Omer Traditional Blond, 8.0%
So what do we have here? Bright yellow beer, clean white foam with tenaciously tight little bubbles. All beers are beautiful, but this one's especially captivating to the eye. Oh, and the nose, too. Sweet clovey candy, orange marmalade, sweet and spicy without being sticky or cloying. It smells interesting, which is what I'm looking for.
Sipping time. First thought: 8%? Really? That's scary. Because this drinks like about 5.5%. Well-attenuated but not thin, and still spicy-sweet without being sticky. The fizzy fine carbonation runs all over my tongue and teeth and roof and cheeks, what a rush! This is more spicy than sweet, and there's no stickiness in the finish at all. That's by God well done, and I'm kinda regretting that I gave half of it to my wife!
Goose Island Four Star Pils, 5.1%
Hmmm...kind of funky smell like pineapple and sweet cream; not unpleasant, just totally unexpected. Is this some more of these new hop strains brewers have been experimenting with? Still, it looks proper, with a beautiful white bloom of foam. Tastes better: malt, bitter hop, the right body, clean finish.
Something's different, though, and it's not the pineapple. I'm not liking the way the bitter and malt balance, and the hops taste...burnt, or blaring, or harsh. It's just not clean, integrated. I'd maybe have another pint...but I wouldn't buy a case.
A Bunch Of Barleywines, 7.5% and up, draft
New Crustacean Barleywineish Imperial IPA Sorta -- Way different from the old Old Crustacean. Blonde, not dark; sweet and light and bitter, not bitter and hard and menacing. New age stuff.
Southern Tier Back Burner -- Everything Southern Tier does well: big malt, big hops, big body, and not clogging the pipes. Finesse? Yeah, in 14" naval rifle style.
Alesmith Old Numbskull -- A clearly big beer, but light on its feet, nimble. Orson Welles dancing ballet. Impressive achievement, and one I like...but I like da heavy heavy monsta sound, too.
21st Amendment Lower De Boom -- Only one I finished. Good stuff, big but drinkable, and not overly zealous on the hopping.
DuClaw Devil's Milk -- Fat all around, big in every direction, this is a great example of how Jim Wagner hits the mark every damned time...but never gets the cred. Underrated brewery.
Summit Old Blaggard -- Tasted kind of worty, grainy, but delicious. Sometimes that really, really works, and this is one of them, because it adds a huge note of freshness in a style that benefits from it.
Pizza Boy Wonder Whine -- Always impressive, Pizza Boy delivers again in a beer that was one of the biggest I had all afternoon (12.5%) but the fruitiest and most varied. Fun!
Smuttynose Barley Wine -- Wow. A throwback, not a fossil. One guy at the bar was not impressed, I told him: this is what barleywine tasted like in the 90s. Back when there were fewer of us to please, and brewers brewed for themselves. Hat tip to Smutty for staying on that: heavy malt, big yeasty esters, just enough hop. An unshaven, unapologetic barleywine.
Verdict: Stellar event!