Sunday, December 21, 2014

#294: Founders Brewing Co. » Big Lushious (Imperial Stout)

Founders Brewing Co. » Big Lushious (Imperial Stout) | ABV: 7.8%
Founders brings us Big Lushious for the winter edition of their Backstage Series - a stout brewed with chocolate & raspberries. On the eve of my almost-three-week break from my day job, I was anticipating the freedom of the following afternoon. Big Lushious seemed like a great beer to indulge with, while still retaining coherence in the morning.

This rich brew starts off with a decadent nose of succulent, chocolate covered raspberries and a hint of spice exuding from the dark, bubbly brown body and deep tan head.

Onto the palate, Big Lushious is silky and quite sweet. Big tart raspberry flavors rush through with a hint of cola, concluding with a wet finish. Further through, this beer becomes a sumptuous blend of port and raspberry truffles with subtle threads of cherry cola, red velvet cake, and chocolate syrup.

Big Lushious is a desert beer through and through and a lovely edition to sociable, warming ports & ice wines.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

#293: Bell's Brewing » Venus: The Bringer of Peace (Blonde Ale)

Bell's Brewing » Venus (Blonde Ale w/ Honey, Apricot, Cardamom, & Vanilla) | ABV: 7.5%
Bell's second offering in their Planetary Series, Venus has been garnering some polarizing reviews. Somewhere in there there's a joke about what what humanity through the planet was like until we actually landed there, but it's a bit too early for that.

Curiously brewed with apricot, honey, over 60 lbs of hand cut vanilla beans and cardamom, it's a complex, adventurous, and atypical brew. At it's core, Peace Bringer is a Blonde Ale, but that's about as far as the thread of that style goes.

Unabashedly aromatic, Venus emits a big, sweet, nectar and juicy nose. Notes of elderberry, vanilla, stone fruit, and oranges swirl through the olfactory system.

Onto the palate, it's dry and puckering and far beyond just a beer at this point. Venus is dense and mildly astringent - tart, but not sour. Wielding a myriad of fruit (apricot nectar, blood orange, tangerine), herbal and spice flavors (the cardamom and vanilla gracefully dancing), this is a mouthful of a beer with a stacking mouthcoat.

Straight up, this is a fruit beer. A big bold fruit beer, akin to a younger sibling of Founders' Rübæus and Mango Magnifico. Not quite as refined as those brews, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.

A goddamn great beer aimed for those with a curious and adventurous palate. If you're looking for a strong ale or dimmur blonde, better look elsewhere, but for those looking to sip the fringe of craft brewing, grab this while you can.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#292: Anchorage Brewing / Jolly Pumpkin » Calabaza Boreal (Wild Ale)

Anchorage Brewing / Jolly Pumpkin » Calabaza Boreal (Wild Ale) | ABV: 7.0% | IBUs: 40
Anchorage has been delivering some of my favorite beers around, so I pick them up as often as I can when traveling. Oddly enough, it looks like they have landed distribution in Upstate NY, so while I picked this particular bottle up in California, it's available locally, for the moment.

Brewed with grapefruit peel & juice and peppercorns, Calabaza Boreal hits the ground running with a godlike nose of oak and lemon candy emitting from a perfectly hazy straw body crowed by a pure white head.

Prickly and juicy, pink grapefruit and lemon zest flavors are plentiful, backed by a full bodied notes of oak. The lively peppercorn spice never reaches overwhelming or "spice beer" levels. There's a touch of booze heat in the back, alongside understated earth & funk.

As with many Anchorage offerings, it's stunningly tart and drinkable with on-going complexity.

#291: Sierra Nevada /Boulevard Brewing Co. » Terra Incognita (Strong Ale)

Sierra Nevada /Boulevard Brewing Co. » Terra Incognita (Strong Ale) | ABV: 9.8%
Beginning life as a hoppy, imperial brown ale, it's a blend of 55% wine-barrel aged, 32% bourbon barrel aged, and 13% fresh ale. Initially collaboratively brewed for a Brewers Association food event, Sierra Nevada has kept it a yearly tradition to release this big brew.

The nose is subtler than anticipated, with expected wine and bourbon notes, but soft, paired with aromas of cocoa and an herbal coolness to it. It pours up a deep, dark, opaque brown with thick head.

On to the palate, it's wonderfully smooth and offers a touch of sweetness. Red wine tannin peak through flavors of butterscotch and vanilla, finishing dry with a mild, mouthcoat. There's a soft bitterness of the bourbon & wine, quietly vying for attention and a boozy heat in the breath and chest of the finish. Far in, there's a dry tartness that develops with wonderful notes of black current.

A great brew that offers unique complexity due to the combination of beer style and blended aging.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

#290: Boulevard Brewing Company » Rye-On-Rye (Barrel Aged Rye)

Boulevard Brewing Company » Rye-On-Rye (Barrel Aged Rye) | ABV: 12% | IBUs: 47
I picked up this Boulevard while out in California back in October. My partner & I both love rye and barrel-aged brews, so I figured this this well-rated, limited release would be a bit of bliss in a bottle.

Rye-On-Rye is a blended beer, 67% of the ale aged in scorched Templeton Rye barrels.

Strong aromas of pepper, rye, and butterscotch start this one off. It's a hazy, deep amber with a plentiful, off-white head that has just a tinge of straw to it.

Big, bold flavors burst onto the scene, kept in control by a deftly smooth body. Firm notes of grape musk, smooth rye whiskey, vanilla bean, and natural cola, bringing to mind an old ale with herbal & rooty characteristics. The lively carbonation keeps it light on it's feet for such a big beer, making Rye-On-Rye a smooth, easy sipper and a damn good beer.

#289: Boulevard Brewing Company » Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale

Boulevard Brewing Company » Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale | ABV: 8.5% | IBUs: 38
My last two out of state trips have yielded good selections of Boulevard brews I'll have a post coming soon reviewing their Rye-On-Rye and Bourbon Barrel Quad, but first this 12 oz. single of Tank 7, a farmhouse and a year-round ale in their Smokestack series.

My partner & I each picked up mixed sixers of brews we can't get in NYS to hang with back at our hotel in Philly. I'd grabbed mostly session beers, expecting good brews, but was not expecting to get bowled over as I did by this bottle.

Tank 7 pours out a rustic, hazy pale straw with foamy white head, emitting a funky, farmhouse nose with faint tropical fruit notes. It's crisp, with a medium bodied mouthfeel. Wonderfully balanced notes of hay, soft pepper spice, and lemon are supported by lively carbonation which expertly masks the 8.5% ABV.

Boulevard nailed the farmhouse style on the head with this one. Delightfully complex if you want to get heady with it, but subtly drinkable enough to throw down in succession. If / when Boulevard arrives in Upstate NY, this may end up being my go-to brew.

#288: Firestone Walker » Double DBA 2013 (Imperial Special Bitter)

Firestone Walker » Double DBA 2013 (Imperial Special Bitter) | ABV: 12% | IBUs: 29
I picked this Double version of Firestone's flagship, DBA back in the fall of 2013. I'm a big fan of their Proprietor's Vintage Series series, as so far everything from that line has aged well for me and DDBA is no exception.

Double DBA starts off with huge, pluming aromas of candi sugar & booze. Notes of bourbon, caramel, and toffee bloom from the glass. There's a touch of spice in the way back as well. Appearance-wise, It's a deep amber color with a ring of white head.

Onto the palate, it's a playground of rich complexity. New flavors boundlessly surge in and out of the spotlight - a rush of whiskey, then pepper, hops, honey, even wild herbs gallops across the palate, finishing with a firm heat in the chest. Further through, soft sage notes start to appear. It's all wrapped up with a hardy, full mouthfeel that's slightly sticky, but still well carbonated.

This Double DBA, bottle aged for a year and a quarter, is a complex and bold ride from a big beer.