Friday Quick Reviews: New Years Eve Beer Tasting

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Flying Dog Coffee Stout Batch #2 (2010 vintage)

Poured dark brown to black with some red along its edges and a khaki head that quickly dissipated and left  some alcohol legs. The aroma initially was as I expected it to be after two years of age i.e. it had some roasted malts and coffee, but I could tell that the beer was a big oxidized. Those flavors notes followed into the aroma, but the oxidative flavors faded significantly as the beer warmed. At just above room temperature a great tasting blend of milk chocolate, roasted malt, and coffee surfaced that kept me interested in this 2 year old coffee stout. The age benefited this beer in that there wasn’t any astringency from the coffee or roasted malts, which aided drinkability. In the end I’m happy I opened this beer when I did; any longer and I think it would have tasted way too oxidized. Rating: 8/10

Duclaw Retribution Barrel 17/20 bottled 9/19/11, barrel aged for 6 months

As with most imperial stouts this beer was opaque black with a khaki to light brown ring of head around its edges that left lacing and legs galore as I savored it. Its aroma was quite inviting with notes of sweet bourbon, dark chocolate, espresso coffee, and hints of dark fruit and oak. In the taste the bourbon flavor hit the palate upfront and a blend of oak and semi-sweet dark chocolate followed at midpalate leading to notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, and oak in the finish. Between sips a good amount of bourbon flavor and milk chocolate lingered and made me look forward to the next sip. The oak flavor had some aged character to it (hard to explain) that at times affected my enjoyment of the beer, but not as much as in other beers like aged KBS (which in my opinion is best fresh). The chocolate flavors came out more in the finish as the beer warmed and took its flavor profile to another level. On a cold winter night Retributions’s full mouthfeel and touch touch of alcohol heat in the finish warmed me up and were both at a level that didn’t hamper drinkability. A year was definitely enough time for this beer to age. Rating: 8.5/10

Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2011

In true Belgian Strong Dark Ale fashion this beer poured dark ruby red to almost brown in color with an off white head that left great lacing and alcohol legs. It’s aroma was “very fruity” and not the dark fruitiness that one typically gets in beers of this style. The taste was similar to the aroma in that the fruit (berries and cherry) hit my palate upfront. In the finish I was able to pick up notes of clove, toffee and caramel, but they were quite faint. Its medium smooth mouthfeel aided the drinkability of my skeptical sips of this beer (it was my 1300th beer and I was expecting more). Though I didn’t try this beer fresh I don’t think it aged well. None of the typical Belgian Strong Dark Ale flavors were truly present and I didn’t finish the few ounces that I poured myself from the 750ml bottle. Rating: 5.5/10

Mikkeller Barrel Aged Black Hole (Bourbon) 2011

True to its name this beer poured opaque black with a light tan head, and some alcohol legs and lacing. Despite its opacity there was some visible carbonation when I tilted my glass. Aroma-wise I picked up on the flavors of the added coffee, honey, vanilla, and bourbon barrel aging. The coffee notes were like no other coffee I’ve tried in a stout. The taste was similar to the aroma with a bit more barrel character. Again the interesting coffee flavor was dominant, but left room for a touch of chocolate in the finish. Luckily the beer’s medium mouthfeel and limited alcohol in the taste and finish allowed me to savor and interpret the flavors (especially the atypical coffee flavor) that were hitting my palate. In the end I can’t see myself going to back to this beer as a go to imperial coffee stout. Maybe one of the other Mikkeller Black Hole variations will excite my palate a bit more. Rating: 6.5/10

Hair of the Dog Adam 2010 (Batch 77)

This “Old World Ale” poured almost opaque dark brown with a ring of off white head that left lots of alcohol legs and some dots of lacing. My experience of the unusual flavor profile of this beer began in the aroma where I picked up big notes of smoked malt, leather, caramel, and earthy hops. While I do liked smoked beers I was a bit perplexed by the aroma and therefore curious how it would translate onto my palate in the taste. Moving onto my first sip I tried to be as objective as possible in order to give this unique beer a fair chance. Similar to its aroma I picked up on the smokey and earthy flavors along with some caramel nuttiness at mid-palate and woodiness in the finish. The two years of age definitely smoothed this beers 10% abv., but 2 years may have been to much for my palate to appreciate the resulting flavors. When I first tried this beer years ago I only got a 2oz pour (at a tasting) and didn’t remember my thoughts on it when I opened this aged bottle. So next time I buy this beer I’ll drink it much sooner. Rating: 6.5/10

Dogfish Head Olde School 2010

As my final beer of the night / this tasting I chose a big one i.e. Dogfish Head’s monster english barleywine. It poured a nice slightly cloudy copper color with some lacing and lots of alcohol legs. As with World Wide Stout the aroma and taste both had big fusel alcohol notes akin to nail polish remover. When those notes decreased a bit I was able to pick up some dark fruits such as cherries and plums, peach, apricot, some caramel and toffee sweetness. So while I did enjoy the presence of those flavors the fusel notes prevented me from finishing my 4oz pours (split the bottle 3 ways). I remember trying a 2009 vintage when it was 2 years old and it was amazing. So I guess 2010 wasn’t a good year for Olde School Barleywine. However, I should take this opportunity to say that Dogfish Head should learn from other breweries such as Avery Brewing Co. about what it takes to brew a successful huge beer (higher than 11% abv). Spending the money on beers this big that are hit and miss is a waste if you can’t prevent the huge fusel alcohol notes. Rating: 4/10

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About The Brewed Palate - Barry

NJ (formerly NYC) based home brewer and craft beer enthusiast sharing his brewing and imbibing adventures on thebrewedpalate.com. "Spreading the messages of craft beer one palate at a time."
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