Summary: After a long, exhausting mission you return to the tower ready for hot shower and a drink, when Tony offers to turn your night around and finally do something about the tension that had been building between the two of you. Are you up for the challenge, and more importantly, will it end well?
Double DBA is a limited-release English Barleywine aged in spent bourbon oak barrels. Firestone have deemed this to be an “imperial special bitter,” a non-existent style. The base of beer consists of a doubled up batch of Double Barrel Ale. This was actually just recently retired to make way for a new, as yet undisclosed beer. This review will be based on a 2013 vintage.
Aromas are driven by thick malts that carry sweet impressions of caramel nougat, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Fruity notes resemble fig preserves and cherry. The barrel gives a huge presence of bourbon, vanilla, and a touch of coconut. Alcohol notes come across like amaretto and port wine. Hops add a weak imprint of earth and herb.
The palate is very much like the nose, beginning with caramel and molasses. Fruits fill in the middle-register with notes of figs, dates, and raisins. Bourbon soon becomes the focal point, exposing flavors of vanilla and coconut. English hops add a subtle earthy quality that blends very nicely with woody tannins, followed by a complementary hint of spice. Finishing flavors are reminiscent of root beer (or whiskey and coke). The malt roast develops into subtle suggestions of chocolate. Some fusel notes envelop the aftertaste, but the bourbon flavor is incredibly effective at disguising the alcohol. Mouthfeel remains smooth over a medium-full body that grows sticky just before drying slightly at the end. Carbonation is weak, which when combined with the solvent properties of the alcohol, create an almost thin viscosity. Considering the high ABV, this is dangerously drinkable.
This is a beer for malt lovers, because sweetness dominates the palate. Bourbon has loads of influence, but not enough to dominate by any means. The English hops are quite complementary to the flavor of the malts, so everything ends up tasting very agreeable and whole. Complexity is nice and subtle. Considering Firestone still have their famous bourbon-aged English Barleywine, Sucaba, I’m sure they saw the obvious overlap. July 2014 marked the final release date, so I suggest you hoard any remaining bottles you’re lucky enough to find sitting around. I highly recommend it!
Malts: Premium Two-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate
Cherry Stout is a winter seasonal Stout brewed with locally sourced Montmorency cherries. Aromas are thick with cherry juice, chocolate malt notes, and finer hints of coffee. Additional details come across like balsamic, soy sauce, and salty brine.
The front of the palate bursts into a full display of sour cherries, immediately cradled by a sweet layer of brown sugar. Milk chocolate malts take control, then develop hints of smoke. As mild bitterness settles on the back-end, final flavors resemble Ethiopian coffee, cherry cola, and chocolate covered cherries. The aftertaste leaves a bit salty, but cherry continues to resonate. Mouthfeel starts creamy over a medium-weight body that shifts toward a coarse texture as carbonation builds, then makes a clean, swift departure.
This is almost like a Sour Stout, only without the wild yeast. It’s fairly easy to drink, and the flavor sequence was interesting enough to keep my attention through several bottles. On the downside, I think the body is a little too thin. To add to that, the ingredients aren’t quite rich enough to create an efficient disguise for the meager 7% alcohol. This needs more malts, so I vote Bell’s change the recipe to a make this a Double Stout. Cherry Stout has been an interesting twist, but it doesn’t quite live up to my expectations. I don’t feel the need to revisit again, especially considering the high price and low ABV. However, I do believe it’s worth trying at least once.
Agave Maria is a limited-release Strong Ale brewed with agave nectar, then aged in Añejo and Reposado tequila barrels for a minimum of ten months. Aromas give malty suggestions of toffee, molasses, and perhaps some of the sweetness could be traced back to the agave (in order to fairly assess, I sniffed on a bottle of Agave in the Raw, but all I could smell was plastic). The barrel contributes added complexities of vanilla, smoked oak, and a surprising amount of tequila. Tangy berries and dark fruits add a tart note that smells like the musty cork from a bottle of red wine. Additional fruity esters and fusel notes round out the nose.
The palate begins in moderate sweetness, followed immediately by a tart, fruity upswing. Authentic flavors of honey accumulate. The sour element continues to advance, then reaches a climax with flavors of raspberry and lime. Woody tannins build up, merging with a final touch of herbal hops. A touch of spice add notes of black pepper to the rear. Fusel alcohol settles on the aftertaste as all those tequila-infused flavors reach a firm focal point. The mouthfeel carries a standard medium-body over low carbonation, closing a little sticky, then dries out over lingering oils. Alcohol is skillfully concealed, departing only as footprints of warmth.
Overall, those fruity flavors really have a firm upper hand on the palate. This is my first tequila-aged beer, and it has been quite memorable. Everything comes together in the end, and the tequila isn’t too intrusive or confrontational. I’m not usually very impressed by Lost Abbey, but Agave Maria has provided me a unique experience. Despite its distinct flavor, and high ABV, I find it surprisingly drinkable! The $17 price tag is pretty steep for such a small bottle, but all the flavor and alcohol makes it a little more worthwhile. Each Lost Abbey limited-release is treated the same. I recommend it if you’re a curious craft drinker.
Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout is an Imperial Stout brewed with Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso beans, then aged in bourbon barrels. This particular bottle dates back to 2010, and the label suggests no greater than five years in the cellar, so I assume the coffee character will have greatly diminished. This is released in small amounts, so finding a bottle might be difficult.
Aromas are packed with bourbon, but carry a surprising amount of fruity notes resembling cherries and dates. Finer hints of licorice. Thick malt notes stand out like dark cocoa and baker’s chocolate over an edge of coffee. Malts give heavy sweet notes like molasses, while the bourbon adds a warm vanilla character with a fine hint of oak. Alcohol adds some prominent boozy notes.
The palate begins with abundant sweetness flavored like brown sugar and maple syrup. Coffee surfaces in a light roast as malts dig deeper toward a body of chocolate with flavors of malted milk balls and fudge. Fruity tones arise in a black cherry likeness with a touch of licorice. The malt continues to expand, developing a slightly deeper roast as 60 IBU’s of bitterness weigh things down. Loads of bourbon notes envelop the back-end with flavors of vanilla, leading up to a sour, lactic acidity while alcohol rises to the surface in a gentle climax of spice. Sweetness then pushes past the aftertaste in a semi-sticky display of syrupy molasses. Finishing notes reveal deeper characteristics of oak with suggestions of tobacco. The mouthfeel provides a wet, slick, well-rounded body over dull carbonation. It’s got a smooth texture and viscosity like chocolate milk, which allows for some surprisingly drinkability, despite the high ABV. Alcohol departs with considerable chest warmth, requiring slow sipping.
This reminds me of coffee with vanilla ice cream and syrup. It’s a sweet, malt-forward double stout. I’m getting a huge bourbon presence, much more than coffee. As for the negative side, I would prefer a bit more roast and bitterness to help balance the sweetness, but this is likely a factor related to the age of my bottle. I’ve enjoyed it, but perhaps my expectations were a bit too high. Overall, it’s more of a sweet dessert beer best suited for two. I recommend it to those of you with a palate deep enough to appreciate the flavorful impact of the bourbon barrel on a double stout. Cheers to you, Vic!
Known Hops: Willamette
Known Malts: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Roast Barley, Debittered Black
Belching Beaver Brewery Horchata Imperial Stout. Delicious. Hints of chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon. Nice milky mouthfeel. Sweetness masks the the alcohol, but believe me, it packs a punch. Definitely one of my favorite imperial stouts, almost as good as Ballast Point's Victory at Sea Imperial Porter.
Simtra is an Imperial IPA with yet another use of the style-irreverent term, “triple IPA” on the label. However, in its defense, this helps elude to the strongest hop load possible, along with high ABV. Aromas are super hoppy, dank and sticky with floral, herb-driven notes that nearly overshadow citrus, tropical, and stone fruits. The sugar content is obviously quite high, because a heavy sweet note stands out like honey.
The palate is introduced by dense, sweet malts in a caramel, honey-like flavor over a cereal grainy character that continues to develop. Next, hops jump in with a citrus highlight like ruby red grapefruit, just as a thick bitterness settles on the low-register with herb-based oils. The remainder of the palate is filled with a flavorful body of juicy, tropical fruit flavors like pineapple and papaya. Even deeper citrus flavors emerge, this time more like orange rind. A spicy bite soon settles on the back-end, almost reminiscent of rye. The finish is herbaceous like cannabis with lime verbena or lemon balm, closing with a mouth full of hop oils and fusel notes. The mouthfeel is creamy, somewhat sticky, fairly dry, then grows quite hot as the hefty alcohol brings about marked chest warmth.
Overall, I feel this is a sweet version of the style that focuses on the tropical spectrum with delicious results. Going so high on the alcohol might not have been the best decision, but it is covered up for the most part. Drinkability is obviously very poor, so this is one to sip on slowly, or best shared with a friend (it took a while to finish this bomber off alone). The exchange of malts and hops is like tasting a conversation take place in your mouth, as they swap intensity, sharing an impressive sense of balance. A beer this big should be your last drink, because it’ll totally wreck the palate for future beer (or even food). Simtra requires a deep, bitter palate, not to mention alcohol tolerance. I think it’s a bit much, yet this is perhaps the epitome of a West Coast double. I recommend it to all you masochistic hop heads.
Something Hoppy This Way Comes is an Imperial IPA with rotational release. It features an interesting addition of white wheat, as well as two other hop varieties I don’t recall ever seeing before. Pipeworks is a fairly new Chicago brewery that began with money raised on Kickstarter. Aromas are fruity like peach, ripe grapefruit, and lemon. Grassy hops are detailed by pine needles. Malts appear as lightly caramelized sweet notes.
The palate makes a bittersweet introduction saturated by herbal hops, including flavors of fresh-cut grass and green onion. As smooth wheat accumulates, sweetness rises slightly above the bitterness for a brief moment. Citric sour notes rise up on the back in a lemon tart flavor combined with grapefruit zest. Next comes a quick splash of fruity flavors related to pineapple and plantain. Perpetual hop oils continue to cling in a bitterness flavored like grapefruit peel and mint. The mouthfeel is smooth over dull carbonation, departing clean, skipping the palate wreck effect.
Overall, I think this is a tasty double with steady sweet support, which may actually come across a touch too sweet according to some. The thing is, bitterness is fairly low, so there’s not as much counterbalance (although this does open up a steady stream of pleasant hop flavor). Drinkability is impressive, especially considering the high ABV. That lower than average bitterness also opens up room for more alcohol exposure, because it comes across a little boozy, and 10% isn’t easy to hide. It’s good, but not great. I still recommend it.