From the Cellar: 2010 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

2010 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

2010 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot was one of the beers that originally showed me the interesting evolution a well-crafted beer goes through as it ages. When fresh, Bigfoot is brash and hoppy, making no excuses for its intense bitterness, citrusy hops, and big alcohol. As it ages, the hops become more integrated and nuanced while allowing the complex malt to sing. The interplay of slow micro-oxidation with the malt and alcohol begins to create wonderful fruit and sherry-like notes that turn this beer into something very different than its fresh self. Straight off the packaging line, or with a couple years age, this is a delicious beer. Drink some fresh, but stash away a few to drink slowly and see what time can do to a well-crafted beer such as this.

Availability: Winter
Bottled: 2010
Alcohol: 9.6% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

Our award-winning barleywine boasts a dense, fruity bouquet, an intense flavor palate and a deep reddish-brown color. Its big maltiness is superbly balanced by a wonderfully bittersweet hoppiness.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Big rich malt hits you first–reminiscent of thick dark caramel, molasses, biscuits, and toasted bread crust. There is a lot of fruit in here as well: prunes, light apricot, and a hint of lychee. The aroma is heavy and complex with plenty of oxidized sherry-like notes. Very little alcohol is apparent as are a hint of piney hops. 11 / 12

Appearance: Hazy somewhat muddy brown color with some rust-like hues. Upon pouring, a tightly bubbled tan head forms that persists until the end–quite impressive for a high alcohol beer. 3 / 3

Flavor: The flavor follows the aroma with superb rich malt and sherry-like flavors. There are more hops apparent in the flavor, but they are a shadow of their former self with some pine-needle like and slightly citrusy flavors. The hops are very apparent in the firm bitterness that is present. 17 / 20

Mouth Feel: This beer has a big sticky mouth feel that finishes just on the sweet-side of dry due to the big bitterness still present in the beer. 4 / 5

Overall Impression: This beer manages to be complex in different ways at both a young and well-aged stage in its life. At either age, it is not a subtle beer. The flavors are intense, the alcohol is big, and the overall impression makes you want to sit back and take your time sipping and dissecting the layers of flavor present in the beer. This is truly the best example of an American Barley Wine that I can think of. 10 / 10

Score: 45 / 50 (Outstanding)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 19c. American Barley Wine.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale Review

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin

October is finally here. Although pumpkin beers have been on the shelves for months, they never seem that appealing to me until the days start getting shorter and a chill grasps the morning air. Living in Seattle ruined pumpkin beers for me. Admittedly, I need to be in the right mood to imbibe pumpkin beers and when I do, I tend to gravitate toward the hallmark for the style, Elysian’s Great Pumpkin. When I drink a pumpkin beer, I want it to be rich– like the pumpkin pie so many are inspired by. That being said, I don’t like overly sweet beers or ones that taste like you’re drinking some sort of spiced tea. I was pleasantly surprised by this example from Weyerbacher. While not as awesome as the Great Pumpkin, it is a worthy replacement, especially in the 12 oz. format The Great Pumpkin sorely lacks.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 9/3/12 at Whole Foods Bowery – $12.99 / 4-pack 12oz bottles
Availability: Fall
Bottled: 7/12/12
Alcohol: 8% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

Like a pyramid for a pharaoh, we set out to make a bold monument for The King of the Pumpkins! This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is the mother of all pumpkin ales. It is heartier, spicier, and more “caramelly” and “pumpkiny” than its faint brethren!

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: My first impression of this beer is a huge dose of nutmeg, bringing up fond memories of eggnog and celebrations of Christmases past. Some cinnamon and clove round out the spice perception, which is a little more in your face than most examples I enjoy. There is a sweet dark caramel malt component. The yeast shows a very faint fruity ester, which pleasantly combines with the spice. The spice aromas are bright and crisp, giving way only to a handful of sweet malt aromas. Alcohol is mildly perceptible on the nose.   10 / 12

Appearance: Rich copper bordering on brown with some nice ruby highlights. Beer is hazy with off-white head featuring tight bubbles that persist. 2 / 3

Flavor: The hints of rich malt that were apparent in the aroma sing with each mouthful. Toasty, melanoiden-rich flavors of bread crust combine with some sweet caramel and molasses flavors providing a very rich flavor. Cinnamon is much more apparent in the flavor. Like most pumpkin beers, the actual pumpkin component is very light and almost imperceptible. The beer has a nice bitterness that prevents it from being too sweet. Spices finish with a hair of astringency.  15 / 20

Mouth Feel: Medium / medium-high mouth feel. Very nice creamy carbonation helps round out some of the intense spices. A bit of hot alcohol on the finish combines with bitterness and spice astringency making the beer finish slightly thin. 3 / 5

Overall Impression: This is a very nutmeg-forward example of a pumpkin beer which helps it stand out on a shelf filled with competing pumpkin beers. Spices are a bit too prominent and out of balance. I’d like to see some of the cream and crust flavors other examples of the style have. Still very delicious and a great example. 7 / 10

Score: 37 / 50 (Very Good)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 21a. Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer.

Troegs Perpetual IPA Review

Troegs Perpetual IPA

Perpetual IPA on a Sunny Brooklyn Afternoon

East coast IPAs are frequently eclipsed by their hoppier west coast cousins. This was especially true a couple of years ago, before wildly popular beers like Heady Topper and various offerings from Hill Farmstead stormed the national beer stage. Of course, like all generalizations, there are certainly exceptions. More and more east coast breweries are shifting production towards the market’s demand for over-the-top hop aroma and flavor and producing beers like Perpetual IPA; a beer that makes the west coaster in me feel right at home.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 9/10/12 at a neighborhood bodega – $14.99 / 12oz. 6 pack
Availability: Year-round (according to Troegs’ website)
Bottle Date: 7/2012
Alcohol: 7.5% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

In our constant evolution as a brewery, we’ve developed an undying drive to meld the organic and the mechanical. Perpetual IPA utilizes our hopback and dry-hopping to engineer a bold Imperial Pale Ale. It features Bravo, Chinook and Mt. Hood hops in the boil, Mt. Hood and Nugget hops in the hopback, and is further dry-hopped with Citra and Cascade hops.

Tasting Notes:

Troegs Perpetual IPA

Graphically Pleasing Label

Aroma: A thick luscious hop aroma fills your nose–reminiscent of tangerine, mango, and a touch of pineapple to go along with a small amount of classic grapefruit. Almost no malt aroma makes it through the hops, but what is evident has a very lightly toasted French bread quality. After further contemplation, some very light spicy hop notes are evident as well as a hint of pine forest. The hop aroma is the star here with many layers and a deep complexity. 12 / 12

Appearance: Near-crystal clarity with a hue that is only a couple shades deeper than a classic pilsner. Billowy off-white head forms sticky foam that resists until the last drop. 3 / 3

Flavor: Like the aroma, the flavor is dominated by hops. Grapefruit becomes more evident in the flavor, perhaps due to the fruitiness combining with the hops bittering qualities. There is a very light toasty malt component that needs to be searched for. Only the slightest hint of alcohol comes through; an impressive feat in a beer of this size. Personally, I love the flavor of this beer, but to better fit the style, it would require a little more malt complexity. 14 / 20

Mouth Feel: This beer is very dry and drinkable. The bitterness is firm, but on the low end of the style when compared to other commercial examples. I actually prefer this to the bracingly sharp bitterness of many IPAs. The body is medium, medium/light with a level of carbonation that is quenching but not harsh. 4 / 5

Overall Impression: A very well-balanced beer. The massive hop aroma and flavor is varied and intense while the relatively easy bitterness keeps the beer from being harsh and enhances its ability to be consumed one after another. I love this beer and hope to find a less-expensive source of it so it can become a routine drinker. It’s interesting that the label refers to this beer as an ‘Imperial Pale Ale’ rather than ‘India Pale Ale’–perhaps this is an allusion to the lean malt character and restrained bitterness? 8 / 10

Score: 41 / 50 (Outstanding)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 14b. American IPA.

Founders Breakfast Stout Review

Founders Breakfast Stout

Breakfast in a Glass

The Pacific Northwest is home to a rich craft brewing tradition, offering a wealth of world-class beers made both locally and available through distribution channels.  While living there, I was spoiled. That being said, a beer geek cannot help but hear about beers available elsewhere and dream about the day he’ll get to try them. For myself, and I’m sure other west coasters, Founders Breakfast Stout is one of these forbidden fruits. As I drove across the country I had the chance to stop at Founders in Grand Rapids, MI and sample many of their fine beers. Alas, there was no Breakfast Stout to be had (at the time), but I knew once I hit NYC, I’d have ready access to this great brew.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 9/6/12 at Key Foods in Park Slope, Brooklyn. $12.99 / 12 oz. 4 pack
Availability: Now through February in NYC (according to Founders’ website)
Bottle Date: 8/2/12
Alcohol: 8.3% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Sticking your nose into the glass is like walking through a great coffee roasting house. Strong aromas of cold pressed coffee leap from the glass.  The coffee isn’t burnt or acrid, but rather smooth and nutty, with a light fruitiness (almost a tang), and a roast similar to a good dark chocolate. The oats come across toasted, almost like an oatmeal cookie. Cacao nibs meld nicely with the coffee, leaving an impression of chocolate covered espresso beans. Alcohol is present and becomes more so as the beer warms.   11 / 12

Appearance: Jet black with a slightly viscous pour.  The head is composed of tiny bubbles which dissipate fairly quickly into a ring that alludes to the head that was once present.   2 / 3

Flavor: Bittersweet chocolate or cocoa is rounded out by a medium level of sweetness, which keeps it from being harsh. Some malt flavors of rich brown bread crust and toffee sit in the background, reminding you that this is still very much a beer. Coffee is apparent, but not nearly as heavy as the aroma would lead you to expect and is somewhat masked by the roasty chocolate notes.  17 / 20

Mouth Feel: Medium body that is considerably less heavy than many commercial imperial stouts. Oats give an almost oily impression in the mouth. There is a very firm hop bitterness that combines with roast to clean up the finish and give the impression of dryness. Bitterness leaves you wanting a little more body or residual sweetness for balance. 3 / 5

Overall Impression: As a coffee lover, I really enjoyed this beer. The coffee and chocolate components are well-integrated and meld nicely with the malt’s light toffee and toasty flavors. The bitterness could be dialed back a touch to leave the impression of a richer beer. The alcohol is very smooth with a hint of warming that reminds you you’re drinking a big beer. 8 / 10

Score: 41 / 50 (Outstanding)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 21A Spice / Herb / Vegetable Beer (Imperial Stout with Coffee).

Victory Wild Devil Review

Victory Wild Devil

Victory Wild Devil

Having been in Brooklyn for over a month now, I find myself frequently traveling around scoping out what is available on local shelves peppered with brands not available on the West Coast. From what I can tell, bottle shops come in two flavors. The high-end boutique shops (like Bierkraft) that I’ve become accustomed to in Seattle and the more utilitarian beer distributors whose storefronts are the public face of their broader distribution business. This bottle was purchased at the latter, New Beer Distributors in Manhattan. These distributors tend to have warm, dark warehouses with massive variety and minimal service. Because of this, things sometimes get lost on the shelves or simply forgotten in the back somewhere.

Browsing through the cavernous interior at New Beer Distributors, this bottle of Victory Wild Devil caught my eye. Somehow I had remembered that this particular beer hadn’t been produced for a least a couple years. How it ended up on this shelf at the bargain price of $6 is a mystery, but with so little invested, it was worth a shot.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 8/29/12 at New Beer Distributors for $6.
Format: 750ml corked and caged bottle
Bottle Date: 4/22/2009
Alcohol: 6.7% ABV

Commercial Description from Bottle:

It’s arguable that our menacingly delicious HopDevil has always been ‘wild’. Though the India Pale Ale style that he represents was born in Great Britain, we approached the style with German malts and whole flower American hops, making a unique ale of him, indeed. But what has made him truly wild is change of yeast. Brettanomyces yeast has given many a Belgian ale its soulful character of sharp tang and deep funk. Fermented completely with brettanomyces, WildDevil features the greatest flavors of Europe and America combined. Floral, aromatic hops still leap from this amber ale, but a whole host of new flavors are intertwined with the citrus and pine flavors of these hops, making WildDevil a sensation that is wild, worldly and wonderful!

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Earthy notes of Brett are the initial impression with strong components of leather and tobacco. After the first punch of Brett additional aromas of prune and light tart cherry become evident. There also appears to be some piney hop notes which seem a little out of place.  10 / 12

Appearance: Hazy copper hues become muddied by obvious floating particles that were kicked up by a very active level of carbonation. A dramatic head forms with even the gentlest pour resulting in large bubbles that settle into a billowy latte colored head. 2 / 3

Flavor: There are some initial flavors of light caramel and light toasty crackers. There is a big bitterness bordering on astringency that beats up on the subtle malt flavors. Peppery phenolics are evident and seem a bit harsh. Very light paper notes from oxidation.  10 / 20

Mouthfeel: In-spite of a very high level of carbonation this beer manages to retain a nice medium body. The peppery phenolic notes are drying on the palate and tend to linger.  Slightly boozy finish.  3 / 5

Overall Impression: This beer is amazing on the nose with the oxidized malt aromas of prunes combining nicely with some of the more earthy Brett flavors. Unfortunately, the flavors is dominated by a harsh phenol which really make the experience less than optimal. I would have loved to taste this beer with less age as it seems like it probably was an outstanding beer earlier in its life. 6 / 10

Score: 31/50 (Very Good)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System.  This beer was reviewed as a Category 16 Belgian Specialty Ale (Belgian IPA with Brett).