Posts Tagged 'california'

BrewDog Paradox Isle of Arran, BrewDog-Stone Bashah

BrewDog Brewery is a relatively young microbrewery, founded in 2006, in Scotland. They’ve gained some worldwide notoriety with the recent release of Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a 32% abv monster widely considered the strongest beer in the world (to date, anyway). BrewDog describes it as an “uber-imperial stout”:

“This beer began life as a 10% imperial stout 18 months ago. The beer was aged for 8 months in an Isle of Arran whisky cask and 8 months in an Islay cask making it our first double cask aged beer. After an intense 16 month, the final stages took a ground breaking approach by storing the beer at -20 degrees for three weeks to get it to 32%.

For the big chill the beer was put into containers and transported to the cold store of a local ice cream factory where it endured 21 days at penguin temperatures. Alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water. As the beer got colder BrewDog Chief Engineer, Steven Sutherland decanted the beer periodically, only ice was left in the container, creating more intensity of flavours and a stronger concentration of alcohol for the next phase of freezing. The process was repeated until it reached 32%.”

Madness. I don’t think I know anyone who has tried it yet, but reviews are decidedly mixed.

Anyway, a handful of BrewDog offerings have made their way to Houston in the last few months, and we’ve sampled a couple.

BrewDog Paradox Isle of Arran

BrewDog’s Paradox series features imperial stouts aged in different whisky casks. The Isle of Arran edition is Batch 016, weighing in at 10% abv.

It pours a solid black with no head (likely due to the abv). The nose has some smokiness and a hint of sourness (the cask, perhaps?).

The taste is very bold. There is some sweetness upfront with a hint of raisins. However, this changes very quickly into smoky alcohol. The more you drink the more the alcohol taste seems to take over. While the concept sounds interesting this is not one of my favorite imperial stouts by a long stretch.

The nerds at Beer Advocate give it a B+.

BrewDog-Stone Bashah

It just makes sense that BrewDog and Stone would hook up at some point, given both breweries’ obvious penchant for big and bold beers. Bashah is classified as a Black Double Belgian IPA — in other words, this thing is unique.

It pours solid black with a small caramel head. In the nose, there is some sweetness but also a faint hop presence as well as some alcohol.

The taste has a little more going on. There is a definite hop presence for such a dark beer (but understandable for a Black Double Belgian IPA). However, it is very well balanced and definitely has some malt presence as well. Upfront there was a wee bit of funk in there, but it dies off as the hops build up in the back of the palate.

This is my favorite BrewDog beer by far.

The nerds at Beer Advocate give it a B+.

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Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head Life & Limb

When two of the heavyweights in the US craft beer scene team up. interesting things are bound to happen. A few of us nerds luckily got our hands on one such collaboration: Life & Limb, from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head.

By now you’ve probably heard about this beer, but just in case, I’ll borrow directly from the description on DFH’s Web site:

“Life & Limb is a 10% ABV strong, dark beer that defies style characteristics- brewed with pure maple syrup from the Calagione family farm in Massachusetts and estate barley grown on the Grossman “farm” at the brewery in Chico, CA. The beer is alive with yeast-a blend of both breweries’ house strains-bottle conditioned for added complexity and shelf life, and naturally carbonated with birch syrup fresh from Alaska.”

So it’s clearly a big deal — not only is this a unique recipe made with “proprietary” ingredients, but it was a one-time brew. Word is that it sold out very quickly pretty much everywhere. I missed it at the downtown Spec’s, but still managed to snag three bottles — one at the Houston Flying Saucer, and two from a Spec’s in Austin (thanks to a priceless hook-up from a couple friends).

Tempting as it has been (and will be) to open one of the two bottles, I’m going to put them away for a while. In the meantime, here’s my review from the bottle I drank at the Saucer.

Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head Life & Limb

Poured out of a 24oz bottle into a snifter. In a dark bar, it’s really dark brown, if not quite black, with the tiniest bit of dark red highlights. The first pour doesn’t yield much of a head, leaving just a bubbly ring and traces of some slick. The second pour (pictured) is much better — two fingers, thick and sticky, although it also ends up as just a ring. Lacing is non-existant on the first glass, but the second time around it leaves thick parallel lines.

The nose surprises me at first, simply because it’s so subtle. I get some sugary and syrupy sweet malt but not much else. After teasing a big head out of the second pour, the nose improves noticeably — the aforementioned sweet malt load is more defined, and there’s some dark fruit and even a touch of cocoa.

Right away, you taste the sugary and syrupy sweetness as expected. There’s plenty of alcohol flavor too, but it’s not harsh, just present. There’s maybe a touch of dark fruit (fig?) as well. I don’t get anything in the way of hops or bitterness, but I think there’s a tiny hint of spice in the back.

After the second pour, the taste opens up a bit more. I get all of the above (sugar, syrup, fruit, spice), plus some chocolate, and it all swirls together nicely. The alcohol I noticed early on has also faded somewhat, although it’s impossible to drink 24oz of this without feeling it.

The beer is decently thick, with some fine carbonation and a touch of chewiness. I’d call it a medium-to-full body, and it trends more to full as it warms.

The Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head Life & Limb is good beer. It’s not great, not yet anyway, and all indications are that it should age spectacularly. In the meantime, it’s well worth seeking out. If you can only snag one bottle, I vote that you put it away. If you get more, go ahead and crack one open soon. You’ll enjoy it.

B+ (The nerds over at Beer Advocate give it a B+)

Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2007

I’m going to cut right to the chase here — the 2007 Stone Imperial Russian Stout is delicious. Absolutely delicious. Please understand that you’re going to see that word — delicious — over and over in this post. There’s no way around it.

I’ve had my fair share of good Russian imperial stouts — Brooklyn Black Chocolate, Oskar Blues Ten FIDY, North Coast Old Rasputin, Bear Republic Big Bear Black, Great Divide Yeti and Oak-Aged Yeti, Victory Storm King… the list goes on and on. I’m pretty sure that it’s my favorite style of beer.

Stone’s is among the best. I drank two bottles of the 2008 late last year, and at less than a year old it was very good. My notes finished with this: “Somewhat in your face but still awesome.” I could tell that it would only improve with age, and online reviews confirmed as much.

Last night, the Flying Saucer tapped a keg of the 2007 Stone IRS. Jake and Asa (two of the nerds that run the place) told us that it was brewed in February 2007, meaning it was 34 months old when we drank it.

As I’ve already said, it was delicious. I’m not quite ready to call it the best Russian imperial stout I’ve had. But it’s close, really close. On to my full review…

Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2007

It’s pitch black, plain and simple. I tried to get something else to come through with some backlighting, but it didn’t happen. It’s black. The head out of the tap is one-finger thick, bubbly, creamy and latte-colored. It slowly and stickily recedes to a splotchy cap and eventually nothing at all. Despite initial signs of stickiness, there’s not much lacing.

The nose is delicious. I smell all sorts of sweet, chocolatey, luscious malt. There’s also dark fruit and molasses and… I could go on, but I need to stop typing and start drinking.

It’s absofreakinglutely delicious. It’s no longer raw and in your face. Jake called the younger one “rough around the edges” — this is anything but. There’s bittersweet chocolate and a bit of coffee and just a touch of fruit, and it’s all melted together in one deliciously malty package.

I’m not really getting any hops. There’s a very small hint of bitterness in the finish, but I won’t call it outright hoppiness. There’s no doubt that the hops faded over time, but there is definitely something balancing the beer out — despite the huge and sweet malt load, it’s never overwhelming or one-sided.

There isn’t a hint of alcohol in the nose or taste, but it only takes a couple of sips for the alcohol to warm the belly. For a beer with an abv right around 10%, it’s remarkably subtle.

The mouthfeel is smooth and somewhat chewy and just a bit fizzy. It’s not extremely thick, but still quite nice. It’s a fitting part of the package.

The Stone 2007 Imperial Russian Stout is top notch, top drawer, elite, as good as it gets — you get the point. I’m so glad I’m aging a handful of 2008 bottles, but it’s going to be really hard to fight the temptation to crack one open soon.

A+ (The nerds over at BeerAdvocate give it an A)

Strong night at the Saucer

Those of you following our Twitter feed, @beernerds, already saw what went down — really good stuff at the Flying Saucer tonight. They hosted their annual Beer Knurd party, and tapped a handful of rare, strong and quality beers — Avery Czar, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, North Coast Old Stock 2008… and, of course the guest of honor, Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 9.

We’ll hopefully post full reviews for these beers soon. In the meantime, just know that it was a great night and a great lineup. Those of you following us on Twitter (@beernerds) already knew that…


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