As I mentioned in my last post, some nerds and I headed to Vegas last weekend. We didn’t quite make it to all the good beer spots in Sin City, but we gave it a good run.
I didn’t take full tasting notes on any of the beers I drank, since it was Vegas and I didn’t want to be my usual antisocial beer-nerd self. Regardless, here’s how it went down…
On Saturday night, we had dinner and beers at Triple 7, a restaurant/microbrewery at Main Street Station downtown. I went straight for the current Brewmaster’s Reserve beer, called Problem Child Imperial Porter. Here’s the brewery’s own description:
“[A}n extra strong version of our Black Chip Porter brewed with Molasses and lots of chocolate malt. It is deceptively smooth for as strong as it is in alcohol. It definitely qualifies as a Winter Warmer! 9.5% ABV.”
I liked it. The alcohol is well-hidden, and it’s tasty and just complex enough, with a good body for a porter (even an imperial one). And at less than $3 for the snifter, it was quite a steal.
On Sunday, we knocked out the obligatory Strip walk, heading south from the Bally’s/Planet Hollywood area. Well, we started with a quick detour, grabbing 99-cent drinks at the bar at Bill’s Gambling Hall & Saloon (I went with a Newcastle). We eventually crossed the Strip between the MGM and New York New York, and the latter houses Pour 24, a small bar in the middle of a tourist-trap mini-mall. Their selection is pretty solid, and I went with an old favorite, Rogue Shakespeare Stout.
I’d never had it on draft before, so I couldn’t pass it up. It was delicious, as that beer always is. A couple friends went with Stone Ruination, and afterwards they admitted that it lived up to its name — drink one, and you’ll taste hops for hours.
From NYNY, we kept going south. We survived the maze otherwise known as the Excalibur, hustled through the Luxor and reached our last beer-related stop (and the one I was looking forward to the most): Burger Bar. Much to our disappointment, the kitchen was closed due to “technical difficulties” — but the bar was still open, so we ignored our hunger pangs and dove into the elite beer list. Off the top of my head, my buddies drank Troubadour Obscura Mild Stout, Baltika #6 Porter, Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada Life & Limb, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA and a few others. Not a bad beer in the bunch.
As for me, I spent a solid 20 minutes analyzing the menu and looking up reviews on my phone, before settling on a bomber of Deschutes The Abyss 2009, an imperial stout that gets ridiculously good reviews (A+ at Beer Advocate).
It lived up to the hype. I split the $30 bottle with a friend, and I didn’t take tasting notes, but I know I liked it a lot. I would love to get my hands on a couple of bottles to cellar, or, better yet, an older vintage. The brewery claims the 2007 is the best, so if anyone’s feeling generous…
Anyway, while I was enjoying the Abyss, a friend noticed that they had a bottle of Samuel Adams Utopias, the legendary concoction that, until recently, held the title of “strongest beer in the world” (it weighs in at 27% abv). I’d never had the chance to sample it, and even at $30 for 2 ounces, it didn’t take much arm-twisting.
It’s unlike any beer I’ve ever tasted, and I imagine there’s nothing else like it. In fact, a few of the guys asked me how it could even be a beer when everything — appearance, smell, total lack of carbonation, mouthfeel, flavor and alcohol — is closer to a whisky or brandy. I don’t know nearly enough about brewing or distilling, so I didn’t have an answer. But it’s a beer, and it’s stunning.
The most remarkable part of it is how good it tastes. It actually surprises you, because when you stick your nose in the snifter, you get pummeled by a wave of intoxicating alcohol. To call it “boozy” would be an understatement, but also somewhat misleading — even then you can smell all sorts of sweet, woody malts. That’s what it tastes like, too, and it goes down unbelievably well for a 27% monster. It’s a sipper and a belly-warmer, without a doubt, but it’s still dangerously drinkable.
We could have stayed at Burger Bar all night and sampled a few more awesome beers, but by then we were starving — and the combination of empty stomachs and huge-abv beers was taking its toll. But we’ll be back, both to Vegas and to these beer joints. And maybe a few others, too.