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Making My Case Again

March 1st, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

My idea of 2020 hindsight

This Saturday marks the second anniversary of Billy’s Beer Blog. To mark the occasion, I’ve decided to do an updated version of my Ultimate Case.

While I’m keeping two of my three rules from a year ago – no retired beers and a limit of one beer per brewery – I’m dropping the ban on extreme beers of 20% or more. I’m also expanding my Ultimate Case from 24 beers to 30, thus eliminating the need for an Honorable Mention 6-Pack.

And so, without further adieu, is my Ultimate Case The Sequel. It’s been a fun filled and exhaustive journey to put together a list of 30 beers from the countless number of brews that I have enjoyed. I hope that you enjoy reading this post as much as I have enjoyed preparing it.

AleSmith Speedway Stout; AleSmith Brewing Co.; San Diego, CA; Imperial Stout; ABV: 12.0; This DIPA is nothing less than superlative. It’s a full-bodied beer that pours a jet black color, with big notes of coffee in the nose and taste. The latter is balanced by milk chocolate, dark fruit, and roasted malt with a hint of caramel at the finish. Speedway is quite smooth from start to finish, and amazingly the alcohol content of 12% isn’t that noticeable. This stout will definitely send your taste buds racing!

Bell’s HopSlam Ale; Bell’s Brewery, Inc.; Kalamazoo, MI; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0. An absolute hop bomb! The uber hoppy presence is well balanced by sweet malt and a taste of honey. Truly one of the best IPAs out there.

Blue Point Old Howling Bastard; Blue Point Brewing Co.; Patchogue, NY; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. This superb barley wine is amber in color and well balanced. Big notes of sweet caramel are complimented by bready malt, citrusy fruit, and piny hops. Old Howling Bastard goes down smoothly, and the 10% alcohol content is well hidden. In many ways, it reminds me of a classic West Coast barley wine.

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 7.6. A superb saison from the acclaimed brewery. Golden in color, with the Japanese Sorachi hops balanced by notes of citrusy fruit, sweet malt, and peppery spices. Refreshing from start to finish.

Captain Lawrence Cuvee De Castleton; Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.; Pleasantville, NY; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0. Pours a golden orange color, with considerable notes of Brettanomyces yeast and Muscat grapes complimented by malted barley. Cuvee De Castleton has a buttery Chardonnay like character from being aged in French oak barrels.

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Brandy Barrel Aged; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.5. Created from their Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, it’s jet black in color, with big notes of expresso and dark chocolate balanced by roasted malt, vanilla beans, and peppery spices. There’s a nice brandy backbone from the barrel aging. One of the best imperial stouts on the planet.

Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge; Brouwerij Bockor N.V.; Bellegem-Kortrijk, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 9.0. A truly outstanding Belgium sour ale, and one of my new favorites. If ever there was a 9% ABV beer that could be considered a session beer, then this is the closest thing to it! A beautiful crimson color with an array of tart cherries in both the nose and taste. The latter is complimented by a nice oaky finish.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror Barleywine Vintage 2009; Deschutes Brewery; Bend, OR; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.0. Quite simply an outstanding barley wine and part of Deschutes Reserve Series. Aged in oak barrels, Mirror Mirror is actually a doubled up version of their Mirror Pond Pale Ale. It pours a dark amber color and there’s notes of sweet caramel and vanilla in the nose. There’s a lot going on in the taste, as the sweet caramel and vanilla are complimented by dark fruit and Cascade hops, with a bourbon like backbone from the oak barrels. Mirror Mirror has a warming, almost candy like feel to it as well, and goes down quite smoothly for a beer with an 11% alcohol content.

Dogfish Bitches Brew; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.0. Named to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ jazz fusion album Bitches Brew. It’s as smooth as the late jazz legend, and pours a jet black color. There’s notes of honey and dark chocolate complimented by dark fruit, roasted malt, and gesho root with a hint of smokiness at the finish. While I liked it on tap, I found that drinking Bitches Brew from the bottle, slightly chilled, captured the true essence of this stout.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch; Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD; Belgian India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.3. Another excellent ale from the former Colorado, and now Maryland based, brewery. As mentioned in previous posts, Belgian IPAs have become a trend in the last year or two, and Raging Bitch takes its place among the better ones. It pours a light amber color, with notes of citrusy fruit such as bananas and grapefruit in the nose and taste. The latter is complimented by honey, sweet malt, and piny hops with a slight bitterness at the finish. Raging Bitch is as smooth as it is complex, so the 8.3% alcohol content isn’t very noticeable.

Founders Breakfast Stout; Founders Brewing Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; Imperial Stout; ABV: 8.3. FBS pours a deep chocolate color, with humongous notes of chocolate and expresso coffee balanced by oatmeal and sweet malt. If you’re a fan of all things chocolate and/or java, this is the stout for you. The alcohol presence is definitely noticeable, so FBS won’t sneak up on you. It’s certainly a beer to be savored.

Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2009; Fuller Smith & Turner PLC; London, England (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.5. A classic English old ale, brewed annually in limited batches. Amber in color, Vintage Ale 2009 has well balanced notes of caramel, dark fruit, brown sugar, and spicy hops with a brandy like feel in the backbone. This ale is full-bodied, yet silky smooth from start to finish.

Goose Island Juliet; Goose Island Beer Co.; Chicago, IL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 6.7. Truly deserves its world class ranking. Aged in cabernet barrels with blackberries, Juliet is ruby in color and hits you right off the bat with a big vinegar nose. The rosé wine like quality is prevalent throughout this ale, with the blackberry notes complimented by sour cherries and sweet caramel malt with a dry woody finish. The silky smooth Juliet pays homage to the classic Belgian sour ales, and “parting is such sweet sorrow” once the last sip has been taken.

Green Flash Le Freak; Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Belgian India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.2. A blend of the brewery’s excellent Trippel and Imperial IPA into a silky smooth full-bodied ale. The color is burnt orange, and the nose is very floral with hints of citrusy fruit and yeast. The taste has a definite presence of banana, as well as other citrusy fruit, complimented by honey, spices, and big piny hops with a slightly bitter finish.

Hair of the Dog Adam; Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.; Portland, OR; Old Ale; ABV: 10.0. Brewed in the historic Adambier style of Germany, Adam is a superb full-bodied old ale. The first beer brewed by Hair of the Dog, it’s jet black in color and has rich notes of chocolate and tart fruit in the nose and taste, with the latter complimented by caramel malt, spices, and light hops, with a woody feeling in the backbone. Adam is velvety smooth, but also quite robust, so the 10% ABV isn’t going to sneak up on you.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.0. Yet another outstanding offering from the brewery’s Special Reserve series. Ola Dubh means “Black Oil” and this old ale, aged in Highland Park 40 Year whiskey casks, is based on Harviestoun Old Engine Oil. Jet black in color, 40 has big Scotch whiskey notes in the nose and initial taste, complimented by hints of dark chocolate and sweet malt with a vanilla oakiness at the finish. An extremely well balanced beer, 40 is as rich and smooth as it is complex, and I believe that it’s the best offering in the series.

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA; Ninkasi Brewing Co.; Eugene, OR; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.8. Like its namesake, this ale really packs a punch! Tricerahops pours a rich amber color, and there’s big notes of hops in the nose. The full-bodied taste is an array of piny and citrusy hops, complimented by sweet caramel malt and honey with a nice dry finish. Tricerahops is smooth from start to finish, and the alcohol content of nearly 9% is well hidden.

Russian River Consecration; Russian River Brewing Co.; Santa Rosa, CA; American Wild Ale; ABV: 10.0. One sip of this superb ale was enough to make me believe brother! Consecration is aged in American Oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The wine presence comes across quite clearly in the initial taste, complimented by an array of notes such as Brettanomyces yeast, currants, sweet malt, and tart fruit with a crisp clean finish. It more than holds its own with the classic Belgian farmhouse ales, and the alcohol content of 10% isn’t that noticeable. Needless to say, Consecration is a wonderfully complex and eclectic ale.

Samuel Adams Utopias (2009); Boston Beer Company; Boston, MA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 27.0. The 2009 edition is definitely something special. Caramel in color with big notes of sweet caramel, vanilla spices, and an oaky cognac like backbone. Utopias has a nice candy like feel to it and is very warming.

Schneider Aventinus; Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn; Kelheim, Germany; Weizenbock; ABV: 8.2. A robust yet smooth, full-bodied bock that truly deserves its reputation as one of the world’s best beers. Named after Johannes Aventinus, a noted Bavarian historian and writer from the late Middle Ages, it pours a dark ruby brown color and there are notes of sweet malt and spices in the nose. The sweet malt and spices jump out in the taste as well, complimented by hints of banana, dark chocolate, vanilla, and wheat with light floral hops at the finish. There’s a lot going on in Aventinus, and the sweet candy backbone makes it a truly enjoyable bock.

Sierra Nevada Grand Cru; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 9.2. Brewed as part of Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary Series, Grand Cru is a blend of their Oak Aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale, and Pale Ale. Amber in color with notes of citrus and piny hops complimented by caramel malt with a nice bourbon kick from the barrel aging.

Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.0). As great as the original Unearthly is, this DIPA takes it to the next level. It pours a deep amber color and the nose has big notes of piny hops and oakiness. Both are reflected in the taste as well, balanced by sweet caramel and a woody bourbon backbone. Oak Aged Unearthly is silky smooth for an beer of its potency, and you’ll want to savor it slowly to truly appreciate this ale.

St. Bernardus Abt 12; Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV; Watou, Belgium; Quadrupel; ABV: 10.5. A wonderfully complex balance of spices, ripe fruit, & sweet malt. The definitive gold standard of Belgium quads, and one of the world’s best beers period.

St. Feuillien Cuvée de Noël; Brasserie St. Feuillien; Le Roeulx, Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 9.0. Mahogany in color, Cuvée de Noël has rich notes of caramel and roasted malt balanced by an array of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. This velvety winter ale has a nutty feel to it, and is quite spicy as well.

Terrapin Side Project #9 The Dark Side ; Terrapin Beer Co.; Athens, GA; Belgium Style Imperial Stout; ABV: 8.5. An exceptional imperial stout. It pours a jet black color and has notes of chocolate and roasted malt balanced by dark fruit, molasses, and a spicy smokiness at the finish. The Dark Side is fermented with Trappist ale yeast, which actually gives it the feeling of a Belgian strong ale. The taste is as rich as it is smooth, and the 8.5% alcohol content is well concealed.

The Bruery Coton; The Bruery; Placentia, CA; Old Ale; ABV: 14.5. As smooth as it is complex, Coton takes its place alongside among the world’s best old ales. This chocolate colored ale has notes of dark fruit such as cherries and raisins complimented by caramel, vanilla spices, and a bourbon feel in the backbone. Coton reminds me of the now retired DuClaw Repent, one of my favorite all-time Belgiums, in that the alcohol content isn’t too noticeable for a beer in the 14-15% range. It’s easy to order a second pint of this deliciously eclectic ale.

Town Hall Masala Mama IPA; Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery; Minneapolis, MN; India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.9. This world class IPA pours a deep mahogany color, with big notes of Cascade hops in the nose and taste. The latter is complimented by citrusy fruit and toffee, with the sweet malt backbone apparent at the end. This IPA is silky smooth from start to finish, and with an alcohol content of just under 6%, is quite easy to drink. Masala Mama would make an excellent session beer for hop-heads, and non hop-heads, alike.

Traquair 2020; Traquair House Brewery Lld; Peeblesshire, Scotland (UK); Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. This sublime barley wine was brewed in a limited release of 9600 bottles to honor the first decade of the 21st century, and to be consumed before the end of the second decade. This ale is nothing short of outstanding, and takes its place among my favorite all-time barley wines. Deep chestnut in color, 2020 has pronounced notes of sweet caramel and dark fruit in the nose and initial taste, followed by hints of brown sugar, honey, and vanilla spices with a smooth creamy finish. 2020 is an very well balanced beer, and the alcohol content of 10% is extremely well hidden.

Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne (Brouwerij Verhaeghe; Vichte, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 6.2). This may very well be the best sour ale I have ever had. Named for medieval duchess Mary of Burgundy, it pours a deep chestnut brown color with notes of tart fruit, notably cherries, and dark malt. Since this ale is aged in oak conditioned casks, Duchesse has a red wine like feeling to it. The array of sweet and sour flavors are perfectly balanced throughout this ale, and it’s velvety smooth from start to finish.

Westvleteren 12; Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus; Westvleteren, Belgium; Quadrupel; ABV: 10.2. This is the ale that Beer Advocate, BeerPal, Rate Beer, and many others consider The World’s Best Beer. In addition to ranking at or near the top of most beer lists, Westvleteren 12 is also one of the rarest beers in the world and not that easy to find. This Belgian quad is quite possibly the most complex beer that I have ever had. Westvleteren 12 pours a rich chestnut color, and there are light notes of caramel and dark fruit in the nose. The flavors are a delicious array of caramel malt, dark fruit, and spices with a hint of sweet fruit in the very smooth finish. Everything about this beer is in perfect balance, and there’s a nice warming sensation with each sip. Westvleteren 12, in fact, actually gets better as it’s allowed to sit and be savored.

Enchanted Ale

February 17th, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

You don't have to be Romeo to love this Juliet

One of the highlights from Tuesday night’s Beer Nerd Night at Mr. Beery’s was the sour ale presented by Mark. It was another outstanding offering from the Chicago brewery Goose Island.

Goose Island Juliet (Goose Island Beer Co.; Chicago, IL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 6.7) truly deserves its world class ranking. Aged in cabernet barrels with blackberries, Juliet is ruby in color and hits you right off the bat with a big vinegar nose. The wine like quality is prevalent throughout this ale, with the blackberry notes complimented by sour cherries and sweet caramel malt with a dry woody finish. The silky smooth Juliet pays homage to the classic Belgian sour ales, and “parting is such sweet sorrow” once the last sip has been taken.

In addition to the highly recommended Juliet, there were a few other outstanding beers at Beer Nerd Night that I had for the first time.

Sierra Nevada Grand Cru; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 9.2. Presented by Greg. Brewed as part of Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary Series, Grand Cru is a blend of their Oak Aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale, and Pale Ale. Amber in color with notes of citrus and piny hops complimented by caramel malt with a nice bourbon kick from the barrel aging. Quite simply, this may be the best beer ever crafted by Sierra Nevada.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout; Lagunitas Brewing Co.; Petaluma, CA; Imperial Stout; ABV: 8.8. Presented by Josh. In limited release, LCS is dark chocolate in color with rich notes of coffee and sweet chocolate complimented by roasted malt. This is a very well balanced beer, and the ABV of nearly 9% isn’t that noticeable.

Bold City 1901 Red Ale; Bold City Brewery; Jacksonville, FL; American Amber / Red Ale; ABV: 8.0. Presented by Sam. Black cherry in color, the wonderfully eclectic 1901 reminded us of a porter more than an amber ale. Big notes of capuchino and chocolate malt with a smoky feel on the back end.

Choc Brewmasters Signature Michael Lalli Biere de Garde; Krebs Brewing Co. / Choc Brewing Co.; Krebs, OK; Choc Brewmasters Signature Michael Lalli Biere de Garde; ABV: 7.0. Presented by Chris. Brewed in the classic French farmhouse style, this complex ale is amber in color with substantial notes of citrus balanced by cherries and toasted malt with a nice dry finish. Maltier backbone than typical Biere de Gardes.

Avery IPA; Avery Brewing Co.; Boulder, CO; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.5. Presented by Dave. A crisp and refreshing IPA from a brewery known for their Belgian strong ales and imperial stouts. Light copper in color, with notes of sweet caramel malt on the front end complimented by citrus fruit, such as grapefruit, with an array of floral and piny hops at the end. A more flavorful version of DFH 60 Minute IPA.

Tapapalooza

January 31st, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Brewer extraordinaire Wayne Wambles held a Q&A session...

while the rest of us enjoyed CCB's finest such as Vanilla Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale

It was a festive day on Saturday when Mr. Beery’s hosted the Cigar City Total Tap Takeover. Indeed, word of this stupendous event traveled fast, and the crowd on hand included many a beer aficionado from around the country, in addition to local residents already familiar with the world renowned brewery.

In general, the brewery, which celebrates its second anniversary in March, took over all 25 taps at Mr. Beery’s, serving their line of beers from old favorites such as Hunahpu and Jai Lai to new offerings not yet available either commercially or at the Tasting Room in Tampa. There was even a private tasting held for those of us willing to pay the $60 admission, which included a lecture and Q&A session from CCB brewer Wayne Wambles. Wayne gave an overview of the history of the brewery, its craft beers, and what’s in store now and in the future. It was a fascinating session, and we were given a great insight into the workings of one of the world’s top five breweries.

After the private tasting, the doors were open to the general public, who mobbed the bar eager to try the 25 beers on tap. As noted, many of us got to try something new.

Cigar City Vanilla Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Brown Ale; ABV: 5.5. A smooth and rich tasting brown ale with hearty notes of oatmeal, vanilla spices, sweet caramel, and milk chocolate. My lead-off beer.

Cigar City Vuja De; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 9.9. This delicious sour ale is a collaboration between CCB & rising Tarpon Springs brewer St. Somewhere. Chestnut in color, with big notes of tart fruit such as elderberries and black currants complimented by hints of caramel, roasted malt, and spices. Essentially, Vuja De is a higher alcohol version of Sea Bass with a nice dry finish.

Cigar City White Oak Jai Lai with Papaya and Peppercorn; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.5. Say that 10 times! A funky variation of CCB’s exceptional Jai Lai IPA. Dark amber in color, with notes of piny hops and malt balanced by papaya and a hint of peppercorn on the back end.

Cigar City Asian Saison; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 7.0. An wonderfully eclectic farmhouse ale. Golden in color with notes of citrusy fruit, toasted seawood, and an array of 5 Chinese spices.

Cigar City Spicy Plum Sour Ale; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0. A truly sublime sour ale. Substantial notes of plums and spices, backed by citrusy fruit such as apples, with a hint of tart cherries at the finish. Quite potent.

Cigar City Palm Ridge Reserve Barrel Aged Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Brown Ale; ABV: 5.5. My favorite of the night on tap. Dark brown in color, with rich notes of sweet caramel and oatmeal raisin balanced by roasted malt and spices with a bourbon kick at the finish.

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer Firkin; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. A smooth, full-bodied barley wine. Copper in color, with notes of sweet caramel and vanilla spices balanced by piny hops at the end. The double digit alcohol content is well hidden.

Cigar City Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Warmer Winter Winter Warmer; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Old Ale; ABV: 7.5. An old ale crafted in the classic English tradition. Considerable notes of sweet caramel and toffee complimented by apples and vanilla spices with a nice brandy backbone from the barrel aging.

It should also be noted that the event marked the one year anniversary of Mr. Beery’s opening in Sarasota. I congratulate Mark and the gang, and thank Cigar City Brewing for working with Mr. Beery’s to make this tasting possible. Both of you have made the Tampa Bay area a more rewarding place for craft beer.

Epic Beer Night

December 9th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

The creme del a creme were on hand for Beer Nerd Night

Something was in the air this past Tuesday night. Maybe it carried over from the Infinium Release Party, but Beer Nerd Show & Tell was something special. Epic was the theme for this evening’s lineup.

Samuel Adams Utopias (2009); Boston Beer Company; Boston, MA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 27.0. The first beer presented by Mark. The 2009 edition is definitely something special. Caramel in color with big notes of sweet caramel, vanilla spices, and an oaky cognac like backbone. Utopias has a nice candy like feel to it and is very warming.

Keegan Ales Super Kitty; Keegan Ales; Kingston, NY; American Strong Ale; ABV: 12.0. The second beer presented by Mark. Pours a deep amber color with notes of sweet caramel and honey balanced by a smokiness from the oak chips used in the brewing process. Super Kitty is comparable to a barley wine in taste and feel.

Captain Lawrence Cuvee De Castleton; Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.; Pleasantville, NY; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0. Presented by Dan. Pours a golden orange color, with considerable notes of Brettanomyces yeast and Muscat grapes complimented by malted barley. Cuvee De Castleton has a buttery Chardonnay like character from being aged in French oak barrels.

Dogfish Three Floyds Poppaskull (Dogfish Head Brewery; Milton, DE; Belgian Strong Ale; ABV: 9.5. Presented by Bret. The collaboration ale between DFH and the Munster, Indiana brewery. Poppaskull is golden in color, with notes of cardomom spices and sweet malt balanced by floral hops and a warm brandy like presence from the barrel aging process.

Northern Brewery Twisted Ankle; Northern Brewery; Sarasota, FL; American Blonde Ale; ABV: 5-6%?. Home brewers Stu and Jemma presented their ale. Nice citrusy notes and very easy to drink with a crisp clean aftertaste. Twisted Ankle reminded me of a saison such as Ommegang Hennepin.

Old Flannagan Brewery 9-9-9; Old Flannagan Brewery; Sarasota, FL; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 6-7%?. Homebrewed and presented by Chris. Aged in Hungarian oak barrels, this sour ale has subtle notes of tart fruit and vanilla spices with an earthy wood backbone. 9-9-9 reminded me of Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne.

Cigar City Or; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Black India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.2. Presented by yours truly. Brewed in the trendy Cascadian dark ale style, these ale is part of the Either/Or collaboration with Danish brewery Grassroots and Vermont brewery Hill Farmstead. Or is chocolate in color, with substantial notes of piny hops complimented by roasted malt and chocolate with a woody feel from the cedar barrel aging.

Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout – Brandy Barrel Aged; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.5. The first limited edition CCB beer presented by Meat. It pours a deep black color, with considerable notes of caramel and dark chocolate complimented by dark fruit, roasted malt, and vanilla spices. The brandy presence is brought out by the barrel aging. Takes its place among my favorite imperial stouts.

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Brandy Barrel Aged; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.5. The second limited edition CCB beer presented by Meat. Created from their Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, it’s jet black in color, with big notes of expresso and dark chocolate balanced by roasted malt, vanilla beans, and peppery spices. There’s a nice brandy backbone from the barrel aging. One of the best imperial stouts on the planet.

My thanks to everyone who participated in the Beer Nerd Show & Tell, and for their generosity in sharing some truly exceptional beers. It made for an Epic Beer Night!

Go Fish

November 14th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

You'll want to catch a Sea Bass

Anne and I stopped by the Icehouse Pub on the way down to Naples this weekend, and were pleased to see that Cigar City had a new offering on tap. Long known for its outstanding stouts, porters, and IPAs, the brewery had now crafted a superb sour ale as well.

Cigar City Sea Bass (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0) is a chestnut colored ale with big notes of tart fruit complimented by hints of caramel, roasted malt, and spices with a slightly bitter finish. The sour aspect of Sea Bass, coupled with its wine like feel, reminds me of the classic Flemish ales. The alcohol content of 8% balances nicely into Sea Bass, so this ale goes down smoothly. It paired well with the Fish & Chips that I had for lunch.

Speaking of Flemish ales, I ordered a Verhaeghe Vichtenaar Flemish Ale (Brouwerij Verhaeghe; Vichte, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 5.1) for round two. A lighter version of the brewery’s exceptional Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne, possibly the best sour ale I have ever had, Vichtenaar is deep mahogany in color with subtle notes of chocolate and tart fruit such as cherries. It’s incredibly smooth, and the sweet and sour attributes of this ale are perfectly balanced.

I highly recommend reeling in either one of these terrific sour ales.

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Bourbon County Brew

October 23rd, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

The bourbon presence is very apparent in Bardstown

While in Asheville two months ago, we stopped by Bruisin’ Ales and purchased a highly recommended barley wine from one of the local breweries. So I decided to share it with the class at Mr. Beery’s Beer Nerd Show & Tell this past week.

Olde Hickory Bardstown Brand Ale (Olde Hickory Brewery; Hickory, NC; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0) is aged in oak bourbon barrels from the heart of Kentucky’s Bourbon County. For obvious reasons, there are considerable bourbon notes throughout this ruby colored barley wine, complimented by caramel malt and vanilla spices with a hint of grassy hops at the finish. Bardstown is mildly sweet and the alcohol is definitely noticeable, but not overpowering. The bourbon backbone is what truly makes this ale.

Bardstown is listed as retired by Beer Advocate, but I believe that Olde Hickory has started to brew this barley wine again. I strongly suggest giving it a try, especially if you have an appreciation for bourbon.

While at Show & Tell, I sampled a couple of other beers for the first time that caught my attention.

Anderson Valley Brother David’s Triple; Anderson Valley Brewing Co.; Boonville, CA; Tripel; ABV: 10.0. Presented by Josh, this Abbey style ale is amber in color with notes of dark fruit and brown sugar complimented by sweet caramel and cinnamon spices. Incredibly smooth and the alcohol content isn’t too noticeable.

Captain Lawrence Barrel Select; Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.; Pleasantville, NY; American Wild Ale; ABV: 6.0. Presented by Mark, this sour ale is barrel aged to capture the unique flavor. Murky amber in color, it has big notes of tart fruit, particularly dark cherries and green apples, complimented by caramel malt and vanilla spices with an oaky backbone from the aging process. Highly enjoyable from start to finish.

99 Bottles of Beer: Part Deux

October 10th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Unplugged Cherry Stout was one of the evening's highlights

As was the Troegenator

Anne and I attended 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall Part 2 at Mr. Beery’s on Friday night. We were on vacation when the first one took place, and were fortunate enough to catch this one. For $20 apiece, we each received some nice glassware and participated in sampling beers 51-99.

In addition to trying some old favorites, I had the opportunity to sample many new beers for the first time. Some that truly stood out are listed below.

Bullfrog Double Coffee Stout; Bullfrog Brewery; Williamsport, PA; American Stout; ABV: 7.3. This stout was actually brought in as a growler by Dave, and was the first beer sampled. A rich mocha color, with sublime notes of Expresso coffee complimented by dark chocolate and roasted malt. Very creamy and delicious, DCS has the feel of an imperial stout to it.

New Belgium Lips of Faith – Eric’s Ale; New Belgium Brewing Co.; Fort Collins, CO; American Wild Ale; ABV: 7.0. A superb sour ale. Amber in color, with big notes of tart fruit such as cherries and green apples with a crisp clean finish.

New Glarus Unplugged Cherry Stout; New Glarus Brewing Co.; New Glarus, WI; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 6.5. A delicious, full-bodied cherry stout. Chocolate in color with big notes of Wisconsin Montmorency cherries complimented by chocolate and sweet malt. This stout would make an excellent dessert beer.

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red; New Glarus Brewing Co.; New Glarus, WI; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 5.1. One of the brewery’s signature beers. This deep red ale has outrageous notes of Wisconsin Montmorency cherries complimented by an oaky backbone and a tart finish similar to a sour ale. Like drinking a black cherry soda with a kick!

Port Brewing Older Viscosity; Port Brewing Co.; San Marcos, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 12.0. This jet black strong ale is aged in bourbon barrels, and the substantial notes of bourbon are very apparent throughout the beer, with a very nice oakiness in the background from the aging process. There’s hints of chocolate and vanilla spices as well, and the potency of this ale is very apparent. Older Viscosity reminds me of Ola Dubh on steroids!

Real Ale Sisyphus; Real Ale Brewing Co.; Blanco, TX; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.5. A smooth, full-bodied barley wine. There were three vintage bottles on hand (2007, 2008, 2009), with the 2008 offering being the best. Sisyphus is copper in color and the notes of honey, caramel malt, and piny hops are perfectly balanced.

Sixpoint Grand Crue; Sixpoint Craft Ales; Brooklyn, NY; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 12.4. A rich, oak aged strong ale. Big notes of caramel, brown sugar, and dark fruit with a bourbon feel in the backbone. Quite smooth for a beer of its potency.

SKA Modus Hoperandi IPA; SKA Brewing; Durango, CO; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.8. Continuing a trend in the craft beer industry, this IPA comes in a can. Amber in color with generous notes of Cascade and floral hops complimented by caramel malt. Very crisp and refreshing.

Surly Brutal Bitter; Surly Brewing Co.; Brooklyn Center, MN; Premium Bitter/ESB; ABV: 4.2. Another excellent canned beer, this is a very creamy and malty ESB. Light amber in color with the rich malty presence balanced by sweet caramel and floral hops.

Surly Furious; Surly Brewing Co.; Brooklyn Center, MN; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.2. Continuing the trend of superb canned beers, this is an absolute hop bomb. The huge notes of citrusy and piny hops are apparent throughout this ale, with a slight bitterness at the end. Furious has the feel of an Imperial IPA to it.

Tröegs Trogenator; Tröegs Brewing Co.; Harrisburg, PA; Dopplebock; ABV: 8.2. A truly outstanding dopplebock. Deep mahogany in color and tasty as hell, with big notes of sweet caramel complimented by dark fruit and cinnamon spices.

Wachusett Green Monsta; Wachusett Brewing Co.; Westminster, MA; American Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. Named after the famed wall at Fenway Park, this complex APA is like a strong ale mixed with an IPA. Light copper in color with notes of sweet malt balanced by caramel and citrusy hops.

Kudos to Mark for his generosity and for putting together such a wonderful evening.

Draft Horse

July 13th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Brabant definitely has some kick to it

The brabant is a type of draft horse, bred by the Belgians, known for its stocky built and considerable strength. And a beer that I tried recently is a rare breed…uh brew…for sure.

Avery Brabant (Avery Brewing Co.; Boulder, CO; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.7) is an American wild ale that in many ways also has the traits of a Belgian strong ale. Chocolate in color, it’s fermented with Brettanomyces yeast and aged in Zinfandel barrels for nine months. There’s notes of sour cherries in the nose and taste, and the latter is complimented by hints of chocolate, dark fruit, and roasted malt. The finish has a oaky, wine like feeling to it, courtesy of the aging process. Brabant is as smooth as it is complex.

I really enjoyed the wonderfully eclectic Brabant, and hope that Avery makes it more readily available in this neck of the woods.

The Good Word

April 30th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Your prayers will be answered with Supplication

Russian River is a truly outstanding brewery; I’ve reviewed Pliny The Elder and Consecration in previous posts. So I’m now happy to report on two more of their superb offerings.

I broke open a bottle of Russian River Supplication (Russian River Brewing Co.; Santa Rosa, CA; American Wild Ale; ABV: 7.0) this evening to share with Anne. Supplication is aged for one year in Pinot Noir oak barrels with sour cherries. It pours a honey amber color and the sour cherry notes are quite apparent in the nose and initial taste. The latter is complimented by tart fruit, Brettanomyces yeast, and spices with a red wine and oaky presence at the end. It’s worth noting that Supplication is very smooth for a beer of such complexity.

I also recently had a chance to try Russian River Damnation (Russian River Brewing Co.; Santa Rosa, CA; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 7.8), after my friend Mark broke open a bottle from his private stock. Damnation pours a hazy golden color and there’s lots of citrusy fruit in the nose. The taste is well balanced between citrusy fruit, toasted malt, and floral hops with a nice dry finish. Like Supplication, it’s very easy to drink for such an eclectic beer.

I highly recommend both of these ales as Russian River continues to make me a believer!

The Holy Ale

February 23rd, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Consecration is salvation in a bottle

Anne & I stopped by Mr. Beery’s this past Saturday. Everyone was in a festive mood, and Mark broke out a bottle of Russian River Consecration (Russian River Brewing Co.; Santa Rosa, CA; American Wild Ale; ABV: 10.0) for us to try. My friends who’d tried it have been preaching to the choir about how great this sour ale is.

One sip of this superb ale was enough to make me believe brother! Consecration is aged in American Oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The wine presence comes across quite clearly in the initial taste, complimented by an array of Brettanomyces yeast, currants, sweet malt, and tart fruit with a crisp clean finish. It more than holds its own with the classic Belgian farmhouse ales, and the alcohol content of 10% isn’t that noticeable. Needless to say, Consecration is a wonderfully complex and eclectic ale.

Kudos to Mark for sharing this beer with us, and I highly recommend it to my flock and yours.