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!