9 Ladies Dancing, and Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale

francis2_nobkgrd

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.

Sláinte!

Bastard’s Midnight Brunch and Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

francis2_nobkgrd

Good craft beer is widely available these days.  In the last few months I have sampled many different beers with the intention of posting reviews.  Unfortunately for you, my writing has not kept up with my beer consumption.  Here are a couple more reviews of some good beer, both brewed by Stone.  Please read responsibly.

Bastard’s Midnight Brunch: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA; 12.7% ABV (2016 release).
Stone offers a wide variety of limited release, specialty, and barrel aged ales in their line-up.  Bastard’s Midnight Brunch is Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale aged in bourbon barrels and maple syrup barrels (refer to my review of Depth Charged Double Bastard, posted December 2, 2015, for more information about the base beer for Midnight Brunch).  Depth Charged is Stone’s Double Bastard Ale brewed with espresso coffee beans, so Midnight Brunch is twice removed from it’s foundation, Double Bastard Ale, which itself is an excellent beer [Double Bastard » Depth Charged » Midnight Brunch].

This beer pours a murky reddish-brown with a 1/4″ cream colored head that fades fairly quickly.  The aroma is sweet: toffee, chocolate and maple.  The flavor is . . . WOW!.  It’s slightly sweet, with dark fruit, raisins, coffee (very slight), and tobacco.  These flavors fade to a slight bitter chocolate in the aftertaste.  After some time, the vanilla and coconut notes from the  bourbon barrel step forward and linger for awhile.  This too fades, to a hop bitterness.    At the end of it all, the bitterness lingers.  As it warms, the Double Bastard roots become more obvious, and a nuttiness comes through.  What great flavor progression!

This beer is full bodied, quite thick and smooth.  The carbonation level is low to medium.  A 1/8″ ring of foam persisted throughout the session, but left no lacing in my tulip glass.

Sweet is the overall impression, but not so much that one feels the need for insulin.  It is very malty like Double Bastard, but is much more complex.  The coffee flavor from the Depth Charged is quite subdued, and the alcohol, although high, is only slightly evident to the palate (but will definitely do some damage).  This is an interesting beer – very good.  I prefer the regular Depth Charged, but it’s more to my liking than regular Double Bastard Ale.  Sorry I can’t give you pricing information – this beer was a gift to me from Sheila  (now, is that a thoughtful gift, or what?).  I would guess about $18 – $20 for a 500 ml bottle.

Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout: Stone Brewing; 9.2% ABV (2008 & 2016 releases).
In 2008, Stone Brewing released Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout as their 12th anniversary ale.  This beer was an instant success, but since it was their anniversary brew, it was not repeated, nor was it added to their stable of regular offerings.  During 2016, in honor of their 20th anniversary celebration, Stone re-released several of their special and/or anniversary ales.  Lucky for me (and all of you), Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was one of those that Stone released again.

Beers like this are widely available today, but in 2008, they were relatively rare.  When I first tasted BCOS (in 2008) I fell in love with it, and purchased numerous bottles to enjoy over time.  Imagine my shock when I saw a shelf full of this wonderful beer at Costco a few months ago.  Did I buy some?  Oh yeah, numerous bottles.  I’ve consumed a few of them already, and have several of them cellering now for future enjoyment.

Since I still had a couple of bottles of the 2008 release, I sampled a 2008 bottle and a 2016 bottle in a side-by-side comparison for this review.  Imagine my pleasure as I consumed two different vintages of this treat at the same sitting (that’s two 22 oz. bombers of high alcohol imperial stout).  DO NOT try this at home, folks – I am a professional, capable of such exploits.  Well, enough background; you all paid full admission, so here is the review of the two vintages of this monster . . .

Appearance
2008 – Pours black with a thin, medium cocoa-colored head that fades immediately, leaving a micro-thin ring around the perimeter of the glass.
2016 – Pours black with a 1/2″ medium cocoa colored head, which also rapidly fades, but leaves a 1/8″ foam ring that persists.

Aroma
2008 – Sweet, nutty, vanilla (no coffee; much sweeter and nuttier than 2016).
2016 – Sweet, coffee, nutty (the coffee is very noticeable, as is expected with a stout).

Flavor
2008 – Semi-sweet chocolate, dark fruit, cherries, vanilla, nutty.  This vintage is very mellow, easy to drink, thick, and velvety smooth.  There is no bitter chocolate in the aftertaste, just a lingering semi-sweet chocolate.  No alcohol is noted in the flavor at any time (from cold to room temperature).
2016 – Coffee, semi-sweet chocolate, a little raisin, somewhat sweet, but balanced.  There is a lingering bitter chocolate in the aftertaste, along with a hint of nuttiness.  As this vintage warms, the coffee subsides from the flavor and the chocolate dominates.  The alcohol is definitely noticeable in the flavor when compared to the 2008 version, although it is not hot or unpleasant in any way.

Overall Impression
There is a huge difference between these versions.  There is no coffee aroma or flavor in the 2008 release.  The mouthfeel and viscosity of the two is the same, and the alcohol is noticeable in the non-aged version (that’s to be expected).  It is really amazing to drink these two identical beers and taste the huge difference due to aging.

I purchased the 2016 release at Costco – $6.39 for a 22 oz. bomber.  I purchased some more at Total Wine – $7.99 per bomber.  Costco has been out of stock for a long time, but it is still available at Total Wine.

I recommend both of these Stone beers.  The Bastard’s Midnight Brunch is very good, but is undoubtedly more expensive than Depth Charged Bastard.  For that reason, I recommend Depth Charged over Midnight Brunch; I also preferred the deeper coffee notes in Depth Charged (that’s saying something, considering I don’t even drink coffee).  I highly recommend Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and in fact I currently have a number of bottles aging at Mac’s (including one remaining bottle of the original 2008 release).  This is a complex stout and is the brew that started me drinking “big” beers, especially imperial stouts.  Now, go buy some (caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t bother; you will hate it).

Sláinte!

Abyss, Tweak, and Darkstar November

francis2_nobkgrd

It’s fall, and the holidays are approaching.  That means big, dark beers and winter warmers.  Today I bring you reviews of three barrel aged Imperial Stouts.  Please read responsibly.

Abyss: Deschutes Brewing, Bend, OR; 12.2% ABV (2015 release).
Abyss is Deschutes’ annual bourbon barrel Imperial Stout offering.  This review is for the 2015 version (this beer is typically released in November or December each year).  This particular vintage is 50% aged in bourbon, Oregon oak, and pinot noir barrels.

Abyss pours black with a 1/4″ cocoa colored head that rapidly fades to a thin layer and small ring around the edge.  The aroma is roasty, coffee, tart (from the wine barrel) and brown sugar.  The flavor is thick, bitter chocolate, vanilla and a little licorice, then fades to sweet cherry and dark fruit.  The aftertaste is chocolate, migrating from sweet to bittersweet.

As this beer warms, the aroma is all about the brown sugar, with very strong notes of molasses.  In addition, the chocolate flavor increases, as does the vanilla, and a little bit of coconut peeks through (from the bourbon barrel).  It definitely sweetens up as the temperature increases.  In spite of the high alcohol content, it is not hot or boozy; very drinkable.  This is VERY good!!  I sampled Abyss from a 22 oz. bomber purchased at Total Wine ($15.99).

Tweak: Avery Brewing, Boulder, CO; 17.5% ABV (2015 release).
Tweak is Avery’s annual release bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout (with coffee added).  This is a review of the 2015 vintage.  It is typically released in November each year.  I sampled Tweak from a 12 oz. bottle purchased at BevMo.  I don’t remember the price, but it was expensive for a 12 oz. bottle ($12.99 I think).  Oh yeah, it was well worth it!!

Tweak pours midnight black with a 1/2″ beige head that fades after one or two minutes to a small ring around the edge.  The aroma is coffee (but not overly bitter) and coconut, with slight vanilla notes.  The flavor is sweet chocolate, vanilla and dark fruit, then coffee (again, not bitter) and mocha, fading to coconut and vanilla.  The coconut aftertaste lingers forever, then the coffee raises its head again, but the coconut remains.

As Tweak warms, the aroma becomes sweeter on the nose, with more vanilla and less coffee (almost caramel-like).  In the mouth, the coffee is more pronounced and the bourbon becomes very subdued until the aftertaste, when it takes over.  As it gets to room temperature, the alcohol becomes just a little noticeable in the taste.

The bottle label says this beer is 17.5% ABV.  That’s hard to believe.  There was  no booziness noted in the aroma or flavor (except as described above, when it reached room temperature), BUT it went right to my head.  I drank it on an empty stomach, and was cruising the rest of the afternoon.  This beer is AWESOME!

Darkstar November: Bottle Logic Brewing, Anaheim, CA; 13.7% ABV (2015 release).
Darkstar November is Bottle Logic’s annual bourbon barrel aged Imperial Russian Stout.  This is a review of the 2015 release.  For this review I sampled a 22 oz. bottle, purchased at Total Wine ($20.99), but previously  tasted it at the Bottle Logic tasting room last year.  It is typically available in November and December.

Darkstar November pours opaque black with a 1/4″ cocoa head that fades within a minute to a medium thin ring around the edge.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla, oak and alcohol.  The flavor is also sweet – dark chocolate, vanilla, dark fruit, and raisins.  The sweetness yields to a slight bitterness (hops?) and bitter cocoa, which in turn fades to vanilla, sweet chocolate, then to coconut, which lingers in the aftertaste.

Darkstar November is thick, velvety smooth, and viscous.  No alcohol is noted in the mouth, until it warms up.  As it warms, the sweet chocolate starts to dominate the flavor and the alcohol becomes a little noticeable on the tongue, although it is not hot or unpleasant.  This is a DELICIOUS and easily drinkable dessert beer!

I highly recommend all three of these beers, Abyss, Tweak, and Darkstar November.  They are wonderful examples of the barrel aged Imperial Russian Stout style.  It’s too bad they have such limited availability.  The good news, however: I have posted this review early enough that you can prepare yourself – be sure to start looking for these beers in November when they become available.  All of them are fairly expensive beers, but they are worth the price.  After all, life is too short to drink crappy beer!

Cheers!

Mash, Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale, and Fogcutter

francis2_nobkgrd

It’s been awhile since I posted a beer review, but I have been busy sampling lots of different commercial brews.  Here are my impressions on three of them.  Please read responsibly.

Mash: The Bruery, Placentia, CA12.5% ABV.
Mash is a barley wine style ale aged in bourbon barrels.  Now I like barley wines, and bourbon barrel aged beers, so this should be a “can’t miss” beer, right?  The Bruery didn’t disappoint (I have to say, they never do; although I’m not wild about Belgian style beers, their specialty, you can count on anything from The Bruery to be good, and this is just another really good beer from our friends in Placentia).

Mash pours a cloudy dark amber with a 1/4″ light cream colored head that fades to a  thin ring around the perimeter of the glass (in this case, a “Bruery” tulip glass).  The aroma is sweet, dark fruit, raisin, toffee, caramel, vanilla, coconut and bourbon (faint).

Mash has a thick, heavy body with flavors of toffee, caramel, raisin, figs, vanilla, and coconut.  It then produces a slight bitterness that fades to more coconut, vanilla, and a little bit of booze, with a tobacco like quality lingering in the aftertaste.  This beer is sweet and chewy, but not unpleasant.  The carbonation is not overwhelming, but enough to smooth out the sweetness and cleanse the palate for your next sip.

Mash is very complex.  As it warms, the alcohol becomes quite pronounced in the aroma, but the taste remains very smooth, without the booziness that is noticeable in many other high alcohol beers.  In my opinion, this is one of the best barley wines on the market.  I prefer it to Stone’s Old Guardian (which I also like) – Mash is more in the English style (it’s not a hop bomb like Old Guardian) and is similar to Firestone Walker’s Sucaba.

I sampled Mash from a 750 ml bottle given to me by my daughter, Rosie, for Father’s Day.  It’s currently available at Total Wine for $19.99.  That’s pretty expensive, but well worth it (in fact, I have another bottle in my refrigerator right now).  I HIGHLY recommend Mash!

Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale: Abita Brewing, Abita Springs, LA.  9.5% ABV.
Bourbon Street is a Pale Ale aged in bourbon barrels.  It is very high in alcohol for a pale ale (I’m sure the bourbon barrel aging has something to do with that).  This beer is a medium to dark orange color with a creamy white 3/4″ head that remains for a couple of minutes before fading to a thin covering over the top.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla, caramel and coconut.

The flavor is sweet malt, caramel and a slight, nice vanilla sweetness.  It is not overly sweet, as the hops balance it, to keep it in the American Pale Ale category.  The balanced sweetness fades to a nice vanilla and coconut in the aftertaste, courtesy of the bourbon barrel.  The vanilla/coconut lingers for quite awhile (very pleasant).

Bourbon Street has a medium carbonation level, commensurate with the Pale Ale style, but it is higher than most bourbon barrel aged beers.  This carbonation helps to keep the sweetness under control, and gets your mouth ready for the next swallow.

I sampled this beer from a  22 oz. bomber purchased from Total Wine for $9.99.  I think this might be limited release, so I’m not sure if it’s readily available.  Overall, this is a very nice beer, and one I can recommend.  I’ve never had a bourbon barrel aged pale ale before.  This one is nicely done.  Good job, Abita!

Fogcutter Double IPA: Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka, CA.  8.7% ABV.
Fogcutter pours a murky golden yellow with a 1/2″ white head, which fades to a fairly thick ring that leaves extensive lacing.  The aroma is mild citrus and floral.  The flavor is typical DIPA – bittersweet.  The malty sweetness is balanced out by the hoppy, citrus flavor that leaves a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

Fogcutter is rated at 80 IBU, which is on the lower end of the Double IPA category, but I think it is more balanced than many DIPA’s.  The medium body and carbonation level help lend a balanced feel to the flavor.  The alcohol content (8.7%) is substantial, but not overwhelming and is not noticeable in the taste.  If you drink it on an empty stomach, you will definitely get the effect, but you won’t be wiped out.  Many DIPA’s tend to be out of balance (in my opinion) – too thick and sweet – but Lost Coast has this one dialed in just right!

I had never heard of Fogcutter until I received a 22 oz. bomber from Phil Colias a couple of weeks ago.  As I recall, he randomly selected this beer and had never tried it before.  Well, Phil, good choice, and thank you for the wonderful beer.  I highly recommend Fogcutter and will be buying more in the future.  It’s moderately priced at $8.99 for a 22 oz. bottle at Total Wine.

So, there you have it.  Bourbon Street and Fogcutter are moderately priced; Mash is expensive.  Each of them, however, is worth the price of admission.  I can highly recommend all three of these beers, but especially Mash.  Caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates, don’t even bother – you’re not sophisticated enough.

There’s a lot happening at Mac’s Brew Pub and I hope to have a newsletter out in the next couple of weeks.  That’s all I have time for now, but check back soon for the lowdown on Mac’s Brew, and for additional beer reviews.

Sláinte!

Tart of Darkness & So Happens It’s Tuesday

francis2_nobkgrd

The Bruery in Placentia California, has become world renowned in a relatively short time (founded in 2008).  When you taste their beers, you understand why, and might concede their reputation is well deserved.  Today I review two of their somewhat pricey  beers that are seasonal or limited release.  Please read responsibly.

Tart of Darkness: The Bruery, Placentia, CA.  7.2% ABV.
The first time I tasted this beer was in the Tasting Room at The Bruery.  It was just a sample glass, but it was so good, yet unusual, that I was hooked.  I recently looked back through my archives on this blog, but realized I have never published a review of this gem.  For my laziness, I offer my apologies (and shame on me!).

I poured Tart of Darkness into a Bruery tulip glass.  It is dark, in fact it’s nearly black, and produces a 1/2″ light tan head.  The head faded rapidly, leaving a razor thin ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is tart, sour cherries, with a little chocolate.  As it warms in the tulip glass, the chocolate aroma increases, but remains behind the tartness.

The overwhelming flavor is described in the name of the beer – TART.  It is extremely tart, from start to finish, making one pucker.  However, upon reflection and further tasting, the complexity and the subtleties become apparent.  It exhibits a sweetness, so I would describe the flavor as “sweet-tart”.  The chocolate notes and the roastiness, from the dark grains, peek through to moderate the tart and sour cherry flavors.  The chocolate and roasty notes also increase with the beer temperature, but the tartness remains the overwhelming flavor sensation.  That tartness smooths out a bit in the aftertaste, with a little bit of sweet chocolate lingering (though not for long).  Although this is a barrel aged beer, I get none of the oaky, vanilla aromas or flavors.

Tart of Darkness sports a medium body, and the carbonation is well developed for a stout. The alcohol content is only 7.2%, but I drank it on an empty stomach, and it went right to my head.  Nothing wrong with that, I say, let’s get the full effect of this beer.

The tartness of this beer is so overwhelming that the palate is rapidly wrecked, and it becomes difficult to distinguish any other flavors.  However, this beer is EXCELLENT!  You gotta taste it to appreciate this awesome beer.  I’m afraid my description does not do it justice.  I sampled this beer from a 750 ML bomber, purchased at Total Wine for $20.49.  Yes, I know that’s expensive for one bottle of beer, but if you like dark beers and you like sour beers, you really need to buy one.

So Happens It’s Tuesday: The Bruery, Placentia, CA.  14% ABV.
This is a huge Imperial Russian Stout.  Black Tuesday, by The Bruery, is, without a doubt, the biggest baddest Imperial Stout on the block.  However, unless you’re a member of The Bruery’s Reserve Society (I’m not – too expensive), it’s almost impossible to come by.  But, So Happens It’s Tuesday, is Black Tuesday’s little brother.  Although he’s the little brother, he’s by no means whimpy.  Let me explain.

So Happens It’s Tuesday pours pitch black with a 1/4″ cocoa colored creamy head.  The foamy head remained for a few minutes, then faded to a ring and a thin layer on top.  The aroma is complex – brown sugar, dark fruit, raisin, tart cherry, with an almost red wine-like character.

This beer is silky smooth and quite thick, and the flavor is unbelievably rich.  It’s sweet, with noticeable chocolate, and caramel notes.  Those flavors fade to dark, roasty chocolate, which fades to vanilla, coconut and mellow oaky bourbon flavors.  It’s 14% ABV, but the alcohol is well hidden and only slightly noted in the taste.

Like any big stout (especially one as high in alcohol as this), the subtle flavors shine through as this beer warms up.  As big as this beer is, it is unbelievably easy to drink.  Watch out, though, the high alcohol content will kick your butt.  I had a buzz when I was 1/3 of the way through my first glass (a Buery tulip glass).

Even though I live only a few miles from The Bruery, I find it almost impossible to come by Black Tuesday.  In contrast, however, So Happens It’s Tuesday is widely available right now.  It is an awesome beer, and although it is only the little brother of Black Tuesday, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I purchased a 750 ML bomber of So Happens It’s Tuesday at Total Wine for $19.99.

So there you have it, reviews of two wonderful beers from The Bruery.  I highly recommend both, with one caveat – if you’re a fizzy yellow beer drinker, don’t bother!  Although both are about the same price (Tart of Darkness is 50¢ per bottle more), for my money I much prefer So Happens It’s Tuesday.  Of course, I’m an Imperial Stout lover, and although I like sour beers, they are more of a novelty to me and not to be visited frequently.  The bottom line is that even though these are expensive beers, both are well worth the price of admission.  If you’re interested, though, you better hurry, as there are limited quantities and availability.

I need to interject a few thoughts about Black Tuesday, since it was mentioned prominently in this post.  In my opinion, Black Tuesday is the best beer in the world.  Yes, it is better than Heady Topper (The Alchemist), Pliny the Elder (Russian River) and Dark Lord (Three Floyds).  I have never reviewed Black Tuesday, but that will change someday.  I have reviewed Heady Topper and referenced it’s standing in the beer world (along with MY ranking compared to Black Tuesday).  I refer you to my Beer Review post of November 4, 2014 if  you are interested in additional details.

I previously stated how hard it is go get a bottle of Black Tuesday, but in the last couple of weeks I came into possession of a bottle (2015 vintage).  And how, you ask, did I manage to get my hands on the best beer in the world?  My next door neighbor, Herbert Wang, graciously gave me a bottle (yes, GAVE it to me).  In exchange I have given him some Mac’s Brew (so far, Club 57 and Black Forest Stout) and will give him several more as compensation for his all too generous gift.  Herbert, you are a fine young man, a good neighbor, and a kind soul.  I only hope you enjoy the Mac’s Brew samples half as much as I am going to enjoy the bottle of Black Tuesday.  THANK YOU, HERBERT!!

Black Tuesday is very expensive, and is therefore a special occasion beer (yeah, and it’s also 20% ABV, so for that reason also, it’s not an everyday beer).  I will post a review when I drink it, but it may be quite awhile before that special occasion arises.  If you are intrigued enough about Black Tuesday, you will need to check back with this site often to avoid missing the much anticipated review.

Slainte!

 

Monsters’ Park & Xocoveza Charred

francis2_nobkgrd

It’s that time of the year when dark beers are plentiful and satisfying.  Here are reviews of two more dark beauties, both loaded with flavor and character.  Please read responsibly.

Monsters’ Park: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA.  12% ABV.
Modern Times Beer in San Diego makes one of my favorite coffee stouts, Black House.  Monsters’ Park is their Imperial Stout, and it is definitely a monster compared to Black House.  The description on the label states, “Monsters’ Park is a hulking, cantankerous imperial stout sporting a brawny malt bill and a dry, lingering finish.”

Monsters’ Park pours black with a 3/4″ cocoa colored head that faded rapidly but left a nice ring around the top edge that remained throughout the entire session.  The aroma is semi-sweet dark chocolate.  The flavor is sweet coffee with a little chocolate.  The chocolate lingers on the tongue, then fades to a slight sweetness, typical of imperial stouts.  This sweetness, however, is well balanced with hops.

The body and mouthfeel is thick, but the CO2 peel helps to mitigate the thickness just a bit.  There is a nice lingering semi-sweet chocolate note in the aftertaste.  Although it’s 12% ABV, it is not the least bit boozy or hot.  In fact, it is a deceptively smooth, easy drinking stout; but watch out, it will kick your butt!  As it warms, the alcohol aroma appears, but it’s not overwhelming.  At 60° F or above, there is more coffee, more chocolate, and more booze – in other words, more flavor and aroma.  I recommend you let this one warm up to 55° – 60° before drinking; it’s well worth it!

I sampled Monsters’ Park from a 22 oz. bomber I purchased at Total Wine for $12.99.  It’s worth the price, but I’m not sure it’s still available (I sampled it in November – sorry for the delay in posting the review).

Xocoveza Charred (2015 Series): Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  10% ABV.
Have I ever mentioned I like Stone beers?  This is another good one.  Xocoveza Mocha Stout is a Christmas Season beer that Stone releases each year.  It’s a stout described (by Stone) as, “an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.”  Xocoveza Charred is the same beer aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels.

Xocoveza Charred is pitch black with a 1/4″ light cocoa colored head that faded very rapidly to a ring around the edge.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla and oak.  The flavor is a little bit of chocolate, and a little coffee.  Vanilla is evident mid palate, but fades to a sweet chocolate, with vanilla notes lingering.  The oak/vanilla notes are very subdued and could stand some extra emphasis.  This beer features a medium body, but would benefit from additional mouth feel.

Although this is a bourbon barrel aged beer, the vanilla and oak flavors are not pronounced enough.  However, those flavors overwhelm the spiciness of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout, which is a little disappointing.  This iteration looses the cinnamon/nutmeg and pepper notes that are so evident in the original version, which is too bad.  Since the barrel aging cut down on the spiciness of the original, the vanilla/coconut flavors derived from the bourbon barrel need to be more pronounced to compensate for the loss.

Xocoveza Charred is a very good beer, but does not have the flavor intensity of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Knowing what the original tastes like, I was a little disappointed because the spices are lost to the barrel.  The original is an excellent beer; barrel aging should improve/intensify the flavor and complexity, but in this case it actually detracts.  Too bad; maybe it should be aged in the barrel for a longer period of time.

I sampled this beer from a 500 ML corked bottle, which I received as a gift from my father for Christmas.  Thanks, Dad!

So what about these two beers?  I can recommend both, as they are high quality, flavorful examples.  Monsters’ Park is an excellent Imperial Stout and worth the cost, if it’s still available (I haven’t seen it around lately).  Xocoveza Charred is very good, but not as good as the original underlying base beer, Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Charred sells for $18.99 for a 500 ML bottle at Total Wine; the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout is $15.99 for a six pack (12 oz. bottles).  Like I said, Xocoveza Charred is very good, but for the money I recommend the original Xocoveza – you won’t be disappointed (unless you like only fizzy yellow beer).

Slainte!

Tart Cherry Stout & Fyodor’s Classic

francis2_nobkgrd

Happy New Year to one and all from Mac’s Brew Pub.  I’m looking forward to a 2016 filled with good beer and brewing.  I’ve been drinking a lot of big dark beers for the last couple of months.  Here are my thoughts on a couple of Imperial Stouts I recently tasted.  Please read responsibly.

Tart Cherry Stout (Smokestack Series): Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO.  11% ABV.
Tart Cherry Stout is a Special Release Ale in the Smokestack Series of beers from Boulevard Brewing.  Their Smokestack series is a, “. . . special collection of bigger, bolder, more complex brews,” typically with a higher alcohol content than Boulevard’s core brands.  Tart Cherry Stout is an Imperial Stout fermented with tart cherries, and bottle conditioned.

They beer pours black as midnight with a huge dark tan head.  It is well carbonated (due to the bottle conditioning) and though the head subsided, it remained throughout the session, as did the effervescence.  It has much more carbonation than a typical Imperial Stout.

The aroma has a slight note of cherry, but it’s not tart.  The flavor features cherry and tartness along with chocolate notes.  The high carbonation thins out the texture/mouth feel.  Tartness lingers on the tongue, but it’s not overwhelming.  The aftertaste is also cherry, which rapidly fades to a tart and bitter sensation before the cherry returns and lingers.

Tart Cherry Stout is a nice cherry chocolate stout.  It’s 11% ABV, but there is absolutely no booziness.  However, the high carbonation level detracts from the Imperial Stout experience.  With a beer this big, I expect something thick and chewy with a little bit of alcohol bite.  The high carbonation thins out the body and cuts down on the residual sweetness expected from a big Imperial Stout.  You definitely need to let this one warm up to 60° F for drinking – it will cut down the carbonation and increase the body.  It also increases the cherry flavor, which is not necessary.

I purchased this beer at Costco for $10.99.  It comes in a corked 750 ML bottle that popped like a bottle of champagne when opened.

Fyodor’s Classic (2015 Series): Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA.  13% ABV.
This is another bourbon barrel aged offering from Stone Brewing in San Diego, but it’s not just another Stone beer.  It is the 2014 version of Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout aged for seven months in Kentucky Bourbon barrels.  I love Stone’s IRS, but this beer towers over the non-aged version.

Fyodor’s Classic is pitch black and creates a 1/2″ cocoa colored head when poured into a tulip glass.  The head fades rapidly to a thin ring along the perimeter, which left no lacing during the session.

The aroma is sweet vanilla, coconut, bourbon, chocolate and raisin.  the initial flavor sensation is sweet, with a CO2 bite on the tongue.  This swiftly transitions to a slightly sweet cocoa, then to coconut/vanilla (from the bourbon barrel), and finally to a very pleasant semi-sweet dark chocolate and coffee that lingers for quite awhile.

Fyodor’s Classic is well carbonated, but retains a thick, chewy mouthfeel and body, yet it’s not too sweet.  In spite of the high alcohol content (13%), there is no booziness noted, even as it warms.  However, the alcohol immediately starts warming the throat and belly, with warming to the rest of the body right behind..

Fyodor’s Classic is a world class beer.  The aftertaste is where this one really excels.  The taste magically transitions from one flavor to the next, but that transition is so slow and seamless there is no definitive point where one can say, “that’s exactly where it changed.”  This beer is unbelievably complex and wonderful.

I purchased this 500 ML corked bottle of Fyodor’s Classic several months ago at Total Wine for $18.99.  It is a limited edition, but because it’s expensive, it is still available.

I can recommend both of these beers.  Although Tart Cherry Stout is very good, I will not purchase another bottle.  It is definitely worth the price ($10.99 if you can still get it at Costco), but I prefer Imperial Stouts with a little more sweetness, viscosity and body.  Fyodor’s Classic, as previously mentioned, is a top notch beer.  It is worth the hefty price tag ($18.99 per bottle at Total Wine) and is sure to be a treat to any Imperial Stout connoisseur.  The usual caveat applies to both of these beers: fizzy yellow beer drinkers – don’t bother.

Slainte!

Gift of the Magi & Double Bastard in the Rye

francis2_nobkgrd

I trust that all of you had a merry Christmas and are all set for a happy and prosperous new year.  Christmas at Mac’s Brew Pub was truly a joy this year, and we are grateful for so much.  I received these two beers for Christmas from my daughters.  Both are special release beers so I thought I should post these reviews right away while they are still available in stores.  Please read responsibly.

Gift of the Magi: The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA.  12% ABV.
The Lost Abbey is the Belgian brewing arm of Port Brewing in San Marcos (San Diego).  Although Belgian style beers are not my favorite, I do enjoy some Belgian styles.  Gift of the Magi is a “Biere de Garde” (“beer for keeping” = extended conditioning/aging) – a strong, farmhouse style pale ale.  This beer is only available around Christmas time.

Gift of the Magi pours a hazy copper/amber color with 1″ thick creamy off white head.  The head persists for several minutes before it fades to a substantial ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is sweet with hints of toffee and raisin.  The flavor follows suit – sweet, dark fruit, raisin, and toffee.  It transitions to a bitterness with some caramel, followed by a bitter hoppy finish and finally fades to a slight bitter coffee aftertaste.

This is bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces, which gives it those barnyard notes typical of a farmhouse style ale.  The body is medium, leaning toward heavy, but the carbonation is high, which keeps this beer from being too syrupy.  The alcohol content, at 12%, is high, but is not at all noticeable in the flavor.  Although not evident on the palate, the alcohol packs a wallop – it hit me before I was through my first pint.

Gift of the Magi is very drinkable, in spite of the high alcohol content.  Be careful, however, it gets  you there quickly.  This beer is currently available and I highly recommend it.  Don’t wait too long, however, supplies are limited and it won’t be available again until late next year.  I sampled from a 750 ml corked bottle that I received for Christmas from Kristen and David.  Gift of the Magi is a wise choice, and fit for a King, I must say!

Double Bastard in the Rye (2015): Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  12.7% ABV.
According to the bottle, Double Bastard in the Rye is a, “close relative” of Stone’s Southern Charred (see my review posted September 28, 2014), which is Double Bastard Ale aged in bourbon barrels.  I would have to agree there is a lot of similarity between the two, but Double Bastard in the Rye is aged in Templeton Rye Whiskey barrels as opposed to bourbon barrels.

Double Bastard in the Rye pours an opaque dark amber with very little head.  The little bit of foam present fades rapidly to a very thin ring at the edge, which leaves no lacing.  The aroma is Double Bastard Ale – malty, sweet, toffee – with some vanilla.

The initial flavor sensation is bitter, but then vanilla from the rye whiskey barrel immediately kicks in.  It’s sweet and thick, then fades to a bittersweet caramel/toffee flavor that is all Double Bastard.  The bittersweet caramel slowly fades to a vanilla in the aftertaste and then becomes a lingering bitterness.  This has a heavy body with low carbonation, but is not boozy in spite of it’s high alcohol content (12.7%), and is a little easier to drink than the regular Double Bastard.  The hops are evident, though not overwhelming, and help to balance the huge maltiness of this brew.  Double Bastard in the Rye has none of the coconut flavor so evident in Southern Charred, but has more vanilla.  As the beer warms in the glass, the vanilla from the whiskey barrel and the alcohol become more apparent in the aroma and the flavor.

Double Bastard in the Rye is available, but is limited, so if you want to try some, you better get it soon.  I received this bottle (500 ml corked bottle) from my other daughter, Rosie, for Christmas.  It’s very good, although not as good as Southern Charred or Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale (see my review posted December 2, 2015).

So, what about these two beers?  I recommend both, but neither is for the faint of heart.  Double Bastard in the Rye is pretty expensive (as is expected with a barrel aged beer), but worth the price for the experience of drinking one bottle.  Gift of the Magi is more affordable, so you have no excuse – GO BUY A BOTTLE!.  Caveat – as with most of these big beers, fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates will not like them; so if you’re in either category (or both), don’t bother.

A sincere thank you to Krissy and Rosie.  You know how to spoil your old man.  Cheers!

Hammerland DIPA & Angel’s Share

francis2_nobkgrd

If you read my last newsletter, you are aware that I am out of Mac’s Brew (except for some huge stouts and barley wine in bottles) and have been purchasing a lot of commercially brewed craft beer.  Here is a review of a couple more.  Please read responsibly!

Hammerland DIPA: El Segundo Brewing Company, El Segundo, CA.  8.6% ABV.
Hammerland DIPA is brewed in Southern California (Los Angeles County).  It’s a Double India Pale Ale (DIPA), which typically means higher alcohol with a little more hops to balance the extra malt.

Hammerland pours a dark golden color with a 1/2″ white foamy head.  The foam fades away after 2 – 3 minutes, but a nice ring remains throughout the session, leaving some nice lacing in the glass.  The aroma is very nice citrus and hoppy.

The flavor is hoppy, citrus, and quite bitter, but has a nice maltiness commensurate with the DIPA style.  The bitterness fades to malty sweetness as it is swallowed, but then the bitterness kicks back in and lingers at the very end.

Overall, this is a nice DIPA.  Not the best I’ve ever tasted, but quite good.  I sampled this from a 22 oz. bomber purchased at Costco for $7.99.  I notice that it’s always available there, and definitely worth a taste.

Angel’s Share: The Lost Abbey Brewing Company, San Marcos, CA.  12.5% ABV.
When whiskey is aged in oak barrels, part of the batch is lost to evaporation during the years long aging process.  The portion lost to evaporation is called the angel’s share.

Angel’s Share by The Lost Abbey in San Marcos (San Diego County) is a bourbon barrel aged Belgian style strong ale.  It pours a murky dark brown with no head, although the carbonation is fairly high.  The aroma is a little tart, a little sweet, with strong vanilla notes.

The flavor is tart on the tongue, remains tart and sweet, but fades to a sweet vanilla aftertaste from the bourbon barrel aging.  The aftertaste persists and is very pleasant.  The body and mouthfeel is very thick, viscous, and syrupy.  However, this beer is highly carbonated (It’s bottle conditioned in the Belgian tradition), as one would expect with a Belgian beer.  The alcohol content is high, but not noticeable.  When it warms up, the alcohol is noticeable in the aroma and in the aftertaste.

This is a good, high quality beer.  I love bourbon barrel aged beer, but this is not one that I will re-visit.  I was expecting an Imperial Russian Stout when I bought it, but the sweet/tart characteristic is too much for me.  It’s more of an amber or brown ale style (at least in color/SRM). My sample came from a 12 oz. corked bottle I purchased at Costco for $12.99 (that’s not a typo –  this is an expensive beer, which you have to expect with any barrel aged ale).

So, here’s what  you want to know about these two beers:
I recommend Hammerland DIPA.  It’s a very nice Double IPA offered at a reasonable price at Costco.  Angel’s Share is a very good beer, but there’s no doubt it’s a Belgian ale.  Belgians are not to my liking, so I will not buy it again.  However, if you enjoy Belgian style beers, you will definitely like this one (that is, if you also like bourbon barrel aged beers).

Slainte!

 

Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale & 2015 Barrel Aged Narwhal

francis2_nobkgrd

Mac’s Brew Pub is out of Mac’s Brew, so I’m drinking a variety of high quality commercial beers (refer to the upcoming newsletter for the lame excuse as to why I’m out of Mac’s Brew).  Here are reviews of a couple limited release beers I recently sampled.  Please read responsibly.

2015 Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  11% ABV.
This is Stone’s Double Bastard Ale brewed with espresso coffee beans.  I have never posted a review of Stone’s Double Bastard Ale, but let me give you just a brief description: it’s a huge malty and hoppy extreme version of Arrogant Bastard Ale that is very high in alcohol; it’s not for the faint of heart.  Depth Charged Double Bastard is a more balanced version of the original, owing to the coffee addition.  Let me explain.

Depth Charged pours a deep amber color, very clear, with a slight head, beige in color, that rapidly fades to just a ring around the perimeter of the beer.  The aroma is sweet and malty, with strong coffee and some caramel notes.  The flavor is smooth with Double Bastard caramel maltiness and a bit of coffee.  The coffee flavor is subtle, but knocks down the over-the-top bittersweet Double Bastard malty/hoppy flavor. There are nice coffee, chocolate and caramel notes in the aftertaste.  This beer has a heavy body with a thick creamy mouthfeel, and goes down very smooth.  The carbonation level is good, but not high, and keeps it from being too heavy and syrupy.  As this beer warms, the coffee shines through brighter, making it even nicer.

In my opinion, Depth Charged is much more drinkable than Double Bastard, as the smack in the mouth bittersweet heavy flavor is mitigated by the espresso.  This is much more balanced (bitterness/sweetness) than the original as it is a bit more bitter than Double Bastard, and is more mellow.  The alcohol level, at 11%, is high, but it’s not at all boozy.

Good job, Stone.  This beer is very complex and enjoyable.  It’s really an amazing, fantastic beer.  You gotta taste it to appreciate it’s depth.  Unfortunately, it was brewed only once, so if you want some, you better look for it right away.  My sample was a 22 oz. bomber, which was part of a 4 bottle “Bastard Box” I purchased at Costco for $19.99.  I HIGHLY recommend this beer, and hope Stone will continue this along with their annual Double Bastard release!

2015 Barrel-Aged Narwhal: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA.  12.9% ABV.
Barrel-Aged Narwhal is an imperial stout.  It pours midnight black with a 1/2″ tan head that fades after a couple of minutes, leaving a tan ring around the edge.  The aroma is sweet chocolate and vanilla.  The flavor initially follows the nose – sweet chocolate – then a transitions to slight bitterness, with coconut and vanilla from the bourbon barrel aging.  The carbonation is evident mid-pallate, but not late, and it does not clear the sweet chocolate flavor.  It is a little boozy from mid-palate on, but not hot or unpleasant.  The aftertaste is sweet chocolate, which fades to a slight and pleasant bitterness.

This is a very good beer.  It’s a limited edition brew, so you better get it soon if you’re inclined to drink some.  I bought a 750 ml bottle from Total Wine for $18.99 (as I recall).  I highly recommend this one; it was worth the cost, but I won’t be buying another bottle this year (pretty expensive).

So, the bottom line is this: I highly recommend both of these beers, but especially the Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale.  You won’t be disappointed with either beer (caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers – don’t bother; you won’t like either one).

Cheers!