Friday, July 26, 2013

Beer Review: Xyauyu Barrel

Reviewing the Xyauyu Barrel from Birrificio Le Baladin out of Italy.

Score: 35

Brewed in 2008, bottled in an unknown year. This beer is "oak aged," probably in ex-bourbon barrels. Served in a 2012 WLV Zwanze Day tulip and enjoyed on 06/12/13.

Appearance: Pours a dark bourbon copper color with a reddish hue. No head off the pour. No lacing, no retention. Looks as flat as a matzoh. 1/5

Smell: Super acetone-y. There's a nice vanilla cake and caramel aroma for a brief second, but then a pungent smell of cheap clear tequila with a dash of blue curacao and nail polish hits you over the head like a two-by-four. Hint of cigarette butts too. This horrible medley of stink lingers in the nose for a few seconds and each whiff seems worse than the last. The pungent stink grows as it warms too. Bleh! This one is almost un-smellable. 1.5/5

Taste: The nice vanilla notes from the nose come through much better in taste with a mix of caramel and sweet bourbon. No cheap tequila in the flavor, but there is still acetone (albeit substantially less than the nose). Raisin and fig towards finish. Not bad, certainly better than expected given the nose, but a total lack of carbonation and acetone flavors ruin its potential. 2.5/5

Mouthfeel: I've had soda that I left on the counter for an hour with more carbonation with this beer. Full bodied, very viscous. Soaks mouth with flavor. 3.5/5

Overall: I'll "show you" the drain. Don't ever buy this. In fact, don't even bother drinking it. Tickers beware.

Cost: $50 for a 500 ml bottle.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beer Review: Central Waters Fifteen

Reviewing Fifteen from Central Waters Brewing Company out of Amherst, Wisconsin. This beer is Fourteen Fourteen aged for an additional fourteen months. Fourteen Fourteen, in turn, is Satin Solstice aged for fourteen months in select fourteen year old bourbon barrels (essentially their Bourbon Barrel Stout with extra TLC). In short, this beer is Satin Solstice aged for twenty-eight months in choice fourteen year old bourbon barrels.

Score: 93

January 2013 vintage bottle served in a Portsmouth snifter and enjoyed on 02/24/13. Review is adapted from iPhone notes. I lost my original photo, so I am using the picture I took of my tap pour at the Local Option during Chicago Craft Beer Week.

Appearance: Pour a deep brown color with a nearly black colored core and a caramel-brown halo when held up to light. Minimal bubbly tan head off the pour. Oily lacing, minimal retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Vanilla, alcohol (not quite "fusel" but the booziness is apparent in the nose), bourbon, molasses, chocolate and faint coconut. Dark fruit too, but not as much as 1414. The nose is more "barrel" and less "stout" than Fourteen Fourteen. 4.5/5

Taste: Boozy bourbon, fudge, oak and smooth vanilla primarily. Hints of raisin, licorice and fig. A little caramel too. Lots of barrel flavor here, and the bourbon qualities outweigh the chocolatiness. The marry of the chocolate and oak is noticeably choppy, and not as seamlessly integrated as Fourteen Fourteen was. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. A little dry, but not too dry. A little sweeter than I recall 1414 being. 4.5/5

Overall: I have had the opportunity to sample this beer off tap twice (at the release party and at Local Option during Chicago Craft Beer Week) and out of the bottle several times since the release. The bottles that I have had have been "hotter", "rougher" and less smoothly integrated in the flavor profile than the tap pours that I have had, and there has been some quality variation bottle-to-bottle as well. Fifteen is a very good beer, but Fourteen Fourteen -- both aged and fresh -- is the better beer. Fifteen needs to age a little in the bottle in my opinion.

Cost: $15 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beer Review: Bambic (Batch 4)

Reviewing the beer Bambic from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales out of Dexter, Michigan.

Score: 80

Batch 4, bottled 12/23/2011. Consumed 05/07/13 using an Upland snifter. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a hazy orange color with virtually no head. Minimal lacing, minimal retention. 3/5

Smell: The aroma is loaded with medicinal brett notes and yogurty funk. You know the smell of old wet wood that is left in the heat? There is some of that too mixed with spice and oak. The nose is certainly interesting, but I do not love it. 3.5/5

Taste: Tons of "sweat"-smelling funk in finish. Oak too. Substantially less yogurt quality, but more funk than the nose. Seriously, tons and tons of bretty funk here. Has a sharp, but not very strong, sharpness with a little lemon character. 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, minimal carbon. Decent tartness. Modestly dry. 3/5

Overall: A harsh, aggressively flavored funky beer. I see the flavor profile as polarizing, and its not something I prefer.

Cost: $10 for a 11.2 oz stubby bottle.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Beer Review: Heaven's Gate

Reviewing the Heaven's Gate from the Goose Island Brewpub (Clybourn) on out of Chicago, Illinois.

Score: 95

Tap pour served in a nonic pint glass and enjoyed on 07/11/13.

Appearance: Orangeish amber color; not quite "vibrant", but far from dull. Served with a layer of frothy head that sticks around as a thin coating atop. Awesome lacing and retention. Nice fresh IPA appearance. 4.5/5

Smell: Super tropical fruity and hoppy. Mango, passion fruit and leafy hops with only a hint of pine-iness. Excellent mix of the juicy and hoppy in the nose. 4.5/5

Taste: Really juicy upfront with a lingeringly bitter (and mildly acidic) finish. Passion fruit, mango and tangerine juiciness throughout. Complementary, but not prominent caramel malt backbone. The hops really shine in the finish. A little spiciness too. This beer is not "balanced" in the sense that it melds together into one delicious flavor, but is has a nice balance in the sense that it has two extreme flavor characters that clash well -- the sweet and juicy versus the bitter and acidic. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite medium bodied, excellent carbonation level. The bitterness is not sharp, but it layers nicely and sits heavy on the tongue. Somewhat slick and oily on the tongue too. 4.5/5

Overall: Passion fruity, tropical and bitterly hoppy. This is, quite frankly, the best IPA I have had from Goose Island to date. Provided you like galaxy hops, I highly recommend that you seek this out while it is still on draft!

Cost: $5 for a 16 oz pint, $16 for a 64 oz growler.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beer Review: Ephraim

Reviewing Ephraim from the Hill Farmstead Brewery out of Greensboro Bend, Vermont. This imperial pale ale is one of Hill Farmstead's most sought after non-bottled release. Major thanks to Fitz for helping me acquire this gem!

Score: 99

Exactly one week old 750 ml growler served in a Perennial snifter and enjoyed on 05/21/13.

Appearance: Pours a hazy golden straw color with two-plus fingers of white head that settle to a thin layer atop the glass. A layer of lacing coats the side of the glass and lingers forever. Excellent appearance for the style. My second glass (not pictured) was laden with floaties, however, which is why the appearance only gets a four out of five. 4/5

Smell: Dank, resinously piney hops and grapefruit smack you upfront. Pine sap, peach, mango, lemon, pineapple, caramel and a little bit of what can only be described as "fresh potting soil" (in a good way). Some spice and "dirty hops" too. This beer smells like a raw and hoppy tropical citrus bomb that is aggressively rough around the edges -- I could smell this beer all day. 5/5

Taste: Super bitter and juicy tropical citrus and piney hops. The bitter pine flavor really lingers on the palate. A lovely medley of grapefruit, pineapple juice, lemon zest, bitter orange rind and tangerine soak the palate. A little spicy caramel malt kick of flavor towards the finish that blends nicely with the piney bitterness. I absolutely love the aggressive hoppiness of this brew! 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with spot on carbonation to both give the hops life and let the bitterness linger on the tongue. Super oily, juicy and mouthwatering. If you let this elixir sit on the tongue for a few seconds, the bitter factor really kicks in. 5/5

Overall: A near perfect hoppy beer, which perfectly hit the spot after a long day of work on a perfect spring afternoon. This is much better than I recall it being back when I first had it at Darkness Day this year. Ephraim has all the juiciness and aggressively bitter hoppiness one desires in an IPA (er, imperial pale ale). Easily one of my top ten, possibly even top five, pale ale/IPA consumed to date. If you have not had a chance to try this yet, I highly recommend you seek out a growler pour while it is still in season and available at the brewery!

Cost: $10 for a 750 ml growler (no 2L fills available this time around).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beer Review: Cthulhu

Reviewing the Cthulhu from the Goose Island Brewpub (Clybourn) out of Chicago, Illinois.

Score: 95

Tap pour served in a 12 oz snifter and enjoyed on 07/11/13.

Appearance: Deep, dark brown in color; practically black in appearance. Vague ruby tones at the outer edges of the shiny body when held to the light. Served with just a ring of tan head around the glass. Below average lacing, but good retention. Imposing, but fresh in appearance. 4.5/5

Smell: Vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, chocolate and notes of raw oats (kind of like smelling a tube of Quaker Oats, only subtler here). Nice bourbon-forward nose without overwhelming the chocolatiness from the base. No roastiness. The more the beer warms up, the more marshmallowy vanilla that comes through in the nose. The vanilla character in the nose is quite reminisce of Three Floyd's Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord. Around room temperature, some twenty minutes after the beer was first poured, I detect some maple in my final wafts. The oat character gradually disappeared as this beer warmed up and aerated. 4.55

Taste: Tastes just like the nose. Bourbon, vanilla, marshmallows, brown sugar and chocolate with lingering caramel flavor. Really excellent flavor profile. The vanilla flavor is quite delicious, and as the beer warms up and layers on the tongue the marshmallowy vanilla flavor gradually intensifies. Bold and flavorful, but smooth. Just a touch of alcohol warmth without any boozy bite. There is a nice brown sugar and waffle syrup flavor complexity to the backbone flavor that shines best at room temperature. Overall, the brew reminds me of a vanilla-infused blend of fresh Bourbon County Brand Stout and the white wax (Elijah Craig 18) 50/50 Eclipse imperial stout on the nose without any of the "fresh" booziness of either. Quite excellent. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, very low carbonation. Sticky and slick. Sweet profile, but no sweeter than fresh Bourbon County Brand Stout. 4.5/5

Overall: This beer is a total vanilla bomb that is sweet, but not cloying. I loved how the notes of marshmallow, bourbon and chocolate complemented each other here, with the vanilla taking an increasingly prominent role as the beer warmed up. My only suggestion would be to add some roastiness or coffee flavor to help counterbalance the sweetness and add an additional layer of complexity.

Cost: $10 for a 12 oz pour.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Beer Review: Oak Aged Ten Fidy

Reviewing the Oak Aged Ten Fidy from Oskar Blues Brewing Company out of Colorado.

Score: 92

Growler pour served in a Hunahpu's snifter and enjoyed on 02/24/13 to celebrate the Oscars. Review is from iPhone notes. Thank you cosmicevan for the hookup. Sadly, I lost all but one photo from this tasting.

Appearance: Black as night. Thin head off pour totally settles. Nice lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Dark chocolate, oak and light hops. A little roast and biscuity malt too. Hint of coffee? 4/5

Taste: Tastes like Expedition Stout sans 90% of the hoppiness plus oak. More oak and light vanilla as it warms up. Nice chocolate flavor. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel is damn near perfect. Full bodied, low carbonation. Viscous and sticky. Dry finish. 5/5

Overall: Better than the barrel aged versions of Ten Fidy (Jim Beam and Wild Turkey aged), but not as good as the regular ol' stuff fresh.

Cost: Unknown.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beer Review: Jewbelation Vertical (Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Blend)

Reviewing the Jewbelation Vertical (Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Blend) from Shmaltz Brewing Company (He'Brew) out of Saratoga Springs, New York. This strong ale is a blend of He'Brew's eight, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteen and fourteenth anniversary beers, which was subsequently barrel aged in 6 year rye whiskey barrels. I have been sitting on this bottle for a few years.

Score: 93

2013 vintage bottle served in a Portsmouth snifter and enjoyed on 02/24/13 to celebrate the Oscars (and again on 5/18/13 during a Chicago Craft Beer Week tasting, pictured above on the far left). Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown color that is almost black in color. Not opaque, with amber highlights atop and bottom when held up to the light. A finger-plus of beige head off the pour. Good lacing and retention. 4.25/5

Smell: Figs, fudgey chocolate cake, dessert-y vanilla,  brown sugar, and non-boozy bourbon. Toffee, leather and caramel too. 4.5/5

Taste:  Caramel, toffee, vanilla, molasses and cocoa throughout with a touch of alcohol warmth in finish. There is a nice kick from the rye too. Tons of toffee and fig in finish. Dark fruit and plum are also present. Excellent medley of malty flavors and barrel character! 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, medium carbonation. Quite malty with a good sweetness, but it's not a "sweet" beer. A touch over carbonated, but that is nothing that letting the beer sit out on the counter for 30 minutes can't solve. 3.5/5

Overall: Easily He'Brew's best beer. If the carbonation was a little lower this would have been even better. I wonder if they'll ever attempt to replicate this beer by blending and barrel aging more recent vintages. I am glad I have a few more bottles of this, as it is aging wonderfully.

Cost: $12.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Beer Review: Pappy's Dark

Reviewing Pappy's Dark from Block 15 out of Corvallis, Oregon.

Score: 95

2013 vintage bottle served in a Portsmouth snifter and enjoyed on 02/24/13 to celebrate the Oscars. Review is from iPhone notes. Thank you Danny for the bottle!

Appearance: Pours a thin film of tan head. The body is dark reddish-brown in color, like a murky barleywine. Poor lacing, minimal retention. 4/5

Smell: Coconut, luscious vanilla, and a nice dessert-like sweetness that is reminisce of Scotty Karate. Freshly baked beer bread, cocoa powder and oak. Toffee and molasses complexities too. A little bit of alcohol is apparent. 4.5/5

Taste: Even more coconut on palate than nose! Good alcohol warmth upfront on palate, but not fusel or "boozy.". Molasses, toffee and vanilla. Coconut finish. Nice sweetness upfront that mellows before the finish. If you let this beer it on the tongue, you get a nice little bourbon burn and smooth molasses flavor lingering. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: medium bodied, minimal but perfect carbonation. Silky and smooth. Nice level of sweetness. 4.25/5

Overall: Past batches of this beer did not have the best reputation, but the 2013 vintage hit the ball out of the park. This beer is a coconut-vanilla bomb, and had I known just how excellent this beer would be in advance, I would have surely sought more. Abandon all preconceived notions and acquire yourself a bottle from the latest release.

Cost: $15 for a 750 ml bottle.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Beer Review: Imperial Sweet Stout

Reviewing the Imperial Sweet Stout from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida. This beer is a cognac aged milk stout.

Score: 92

2012 vintage bottle served in a taster glass and enjoyed on 03/03/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Shimmering black color, no head from pour. Minimal lacing and retention. Heavy looking appearance. 3/5

Smell: Cognac, fruitiness, milk chocolate, and white grape. Some vanilla too. 4.25/5

Taste: Milk chocolate, vanilla, sweet grape, cognac and cherry. Dry oak in finish. A little booziness. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. Viscous and slick. Sweeter than I would have guessed, though this one is labeled as a sweet stout. 4.25/5

Overall: Delicious and sweet, like a much better dark lord with barrel character.

Cost: $20 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Beer Review: Cherry Bomb

Reviewing Cherry Bomb from The Livery out of Benton Harbor, Michigan. This beer is a dopplebock aged in sour wood for 1yr with cherries, cocoa nibs and Serrano peppers.

Score: 80

2012 vintage bottle served in a footed beer glass and enjoyed on 02/19/13. Major thanks to Shawn for the hook up with this one as part of my fantasy baseball BIF last year. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Reddish mahogany in color. minimal head off pour, which totally settles. No lacing or retention. 2/5

Smell: Hot sauce, peppers and sour cherry. A little oak. No cocoa/chocolate whatsoever. This nose is all about the hot sauce aroma, so if you don't like hot sauce, well... 4/5

Taste: Less hot sauce flavor than nose, more pepper flavor. The cherry flavor is not tart at all. No chocolate notes at all. There is a plastic-like flavor in the finish. Minimal spiciness. 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, no carbonation. This brew is flatter than a Kuhnhenn's beer. No real lingering spiciness or strong kick despite peppers. 2.5/5

Overall: A non-sour sour and not-spicy chile beer. If you like hot sauce, the beer is a worthy curioso, but nothing more.

Cost: $18 for a 750 ml bottle.