high abv

American Double IPA Tasting 2011

Dave scored some fresh Pliny the Elder (!!!) from a generous friend in California so we decided to taste it with a few other beers that also fancy themselves double (imperial) American IPAs. ADIPAs are hop forward pale ales with increased alcohol and hops, usually coming in between 8% and 10% ABV. All craft beers were tasted blind in vertical, from individual virgin SOHO cups.  

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Saint Arnold Bishop’s Barrel Series 1-4.

1. An imperial stout aged on Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. Nice chocolate roasted notes and almost hidden whiskey notes. Easy drinker at 12% ABV.

2. Old ale aged on Mom’s favorite Saintsbury Chardonnay barrels with cherries. Sort of a tart, not quite sour finish on an old ale that brings less malt then you might expect. Great wine tannins. Tasty combination with the cherry, despite it barely tasting like the style.

3. Another Woodford Reserve barrel aged imperial stout. Tastes like No. 1 with lots of great barrel notes. Really good BA stout.

4. This guy is a Bourbon Barrel Weizenbock with Cocoa Nibs added. Again, Woodford Reserve barrels were used. Pours dark brown and gives up a spicyness along with tons of barrel notes. Less body than the stouts, but the 9.9% ABV feels boozier. Nice chocolate emerging as it warms.

Founders KBS on Tap Part 2

Is it an imperial stout when it’s cave aged it bourbon barrels for a year? Who cares. Founders Kentucky Bourbon Stout is perhaps the best improvement ever to strike a classic style. Attempts to ramp up ABV and flavor for Katherine the Great may or may not have originated the Imperial Stout style, but Americans, especially Goose Island, have modified this style by adding cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and especially aging them in brown liquor barrels.

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Of this style, the best I have tasted so far is Founder’s KBS. My first taste was a 2011 pour at the Brew Kettle. Served way too cold this beer quickly warned up in my heart. For those who have had the wonderful Founders Breakfast Stout, this beer is in someways comparable. With a huge bourbon and vanilla nose and opening flavor, KBS has less chocolate flavor that Breakfast Stout. It is a boozy sipper, but unlike less refined Russian Imperial Stouts, there is no suffering in the tasting.

This beer is super delicious. This beer is hard to put down. This beer will put you down. ABV = 11.3%. RateBeer.com’s rating = 100. Beer Advocate gives it an A+, rating it #8 in the world. I would love to contradict them, but this brew is a Midwestern gem. Imperial stouts should all be improved with such fastidiousness.

Brewer: Great Lakes Brewing

Beer: Rackhouse Ale

Local: On tap at Great Lakes, snifter

ABV: 9.5% 

Date: March 8th, 2011

Dave: Brown like a leather chair. At first it was unimpressive, it needed to warm up some before it started to shine. Aroma of sweet fruity malts and faintly of vanilla. On the palate it is both sweet and almost tart, berry flavors with hints of vanilla. The flavor is big big big big big like Dan Deacon, yet quite well balanced; the sweet and tart flavors are pronounced but neither is at any point cloying. Really no evidence that this is almost 10% abv, and I’m drinking it at 3:00.