Dark Lord 2016

Image courtesy of beerunderthelabel.com

Image courtesy of beerunderthelabel.com

I’m special to someone.  He shared his bourbon-barrel aged variant of 2016 Dark Lord Russian-style Imperial Stout with me.  We are now truly brothers.  Dark Lord (Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, IN) is black motor oil that’s got a few thousand miles too many on it, with a nice bouquet of licorice, smoke and peppery Brazilian hard woods with a boozy sweetness throughout.  The texture is super-smooth and the body full and inviting.  Dark Lord is a real gut warmer at 15% ABV.  It’s a sipper, and I think a 22 oz. bomber is good split between four people.  Drink it at basement temperature so that you don’t miss any of the subtle scents and flavors.  When you are finished, save the glass and take an occasional whiff.  It’s still good.  Excellent stuff, very rare, and chances are you’ll never get a chance to try it.

As I said, I’m special, and so is Dark Lord.

95/100 Imperial Stout

Deth’s Tar

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing Company

Deth’s Tar, a play on Revolution Brewing Company Managing Partner Josh Deth’s name and tribute to Star Wars, is one of the best Russian Imperial Stout’s you’ll ever have.  This bourbon barrel aged beauty is as opaque as 8,000 mile old 10W30 drained from an old Chevy six-banger.  This stuff is thick and black.  The minimal beige has a bit of a red hue to it, and the bouquet is sweet and rich, boozy and chocolatey.  Maybe a hint of dark cherry?  There’s a touch of tartness on the tongue, but maybe that’s more of an alcohol bite.  Deth’s Tar is not as creamy as Very Mad Cow, (the bast tasting beer I’ve ever had) but it’s close.  There’s a touch of coffee bitterness in the finish, and the thick, smooth texture is soothing to the tongue.  Don’t make the mistake of drinking it too cold, you’ll miss some subtleties in the overall taste profile.  Another amazing beer from Revolution’s Deep Wood Series, Deth’s Tar is one you don’t want to miss.  It’s sold in 22 oz. bombers and it’s not always easy to find, and not cheap at $16.99 a bottle, but there’s no doubt it’s worth the price.

98/100 Russian Imperial Stout

Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter

Image courtesy of Pipeworks Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Pipeworks Brewing Company

Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter…the name alone got me on board.  Pipeworks Brewing Company, Chicago, IL get a big YES for this monstrous brew.  At 11% ABV Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter is not for the timid, and I’m far from timid when it comes to beer, or self-aggrandizement.  This deep brown porter doesn’t have much head retention, but a ring of foam will accompany you to the end of the ride.  Whiffs of dark chocolate, coffee, tart cherry and mild smoke prevail.  Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter is not as smokey as a Schlenkerla rauchbier, but wood smoke is a big part of the flavor profile.  Still, I’d say it’s really about sweet coffee and tart cherry here.  Bigger Smokey is not really bitter despite the roasted aspects of the malts, at least not very and not for long.  There’s a good shot of alcohol in the sinuses when you take a whiff of this one, and the complexity of flavors almost makes you think it might have been booze barrel aged.  I’ll attribute some of that to the beechwood and cherrywood smoked malts in the recipe.  This is a well done, well-crafted American Porter and worthy of a high score.

90/100 porter

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder courtesy of Paul and Vicki Green.

Pliny the Elder courtesy of Paul and Vicki Green.

When the only complaints you have about a beer are that it’s difficult to find and the label is impossible to save you just might have a pretty special beer.  The hype about Pliny the Elder amongst beer afficianados had me skeptical until I had the chance to try it for myself.  Yeah, it’s good.  First, if you are not a fan of IPAs, you wont appreciate Pliny the Elder and its nuance-infused taste profile.  Second, it’s a joy to behold when served in an appropriate vessel (see photo).  I told you so.

Pliny the Elder, by Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, CA, is medium gold with a luxuriant and long-lasting head and enough carbonation to delight the eye.  Upon the initial pour you’ll get a mild dose of piney hops, followed by some floral notes and a deep-seated malt sweetness.  This is not a hop bomb like some IPAs (Pliny is in fact a Double IPA), but the hops are indeed assertive.  There is no oily, resiny quality in Pliny, which can overwhelm the taste buds when drinking some IPAs and Double IPAs.  The lightness of body really works well, being an appropriate vehicle for promoting the grapefruit rind/piney/floral textures that begin to come out as the beer warms.  Yes, it continues to get better from start to finish.  The dry and bitter finish tends to last a while, but the crystal malt (I’m guessing) adds a sweetness in the exhale that balances everything pretty well.

This beer is fresh, and you can tell.  The label announces the benefits of drinking Pliny young and implores the drinker not to cellar it.  In fact, my Pliny was a mere 2 weeks old when I consumed it, having been bottled on 10/28/14 (bottling date is on the label), and the fresh, crisp nature of Pliny were apparent.  Pliny the Elder is refreshing, and the lower the level in your glass, the more you want to refill, but you probably can’t, because it’s so dang rare.

If Pliny the Elder was a girl, I’d write a song about it.  It’s that hot.

96/100 DIPA

Wham.

Oktoberfest Lager

Image courtesy of Lakefront Brewery, Inc.

Image courtesy of Lakefront Brewery, Inc.

It’s that time of year again:  There’s a crispness in the air and it’s reflected in the seasonal beer.  Oktoberfest Lager from Lakefront Brewery, Inc., Milwaukee, WI, is one of those crisp fall beers, and it’s well worth seeking this one out.  Oktoberfest Lager pours deep orange with a lively, bubbly head and bountiful carbonation.  Not much lacing and below-average head retention are not a concern when you taste this excellent beer.  The malty, roasted caramel bouquet has a slightly floral sweetness and a touch of rust on the back end.  Lots of grain on the tongue, moderately sweet and a tad tart and tangy in the finish.  Oktoberfest Lager is delicious.  It’s full-flavored without being heavy-bodied, and an overall well-balanced and well-crafted beer, and at 5.8% ABV, an excellent Oktoberfest beer that may having you want a second!

92/100 Oktoberfest/Marzen Beer

Obsidian Stout

Image courtesy of Deschutes Brewing Co.

Image courtesy of Deschutes Brewing Co.

Sorry to ruin the surprise, but Obsidian Stout from Deschutes Brewing Company may be the best American Dry Stout I’ve had.  This black-as-tar stout sports a thick head that looks like chocolate mousse, being rich, creamy and brown and producing scads of lace that resembles a fieldstone stone fireplace.  Seriously.  There is a sharpness to Obsidian Stout’s bouquet that compliments the smokiness deeper down in the nose.  A little coffee too.  Obsidian Stout has a smooth, rich, velvety body and a very complex flavor profile.  I find bittersweet chocolate, heavy cream and coffee notes, and a little hop bitterness to balance the mild sweetness.  Obsidian stout ends with a touch of bitterness, but not with a long-lasting, drying sensation.  This is an EXCELLENT stout!

95/100

Straight Jacket Barley Wine Ale

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing.

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing.

Oh my goodness people, Revolution Brewing of Chicago has done it again!  Straight Jacket Barley Wine Ale, an offering from the Deep Wood Series of bourbon barrel-aged beers, is absolutely killer!  Straight Jacket starts with a prominent bourbon whiff as the bottle opens and then upon the pour the deep orange-brown ale presents itself in all its glory.  Single layer head, slight haze and a bouquet that is so interesting and attractive:  sweetness, bourbon, coconut, vanilla and enough alcohol (13% ABV!) at the end to get you prepared.  Straight Jacket is super sweet, super bourbony, tangy and sharp at first, smooth in the middle and almost astringent in the finish.  There’s even a touch of vanilla extract in the exhale.  Straight Jacket is almost like whisky in many ways, but much more drinkable.  Go ahead, warm your belly, you’ll be glad you did!  I’d pair this with some sharp blue cheese and crusty bread.  Good stuff, but not readily available unless you visit the brewpub or tap room, but you should visit anyway because Revolution is GREAT!

Revolution Brewing, 2323 North Milwaukee Avenue  Chicago, IL 60647

90/100 Barley Wine