It’s time again for me to offer all of you the benefits of my beer knowledge, fearless sense of adventure, and willingness to put my reputation on the line. Yes, I bring you another beer review. These two fine beers are both seasonal releases, currently available. Please read responsibly!
9 Ladies Dancing: The Bruery, Placentia, CA. 11.3% ABV
This is the 9th verse of the 12 Days of Christmas series from The Bruery. They started this series in their first year of operation with “Partridge in a Pear Tree”, and have brewed a different ale every year, each one named after a verse in the famous Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Unfortunately I missed the Partridge in a Pear Tree, but have had each offering since then; they are all very different. Refer to my Beer Reviews of November 18, 2014 (7 Swans a Swimming) and December 6, 2012 (5 Golden Rings) for descriptions of two previous verses.
9 Ladies Dancing is inspired by the well known Italian dessert, tiramisu. This ale is infused with cacao nibs, vanilla, coffee and lactose, for a sweet, but not heavy, flavor sensation. It pours a hazy dark brown with a 3/4″ light beige head that persists for several minutes, then fades to a very substantial ring around the perimeter of The Bruery tulip glass. The aroma is sweet, coffee, with a little vanilla.
The flavor is coffee (without the bitterness), sweet cocoa, slight alcohol and sweetness, which then fades to dark fruit and raisins, then a lingering coffee/mocha in the aftertaste. This is a sweet beer. I noted no bitterness at all, and believe it could stand a little bittering hops for balance (caveat: I’m a hop head, a lover of huge IPA’s, so my palate may not be the most objective). However, this beer is supposed to be their take on tiramisu; so, if one keeps that in mind while drinking this, the connection cannot be missed. The body is medium – heavy, with a fairly high level of carbonation.
As it warms, the coffee is more pronounced and it becomes a little sweeter. Overall, this beer is sweet, even a little syrupy. The coffee is noticeable, and is the signature taste, but is not overwhelming. In fact, I would say it is a little more subtle than typical tiramisu. The alcohol is also noticeable, but not hot or unpleasant; it is a sweet alcohol note, and it definitely brings on an enjoyable buzz.
9 Ladies Dancing is currently available in 750 ML bottles. I bought a bomber at Total Wine for $10.99.
Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale: Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO; 11.5% ABV.
Hibernation Ale is an English style Old Ale from Great Divide Brewing. The Barrel Aged version has been aged in whiskey barrels for over 12 months. I’ve never had the regular Hibernation Ale, so I can’t compare this barrel aged version to it.
Barrel Aged pours a murky brown with a 1/2″ beige head that fades after 2 – 3 minutes to a substantial ring and some lingering surface foam (very light), that lasts throughout the session. The aroma is coffee, chocolate, vanilla and mocha.
The flavor is slightly sweet, but not overwhelming, with a hint of bitterness. Chocolate, coffee and some vanilla are first noted, then sweet cherry, bourbon (very subdued) and raisins. These flavors fade to a sweet coffee which lingers in the aftertaste.
As previously mentioned, this beer is sweet, but not out of balance. The body is medium to heavy, and the carbonation is low to medium. A lot of lacing was left behind in the tulip glass. A bit of booziness is noted late on the palate as it warms, but it is not at all unpleasant. A nice warming sensation is apparent in the throat and the stomach from the high alcohol content (it gave me a nice buzz after half a glass). A slight coconut flavor appears when the beer gets to room temperature, but other than that, the bourbon flavor is all but missing.
I purchased Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale at Total Wine – $19.99 for a 750 ML bomber. This is seasonal/limited release, so it may or may not be available any longer.
So there you have it – two very nice winter warmers. I can recommend both, although with a couple of caveats. First, Barrel Aged Hibernation is very good, but the bourbon barrel flavors are lacking the intensity I would expect from a $20 bottle of barrel aged beer. According to the label, it was bottled on February 17, 2016, so it’s possible the bourbon flavor has faded from 9 months in the bottle (I drank the bottle on November 4, 2016). For the price, 9 Ladies Dancing is a much better bargain (about half the price) and is more widely available right now. Second, both of these beers are sweet. If you are a hophead, or don’t like sweet beers, these may not be to your liking. And lastly, the usual warning applies to these ales: fizzy yellow beer drinkers (and cheapskates), don’t bother – you’re not sophisticated enough.