Last night some buddies of mine all got together and we had a tasting event. Present were thirteen distinct, rare(ish) beers. This is going to be a lengthy post so, you may just want to crack a (55-63 degree) brew and sit down.
1. Le Merle – North Coast Brewing Co.
2. Le Feuillien Triple – Brasserie St-Feuillien #37 Triple Beer Advocate
3. Small Batch #1 – Ranger Creek San Antonio
4. Ranger Creek #2 – Ranger Creek San Antonio
5. Pliny The Elder – Russian River Brewing #19 on Rate Beer #6 Beer Advocate
6. Fullers Vintage Ale 2010 – Fuller, Smith, & Turner
7. 10 Commandments – The Lost Abbey
8. Big Worse – Mikkeller
9. Sucaba (Abacus) – Firestone Walker Brewing Co #49 Beer Advocate
10. Top Sail Bourbon Barrel Porter
11. The Abyss 2011 – Deschutes Brewing #29 Rate Beer #13 Beer Advocate
12. Speedway Stout – Alesmith Brewing Co. #6 on Rate Beer #63 Beer Advocate
13. Whiskey Weasel Rodeo – Jester King Brewery #45 Stout Beer Advocate
I could go on and find the ratings for everything we drank, but rest assured, this was not a commonplace tasting. I’ll start at the top and work from there.
1. Le Merle Solid Saison, true to the style and enjoyable. I’m not a huge saison guy, but this was good.
2. Again, I am not a huge Belgian guy, but this Triple was excellent. It managed a 98 on Rate Beer if that tells you anything about it. A nice strong, aromatic triple, floral notes, and a fruit flavor.
3. Ranger Creek #1. Thankfully they acknowledge their wax issue. This beer was probably spoiled by the wax. It was supposed to be an oatmeal pale ale, an anniversary homage to one of their first releases. However, in practice, this brew was unfortunately disappointing. The odor of the wax (even once removed from the bottle before we pulled the crown) was just too much. It was almost a sour, but not quite. I’d really like to have this brew from a cask and give it an honest shot.
4. Ranger Creek #2. THEY FIXED THE WAX ISSUE! This brew was solid. Very nice smokey flavor resulting from the fruit wood that they used to smoke their malts. Excellent saison, medium body, nice fruit notes. One of the better smokey aspects that I’ve ever sampled.
5. Pliny The Elder. This double IPA is a three peat world champion. This brew is everything I wanted, and more. I had always heard about Pliny, but wowzers. Wonderful aromas (I wanted to bottle it and sell it as cologne) I always wondered why the name Pliny so I set out to do some reseach (Read: Google / Wikipedia). Pliny was the first known individual to write about hops! (Fitting for a double IPA). He died in a volcanic accident while attempting to rescue some individuals. Any man that notes hops, and dies saving mankind… he’s a good fella in my book. My next trip to Cali I will be bringing back some of this brew. It is not meant to be aged so unfortunately, unless I move to California it’s not a daily brew to drink. This is rated the #6th best bottled beer… and you can buy it for $4.99 a bottle. Talk about value. Wonderful pineapple notes, I’ve had a LOT of IPAs, but never one that exhibited pineapple. It was very refreshing with the four types of hops used.
6. Fullers Vintage. I do love some Fullers. Whether it is their London Porter, ESB, or now their vintage ale. This brew house puts out some exceptional beer. This one was the 2010 vintage and was rather delightful. I would have liked to see how the flavor and body develops after another year or two, but I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to drink a beer that comes in its own box.
7. The Lost Abbey. The Ten Commandments.This was the first Lost Abbey brew that I’ve ever had, and boy oh boy do I want some more. This ale had notes of raisins, honey, and….. rosemary. An odd combination if you think about it, but melded together it was very pleasing to the palate. The rosemary hit first, a wonderful aroma as well as tingling in the mouth feel. Then you have the full flavor of the raisins. Wonderfully alcoholic raisins, bold, sweet, and a touch of acidity. Then the honey smooths everything. It feels as though the rosemary chips at the wall of your palate, the raisins come busting through the front door, then it is all encompassed in a flood of honey that flows in like lava. Truly wonderful. I would get this beer again, and again. It is not an every day beer, but certainly one that I’d love to have on hand for this cold winter nights.
8. Big Worse – Mikkeller. I am a big fan of Mikkeller. I like his collaborations, I like what he’s done with the guys over at , etc. This barley wine is no exception. Very well put together, true to style. Enjoyable.
9. Firestone Walker Sucaba. This was one of my favorites, if not my favorite brew from last night. Great barley wine, luscious and full bodied. Very smooth as well, I’ve never had a barley wine as smooth as this one, even my five year aged Sisyphus wasn’t this well rounded. I can certainly see why this beer is rated in the top tier. I am not on a quest to find their reserve series of this brew. I am sold on this brewery after one beer, and that is saying a lot.
10. Full Sail Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter. This brew is the one I was most excited to try (outside of Pliny). An imperial porter, aged in bourbon barrels (at the suggestion of the head distiller from The Macallen). Fig notes, whisky flavor, and the whiteness of the oak. It was good, don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it didn’t have the robust full body that I was hoping for. In all honesty, I was judging it to be an imperial stout instead of a porter, and that is what inevitably led to my disappointment. However, for a porter it was great. This is another beer that was drank prematurely. Being an imperial style, and only released in February of this year, I should have aged it another two years or so to further allow the alcohol to do its work, but in the end it was still rather enjoyable, and I imagine those of you aging this beer will not be disappointed.
11.The Abyss 2011 Vintage. Rated a perfect 100 on rate beer. I’d concur. This imperial stout, damn. The molasses, licorice, touch of sweetness, full bodied, and it pours black as the night with no moon. If perfection was a beer, this would be it’s right hand. There is an elite category in my mind for imperial stouts and this is right up there with the best of them. If I was able to have any beer, in any quantity, this would be it. It is the embodiment of what makes the perfect beer in my mind…. this is after it has only aged a year. I have a bottle from 2010 that I am still aging, as well as a pair from 2011. I hope to find a 2012 here in the next couple of weeks. Having this beer I feel rockets you into an exclusive club. This is the Ferrari of beers. Rich, luscious, holy moley, I cannot overemphasize this beer enough. If you ever have the chance, this is a MUST INDULGE!
12. Alesmith Speedway Stout. How do you follow The Abyss with anything? You have a Alesmith Speedway Stout. Ranked one of the best Imperial Stouts by Rate Beer. Coffee, lush chocolate, and 12% alc. I however disagree with the #1 moniker. While this stout was excellent, it didn’t excite me like the Abyss or the Bourbon Barrel Weasel Rodeo. The speedway stout was good, but I found it a little dry. Not like a cabernet dry, but something was drying. I suspect that they used a very dark roasted coffee which would pull the moisture out of the caramel malts and cause a drying mouth feel. It was still excellent, and very enjoyable, but I’ve had imperial stouts that appealed more to my palate.
13. Jester King Whiskey Barrel Weasel Rodeo. Alrighty, lets talk about Weasel Rodeo. Jester King has done some fun things with this beer. The original Weasel Rodeo (note batch #2, not the initial) has Kopi Luwak coffee ($200lb), and lots of it. The Weasel Rodeo is the most expensive beer ever released in Texas (by a Texas craft brewer). Dang near $18 a bottle, for a 750ml. Now, if you are sitting on this beer… KEEP SITTING. This beer needs time to develop natural carbonation. I had one that had been aging a couple of months, and it didn’t have enough carbonation yet, and this has been a common note against the brew. Everyone that I have talked to who bought this bottle has complained about the lack of carbonation. I hear that it IS getting better with time though, so just be aware. If you find it on draft, please indulge! It is an excellent stout, Kopi Luwak adds a nice lushness, and the chipotle peppers have a warmth to them that is great. Cool beer with a warming sensation when it hits your throat. I havn’t had a beer that warms the whole mouth like this outside of Theobroma. However, the bourbon barrel of this beer…. the whisky weasel rodeo… May be Mikkellers finest collaboration with Jester King yet. Oaky, and the bourbon shines through the oatmeal stout. The coffee flavor was mild, and unlike the Speedway it didn’t give a dry mouth feel. Solid brew, worth trying, but I wouldn’t drop $20 on it when I could have an Abyss.
All in all it was a grand tasting and as you can now see, we had some excellent brews present. Stay tuned for news of more tastings (We are going to try and have 4-5 a year). If you want to be apart of events like these drop me a line (Blake@Beerwithblake.com). If you have recommendations of brews for me to try, or anything that you want my opinion on, feel free to let me know and I will accommodate it.