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Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

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Rasputin is quite the interesting historical figure. Most of what's known about him comes from dubious sources, thus many details are unclear, but he is generally referred to as a Russian mystic or visionary, though also as a charlatan and sometimes even the antichrist. I never knew much about him, but what I did know always suggested that he was involved with the Occult and that he died under mysterious circumstances. Indeed, his murder has become the stuff of legend, various sources indicating that he was poisoned, shot (4 times!), stabbed, beaten, and drowned. His enemies apparently even severed... lil' Rasputin (leading to urban legends surrounding ownership of the accursed organ). The dude just wouldn't die; there are reports that he tried to sit up even while his body was being cremated. Quite resilient, I'd say. Like a video game boss.

This, of course, has little to do with the beer that bears his name unless... has drinking this beer made me immortal? Avenues of investigation seem limited. Tests could yield undesirable results. Such as my death. But I digress:

North Coast Old Rasputin

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a couple fingers of light brown head. Smells of roasted malt, but surprisingly, I get some juicy hop aroma in the nose (lots of citrus and a little pine). Those hops show up again in the taste as well, though the roasted malt is still prominent, and you get chocolate, caramel and booze too. Despite all the hop character, it's not super bitter, though the big malt backbone and booze are clearly well balanced by the bittering hops (otherwise, this would be cloying). Mouthfeel is very nice, full bodied, well carbonated, a little warming character from the booze. Overall, very complex and tasty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 2/18/12.

Apparently North Coast does a barrel aged version, but very little of it makes it out through distribution (most of it seems to be distributed at the brewery itself). Ah well. I've got my eyes on a bottle of bourbon barrel aged Old Stock ale, though I haven't quite pulled the trigger just yet (it seems quite expensive!)

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale

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Apparently one of my favorite local beer nerd establishments got their hands on a sixtel of the fabled Pliny the Younger (currently Beer Advocate's #1 Top Beer on the planet). They posted about it on Facebook late last night, and they opened their doors at 10:30 am this morning. Ten minutes later, it sold out. Someone posted on facebook: "Sorry job-havers." Curse my responsibility! I'm sure the beer is great, but at this point, I can't help but think that it would never live up to expectations and I probably won't go too far out of my way to get my hands on the stuff. It's true, we are one of the lucky markets that gets a taste of the stuff, which is nice, I guess, but from what I can tell it's always an absolute madhouse, and tastings sometimes only consist of a few ounces. I certainly wouldn't turn any down, but it just doesn't seem worth the colossal stretch required. Of course, I say this now, but next year I'll probably post about how I stood outside in a snowstorm for 4 hours just to get a tiny 0.1 ounce sample applied to my tongue with an eyedropper.

In the meantime, I'll just have to deal with the oodles of other great IPAs on the market, of which there certainly is no shortage. But tonight, I'm reviewing a pale ale even further down the spiral (apologies for the craptacular blurry picture):

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of whitish head. Lots of floral hop aromas in the nose. Unusual flavors hit the palate first, perhaps that floral hop flavor is more prominent than the nose advertises. Actually a bit of spiciness to the taste as well, also probably from the hops. Just a faint amount of bitterness in the finish. Seems a bit simplistic. Carbonation is very strong and almost biting, though the body is still rather light. Doesn't go down quite as easy as I'd hope. Overall, I'm not too taken with this beer. It's not horrible, but something about the hop profile doesn't work for me. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 2/18/12.

Ok, so this ain't quite a Pliny substitute, but a few upcoming reviews could perhaps hit a little closer to the target.

Brooklyn Black Ops

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This is one of those beers that I never thought I'd actually get to try, but whilst perusing the beer menu at a local establishment, it jumped out at me. Now, from what I've heard, this is an obscenely expensive beer in almost any case, and buying it from a bar... well, let's just say that it's probably not something I'll do again. That being said, I'm really glad I got to try some and I can cross another beer off the white whale list.

I'd always thought that the base for this bourbon barrel aged beer was Brooklyn's excellent Black Chocolate Stout, but apparently they tweak a different imperial stout recipe each year and, of course, barrel aging adds an additional variable to the process. The brewery sez it's "aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented in the bottle with Champagne yeast" which is at least a little strange. I get the impression that most bourbon barrel aged beers are not bottle conditioned, but I could be wrong about that. The selection of Champagne yeast is more unusual, though you do see it in very high ABV beers (regular brewers yeast can't really tolerate high ABV, whilst Champagne yeast can). In theory, the bottle conditioning would make the beer more suitable for aging, though I greedily drank this one up less than a week from purchase... Anyway, enough nerding out about how the beer was produced, let's drink this stuff:

Brooklyn Black Ops

Brooklyn Black Ops 2011 - Pours black color with a couple fingers of light brown head. Smell is filled with chalky, roasted malt and bourbon. Taste prominently features that roasted malt along with just a bit of chocolate and tons of boozy bourbon emerging in the finish. The mouthfeel is a little light on the carbonation and smooth, but still very nice. Not quite as rich or full bodied as I'd expect, it still packs a big amount of flavor in a high medium body. Overall, an excellent bourbon barrel aged beer, but not quite reaching the heights of others I've had. Indeed, I might even like the regular Black Chocolate Stout better, but then, I've only had one of these and would gladly try more (though I don't think I'd quite pay this much for one again). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 2/17/12. Label sez 2981 (bottled on 298th day of 2011)

I never have gotten around to trying out Brooklyn's Local 2, which is something I've been wanting to drink for a while (and it's readily available in this area too), and while I remember being disappointed by Sorachi Ace, I think it's probably worth giving it another try (I drank it a few years ago and it didn't do much for me)...

Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager

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Victory celebrated their 15th Anniversary last year, and to mark the occasion, they created a new flagship beer: Headwaters Pale Ale. It was a beer that goes against most "Anniversary Beer" conventions. Namely, it wasn't a high-ABV face-melter that incorporated all sorts of weird ingredients. Instead, it's focus was on highlighting the most unassuming of beer's ingredients: the water. Few would call a 5.1% ABV Pale Ale a very adventurous anniversary beer, but then, this is a beer that has developed into Victory's flagship. It's became so popular and so ubiquitous in this area that Victory actually ran out and had to rearrange their brewing schedule to make up for the demand (so no Old Horizontal this year *sniff*).

But this year, things are a little different. In honor of their 16th year, Victory is making a limited batch of beer in collaboration with famous local chocolatier Éclat. I wouldn't call this a typical anniversary beer, but it's not quite the old standard that Headwaters was either. It's actually quite an unusual beer. Heck, it's a lager. One way to divide the beer world is to separate them into ales and lagers. Lager yeasts ferment at lower temperatures and typically feature cleaner, smoother, more stable flavor profiles. There tends to be less in the way of fruity esters or spicy phenols (which can be very prevalent in ales). There seems to be much less of a focus on lagers in the beer nerd community for some reason, though around this time of year, everyone seems to start cracking open doppelbocks.

In any case Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager is a Euro Dark Lager brewed with Peruvian Pure Nacional cacao beans (apparently quite rare) and is served on nitro tap:

Victory Eclat Cocoa Lager

Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager - Dark brown color, beautiful amber highlights, creamy tan head. Smells like chocolate with a hint of roasted barley. Taste has some light chocolate with just a hint of well balanced roastiness emerging in the finish. Lots of flavor, but very well matched and not overpowering at all. Mouthfeel is a dream. Nitro pour makes it incredibly smooth, but this is the perfect mouthfeel for the flavor profile. Medium bodied, clean and smooth, very easy to put down. The muted flavor profile of the lager matches perfectly with the nitro pour. A really fantastic beer... A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV on tap (nitro pour). Drank out of Victory's .3L Bar Glass.

I really hope I can get me some more of this before it's gone. Or that it becomes a regular brewpub/local tap akin to their (also pretty good) Donnybrook Stout. Given how well the nitro pour accentuates the beer's flavors, I'm not sure a bottling would work so well (and I doubt the expense of those nitrogen cans would be attractive to Victory at this point).


Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

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Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout is a hugely popular beer, but it's one that never really connected with me (I gave it a B). I wouldn't call it bad, but perhaps a bit overrated. Well, Great Divide has taken this beer and used it as a chance to experiment. There's a version with Brett, a version with Belgian yeast, and several oak aged varieties - including this one, aged on oak chips with cocoa nibs (apparently there's a "hint of cayenne" as well, though I certainly didn't pick up on that). The regular Yeti sorta emphasizes the things I don't particularly love about stouts, but this treatment - less of the bitter hops and roasted coffee flavors, more in the way of chocolate and vanilla character - is right up my alley:

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti - Pours a thick black color with a finger or so of brown head. Aroma is full of roasted malts and, yes, chocolate. Taste is very sweet, with less of the roastiness than I was expecting (though it's still there), a little bitter dark chocolate, and a very nice vanilla oak character, along with a heaping helping of booze. The finish is relatively dry and bitter, with that bitterness lingering into the aftertaste. I remember the regular Yeti being very bitter too, but this version seems to have a more pleasing bitterness. Mouthfeel is full bodied and boozy, a little bit of alcohol burn, but it works quite well. Overall, I'm much happier with this than I was with the regular yeti. I actually kinda love it, which was surprising... A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/11/12.

Great Divide has a bunch of these oak aged Yetis, and I'd like to try some of the other ones... The Bourbon Barrel aged version sounds particularly enticing, though the Espresso Oak Aged one might not be my thing...

Ommegang Aphrodite

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Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love. I swear I didn't plan it this way, but I drank this on the weekend before Valentine's day, which seems mildly appropriate I guess (though Cupid is usually the one associated with the holiday - Cupid is the Roman equivalent of Aphrodite's son Eros, but I digress...) Anywho, Ommegang was my first love in the world of beer, so I always try to catch up with their specialty brews. This one is a Belgian fruit beer made with raspberry and pear, fermented with Ommegang's house strain and Brettanomyces. Not exactly my thing, but again, I like to give Ommegang the benefit of the doubt:

Ommegang Aphrodite

Ommegang Aphrodite - Pours a bright red color with a very light pink head. Smell is difficult to describe. I want to say it's like a fruity syrup, not quite cough syrup, but syrup is the word that most comes to mind. I also get a bit of funk and yeast here, but not quite as strong as the fruitiness. The taste has that same sort of fruity syrupy flavor, maybe a little more into the cough syrup realm here, but also a little on the vinous side. The finish isn't quite tart, but there's a bit here. Perhaps a bit on the spicy side too, though I feel like that hits more in the mouthfeel, which is a bit harsh and sticky. It's very sweet, but it finishes dry. As such, it doesn't quite reach cloying, but drinking a full 750 ml bottle of the stuff is a bit much. A most unusual beer. Not something that is blowing me away, but interesting nonetheless. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/10/12.

To be honest, I'm more intrigued in Ommegang's latest release, Seduction, brewed with chocolate and Liefmans Cuvee Brut Kriek. I've been spending the past month and a half or so trying to drink down my cellar a bit, but I may have to peek my head out for a bottle of that stuff. And their forthcoming Art of Darkness is definitely right in my wheelhouse, so definitely look for a review of that one at some point.

Founders Red's Rye PA

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Founders, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, seems to be one of those bedrock breweries. They make a ton of styles, and they knock them all out of the park, including this rye beer. I'm pretty sure this is the first of that style I ever had. I don't know who "Red" was, but I presume he's the guy on the label and that he loves him some rye. And hops.

Founders Reds Rye

Founders Red's Rye PA - Pours a brownish amber color with a finger of light head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smell is all hopped up (citrusy and floral), with some caramel malt and maybe some of that rye as well... Taste has some caramel malt along with a heaping helping of citrus and earthy, floral hops and a well matched bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and easy to drink for a beer with this much flavor. Overall, a damn fine beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/5/12.

I wouldn't say that my palate is particularly attuned to rye, though I seem to be able to pick it out in the aroma better than the taste. The same went for the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye I had earlier this week... But I'm interested to try more rye beer. And at this point, I'm always willing to sample something new from Founders.

Febrewary Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. An interesting turnout this month, as a few stalwarts were absent, but new attendees picked up the slack. This time around, we visited a Mexican BYOB with quite the ostentatious decor:

February Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

Phew, that place has some brightly colored furniture. But amazing salsa and good food too. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so you can and should be skeptical of my notes. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale - Wow, very rich malt flavors here, like a Scotch ale, but with something more. I got a distinct barrel aged character out of it, though this not one of those versions (apparently there are bourbon, port or brandy barrel aged versions, which I'd love to try). Fantastic beer, got the night going in style, though it may have set the bar unreasonably high for the following beers. I'd love to get me some more of this. A candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Appalachian Jolly Scot Scottish Ale - A somewhat local PA beer, this is another malt-forward ale that, unfortunately, didn't stand up too well to the Hairy Eyeball. It was fine, to be sure, and I'd probably really enjoy one of these by itself, but it came off as being a biton the thin side after the rich flavors of the Hairy Eyeball. B
  • Blue Moon Belgian White - I know, it's brewed by Coors, but hey, it actually worked really well at this point in the night. After two malt forward beers, it was a really refreshing change of pace, and I honestly have no problem with this beer anyway. Obviously not something I would ever go out of my way for, but a lot of places that only stock macros will have this on tap, and it's actually a nice beer. No, it won't melt your face, but it's a good gateway beer. Lots of wheat and citrus, it's refreshing and made for a nice palate cleanser tonight. B
  • Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale - Big brown ale brewed with Maple Syrup, you do get that character coming through pretty strongly here. A big, rich ale, no real hop presence, but lots of malts and that maple syrup adds a nice richness to the proceedings. Very well done, and another candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA - Well hopped (citrus and a little pine), plenty of balancing malts, and some of that distinctive rye character (though I never got the full-on rye bread character people seem to talk about). It didn't blow my mind, but a very solid beer that I could probably drink often. B+
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8 - Not pictured (late arrival), but it's a classic. Already reviewed here.
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) - Another beer I reviewed a while back, this is one of the more interesting beers of the night. Massive aroma, intense flavors of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, maybe even some coffee. I could just sniff this stuff all night. Great stuff, maybe even a little better than I remember (though I think my chief complaint last time was that it's a bit too sweet to drink a whole bottle). A strange beer because I wouldn't call it one of my favorites, but it's so distinctive and interesting that I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone. A great dessert beer.
  • Dominion Ale - Any beer that follows the intense flavors and aroma of Creme Brulee was probably doomed to failure, and this turned out to be a rather standard English Pale Ale, a style I'm coming to dislike quite a bit these days. I always feel like there are buttery off flavors in these beers, and this one is no exception. I even threw in a small slice of orange, which helped mellow it out a bit, but blegh. Not a fan of this beer. D
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale - My homebrewed winter warmer style beer (a kinda spiced red ale), this thing has to be my best beer yet. Very nice spicy aroma, picking up lots of that cinnamon and clove, tastes quite nice, almost creamy mouthfeel. I really hope this wasn't some sort of fluke. I should really do a recap of all my homebrews at some point on the blog, so no rating for now, but I would seriously put this up against any of the winter warmer style beers I've had over the past couple years.
  • Boxcar Brewing A Long Winter's Night - This is probably as local as I can get. The (tiny) brewery was literally a few blocks away from where we were tonight (and this limited edition brew doesn't even warrant a page on BA, apparently). This winter ale was very interesting. I didn't get a lot of spice or anything out of it, but it was a very nice cloudy brown color with... it's hard to describe. Roasted chocolate? But not at all like a stout. More like a brown ale, but with no coffee and some chocolatey overtones (to be honest, it's very much like their regular brown ale, but perhaps less nutty). Very solid beer. B
All in all, a pretty great night! We didn't manage to get to all the beers in the picture, though I ended up taking a can of pale ale home with me, so perhaps a review of that in the coming weeks... That's all for now.

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

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