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Notes of a Beer Nerd: Unita Brewing Labyrinth Black Ale

February 4, 2011 1 comment

I've become lost in this labyrinthine world.

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at timperial@beerblotter.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 2/3/2011

Brewery: Uinta Brewing Co.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Beer: Labyrinth Black Ale

Web:http://www.uintabrewing.com/

Presentation: 750 ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Corked & Caged

Vintage: 2010

Style: Imperial Stout

Barrel: Oak

ABV: 13.2%

IBU: 56

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees

Commercial Description:

Enter the Labyrinth, a multi-dimensional black ale. Discover the complex intermingling of black licorice and toasted oak. Seek the subtle hints of bittersweet chocolate. Explore pairing Labyrinth with flavorful cheeses and rich desserts.

Food Pairings: Game, Gelato, Chocolate Cake

Cheese Pairings: Brie, Gouda

Music Pairing: David Bowie

Beer Advocate: A- (4.08)

Rate Beer: 99 (3.78)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

I’ve explained this many times before in this column, so I’ll make it brief.  Uinta, by sending their Crooked Line to Seattle before any of their standard beers, is playing a hand that has become very familiar to us beer geeks.  Send the trendy, extreme beers first when attempting to enter a new market and build up a reputation.  Then, slip in the standards and lay down more of a foundation.  Labyrinth is one of four beers in the Crooked Line and it’s an imperial stout.  You know full well that Timperial Stout had to try it.  Here we go!

Appearance.

They should call this a black ale.  Oh, wait…  Yeah, this is black alright.  It’s about as devoid of transparency as a brick wall.  I think I could ignite a fist sized chunk of magnesium behind the glass and not even know that anything was different in the room.   I held it up to the light and the room went black.  I think you get it.  Labyrinth is impossibly black.

The head rose up on the pour with just the vigor that I would expect from a high gravity stout that has been bottle conditioned.  Actually, now that I think about it, that expectation took a bit of subconscious calculation.  I’d expect a high gravity stout to have a very minimal head and a bottle conditioned beer to have quite a large head, so I figured it would about split the difference, and it did.  As it somewhat quickly receded, some thin lacing layed in its wake.

That head is very much the color that you would expect from a beer so jet black.  It’s espresso colored.  It’s a very dark tan, near brown with auburn highlights.  I just described my ideal head on a beer.  It’s so beautiful and inviting I can’t wait to sip!

Odor.

A deep inhale at the mouth of the glass forces a massive smile to my face.  The odor speaks of an amazing imperial stout.  It’s so deep and roasted and complex and sweet…  The first thing that comes to mind is a very high cocoa content chocolate bar put into convection and sweetened generously.  A flourless chocolate torte perhaps?  Definitely something baked and dry.  Brownies might be too sweet to apply here.  The licorice is faint but detectable and works magnificently.  Vanilla bean seems to be involved as well.

The oak combines with the base grain and the hops to form the scent’s backbone and bring realization to the experience – this is in fact a beer and not a melted desert.  There is some earthiness, some damp wood and a little bitter coffee.  The whole experience is a bit frantic as the sweets and the not-so-sweets are constantly struggling for supremacy.

Mouthfeel.

Oh how silky smooth it is!  It’s not the most viscous impy stout I’ve ever had but it’s close.  Labyrinth coats every corner of the mouth with its essence and has absolutely no reservations about it.  This beer is a big, bold bully and any lingering flavor that may have existed in my mouth prior to it’s arrival has been sent packing, tail between its legs.  I slight swishing of the liquid stimulates enough carbonation frothing to sting my cheeks, or maybe that’s the booze.  It’s a pleasure to be drinking this tonight.

Flavor.

Upon my very first taste of Labyrinth I felt I had a serious winner.  It’s thick and robust.  It has a bitterness, but it’s mostly sweet.  It’s a beast of an ale, not doubt.  But, after subsequent sips, and as the beer warms, I’m becoming less and less attracted to it.  It’s highly astringent and the booze is somewhat painful.  I do very much like the chocolate cake notes and the oak has infused itself marvelously.  Those two elements are not to be overlooked.  I think that the licorice is somewhat harsh and the overall grain bill may be too heavily weighted toward black.

The label on the bottle does suggest that Labyrinth is better at cooler temperatures.  I don’t know why I always ignore these precautions.  I guess, ultimately, I don’t think that a beer should be hiding in the foggy, fault-hiding chills.  Let that shit breath.  Let my taste buds work in their ideal temperature zone.

As I push deeper and deeper into the bottle I begin to think that I won’t be able to finish it.  I couldn’t tell you the last time that that happened.  There continues to be flashes of the greatness that this beer has to offer (chocolate, oak) but they are fleeting at best.  A medicinal quality begins to appear, but it’s mostly just this weird earthiness and some metallic, off flavors.  I feel somewhat like I’m eating a piece of rain-soaked bark with a rubbing alcohol chaser.

Aftertaste.

This area is two parted.  In the forefront, there is a booze laces acidity that is really burning the inside of my mouth.  Just as it sounds, it’s uncomfortable.  The second part is a chalky bittersweet chocolate dusting that isn’t exactly bad but I’d much prefer a sweeter finish.  It’s all pretty acrid and it lingers for some time.

Summation.

I feel terrible because I probably shouldn’t have reviewed this beer but I needed to get a review in and based on the beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com ratings I figured this would be a treat. Maybe I’m just a bit off today.  I’m going to give this beer one more try someday soon.  Maybe I just got a bad bottle or bad batch or something.  Uinta deserves better treatment from me than this.

If you like Uinta Labyrinth Black Ale, you should try…

Full Sail Brewing’s Imperial Porter; Deschutes Brewing’s Abyss; Goose Island Brewing’s Bourbon County Stout

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

Geek Up, It’s Time for Deschutes’ Reserve Series

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Sour!

Written by our in-house cellar dweller, Timperial Stout.

When it comes to big, specialty releases that make waves on a national level, the Northwest is painfully lacking.  Washington state, more specifically, pretty much has none.  We don’t have a Dark Lord or a Black Tuesday or a Kate the Great or a Sexual Chocolate

I can’t think of a single time that I rushed out to the bottle shop for a WA release.  I have rushed out to bars to catch WA beers while they were on draft, but that is such a fleeting pursuit.  I want to be able to add a bottle to the cellar and age it and show it off and pretend that I’m cool that I have a crazy barrel-aged imperial stout that’s 4 years old and nearly impossible to get.  I have low self-esteem so if I don’t have an impressive cellar I have nothing.

But seriously, why can’t Washington brewers do this for me.  I guess I do have that Black Raven wheat wine that they made for Malt and Vine‘s anniversary.  Oh yeah, and those Pike Entires.  Both are wax-dipped and shit, totally impressive.  Well, whatever…I want more.

Our neighbors to the south are doing a little bit better than us on this front, but it’s by no means a landslide.  Hair of the Dog and Cascade bottles are pretty sweet trophies to show off.  I’ve got a New Old Lompoc Oak Aged Dopplebock down in my cellar.  Pretty cool huh?  I know.

The ultimate bottled prizes in the PNW come from Deschutes in Bend, OR.  I know you know what they are.  I know you are jealous of my ’07 Abyss.  Your best bet to rival me in supremacy is to camp outside of your local bottle shop tonight, and every subsequent night until more bottle of The Dissident hit Western Washington (if we are so lucky).  Then do the same thing in mid-December for The Abyss.  Buy as many as they will allow, drink one of each on New Years and hide the rest in the deepest recesses of your cellar.  In 15 years when your first-born turns twentyfun, make his/her first ‘legal’ beer be one of paramount class.

The following information is from the Deschutes Brewery website via Beernews.org:

The Dissident
Friday, November 19th
We are super excited to officially announce the release of The Dissident, our sour brown ale brewed with Washington cherries, that takes 18 plus months to reach near perfection. A limited amount of bottles will go on sale at both Brew Pubs and our Tasting Room on Friday, November 19th at 11 am. Fans will be able to pick up six bottles of this beloved brew at a time.

The Abyss
Wednesday, December 1st
The wait is finally over for the fifth release of The Abyss, our imperial stout brewed with molasses and licorice aged in bourbon and oak wine barrels. Join us at our Brew Pubs on December 1st as we tap the first kegs and make the 2010 bottles available for you to add to your collection.

…Also of note, here is information on those two beers and other upcoming releases as it was received this morning from a brewery representative…

The Dissident

When: End of November

What: Reserve Series (22-ounce wax-dipped bottles and draft)

Finally…. perfection. After nearly two years aging in isolation, the 2010 Dissident has reached its pinnacle. Deschutes Brewery’s only wild yeast beer, brettanomyces and lactobacillus “critters” (a technical brewing term) create a distinctive Oud Bruin, Flanders-style sour brown ale, with a fruity aroma and flavor. To make things even more interesting, whole Central Washington cherries – pits, stems and all were also added to the mix. The result? A beer that’s anything but conventional.

Where: Very limited available in most states where Deschutes is sold

Beer Geek Information:

10.5% Alcohol by Volume (ABV)

The Abyss

When: Mid-December

What: Reserve Series (22-ounce wax-dipped bottles and draft)

The Abyss has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich, complex profile. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors draw you in further and further with each sip. And at 11% alcohol by volume, you will want to slowly savor each and every ounce.

2010 marks the fifth release of this dark and mysterious imperial stout rated the 4th best beer on planet earth by BeerAdvocate.com.

Where: Available in most states where Deschutes is sold

Beer Geek Information:

~11% Alcohol by Volume (ABV)

65 IBUs

Oh you got the Abyss down there? Impressive!

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s Creme Brulee

Hmm...I wonder why they call it Creme Brulee...

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at timperial@beerblotter.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 11/2/2010

Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Co.

Location: Lakewood, New York

Beer: Creme Brulee

Web: http://www.southerntierbrewing.com

Presentation: 22oz – Blown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2009

Style: Imperial Milk Stout

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 10.0%

IBU: N/A

Hops: Columbus, Horizon

Malt: 2-row pale malt, dark caramel malt

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 42 degrees, as per the bottle

Commercial Description:

We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition.

By comprehending the labyrinthine movement of time, one would not think it strange to trace the errant path of an ordinary object such as a cream dessert only to discover that it has been the cause of cultural disputes since the middle ages. The British founders of burnt cream and from Spain, crema catalana, both stand by their creative originality and we respect that, but it was the French Crème Brûlée, amid the strife of contention, that survived to represent our deliciously creamy brew.

Food Pairings: Oysters, Cheesecake, Chocolate

Cheese Pairings: Brie, Gouda

Music Pairing: Cream or Vanilla Ice

Beer Advocate: B+ (3.95)

Rate Beer: 97 (3.69)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

I’ve never met a Southern Tier beer that I didn’t like.  Though that may not mean much to some (especially my Beer Blotter brethren, who are staunch in their stance that I think every beer is good), I assure you that it is not meaningless, as least in my mind.  For me, there is only a handful of American breweries that I would say that about, and it must be noted that I wouldn’t even consider publishing such a statement about a brewery that is anything less than prolific in their releases.  Some breweries that immediately come to mind are Avery Brewing, Brooklyn Brewing and Clipper City Brewing, all of which have extremely solid year round releases as well as stunning seasonals and special releases.

In the Seattle market, STB’s 12oz year round releases are often harder to find than the 22oz imperial ones.  We have discussed this phenomenon before on the blog and it continues to be true, most recently with the entrance of Uinta Brewing to the local market.  In a nutshell, it is a common marketing scheme for breweries entering a new market to send their most hotly desired beers first, to build hype and excitement, and hopefully market share, and then further expand from there.  For nerds like me, this is a pretty successful game plan.

This particular brand of marketing is especially advantageous for STB considering that they have 16 beers in their “Imperial Series”.  Yes, I said 16.  That is way more than their non-imperial releases.  Now that is a quality that I can’t help but respect in a brewery.  Long live Southern Tier!

Appearance.

My liquid dessert this evening has a fairly small crown of tan bubbles.  As the head approaches the rim of the glass it appears to be more of a brownish rust color.   With time, it settles to a wisp and ring.  Each and every sip brings a foamy wash of lace across the nearest face of the glass, but only small splotches remain affixed.  One could say that the “legs” are impressive on this one.  Yet again, Timperial Stout’s favorite style pours completely opaque.  Though impenetrable to all light, it brightens my eyes with its gorgeous roasted malt depth.

Odor.

Sweet Fancy Moses this beer cannot possibly be anything other than liquefied Creme Brulee! All the sweetness of heaven was impossibly condensed into the fermented concoction before me.  This solution stands so supersaturated in sucrose, lactose and fructose that any honest scientist would be frozen, googly-eyed in dismay.  I have a sudden urge to make an appointment to have my teeth cleaned.  Yowee!

I hope I’ve successfully put a bit of weight behind my words.  From an odor standpoint, this beer is the absolute epitome of desert.  I have always thought that all of STB’s beers were crazy sweet, in a good way, but this is above and beyond, in a better way.  The scent is pretty much exactly of creme brulee.  The vanilla is so prevalent here that I can only assume that the entire planet’s reserves of vanilla beans were swiftly depleted in the days leading up to the brew.  I can’t even carve through the non-beer scents that are at play here.  Other than the onslaught of creamy vanilla, there is a milky and a caramelized sugar sweetness that plays perfectly to the inclination that this beer is not only called creme brulee but that it tastes like creme brulee.  The custard, the jagged edges of splintered, solidified caramel, the eggy creaminess, it’s all there in the smell.  Mind blowing!  I feel as though I should be sipping this one out of a ramekin rather than a snifter.

Mouthfeel.

This is an imperial milk stout with a dump truck’s load of sugary goodness in it.  To say that this is smooth in the mouth is probably the biggest understatement of my life.  Yes, there is a faint pop of carbonation that tickles the back of the tongue right before the swallow, but what prefaces it has a smoothness that I thought could only be exuded by a spirit.  If this was my Hop Brief column and there were ratings to pair with each section, Creme Brulee’s mouthfeel would be a perfect 10.

Flavor.

I initially found it odd that the brewer suggested drinking this beer cold, since I almost always prefer my imperial stouts when they warm up to around 55 degrees, but after my experience with it I see why.  The main result of allowing this beer to warm is that it becomes more like the 10% beer that it actually is and less like the scientific spectacle that it maybe should remain as.  Out comes the alcohol burn, the grain, the bitterness.  My goodness, that sounds ridiculous coming from me, I know.

Allow me to explain.  When cold(er) this beer tastes like it smells, pretty much to a T.  There is no booziness to be found.  There is oodles of desert sweetness that, seemingly, could never be the result of commonly used brewing malts.  Some may call it a ploy, but in my world, the flavor of something is why you drink that something.  If you like Mike’s Hard Lemonade because you like the way it tastes and you get a pleasant buzz from it, I will NEVER give you shit about it.  Life is short, drink what you like…have fun.  If I were to tell someone that was typically apposed to imbibing a beer the same color as motor oil that it tasted like bitter baker’s chocolate, tobacco and wood, I’m not at all confident that that would settle their nerves.  On the other hand, if I told then that it tastes EXACTLY like one of the most delicious, sweet deserts you can buy, I may be able to tip the scale.  Are the STB brewer’s a bunch of panty peeling bitches for going that route, I say hell no, but I guess that’s up to you to decide.

Aftertaste.

This is precisely where I expected it to be considering all of the predecessor characteristics.  There is no dryness when cold and just a hair when warmer.  The Flan like qualities linger for ever and ever.  The mouth remains completely coated in syrupy sweetness and its truly a delight.  Though it may result in a boat load of cavities, I’m pretty sure that it would be sickly sweet (very pleasurable) to have one of these for desert everyday.

Summation.

You may have gotten the feeling that I like STB.  It’s true, they are in my top 10 in the world.  The fact that they have 5 different imperial stouts doesn’t have anything to do with it, err…wait…I’m Timperial Stout…yeah…maybe top 5.

If you like Southern Tier Creme Brulee, you should try…

Three Floyds Brewing‘s Moloko Milk Stout; Dark Horse Brewing‘s Too Cream Stout; Bell’s Brewing‘s Special Double Cream Stout

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops

October 27, 2010 1 comment

It's a secret...

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at timperial@beerblotter.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 10/20/2010

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Beer: Black Ops

Web: http://www.brooklynbrewery.com/

Presentation: 750ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Corked and Caged

Vintage: 2009

Style: Imperial Stout

Barrel: Bourbon

ABV: 11.6%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Tulip…ish

Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees

Commercial Description:

Brooklyn Black Ops does not exist. However, if it did exist, it would be a robust stout concocted by the Brooklyn brewing team under cover of secrecy and hidden from everyone else at the brewery. Supposedly “Black ops” was aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented with Champagne yeast, creating big chocolate and coffee flavors with a rich underpinning of vanilla-like oat notes. They say there are only 1,000 cases. We have no idea what they’re talking about.

Food Pairings: Grilled meat, ice cream, brownies

Cheese Pairings: Aged Gouda, Cheddar, Parmesan

Music Pairing: Small Black from Brooklyn

Beer Advocate: A- (4.25)

Rate Beer: 100 (4.00)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

Being from Philadelphia, I have had pretty much every beer that Brooklyn makes.  Well, at least the ones that were available before I moved to Seattle three and a half years ago.  In PA, there are some very odd laws based around beer.  As a consumer, you have to buy any beer that you want to take home with you from either a bar (six-packs only) or a distributor (full cases only).  You cannot buy beer at a grocery store, convenience store, etc.  There are a few bottle shops around that sell individual bottles, but they are few and far between.  With this in mind, many larger breweries end up producing “variety” cases, almost exclusively for PA consumers.  Most of the time, these include 4 different six-packs, but sometimes there’s even more variety.

Brooklyn was one of the breweries that offered the variety case and I purchased it quite often.  For me, this was one of the few variety options where I liked every beer, even the lager, and that fact stuck with me.  I have always respected Garret Oliver and Brooklyn since those burgeoning days of beer nerdiness.  As that nerdiness reached full bloom, I abandoned the variety case all together and exclusively shopped at the bottle shops, despite the inconvenience.  Those days allowed me to find Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout.  To this day, that beer is one of the beers I most miss from the East coast.  It’s just like what you think it would be like, chocolatey, sweet, smooth and warming.

Once I heard that the brewery that made one of my favorite East coast stouts was doing a limited run of bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, I flipped out.  But, alas, I quickly excepted the fact that I would probably never get a chance to try it, being so far away from the distribution area.  But then, the other 2/3 of beerblotter took a trip to NYC.  I said to them before they departed, “If there is one bottle that you return with, for the love of god make it be Black Ops!”  Yadda, yadda, yadda, here we are today.

Appearance.

This monster pours with a huge head of brown and a slight hint of clay color.  It should go without saying that the liquid itself is oil black.  As the head dwindles, which takes quite a while I may add, there is some serious lacing left on the glass that seems to be caramelized or heated to crystallization on the inside of the glass.  It’s a sight to see!  The head never does fully dissipate, leaving an impressive 1/8 of an inch to the very end.

Odor.

The scent is outrageously smooth and complex.  Notes of bourbon, pretzels, vanilla, white cookie or white cake batter, wood, tobacco and a medicinal booziness exist.  As it warms, there is a sense of saltiness that is produced in the nose, possibly a suggestion from the pretzel connotation, or possibly the other way around.  Maybe the scent really is of salt and the baked, malty notes bring pretzels to mind.  The world may never know.  Also uncovered: Burnt sugar, creme brulee, brown sugar, rum, almond biscotti…did I mention that this is complex?

Mouthfeel.

This is smooth without being too cloying or syrupy.  The champagne yeast is not as active as I suspected it would feel in the mouth, but it must play a massive role in the body, which is super unique.  The use of champagne yeast in beer is rare, but it has produced fantastic results here.

Flavor.

Many of the bourbon flavors are realized on the tongue, which I feel is unique – I generally just get the odors.  The dark, roasted malts seem to be most prevalent near the end of the flavor profile.  They impart a chocolate nib bitterness, but there is no dryness to be found.  Vinous and a bit juicy (read: not drying) with an intense mouth watering nature, but not overly sweet.  It’s perplexing how the flavor lingers forever and is not dry but it’s simultaneously not very sweet.  Many of the flavors associated with the scents listed above come and go as the liquid washes over the taste buds.  The experience is like eating a slurry of every desert ever made, and it’s awesome!

Aftertaste.

There is a whole butt load of booze in the aftertaste, which makes it a bit challenging to pinpoint the subtle nuances.  There is definitely some licorice in there, I did get that.

Summation.

This beer was shared amongst the three beerblotter members, and each one of us was completely smitten by it.  It is, without a doubt, one of the best bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts we have ever had.  This beer is not easy to find, especially on the West Coast, but hear me now: do WHATEVER you must to get this!

If you like Brooklyn Black Ops, you should try…

Deschutes Brewery‘s The Abyss; Big Sky Brewing‘s Ivan the Terrible; North Coast Brewing‘s Old Rasputin Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

52 Weeks: NW Sausage and Deli, Centralia, WA

Beer and Sausages

Week 17 of 52

NW Sausage and Deli

5945 Prather Rd

Centralia, WA 98531

Rank: 4/5

Type of Establishment: Country Style Deli with Brew Pub and Butcher Shop tendencies.

BEERS ON TAP (at time of visit) —>

All of the following are from Dick’s Brewing

-Golden Ale

-Pale Ale

-IPA

-Irish Ale

-Best Bitter

-Brown Ale

-Danger Ale

-Porter

-Cream Stout

-Winter Ale

-Imperial IPA

BOTTLE OPTIONS: Almost all regularly bottled Dick’s beers.

FOOD OPTIONS:  Meat.

Both cold and hot sandwiches of many varieties including hoagies, pastrami, corned beef, prime rib, BBQ pork, burgers, brats, etc.  Steaks and chicken for dinner.  Need protein?  Best vitamin shop in Centralia.

BAR OPINION:

How have I never been here before?  Seriously.  All, and I mean all of my future trips south will include a stop at NWS&D.  If you are going to Vancouver, WA or Portland, OR or anywhere somewhat significantly south of Seattle along I5, you’d have to be either in one serious rush or legitimately brain-damaged not to stop here.

Sound a bit hyperbolic?  It isn’t.  We are talking about a detour of about 5 miles at most.  10 driving minutes, tops.  A very, very small price to pay for great beer and food.  And talk about getting your goods right from the source.  All sausages are smoked right on the premises.  All beers are made practically right down the street.  And it’s all mind blowingly yummy!

Believe it or not, it gets better.  I give the staff an A+.  Since this was a stop on the way to camping at Seaquest State Park, we thought we would have the whole group in tow (13 people).  This could have been overwhelming to any establishment, so we called in a warning of our arrival ahead of time.  Upon arrival,  we found a huge grouping of tables that was marked “reserved” for us.  In the end, we were only 6 strong.  The rest of the group was impatient and found lunch in Olympia (dummies).  Was this a problem?  Of course not.  The staff simply laughed it off and served us with a smile.

I guess it didn’t hurt that we had explained to the receiver of our call that we had a $100 gift certificate and planned to spend it all on lunch and meats to go.  A big thanks to friend of the Blotter, Stasia Cymes, for providing said gift certificate and her generosity in sharing it.  Lunch for all was covered, with change to stare for even more meat and cheese to go.  In fact, to trace it back just a bit further, a large thank you is due to Brian from Ninkasi who unselfishly passed his winnings of the Brewer’s 9 Ball Tournament at the Tap House Grille along to Stasia.  Brian felt bad taking the winnings of his own event and figured that Stasia was a worthy recipient, considering that her team was knocked out of the tournament before she even had a chance to play.  Thanks Brian and Ninkasi!  Awesome event too by the way.

Spouts flowing Dick's

Not only was the tap selection lengthy and impressive, but any bottle could be purchased and opened at the table at no additional charge.  This allowed for all of our extreme beer pleasures to be indulged simultaneously.  We ordered the Imperial IPA off the draught, the Tripel, the Grand Cru, and the Imperial Stout all at once.  Others at the table enjoyed the Bitter, Cream Stout, Danger, Winter…lets just say that we had some good liquids to accompany our lunch.  All brews were solid, some inspired “Oh my God!”.

Lunch was sandwich heavy, something that will never bother me.  My Trio Deluxe was stacked so high that it easily garnered “Scooby Doo Sandwich” status, yet another thing that will never bother me.  I don’t really remember what the others at the table had.  I was too transfixed on my own happiness in the moment.  Good beer, good food, good service, and most importantly, good company.

Though all appetites were surely fulfilled at meal’s end, no one was leaving without some meat to go.  After all, there would soon be a camp fire to cook on.  Pepperoni, andouille, jerky, BBQ pork, garlic franks, and various cheeses were all acquired.  Lest we forget, beer was procured as well.  We were fully and completely covered for camping.  We made tents out of the empty beer bottles and sleeping bags out of the sausage casings (no we didn’t).  It was an amazing!

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Victory Brewing Co. Storm King Imperial Stout

Storm King: Bringing the best out of PA beer.

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at beerblotter@gmail.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 5/22/2010

Brewery: Victory Brewing Co.

Location: Downingtown, PA

Beer: Storm King

Web: http://www.victorybeer.com/

Presentation: 12 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2007

Style: Imperial Stout

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9.1%

IBU: N/A

Hops: American whole flowers

Malt: Imported 2 row

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees

Notes From the Bottle: Emerging from the deepest shades of darkness, a rolling crescendo of flavors burst forth from this robust stout.  The thundering, hoppy appeal of Storm King subsides into the mellow subtleties of roasted malt, exhibiting an espresso-like depth of character in its finish.  An exquisite blend of imported malts and whole flower American hops merge harmoniously in this complex ale.  Discover the dark intrigue of Storm King, as it reveals the rich, substantial flavors that it holds within.  Cheers!  Signed - Bill and Ron, the brewmasters of Victory.  Best enjoyed by 7/2012.

Food Pairings: Smoked meats, chocolate, deserts

Cheese Pairings: Gouda, brie, swiss

Beer Advocate: A-

Rate Beer: 100 (4.06)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Seattle Beer Week has gotten the best of me.  My event schedule, whether it be for my own pleasure or at the will of my employer (which is still pretty damn pleasurable I must admit), has ensnared all of my availability over the last 10 days.  Near the beginning of the week, when my energy level was high, I was able to pump out my guide to Stout Fest.  I had great hopes of drafting a similar guide to Sour Fest, but time did not allow.  Now that SBW is over, though I’m a bit sad to see her go, I can finally breath.  I can get some sleep.  I can remember what it’s like to wake up without a hangover.

I had a lot of really, really good beers from all over the country over the past week.  I met a lot of really great people in the industry.  I met a lot of beer lovers.  I think I’ll look back on SBW 2010 with very fond memories.

The night of this tasting was one of great reminiscence.  A night to mull over the greatness, to enshrine the memories created over the previous days.  Not only that, but to reminisce on the beginnings of Timperial Stout.  To take a time machine journey to a young man’s first sips of imperial stout, that precious beverage that would inevitably endow him with a nick-name.

Incase you haven’t put the pieces together, Storm King was the first imperial stout I ever tasted.  Downingtown, PA is just a small hop, skip, and jump from where I grew up.  To put it lightly, Storm King is my monarch.  He has had a large hand in molding me.

This one has been aging in the cellar for 3 years now, and a classic imperial stout just seemed right for such an evening of recollection.  It was not a hard decision.

The King pours opaque as one would imagine, with a head of mocha that rises much more than expected on a vigorous pour, but still very little than an inch off the inky fluid.  The bubbles subside in a few minutes to a mere ring and wisp, leaving a small bit of residue on the glass walls.  The slightest bit of light makes it through the edges, but in the depths… there is no escape for the brightest illumination.  Consider the “dark intrigue” discovered, without a single sip.

The odor is overwhelming me with its complexity.  There is so much going on I don’t know where to start.  Adjectives like deep and distinguished come to mind.  Ironically, this brew seems to be built for the mature palate.  It posses a combination of tobacco, smoked peat, and baker’s chocolate, with a bit of a medicinal quality as well.  The alcohol is quite present.  I’m reminded of smelling vanilla extract with its warming sensation deep in the nose.  Age seems to be flying its flag quite predominantly here.  Hops may be the producer of a bit of earth and medicine, but no traditional alpha characteristics can be found.

I just may bundle this brew in with the Arcadia Impy Stout for its ability to drop you in the red-hot coals of a BBQ.  Smoke rises from the feet of a magician named Bill Covaleski.

Once the holy liquid hits the tongue, all preconceptions previously communicated from the nose are solidified into truth.  A common slick and soft mouthfeel puts me at ease right from the get go…ahhh, that’s my impy stout, thank you friend, you’ve been missed.

Though this monster has clearly been bequeathed with malty mischief, there isn’t a lot of sweetness.  Like I said, this is for the veteran palate.

Though no bit of the fluid should suggests a chalkiness, the flavors speak of ingesting the work of mortar and pestle.  If a mocha could be solidified, then ground down to dust and fermented, this would be the result.  Barrel aged, peated scotch may be akin to the Storm King as well, I can’t help but mention that infiltrating thought.

Post-swallow I’m a bit cotton-mouthed under the tongue, but the back corners of my mouth are moist with confusion.  What aftertaste lingers?  I think of devil’s food cake, but the sweetness is extracted.  A very high cocoa content perhaps.   A bit of clinging, oily black coffee or espresso.  Have I smoked a cigar recently?  Have I breathed deeply beside the bonfire for a bit too long.  My mouth could be burnt without the pain.

Smoke signals sent high above the treeline convey my peace with the world at this moment.  I’ve been rejoined by an old friend, and in good company I transcend.

If you like Storm King, you should try…

Arcadia Ales‘ Imperial Stout; Stone Brewing Co.’s Russian Imperial Stout; Founders Brewing Co.’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

Arcadia Brewing Co: A Perspective on Michigan Beer

The spread, Michigan style

The beers of Arcadia Ales out of Battle Creek, MI are not available in the Seattle market, or anywhere west of the Rockies for that manner, but that doesn’t mean they are unattainable.  The internet is an amazing tool my friends.

Though they were available at select locations in PA back when I resided there, my experience with the ales of Arcadia has been limited.  After an intimate night with the four beauties in the picture above, I am very hopeful that Arcadia quickly expands its distribution.  There were two of us tasting this night, so my notes on each are a bit of a collaboration of taste buds.  All the better for you to gain knowledge of what these brews have to offer.  If you like the way that one, two, three, or all of them sound, seek them out, and remember, if you are reading and outside of the Arcadia distribution network, you can always say that you are being shipped “yeast cultures suspended in solution”.  Works every time. *wink*

The "double" may be reserved for abv alone.

Hopmouth Double IPA

Rate Beer – 96

ABV – 8.1%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage -2009

Commercial Description:

The first in our Brew Crew Big Beer Series, Arcadia Hopmouth Double IPA should be finding its way to a store near you. Huge Maris Otter malt and a generous amount of fresh hops combine to make this extremely balanced ale remarkable.

Notes:

The beer pours a light amber color with an extremely contrasting, off-white head that barely rises on the pour and settles to an almost iced tea like whisp with large bubbles along the circumference of the surface.  I seem to be able to smell the flatness of carbonation, or it is simply sensed in some way or another.  The nose is very balanced.  It doesn’t seem like a double IPA at this point.  The hop presence is very soft.

This beer appears to have been released back in 2009, early in the year. Knowing that, the beer has been aging for close to a year. This means that the abundance of hop aroma has dissipated and it has lost its bitterness. Over time, the maltiness has developed into something attractive, but it just does not match the intended flavor of the beer. Unfortunately, this one was probably really good – and we let it die.

The flavor is very earthy, like a forest after a rainstorm.  Woody and piney.  Though the malts are very present, the sweetness seems minimal.  I sense biscuit malts were used.  The 8.1% does come out in the flavor as it warms, and with everything else going on, or the lack there of, this isn’t attractive.  There is bitterness at play, but is isn’t pleasant.  We will have to give this one another chance when we can get our hands on a fresh bottle.

3...2...1...hop lift off.

Hop Rocket 11th Anniversary

Rate Beer – 98

ABV – 9.0%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage – 2010

Commercial Description:

Anniversaries are meant to be celebrated, and as we looked back on 11 years of “balance in beer,” we decided to take a walk on the wild side with this year’s Anniversary Ale. Our brewers were finally turned loose to craft a beer that’s focused on the hops, and the result is Hop Rocket… Arcadia’s 11th Anniversary Ale.

Hop Rocket is a veritable constellation of hops… including some varieties that we haven’t used in other beers, and it’s delivered by the same booster of worldclass malt that our loyal fans have come to know and love with all Arcadia Ales. We appreciate the opportunity to share with you this “launch” of our 12th years, and we hope you’ll enjoy the ride with Arcadia Hop Rocket!

Notes:

After checking with the Arcadia website, we discovered that this beer is now brewed and released quarterly. We received the beer in April and believe that it was from the January 2010 release – so it’s still fresh.

This one pours a light amber color with great clarity.  There is not much head to speak of but a small white ring does persist where the glass, beer and air meet.  Our suspicions of this being a fresh batch are confirmed as soon as our noses detect the odor.  This stuff is teeming with hops and its pungency is powerfully apparent.   It’s like taking a direct blow to the nostril with a club made of hops.  It stings and tingles deep within the olfactory.  Grapefruit, pine and booze are all in attendance.

The flavor is crazy bitter and full of those spunky, biting hops.  We are reminded of Oscar Blues’ Gubna, or vice versa I guess, since Hop Rocket is the predecessor. Unlike Gubna, this beer is drinkable, but still, the hops leave a bad taste in our mouths, literally.  We love our hops, but which are used here?  Is it Summit like Gubna?  Odd.  The pungent citric blast cools once it hits the back of your throat and then dissipates as it is swallowed.  The malts make their presence know here in the aftertaste, which is the redeeming quality.  Booze is strong as well.  This is an assault!

This stout perplexed Timperial Stout so intensely that he forgot to photograph it.

Imperial Stout

Rate Beer – 96

ABV – 8.4%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage – 2007

Commercial Description:

Black as coal in color, this bottle conditioned Stout has a velvety rich and sweet malt aroma. After pouring, a dense brown head gives way to a big, full-bodied and creamy texture that has flavors of roasted coffee and black currants, blending perfectly with the malt. A generous amount of hops add balance and complexity to this extraordinary stout that will continue to improve with age. A worthy beer to cellar and enjoy throughout the year.

Notes:

Oil black in color with just a hair of light passing through at the edges creating a gorgeous rust hue reminiscent of the thin head, which, fairly quickly, is lost entirely.

The scent…well, I am at a barbecue.  Tonight we are maple wood smoking some nice venison.  Adding to that, we have whipped up a molasses coffee marinade to slather across this hunk of game.  I awake.  I’m simply drinking beer.  That is what this grog resembles, the corpus of a large BBQ party.  The beer is intense, packing a massive punch of smokey grain and fats.

The flavors are literally of a BBQ, it’s astounding.  Mesquite, burning wood, bacon, maple syrup, even baked beans come to mind.  This beer sends your places.  So unique, and incredibly lovable!  The tail end brings a coffee like bitterness and slight dry finish.  Alcohol only appears deep into the swallow.  The mouthfeel is very slick, slightly vinous, not super thick, but juicy.  If you told me there were carcinogens in this beer I’d believe you.

Well-Endowed Ale

Pappy’s Big Dick Bourbon Barrel Olde Ale

Rate Beer – 82

ABV – 8.0%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage – 2009

Commercial Description:

Somewhat of a cousin to Barleywine, Big Dick’s is a classic English-style Olde Ale. Sweet and full-bodied malt flavors are complemented by a fragrant but mild hop bitterness. Sweet, bready malt aromas combine with rich flavors of dark fruit, brown sugar, caramel, and sweet nuts. A beer for keeping, Big Dick’s Olde Ale will age gracefully, while fruity flavors continue to develop and bitterness will subside.

This is not only a BIG beer, it is a Well-Endowed Ale! We took a traditional English-style Ale and made it our own. Delightful on its own or as a digestif with a full-bodied cigar, Big Dick’s is also big enough to stand up to many boldly-flavored foods.

Notes:

An auburn hue fills our glass with an almost yellow, off-white head.  A thin whisp and ring prevails upon settling.  The fluid is quite foggy, as an old ale should be.  Packed full of flavor?  Let’s see.

Nose to glass speaks of caramelized sugars, banana, and dare I say, wet paint (how you mock me).  A nice, smooth mouthfeel is enjoyable.  This one is complex and unique; words to live by.  A bit boozy as it warms, but never too much.

The flavors are full of strawberry, more paint, some bitterness, and a lot of sweetness.  A cloying, long-lasting aftertaste of sweet maltiness is enough to meditate on.  I’d pack my cellar with this one if I had better access to it.

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Bourbon County Stout

February 20, 2010 4 comments

snifter for sure. get the 22oz bottles. one and done.

***This is our most visited link on the site – I thought I would break it out for your Saturday enjoyment. Cheers!***

Enjoyed on 9/22/2009

Brewery: Goose Island Beer Company

Location: Chicago, IL

Beer: Bourbon County Stout

Web: www.gooseisland.com

Presentation: 12 Fl. Oz. (355 ML) – Brown Glass Bottle

Vintage: 2008

Style: Imperial Stout

Barrel: Oak – Bourbon

ABV: 13%

IBU: 60

Hops: Willamette

Malt: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Roast Barley, Debittered Black

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 40 degrees

Notes from the bottle: “I really wanted to do something special for our 1000th batch at the original brewpub. Goose Island could have thrown a party. But we did something better. We brewed a beer. A really big batch of stout-so big the malt was coming out of the top of the mash tun. After fermentation we brought in some bourbon barrels to age the stout. One hundred and fifty days later, Bourbon County Stout was born-A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with a thick foam the color of bourbon barrels. The nose is a mix of charred oak, vanilla,carmel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer. It overpowers anything in the room. People have even said that it’s a great cigar beer, but I haven’t yet tried a cigar that would stand up to it.”

-Greg Hall, Brewmaster

Best Enjoyed in a broad mouthed glass.

Bottled on: 10/28/2008

Flavor will continue to develop over 5 years.

Food Pairings: Flourless Chocolate Cake

Cheese Pairings: Capriole Bourbon Chocolate Torte

World Beer Cup Recognition:

Judging Category: Barrel Aged Beer: 2006: Gold Medal

Beer Advocate: A

Rate Beer: 100 (4.19)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

I let this sit in the bottle and warm for almost an hour after I removed it from the fridge before pouring.  Clearly not strong carbonation, as is generally the case with big imperial stouts.  A very vigorous pour produced a thin head on top of the most opaque of solutions.  Though it was small and short-lived, it possessed the most marvelous hue.  It seemed to glow in the light with a powerful rust color.  Miniscule reddish brown bubbles settled to a thin of wisp on the surface and gathered where the fluid met the glass, like light was being projected from below the glass and spilling past the blackness.  The scent is stunning, so complex my knees began to tremble.  I believe I have found my true love.  Oaky, woody, bourbon booziness has never been so evident in a beer.  It stings the nose with its heat.  The weather is not nearly cold enough for the warming blanket that will soon encase me.  So many more scents…vanilla (oh so much vanilla), chocolate, coffee, molasses, pretzely malts.  The mouthfeel is a bit slick and coating, viscous…for your lingering enjoyment.  I may now realize why the brewers prefer serving this one at 40 degree.  The flavors are becoming more and more masked by the intense alcohol.  It has become liquor before my eyes, stunning liquor at that.  I can completely see the “cigar beer” nature of Bourbon County Stout.  I feel distinguished imbibing it…and that I should be wearing a smoking jacket.  I feel very confident that I could forever be sustained on the glory of this stout.  May we grow old together my friend.

Thanksgiving Gut: The Brew of the Day

November 27, 2009 1 comment

We had a heck of a spread - including this wonderful Treblehook.

We have arisen from the ashes of Thanksgiving this morning to find about 12 lbs of turkey remaining (YES!) and about 5 lbs of gut remaining (Damn.). But the Beer Blotter festivities were for the record books, and the friends and family attendance was quite pleased with the food…..and more importantly the grog.

The list from last night is long. The Blotter had 18 bottles and 3 kegs up for tasting among its guests. But amongst all that beauty, a few stood tall. Utilizing a moderate budget, we were able to find a few great beers that earn recognition this morning.

(1) Red Hook Treblehook

This beer is produced on a limited basis during the early fall and winter months, generally right in time for GABF. We had this beer out at the brewery in Woodinville, WA back in October  – and we were floored. Wanting to get a more up close and personal look, we added a bottle to the Thanksgiving list.

Notes from the Brewery:

“Treblehook is vigorously hopped and patiently aged with aromatic malt and spicy hop notes.  Smooth and complex, this beer is carefully brewed by hand with sublte caramel, toffee and chocolate notes”

Style: Barley Wine

ABV: 10.1%

Malts: Pale, Caramel, Special Aromatic, Flaked Barley, Black, Melenodin

Hops: Cascade, Palisades, Chinook, Simcoe

Bitterness Units: 52 IBU

Original Gravity: 22

Brewed Since: 2007

Shelf Life: 365 days

Awards: Gold Medal 2008 Great American Beer Festival, Silver Medal 2009 Great American Beer Festival

Cellaring: Can be cellared for up to 3 years

The bitterness rating might be an undershoot. This beer is hoppy and has the typical floral and spiced citrus flavorings of the Simcoe hop. The hop/malt balance of this beer is very interesting – in a very good way. The beer allows both the floral hop and caramel malt flavors exist independently, not muddling either taste.

This beer is very similar to Avery Brewing’s Hog Heaven. The difference is complexity and finish. The Treblehook finish is pleasing – adding molasses smoothness to the end of the glass.

This is a GABF favorite. In 2008, it took gold. This year it followed up with a silver. We can see why everyone seems to like it.

 

(2) Deschutes Abyss 2009

No need for introduction on this bad boy. This is a perpetual 100 on Rate Beer and a repeat medal winner at GABF. This Stout is legendary and probably the best of the NW (Sorry Walking Man Cherry Stout). This year’s version is the 4th release and does not offer any changes – which is a very good thing.

Notes from the Brewery:

“The Abyss has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich, complex profile. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors draw you in further and further with each sip. And at 11% alcohol by volume, you will want to slowly savor each and every ounce.

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 marks the fourth release of this dark and mysterious imperial stout. Limited availability in wax-dipped 22-ounce bottles and on draft at a few select establishments.”

“The Abyss was one of those beers I didn’t want to end. I was totally blown away – this is precious stuff.” Christian DeBenedetti, beer writer and Men’s Journal contributor”

Click here for a thorough review of The Abyss by James ‘Dr. Fermento’ Roberts!

Silver Medal, Imperial Stout
2008 European Beer Star Awards

Gold Medal, Imperial Stout
2007 Great American Beer Festival

Best Beer Above 7%, International Champion Beer & Supreme Champion
2007 International Beer Challenge

#1 Best Stouts & Porters
2007 Men’s Journal October Issue

Gold Medal, Strong Ales
2007 California Brewer’s Festival

Gold Medal, Stout Category
2007 San Diego County Fair

Gold Medal, Imperial Stout Category
2007 North American Beer Awards

Gold Medal, Strong Ale Category
2007 West Coast Brew Fest

Bronze Medal, Imperial Stout Category
2007 Australian International Beer Awards

Food Pairings: Caramelized Onions and Abyss Infused Cream Cheese on Pepper Crackers

We will agree with all of the award organizations above, this beer simply cannot be beat. Abyss stands alongside elite Imperial Stouts like Three Floyd’s Dark Lord, Bells Expedition and Alesmith Speedway Stout. Deschutes is able to keep up this quality even though it is producing a larger volume on a larger scale.

This year’s version is very appealing, tasting almost identical to the 2008 version. We saved the Abyss until desert, right after the pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate mousse and butterscotch chow mein – oh yes. It went amazingly well with the butterscotch and chocolate flavors present in our desserts.

(3) Diamond Knot Ho-Ho

We are still awaiting the few shipments of Great Lakes Christmas Ale which is on its way. So we decided to grab Diamond Knot’s Ho-Ho and Corsendonk’s Christmas Ale. None of us were very impressed with the Corsendonk offering, and an unwilling member (me) was hesitant to crack his bottle of Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws. Diamond Knot’s offering was impressive and added to the holiday essence.

Notes from the Brewery:

A robust, ‘Winter Warmer’ Ale, ruby brown in color with a slightly sweet, fruity nose. Very hoppy, yet balanced with a residual sweetness.”

7.7% ABV

60 IBUs

 

This Christmas beer has a great hop nose and finish. It is very sweet, but not syrupy in any way. The beer has a wonderful light citrus spice while having the perfect x-mas ale body. I suggest grabbing one of these bottles and drinking it pre-meal.


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