9 Ladies Dancing, and Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale


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.


7 Swans-A-Swimming & Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard

I’m still in a holding pattern for brewing at Mac’s, but I’m able to try some new beer and offer  you my humble opinions on how they perform.  Here are a couple of brews you might find interesting.  Please read responsibly.

7 Swans-A-Swimming: The Bruery, Placentia, CA.  11% ABV.

This is the 7th verse of their 12 days of Christmas series of beers.  7 Swans-A-Swimming is a Belgian style quadrupel ale.  There are no tricks to this beer (see my review of 5 Golden Rings, posted 12-06-2012,  for insight into an unusual winter warmer), it’s a straight ahead Belgian quad, brewed only with water, malt, hops, yeast and some dark Belgian candi sugar.  All in all, it’s an enjoyable quaffing experience.

7 Swans-A-Swimming pours cloudy dark amber/brown with a thin medium tan head that rapidly fades.  I could smell the heavy sweet Belgian aroma as I was pouring this brew into a tulip glass (from The Bruery).  The aroma is sweet, burnt sugar, with a little alcohol, but no hops on the nose.

The flavor is very rich and complex – sweet, toasted caramel, figs, prunes, and raisins.  Fruity and slightly spicy.  This is a little syrupy, but not overly so, and not unpleasant.  Alcohol is apparent (it’s 11% ABV, no surprise here), but not overwhelming.  There is a little bit of cocoa late on the palate and into the aftertaste, along with burnt sugar.  The dark fruit and sweetness really lingers in the aftertaste.  It produces a nice alcohol warming, but is not overly boozy.

This Belgian possesses nice body and smooth mouthfeel.  Carbonation is moderate, commensurate with the style.

Overall, this is a very good beer, true to the Belgian quadrupel style.  At $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle (Total Wine), I would say it’s very reasonably priced for such a massive beer.  I’m not a big fan of the Belgian style – a little too sweet for my taste – so I will not be buying another bottle of 7 Swans-A-Swimming.  However, I can highly recommend this to anyone who likes big Belgian ales (tripels & quadrupels), and I look forward to tasting 8 Maids-A-Milking next year.  Good job, Bruery!

Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  7.8% ABV

I purchased the “Bastard Box” at Costco for $14.99.  This was one of the bombers in the 4 pack, along with Arrogant Bastard, Double Bastard and Lukcy Basartd (not misspelled – buy a bottle and read the description on the back).  I’m enjoying it now, so here’s the low-down on this variation of Arrogant Bastard.

This pours a deep amber with a light tan/khaki creamy head, which fades fairly rapidly.  It is very clear when held up to the light.  The aroma is malty sweet with a healthy dose of citrus hops.  There is no bourbon noted in the aroma (at least initially; see below).

The flavor is all Arrogant Bastard up front – it has a strong maltiness with a lot of hop bitterness.  Those flavors fade to a subdued bourbon vanilla/coconut flavor, which in turn fades to more hop bitterness that lingers on the palate.  It has a nice creamy mouth feel and medium carbonation, which leaves some good lacing on the glass.  I don’t notice the bourbon as much as the oak, and that (the oak)  is more pronounced than Oaked Arrogant Bastard.  The alcohol content is slightly higher than Arrogant Bastard (7.8% vs. 7.2% ABV) but it’s not boozy and I noted no alcohol warming while imbibing.

As this beer warms: I note a little bit of maple syrup and bourbon/vanilla on the nose.  The smooth, sweet, balancing of the bourbon barrel mellows this from the hop bomb that is Arrogant Bastard, and I note more and more difference between this derivative and it’s original.  It’s not just Oaked Arrogant Bastard after all (you know, those Brits might be on to something – drinking their ale at cellar temperature; it really brings out the flavors and the complexity of a beer).  This is really smooth, and well worth the price of admission if you can find it.

Both of these are good beers, and recommended, although I won’t be buying 7 Swans-A-Swimming, just because I’m not wild about Belgian style beers.  I have a bottle of Autumn Maple in the fridge, and will be serving it on Thanksgiving.  It is The Bruery’s version of an autumn beer/pumpkin ale (although, it’s brewed with yams and maple syrup, no pumpkin).  A happy Thanksgiving to all.  We have much to be thankful for.  Cheers!