Monthly Archives: April 2017

Trappistes Rochefort–6

One of the great Trappist breweries in Belgium, Rochefort brews three beers, basically a dubbel, a Tripel, and a Quad, though they refer to the triple as a strong dark ale.  Simplicity at its finest, the beers are named 6, 8, and 10.  But don’t take simplicity as plain.  Each of the three beers are perfect iterations of the three different styles.

Possibly the definition of the style as far as appearance is concerned. Deep, rich brown with a thick offtan head on top.

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The scents are simple…it actually smells like a cola. In addition to caramel, you’ll pick up a ton of malt and some alcohol.

The taste is much like the smell…early on it’s sweet like cola with the caramel and malt bill playing front and center. There’s a bit of Belgian spice and then the hops make an appearance, along with the alcohol, as the beer hits the throat.

Mouthfeel is not complex, like the smell, it’s simple. It’s almost creamy, almost full bodied with a dark, nutty character. The heat from the alcohol is just right.

A really, really good beer. Pretty obvious it’s from Belgium as the flaws are miniscule.  Super drinkable and super tasty.

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Founders Brewing–Imperial Stout

Your eyes will never see anything more attractive that this RIS in a glass. Next time you go to have your oil changed, ask the service guy to let you see the spent oil. That’s what this looks like. It’s a thick pour, as dark as the darkest black. There’s no head early on, it takes its time to form. When it does finally get around to being a head, it’s brown bubbles a finger thick that retains well. It’s a classic look.

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Very malty as you might imagine. Very roasty grains, a skosh of chocolate and you can actually smell some of the 90 IBUs. A good amount of char, think burnt coffee.

As good as anything I’ve ever had. Plenty of malts and seemingly lots of different types. There’s a party on the tongue and chocolate, expresso, coffee, caramel, vanilla and alcohol were all invited. The alcohol is fairly prevalent, but this is as good as it gets.

It’s pretty smooth and creamy despite the ABV and heat from it. Thick and full bodied, it presents a sweetness followed by a drying bitterness. The bitterness lingers, but so does the chocolate and alcohol, keeping a decent balance during the whole sip…and at 10.5% ABV, I suggest you sip even though the taste is amazing.

Overall, it’s one of the best beers I’ve ever had. It goes down easy, in spite of the high ABV and IBUs. Bordering on flawless.

Dieu du Ciel–Rigor Morris Abt

Dieu du Ciel is my second favorite brewer from North of the US border.  The name translates to English as “Good Lord,” “God in Heaven,” or the like.  The “Abt” moniker generally describes a brewer’s strongest beer produced to honor the high priest, or abbott.

Most beers noted with Abt are either Belgian or based on the Belgian style and with such a high alcohol content, this is a Quad, or quadruple.  Given the look, I wouldn’t have thought so as I expected a much darker, blacker beer.  Regardless, the body of this beer is dark brown without a hint of clarity.  A creamy, but pleasant, head of tan bubbles slowly forms from the bottom up, making Rigor Morris look similarly to a barleywine style beer.  Tiny dots of lacing stay behind.

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In reading a bit about the beer, Captain Obvious says it’s a malt bomb.  Again, knowing the style of beer gives this away, but it’s been confirmed.  Funny, the brewer almost acknowledges little care was given to Hop choice.  It smells that way with only caramel malt making an impression.  The yeast strain wasn’t mentioned, but whatever was used produces scents of dark red fruits, which are also found in the nose.

Finally, the taste…I was wrong about the look, as the tastes suggests this is 100% a Belgian-style Quad.  Malted grains, alcohol, and those yummy dark fruits combine for Heaven in a bottle.  Like in the nose, hops were a complete afterthought.

Dieu du Ciel brought good complexity to the beer.  With the high malt content, you expect the sweet, roastiness and the alcohol gives a faint bitterness.  But the yeast providing the fruit flavors also generate a tartness that tickles the palate with an unexpected twist near the finish.  Despite the high alcohol and the warming tart finish, the beer is very drinkable and full-bodied.

The bottle suggests not drinking this beer for at least six months…I waited a few years.  Not sure what it tastes like fresh, but it’s incredible after being cellared.  All the flavors blend together in a great tasting beer.

Two Brothers–Bare Tree (2013)

This will be my first beer of this style.  I’ve had many barley wine style beers before, but this will be my first Weiss wine.  Instead of a malt bill made mostly of barley, this grain bill is predominantly wheat.  I can’t find any stats for this beer, but previous vintages ran from 11.0-11.5% ABV.

The body of this beer is a bit lighter than a barleywine, pouring a faded copper color with a bit of chill haze.  It’s head forms beautifully, in a slow cascading fashion, but doesn’t retain.  As you drink, a spotty lace presents.  You may notice the glass is from the brewer, which is why I bought this (plus, I received a 2014 vintage as well).

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Sublime is the best word to describe the smell of 2013’s Bare Tree.  Wheat gives off a tangy scent and in this beer they seem to have combined some sort of tropical fruitiness.  The smell invites a sip.

The taste follows the scent and gives a very complex mouthfeel.  The wheat grain creates a sweetness that is tempered by the tangy feel.  Wheat also presents a banana- and clove-like flavor and that too is offered in spades with this beer.

This uniquely styled beer throws many different sensations to the palate…sweet, tangy, spicy, fruity…and they all play together nicely.  More than anything, you’re left with a slightly puckering tart finish.  It’s borderline smooth and creamy, not words you generally use when describing a string beer.

As someone who isn’t a wine drinker, my palate is still adjusting to this beer.  I like the wheat and fruity flavors, but there are many wine characteristics I can’t get away from.  Hopefully the 2014 vi rage will provide me with some answers.

Stone Brewing–Double Bastard Ale (2016)

Stone is one of the greatest American breweries.  This beer is a jacked up version of their base Arrogant Bastard Ale, which on the back of each bottle explains why ‘…you’re not worthy.’  This beer is ‘Bigger, Longer, Uncut.’  The back of this bottle tells me it can smell my fear.

Stone tells you little about this beer other than it breaks the scale at 13% ABV.  It’s hop varieties and IBU count are for eyes only and as such, classified for you and me.

The base beer is a monster and I suppose this will be even more manly as it’s aged in Scotch whisky barrels.

Visually, the beer intimidates with a mysteriously murky brown pour and a dirty yellow head.  The body looks like choppy river water after a recent storm.  The thick, menacing head leaves a sticky lace.  I’m a bit scared already.

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Smoked peat is the only scent that comes to mind.  They’ve nailed the Scotch style beer scent.  A fruity scent hides in the background, but I can’t make it out.  An earthy note is present, but again, it’s in hiding.

Surprisingly, the first few sips didn’t cause any tears, but I can feel the heat building on my palate as I type this.  Also, you will want to avoid drinking this, opting instead to sip it.  The only thing separating this from a barleywine is the hop bitterness.  This is actually sippable, as a big smooch of slightly sweet malt greets you before conceding to the aggressiveness of the alcohol.  Double Bastard certainly weighs heavily of IBUs, but the finish is more warming than bitter.

Dare I say this beer starts off smooth?  I expected a punch in the face from the get go, but this brings a level of sophistication to the dance that I didn’t expect and haven’t seen from other Arrogant Bastard beers.  It’s still a pain to drink, but this makes at least an attempt to play nicely.  As the beer warms, the dark fruity flavors emerge, kind of like a dense fruit cake at the holidays.  Regardless, each sip is wrapped up the same way, with a warmth that eventually becomes heat.  Needless to say, this is a full-bodied meal of a beer.

I enjoyed this far more than I expected and that’s due to Stone’s deft hand in the brewing process.  They could have made this undrinkable like some of their other beers.  Instead, they provided a great night cap.

St. Feuillien–Speciale

I don’t recall having a beer from this brewery before, but it’s a Belgian brewer that started brewing in 1125, so I’m sure I’ll like it.

This Speciale is a Strong dark ale, but the body is a tad bit on the light side for the style, pouring a mahogany brown color more than anything resembling the usual black color.  While still dark, the body appears hazy or cloudy rather than clear.  Up top, a thick, creamy, khaki-colored head settles.  Initially thick, it lacks legs and is gone in an instant.  A swirl breathes life into the tight, uniform bubbles, but even then, no lacing exists.

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I’m struggling to pick up anything in the nose, other than an ‘earthy’ scent.  It’s possible the beer is still a bit too cold, as the bottle suggests serving at around 55 degrees (one of the warmest temperatures I recall).  As the beer warms, that ‘earthy’ scent grows stronger, but I’m still not picking up any distinguishable scents.  Because I’m tired of waiting, I’m moving on and after tasting the beer, won’t likely be able to comment on the smell.

The labels indicates this beer is generally brewed at the end of the year and is ‘festive.’  I agree, as the taste includes caramel, toffee, and holiday spices like ginger and possibly cloves.  Speciale gives a pleasant taste with all ingredients working in concert with each other.  Certainly malt-forward, the 9% ABV and spices provide balance.

The combination of darkish malts, spices, and alcohol give the beer its earthy, rustic taste and feel.  It’s not overly carbonated, but just enough so that each feeling–sweet, earthy, bitter–gets its chance to shine.  Medium- to full-bodied, the alcohol is fairly well hidden.

As usual, the Belgians show why they are the best at what they do.  I suppose when you’ve been doing something for almost a thousand years you get pretty good at it.  This beer is very drinkable and has no rough spots around the edges.

Rodenbach–Grand Cru

Here’s another Belgian beer, this time from the Flanders/Flemish part of the country.    Grand Cru is more or less a designation of high quality, so this is regarded as the best beer from the Rodenbach Brewery.  Rodenbach is noted for their sour beers brewed in the Flemish Red style of beers.  This beer is made by combining two beers…one of which is ‘new’ beer and the remaining is ‘old’ beer.  In this case the ‘old’ beer is 2-years old while the ‘new’ beer is fresh.  The mix is 2/3 old to 1/3 new and the old is aged in 150 year old barrels.

This is not a great picture, but it’s not all that red in color.  The pour is mostly a dark, dirty brown with some ruddy hues around the edges.  The head resembles a creamy foam and stays with you as long as you’re drinking.  Each swirl brings more head back to life and shows a slight lace, but that head retains for quite a good bit of time and never fully dissipates.

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Despite the fact that no fruit was added to this beer, you’d swear it was packed to the brim.  Grand Cru resembles a dark wine and gives off a fruity aroma because of the brewing process they’ve been using for almost 200 years.  It smells of dark, ripe fruits and you can almost smell tartness.  Hops are of British descent, but they don’t play a part in this scene.

The taste further confounds because you’d swear they added cherries to the blend.  Instead it’s nothing but dark malts and crazy Belgian bacteria strains that give off the fruity, tart flavors.

The beer is only 6% ABV, but it feels even lighter due to the high carbonation.  The sweet-sour battle plays out as the beer works across the tongue, while the carbonation intensifies the feel near the puckering finish.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no sort of oil used and the hop types used don’t impart any oily resins, but the tartness grabs ahold of your tongue and doesn’t let go.  It simply coats the tongue, making it a bit difficult to feel anything but sweet-sour and tart.

I would love to see more alcohol in the beer, but even without it this is a great beer.  It’s an acquired taste even though it’s rated as the best beer in the world of the style.

Great Divide–Yeti

Yeti is the base brew for a group of imperial stouts brewed by Great Divide out of Denver, CO.  Yeti has been the origin of many other Yeti beers, Oak Aged Yeti, Oatmeal Yeti, Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, and so on and so forth.

Yeti leaves the bottle like spent engine oil.  Completely black in color and very thick, it almost resembles syrup or molasses.  It presents virtually no head.  There is a cascading that takes place as beige bubbles try to reach the top of the dark body, but the beer is just too thick to allow it and it resembles more of a creamy film up top than anything.

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It smells of roasted bits of grains, a little smoky.  Being the base of all the other Oak aged beers, this hasn’t been aged, but it presents an earthy smell despite not spending time in barrels.  Faint scents of caramel and toffee, with a tiny splash of chocolate.

Yeti brings 9.5% ABV to the party, but after I’ve aged it 4 years, you can’t tell.  The alcohol has mixed with equal parts chocolate and roasted coffee and feels slightly diluted from the time on my shelves.  Each sip begins with a quick kiss of sweetness before the 75 IBUs balance with some bitterness.

This beer is exceptionally thick and is beyond full-bodied, not sure I’ve had a beer that felt so heavy and thick on the palate.  Each bottle should come with a spoon as it borders on being chewy.  There is a lingering bitterness in the finish that is made stronger by the heat from the alcohol.  I said you couldn’t really taste the alcohol, but you can feel it.

Great Divide chose a great beer to build on for their Yeti series.  It’s extremely smooth and creamy so it makes a great dessert beer.  Regardless of when you have it, it’s a sipper that goes down easily.  I think the bottles I’ve aged are better than the fresh bottles.

 

Sierra Nevada–Narwhal

One of these days I’ll tell one of the reasons, besides good beer, that I love Sierra Nevada.  Narwhal is part of their Heavy series; more or less very high in alcohol beers.  An Imperial Stout, it uses 6 different malts for color, high alcohol, and complex flavors.  A Narwhal is a brother to the Beluga whale…one of the weird looking whales with the long tusk sticking out of its forehead, which is why it’s called the unicorn of the sea.  Further, it’s one of the possible explanations for the story Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and there is a section in Moby Dick on the Narwhal.  Who knew beer discussion could be educational?

Anyway, hardly anything pours quite like the beer.  It comes out slow and thick and as dark as an 8 ball.  A slow forming, cascading, creamy head develops in a medium brown color.  Everything about this beer is dark.  Look fast though, because the bubbles don’t stay long.  Lacing is thin and dots the glass.  Regardless, it’s quite the lovely beer.

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Like the dark Belgian I drank last night, Sierra Nevada gave little thought to hop choice here.  They used Challenger hops, in case you cared, but you’ll never notice as the six different malt varieties dominate the nose.  From several feet away, it smells like a chocolatier’s shop.  Cocoa, caramel, toffee, espresso; there’s no complexity.  It’s all about the malts.

You’ll find the malt-forward approach carries over to the taste as well.  From the bottle you can see this beer has aged for years.  The different dark flavors have melded together, but you can still pick out the faint coffee notes mixed in with some smoke and chocolate.  In the warming finish, it seems as a hint of licorice presents.

Despite 10.2% ABV, Narwhal is exceptionally smooth and creamy, maybe a bit too easy to drink for such a high ABV beer.  It’s very sweet, but never cloying as the alcohol always prevents the beer from going over board.  The finish is warming and provides the only bitterness you’ll see.  Full-bodied and almost a meal, the beer is syrupy and borderline chewy.

Sierra Nevada gives me another of my favorite beers.  Easy to drink, great flavor, and a high level of booze is exactly what I’m looking for.  Not sure I’d change anything.

Het Anker–Gouden Carolus Cuvée Van De Keizen

Being National Beer Day, I decided to try a Belgian I’ve been aging.  This particular beer was named best Belgian beer of the style in 2015, though this is the 2014 vintage.

You can tell by the look it’s a Belgian strong dark ale.  It pours a dark, murky brown with no hints of anything to lighten it.  There’s little to no clarity in the body.  Up top is a beige head of loose bubbles.  The head lacks thickness, but given the 11% ABV, that’s understandable.  I wouldn’t say it retains well, but neither do the bubbles ever go away.  A spotty lace remains.

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Each swirls brings a new wave of scents…caramel malts and dark fruits, plums according to the bottle.  Brewed with so much alcohol and said plums, the scent resembles a red wine, though not as intense on the olfactories.  While the type of hop is not mentioned, other than being Belgian, this is a malt forward beer where hops don’t play an integral part.

It’s tastes amazingly good.  Like a cross between a red wine and a well-made dark Belgian beer.  The caramel malts pair very well with the plums with just enough alcohol to keep everything in balance.

Het Anker did a stellar job putting this beer together.  The sweet from malts, the tart from the fruit, and the bitter from the alcohol all pair well together.  Surprising, this 11% bomb starts off smooth and creamy with a kiss of sweetness.  As the beer approaches mid sip, the tart feeling builds.  Finally, the bite from the alcohol is gentle enough to state its presence and tie it all together.  A slight carbonation in the finish cleanses the palate, giving an almost cool, clean feeling.

I have no idea what I paid for this bottle, but it was well worth it.  It is so easy to drink and you’d never know if was such a high gravity beer unless you were told or read the bottle.  As usual, the Belgians perfect their craft.