Friday, April 18, 2014

Beer Review: The Origin

Reviewing The Origin from Side Project Brewing out of St. Louis, Missouri. The Origin, Side Project Brewing's very first beer and very first release, is a blend of an Imperial Stout, Black Oatwine and Baltic Porter that was aged for 20 months in a Rittenhouse Rye barrel with Madagascar Vanilla Beans.

Score: 90

2013 vintage bottle served in a stemmed Cantillon flute and enjoyed on 12/19/13.

Appearance: Shiny and inky black in color, with a wisp of khaki head off the pour that quickly and totally settles. Minimal head, but the nice oily legs that brown the glass. 4/5

Smell: The aroma is completely different than it was on tap at the release. The hugely desserty marshmallow-vanilla character and chocolate are still there, but now present is a really nice and contrasting jammy twang of sherried fruitiness like a slightly aged Belgian and oak. The caramel-whiskey notes that were there fresh do not come through, but neither does the booziness that was there fresh. Everything mixes nicely in the nose, like a rich vanilla cake with chocolate sauce and fruity frosting. 4.75/5

Taste: The taste is sadly not as well-integrated as the nose. The sour fruit character is a bit more sharp and harsh on the palate, and is especially present in the finish. The flavor starts off with a wave of rich vanilla and chocolate, followed by a tangy sour fruitiness and oak character that washes away the s'mores like beginning. As the beer warms, the vanilla flavor lingers longer in the flavor, which really helps strike a better balance between the sweet dark beer characters and the sherried/oxidized/tangy notes. There is some cherry flavor present here too. We vino-vacuumed a quarter of the bottle to drink a couple of days later at Kuhnhenn's Winter Solstice release, and I think the berry/fruit character came across substantially more pleasantly a few days later -- perhaps what little carbonation there was in this beer accentuated the tartly oxidized qualities too much? At Kuhnhenn's, the beer tasted more like a flat Bramble Jr. No butter or popcorn flavors in this bottle. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Rich, velvety mouthfeel. Just shy of full bodied, very low carbonation. Sweet, with sharp tanginess. The mouthfeel is so luscious, and so perfect ... but for that mildly tart fruitiness cutting through it. 4/5

Overall: On tap at the release and out of a test bottle graciously shared by Cory at Dexter's the night before the Great Taste, my memory recalls a much superior beer compared to how this aged -- mostly because it more appropriately fit the expectations of the styles blended and aged. While the fruity/oxidized and slightly tart characteristics did not totally ruin this beer (it was still quite drinkable), they did not marry well with the rich and malty flavors in my personal opinion -- at least not until the beer sat out for a few days in my fridge. Cory tested bottles, and the results were not indicative of an infection. Further, at the release, Cory mentioned that he intended the beer to develop a contrasting oxidation character over time as well. Regardless, I am not quite sure this is how he intended this beer to turn out -- infected or not, intentionally sherried or otherwise.

Cost: $25 for a 750 ml bottle.

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