Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beer Club, Volume Four - Winter Beers

Welcome to yet another episode of Beer Club where the style picks itself. With all the winter beers and Christmas beers coming out I figured it was obvious choice if we were ever going to do them.

November/December was an insanely busy time for me so I put pretty much the entire lineup in Alvey's hands and this is what he laid out for me:

Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Well, OK, not this one. I bought a Sam Adams variety pack for the Toyfest party and had some of these left over and since it's very available (even on tap in the Twin Cities) I thought it was a good starting point. This one was OK, but pretty much just OK. As I stated in my review, it was better than a fizzy yellow beer but for the most part it was a pretty small beer for what I expected. I'd definitely drink it if I saw it on tap and the rest of the options were macrobrews.

Summit Winter Ale
It took awhile to get one of my favorite local breweries in the Beer Club lineup but I finally got it done. To me this kind of tasted like a winterized version of Summit EPA. It was hoppy just like Summit EPA but some twists and turns to make it different.

Bells Christmas Ale
One of my biggest surprises of the night. This was a fruity beer, both in aroma and flavor. I couldn't really put my finger on exact flavors but it reminded me of a fruity candy wrapped up in a beer (and somehow not in a bad way). I really liked this one.

Anchor Christmas Ale
To me, this was the quintessential winter/Christmas beer in the lineup. Lots going on in the way of flavors in a aromas, plenty of good spices to make you think of this time of the year. I also love the concept of changing up both the recipe of the beer every year and the labels. I guess it could suck if you found one you really liked but maybe they could go the route of Schell's Snowstorm if that happened.

Southern Tier Krampus
This one was a style that I don't really seem to gravitate towards but considering that it was a pretty decent beer. I appreciated the hoppy fruity nature of the beer and that made it something that I'd try again if I had the opportunity.

Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf
This was hands down the star of the night for me. It was one of my first real experiences with a barley wine and apparently I could be a big fan of them. It was very boozy and slightly fruity but also had a sweetness to it that I really liked. I definitely look forward to trying more barleywines in the new year.

This month's Beer Club was a bit different for us in that we had several different styles of beer and it was tough to know what to look for. It was still a good choice because it gave us all ideas of what to drink over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

I know this is a couple days after Christmas but I hope you all had a great one (or a great whatever you celebrate) and have a fantastic New Year and a great year to come.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Memoirs of a Slacker

So I've been frustrated at my writer's block for this blog for awhile now and I realized one of my problems is that I tend to make it too big of a project. I think that I can't put something up unless it's an epic entry.

Since I've been coming up with my rough draft of 2010 goals (a.k.a. resolutions but that sounds like something made to be broken) and I've decided to keep up with this blog even if it means a quick paragraph about a beer I just drank. So bear with me as I move along this learning curve and hopefully it'll turn out to be something decent.

First piece of business, catch up with the last two Beer Club meetings.

Beer Club, Volume Three - Imperial Stouts

The first two themes of Beer Club just kind of picked themselves and the third month did the same. As you can see from the Darkness Day post (Darkness Falls Across the Land), I was able to acquire some of the fantastic Russian imperial stout both for my personal stash and for Beer Club so imperial stouts were the theme for the month.

Unlike IPA month, I relied heavily on advice from Alvey at the Four Firkins to fill out my lineup here. He had recommended most of the beers we tried, both prior to Beer Club's existence and specifically for imperial stout month of Beer Club. He has been a huge help for us every month.

On to the beers -

Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout
The first beer was one that Alvey recommended to me a long time ago and I decided to just save for Beer Club so that I wouldn't always know what's in store for the meetings. It went over very well and seemed to me to be a very good starter imperial stout for people and it's a great value as well.

New Holland Night Tripper
I honestly don't know what made me buy this one when I did but it may have very well been the label, I think it's pretty cool. This one also went over pretty well, I actually thought it was like a very miniature version of Darkness. Not that it's in the same league by any means but it seemed to have a lot of the same characteristics of Darkness in a much smaller way.

Samuel Adams Imperial Stout
This is a beer that I had before but didn't particularly care for. I still had two bottles left from my original four pack so I thought I'd put it in the lineup to get everybody else's opinions of it. Paul was the only one who really liked it and I think the biggest issue with everybody else was the same problem I had with it - too much of the anise flavor. It didn't stick out like a black licorice sore thumb a la Jagermeister but it just put a bad taste in my mouth. Pun intended. Oh well, this is truly an example of "to each his own."

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
One of my very favorite beers, this is one of the first imperial stouts I ever bought thanks to Alvey's advice. I loved it then and I loved it the night we had it at Beer Club too. This beer is fantastic and may be the best value of any craft beer out there. You can usually get it for around $2.50 or less per bottle but I've seen four packs as low as $8 and once bought a four pack on sale for just over $6. It's worth whatever you pay for it. I'll need to re-rate this at Rate Beer one of these days because for as much as I initially loved it, I still under-rated it. Can't wait to see how this stuff cellars.

Victory Storm King Imperial Stout
This is a massive stout. Very robust flavors and incredibly hoppy for a stout. I was surprised to try a stout that had this level of hops in it. Another solid choice.

Bells Expedition Stout
The late comer to the party. I had heard lots of good stuff about this and it became available at the Firkins just a few short days before Beer Club so I added it as a last minute entry. This was a very complex big beer (notice the theme here?) and something to warm you up and make your tummy happy.

Surly Darkness
What more can I say about this beer that I haven't already said? This stuff is truly the nectar of the gods. It might be the gods of the underworld but damn is this stuff unbelievable. I've never had something with so many distinct flavors (coffee, chocolate, raisins, cherry, etc) that you can pick out by themselves yet blend together so well to give you a little taste of heaven on your tongue. This is the reason that we had imperial stouts for the theme this month and beers like this are the reason that I care enough about beer to spread the word to anyone who will listen. I hope you've had the pleasure of trying this beer and if you haven't, do whatever you have to do to get your hands on it.

This is the expression you have whenever you're drinking Darkness

Beers like the ones in this lineup are the reason that imperial stouts are nipping at IPA's for the top position on my favorite style list and to be honest, they might just be tied. There are no losers in a competition like this.