor is quite a surprise.

Or, if you’d rather:

At any rate. The Oaken Barrel makes mighty fine craft beers, really and truly. (Might I recommend Gnaw Bone, which is in my Holy Trinity of craft ales?). They’ll have Epiphany on tap until, probably actual Epiphany, which is when they generally run out. You should try it. Most people think (a) it’s quite good and (b) tastes nothing like hot dog water.

As ever, a very special thank you to everyone at the Oaken Barrel, including brewers, staff, and regulars; also the guy in the yellow clothes. And, to L, bartending tonight but always a dear friend in my heart.

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