Monthly Archives: August 2016

Dark Horse Brewing–Plead The Fifth

Another seasonal beer that I seem to be enjoying at the wrong time of year.  Dark Horse is a brewery from our friends up north in Michigan.  Not as well known as Bell’s or Founders, if they keep making beers like this they will be one day.

Pours as dark as midnight.  A bit on the thick side too.  It appears there will be no head and as soon as you turn your head, it cascades from bottom to top and you see a light brown family of bubbles forming.  Not much retention, mostly due to the 11% ABV.  While that head is alive, it’s creamy and smooth.

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Sticking your nose in the tulip glass, you’d swear this to be coffee if you had your eyes closed.  The aroma is full of coffee and bittersweet chocolate.  The brewery’s website says there are bits of dark fruits, but I get lost in the chocolate and coffee to find anything else.  However, as the beer warms, caramel malts evolve and make the glass smell like it’s full of Milk Duds.

The flavor of Plead The Fifth is spectacular as the dark fruits come alive, riding in on a wave of licorice.  Chocolate and dark fruit work really well together and they combine to make a treat of this beer.  All the different tastes are subdued and play well together, no one flavor trying to dominate the others.  Even the alcohol is tamed.

It’s super creamy and smooth on the palate, with bitterness only providing balance in the finish.  Aside from that, it’s a mostly sweet beer.  There’s little carbonation, yet this beer is only medium bodied and full of flavor.  Quite a balancing act of so much malt and alcohol, to make it balance and very drinkable.

Overall, this is one of the best beers I’ve ever had.  Such a monster, but it’s very easy to drink.

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Evil Twin–Liquid Double Fudge

Probably the darkest and thickest liquid I’ve seen this side of used motor oil.  It barely wants to pour out of the bottle.  Once it does, it’s a glorious looking beer.  Absolute darkness in the glass, with a nice dark brown head.  That head is fairly thick for such a strong beer.  It dissipates quickly, but never fully, leaving a tiny layer of bubbles.  A swirl brings about more bubbles and leaves a thin lace behind

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It smells like a brownie right out of the oven.  A large whiff of chocolate malt and milk chocolate are pleasant.  There’s a mild smoky scent and some breadiness, like chocolate cake.  Roasted barley, a splash of coffee, and a chocolate liqueur-like scent round out the nose category.

Nor surprisingly, the beer’s taste could also pass for a brownie, albeit a brownie soaked in booze.  There’s just no getting around the 12% ABV, though it doesn’t hit you like a shot of spirits.  Instead, the alcohol plays nicely with the other ingredients and turns those brownies into adult brownies.

Smooth and creamy up front until the mouthfeel turns grainy near the end.  Sweet turns to a lingering bitter.  The finish is dry and warming, though the warming turns to heat with each successive sip.  The alcohol builds as well.  Clearly, this beer provides plenty of body, like a dense brownie.

This is both a beer and a dessert.  Even with the heft of the beer, it goes down easy and it’s tasty and pleasant while it does, though the lingering heat and bitterness eventually wear down your palate.  But at $6.99 for a bomber, it’s a small price to pay.

Stone–Imperial Russian Stout

An old Russian chick of prominence named Catherine enjoyed this type of dark, strong beer that was imported from England.  It was a stout, it was strong, and it was for a Russian, hence the name, or style of beer.

A dark and thick syrupy looking beer, the only light is the ruddy red hue around the edges and the dark khaki head up top.  There’s no haze of any sort, it’s simply dark.  The head looks like the foam sitting atop a cup of hot chocolate.  Retention is minimal due to the high ABV and lack of carbonation.  Lacing is almost nonexistent.

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Dark roasted grains fill the nose.  Scents of coffee and other dark malts.  The smell of charcoal with the faintest hit of licorice.

A bit of chocolate teases the taste buds, a combination of dark chocolate and milk chocolate.  The ABV is mostly hidden, but you can’t completely rid anything of 10.8% so an alcohol warmth finishes each sip.  The roasted malts are evident from beginning to end.

Stone introduces the IRS with a smooth and creamy chocolate sweetness that fades to a grainy chocolate and coffee bitterness from midsip on.  Fairly complex with the evident sweetness followed by bitterness, capped off with some alcohol burn.  Full bodied, the bitterness really lingers.

If you look at the bottle, you’ll see this is a beer released every year.  People that have more patience than me will sit on several bottles each year…one bottle to drink immediately and another bottle to age for a few years and then taste several vintages in a sitting to see how the beer evolves.  I wish I was smart enough to remember to do that, but I only end up buying one big bottle at a time and them wishing I had bought more.

It’s great beer for the cooler months, but I’m enjoying this in the dog days of summer and it’s still good drinking.

 

 

Founders–Breakfast Stout

This beer is described on the bottle as a double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout.  There is nothing I don’t like about that description.  Numerous chocolates, two coffees, and flaked oats? Yes please.

It’s a looker in the glass.  A thick black pour with a slow forming, cascading head of dark tan bubbles.  Totally opaque, even around the edges.  Decent retention with a creamy film of bubbles left atop and sticky lacing remaining.

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The nose screams of chocolate and coffee.  As someone who doesn’t care for coffee, it was this beer that taught me it was ok for the bean to be in beer.  The chocolate isn’t overbearingly chocolate and while you can almost smell oats, the scent is very coffee forward.

The flavor is geared more toward bittersweet chocolate and dark chocolate than milk chocolate.  Coffee is very evident and while I have no idea what hops were used, the differing ingredients head down a path of bitter rather than sweet.

Extremely creamy and smooth, initial sweetness quickly gives way to bitterness, which lasts well into the swallow.  The 8.3% ABV and viscosity of the beer give the impression of a liqueur.  Most beers of the type use bitterness to balance the sweetness, but here the sweetness is used to counter the bitter.  Full bodied and yummy, this is a malt bomb with lots of bitterness.

As the beer warms and the glass empties and becomes painted in tan bubbles, notes of licorice or anise evolve.

This beer was rated 100 on BeerAdvocate.com and with good reason.  It’s quite tasty and is easy to drink, and with good alcohol, it does its job well.

Deschutes Brewery–Not The Stoic

I always get excited when I can find a beer from Oregon, the home of craft beer.  I can’t remember where I got this, probably from my golf trip last year, because they don’t sell it around Evansville.  I also love the ‘best after’ dates in beers.  This particular bottle was brewed in 2014 and has a best after date of 4/22/2105.

Not The Stoic is a Belgian Quad so it’s going to be high in alcohol and very likely full-bodied.  The stats upon this beer says 12.1% ABV and only 15 IBUs.  Also, it was aged in Pinot noir and oak rye whisky barrels.

It pours a rich, inviting medium brown color.  It’s full of so much stuff you can’t see through it.  With a beer so high in alcohol, little head is to be expected, and that’s what you get with this beer.  A finger at the most once poured, then it quickly disappears, aside from a ring up top around the edge.  A swirl tries to bring life back, but it just isn’t meant to be.  The thinnest of spotty lacing is all that’s left.

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Both the Pinot noir and the rye are strong in the nose, as is the scent of booze.  You’ll note the use of savory European Noble hops, as well as the pomegranate molasses that’s a nice surprise.

It tastes amazing.  I’m not a fan of rye grains, but the marriage of the red grapes, heavy use of malts, pomegranate molasses, and a couple years of aging do wonders.  The high alcohol is well hidden, only noticed in the finish and the hops play second fiddle.

As I guessed, this is very full bodied.  The sweetness from all the dark fruit and molasses pairs well with the high level of alcohol, which is mostly hidden, doing no more damage than a warming of your palate in the swallow.

With all the sweetness combatting the high alcohol, this actually goes down very easily and is really a great beer overall.  I’m sure I spent a fortune on this but it was well worth it.  Even after finishing half the bottle and bringing the bear to proper serving temperature, the alcohol never spoiled the party.  It’s an easy drinking beer but keep in mind, it’s still a sipper.

New Belgium–Citradelic Tangerine IPA

I’ll keep the book open on this brewery.  They have lots of fans but I remain unconvinced.  However, this beer got my attention.

Citradelic pours a very light peach color with almost no cloudiness or haze, other than from the chill once the glass cools.  Made with only pale malt and caramel malt, you can expect a ‘thin’ shade.  The head starts off ok, but really lacks the IPA look with frothy peaks and valleys and good retention.  A quick swirl creates only slightly more bright white bubbles, but overall the look is a bit lacking.

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They brewed this with numerous C-hops (Centenniel, Cascade, Citra) meaning it should burst with tropical fruit flavors and scents.  Plus, with the addition of ‘tangerine,’ the fruit fragrance should scream.  Instead, it’s barely a whimper.  I can barely tell any hops have been added.  The caramel malt comes through, but this is an IPA and I don’t care about the malt.

The tastes follows suit, completely lacking in fruit flavor.  There’s a very faint taste of pineapple and oranges peel, but you really have to search for it.  More than anything, pine is present.

This supposed IPA starts off with a splash of sweetness before the bitterness takes over and remains in charge until the crisp and dry finish.  There is a tropical fruity feel in the swallow, but no one flavor can be picked out.  The ABV is only 6%, so it’s really a light-bodied beer and feels a bit on the side.  It says 50 IBUs and that number feels about right.

Overall, I’m a little sad that I bought a half case of this.  It’s more like a pale ale than an IPA and even as a pale ale, it’s lacking in flavor and body.

The reason I don’t seem to care for beers from this brewery are evident in this beer when compared to another tangerine IPA I’ve had recently.  The tangerine IPA from Stone was brewed with real tangerine.  In reading about this beer on New Belgium’s website, I learned in one section that this beer was made with tangerine rind, yet in anger section it says it was made with ‘tangerine infused orange peel.’  WTF?  Make up your mind.

Regardless, like other beers from the Colorado brewery, this one misses the target.

Kasteel–Barista Chocolate Quad

You know by now that I love Belgian beers.  Belgians are also known for their chocolate and I’m trusting they know something about coffee.  I’m still not old enough to drink coffee, but I do enjoy the taste of it in beer.

I remember this beer being both darker and thicker.  The appearance more closely resembles a Dubbel, as opposed to a Quad.  It’s extremely dark brown, almost, but not quite, black.  A thinner pour than I expected.  The head is frothy and creamy, starting off at a couple fingers thick before establishing a very thin ring of yummy tan color on top.  It really looks like coffee in the glass.

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Also, extra points for the cute little stubby European bottle, all 11.2 ounces of it (330 ml if I remember right).  Cool bottle, but I get cheated out of a whole sip.

The nose certainly picks up the coffee, but the chocolate is harder to find.  It smells of roasted grains and coffee beans.  Hopefully as the beer warms the chocolate will present better.  Like a lot of beers of this style, hops are more an afterthought as the malt and adjuncts are the star.

Take a sip and an explosion of flavor takes place.  The coffee remains dominant, but the chocolate finally makes an appearance, as does caramel, vanilla, and molasses.  The different flavors work well together and make this a great dessert beer or a night cap.  My taste buds and saliva glands work overtime as this has anything but a dry finish.

The 11% ABV is well hidden amongst the dessert party taking place in my mouth.  The beer starts off creamy before a grainy feel takes over.  Bitterness and warmth build as the beer works its way across the palate.  A bit of an oily feel surrounds the tongue, keeping the sweetness in tact.  Full-bodied and then some.

Overall, I am enjoying this beer.  The coffee taste and feel is right up to the edge for me, but it never crosses the line as the chocolate and other flavors keep the peace.  There is no need for snacks with this, unless you have some cheese or something chocolatey.  Another top notch Belgian.

Evil Twin Brewing–I Love You With My Stout

Don’t ask.  I have no idea what the meaning is.  Evil Twin is a Danish brewery but I don’t believe they actually brew beer over there.  It seems they brew in the US at around a dozen or so different breweries who aren’t brewing at capacity.  I’ve had many beers from them in the part; they’re usually pretty dark and strong, they taste good, and they have strange names of beers.

This particular Imperial Stout is dark.  Think black hole in a bottle or glass.  It’s like outer space dark after the Sun has burned out.  The head is a light tan color and very thick.  Once settled, the head becomes very foamy and dies down to about a quarter inch.  However, every bit of glass the head touched while it was slowly dissipating remains covered in a sloppy thick lace.

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When I poured it, I pulled a Gerst Haus and it ran over the top so I had to do some cleanup before snapping this lovely picture.  You’ll see it’s a regular sized, 12-ounce bottle, but it pulls a hefty 12% ABV on the alcoholometer (I’m sure that isn’t a word).

Ok, even novice beer people can tell this is a malt-forward beer.  The high ABV number and dark color give it away.  The scent is what a piece of charcoal sitting in a cup of coffee would smell like.  To get something this dark, you have to roast the shit out of it and the barley was fed to the flames.  Your olfactories will pick up the coffee and char, with a little bit of dark chocolate for complexity.

This beer is still a little on the cool side so aside from a smoky smell, I’m sure there is more to it that I’ll pick up as it warms.

Needless to say, this is a strong beer.  The first sip really got my attention.  The dark, charred, roasty grains are prevalent, but that alcohol, it really pops you upside your head to make sure you’re paying attention.  I’m guessing since this is a Danish beer that a nice European dark chocolate was used.  Espresso comes to mind and I think I’m picking up a bit or licorice or maybe some anise.  But that alcohol, it tastes like a liqueur.

The best part of this beer is the smooth and creamy feel.  The chocolate malt gives it a sweetness that lasts to the finish where the alcohol really starts to assert itself.  That same chocolate, along with the hops, give it a lingering bitter finish.  The beer is full-bodied and thick, and really coats your tongue.

Each sip is a handful.  I wouldn’t call it easy to drink or all that drinkable.  The mouthfeel does improve as the beer warms, but the warming beer makes the warm finish even more difficult to handle.  My throat is not going to thank me in the morning.

Stone–RuinTen

Stone, one of the great breweries in the world.  They’ve brewed about a thousand different beers, and maybe three of them suck.  Odds are better than not that if you have one of their beers, you will enjoy it.

This beer is a knock off of a previous beer of theirs called Ruination IPA.  When that beer celebrated its 10th birthday, they came out with this beer to honor it.  However, the bumped up everything from that IPA to create this TRIPLE IPA.  The prior beer used 2.5 pounds of hops per barrel of beer and tipped the scales at 7.7% ABV.  This beer uses 5 pounds of hops per barrel and breaks the scale at 10.8% ABV.

You may remember from a prior post that Budweiser registers 10 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).  Scientists suggest the human palate cannot differeniate anything over 100 IBUs.  Good thing, because this beast clocks in at 110 IBUs.  It’s a complete palate-wrecker.

Just from the look you can see it’s fairly dark for a pale ale.  To get the ABV that high, lots of malt had to be used and the more malt, the darker the beer.  There’s nothing pale about this IPA as it’s more of an orangey copper than anything indicating pale.  It doesn’t produce the head of a typical IPA (because it isn’t a typical IPA).  Higher ABV beers generally don’t produce much in the way of bubbles, and that’s what we see here.  The head is off white, but it tapers off quickly into a small island of bubbles and little else, other than a bit of spotting.

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It smells like I won’t be able to taste anything in the near future. It’s all hops, with a tiny hit of cracker just to suggest some malt was used.  For the most part, it’s nothing more than pine, onion, and grapefruit rind.

Hops are used as a preservative, for bitterness, for taste, and for aroma.  In this case, you can check all four boxes.  Near the bottom of the label, you might be able to pick up what the brewer writes…”a stage dive into a mosh pit of hops.”  That sums it up.

RuinTen tastes much better than you might expect.  Sure, the pine and grapefruit rind show up early and often, but pineapple arrives near the finish to balance out those mean old hops.  Like in the nose, the malts give a cracker-like taste in the finish.

Despite the high IBU count, this beer starts off smooth and eases into the bitter.  The malts give ample sweetness against the bitter backdrop to keep the drinkability very high considering the beast of a liquid.  It’s more than plenty bitter, but good brewers can balance that and Stone does a wonderful job.

All that said, this is a hop bomb of ridiculous proportions and it simply wears at your tongue, palate, and throat in general.  The oils from the hops gently coat your tongue and with each sip, less and less of the sweetness makes it through and more of the bitterness and heat from the 10.8% ABV pounds your mouth.  The balanced finish becomes less and less balanced as the bottle empties and your palate becomes drier and drier.  The snack factor with this is high, particularly if you’re downing a 22-ounce bomber like I am.  This will likely turn into an entire bag of microwave popcorn to suck the bottle dry.

Despite what could be construed as negativity, this is an amazing beer.  It’s a handful, but it’s supposed to be.  Ratings are relative and a beer like this should never be compared to a sweet Porter.  To say this isn’t highly drinkable is doing a disservice to beer judging.  You have to compare this beer to others that are high ABV palate-wreckers, in which case, this is a fantastic beer overall.

Unibroue–Maudite

Unibroue is a brewer near Montreal that typically brews Belgian-inspired beers.  While they have a few lighter alcohol beers, they tend to favor the stronger beers.

A medium brown pour that’s a bit lighter around the edges, it’s still dark enough to be opaque.  Taking a closer look at the beer, you’ll note bubbles never stop rising from the bottom of the glass.  Good carbonation creates a mostly white head that can be about as thick as you want it to be.  Eventually, the head subsides and turns into a lovely dollop of creaminess up top.  Almost 10 minutes after popping the top and there remains a quarter inch of bubbles that stays with you.  Each time you disrupt the head, an attractive lacing is left behind.

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Unibroue creates labels that are masterpieces and their names usually go with a story.  If I remember right, ‘Maudite’ means ‘the damned.’  I could be wrong, but that’s what I think I remember.

Belgian Dubbels are what comes to mind with each sniff.  Mostly malty things that smell of caramel malt, like a soda.  A spicy scent is there, but the exact spices escape me as they combine and become one.  Hops are likely of the European variety, mostly for bittering and not much for flavor or aroma.

It tastes like any run of the mill, world-class Belgian Dubbel would.  Loads of caramel, and the spices seem to be clove-like, with a possible of addition of anise for a faint licorice note.  Again, hops take a back seat as the spices provide the balance against the malt.  Alcohol is listed at 8% but is hardly noticed.

Mostly sweet up front with the spicy feel taking over from midsip on.  As mentioned, the spices balance nicely against the malty sweetness.  The spices and alcohol provide just enough warmth to let you know Maudite is a beer.  The medium body means you can have a few of these before feeling bloated.

Extremely drinkable, like all Dubbels shold be, this is another go-to beer of mine as it’s a good beer for all types of weather.  The snack factor is minuscule since the drinkability is so high.  Maudite gives few nits to pick.