Posts Tagged ‘English Style Old Ale’

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.


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!


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.


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.


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: Great Divide Hibernation Ale

December 23, 2009 2 comments

Great Divide Hibernation Ale: For those long, cold, winter nights!

Enjoyed on: 12/20/2009

Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co.

Location: Denver, CO

Beer: Hibernation Ale


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

Vintage: 2008 (brown label) & 2009 (blue label)

Style: English Style Old Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 8.1% (2008) / 8.7% (2009)


Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 50 degrees

Notes from the bottle: Hibernation Ale has been our celebrated winter tradition since 1995. This robust, dry hopped ale has a malty richness balanced with a complex hop profile and hearty, warming character. Gold Medal, Great American Beer Festival, 1997. Silver Medal, Great American Beer Festival, 2006. Silver Medal, Great American Beer Festival, 2003. Flavor will continue to develop for some time to come.

Food Pairings: Roasted chicken, grilled vegetables (from 2008 bottle). Grilled beef tenderloin, apple crisp with ginger ice cream (from 2009 bottle)

Cheese Pairings: Aged, hard Dutch cow’s milk cheese

Beer Advocate: A-

Rate Beer: 96 (3.94)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

The term “old ale” is of English origin and basically just refers to a robust, malty beer, sometimes aged and brewed for the winter months. To me, when I hear the term “old ale” I immediately think of Hibernation Ale. I always look forward to its reappearance each winter. This one is aged for 3 months at the brewery before being released. These two vintages pour an almost identical color, a gorgeous, dark ruby, but the ’09 has better clarity. The head is just slightly off white, thin, and quite quickly disappears almost entirely. Only the slightest wisp of a cloud remains, as well as a pencil thin white ring where the fluid meets the glass. The sweet malty liquid has legs and leaves a bit of lace on the glass. It’s almost humorous how different the two smell. I fear this vertical is not entirely pure due to the increased abv of the ’09 version. It is quite clear that the label is not all that has been tweaked here. The younger vintage has more of a barley wine quality to it. More balanced, as one would probably expect from a youth. Hops are present, as well as fruit leather and a bit of bubblegum. Some earthy tones are sensed, and a light sprinkling of brown sugar. Though no alcohol burn is detected, the complexity makes me think the abv could be even higher than quoted. With all the immediate razzle-dazzle on the tip of my tongue, it’s only a matter of time before I am reminded that this is an old friend. Suddenly, dark, roasty malts push through from the depths and remind me that this is hibernation season. I’d bury myself in the warm heart of Mother Earth with this one any day. The elder vintage is without a doubt more refined. Age has quelled all desires to be flirty and experimental. She has settled on what she is best at, and excelled profoundly. Here we have a cornucopia of dark, subtly sweet dried fruits. The hops have nearly wilted fully and stone fruit have been dehydrated and condensed into nature’s purest candy. I’m experiencing a great deal more coating of the mouth with sugary resin, lingering delights like grandfather’s stories. I may have buried myself with the younger and drank myself fat and warm, but when I returned to the den a year later, what was once simply leftover is now the ultimate liquid of sustainability. Bear witness to a stunning display of the rewards of vertical tastings. Yes, this may not be the purest example, but it is, none-the-less, precisely the result one would expect. Time thins bitterness, accentuates sweet maltiness, and in some ways mirroring visual art, creates value. In this case, I have truly gained value in my cellaring attempts. The ’09 is a treat, but the ’08 is sublime. If only I had some from years prior… If anyone out there reading this turns his/her nose up at the concept of cellaring beer, I implore you…take trust in the words of Timperial Stout. Beer ages and ages well my friends.

If you like Hibernation, you should try: Fish Brewing Co.’s Fish Tale Old Woody; Founders Brewery’s Curmudgeon and The Bruery ‘s Papier

Disclaimer: These beers were purchased on my own with my own hard earned money at a local bottle shop and aged to perfection (or not) on my own.