Big Ol’ Beer Update 1

I havent posted anything about beers in weeks—but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking and acquiring them.

Here’s an overview of the brews I’ve had the pleasure (and sometimes absolute displeasure) of sipping on. Of course, I remember generally if I liked these or not, but after all these weeks, a lot of the tasting notes may be very vague. Sorry.

First out of the gate is Peninsula Porter from Shipwrecked Brew Pub out of Door County, Wisconsin ($10.99—I think—for a 6 pack), a porter.

This is a fine porter if you like porters, but I really don’t enjoy them too much. I got it ’cause it sounded interesting. I drank exactly one half of one bottle, gave two more away, and the remaining three have sat in the same place for the past four weeks. Those three bottles will be handed off to someone who likes a decent, but not particularly special, porter.

Peninsula Porter doesn’t list its ABV, but I’d guess it’s about 5%, and is not intended to be aged.

Backwoods Bastard from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan ($7 for a 6oz. draft) is a barrel-aged scotch ale, and is BY FAR my most favorite beer ever. .

This really takes the cake for me. People like to rant and rave about Founders’ KBS, but this one is my huckleberry. Beer Advocate gave it a 93, but I’d easily say 99. It tastes almost like an imperial stout, with lots of barrel flavor—vanilla, oak, chocolate and coffee.

Jerry’s Sandwich Shop did a barrel-aged beer night a couple weeks ago and had this on tap. It’s an October-only release, and super limited, so seeing it making an appearance begged a trip. They told me they had gotten in back in October, but were sitting on it for this event after they could build up a nice offering of barrel-aged beers. I ended up going back three nights in a row to get my fill of this stuff.

If you ever see it, get it. You will not be disappointed. And if you are, I will gladly take it off your hands.

Backwoods Bastard is 10.2% ABV and can be aged up to 5 years.

Founders KBS (left) and Founders Backwoods Bastard; side-by-side tasting.

Jerry’s also had Founders KBS on tap, so we did a side-by-side just to see how well it stacked up. It didn’t. Again, KBS is a damn fine beer, but in the face of Backwoods, it falls short. Read my original review of KBS here.

[Forgot to take a picture of Deliverance]

While at Jerry’s I also had a Deliverance by The Lost Abbey in San Marcos, California ($8 for a 6 oz. draft), a blended strong ale.

This beer is super interesting—it’s actually a blend of two of their other beers. The first is the bourbon barrel-aged Serpent’s Stout, and the other is their brandy barrel-aged The Angel’s Share. What’s left is an amazingly complex and delicious beer worthy of the $17.99 they charge for a single 12 oz bottle (if you can find it). Chocolate, caramel, coffee with bourbon and brandy on the nose. All of that and more on the tongue—fig, rum, bitter chocolate.

Beer advocate gave this a well-deserved 94. That’s about where I’d put it (okay, maybe a 96 for me…)I really, really enjoyed this beer and have continued to seek it out since I had the pleasure of tasting it.

Deliverance is 12.5% ABV and can age for several years.

B.D.S. from O’Fallon Brewery in O’Fallon, Missouri (too much for a 22oz. bomber), is a Belgian-style Strong Dark Ale.

I don’t have much to say about this one other than I thought it sucked. I’m not a huge belgian fan, but a strong dark ale sounded worth a try. It was not. I poured out the whole bottle. For what it is, it must be good because Beer Advocate rated it fairly well. But I was not a fan.

BDS is 10% ABV and is best poured down a toilet.

Ditto with El Mole Ocho from New Holland Brewing of Holland, Michigan ($8.99 for a 22 oz. bomber), a Mexican-inspired spiced ale.

Hated this beer. It had so much potential, and I so hoped it would have been any bit as tasty and interesting as New Belgium’s Cocoa Mole. But this was just a weird mix of wet cardboard and peppers. Again, after about two sips I dumped the bottle. it seems Beer Advocate didn’t think much of it either…

El Mole Ocho is 8% ABV and should be banished from the planet.

Next up, XS from Rogue Brewing of Portland, Oregon ($4.99 for a 7oz bottle), an Imperial IPA.

This beer wasn’t good. Plain and simple. I didn’t enjoy it. I wish I could tell you more, but I don’t remember the flavor notes. I just remember I was unimpressed. Beer Advocate liked it. I dumped it out.

Rogue XS is 9.5% ABV and is intended to be drank now.

This next one was a TOTAL score—Old Rasputin Anniversary XIV from North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg, California ($21.99 for a 16.9 oz bottle), a barrel-aged imperial stout.

As a one-time brew, this beer is pretty hard to come by; and it was literally just sitting on the shelf of this beer place I only recently discovered. I pretty much lunged at it.

Though I haven’t had the barrel-aged version, I have had Old Rasputin, and it’s a solid Imperial Stout. Beer Advocate, which gives it a 94, describes the nose as whiskey heavy, with tar, chocolate and coffee. And the flavor as strong alcohol, caramelized sugar, chocolate and charred oak. Can’t wait for the right occasion to pop this puppy open.

Barrel-Aged Rasputin XIV is 11.5% alcohol and can be aged for years.

Expedition Stout from Bell’s in Kalamazoo (technically Galesburg), Michigan ($12.99 for a 6-pack), is an imperial stout that’s both special and not-so-special.

Let me explain.

It’s special in the fact that it tastes phenomenal (On Beer Advocate, the voting public gave it a 93. The Bros shafted it with a 65). It’s a multi-layered stout full of coffee, dark chocolate, burned malt, with hints of tobacco and tar. What makes it not-so-special is it’s not particularly hard to come by. And I say that in a good way. Usually, beers this tasty and complex both cost an arm and a leg, and are incredibly rare. But Bell’s does this beer for several months and puts out enough of it that shelves are usually stocked with it.

If you see it, grab a sixer or two. not only is it delicious, it’s made to be aged.

Bells Expedition Stout is 10.5% ABV and can be aged for a several years.

I’ve gotta say, I didn’t have much respect for Tyranena Brewing of Lake Mills, Wisconsin until this next beer—Dirty Old Man ($11.99 for a 4-pack), an imperial rye porter.

Dirty Old Man is part of Tyranena’s Brewer’s Gone Wild series—which they call “a series of big, bold, ballsy beers). I’ve had Tyranena’s Hop Whore before, and it did nothing for me. I like a lot of hops, but that one was just bitter water. So I walked into this with hesitation. I’m not particularly fond of rye ales or porters. But I do love me a barrel-aged anything. And this one was pretty tasty. Again, not completely my thing, but good enough to drink despite that fact. The barrel-ness of it helps mesh the flavors of a typical porter with a hint of rye and a touch of bright whiskey and light wood. Beer Advocate gave this beer a 92. I’d say more like 88. But still solid.

Dirty Old Man is 7.9% ABV and is intended to be drank now.

This next guy is an awesome score: The Abyss by Deschutes Brewery of Portland, Oregon (not sure of price, traded a Founders KBS for it), an imperial stout.

This beer is consistently rated one of the best in the world, and I happened upon a bottle of it by chatting with a bartender.

I again found myself at Jerry’s Sandwich Shop, a place whose sandwich list and beer list are equally legendary; this being the day after the barre-alged beer event (the keg of Backwoods Bastard didn’t go dry, so I came back). In chatting with the bartender it became evident that both he and I were beer nerds. I asked him what he had in his cellar to trade, and he asked what I was looking for. Turns out, he had a handful of these that he stumbled upon on a ski trip.

So, I have not yet cracked this guy open. But just the description on the bottle is enough to make me wish I had a dozen bottles of this. “Malt beverage brewed with black strap molasses, licorice, with cherry bark and vanilla added, with 6% aged in oak bourbon barrels, 11% aged in oak barrels, and 11% aged in oak wine barrels.”

If that doesn’t do it for you, this Beer Advocate 100/93 probably won’t either.

The Abyss is 11% ABV and is intended to be aged for several years (as evidenced by the “best after” date stamped on the back).

As an extra gift in the trade, I got a Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter from Arcadia Brewing Company of Battle Creek, Michigan (not sure on price, traded a Hopslam for it), a porter.

First off, this is not to be confused with the crappy Penninsula Porter by Shipwrecked Brewing that I mentioned at the head of this page. This particular piece of artwork is a more well-crafted porter (I’m only guessing this based on the fact that Arcadia does really nice other beers) that has spent 12 months in 10-year Kentucky bourbon barrels in an abandoned mine at a constant temperature of 45 degrees.

Again, I’m not a huge fan of porters, but I figured for a Hopslam, it was worth a shot. If only because of the whole “spends a year in an abandoned mine” thing. Beer Advocate gave it a respectable 86, and thought I haven’t cracked it yet, I’m sure it’ll be at least pretty okay.

Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter is 12% ABV, and I’m not sure if it’s intended to be aged, but with an ABV that high it can probably go a couple years.

Next up is the beer that singlehandedly changed my views on barleywines: Sucaba by Firestone Walker Brewing of Paso Robles, California (not sure on price, a buddy brought it over), a barleywine.

This beer was amazing. It’s a big, barrel-aged barleywine; so it has all the familiar symptoms of a delicious beer—big, bold barrel flavors of oak, vanilla, dark chocolate. In a strange way, it’s very similar to Backwoods Bastard. I couldn’t get enough of this beer. Unfortunately, it’s a limited run and hard to find, so “getting enough” may not every happen. But if you see it, give it a chance. It’s great. Oh yeah, Beer advocate gave it a 97.

Sucaba is 12.5% ABV and created to be aged with the best of ‘em.

This list is getting long; so let’s end on a good one and I’ll start another posting: Double Cream Stout from Bell’s Brewery (info noted above) ($11.99 for a 6-pack bottles), a stout.

As is the case with pretty much any Bell’s beer (and this is why they’re one of my favorite breweries in the world), this is a super solid beer. Tasty as all get-out, and creamy like you’ve never had before—all without a bit of dairy! It’s big on cocoa flavor, mixed with the cream, and subtle nuances of vanilla and coffee. It’s much less “imperial” than an imperial stout, but so much more complex that your run-of-the-mill craft stout or milk stout. Definitely a session-able stout—and that’s rare. Again, this is seasonal, but not particularly hard to find. It’s a winter beer, and I’m still seeing it on store shelves. The beer advocate people saw fit to give it a 90/83. I’d land on that 90 pretty solidly.

Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout is 6.1% alcohol, which is good for about 6 months.

Okay, this isn’t even 1/3 of the stuff I’ve had in the past month and a half. So look forward to posting Big Ol’ Beer Update #2 just as soon as I can write it.

-J

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