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Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

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Brewery Ommegang has long been one of my favorite breweries, and I do credit it with introducing me to the world of "good" beer. As such, whenever I see a new beer from Ommegang, I usually snap one up and drink it as quickly as possible. This particular beer, though, has never really been on my list of most sought after beers, mostly because it's a self-described Belgian Style Stout. I've never been a big fan of stouts, but since I've been coming around to the idea lately, I figured this would be worth a shot. After all, I love Belgian style beers, so maybe that will compensate for whatever it is I don't like about stouts. Unfortunately, this one turned out rather like my last experiment with Belgian style stouts (though I think both are technically labeled as Belgian Dark Ales).

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color. Completely opaque, with a rather small head, but lots of lacing as I drink. The smell is dominated by roasty malts, though there are some other more subtle aromas coming through, including the typical Belgian yeast scents. Taste starts off very sweet with some roastiness coming through in the middle and especially in the finish, which is dry and a little bitter. Said bitterness is more reminiscent of dark chocolate than hops (unsurprising, given that this is apparently brewed with real cocoa powder), but I'm sure both are playing a role here. Good carbonation and a medium mouthfeel (I was hoping for something with a fuller body). Very well balanced beer, but pretty straightforward as well. In comparison to the other Belgian-style stout I've tried recently, this one is perhaps a little better balanced, but less... Belgiany. Ultimately, I'm a little disappointed. Another case where I'd rather have had a really good Imperial Stout or a really good Belgian Strong Dark, not a combination of the two. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked bottle). Drank out of a goblet.

I wouldn't call it bad, but this may very well be my least favorite Ommegang beer. But I doubt it will slow me down. I have already procured a bottle of their Tripel Perfection and am very much looking forward to their collaboration with La Chouffe, Gnomegang. Not to mention the fact that I seem to always return to their staple beers...

Yuengling Bock

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I've long professed my love for Yuengling Lager. It's not a face-melting beer by any stretch of the imagination, but it's solid and dependable and locally ubiquitous. Over the year's I've tried most of their other beers - the porter, the black and tan, the premium lager, and various light varieties - but none of those really stick out. Then I see this new beer with a fancy vintage label design that I don't recognize. Yuengling makes a Bock? And it's a seasonal release? Wow, I had no idea.

Apparently this seasonal beer was once a staple release, but it hasn't been brewed for nearly 40 years. To celebrate Yuengling's 180th anniversary, they did a limited, keg-only release that was so popular that they decided to make it a regular thing. Since I was in the market for some non-face-melting beer to drink during my Lenten coke fasting, immediately picked up a sixer of this.

Yuengling Bock Beer

Isn't that label awesome? It's apparently based on artwork from the 1941 release. I love the Billy Goat, apparently a staple of Bock style labels (I'm sure I'll cover that convention at some other time). It pours a clear, dark brown color with a reddish tint and a small, tan head. As you'd expect, it smells malty, but not particularly fruity or sweet. The taste is not especially powerful, but there's some malty sweetness there, perhaps a tiny bit of roastiness, and it finishes a bit dry (though it's not really bitter). It's not dissimilar to a Scotch ale, though this isn't quite as impressive as the Scotch ales I've had lately. Mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side. It's very easy to drink and not disagreeable, but it's not particularly special either. A nice change of pace, but nothing that will unseat the mighty Lager. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

I suspect this is exactly what Yuengling was going for though, and I certainly wasn't expecting anything overly special, but it would be interesting to see what Yuengling could accomplish if they put their resources behind a more unique and powerful beer. I don't really expect that anytime soon though. Yuengling isn't a craft brewery, after all. But they're certainly better than other macros!

April Beer Club

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Every month, a bunch of friends and I get together at a local BYOB and drink lots of beer. I seem to have run out of beer puns for this month, but there was no shortage of beer at tonight's gathering (despite only 7 attendees):

April Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

No real theme this month, but lots of new beers, along with some new ones. Not all of the pictured beers were cracked open, but most of them were (I believe only 4 left unopened, though there was still some beer left in a couple bottles). For reference, here's what I tried:

  • Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale - Intense blueberry aromas and very fruity taste. Overwhelmingly blueberry. Not bad, but not especially accomplished either. C+
  • Unibroue Éphémère - Again, an intense sour apple aroma and flavor, this one is much better balanced and an interesting beer. I've actually had this a few times before, and it's something I've always enjoyed, even if it's not my favorite of Unibroue's offerings. Everyone seemed to enjoy it though, and it's probably a good gateway craft beer. B
  • Southampton Biere De Mars - A very nice looking beer, with a nice spicy aroma and a flavor that is quite unusual, but still drinkable. The consensus among attendees was somewhat mixed, but I enjoyed it, even if it's not exactly a favorite. There's a flavor there that I couldn't quite place, but which made this a rather unique tasting beer. Fellow beer club members had a similar feeling. I'll give it a tentative B
  • Ommegang Rare Vos - One of my all time favorites, I've actually got a bottle of this in the fridge, so expect a full review... at some point. A great beer though, and very popular with the beer club crowd, even with the non-beer nerds.
  • Victory Prima Pils - I have had many of these over the years, and it's one of those beers that tastes very different out of the bottle than it does on tap. And honestly, I think I prefer the bottled version. For a pilsner style beer, it's extremely hoppy, but I rather like that distinction. Well worth a try, and probably something I'll give a more thorough review to later. For now, I'll leave it as a B+
  • Oskar Blues Gordon Imperial Red Ale (aka G'Knight) - One of my contributions for the night, and a solid DIPA. Expect a full review at some point in the near future. Beer club crowd seemed to enjoy it, despite it's hoppy nature.
  • Peak Organic Simcoe Spring Ale - It's got that pine resin aroma and flavor from the Simcoe hops, but it's otherwise a pretty standard IPA. Not particularly popular with the overall beer club crowd, but it's solid, if nothing special. B
  • Long Trail Pollenator - Holy shit, is this a terrible beer. And of course, I ended up taking more of this than most other brews. I immediately regretted the decision. Tasted like skunked piss. My first F since starting the blog.
  • Oscar Blues Ten Fidy - A very roasty 10.5% stout. I enjoyed it, but those who don't typically go in for stouts didn't seem to care for it. Not to get all sexist or anything, but all the guys seemed to enjoy it, while the females seemed to dislike. I have a couple more of these, so expect a full review at some point in the indeterminate future.
  • Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy - Smells and tastes of a sorta carbonated lemonade. Very little beer flavor and I really did not enjoy, though some of the more girly beer club members seemed to like it. D
  • Blue Point Spring Fling - A very average pale ale. Not bad, but absolutely nothing special about it. Profoundly average beer. C
  • My Homebrew Tripel - I brought a nice 22 oz bottle of my tripel, which has really undergone a transformation since bottling. I've been trying about one bottle per week since I bottled, and it's gone from an overly-sweet and under-carbonated beer to something much more drinkable. It used to be a very bright orange color, but it has since matured into a more appropriate lightish brown color. The taste is still a little too sweet and too alcoholly, but it's still a pretty good attempt, and I have a feeling it will mellow out with more time. Expect a more thorough review of this homebrew at some point. If nothing else, I do believe it came out better than my first attempt. This was one of the first beers we opened though, and someone did mention that it could have been a bit of a palate-killer because it's so intense (but luckily most people only took a small sample). It certainly was a strong beer - more than one person commented that they got the sorta wine-flush feeling from the alchohol. So far, I'm pretty happy with this beer, and I think it's only been getting better with time.
  • Dana's Maibock Homebrew - Fantastic homebrew brewed by my friend Dana from a Mr. Beer specialty kit. Very sweet with a nice tang in the finish that I couldn't quite place. Still, very enjoyable beer, maybe my favorite from Dana's homebrewing efforts. Most of the Mr. Beer stuff is pretty average (and Dana also brought a Red Ale which was pretty normal stuff), but their specialty kits seem to produce some really good beers, and this one is a prime example (I also rather enjoyed Dana's specialty Tripel from a while back). We made a deal to trade some of my tripel with some of her maibock. Excellent stuff
So yeah, I suppose you could take the ratings above with a grain of salt (as conditions were not optimal for tasting), but I think the ones I actually rated are pretty accurate. And several of the others will be reviewed on this blog in the near future. It may seem like the above are pretty low, and there were definitely a couple of real stinkers, but some of the ones I didn't provide a rating for will most likely come in to the B to A range, so there were definitely some great beers that were available tonight...

All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I was surprised at the amount of beer that we ended up getting through, even if we did leave some of the beers pictured above unopened (though I will say that the only unopened beer that I've never had before was the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter). As always, I'm already looking forward to next month!

This week's double feature was a whopper. Barleywines are among the strongest beer styles out there (both of the below beers are over 11% ABV), so I knew I was in for an interesting night. From a filmic perspective, I was going to try and match the intensity of the style, but decided to go another route and perhaps contrast the style with something a little more lighthearted. As luck would have it, Netflix sent me an intriguing double feature this week: For Your Height Only and Challenge of the Tiger (both on the same disc, no less). If you haven't heard of them, I don't blame you. They're both pretty horrible films, but I was hoping for a "so bad they're good" experience out of them.

For Your Height Only is basically a Bond knock-off starring 3 foot tall filipino martial arts master, Weng Weng. Ok, so maybe he's not a martial arts "master", but it's a pretty fun film in that respect. Weng uses his height to full advantage, often sneaking up behind low objects, sliding across the floor, and of course, he punches nearly everyone in the crotch. In one particularly rousing scene, he takes on some tough guys with the help of a tall woman, who basically throws him at their enemies. It's very amusing. The story is absolutely dreadful, but manages to hit all the Bondian notes it should (there's even a jetpack!). Challenge of the Tiger was one of a long series of cash-ins on the popularity of Bruce Lee. After Lee's death, a number of imitators appeared, and chief among them was, of course, Bruce Le. Heh. Ultimately, I ended up paying much less attention to this film, though I have to admit that I was surprised by the amount of nudity and sex on screen here. Oh, and there's some martial arts and fighting too. Ultimately, both these movies suck, but I am easily amused, and these actually made a reasonable match for the Barleywines. Speaking of which:

Devine Rebel

BrewDog and Mikkeller Collaboration: Devine Rebel - Scottish brewery BrewDog has been making a name for themselves with some very extreme beers. They were one of the crazy breweries attempting to make the strongest beer in the world, achieving and losing that status multiple times in an arms race that seems to have only recently ended. I believe they currently hold the record with a 55% ABV behemoth called The End of History (which you may recognize as the beer that's packaged inside a rodent carcass). Interestingly, they also make a 0.5% ABV beer called Nanny State (apparently a response to uptight government officials worried about the brewery's pursuit of the strongest beer title). Clearly, these guys are not to be messed with.

Enter Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a crazy Danish homebrewer and self-described "gipsy-brewer" who takes his show on the road, brewing his beers at different breweries throughout the world. He has a home base of sorts at the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen, but that is not a brewery. He releases his beers under the Mikkeller brand, and I suspect the fact that he doesn't actually own a brewery is partly why his beers tend to cost so much. Clearly Mikkeller and BrewDog are a match made in heaven, so when Mikkel heads over to Scottland to collaborate on this beer, titled Devine Rebel, you know the results will at least be interesting. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Devine is spelled with an "e" there (instead of the more traditional "Divine"). Maybe it's one of them alternate British spellings of the same word, or who knows, maybe Mikkel is an amateur astronomer and named his beer after an asteroid. Whatever the case, it's quite an eclectic brew. Partially aged in Speyside whisky barrels* and utilizing both an ale yeast and a champagne yeast, I was expecting a lot out of this beer, and boy did it live up to expectations.

Pours a very nice deep brown color with some amber highlights and a rather small head. Smells of sweet fruit and, in particular, raisins, with some alcohol present in the nose as well. Taste starts off sweet, fruity and rich, with some of those raisins and maybe some of that scotch whisky character as well. Some sticky alcohol in the finish. The real star here is the texture: silky smooth, rich and creamy. Full bodied, but lightly carbonated and very easy to drink. I have to say that I'm impressed. Well balanced but powerful, unique but approachable, amazingly complex and intriguing but not overly weird, this is a really fantastic beer. The best I've had in a while, this one just hit me at the perfect time I guess. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a goblet. Batch 243, bottled on 7/5/09 (so not quite two years in the bottle, but close).

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot - Not quite as storied or intriguing as the Devine Rebel, this local offering certainly has a wonderfully evocative name (put a few of these down in short succession, and you'll probably be living up to the name). Pours a deep reddish brown color (a little lighter than the Devine Rebel) and another small head. Smells sweet and a little spicy. Dark fruit and raisins are there, but not anywhere near as prominently as they are in the Devine Rebel, and there's a distinct yeastiness in the nose as well. Taste is very sweet and fruity, but less complex. Mouthfeel is smooth, but not as much as the Devine Rebel, and the flavors are nowhere near as rich. Carbonation is about the same and it is rather reasy to drink. I've had a few of these before and I do enjoy them, but it's not nearly as well balanced or complex as the Devine Rebel. B

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

I've got a few more Blithering Idiots in the fridge right now, and given the fact that this style ages well (part of the reason it's called a Barleywine is that it can be aged, like wine) I think I'll let them stay there for a while. In the meantime, I'm going to try and find me some more Mikkeller beers (and BrewDog beers, for that matter). It looks like the 2010 version of Devine Rebel came out a bit stronger (13.8% ABV!), so I'll have to try and find me some of that as well.

* I expect a certain Scotch loving reader will be salivating at this particular detail.

Wee Heavy and Founders Dirty Bastard

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I like Scotch, though I should also note that I'm certainly no expert. I pour myself a dram every now and again, and drink it slowly, attempting to pick out flavors. But then I read Water of Life and, to be honest, I don't really perceive the distinctions of flavors the way they seem to... On the other hand, that's how I felt about BeerAdvocate reviews up until about a year ago, when I started getting serious about this whole beer thing, so perhaps there's hope for me yet.

In any case, those wily Scotts do more than make great whisky*. There's a whole continuum of Scottish ales, ranging from light to heavy strength and historically designated in shillings (which at some point corresponded to a price of a barrel, but the specifics seem unclear). The strengths roughly correspond to the strengths of English bitter, though at the higher end, things get a little more confusing. At higher alcohol levels (approx. 6% and higher), the beer is simply called a Scotch Ale or a "Wee Heavy". The origin of the phrase "Wee Heavy" is a bit difficult to pin down, but as near as I can tell it refers to the historical serving size of 6 fluid ounces (about 1/3 of an imperial pint). A "wee" glass of "heavy" ale, as it were.

Because Scotland is further north and because of their... complicated... relationship with England**, these beers have some interesting historical characteristics. The cooler climate was not that conducive to growing hops, which meant that they needed to import them from England. As such, Scottish ales were generally lightly hopped. Tee hee. The lower temperatures also impact fermentation, meaning that these beers display less in the way of fruity or spicy flavors. Add all this together, and what you've got is a beer that emphasizes the malt (while yeast and hops generally take a back seat), sometimes even featuring peat and smoke, which seems appropriate for the land of Scotch whisky.

Of course, these days, the historical style isn't quite as rigid and Scottish brewers seem to be doing some interesting things (particularly BrewDog, who certainly don't seem to be very opposed to importing hops!) and of course, us American heretics are having our way with the style. Enter Founders' take:

Founders Dirty Bastard

Founders Dirty Bastard - Pours a deep reddish brown (mahogany!) color. Very dark, almost opaque, but when held up to light, you can see the red colors getting through. They head is very small and dissipates quickly. Smell is very distinctive. Despite my babbling above, I'm not very familiar with the style, but it seems to be appropriate for Scotch Ales, except perhaps for a tiny smattering of grassy hop aromas, which I understand are a bit unusual. Taste has a similar distinctive scotch ale flavor. Very sweet (but not fruity) with some light roastiness (or is that smoke?) in the finish. It almost tastes like something from the Bock family or maybe a European barley-wine. Some earthy hops are present, but it's subtle and not very bitter (despite the 50 IBUs which, again, is a bit high for the style, though certainly not enough to overwhelm the ample malt backbone and sweetness of the beer). Full bodied with light but appropriate carbonation - surprisingly easy to drink. For a strong beer, the alcohol is very well hidden. In the end, it's rich, complex and tasty. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass. Drank on 3/19/11 (Totally caught up on reviews now!)

I will make arrangements to try more of this style, though none are in the pipeline at the moment. I think, perhaps, some double features are in order here though, perhaps even mixing with some Scotch whisky to see if I can start to pick out some of the more subtle similarities.

* Also worth noting: Scottish Breakfast Tea, which apparently has a complementary flavor profile. Perhaps I can do a full day's worth of Scottish beverages: Scottish Breakfast Tea in the morning, some Scotch Ale with lunch and dinner, and a Scotch Whisky nightcap. Sounds like a good day to me.

** I should probably make some sort of William Wallace joke here. Or maybe a Mel Gibson joke. But that would be too easy***.

*** And by "too easy", I mean that I had already written the grand majority of this post before I realized the Wallace/Gibson angle and don't feel like fitting it into the post right now. Irony!****

**** Also, I've apparently been listening to Scottish hip hop for the past half hour or so. Go figure. Also of note: blatant abuse of asterisks.

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

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We all know the famous stories about how India Pale Ale was brewed extra strong and with extra hops so that it could survive the long and warm trek to India. Slightly less known (though probably common knowledge amongst beer nerds) is the Russian Imperial Stout. Apparently the court of Catherine the Great was quite fond of English stouts, but once again, the logistics of shipping the beer required certain adjustments to the usual recipes. Like the trip to India, the trip to Russia was a long one. And it was cold enough that weak beers would freeze en route. So English brewers took to making an extra strong stout, usually around 10% ABV, to prevent their cargo from freezing (among other preservative reasons to protect against the duration of the trip).

Among craft beer nerds, this style is quite popular. Fully half of the top 10 beers on Beer Advocate are Imperial Stouts. You'll also notice that the term "Imperial" has been appropriated for all sorts of other styles: Imperial IPA, Imperial Pilsner, Imperial Red Ale, and so on. The "imperializing" of traditional beer styles is currently one of the big trends in the American craft beer industry. Ironically, despite originating the style, such beers are rarely seen in England. This is probably due to the way beer is taxed there. Since 1880, English beer taxes are based on the original gravity of the wort (which has a rough correlation with the eventual alcohol content). This has applied pressure to brew weaker and weaker beer. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that, and the English session beers and cask ales certainly have their own merits. But I digress. Let's try one of these Russian Imperial Stouts:

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Stone Imperial Russian Stout - Pours a thick, black color with a minimal brown colored head. Smell is full of roasted malt and maybe a little dark chocolate. Taste is extremely well balanced - sweet and roasty with just a hint of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste. Full bodied and ample carbonation, shockingly drinkable given the high ABV. Indeed, the alcohol is almost completely hidden in this. As it warms, I can detect some lingering alcohol slickness in the finish, maybe even some harshness, but this is a welcome complexity. I've mentioned a few times recently that I think I'm beginning to come around on Stouts (a style I traditionally don't care for), and with beers like this, it's easy to see why. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass. Warrior hops, 90 IBUs. Drank on 2/25/11 (I'm almost caught up, I swears!)

More imperial stouts are on the shelf and in the fridge, and I'm actually looking forward to a few of them quite a bit. I don't think that stouts will ever be my favorite style, but I'm definitely gaining a big appreciation for them.

Allagash Black

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Regular readers (all 2 of you), may recognize this as the beer I mentioned a few weeks ago for my entry to the "Regular Beers" Session. Of course, that entry only touched on this specific beer... as an example of a non-regular beer. For most breweries, at least. For Allagash, it's one of their "classic" beers. For them, this is a regular beer. But they're one of the few American breweries that specializes in Belgian styles, and we all know that the Belgians don't make regular beer. Except for Stella Artois. That stuff sucks.

Allagash Black

Allagash Black - I don't know why, but when I popped the cork on this one, I took a whiff of the bottom of the cork and it smelled... light and fruity (more like a saison or tripel style). Unexpected for a beer that bills itself a "Belgian Style Stout". Of course, Beer Advocate classifies it as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, which makes a sort of sense. Belgian styles are notoriously vague anyway, so I don't see why this wouldn't qualify as that. Belgian beers don't usually emphasize roasty flavors though, so perhaps it could be classified as a stout. In reality, it's probably more of a hybrid. Sometimes I like this sort of thing, sometimes I end up craving one of the styles being mixed instead of enjoying what's in front of me.

Anyways, perhaps too vigorous of a pour lead to a massive head. The beer underneath appears to be a very dark amber/brown color. The nose is all Belgian yeast, spicy and fruity. Perhaps just a hint of roastiness. Taste is rich, chocolately and roasty. A little dry bitterness lingers. Carbonation is just a hint low (and possibly the result of the aforementioned pour), but it works very well. Its smooth and quite drinkable. At 7.5% ABV, it's no monster, but it's big enough that I was expecting some booziness... yet none is apparent. Quite an easy drink. It's an interesting combination of flavors, though I'm not entirely sure it ranks among the best Stouts or the best Belgian Strong Darks... and quite frankly, I would probably rather have had one or the other, rather than this combination of both. It's kinda doing its own thing though and it is well made, but it didn't really strike a chord with me the way some other mixtures have. I'll give it a B, though I suspect a bigger fan of stouts would like this a lot more.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet. Drank on 3/4/11 (Yes, I'm behind on my reviews. Again.)

Allagash has always been a bit of a mixed bag for me. As makers of Belgian style beers, they will always interest me, but I can't say that they brew one of my favorite beers or anything. Yet. But I've mostly only had their "Classic" series, which are the more normal styles. The most interesting beer of theirs I've had was the 2009 Fluxus, which I remember as being fantastic. I was a bit worried when I read that it was "Ale Brewed with Sweet Potatoes & Black Pepper", but it turned out to be fantastic. Unfortunately, it was a one time batch and I can no longer find it. In any case, I'm very much looking forward to the bottle of Curieux (a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Tripel) I've recently procured.

A new style of beer has been making the rounds in the past few years. Aggressively hopped and bitter like an IPA, but utilizing the dark, roasted malts and sweetness of a stout, this type of beer was virtually unseen a few years ago. However, thanks to crazy American hop-heads and a free-wheeling, innovative craft beer culture, this new style has been spreading like wildfire. Of course, I'm being a bit cagey here by calling it a "new" style. New-Englanders claim the beer originated in a small Vermont brew pub in the early 1990s. Beer history nerds, of course, point to centuries old recipes that resemble the style, claiming that it's nothing new. Some of the early brewers of the style labeled their beer as a Porter, lending creedance to the history nerds. Enter the American Pacific Northwest, who have cleverly inserted their way into the controversy by coining a self-serving name for the style: Cascadian Dark Ale (named after the American Cascade mountain range, where many American hops are grown, including the popular (and, uh, obvious) Cascade hops).

Of course, naming the style is a controversy in itself. Cascadian Dark Ale has a wonderful and vaguely evocative feel to it, but the style has also been called Black IPA, India Dark Ale, American Dark Ale, and probably a dozen other variants. They all have their problems (for instance, Black IPA makes no sense because it unpacks to "Black India Pale Ale", which is just silly - the term "India" implies a history and geography that isn't relevant; "black" and "pale" are descriptors of color, and clearly conflict), so no one name has emerged victorious. Andy Crouch wrote about this semi-recently (and of course, his history of the style is better than mine) and proposed a poll with a dozen different options, including his own inspired suggestion of Noonan Black Ale (named after Greg Noonan, owner of the aforementioned Vermont brew pub). As of right now, Black IPA is winning the poll, and that's what RateBeer uses. Beer Advocate uses American Black Ale, which is similar to the Brewers Association's recently changed designation of American-Style Black Ale (changed from American-Style India Black Ale).

So yeah, more fuel for the internet flames of semantic debate. As a fan of "genre" films, amongst other geeky pursuits featuring detailed nomenclature, I can assure you such arguments are not unique to the world of beer. So, as much as I'd love to continue beating that dead horse, I think it might be nice to actually, you know, drink some of this stuff. Enter Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. Originally brewed as a limited Anniversary batch (a good contrast to Victory's recent Headwaters anniversary ale), it proved popular enough that Stone now makes it available year-round.

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Now, I really enjoy a good IPA (or DIPA) and I've recently been acquiring an appreciation of stouts, but sometimes these sorts of style mixtures rub me the wrong way. Instead of seeing it as the best of both worlds, I'll often end up craving one style or the other, without ever actually enjoying what's in front of me. However, in this case, I think the mixture actually works well, even if it's not exactly my favorite style of beer. Pours a very dark brown, almost black color, with a fluffy tan head. Smells fantastic. Floral, piney hops dominate the nose. Taste starts with a sweet but earthy bitterness sets in quickly, followed by some additional roasted malt bitterness in the finish. The roasted flavors linger a bit in the aftertaste as well, and they become a little more prominent (in both the nose and the taste) as the beer warms up. Texture is surprisingly smooth and the beer is quite drinkable. Very well crafted and, more importantly (given my feelings on hybrids above), it's extremely well balanced. Not being overly familiar with the style or the process of brewing, I imagine it would be difficult to pack in the complexity without letting any of the potent ingredients overwhelm the taste or the palate. I will give it a B+, though I suppose I could easily bump it up to an A- if I were to become more enamored with the style (which could very well happen). As it is, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass. Chinook, Simcoe & Amarillo hops, 90 IBUs. Drank on 3/11/11 (yeah, I'm behind on reviews again, wanna fight about it?)

The Stone example seems to be among the best ranked beers in the style, of course, but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to try more. Who knows, I might grow into it in the way that I'm growing into stouts (and perhaps my newly acquired taste for stouts is what is partially holding me back here... if you call B+ holding back!)

Update: Oh crap, I forgot to enter a style in my blog categorization. I was hoping to avoid that. I'll go with American Black Ale, since that's what Beer Advocate uses (and it's also similar to the Brewers Assocation) and I'm not entirely down with Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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