Tag Archives: #stoutseason

Brew Review: Narwhal (2012 Vintage)

20 Nov

Brew: Narwhal (2012 Vintage)

Brewed by: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, CA)

Style: Imperial Stout (10.2% ABV)

 

It is officially stout season 2012.  Recently a plethora of breweries have put out their seasonal stouts in preparation for the colder months where it’s acceptable to sit around all day, watch TV and drink nice heavy beers to keep you warm.  Sierra Nevada throws out its Narwhal imperial stout as a limited release, not as abundant as its seasonal lineup. Either way this brewery is so big that there is plenty of Narwhal to go around for all the stout seekers out there.  I picked up a 4-pack of this big beer, drank one right away and plan on having the 3 throughout the winter and into next year to see how well they develop and change. 

The Narwhal poured out black.  Not much else to describe there as with most imperial stouts.  No light shone through and it looked like night.  There was a thin cap of head that was slightly tan.  Not an impressive head for a big beer like this, I have probably been spoiled by the head that shows up on Founders Breakfast Stout, that one is amazing.

The aroma of this beer is full of malts up front.  The roast is subdued which leads to more of the dark fruit, molasses, some coffee and chocolate taking up the smell and running with it.  A slight roast is a good balance but it’s nowhere near the center of attention.  A really complex and deep aroma wafts off this whale. 

The taste is slightly bitter due to the roast. That bitterness lingers but gives way to more chocolate and coffee roast.  Surprisingly it isn’t a super thick brew as the look would suggest.  The hops are still present as this brew is still fresh.  It is nicely creamy as it warms up. 

The Narwhal is somewhat boring in its fresh state.  There really isn’t anything that makes me want it again and again.  I still enjoyed it because I love imperial stouts but it could use some work. I am hoping that age will work wonders for this brew.

 

Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Dark Truth

8 Nov

Brew:  Dark Truth

Brewed by:  Boulevard Brewing Co. (Kansas City, MO)

Style: Imperial Stout (9.7% ABV)

 

Boulevard is a very consistent brewery in my mind.  I have had a few of their offerings previously and been very happy with them.  The Dark Truth is their stout that is actually a year rounder.  Something you don’t necessarily find at most breweries.  Usually the stouts are left for seasonal releases or limited stuff.  My guess is that’s because people don’t really want to drink a super heavy dark beer in the hot summer months.  I also think that boulevard has the capacity to brew a lot so they are able to put this big boy out year round.  This is a somewhat fresh bottle so we will see how this goes, I opened this beer on 8-7-12 and I don’t know exact bottle date but I have a feeling its about 1-3 months old at this point.

Dark Truth pours out dark.  Enough said on that.  Its dark deep and lightless.  Exactly like an imperial stout should be.  There rises a huge mocha head from the top of the beer, the head is super thick with tiny tight bubbles.   The foam recedes slowly leaving great lacing and a really fantastic looking brew.  This is a perfect example of what a stout should look like. 

The aroma is interesting, I can tell right away that this is a fresh imperial stout.  There are hops right off the bat, earthy not much else but you can tell they are trying to push their way out from the huge mound of grain that was dumped on top.  There is lots of chocolate followed by sweet malts.  Not a ton of roast at this point.  There is also a hint of booze that floats around there.   a pretty solid aroma for the beer, nothing really fancy but I got everything I needed in chocolate, hops and some roast.

The taste was full and filling.  There are dark fruits, the hops are still present and provide a bitterness on the end of the sip that lingers.  There is a dark roast that wasn’t evident in the aroma that mixed with the hops to create that bitterness.  Along with the roast was dark chocolate notes.  There is that slight alcohol presence again that warms or numbs, depending on how you want to think about, the mouth and belly as you drink. 

This was still a really fresh bottle of the Dark Truth, I am happy I got a 4-pack of this as it will develop over the years and be a really nice treat in a year or two for a cool night.  The hops were still very present and I like roast with coffee and chocolate in my stouts.  Not bad in any way but kind of like LeBron it’ll take a few years for this beer to achieve greatness.

 

Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Russian Imperial Stout (2012 Vintage)

2 Nov

Brew: Russian Imperial Stout (2012 Vintage)

Brewed by: Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, CA)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV)

 

This brew comes out, for some reason, at the end of #stoutseason at the end of winter, or I guess in MN sort of in the middle.  Usually I see stouts showing up in stores at the end of fall or beginning of the winter so people can enjoy the big warming flavors of these brews as the weather gets cold.  Either way, I am not complaining about it this beer is widely viewed as one of the best in the style, beeradvocate agrees.  This wasn’t the first time I have tried this beer, if you go back to the Autumn Brew Review 2011 you can see that I was able to try a sample of this brew, however seeing as how I was at beer festival it was one of 80 or so beers I tried so trying to remember that specific one is pretty much impossible.  But I liked it enough or had heard enough about it to grab a couple bottles for myself when it came home.  This brew was bottled in the middle of April, I think the 16th.  I opened the bottle on May 17th so it only had about a month’s worth of time to develop and age in the bottle so I knew I was getting into a pretty fresh beer from the start. 

Stone’s RIS poured out black.  Not much else to describe here but black.  No light seeps through, no rose or red around the edges, it’s black.  Plain and simple.  The head was excellent, big rich mocha head settles after a minute or so into a cap on the top of the lightless brew.  It also leaves a nice ring on the glass from where it once was and the lacing that descends as I drink this down.

The aroma on this brew is big.  It has rich chocolate and coffee right on the start.  Those smells blend their roast smells together to create a large roast presence.  The hops are still present in the aroma, since this brew is still pretty fresh, which is telling on how much of a hop addition is in this brew since there are obviously pounds and pounds of grains in this recipe.  I don’t really pick up on any alcohol in this which is a good sign.  The aroma ends with even more dark chocolate.

On the first sip I realize how creamy and smooth this beer is.  It slides over my tongue and down my gullet without a hitch.  The hops are present, their bittering oils haven’t faded yet into the dark murky black that surrounds them.  The huge amounts of sweet sugars balance those hops out.  There is some coffee and chocolate but not as much as I smelled at first.  The hops and the bitterness from the hops and roast seem to dominate. 

I would say that this beer was a tad too fresh in the bottle to really enjoy it.  The hops were still fresh and the roasted notes hadn’t taken their hold yet.  After only a month it was too soon, maybe after 6 months or a year this will really come into its own.  Time to forget about the other couple bottles I have for a while and focus on some other beers.

 

Final Grade: B

Edit: I was able to try another bottle of 2012 RIS from Stone at 2012 Darkness Day, which means this bottle had a little over 6 months of age on it.  This brew was much better.  It had mellowed out, the hops had lost their edge and the smooth roast, chocolate, coffee and deeper flavors had begun to creep out.  I didn’t take any specific notes on this brew in particular but as I was drinking it I was remembering the first time I had it 5 months earlier and was looking at my notes from that tasting.  It has improved markedly since then and I think with a bit more age this will become a fantastic stout.

 

Brew Review: Old Heathen

24 Oct

Brew: Old Heathen

Brewed by: Weyerbacher Brewing Co. (Easton, PA)

Style: Imperial Stout (8.0% ABV)

 

Weyerbacher has two similar imperial stouts that are pretty much available whenever you want them in the Twin Cities.  Both the Old Heathen and Heresy are imperial stouts with the only difference that I can tell is that the Heresy is aged in oak barrels.  So I picked up both recently and the old Heathen is the one I popped open first.  Still haven’t gotten to the Heresy but that will be coming up soon I think.  Weyerbacher, out of Pennsylvania, has impressed me with what I have experienced from them so far.  Their Blasphemy and Tiny are both really good brews and I was excited to try one of their more regular offerings in the Old Heathen.

The Heathen poured out a solid black.  No light escapes and looks like most other imperial stouts.  A tight head with small compact bubbles rose up from the beer, it was the color of a mocha or dark khaki.  It rose up about a half inch, a bit smaller than I would ideally want but still a really good looking imperial stout.

The aroma of this brew was excellent.  I picked up toffee, vanilla and roasted grains right away.  I could smell this beast from far away, I didn’t even have to get close to it to really smell the goodness.  The right amount of sweet balanced with the char and bitterness of roast of the grains.  There is a faint detection of dark fruits and a hint of hop presence but those are minor players at this point.

The first sip is great.  This imperial stout is thick and chewy.  You can tell there are pounds and pounds of ingredients in this recipe.  Nothing light drinking about it at all.  Just what I wanted.  There is a ton of dark chocolate on the first sip. The chocolate lends in bitterness to the sip and combined with the roasted aspects of the grains that bitterness shines through as well.  Not a ‘bitter’ beer as you might think but there is that presence with every sip that there is a sharper tang hiding in the background waiting for you.  There are also flavors of coffee that come through as well.  Those fruity aromas that I picked up earlier didn’t really go anywhere.  This beer was mainly roast and chocolate bitterness.

The amount of chocolate in the taste was awesome and really took me by surprise and I didn’t expect that at any point until it hit me in the face.  The sweetness of the massive amount of malts was definitely balanced by the bitterness from the chocolate, coffee and roasted grains.  I didn’t pick up much by way of hops.  I don’t know the bottling date or anything about this brew so I couldn’t tell you anything about how old it was in that regard but I would wager it had maybe 3-6 months on it at this point.  Not a ton but enough for the hops to start their decline in power in the beer if there were many to begin with.  Since this is widely available, I can easily see this becoming a beer I always have in my fridge.  If you haven’t had it and not that its getting colder I would try to snag some next time your off to the store.

 

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Blaecorn Unidragon

12 Oct

Brew: Blaecorn Unidragon

Brewed by: Clown Shoes Brewing (Ipswich, MA)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout (12.5% ABV)

 

Clown Shoes brewing out of MA until just recently was not distributed to MN.  That changed about a week ago but I had the pleasure of picking this bottle up on one of the great trips I took down to Chicago where Clown Shoes has been for a while.  Great to have another brewery with a large lineup coming to MN, although the competition is going to be fierce with the amount of new local stuff that is popping up here.  This is the 2011 release bottled on 9-11-11 and I cracked it open on 4-7-12 so this review is from my notes and the bottle had a solid 7 months of age on it which I am pretty proud of myself of for keeping it around as long as I did without getting into it.  Another Russian imperial stout (RIS), I seem to have an eye for these, must like them.

The Unidragon pours out a thick black and no light escapes from its depths. Looks like a RIS should.  A dark tan or mocha head rises up but fades quickly which creates a thin cap on the top of this inky brew.

The aroma is roasty right out of the gate.  This roast is followed up by big malts and a faint hop aroma.  Right from the start I see that this is sort of a traditional take on the RIS style.  Roasty, burnt, malty with a soft touch of hops.  These flavors flow into dried dark fruit and some toffee mixed with chocolate.  The one thing that I missed was coffee.  It was a good smell, nothing outrageous or anything but balanced and nothing seemed out of place.

I was excited for the taste, the aroma showed that this was going to be a really solid RIS right from the get go so the taste should follow up well with that. Right away I get lots of roast again.  The roasted and burnt grains lend some bitterness, the coffee finally shows up and some light chocolate all rise up from those grains.  The hops are once again faint but present giving a balance to the huge sweet malt flavor that also comes out at you.  The hops also keep the mouth feel from cloying or sickly sweet. The brew is thick in the mouth but those hops cleanse the taste somewhat and leave you wanting more.  A slight bitterness lingers but wraps up the taste nicely.

This RIS is not as ‘big’ as others (Darkness) but it really didn’t fall short of anything either.  I liked the roast aspect a lot.  There wasn’t a ton of depth to the brew but I liked the simplicity, for lack of a better word, and the somewhat traditional take on the style.  Another great or maybe not great piece of it was that at 12.5% I couldn’t pick up any alcohol anywhere.  This is a higher ABV for any beer in any style and masking that much is a pretty nice accomplishment.  A really good RIS, nothing jumps out as great but this could definitely be a backup on any night you want something dark, roasty, and deep.  The price tag keeps it out of the reaches of Old Rasputin but I still recommend it.

 

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Tiny

9 Oct

Brew: Tiny

Brewed by: Weyerbacher Brewing Co. (Easton, PA)

 Style: Belgian Style Imperial Stout (11.8% ABV)

A Belgian style imperial stout.  That’s a lot right there in the name.  What can you take out of that?  This is going to be a big boozy stout, hence the imperialism.  However with a Belgian style ale mixed with a stout what are we expecting here?  Russian stouts are big and roasty.  Belgian beers could be grouped into a ‘fruity’ family with their lambics and wide variety of tastes that come out of the “Disneyland of Beer.”   So is this going to be a boozy, fruity laden syrup with burnt roast jumping out of the woodwork?  I really have no idea, it seems to be a daunting beer to brew, one that will probably not conform to any style when it’s all said and done.

Tiny pours out pitch black into my glass.  Pretty much all dark, no light coming in through the sides or anything.   There is a small dark tan head that rises up but doesn’t last long, like a poorly planned rebellion or mutiny. 

The brews aroma is a task.  There is a lot going on here.  Immediately I can sense a ton of big heavy malts.  There is also a lot of dark fruit in the nose.  Plumbs, raisins, apples, mixed in with some toffee and a faint coffee and chocolate bit deep down.  Almost too much going on to pick out certain things.  Deep fruits amongst some more traditional stout aromas are the main things.  I think the Belgian yeast provided some of the lighter fruit aspects while the stout quality added its roast and darker themes.

The name Tiny for this brew is ironic.  The taste that rushes at you the second you tip this glass forward is huge.  Not small or tiny by any means.  The brew is thick and rich like a solid stout should be.  The fruity, toffee and big malt flavors all show up again from the aroma.  There is more of a pronounced note of chocolate than before and the roast has faded into the background.  This is super smooth.  Thick and chewy with a hint of hot booze on the end.  After all its hard to cover up all almost 12%.

Weyerbacher definitely did well with this task of a Belgian style Imperial Stout.  They hit some roast, chocolate and toffee but also added fruits from plumbs and raisins to apples.  The Belgian yeast added a layer of complexity to an already thick and chewy imperial stout that really set the brew off.  The added bonus to this brew is that it is brewed year round and has a price tag of about 7-8 bucks for a 750mL bottle.  Which, means you can enjoy this all the time and the price tag isn’t something that will give you cause to pause when you look at it.  Think of it as a really good bottle of wine for 8 bucks and you’ve already saved yourself like 15 bucks.  On top of that its beer = win/win.

Final grade: A