Monday, March 31, 2014

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Russian Stout (2008 Vintage)

Reviewing the elusive Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, California. An ineffably generous friend sent me this long-time personal white whale out of the blue a couple of weeks ago (thanks Mike!). With one of my close beer drinking friends having a baby in less than a month and the other leaving town for a couple of months on business, now seemed as good as a time as ever to share this brew.

Score: 97

2008 vintage elixir from a 1 liter growler, served in a Hunahpu's snifter and enjoyed on 03/15/14. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a deep brown cola color with ruby-caramel highlights and a finger of khaki head that settles to a ring around the glass. Poor lacing and retention, but good oily legs. 4/5

Smell: Dark chocolate, whiskey and figs. A little bit of dark cherry, and a kiss of lovely oxidation. Not overly complex, but extremely pleasant smelling. 4.75/5

Taste: Tastes like dark chocolate and whiskey, with a touch of fruit! No booziness, not sweet, not very bitter; just balanced and with a lasting finish. A delicious cocoa powder flavor develops in the finish as this brew warms. The taste, like the nose, is very straightforward, but it marvelously delivers in a no frills, no nonsense way. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, good carbonation. Incredibly creamy mouthfeel with a light dryness to the finish. Almost perfectly balanced -- not too sweet or too bitter. 4.75/5

Overall: For a beer I have long sought after, there is little more I could have asked for here. I was not in the least bit disappointed given my high expectations and this beers reputation. What this one lacked in depth and "evolving flavors" as it warmed up and breathed, it more than made up for in sheer deliciousness. This was one of the easiest to drink barrel aged stouts I have tackled in a long while. Just wish I had more than 1 liter to go around. Thank you again Mike for sending me this treat. Prost!

Cost: Unknown (received as a thank you gift).

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beer Review: Juicy

Reviewing the infamous Juicy from Hill Farmstead Brewery out of Greensboro Bend, Vermont. This dry hopped saison is aged in the barrels that were used to age Mimosa.

Score: 95

November 2012 vintage bottle served in a Darkness chalice and enjoyed on 03/19/14. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a nice murky orange color with a finger of off-white head that settles to a thick ring around the glass and splotchy, wispy coating. Amazing lacing and retention; crazy cling. 4.75/5

Smell: Apricot, grapefruit, grapes, a touch of barnyard funk and sweet malt. Really nice tropical juiciness, wine character and young-ish saison aroma mix. Warms up to a little bit of lacto and PDO comes out of the woodwork into the mix. 4.5/5

Taste: Bready malt and white wine, following by grapefruit/stone fruit and a little tannic acidity. Straw-like flavor and tropical juiciness in the finish, lingering with just a kiss of funk. Really nice flavors here, blending gracefully. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, good carbonation. Juicy mouthfeel with a dry finish. Nice earthiness with a good light tartness. 4.5/5

Overall: Many have said this beer aged is a shell of its former fresh self, but I found it to be delicious aged nearly a year and a half regardless of how much better it may or may not have been fresh. Relative to Dry Hopped L'Brett D'Or, as aged, my palate prefers Juicy. With ample tropical juiciness, a nice wine character and a dry finish, this beer offers lots of complexity. Drink 'em now fellas.

Cost: $8 for a 375 ml bottle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beer Review: Notorious

Reviewing Notorious from Boneyard Beer Company out of Bend, Oregon.

Score: 93

64 oz growler filled in early March and consumed 03/13/14. Fittingly served in a Hopslam snifter

Appearance: Pours an orange-copper color that slightly fades to golden hue at bottom of glass with a thin layer of head that totally settles. Not much lacing or retention to speak of, but the brew does has nice oily legs. 4/5

Smell: HUGE notes fresh mango slices and peaches in flush, along with notes of pineapple, orange, and grapefruit. Lovely pine character too. Caramel malt underlies the hoppiness, with a light tinge of alcohol. I really love the mango-forward fruitiness of the nose! 4.75/5

Taste: Bold, bitter with a heavy caramel malt backbone and delectable tropical fruit overlay. The tropical fruitiness is dialed down relative to the nose, but still amply present. Mango and grapefruit juiciness comes through mostly upfront, with the caramel malt, bitterness and a little booziness defining the finish. Has a lasting bitter caramel and pine flavor. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium body, low carbonation. Quite oily mouthfeel. Dry finish. Bitter, but has an underlying malty sweetness. 4.25/5

Overall: I could have sworn that the previous growler I had of this beer was less malty, but I enjoyed this beer thoroughly nonetheless. The ABV is not completely hidden, but this beer is dangerously crushable at 12% ABV. Boneyard makes some excellent IPA.

Cost: $25 for a counter-pressured 64 oz growler.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Beer Review: Keene Idea

Reviewing the infamous Keene Idea from Alpine Beer Company out of Alpine, California. 

Score: 97

64 oz growler filled in early March and consumed 03/13/14. Served in a Peg's Barrel Aged Day snifter. Thank you Paul for the hook up.

Appearance: Pours a clean, somewhat translucent golden-orange color with a half finger of off-white head that quickly settles to a ring around the glass. Average lacing, but very good retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Huge, resinous and tropical fruit hops! Apricots, grapefruit, orange rinds, lime, sharp pine and wood. The nose is aggressively forest-esque with the hop character, with lots of tropical notes. I absolutely dig this aroma! 5/5

Taste: More juiciness and less dryness than anticipated given the nose. Has a little acidity and a touch of herbaceousness that was not in the nose. Juicy grapefruit, tangerine, and orange rinds. Mmm mmm! Has a bold and bitter midpalate bite, that lingers long. Finishes with a bitter, slightly wood-like pine flavor. Has a nice and subtle malt backbone, with complementary notes of caramel and a touch of earthiness and onion. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite medium bodied, very low carbonation. Quite juicy and oily mouthfeel, with only a little dryness to the finish. Lingeringly bitter. 4.75/5

Overall: Blindly sampled this along side several other IPA/APA such as Notorious and Permanent Funeral, and this was my clear favorite. I love how aggressive the flavor profile on this one is; haters of IPA beware!

Cost: $20 for a 64 oz growler.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Beer Review: Oude Geuze (2004 Vintage)

Reviewing a 2004 vintage bottle Oude Geuze from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen out of Belgium.

Score: 94

Bottled on 02/28/2004, which makes this bottle a few weeks over 10 years old at this point. Served in a Dark Lord snifter and enjoyed on 03/12/14.

Appearance: Pours a brownish color with a slight yellow hue and two fingers of soapy off-white head that quickly settles to a ring around the glass. Murky in appearance, getting cloudier as more yeast gets into the pour further down into the bottle. Poor lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Cedar wood and lemon dominate the nose, with notes of must, straw, black pepper and a surprisingly minimal barnyard funk. The cedar character reminds me a lot of Blauw. Quick the enticing aroma. 4.75/5

Taste: Tastes a lot like it smells, but with a lot less tartness than expected. Presumably, this has faded off over time given how tart the four to six year old bottles are currently drinking. Cedar, must, black pepper and a light mix of barnyard and lacto funk that is done just right. A little lemon flavor and tartness upfront too. The cedar character lingers nicely, particularly if you let this brew sit on the tongue for a bit before consuming. Notes of apples and grape too, but subtly. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, minimal carbonation -- perhaps a bit undercarbonated. The bottle was pressurized when it popped, but the cork did not rocket off the bottle with vigor like the 2010 vintage bottle I opened a month ago. Very dry finish. Less tart than hoped/expected, but also much less funky than anticipated, which, for me, is a good thing. 4/5

Overall: Loved the cedar character here, but the lack of tartness/carbonation relative to other (fresher) vintages was definitely a minus on an otherwise excellent brew with great complexity. It is well rumored that Drie Fonteinen gueuze tends to fall off by the ten year mark, but this and the Blauw I drank recently were both holding up quite nicely. The 2004 magnum consumed on my birthday (July 2013) on the other hand was awful -- lots of feet-like funk, substantially less carbonation than this, and no tartness whatsoever. Maybe it is a synthetic cork issue with the magnums? Regardless, if you have a 750 ml bottle of this vintage and stored it right, drink with confidence now. My preference is for how the 2007's and 2008's are drinking at this moment.

Cost: $20 for a 750 ml bottle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beer Review: Cran Bu Weisse

Reviewing the Cran Bu Weisse from De Garde Brewing out of Tillamook, Oregon.

Score: 94

2014 vintage bottle served in a Dark Lord snifter and enjoyed on 03/12/14.

Appearance: Pours a cloud, dull pink color with nice fade and minimal head. Minimal lacing and retention too. I really dig the color. 4.25/5

Smell: Cranberries, vinegar, oak, a hint of lemon and a kiss of fruit juice and lacto. Really nice mix here, with a prominent cranberry character and juiciness. 4.5/5

Taste: Tastes like mildly tart cranberry juice with complexities of oak, lemon, grape skins, wheat and a touch of fruit. Less lacto than the nose, which is mostly constrained to the initial upfront kick of flavor. The flavor profile on this brew is a nicely balanced mix that is sessionable and flavorful, but not too big or overpowering. Finishes with lasting cranberry flavor with a lemon twist. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, nice carbonation. Light tartness, a little fruitiness and sweetness. Very juicy mouthfeel. 4.5/5

Overall: Another excellent fruited variant of "Bu." They're all pretty great, though my favorites thus far have been Raspberry and Boysenberry. Seek this out if you get the chance.

Cost: $11 for a 500 ml bottle.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Beer Review: Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord (2012 Vintage)

Reviewing the Cognac Dark Lord from Three Floyds Brewing Company out of Munster, Indiana.

Score: 87

April 2012 vintage bottle served in a Dark Lord snifter and enjoyed on 03/12/14. Bottle number 478 out of 534. Thank you HuskerMike for graciously losing this bottle to me in a post-season baseball wager (go Rays!).

Appearance: Pours an ink black color with a thin layer of tan head that quickly settles to a ring around the glass. Good lacing, excellent retention. Oily legs. 4.75/5

Smell: A ton of maple syrup! Then tiramisu, vanilla, raisin, oak and chocolate. Cognac too, but the nose does not scream cognac like Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord screamed bourbon. The cognac character is a lot more forward than complementary here. As it warms up, the maple falls off. 4.25/5

Taste: Has a cognac flavor and maple flavor upfront that kind of tastes like a muted Utopias, finishing nice and long. Notes of chocolate, raisin and oak too. Light licorice as well. Sadly, as this beer warms up, the maple/molasses character fades out and it develops a vegetal/pepper finish. Wah-wah. 3.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, minimal carbonation. Slick, slightly sticky mouthfeel with a dry finish. Has a very mild sweetness. Frankly, this might be the least sweet variation of Dark Lord that I have had to date. 4/5

Overall: Although my initial impression of this beer was pretty positive, its quality nose dived as it warmed up and aerated. While this beer is not nearly as bad as Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord De Muerte, the 2011 batch of Dark Lord De Muerte, Moscatel Barrel Aged Dark Lord or Port Barrel Aged Dark Lord, it is far from being an elite beer let alone a top five Barrel Aged Dark Lord variant. My 5 oz pour was sufficient for a lifetime.

Cost: $50 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Beer Review: Chocolate Chip Pancake Brown Ale

Reviewing the Chocolate Chip Pancake Brown Ale from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida.

Score: 95

Tap pour served in a Hunahpu's Day taster glass and enjoyed on 03/08/14.

Appearance: Pours a brown syrup color, with a thin layer of head. Light browning of the glass from swirling, minimal lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Smells exactly like the name promises. Chocolate chips, pancakes, light vanilla, and lots of syrup. Wow. Not super complex, but quite enticing and evocative of breakfast. 4.75/5

Taste: Tastes like chocolate malt pancakes slathered in syrup without the viscosity, oddly enough. Finishes with lots of the syrup. Has a nice light underlying bitterness that adds a good balance. Tasty! 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, okay carbonation. A bit waterier than most beers of this flavor profile. Wish that it had a little more oomph. 3.25/5

Overall: A really nice smelling and tasting beer that lacks the mouthfeel it deserves. I guess it is a brown ale base, though, so maybe I should not be overly critical of that?

Cost: Unknown (all tap pours at Hunahpu's Day were included as part of the $50 ticket price).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beer Review: Double Barrel Hunahpoopoo

Reviewing Double Barrel Hunahpoopoo from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida. This beer is Double Barrel Hunahpu's (a mix of Hunahpu's aged in rum and apple brandy barrels) aged aged on kopi luwak coffee.

Score: 100

Tap pour enjoyed at Hunahpu's Day 2014 (03/08/14). Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: The body is a deep brown, cola or syrup-like color. Slick and shiny in appearance. Served with a thin layer of dark khaki head that totally recedes. Not much lacing or retention, but swirling the brew seriously browns the sides of my snifter and leaves behind nice legs. 5/5

Smell: Huge, smooth coffee and roast plus chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Spice and cinnamon too, with notes of dark fruit and tobacco. A kiss of vanilla. The aroma mix here is incredible. This beer smells like a rich and chocolatey dark roast espresso on steroids. 5/5

Taste: Is this beer a densely chocolatey, barrel aged cappuccino? A little spiciness kick upfront, followed by fudge brownies, bakers chocolate, and milk chocolate. Finishes with a ton of roast and coffee flavor that is smooth and creamy, and devoid of acidity or too much bitterness. Underneath those bold flavors is some oak, fruitiness and a touch of brandy and tobacco. Everything here is in perfect balance, with the chocolate and coffee and roast characters taking the center stage. The barrel character is not huge (I expected more brandy and rum flavors), but nonetheless adds a nice complexity that complements the bolder flavors nicely. The finish here is long and roasty. 5/5

MouthfeelFull bodied, low carbonation. Incredibly creamy mouthfeel with a big roast, a little sweetness, not too much bitterness, no acidity and a nice upfront pepper spiciness. The flavors here absolutely coat the mouth. 5/5

Overall: Of all the beers I tried at Hunahpu's Day 2014, this was one of my favorites (frankly, all the variants of Hunahpu's and Marshall Zhukov were excellent). This was probably the best beer on tap that day (and believe me when I say that there were plenty of great contenders on the announced tap list). The coffee character here is done perfectly, taking an already excellent barrel aged stout to a whole 'nother level. I am very glad to have had the fortunate opportunity to try this one and would go to great lengths to try it again if ever given the chance.

Cost: "Free" (all tap pours were included as part of the $50 ticket price).

Friday, March 7, 2014

Beer Review: Vin Lee

Reviewing Vin Lee from De Garde Brewing out of Tillamook, Oregon.

Score: 91

2014 vintage bottle served in a stemmed Schramm's snifter and enjoyed on 03/05/14. Review is from iPhone notes

Appearance: From the second the bottle was opened, this beer gushed like none other. Within ten (10) or fifteen (15) seconds, we lost seventy-five percent (75%) or more of the bottle to the carpet. Be forewarned; have a bucket ready when you open yours! Pours a murky brownish-red color with yellowish fade towards the edges. Not much head or retention. Very cloudy/murky in appearance. 3.5/5

Smell: Smells like your run of the mill sour brown ale with a nice grape twist. Lots of vanilla and oak, vinegar, cherry, and red grapes. Some yeast too, and a little funk. A touch vinous. Graham cracker too as it warms up. As the beer warms up, the aroma increasingly approaches a cherry-grape pie quality. Above average integration. A little PDO at first, but not much and it fades out as the beer breathes. 4/5

Taste: Tart cherries and oak, with a little vinegar toward the finish and an underlying grape flavor. A bit dank for a sour. Mildly bitter finish, good tartness. Some graham crack in the finish too. A sugary-tart grape flavor lingers. Nice integration. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, good carbonation. Tart, dry. Has a nice sweetness to balance the tartness too. 4/5

Overall: Good, but not great. De Garde makes better beers, but this is a solid example of their deep line up. It is basically a well-made flanders-style beer with a heavy grape twist. I would definitely drink this one again if given the chance, but would not go out of my way to acquire it.

Cost: $14 for a 500 ml bottle.