Black Ops

Image courtesy of brooklyn brewery.com

Deep brown to black with a nice even head.  Slow-sliding lace.  Whiffs of cherry pipe tobacco, vanilla, heavy cream and an almost coconut curry note.  Black Ops from Brooklyn Brewery sounds like a checklist of things that I would like to put in my mouth.  Black Ops is a really complex and well-constructed bourbon barrel-aged stout, and an 11.5% ABV one at that.  It has a super smooth body and is dangerously drinkable, and is nowhere near as heavy as it looks.  The taste is very much like the bouquet, with an emphasis on the vanilla.  Creamy, luscious, milk chocolatey, unbelievable!  Almost as good as Very Mad Cow.

98/100 bourbon barrel-aged stout

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Spotted Cow Grand Cru

Image courtesy of isthmus.com

I love New Glarus Brewing Company.  They consistently produce excellent beers and they are not trying to take over the world.  In fact, you need to travel to Wisconsin if you want to buy some.  The particular beer I am loving at the moment is Spotted Cow Grand Cru.  Wow!  Deep gold with a luxuriant head and sticky white lacing, Spotted Cow Grand Cru is a work of art.  The clean, malty bouquet has a bit of rust when the head is fresh and full, but as it recedes you get more sweetness and a hint of coriander.  The smooth mouthfeel isn’t smooth enough to mask a slight alcohol tang, but it is creamy and sweet and satisfying.  Spotted Cow Crand Cru finishes with a touch of sweet, spicy perfume and a hint of hop oil dryness.  This is a limited release and it may or may not be made again, so if you are in Wisconsin and have the chance to buy a 4-pack of this wonderful beer, do it, and get one for me as well.  I’ll pay you back on Thursday.  I’m absolutely skint, but I’m expecting a postal order and I can pay you back as soon as it comes.

Love, Ewan

98/100

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