Top 5 Non-Barrel Aged Stouts

Like the title says, this will be a list of my top five non-barrel aged stouts.  I would love to hear from other people with their lists too.  The only criteria being obvious enough, so I won’t be repeating for a third time.  Making this made me realize how many barrel aged stouts I love.  That list will happen at some point and probably be a top ten.  Enough Jibba Jabba, on with the great American tradition of ranking things!

1.  Founder’s - Breakfast Stout

2.  Cigar City - Marshal Zhukov

3.  Half Acre - Big Hugs

4.  Dark horse - Plead The Fifth

5.  Pipeworks - Abduction 

Don’t forget November 8th is Stout Day!  www.stoutday.com

Evil Twin - Ron and the Beast Ryan

image     I’m not sure if most people know this but Evil Twin’s head brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the brother of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø from Mikkeller fame.  If you think Mikkeller brews some off the chart styles check out Evil Twin.  I love a few of their beers (Soft Dookie, Soft X-Mas) and disdain others (Before During and After Christmas beer).  Evil Twin is a gypsy brewery just like Mikkeller but they refer to themselves as a “phantom” brewer.  While this style of brewing has a certain romantic quality I find it can hinder quality control and lead to some less that desirable beers being released.  This isn’t the end of the world mind you. It’s just that these being imported from over seas and getting the dreaded double tax, they are not cheap beers.  I was feeling frisky the day I bought Ron and the Beast Ryan, which like most Evil Twin beers the label tells you little to nothing about the beer.  This can become a big annoyance when they have so many different releases.  That being said, lets get into the review!

      Ron and the Beast Ryan is a 7% Saison/Farmhouse Ale brewed with brettanomyces.  This is basically their hoppy Saison Ryan and the Beaster Bunny with the Brett addition.  Sadly I have never had Beaster Bunny so i can’t compare the differences between the two.  Ron and the Beast Ryan pours a sparkling light yellowish color with a good amount of head, which being a funked up Saison is expected.  The aroma of this beer is fantastic.  It makes me think of summer and sipping brews on the deck in the warm sun of the afternoon.  I got a lot of lemon zest in the nose off this beer and some traditional Saison spice notes.  I was expecting more barnyard funk aroma than was present.  I don’t mind that this wasn’t there because I don’t particularly enjoy that part of a Brett beer.  

     Ron and the Beast Ryan drinks super light and crisp, but does have some alcohol kick that gets in the way of the great flavors.  Being 7% abv this is hard to forgive.  At the front of the tongue I tasted that delicious lemon that I smelled, mixed with a traditional Belgian yeast/Saison spice flavor.  The spice notes were subtle and not overwhelming like some Saisons can be.  The middle brings in an almost sweetness as the lemon fades out and leads into the amazing back end of Brett goodness.  The balance of Brett was handled very well on this brew as all those Saison spices and lemon tastes in the front finish off with a delicious slightly tart, slightly funky aftertaste.  This beer will not last long in your glass because if you are like me you will want to revisit what just washed over your palate again immediately.  I have two main gripes with Ron and the Beast Ryan. First, for it having a  light crisp taste Ron and the Beast has a much thicker mouth feel than I think it should.  I prefer this type of mouthfeel in my stouts not from a Saison.  Secondly, a acetone alcohol taste does creep in and mar the wonderful way the brettanomyces play off the base beer.  I had sat on this bottle for a few months before opening after having heard from a friend that it was drinking really hot and kind of a mess fresh.  I’m glad I did, but probably should have given it a little longer.  I drank this about a month ago and didn’t get around to writing this till now so if you have one I would say open it up soon and enjoy!  Cheers!

Goose Island 312 Urban Block Party

image      I have not posted to the blog in awhile and have some catching up to do.  I was working crazy overtime for a bit and then just got lazy.  As you can tell by the title and picture of this post I was lucky enough to attend the 312 Urban Block Party put on by Goose Island.  This event was free, but one had to win or acquire tickets somehow.  They did not sell tickets to this event.  I was lucky enough to come upon a guest list pass from @MarisaVictoria on twitter.  The ticket was provided to her through @brokehipster and @do312.  I can’t thank her enough for the generosity on this.  For those who don’t know this event featured music, food, and rare Goose beers.  We all know what rare Goose Island beers means.  I shall get into what they poured in a minute.  It was truly epic.

     My friends Mike and Ashley had previously won VIP tickets so I hitched a ride with them to the event.  Us being nerds and especially Bourbon County nerds we were the first people in line.  Initially the whole thing seemed moderately unorganized and under planned for how many people may be showing up.  It was  a bad weather day with some drizzle and chances of storms which aided in keeping the crowd size manageable.  The event was held outside Goose Island’s new barrel warehouse on Fulton.(thanks In-Bev money) The setup led us through the warehouse to get to the event.  This was truly special seeing rows upon rows of Juliet, Lolita, and of course Bourbon County stacked up.  I immediately went on the hunt for the “rare” beers they had promised to be pouring.  Initially I came up empty and snagged a Matilda while figuring out the lay of the land.  Eventually I noticed a young chap standing in front of a few barrels with taps coming out of them.  I knew this was the spot I was looking for.  They had a few selections from their Fulton and Wood line and yes of course a huge Bourbon County barrel!  This wasn’t just regular Bourbon County either, it was a special barrel just for the event, Raspberry Bourbon County!  After some issues with the initial pours because of raspberry seeds clogging the tapper I was finally standing with a solid 10oz pour of Raspberry Bourbon Count that only cost me $3 U.S. dollars.  I could tell this was going to be a good night.  The Raspberry Bourbon County, aged in a Rye barrel by the way, was delicious.  It was basically the Bramble Rye without the blackberries, which made it much less cloying  as far as sweetness.  I could still taste the base beer which Bramble is almost all fruit and no Bourbon County taste.  

     As I stated before this event also featured music.  The headliner being the incredible St. Vincent.  This being a free event there was a great mix of people there for music, flagship lineup brews, and Bourbon County fans.  You could easily pick out the beer geeks in the crowd because we all huddled around the barrel pours and had our various beer company shirts on to proclaim our allegiance to the sweet nectar of hops, malt and barley.  As far as the beers being poured it kept getting more interesting.  Goose obviously had their staple beers throughout the grounds but the barrel area kept ramping up quality throughout the night.  Perhaps my favorite beer of the night was a wild ale version of 312.  I wish they would bottle this beer, it was incredible the way the Brett interacted with the wheat forwardness of 312.  My least favorite experimental beer was a sour version of their Belgian Style beer Demolition.  This did not work at all for me.  To me it just tasted like rotten pears and stale beer.  Just before St. Vincent went on the event  staff decided to kick it up and pour some fresh Intelligentsia coffee into the Raspberry Bourbon County to create a truly one of a kind brew.  The flavors, while being all over the board and kind overwhelming, were fantastic.  I wouldn’t want a lot of this by any means but being able to try it was a treat.  Next up on the tapping list was another barrel of Bourbon County, this time with Ancho Chile.  Honestly I wish I was a tad more sober at this point, the beer was delicious no doubt but I know I was missing out some of the nuance going on with it.  I love chile beers and would love another shot at this one.  After having a semi overwhelmed palate and sobriety this beer shined just as you would imagine it would though.  I would have hoped for more spice in the finish, I know they make a Ghost Pepper version for special events from time to time and would love to have a go at that.  At this point I wandered over to St. Vincent, had my mind blown by her amazing and then headed home.  There were other beers drank, food eaten, amazing butts on waitresses, and people from the Facebook event page met as well.  I think this was already long enough without going into all that though.  Thank you to Goose Island for putting on a fantastic event for your fans and thanks again to @MarisaVictoria for making it possible for me to attend.  Cheers!

The Alchemist - Heady Topper

image     First off I just want to send a huge thanks to http://thefuj.com for trading me a few of these gems.  He was quick and honest on the trade which is always appreciated!  Follow The Fuj on Tumblr he’s a righteous dude who knows good beer and takes a sexy picture.

     Any true beer geeks reading this are already familiar with Heady Topper.  It has reached almost mythical status among hop heads, even surpassing Pliny the Elder on Beer Advocate’s top beer rankings.  Heady Topper is a American Double IPA brewed by The Alchemist in Vermont.  If you don’t know their story, go here and read about the brewery http://www.alchemistbeer.com/from-disaster-comes-joy/.  I love how The Alchemist focus on just one beer instead of trying to spread themselves too thin and not get enough of what people want out there.  Sadly even with them only brewing Heady Topper it is not easy to get and fetches ridiculous prices on Ebay.  They recently cut their distribution territory down because of certain legal issues, but hope to double production this fall.  I realize I will more than likely never see Heady Topper on the shelf here in Illinois, but more of it on being brewed will I hope mean easier and more frequent trades.  As I’m sure you can tell by the length I’ve gone on about this beer before actually getting into the review, this one is special.  Now onto to the review.

Perfect.

Cheers!

Surly - Furious

image     Fuckin a right.  I am lucky enough to have a whole slew of these gems in my fridge currently.  A few of my friends went to the great white north and picked up several cases on the way home.  For those unaware Surly is a Minnesota brewery that mostly is only available in Minnesota.  Surly has distribution channels setup to other states, they just choose to focus on their home state for now.  They are building a huge renovation that they call a “destination” brewery and recently announced on their website some Chicago tasting events.  I have a strong feeling we will be getting Surly back in the area sooner than later.  Until then it’s a very special rare treat.  The first thing most people notice about Furious is that it’s an IPA in a can.  These days this is actually more accepted but a few years ago it was unheard of.  The can actually is perfect for hoppy beers as it lets in no light, seals incredibly well, and is easy to keep cold. 

     Furious is a 6.2% IPA that checks in at 99 IBU.  So yes it’s pretty bitter but not overly strong.  It’s at the upper level of what I’d consider a session beer.  It pours a darker color than most beers of the style and retains a  light head that laces the glass in the most beautiful way.  The smell isn’t exactly what one might think for such a high rated IPA.  These days it’s usually all fruit notes blasting off this style; however, Furious is all about balance.  You get a nice amount of light malt scents, with a good piney hop on the nose as well. You can pick up on some citrus too, it’s just the main focus.  Taking a sip you are hit at the front of the tongue with a light, sweet malty note.  This quickly fades into a piney bitterness that just builds and builds.  It’s not overwhelming and balances out the malt perfectly.  On the finish you will notice a tad of west coast citrus notes creeping in around the edges.  This is truly a Midwest “No Coast IPA.  Furious is perfectly balanced and infinitely drinkable.  If I had access to this it would be a staple in my fridge ready to be enjoyed at any moment on any occasion.  If you can get your hands on this beer, do all the time and send me some!  Cheers!

Lost Abbey/New Belgium - Mo’ Betta Bretta

image    This is not worth the price.  It’s obviously a Wild Ale, being it flaunts the use of Brett in the name; however, it tastes nothing like one.  As stated in my post about this style, it’s not sour and I didn’t expect that.  What I did expect was some Brett funk.  Instead Mo’ Betta Bretta just tastes like a very plain, mostly boring farmhouse ale.  I won’t go into much more detail other than to avoid this one in my opinion.  There is just no reason to pay almost ten dollars for this beer.  Sure aging it might bring out the funk, but I honestly don’t feel I should have to sit on a beer for a year so it can taste how it should have fresh.  Thoughts?  Cheers!

The Lost Abbey - 2012 Bourbon Barrel Angel’s Share Ale

image     To be honest I was scared to buy this when I saw it hit the shelves today at the local liquor store.  For those who are not familiar with this beer, the past few years have had all kinds of bottling issues.  Most bottles were completely flat.  This isn’t a cheap beer, so to drop the money for one of these only to have it be undrinkable is a hell of gamble.  I figured word had gotten out so much about this issue there was no way they could let this happen again, luckily I was right.  Those who I’ve talked that have had this on tap compare it to the likes of KBS and BCBS.  I now see why.  On the nose you get a ton of oaky vanilla sweetness and defiantly alcohol.  Angel Share comes in at a hefy 12.5% ABV after all.  I’ve talked about how an acetone alcohol taste can kill a beer for me, but not with this one.  Right up front you get a beautiful vanilla slightly sweet taste with some good barrel notes, then the booze takes over and overwhelms.  It works with this beer though, the alcohol taste is just right, it tastes more like bourbon than nail polish.  This finishes like you just took a swig of bourbon.  You get warming all the way down your throat, but also a vanilla tinged sweetness creeps up to balance that out and then a big oak barrel note finishes you off.  It’s a relatively thin beer for the amount going on, but that works to its advantage I feel.  It would be really hard to power through a glass it it were much thicker.  I’m glad I took the chance on this one and will probably go back tomorrow to grab one more before word gets out that the 2012 Angel Share is carbonated!  I recommend you do the same.  Cheers!!

P.S.  They also make a brandy barrel version.  You can tell the difference because they stamp the style and date on the bottle in white letters.

Stone…

image    Those who know me in real life probably know that I’m not exactly a big Stone Brewery fan.  To be honest I never really liked much of anything they have done.  Some of the bastard stuff is alright, but for the most part nothing impressed me.  Ruination actually offends me.  That being said they have recently begun to make me a fan in a big way with some recent releases.  I’m currently enjoying their Smoked Porter w/ vanilla bean.  This isn’t mind blowing but for three bucks I am happy to drink it.  It has some great vanilla flavors and a touch of smoke to add some great flavors on the back end.  The only reason I even gave this a chance is because of the beer that blew me away perhaps more than any other this year, 10 year anniversary Ruination.  As I said earlier Ruination actually offends my palate. However the 10 year anniversary version, with its more aggressive hop profile and enchanting aroma, is so far above anything I’ve had Stone before I had to write this post.  If you haven’t had any go grab some while it’s fresh.  It’s a sub ten dollar bomber of delicious gold. If anyone has any extra they want to send me so I can write a proper review let me know. ;)  If Stone keeps this up I will be a fully converted, way to go this year Greg!  Cheers!

Founders - Frangelic Mountain Brown

image    This is the fourth beer to be released in Founders backstage series.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the previous three, and based on those I was excited to get to try Frangelic Mountain Brown.  Many people’s reactions to this are along the lines of, “A brown?  That’s lame I’ll pass.”  I understand that sentiment to a point because brown ales are not exactly the most exciting or refreshing style of beer; however, this particular brown is brewed with a very interesting extra ingredient, hazelnut coffee flavoring. One mistake many people will make with this one, as they have with CBS, is aging it.  Founders has stated that this beer should be enjoyed fresh and I agree.  There is no reason to age this and let the coffee and hazelnut fall off, if it even could, and end up with a generic brown ale.  With that said I cracked mine open a day after purchase to make sure I give it a fair shake.  It pours very thin, as to be expected from a brown ale. After pouring, a huge hazelnut note flows off the glass into your nose.  I read a review yesterday that compared the aroma to walking into a Dunkin Donuts.  This is a perfect description.  It’s not a true coffee smell, but more of a hazelnut aroma.  It’s hard to pick up much else other than hazelnut coffee, this isn’t a subtle beer by any means.  When I took my first sip I was immediately assaulted with a hazelnut taste that finished very light with coffee notes underlying the whole thing.  There isn’t really much complexity to be enjoyed, but that’s not the point of this one.  You do get some nuttiness in there and some of the sweet malts usually found in a brown ale.  Mostly though this is all out hazelnut coffee.  If you like this flavor you will love this beer, if not you may want to skip this one.  Frangelic borders on being a novelty beer to be honest.  I would recommend it if you realize what you’re getting into.  As I hinted at earlier, I don’t think aging would mellow these flavors, it would probably just muddle them and make this a mess of sticky brown goo.  The good thing too is that it’s the least expensive of the backstage series so far.  This could be a fun beer for someone to introduce to the non beer drinkers of their group.  It will help them realize how varied beer can be and the extent at which breweries are turning the old notions of what beer is on its head.  I applaud Founders for brewing this as brown ale.  If it were a stout the coffee and hazelnut flavors would be drown out by roasted or sweet notes commonly associate with heavier dark beers.  Let me know what you think on this one, it’s already proven to be divisive  among the hardcore.  Let’s be honest though, the only backstage beer that will be CBS is CBS.  Cheers!