Thursday, April 26, 2012

Goose Island - Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

Holy cow!  You guys have easily made this my best month ever despite the fact that I was gone for a week to Washington D.C. and wrote no new posts during that time (minus a pending photo spread of Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA).  In thanks for your dedication and in apology for that pesky thing called "life" getting in the way of craft beer reviews, I'm breaking something extra special out of the cellar today!  All the good vibes I'm feeling call for no less than to break out a bottle of Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout.

 Being religiously revered by the craft beer communities (100/100 on both and makes these bottles pretty hard to get and I consider myself lucky that I was able to snag two.  However, this may not be as much of an issue in the future as Goose Island has announced that due to a large increase in barrel-aging facilities, BCS will be available year round!!!  Such an occasion also gives me an opportunity to break out my new "sampling" glasses that I picked up while at Port City.  They have a mark on them to indicate the proper size of the pour, a nice wide body to permeate the air with its aromas, and finally a very narrow opening so that the nose may better do its duty.  Despite the aforementioned perfect ratings, I will be giving this beer the most unbiased review that I can.  Let's pour!

Aroma 12/12
OK, so those perfect scores are on to something.  The characters in this aroma (chocolate, bourbon, and coffee) are certainly not new to the craft beer world, but the way in which they mingle is unmatched.  I attribute this somewhat to the Anjilanaka coffee beans used in the brewing process, as the coffee aroma is completely unique.  The rest I attribute to the craftsmanship used when brewing this beer.  The chocolate aroma is thick, rich, and has more than a little bit of lactose behind it, implying a chocolate milk.  The bourbon is the next aroma and its tingle is unmistakeable.  Already the sweetness of the malts is harmonizing with that of the bourbon and it's very exciting.  The coffee starts out in third place, but grows in prominence as the beer warms.  It truly does the work of tying all three ingredients together.  The darkness of the coffee compliments the malt, but it bitterness also helps balance it.  Meanwhile, its bite takes a note from the bourbon's warmth and earthiness.  This is a blend of the gods.

Appearance 3/3
I'm not sure how to score this, as I feel the head is simply not up to par.  Then again, are head and its retention going to be possible in a 14.0% ABV?  Granted, it was present initially in a handsome dark brown, but only it poured a half a finger tall and fizzed down to nothing as I snapped a few photos (see above photo).  As far as the rest of the appearance, it's as black as tar and even has that slight yellowish outline when held up to light.  Pretty cool.  

Note:  I eventually scored this beer 3/3 instead of 2/3 after considering the mouthfeel.  If one does not hold a minimal carbonation content against the beer when in the mouth because of its style and high ABV, then I feel it's hardly fair to do so when in the glass.

Flavor 20/20
I'm pretty sure this just made my tastebuds each put on their favorite NCAA mascot costume and begin a violent, marathon orgy.  The beginning is a eye-closing harmony of world-class chocolate and bourbon's sweetness.  It literally made me close my eyes in a moment of requiem.  The bourbon fades away briefly to showcase the chocolate, which is an ohmygoshIjustpaidhowmuchforchocolate type chocolate that you only wish you could get for your significant other on Valentine's Day (hell, you wouldn't mind receiving it either).  With the coffee's light bitter it is simply extravagant.  The bourbon then re-enters, but this time it brings its heat and not so much its sweetness; it's not about to let this Bourbon County Stout go without its namesake, after all.  The result is a confectioner's dream of silky milk chocolate, bourbon's sweetness and warmth, and hints of coffee.  My tasting glass has definitely warmed and I'm finding the coffee to be quite understated, but the bourbon to be quite prominent.  Unless this strange type of coffee bean is helping contribute to the Godzilla-sized portions of amazing chocolate in this beer.  In that case, I can find it pretty easily.  The finish is fantastic, but probably only if you like bourbon.  It's a whole lot of alcohol warmth that spreads it wings across the chest, but does allow the coffee bitter to come through a bit more to give a "very dark" chocolate sensation.  Detecting any other flavors past those two behemoths is going to be insanely difficult.

Mouthfeel 5/5
This is a little bit thinner in the mouth than I expected after the thick pour and heavy lactose smell, but thankfully so.  Had it been as thick as one expects, the beer might border on undrinkable.  That said, the initial mouthfeel is a bit thin, but sits heavily upon the tongue as if it takes a while to realize what it is there to do.  The carbonation is minimal, but in a beer this big and alcohol laden it is not completely inappropriate nor unwelcome.

Overall Impression 10/10
Color me impressed.  You can't be mad at a beer that promises you bourbon and then delivers.  Or rather, one that delivers, but not at the expense of other flavors.  I've definitely had the products of brewers happy to blast their hard work with bourbon and call it a day.  Goose Island, while brewing a beer strong with bourbon, also gives us oodles of dripping, rich chocolate and a coffee backdrop that tops any I've tasted (although Beer Geek Brunch gives this coffee it a run for its money).  This is a monster beer that still manages to harmonize a trio of insanely delicious flavors.  You know when you've had something special and this beer certainly qualifies.

Total 50/50
They almost lost their perfect score in the "Appearance" category, but they pulled through to gain that elusive 50/50; only the fifth beer to do so, in over 140 reviews!  Right from the aroma, this beer is ready to knock your socks off.  My tasting glass sat at least two feet away from me and I could still smell the chocolate/milk/coffee blend emanating from its opening.  The taste is a wonderful conglomeration of flavors and any stout lover/big beer lover will be able to appreciate this beer.  Some could complain it's too boozy, but I counter that the warmth never overwhelms the other flavors.  It may knife fight them for the spotlight, but it never drowns out its partners.  In fact, to remedy this (and to help keep the beer at a more desirable temperature as a whole) I recommend small pours.  Those that find the bourbon warmth to be an issue may have let the beer warm too much.  Keeping it at a suitable drinking temperature helps to blend the bourbon with the other delicious flavors and keep this harmony strong.  Also, never give this beer a wine-tasters' slurp unless you wish to be lambasted with bourbon goodness.  Kudos to Goose Island on this AMAZING brew and best of luck on their barrel-aging endeavors!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hoppin' Frog - Hop Heathen

I love beer trades!  Today's beer I would normally never have had access to were it not for a trade catalyzed by "teh interwebz."  The new trading partner responsible for this brew, Eric ( ), assures me that this brew, Hoppin' Frog Hop Heathen (Imperial Black Ale) came right off of the bottling line and I'm not one to sit around and let the hops fade away.  So let's pour!

Aroma 9/12
The aroma is not as strong as I would have hoped for considering that this brew utilizes some ingredients that are quite easily accessible to olfaction.  Pine is readily present as is a grapefruit citrus, but otherwise fairly clean as far as hops go with the exception of a distant, peppery, spice note.  As this beer warms the malts take over and they do a fine job.  The dark roast is first and initially seems somewhat mild (relative for the style) until the cocoa aroma blends with it and brings a bit of toffee along for the ride.  The three together are an excellent harmony.  Granted, I'm on the tail end of a cold, so my sniffer might not be 100%, but I can still breathe rather well through my nose, so I assume everything is in working order.  Boy!  Do those cocoa and toffee scents really ratchet things up as the beer warms!  Even the ABV shows up to play!  Spectacular.  I only wish it was a more powerful smell, because what they have here they should be proud of.

Appearance 3/3
All things appear to be black as night in this IBA, but when held to a window, the bottom of my glass revealed a nice coffee brown hue and even a ruby glint or two!  Unexpected and welcome!  The head is just over a finger high and the same creamy texture and tan shade you might find on top of a Guinness (ok, so initially it's more soapy).  It leaves a little lacing on the way down and maintains a higher than average retention.

Flavor 19/20
You're given a brief warning shot of cocoa and toffee before being flooded with burnt, roasted malts and a resinous hop.  It's a great combination that is bitter and means business, even if it is eventually cut with a lactose.  In any case, they settle down a bit and allow other flavors to play their part.  The resinous hops also show a piney note and the toffee comes in to sweeten the lot.  The reprise of the toffee is gently brought in, as well as an occasional, very authentic grain note, like toasted whole wheat bread (you know, the good kind with the nuts in it).  As it is held in the mouth the charred, bitter malts are primary, but now bring a strong, peppery spice with them that settles all over the surface of the tongue.  The finish enjoys the strongest collaboration of the brew as the pepper, charred notes, prickly alcohol warmth, and hop bitter all come together at just the right time and the result is fantastic!  All those flavors even allow for a bit of the hops' grapefruit to peek out and truly showcase the complexity of this beer.  Can't say enough about this beer's finish!  The aftertaste is bitter and in a way that is more char and less hops.  It doesn't linger long though and I attribute that to the other hops characteristics present in this beer.  Please ensure that you only drink (or serve) this beer lightly chilled.  Even as this bottle warms, the beer as a whole becomes so much sweeter as the toffee and lactose sugars become increasingly bold.

Mouthfeel 5/5
I'd say that the carbonation is dead on for this brew, even down to the end of the bottle.  I also enjoy a lot of the tactile sensations that the beer gives: the eventual warmth, the peppery prickle, and the moderate-full body.  Nothing is distracting and the things that are distinct go well together and contribute to the overall experience.

Overall Impression 9/10
The beer starts out as a solid IBA, but as it warms it truly sets itself apart as the sweetness of the contributing flavors rises to the level of the primaries and creates a more balanced, delicious beer that is both dark and hoppy.  I've had some IBAs before, but this one seems to stand alone.  It has slightly less sweetness that some of the super-agressive IPAs have (120 Minute, etc), an equal alcohol presence, much less hop profile, but replaces the majority of that hop profile with dark, roasted malty goodness.  Excellent technical qualities (appearance & mouthfeel) only add to the experience.

Total 45/50
While IBAs might not be my favorite style on the planet, it would be impossible to deny that this is a damn tasty beer.  Now is this beer all hops?  Despite the name, no.  Rather, they are presented in a fashion that most are not accustomed to (including myself).  Allow me to explain:  most hop-laden beers are several groves worth of citrus, a pine tree or two, some grass, and a healthy dose of resin.  This brew focuses instead on the hop spiciness and a lesser amount on the resinous quality.  In fact, I get more of the dark malts than I do the hops.  That said, hop heads might be a bit disappointed if they are looking for nothing but hops.  However, those open to tasty experiences regardless of the label's description will be pleased nonetheless.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Lost Abbey - 10 Commandments

The moment I saw the description on the label of this beer I was intrigued.  "Ale brewed with honey, raisins, & rosemary," it said.  Whenever I see weird ingredients, whether it be in food or drink, I have to try it.  Some people travel for their experiences and others hurl their bodies from heights and still others simply enjoy pushing limits in whatever they do.  I, in a typical American fashion, consume my experiences.

"You put a raspberry aioli on what?!"
"I didn't even know you could deep fry that!"
"This is from what country?"
"So the stuffing is inside the sea urchin?"

These are all phrases that indicate I am about to have a new experience. (Yes!)  And lest I forget my new favorite phrase, "They made a beer using WHAT?!?"  There are some very unusual ingredients out there: cucumbers from Cigar City, watermelon from 21st Amendment, passion fruit from 5 Rabbit in Chicago, hell my friend Keith even made a beer using actual Belgian waffles!  There is no limit to a brewer's creativity and I love to see the weird stuff whether it turns out amazballs or falls flat on its face.  That said, these ingredients are fairly unusual, but rosemary is one of my absolute favorite herbs so I'm excited to see how this beer tastes.  Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
The aroma begins in a very balanced trifecta of their declared special ingredients (honey, raisins, & rosemary), but the honey quickly takes a backseat and the raisins become dominant.  The aroma is lovely!  The raisins are abundant and enjoy a nice background herbal note from the rosemary.  The dark fruit also plays extremely well with an alcohol warmth and the two meld into each other almost seamlessly.

Appearance 3/3
This poured much darker than I expected!  It's a rich dark brown, the color of stained cherry wood and with slightly fewer red glints.  The tan head forms quickly and is very large; over two fingers after a very cautious pour.  Since the carbonation is so tiny and tight, there is no lacing left, but the resultant retention is outstanding.

Flavor 20/20
There is little room for subtlety in a beer with this many big flavors and a 10% ABV.  Immediately, the beer is grinding a bushel of amazing, overripe dark fruits (raisins & plums) directly into your tastebuds!  The rosemary is not as powerful as the fruits, but is also far from hidden, and it makes a herbal pairing with the raisins that is absolutely fantastic!  Even a dollop of the honey's sweetness is allowed to show briefly before being swallowed up by the two larger flavors.  I immediately want to make a pork roast that mimics this beer.  Holding the beer in the mouth allows the honey's sweetness to grow, as well as a peppery spiciness on the tongue.  The spiciness can grow to be fairly intense!  The finish is a boozy, dark fruit slugfest that could have been syrupy if not for the Belgian Strong's traditionally high level of carbonation.  Though a flash of chocolate malts doesn't exactly help the matter.  After swallowing there is substantial alcohol heat rising up from your tongue, a vague sourness from the dark fruit, and the remnants of the peppery spices.  This beer is not f*&$%ing around.

Mouthfeel 5/5
There are things here that are very strong, but not all together inappropriate for the style.  The warmth is not hidden at all and in early sips can almost appear hot, especially in the finish.  Thankfully, it blends well with the dark fruits, which instead allows it to be a contributor to a rather garish harmony, but a harmony nonetheless.  The carbonation is also abundant, but the style does demand it.  In fact, in this beer I'm rather glad to see a higher level, lest all the alcohol and dark fruits make this beer far to heavy and syrupy and give the drinker the impression they've accidentally bought a huge bottle of cough syrup.  Even if it would be damn tasty cough syrup.

Moses giving mad props to God.
Overall Impression 10/10
Lost Abbey gambled big and won bigger.  Huge dark fruit flavors blend well with a very outgoing alcohol heat and the rosemary is such a dissonant, yet beautiful addition!  Everything about this beer is phenomenal if you're in the mood for something new, different, and BIG.

Total 49/50
Wow!  What a powerhouse of new, big, flavor combinations!  Let me tell you about this beer in a behind-the-scenes sort of way.  First off, I couldn't get the cork to pop (I know... I know... "That's what she said.").  I actually had to run the neck of the bottle under hot water (no dice) and then grip the cork at a 90 degree angle with a pair of pliers to get it to budge!  This beer was not about to be dominated by anyone.  Once I finally got it open and went to pour myself a 2-3oz pour for sniffing, the damn thing poured a fingernail's worth of beer and half a tulip full of head!  Even once it was open, it refused to give up.  Then of course, there was the huge, boozy beer within the bottle with which I had to contend.  Thank goodness for the honey's sweetness in a somewhat half-hearted attempt for balance.  The sweetness and the carbonation are not the stars of the show, but they are the only thing holding this beer back and preventing it from taking over a moderately-sized metropolitan area.

I don't know what it costs in your locale to buy it, but do so (probably $11-$14).  If you like big ol' face-smashing beers and have a penchant for unusual ingredients, you can thank me later.  Wow, what a brew!


A HUGE thank you to all my Tweeps, YouTubers, G+ers, and regular readers that helped me get up 100+ Likes on the Sud Savant Facebook page!!!  As promised, all the folks that helped me make that jump were entered into a drawing to win a free beer.  Well, that moment has arrived.  Drumroll, please...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Samuel Adams - Boston 26.2 Brew

Drinkers, today I am blessed with a special treat of sorts.  I have been gifted a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston 26.2 Brew.  Since I live in the Midwest and the Boston 26.2 Brew (what a mouth full!) is only in Boston and only "available at race-related events, as well as pubs and restaurants along the Marathon route and around Boston," I am very stoked to be sampling this brew.  A HUGE thanks goes out to my east coast friend that made this possible.  With the Boston Marathon only a week away, it's time to review this very limited brew.

One more very cool aspect about this beer is that it is brewed in the Gose style.  No, not geuze (or gueuze depending on your spelling), but a Gose style.  If you don't know much about it, you're not alone.  It's a style that was all but extinct, but has been kept around by some rather dedicated breweries (read all about the Gose style here or its Wikipedia article).  Long story short?  It was originally a spontaneously fermented beer made with malted wheat (50% of grain bill), coriander, and salt.  Not only is this a great opportunity for me to try a beer exclusively available on the east coast in Boston, but also to try a style that I have never seen before let alone tasted.  Big props to Samuel Adams for not only showing some love to it's home market, but for also brewing a style that is not only "not popular," it barely exists!  They're educating beer drinkers once again and it's no surprise.  I'm very excited to crack this open and see what this style is all about.  Let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
A simple bouquet here, but it's effective.  A lemon zest citrus is the initial primary aroma, but there is a sweetness behind it, as if it were cream-filled but in a much more subtle way.  A tickle of Belgian spice is behind that and I attribute it entirely to the coriander used in the making of this beer.  It's like a light Belgian with very little spice, plus a little bit of lemon.  Ahh, and now the wheat begins to come forward as the beer warms.  It makes the beer smell much less "light" and definitely shows the origins of the lemon aroma.

Appearance 1/3
Somewhat pilsner-esque in appearance: extremely high clarity, no notable ascending carbonation, bright gold in color with hues of the wheat sheaves located in the center of the glass.  Carbonation was one finger tall, offered less than average retention in the pure white head, but remained to cover the surface.  No lacing.  I imagine the acidity has something to do with the poor head & retention, but if there is one thing I expect an established, "bigger" brewer to do, it's to nail the technical aspects.  This was not up to the high level that Samuel Adams has previously established.

Flavor 16/20
This is definitely its own character!  Loads of malted wheat is present right off the bat, not only in a substantial and pleasing mouthfeel, but also with grain and lemon flavor.  To those worried about the salt used in the brewing process: don't be.  The salt is initially quite noticeable, but eventually blends in as the palate grows accustomed to the newcomer.  The backbone is mostly a continuation of the wheat flavors, but adds the salt in a way that compliments the light citrus astringency.  This is NOT like shaking salt into a summer shandy.  The wheat and salt are both far too delicate.  They neither insult the drinker with too much sweetness, nor disgust him/her with too much salt.  I can see how either could happen, so this is a delicate balance to achieve.  A quick slurp brings forward the cream-like sweetness and the citrus.  The finish is a classic wheat taste: very fresh with pure grain flavors and a crispness that ends in the lightest of bitters.  The aftertaste is mostly clean but does leave the faint citrus and bitter remnants of the wheat.

Mouthfeel 5/5
As mentioned earlier, all the wheat in this brew give it a much more substantial body than one would normally expect in a beer with flavors this light.  Overall, the body is medium-light, but seems lighter with the lively carbonation.  The first sips from the bottle were nearly champagne-like in amount, but not in texture.  While it does fade rather dramatically toward the end, there is still enough to make this a superb drink for the summer.  I would definitely encourage a wider distribution in the summer months.

Overall Impression 7/10
While I have no other gose style beers with which to compare this beer, from everything I've read, this seems to be a fine, lighter representation of the style.  Most references make reference to a "strong saltiness," "lemon tartness,"  and a "characteristic sourness," (the last being given by the wild yeasts that originally were used in its spontaneous fermentation).  This beer definitely does not possess the "stronger" characteristics of the attributes listed, but for a beer that's still trying to gain a foothold after being extinct on two separate occasions, maybe that's wise.  The authenticity will come with the demand.  There was no sourness present, but the coriander and salt certainly were.  A very refreshing brew that I certainly prefer to many of the shandies, hard lemonades, and "summer ales" currently available on the market.

Total 39/50
I enjoyed this beer's excellent wheat characteristics and the noticeable presence of lemon.  It's a welcome alternative to the overly-sweet, lemonade-tinged brews that come out of the woodwork every summer.  The subtlety was a nice change of pace, but I sure would like to see a more authentic type of this beer.  While the aforementioned characteristics were appreciated, this beer's lightness shows that it was indeed made for the runners.  Again, not that I have anything to compare it to, but it sounds like this beer was made of sterner stuff back in its heyday and now I'm curious of it's original form.  Now, can you give a richly flavored anything to someone that has just finished a marathon?  No.  In fact, I can't even imagine the rich flavor that this brew would attain after 26.2 miles.  Heck, I bet a caramel flavored rice cake would taste like a crème brûlée exploded in your head.  However, I think it's safe to say that most people that drink this will not have just run a marathon and might appreciate that bit of sour to compliment the lemon and salt.  Oddly the coriander didn't play that big a role in the flavor, but it was still nice to have in the aroma.  As it stands, it's no wonder they're serving it after the Boston Marathon.  This would be a God send after running a distance that borders on cruel and unusual punishment.  A lighter-bodied wheat beer that has plenty of carbonation should be on every runner's wish list.

Sam Adams, much like in my "novice" drinking days, you have introduced me to a style that I might not have otherwise tried.  It seems to be what you do best!  Thank you for making this style accessible to a much larger audience than it has had in decades and for giving other summer "refreshers" something to shoot for.  This is more than your average "lawnmower beer," and I'd love to see it in a more authentic setting (hint hint).


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Two Brothers - Red Eye Coffee Porter

With the clamor that this brew has created in the Chicago suburbs, I wasn't about to leave Chicago (on a recent trip) without seeking out a bottle for myself.  According to the label,

"Red Eye Porter is the first of our 15 archive recipes we will brew to celebrate out 15th anniversary.  Red Eye debuted in the Spring of 2009 and quickly won acclaim from the public and press alike.  We brewed it a second time, which was the last time we made it, in the fall of 2009.  Since then it has easily become the most requested beer for us to bring back (like almost every day).  So we hope you enjoy the start of our fun 2012 project."

Bringing back beers simply on public demand?  That's good business and great PR right there.  No wonder I wanna support these guys!  I also wanna drink this beer.  So let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
There are definitely both elements of the coffee & porter here.  The coffee is present, but more in an "iced coffee" way instead of an "Ohmygoshwejustwalkedintoacoffeehouse!" kind of way.  Still a great coffee aroma, but not the embrace of fresh ground goodness, which I doubt is possible in a beer without using artificial flavorings.  It mixes well with the peaty, roasted porter malts and even includes a touch of chocolate from time to time.  I may be eating crow yet, because as this beer warms that authentic coffeehouse aroma becomes ever closer.

Appearance 3/3
This brew certainly has the appearance of a robust porter.  It is espresso brown (a.k.a. pretty much black for all intents and purposes), but barely shows some brown/red highlights toward the very top and only when held to light.  The head was smaller than average, but is a nice toasted marshmallow tan and leaves a little lacing as it fades away.

Flavor 17/20
Wow!  Not what I was expecting at all.  I was immediately bushwhacked by all sorts of porter-y goodness!  It starts strong as that sour, peat-like porter, gives a touch of coffee grounds, and then is joined by all sorts of sweet, gooey caramel and toffee flavors (and maybe even a dark fruit or seven).  Unlike the aroma, the chocolate is no longer subtle, but lends a darker sweetness to the lot and helps transition to some of the later coffee flavors.  Not that the coffee flavors on the back end ever take over this dentist's nightmare of sweetness, instead it sneaks in behind the chocolate and before you know it you're holding a much more bitter, coffee-emphasizing beer in your mouth than when you started.  Fantastic!  The sweets never truly go away, so truth be told, it's a very sweet coffee (like someone added too much sugar and no creamer), but the sweet flavors are fantastic, and I'd let someone make this coffee for me anytime.  A slurp brings the coffee bitter and alcohol warmth quickly to the forefront.  The aftertaste is coffee bitter (no surprise there), but also a tingle of said alcohol on the tongue and in the breath.  It's a bit of a shock since the warmth (9.2% ABV) was so well-hidden in the rest of the beer.  Overall, this seems very sweet.

Mouthfeel 5/5
A medium-bodied brew with a non-distracting level of carbonation.  I'm surprised that the beer doesn't feel thicker in the mouth given the high level of sugars present.  They really did an excellent job of making that happen and not erring one way or another with the carbonation.  Spot on.  The warmth is really only present during a slurp or in the aftertaste so Two Brothers get top marks for camouflaging (yet not completely hiding) their alcohol as well.

Great label art!  Love it!
Overall Impression 8/10
A lot sweeter than I thought it would be and a lot sweeter than most porters I've had, excepting some of the flavored varieties (maple, etc).  Not that porters can't be on the sweeter side, but this seemed to take every sweet porter characteristic and include it in a single bottle.  Even with that sweetness, Two Brothers managed to make the coffee flavors come through in a way that didn't take over the beer and included some excellent technical aspects as well.

Total 44/50
Still a very respectable score for Two Brothers.  My only real qualms with the beer were an initially weak aroma (I went back and changed the score after the beer warmed), which is more my fault than theirs, and a beer that was a bit sweet for my taste.  I feel it would've been easy for Two Brothers (@TwoBrothersBeer) to not only make a more balanced, attenuated porter, but they even had the coffee at their disposal to assist them in balancing the bitter and the sweet.  I suppose there is an effort made, as the aftertaste is mostly bitter to counter the sweetness of earlier portions, but it comes "too little, too late."  Does that make this a bad beer?  Hell no.  I'm now wishing I had bought more than one bottle when I was in the Chicago area.  I'm sure this beer's sweetness could help convert some folks ready to move on to darker beers.

I'm torn.  All these sweet flavors make a very tasty, complex beer, which is great to examine on a technical aspect, but a little harder to drink "mindlessly" and just enjoy the taste.  If you like a sweeter porter, you can't let this pass you by in the craft beer aisle.  If you like a more balanced porter, you could still give this a try, but only if you want to be impressed my the myriad of flavors they've managed to shoehorn into this bomber bottle.  I'm impressed, but one is probably enough for me.  Cheers to Two Brothers!  See you at the Hop Juice Festival!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Smuttynose - Really Old Brown Dog

As of late, I've been really pleased with Smuttynose's "BIG BEER" Series.  They've all been phenomenal and I've yet to taste one that I don't like.  That said, I'm really looking forward to today's review.  I've tasted their "Older Brown Dog" and was pleased, so I can't wait to see what this one has in store.  Let's pour!

Aroma 9/12
This is a nice spiced and sweet mixture!  It immediately reminds me of date bread with its dark molasses malts, cinnamon, anise/clove, and a sweet, dark bready smell.  Not the bread you get at the supermarket.  I'm talking homemade, delicious bread that is heavy in your hand and isn't properly served unless it's a one inch thick slice.  There is also a noticeable warmth and lots of dark fruits (I wasn't lying about the dates!).  As the beer settles, an ever-so-slight hop citrus adds its two cents to the bouquet.  Never threatening to take over at all, just adding another layer.  None of this is a "bowl you over" strong type of smell mind you.  It is all present and ready to be taken in at your leisure.

Appearance 3/3
The color on this beer is most intriguing.  I tried to capture it in photos and feel that I have failed.  It appears at first to be this dark, walnut brown, but upon closer inspection is really quite a handsome mixture of brown and red.  When held to the light, it even resembles stained cherry wood (one of my favorites).  Hiding in this dark brown brew are rubies and shades of scarlet if you take time to find them.  It is all topped with a head barely bigger than a finger that is beige in color, lingers for quite some time, but leaves little lacing - not surprising with the alcohol detected in the aroma.

It looks pretty dark, right?

This pic shows the colors inside, though it is not truly this light either.

Flavor 19/20
The mouth is instantly awash with intense flavors from every angle.  I'm taken aback a bit and don't know where to focus first!  I suppose my initial sensation is the prickle of spices and tiny carbonation toward the tip of my tongue.  The alcohol is also much stronger than in the aroma and is a primary character in this flavor profile.  The warmth mixes fantastically with the dark fruits (dates, raisins, figs) and makes one think of a cordial (like say, blackberry brandy), but without the candy-like sweetness.  The fruits can't be separated though from the spices and the date bread reference returns.  Well, date bread with a lot of booze in it.  The finish is a dark bitter that is reached by the fruits slowly continuing to descend and becoming more and more dark until only the bitter remains.  It's a very neat sensation.  The aftertaste is bitter and the shell of alcohol warmth.  Is there port in this?  Yum.

Mouthfeel 5/5
The body on this is relatively light considering the huge flavor and abundant warmth.  Overall, it is just over medium-heavy, but one expects a much heavier beer given the trees that make up this forest.  The carbonation is initially prickly, but it compliments the spices and then goes away, so I won't fault it for that.  The warmth is certainly a dominant player, but is surrounded by complimentary flavors!  Key word: complimentary.  So many make the mistake of having a higher ABV in a brew where the alcohol takes over and beats the other flavors to death with their own severed limbs.  This dominant ABV is not only appropriate, but welcome.

Overall Impression 10/10
This is a damn big beer.  The aroma was a bit underwhelming, but this beer made me feel like a fool for underestimating it in the early goings.  The flavor is IMMENSE (enough to warrant CAPS LOCK usage), the warmth is in-your-face, and the appearance is equally deceptive.  Again, I was definitely surprised by the mouthfeel on this one, but not in an unpleasant way.  If this beer had the body that I assume it should have, it would have been a sipper beyond belief.  Good work to Smuttynose for cramming this much flavor into as little body as possible.

Total 46/50
Nice work Smuttymose!  Your "BIG BEER" Series has not let me down yet.  Even my wife liked this one!  Based on the smell, I thought, "Awww... just like a really old brown dog it's going to be subdued and kind of relaxed."  Then I saw the color and thought, "Awww... they really love their old mascot Olive.  This shade of brown must've been the color of her coat.  How pretty."  Then I tasted it and found out that the really old brown dog still had a TON of spunk in her yet.  The flavors are not only big, they're complimentary, and very, very tasty.  Plus, the fact that this 1 pt, 6 oz bottle is priced under $6 is an insane bargain!  Go buy this!  For that matter, buy the other Smuttynose BIG BEER Series with confidence.  I have yet to have a bad one and for the price, you can afford to be a little adventurous.  Now get to it!