Oak Aged Double Feature

Continuing the Oak Aged posting this week, here I’ve got two big Oak Aged beers, matched with gorgeous but flawed films. First up, Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, a horribly scripted Greek mythology story that is nonetheless worth watching for some wonderful, stylized action sequences and Tarsem’s trademark visual style (a feast for the eyes!) Next, I watched Terrence Malick meditative The Tree of Life, a non-narrative fever dream, again gorgeously photographed and mesmerizing, but going on for way too long and, odd as it may be to say this, too much dialogue (and there’s not really much dialogue in the movie, but what’s there is kinda insipid). Very pretty movies, both, but also flawed. The beers I drank to match were big and flavorful.

Founders Backwoods Bastard

Founders Backwoods Bastard – Does the backwoods bastard pictured on the label look like Gandalf the Grey to anyone else? No? I’m the only nerd here? Great. Anyway, you don’t see this style of beer, a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, aged in barrels very often (or, uh, ever – this is the only one I’m aware of*). This beer actually starts out as Founders’ year-round brew, Dirty Bastard, which is then aged in old bourbon barrels, bringing up the ABV and imparting the usual complexity of bourbon barrel notes. Pours a dark, deep brown color with very little head. Aroma is full of bourbon and oak, with some of that underlying scotch ale character coming out. Taste starts with sweet malts, followed by a big wallop of boozy bourbon and oak. Ends with a surprisingly dry finish (well, not super dry, but more dry than I would have expected). The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied – not as heavy as I was expecting, which makes this very easy to drink. I wouldn’t say the booze is hidden, but it’s not as powerful as the ABV would suggest, which is interesting. Overall, a really good beer, something I’d like to try again, but also something that could probably use some additional aging to marry the flavors together a little more. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11.

Avery Samael Ale

Avery Samael’s Oak Aged Ale – Back in the day, when I first started posting things on the internet, message boards were all the rage. Along with that came the use of handles, basically online nicknames people took for themselves. I’ve since grown out of that fad**, but there are still some folks I met back in the 1990s message boards that I think of by their handles, rather than their real names. One such person is my friend Roy, who I always knew as Samael (which is also apparently the name of the prince of demons, but whatever). As such, during my recent Texas excursion, I saw this beer and had to have it, despite not being a native Texas beer (it’s not something I’ve seen around these parts though, so it’s still something mildly ungettable for me). So I got one and greedily smuggled it back to PA***.

It pours a deep brown color with minimal head. Smell is full of dark fruitiness and caramel, with just a little of the vanilla oak flavor. Caramel flavors dominate the taste, along with a heaping helping of booze. The oak and vanilla is there too. As it warms, dark fruity notes emerge. Really complex stuff here, though not particularly well balanced. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, with a sticky finish. A really big alcohol presence here, a little on the harsh side. Overall, it’s a very good beer, but like the Backwoods Bastard, I’m thinking this one would benefit from some aging in order to let all the intricate flavors to balance each other out. When it’s this young, it’s a little too hot to handle, maybe even a bit cloying towards the end, though still enjoyable. B

Beer Nerd Details: 15.31% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11. Bottles released in April 2011 (batch no. 7)

A theme seems to be emerging from a lot of barrel aged beers I’ve had lately, which is that they could probably use some more time to mature. The complex marriage of flavors that makes a barrel aged beer great seem to be difficult to balance, though when it’s done right, it’s a big revelation. That being said, I generally enjoy even these young versions, so it’s not like you won’t be seeing any more barrel aged beer reviews (indeed, one more already in the pipeline, and several more in my basement that I might just let sit for a while). I’m also really interested to see how Dark Intrigue matures, given that it seemed pretty well balanced to me on its first day of release…

* Not that I’m an expert on the style, but still.

** My handle was tallman, a reference to a cheesy but cherished 70s horror film that I was in love with at the time (and still am, to a degree). And no, I’m not very tall.

*** Using the same giddy packing techniques I did for that Wytchmaker beer. I’m still amused at the prospect of becoming a bootlegger.

Cockeyed Cooper

A couple years ago, brewery Uinta started a new line of high-alcohol beers under the “Crooked Line” banner. The marketing fluff on their website includes stuff like “our crooked path has taken us to some unexpected places” and “brew outside the lines”. All of this sounds suspiciously like Dogfish Head’s slogan: “Off centered ales for off centered people” (which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing), but when I saw a couple of these bottles in the bottle store, I was quite taken in by the artwork and also the prospect of a bourbon barrel aged barleywine (both of which are things I enjoy greatly). Judging beer by the label is sometimes the order of the day (it’s not quite Belgian beer roulette, but perhaps a distant cousin), so I picked up a bottle of this. I’m glad to report that it was well worth the stretch.

I don’t know who Cooper is or why he’s cockeyed, but I presume it’s because this is an 11.1% ABV beer. I also assume Mr. Cooper is the bearded fellow on the label that’s using a bourbon barrel as a flotation device:

Uinta Cockeyed Cooper

Uinta Cockeyed Cooper – Pours a dark brown color with a minimal head. Smells very rich and boozy, with some of those bourbon-soaked oak flavors and a nicely matched hoppy character. There’s a sugary aroma in the nose as well. Taste starts sweet, but then you’re hit with the oak (bourbon and a little vanilla apparent), followed by some hoppy bitterness and booze. It’s not overly bitter, like an IPA, but it’s there, and it helps dry out the finish. The flavors linger a bit in an aftertaste. I think the oak aging really imparted a nice richness to the flavors here. Full bodied but relatively smooth, you still want to drink this slowly. Overall, it’s pretty damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/25/11. IBUs: 65. Bottled on 6/1/10 (Not sure how long it was aged in the barrels, but according to the site, it’s at least 5 months).

When I bought this, there was another of the Crooked Line beers at the store – an American Black Ale called Labyrinth that I now very much want to try.

Double Feature: Devine English Barleywines

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.

Febrewary Beer Club

I’m a little behind on posting stuff here, so bear with me as I play catchup this week. At the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This particular meeting was a long time coming, as weather and a hectic holiday schedule conspired to delay this session multiple times. We went to a different BYOB this month… it’s a legitimate restaurant, and thus the mood lighting wasn’t quite conducive to picture taking, but here’s what we brought (you can click for a larger version):

Febrewary Beer Club

The theme this month was beers with a picture of an animal on the label, though there were a couple of non-qualifying beers. Conditions weren’t ideal, so no grades here, but I’ve included some thoughts on each beer:

  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière – My contribution to the theme went over pretty well, though it would probably make a better summer beer than a winter one. Still, it was quite refreshing, light colored ale with a little citrus. Again, would make a great summer beer.
  • Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend – Technically, it’s “beer and wine” club, but I don’t really have a clue when it comes to wine. Still, this one was pretty good. Sweeter and less dry than I’m used to from a red wine, but whatever… Also, hard to see in the image, but the Ravenswood logo is awesome.
  • Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout – I’d call this one an above average stout, a little more on the oatmeal side of things, and a good counterpoint to the other stouts people brought. I didn’t have enough to make a good judgement though, so it’s something I want to revisit at some point…
  • Terrapin Hop Karma IPA – The first in a hoppy trio of beers from Terrapin, this one was interesting, but ultimately didn’t blow me away. Again, didn’t have a lot of this, so I should probably reserve judgement. Cool label though.
  • Terrapin Rye Pale Ale – Seemed like a pretty standard, but well executed, Americal Pale Ale. Another cool label.
  • Terrapin Hopsecutioner: Pretty standared IPA territory here, though I love the label on this one. Little guy looks like a TMNT.
  • Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot – I’m going to review this one in detail at some point in the near future, so I’ll leave it at that. I’ll just say that it seems like a pretty good European style barleywine.
  • Founders Breakfast Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – I’ve already written about these before. Coffee drinkers seemed to like the Founders one better than me, though I don’t think anyone thought it was as good as BA says…
  • River Horse Tripel Horse – I was looking forward to this, as River Horse is one of the few semi-local breweries I’m not that familiar with, and the Tripel is one of my favorite styles. However, I found it quite disappointing. I didn’t have a lot of it, but it didn’t seem much like a Tripel at all, and it had this strange kick to it that I’m having trouble remembering.
  • Wintertraum Christkindles Gluhwein – Another wine. Sorta. Not sure how this is classified, but it was super-sweet tasting reddish wine. Not bad for what it is, I guess, but not really my thing either.

Another successful beer club! Like I said, not exactly ideal conditions for formal reviews, but a great time. The restaurant we went to was pretty good too. Not the best sushi in the area, but a welcome addition that didn’t break that bank. As usual, I’m looking forward to next month!