Baby McHops turned 1 over the weekend. I celebrated in true Alehead style by over-indulging in beer. This is my standard response to most milestone events (weddings, birthdays, funerals, Tuesdays). In my defense, I at least waited until all the babies had vacated the premises or had toddled off to their respective cribs for night-night time. That left just us adults (though some of us are adults in name only). When the wives decided to grab sushi and left their husbands/boyfriends alone with a fridge full of high-gravity beer…let’s just say all bets were off. One member of our party threw up on my hydrangeas (not me), one sang at the top of his lungs to a televised concert (not me), one spilled beer all over the couch (definitely me), and one passed out at 9pm despite the fact that there were still guests present (100% me).
But before these shenanigans* ensued, and before most of us blacked out, we managed to sample a killer line-up of offerings sent to us by my dear friend, Dr. Van Drinkale. Rather than separate these out into separate posts, I’ll simply write up an epic four-pack of tasting notes for your reading pleasure. On to the beers!
*I prefer to call drinking-related misbehavior “shenanigans” or “tomfoolery” so it sounds like harmless, amusing behavior. Aleheads don’t like to admit that we drink too much and act like jackasses. It’s part of our charm.
Besides the four brews discussed below, Doc also sent me a Pretty Things Once Upon a Time about which the Baron just wrote a glowing tasting note. He also sent me a Mikkeller It’s Alright! You can read about it here…it was…umm…not good.
First up, the Haverhill GestAlt. The GestAlt is a German brown ale (or Altbier) from a brewery the Doc has been talking up for awhile. I should note that Alts aren’t my favorite…they’re a fairly bland, non-descript style that are generally unmemorable at best. The GestAlt was actually quite good for the style, but as per usual with Alts, it didn’t blow me away. It pours with a nice, nut brown color and a small, tan head that fades quickly. The lacing was fairly minimal. The aroma was nutty, with roasted, caramel malts and a lot of sweetness. No hops in the nose at all. The taste was a well-rounded sweetness (not cloying) with a touch of almost Belgian fruitiness in the middle. It has a grassy, grainy, lager-esque aftertaste mixed with just a touch of hop bitterness (a pleasant surprise). The GestAlt was very smooth but had a thin body. The flavor was perfectly adequate, but fairly light and watery. It’s a highly drinkable beer and probably a good session brew, but it left me wanting. 2.5 Hops for a decent version of an often-dull style.
Next on the list, The Bruery’s 2 Turtle Doves. I would describe The Bruery in the same way that the Baron describes 3 Floyds. Everything they make is worth sampling. The Bruery takes risks, experiments, and generally just has fun making beer. Their offerings may not all be winners, but they’re always interesting. Case in point, the 2 Turtle Doves. This is the 2nd in The Bruery’s 12 Days/Years of Christmas series. According to their website, the 2 Turtle Doves was “inspired” by turtle candy and was thus brewed with cocoa nibs, toasted pecans, caramelized sugar and caramel malts. It’s described as somewhere between a Belgian Dark Strong and an Imperial Porter, though I would say it leans heavily towards the former. The 2 Turtle Doves pours with an extremely dark brown mahogany color that is nearly black. The head is a rich, coffee color that fades immediately, but leaves nice lacing throughout. The nose is clearly Belgian Dark…raisins, prunes, a touch of licorice…plus a massive whiff of chocolate and molasses. There’s surprisingly little booze in the aroma, but the huge caramel malt odor probably just drowns it out. The taste is a little unbalanced, but intriguing…that fruitiness hits first followed by a big, sweet malt middle. It has a toasted, almost burnt finish, but little bitterness from either hops or alcohol (which, again, is a little surprising considering the huge 12% ABV on this baby). Mouthfeel is a little sticky and syrupy but good carbonation cuts through. It’s very full-bodied and a bit heavy. Drinkability is minimal considering the sticky-sweet flavors and ABV…honestly, it could use a few years in the cellar (which The Bruery recommends, by the way). 3 Hops for another strong offering from The Bruery and I will continue to take a chance on anything they produce.
After the heavy, full-bodied 2 Turtle Doves, I decided to switch to something light and clean…Port’s Old Viscosity. And by “light and clean” I of course mean, “a beer whose very name implies motor oil”. OK, so it’s not as viscous as the name would indicate…an issue I touched upon way back when. Cognitive dissonance from the name notwithstanding, this is a high-quality, classic beer. It pours black with just a hint of cherry-wood coloring along the edge of the glass. This barest hint at color gives away the fact that the Old Viscosity is actually an American Strong Ale and not an Imperial Stout as you might guess. The head is tiny and dark brown, but fades to a wisp and leaves impressive lacing. The nose is rich and robust…like roasted coffee, ripe cherries, molasses and a touch of scotch-whiskey. The taste is massive and absorbingly complex. It’s deep and dark…thick with sweet, roasted caramel malts, pure cocoa, some sour, dried fruit, and that unmistakable smoky whiskey taste from the nose. Each sip brings something new, but sadly I don’t have the palate to identify all the notes (too much gin in the halcyon days of my youth have left my palate in a pitiful state). For all that, it’s actually a medium-bodied drink with fair to light carbonation and a good alcohol afterburn. Drinkability isn’t particularly high, but what do you expect from a beer named Old Viscosity? 3.5 Hops for an excellent beer that always fills you up and never lets you down.
So what could top the beauty of the Old Viscosity? How about one of the best beers on planet Earth (or any other planet…it’s not like Pandora has anything better)? I’m talking about Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, or KBS to its legion of adoring fans. The KBS is an American-style Imperial Stout brewed with just a hint of coffee (hence the Breakfast) and vanilla bean and then aged in oak bourbon barrels (hence the Kentucky) for over a year. High degree of difficulty, but Founders, as always, absolutely nails it. The beer pours as black as Slouch Sixpack’s heart with a not-inconsequential, coffee-colored head that takes a moment or two to clear away. The lacing is as clingy as a manic-depressive high school girl and as thick as her chubby, self-conscious friend. The aroma is perfectly balanced. While you might expect the coffee to dominate, you quickly realize what Founders means when they say it’s brewed with just a “hint” of java. It’s present…as is the vanilla…but it’s so well-incorporated that it takes a moment to find it. The first whiff is sweet chocolate and a metric ton of dark-roasted malt. Then the coffee, vanilla, and burnt sugar enter the picture. After your nose acclimates itself to the sweetness, a subtle undertone of charred wood and bourbon waltzes in and you’re literally salivating to drink it (or maybe that’s just me). The taste is sublime…full, rich, thick, sweet, dark, charred, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, whiskey, oak, warming, boozy…really all I can do is throw out a litany of adjectives. They’re all correct and yet none of them are. This beer is so complex and balanced to such perfection that every time I hit on one flavor, another one steps forward to tempt me. The taste is probably best described this way…when the three gentlemen splitting the beer each took a sip, we all looked at each other simultaneously and simply said, “Wow”. When a beer renders three people monosyllabic, it’s probably a pretty solid offering. The mouthfeel is full-bodied, creamy, dreamy, and well-carbonated for the style. There’s a touch of alcohol-burn at the end (11.2% ABV), but it’s very well-incorporated and not astringent at all. Drinkability? I’ll take 10. It’s the very definition of a 4 Hops beer. As Doc says, “It’s one of my Top 5 All-Time Beers…although that list is about 20 beers long right now.”
Shortly after completing the KBS, the women-folk left the building and the men-folk engaged in manly acts of drinking prowess (including a competition to see who could chug a Chimay Tripel the fastest…good times). After much chugging, yelling, and rejoicing, Brother Barley turned out the lights in his feeble, little noggin and went to sleep dreaming, as the Baron oft implores him to do, of Big Beers.