Well gang, in the last week I celebrated yet another birthday. Besides recounting all the blessings and accomplishments of the past year, it's also a great excuse to drink whatever the hell I want. Today, that translates into someone else that celebrated a birthday, too. Today's review is for Flossmoor Station's 15th Anniversary Abbey style Tripel Ale. Flossmoor's 15th anniversary has long since past as I've been holding onto this bottle for quite some time, but today seems as good a day as any to open it. Besides, it's my birthday. For those unfamiliar with Flossmoor Station, they're a local brewer located in (you'll never guess) Flossmoor, IL and have had some past success at events you may have heard of like GABF and those listed here.
The bottle specifically lists the brewery's 15th anniversary as July 8th, 2011. Looks like I've been cellaring this longer than I intended. The bottle also tells us that this brew tips the Toledos at 15.0% ABV, utilizes magnum and crystal hops, and pilsner, carapils, & demarara sugar malts. Also, in my neck of the woods one will hardly ever see smaller breweries using nice wax-dipped bottles, which is always a nice touch. Let's pour!
It's the first sentence and there's already SO much going on in this beer. The nose begins with lots of fruity aromas like apples, green grapes, honey, and a subdued Belgian yeast. As it warms, the Belgian notes really come on strong with a pronounced banana note and a clove-based spiciness. Later still, it becomes dominated by a wonderful sugary smell with a little warmth and a spiced-not-sweet Belgian yeast. Finally, it puts all these things together by toning down the larger scents (Belgian, sugar, spice) and bringing out the fruity acidity. Now THIS is a golden ale!
Perfect. It pours as golden as the wax crowning its bottle, but sits in the glass as a brilliant ocher color. Oddly, looking down at the beer from the top it shows strong ruby hues! And no I don't have red flooring. Because I have aged this bottle so long, any sediment remains in the bottle and the resultant beer is crystal clear and bright. The head is as white as the snow outside my window and rose to a finger in height; an impressive feat considering that the bubbles are nearly microscopic in size. It lasted as a ring around my glass until well into the beer.
This is an insanely complex brew! It begins with unadorned sugary, malty sweetness and quickly moves into fruity sweetness full of apples and golden raisins. Things blossom widely as those two flavors combine into the flavor of caramelized fruits (this is not an exaggeration). Belgian yeast, not far behind, adds its goodness and a strong alcohol presence is felt. Note that it is "felt" and not "tasted." The strong warmth never impinges on the flavor itself, but gratuitously pricks the tongue while in the mouth. A bitter note is present when holding the beer in the mouth for an extended period and adds complexity and balance to this sweet beer. Way back in the flavor profile is a dull sour whose origin likely lies in fruity acidity. This makes even more sense upon swallowing where the first impression of the finish is an almost citrusy splash of said acidity and a reprise of the aforementioned bitter. The aftertaste is surprisingly clean after such a warm, sweet, clingy beer. However, the only sensation remaining in the mouth is the lingering effects of the alcohol on the tongue.
This is a beer that absolutely coats the mouth with its sweet, sugary presence. It borders on syrupy at times, but its lighter flavors and ABV help draw it away from that characterization. It also possesses a halfway sneaky alcohol warmth. Granted, at 15% ABV, it's hard to do anything sneakily. However, the flavor is never too boozy. To the point, I've had many bourbon barrel-aged brews with half the ABV that taste twice as hot as this brew. While it doesn't taste hot, the alcohol is undeniable in the mouthfeel and how it pricks the tongue. A lot.
Overall Impression 10/10
This is the lightest tasting big beer you'll never try. It's not light in flavor - anything but! - but most big beers tend to be heavy handed with the hops or a very rich stout. This beer is a giant, but still manages to taste like an excellent golden (an Imperial golden?). The fruits and sugars are present to keep this beer sweet and innocent, even if the ABV and heavyweight body would just as soon mug you in broad daylight. In your own driveway. In front of your kids.
Personally, I liked this beer a lot. It's complex, big, and captures all the essentials of the intended style. The flavors are out-of-this-world intense an unlike anything that you'll find anytime soon. I checked the average scores on BA and RateBeer after this review and was shocked to see them so low! Perhaps it was a different beast when it was fresh, but as it stands currently it is an "Imperial Golden" that will be my measuring stick for some time to come. If anyone disagrees with this point of view, please remember that it's my birthday so I am right and everyone else can go suck a potato (insert good-natured wink). Good work Flossmoor! Please know that we won't hold it against you if you decide to NOT limit this recipe to just a 15th anniversary beer and to brew this one again.