Friday, February 12, 2016

Beer Friday #5

Getting ready to leave for the weekend, and this was always one of my favorite road songs.



So let's have some beers, woowoo!


Victory Anniversary 20 Experimental IPA, 5.5%
A 5.5% "refreshing session ale"? No, guys, it damned well isn't. I really thought Victory of all people got this; they have sub-4.5% beers on tap at the brewery all the time. This is the kind of bullshit I expect from breweries that don't give a shit about anything but sales, not a brewery that has always cared more about the beer, and about truth. I'm concerned about this, and yeah, it's pissing me off. We can do better. If "session" doesn't really mean anything to you, stop using it. If "session" just means "we hope you drink a lot of this here beer," stop using it. If it means "great-tasting beer with significantly lower ABV than average," by all means, use it. I have no trademark, no enforcement authority, just my small bully pulpit. I intend to use it.
REFRESHING SESSION ALE...5.5% ABV -- What kind of bullshit is that?
But I'm a professional, so let's give it a fair taste. Nose is pretty shy; all I'm getting is some faint sweet lemon, despite a very vigorous pour and plenty of fluffy white head. It's a gorgeous beer, but the aroma's a bit like a Wet-nap from a barbecue joint. Well, damn. The taste isn't much more
electrifying. There's good bitterness at the end with some of that lemon lift, and a decent malt float, but otherwise, this is pretty tame stuff. What the hell?

I really expected a lot more for a 20th anniversary beer from Victory, after the awesome 10th Anniversary Alt, and even the recent Vital IPA, which I found damned tasty. This one just isn't doing much for me, and that's the beer talking, not the label with its "Session/5.5%" crap. Middle of the road, and the least exciting Victory beer I've had in quite a while. I'm hoping for more from the (official?) XX Anniversary Imperial Pilsner.

Verdict: Yawn


Coronado Imperial Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, 8.0%
Expectations are high here: I like Coronado beers, and I love coffee beers, so I couldn't wait to get this in the glass. This is a bumped up version of Coronado's Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, celebrating the landmark San Diego/Coronado "Blue Bridge," which I have to admit has figured prominently in a series of nightmares I've had in which I'm driving across it...and it suddenly ends, leaving me flying through the air like Henry Gibson the Illinois Nazi. I'll try to muscle past that.

Pours very dark indeed, no surprise. Huge, no-nonsense coffee nose: mocha, bright acidity, some cocoa and unripe apricot. Very promising indeed. Whoa. I was going to start typing in flavors, had even started, when the totality hit me. That's one beautiful beer in toto, as the entirety, as a well-sculpted integral sensation: seamless. I appreciate that kind of thing a lot more since learning about whiskey. Nothing sticks out, but it's not because it's not big; it's a whopper. But everything is in place, the balloon expands evenly. I could drink this entire 22 oz. beer way WAY too quickly and easily. The Cafe Moto coffee and malts meld beautifully. The only nitpicky little flaw I find, and I hesitate to even call it a flaw, is that there's a touch of stickiness at the end. But to point it out is to quibble. That's a damned good beer.

Verdict: Good






Now...I promised to try to get a draft in, but I'm going to ask you to wait for it. I'm going to a brewpub (Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim, PA) tonight, with my wife, and I'll take notes, and post it up here as an update tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Lone Political Post, Having Nothing To Do With Beer Or Whiskey

He's got my vote.


We now return to beer and whiskey.


Yes, I know it's a parody account. I'm just having some fun.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #5: Part 2

Completely different whiskey for the second one of the day:

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Rye, 47% 
I just got this yesterday, with a note tagging it as Jack Daniel's "first fully mature rye whiskey." It is a single barrel bottling (bottled 12/10/15 from barrel 15-7487) at 47%, and made from a mashbill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley.

How old is it? They aren't saying. Now...the unaged JD Rye first went out for sampling in October of 2012, so hmmm...no, no way this is less than 4 years old. Let's have a sniff and sip.

Sweet vanilla, a bit of blackstrap molasses, fruitcake, and dry mint, all wrapped up in a basket of hot oak, Damn, it's like JD Single Barrel without the corn! Which makes it a head-turner on the tongue: you get the vanilla, and the sweet, and the little bit of woody/maple flavor, and you expect that corn, but instead you get grassy/minty rye, with a mouth-coating sweet creaminess that goes into the finish and catches with a light oak fire over the back of the throat.

Sweet rye. Weird idea, and I don't want to like it because rye's supposed to be spicy and savory, but it's growing on me. Tennessee rye is a real thing, I guess. Price is about the same as the regular Single Barrel Jack at around $50. You're going to want to try this and make up your own mind, but I really want to try this with some good ginger ale. That's gonna rock.

Verdict: Good

Whiskey Wednesday #5: Part 1

I'm going to split things today; not to boost my post count, but because I've got two new whiskeys that deserve my full attention, and the one's got a lot more story to it. That comes first.

Glenmorangie Milsean, 46%
There's a group near me that calls themselves Whisky Blasphemy. They're a good bunch of folks who don't take whisky too seriously; which is to say, they understand that it's to be enjoyed...anyway you want. So if that means Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old in Manhattans, or a Macallan Rare Cask Old Fashioned, well, that's what you do! With that kind of attitude, it's not very surprising that they have quickly become a large and surprisingly influential group. So much so that they managed to convince Glenmorangie let them host one of three simultaneous American telepresence events (along with ones in Chicago and San Francisco; yay, Philly for stealing that from New York!) for the prelaunch of the new Private Edition bottling, Milsean, Gaelic for "Sweet Things," we were told.

The guys at Whisky Blasphemy were good enough to extend an invitation to me to join them (thanks, Jun; thanks, Judd!), so I did, about three weeks ago. It was at Holt's Cigars in far Northeast Philadelphia, where Whisky Blasphemy has their regular Thursday night meet-ups. I got there to find that the bar had been transformed with red-and-white decorations and candy everywhere. Glenmorangie's whisky creator Dr. Bill Lumsden's stated goal with Milsean had been to create the aromas of an old-time candy store, with the red-and-white striped sacks the candies came in. Cute.

We all got stuck into some drams (Glenmorangie Original for me, never turn it down), had a cigar, and talked. Glenmorangie brand ambassador David Blackmore was there, always a fun guy to chat with (and a big fan of Tasting Whiskey, I'm happy to say; 'the one whisky book I actually use,' he told me). So we ate salmon and talked whisky, and had a great time.

The simulcast came about 45 minutes after I got there. It was Dr. Bill and his likely successor (not for a while yet!), Brendan McCarron, the "head of maturing whisky stocks," in the tasting lab at Glenmorangie. Here's what I got in my notes.

The Private Editions are experiments in methods and flavors in small production runs. And since they all start with the same light, Glenmo spirit, we were poured a sample of Original, the 10 year old, the first Glenmorangie Dr. Bill ever tasted, back in 1984. He tasted with us, and I grabbed some of it: 'Meadow freshness, rose, geranium. Vanilla reminds me of carnations. Creamy texture, apple, pear, vanilla, and honey. The finish: almond, coconut.' That's what he has to start with. "It is a fast-maturing spirit," he cautioned, so they "have to be careful with the finishes; it will pick up flavors quickly."

When he designed Milsean, he had that old-style candy shop profile in mind, and of course, he couldn't just add those flavors. Where to find them? Had to be from the cask, so he consulted with the wood wizard, Dr. Jim Swan, who's done such fantastic work at Kavalan, among others. What they came up with is nothing less than revolutionary. They took freshly dumped wine casks, wet casks and re-toasted the oak (radiant heat; open flame would have burnt the sugars) without any "de-charring" of the wood, as the careful scraping of the inner layer is called. Heat on the fresh, wet wine caramelized the sugars in the wine, giving a whole new range of flavors and aromas to the finish. Brilliant idea, really.

The wine? Nothing famous, plain Douro Valley Portuguese table wine, and that was selected because the cooperage that agreed to do the work on the casks was nearby. They originally planned to have the whisky in the casks for 5 years, but after a year and a half, "it was picking up flavors fast." Brendan made the decision to dump the 269 barriques after 2 and a half years, after which they were 'married' in a vat for six months.

Then we tasted it...which I'm not going to write about, because I'd been smoking and almost everyone in the room had a cigar of some type going. I just drank the whisky, and enjoyed it...and requested a small sample bottle, which I'm now going to try in my quiet, clean tasting area. Ah...I had thought that this was a 'shy' whisky without much aroma, and now I see that's the cigar talking. This is not shy, it's almost chatty! And yes, there's candy there: nougat, circus peanuts, some lemon drop, butter mints, and orange slices, pretty mouthwatering altogether. Taste, though, and it becomes clear that this is for adults. The candy flavors are all there, but there's also a firm malt base and some no-nonsense alcohol heat, with black pepper and bright floral notes. The longer it's in the mouth, the more the wood emerges until it's a pretty full grip on the finish. The finish is surprisingly firm, actually, after all this candy stuff. Some water opens things up: the heat's gone, and the candies come through more clearly, and it's more oily.

Now...yes, it's another No Age Statement (NAS) whisky, and I gather I'm supposed to 'tut tut' disapprovingly and note how this is just another way the whisky companies are cheating us out of value. So...it's approximately 12 to 13 years old, and they're getting just shy of $100 for it. Tut tut. Here's my "tut tut." Only one person knows if this whisky is "worth" its price, and that's you. After a certain point, the label can only tell you so much, you have to open it up and taste it and make up your own mind. I think this is pretty good, and what's more, it's pretty interesting. And I'd add something Dr. Bill said, which is a variation of something I've been saying for a while (namely, that NAS whiskies have been around forever, and the only ones people complain about are the ones that aren't that good): "It's not anything new to us. We released (Ardbeg) Uigeadail back in the early 2000s, and no one ever asks about the age because it's so good. This is a trend that's here to stay." Tut tutting complete.

Verdict: Good

Come back later for another new whiskey!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Beer Friday #4

Okay, back to the music. I sang Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine a few years ago with the chamber group at St. Andrew's in Newtown, Penn., and lately it's been running through my head. I asked my choir director for a recording, and he pointed me to the Cambridge Singers. Quite peaceful, but at the same time energizing. One of my favorite bass parts, so well-matched to the words.


Relaxing, right? On to the beer!

Hijinx Pitch Penny ESB, 4.7%
My draft for the week, sampled yesterday afternoon at Isaac Newton's in Newtown. I've been to HiJinx and think it's one of the better examples of the recent new crop of breweries in eastern Pennsylvania...but I rarely see their beers. When I spotted this one — on the heels of a discussion with someone about how few ESBs there were available lately — it made what was looking like a tough decision (Isaac's usually sports a pretty great tap list) into a slam dunk.

Nice color; perfect copper penny look of an ESB with a coffe crema head. Not a ton of aroma; what's there is mostly malt. Mmm, and so it is on the palate. Not as fully malt-tilted as Fullers, and that's maybe a style issue (not as big a one as the jackass next to me, who smells like he's a Lebanon bologna that was smoked over Marlboros. Going outside is not enough, fella, try standing upwind of yourself next time!)

Okay, back to the beer. ABV is about dead-on, that's an up-check, the color nails it, another up-check, and if it's a bit too bitter, well...it's America. I'll tell ya...throw a different yeast in here, give her a touch more malt, maybe tweak the hops a bit, and you'd have a kick-ass altbier. Something to think about. In the meantime, I'd go back for more, and I think it's the best HiJinx beer I've had. Not enough ESBs, as we said to each other in that discussion I mentioned.

Verdict: Good

Starr Hill Reviver Red IPA, 6.2%
I remember when Starr Hill was a little storefront juke joint in Charlottesville, running an old, old JV NorthWest system, with Mark Thompson's energetic good-beer vibes flashing wildly around the place. They had a weirdly grand plan for blending good beer and indie music, and I know I thought, yeah, whatever, good luck with that.

Well, the joke's on me. Starr Hill's been pretty successful with that plan (didn't hurt that Mark won a damned sack-full of GABF medals over the years; good beer deserves success), and the label of Reviver — an octave of piano keys — is a reminder. Good for them! They still put out pretty damned good beer, though, as was the case before, it tends to get overlooked by the geekerie. Let's see if they're right or wrong.

Very aromatic, with pine and juicy citrus singing over it, but not like the Fauré, more like a gospel choir getting real busy...but when I take that first sip...almost all that lively is gone, smacked down in a double shot of bitterness and overdone specialty malt. The happy hops try to break through, like a couple rays of sunlight in the dark blood-red gloom, It's a big enough beer, but it's big like a mean sonofabitch in black overalls. I may not have been as hard on this if the hops hadn't smelled so damned good, and I wanted it to be that way, I wanted that piano to ring out "The Old Landmark" and get Jake to see the light. I'm just not feeling it. If they could have kept this lively and still big, I think I'd have loved it. But I'm left wanting it to be something it's not.

Verdict: Flawed


Deschutes Hop Henge IPA, 8.9%
Hop Henge is a new set of hops every year. Hop research is getting so advanced that this year, two of the three hops in Hop Henge don't even have names yet. That's the kind of shit you can do when you're Deschutes and you're so close to the green gold of hop country. The third hop is Mandarina Bavaria, which is supposed to "lend hits of orange, mandarin, and tangerine." Somebody wake the druids, it's time to try this.

Smells like the non-alcoholic fruit punches my grandmother used to make. She was a genius at combining fresh fruit, canned and frozen juices, and a little bit of soda to make some really delicious drinks. Fresh, fruity, and no pine there a-tall. Nice.

Like drinking sunlight, boys and girls. Honestly, I took a glass, and I had this memory of walking through the woods behind my aunt's house 45 years, sunlight streaming through the trees. Light bright stuff this is, and the fruits are subtle in the mouth, the bitterness is trenchant but balanced (at 90 frickin' IBUs, it's balanced), and the finish does not put the pliers to my tongue, instead there's a lingering sticky resin pull and a nice undertow of those fruits. Sure doesn't drink like 8.9%, either, more like 5.9%. This is dangerously, drinkably delicious.

Look, you get it. I could go on, but to tell the truth...it's about 5:15, I'm done for the day, and I'm gonna go drink the rest of this. Cheers.

Verdict: Good




Thursday, February 4, 2016

Scientists Invent Helium Beer! Munchkins Rejoice!

Every couple of years, it seems, something gets loose on the Internet about Helium beer; you know, beer that's been gassed up with helium instead of carbon dioxide or nitrogen, and so it makes you talk all squeaky, ho-ho-ho, that's a gas! And then the dreary science nerds come out and say, no, that's impossible, because helium isn't soluble in beer, stupids.



The FUN science nerds at Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society, took that as a challenge. After all, as one of them says in the following video, "We've heard nothing is insoluble; everything has some degree of solubility." They then prove the point by 'heliumating' a beer (a stout, looks like), and describing the results (less fizzy, but also less acidic due to helium's inert nature). Sadly, though, drinking it doesn't make you sound like a member of the Lollipop Guild.

 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #4

Feeling better, but pressed for time, so no music this time. Just two recent Canadians.

Alberta Rye Dark Batch, 45%
A couple things to note right away. First, 45%. This steps up for Canadian, which was mired in an 80 proof/40% swamp for years. That's how you got Canadian, son, and if you wanted something stronger, you had to go searching. The higher proof proves that the Canadians are taking cocktails — not highballs, cocktails — seriously. Second, this whisky takes the curious 9.09% law (which says that one part in eleven (9.09%) of Canadian whisky can be...other) and uses it to a flavor advantage, rather than as a tax advantage, or a flavor stretcher, by adding 8% bourbon and 1% oloroso sherry to aged, 100% rye whisky.

To clarify, Alberta Distillers are old hands at making whisky from 100% rye grain, it's their thing (they use enzymes for conversion, not malt). The Canadian rye in this is about half "flavoring whisky" — distilled to relatively low ABV in a pot still, aged about 6 years in new barrels — and about half of it is "blending whisky" — distilled to relatively high ABV in a column still and aged 12 years in used barrels. Davin de Kergommeaux explains it in more detail in this Whisky Advocate blog post. But the key is that this is 91% Canadian whisky, 8% bourbon (guess where it comes from...Alberta Distillers is owned by Beam Suntory), and only 1% sherry. Is that weird? A little? Is it interesting? Yes. But does it work? Let's see.

The nose has wads of dried fruits — apricots, raisins, "craisins" — and a paneled woodiness of cedar and oak; very Canadian, that, as is the underlying sweetness. The whole thing smells like an enchanted forest. The 45% strides strongly into the mouth, carrying armloads of wood, baskets of fruit, and big trenchers of warm, sweet cereal, wreathed happily with the spiciness of all that rye. That's the dominant feature of the finish, too, that spiciness.

I can tell you this: pleasant as it is to sip this stuff (which it is, despite what I'll be telling you next month...wait for it!), it's also the basis for a Manhattan variant that has been my go-to for the past few months. This has been the darling of Canadian mixologists since it came out (it's labeled "Dark Horse" in Canada, and whether that's the only difference or not depends on who you ask, but the bottle of Dark Horse I have sure smells and tastes a LOT like this one).

Seriously Canadian, but in a way that takes advantage of everything the Canadian whisky category offers...including the very reasonable price. Get a bottle and start playing around with it and some cocktail ingredients. You'll find it's quite fun.

Verdict: Good


Canadian Club Chairman's Select 100% Rye, 40%
I've been drinking a lot more Canadian Club recently. Mainly because I've been going to a lot more dive bars, and cash bars at events. When you're at places like that, the beer selection often sucks, and the whiskey selection ain't much better. But you can almost always count on a bottle of CC, and a supply of club soda, and that's my dive bar go-to.

But this is a big change for CC, going 100% rye. Is it worth it? Let's find out. Nose is sweet, spicy, minty, with a hint of cedar/pencil in the background. Smells like a good young craft-distilled rye: sweet, spicy, simple, not overwhelmed by wood. Hmmm...not goopy sweet at all. Balance of rye and sweet grain, some of that rye oiliness, but a nice light finish that hangs on and flavors things. I'd take that in my club soda, and it's nice...but I think I'd rather have the Crown Royal Northern Harvest.

Verdict: Yawn

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Seen Through A Glass

I noticed this morning at mass that today's New Testament reading was the inspiration for the name of the blog: First Corinthians 13: 1-13. It's probably not all that surprising -- to me, at least, knowing how my brain works -- that I wrote the first post in Seen Through A Glass on January 31, 2007, nine years ago, when the Church's 3-year cycle of readings would have brought the same verses up that week.
The Catholic Church doesn't use the King James Bible, of course, but I'm a writer: I do. So...here's a bit of explanation about why it's Seen Through A Glass. ("Charity" has also been translated as "love," and I choose to interpret it in this context as "kindness," or perhaps the "loving kindness" of the Quran.)

13: 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I believe in beer, O Lord; help me in my unbelief!
Why did I subject you to a Bible reading, and what does it have to do with beer, or whiskey? It has more to do with writing about beer and whiskey, more about the intent of the blog. It's an admission that I don't understand or know everything there is to know about these subjects, that I see only parts of them, and those likely imperfectly. It's also an explanation that despite the simple fact that the blog is a marketing tool for my writing and public appearances (surprise!), it's still not really about me, because of "charity."

Drinks writing without charity can be vicious, self-serving angriness, aimed at brewers and distillers, aimed at drinkers, aimed at purveyors and publicists, aimed at other writers. It can be caused by a lack of understanding, by seeing through the glass darkly (a reference to the low-quality mirrors of the day, compared in the verse to seeing clearly, face-to-face), or an overabundance of pride.

I try to practice charity in my drinks writing. I try to see what the brewer or distiller or blender was trying to do, I try to understand it, and I often give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't always succeed, but the intent's there, at least at the beginning. I'd like to see everyone make better beer, better whiskey. I'd like to see better bars, better stores, better restaurants. This is the point of good criticism. It's not to write something snarky just for the personal fun of it. It's to explain what the critic sees as shortcomings as a guide to what may be wrong. At least, it is if it's done with charity.

Charity doesn't mean you don't say what sucks, sucks. Because if it sucks, well, buddy, it sucks. Period. But you try to do it without gratuitous bloodshed. I'm sure you'd be able to find examples of where I've failed to show charity in my writing; I'll admit I'm not perfect. But I try, and I encourage others to try. Give something more than one sampling; give a new brewer a chance to get their act together. Don't prejudge a whiskey just because it has no age statement, or because it's blended, or because you don't like a company's politics. Try to understand a drink in its intended context.

When we exercise charity, when we embrace kindness, we find that people will listen, will try to cooperate, to change. When we try to listen to what a beer has to say instead of yell and boast of our skills and favorites, we learn, about the beer, about other drinkers, about ourselves.

I'm glad that this came along now, as I restart the blog. Good timing. To those of you who wished me well on my health issues; thank you. I'm feeling better, and the tastings will be out on time this week. It's a busy week, too: I'm at a Garrett Oliver panel discussion at City Tap Monday night, Tuesday morning is Groundhog Day at the Grey Lodge Pub (I'll be back after a two year absence, and I'm really looking forward to it!), I've got a ton of writing to do for Whisky Advocate and a collaborative project, and then Saturday I have a private Tasting Whiskey event at St. Andrew's in NYC.

I'll try to do it all with charity.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday Postponed

I have some minor health issues that are going to preclude doing the whiskey (and beer) reviews this week. Not a big deal, and I plan to be back at it next week. Your understanding is appreciated.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Beer Friday #3

As I sit in the bunker — my office is in the basement again, and I know my family calls it The Bunker, I just know it — with the blizzard coming, and Trump fulminating, and Bernie warning of fiscal disaster, well...this seemed legit.


Ergo, nothing but butt-kicking beers will do.

Tröegs Nugget Nectar 2016, 7.5%
The New Label
I bought a case of this beautiful annual release at the Beer Yard in Wayne last Saturday. I've had a couple few some already, and you need to know...oh, hell, most of you already do know, but this is a ripper. Let's open it before someone grabs it away.

First off, beautiful pour. You guys with your "shaker pints are ugly" crap can suck it: copper and cream looks great in a shaker. That juicy aroma comes right off the top, too: vibratingly-fresh citrus, pine (bark, needles, sap, that dark-meat wood in the middle), and yeah, a bit of dank weed. I kinda miss the cat piss I used to get from this one.

Take a mouthful. Not a sip, not with this beer, take a mouthful and hold it. Bitter, flavorful, that pine and pith tearing up my palate and making my glands squeeze. The thing I've always liked about Nugget Nectar is the way it turns my mouth into a boppit clown, those ones you smack and they fly backwards and hit the floor and whip right back up to get hit again (did any of you have one of them? When I was about 10, I'd go down in the basement and just smack the shit out of that thing). Take a drink, wham with the bitterness, and about the time I notice the wham's gone away and the pine's running around in my mouth like a crazy chihuahua, I decide it's time to take a drink, wham with the bitterness, and about the time I notice the wham's gone away and the pine's running around in my mouth like a crazy chihuahua, I decide it's time to take a drink, wham with the bitterness, and about the time I notice the wham's gone away and the pine's running around in my mouth like a crazy chihuahua, I decide it's time to take a drink...you get the idea. Clearly the only way I'm going to experience the finish on this one is to drink the whole beer, because I'm not pausing between drinks long enough to experience it.

Hell, it ought to be snowing now.

Verdict: Good


Abita Bourbon Street Imperial Stout, 10.0%
Not your normal, but I would expect nothing less from Abita. The mash includes oats, for one; and it sure sounds like the beer — the stout — is lagered, "cold aged," for six weeks. Then it does eight weeks in "small batch" bourbon barrels. As a whiskey guy, I'd really like to know what Abita thinks "small batch" bourbon barrels are; craft distillers' barrels, or Beam barrels from their "small batch" series? Or something else? I dunno. To the beer!

Had to let this warm up; it's damned cold out in my garage right now. But even after an hour in deep-bowled Duvel tulip (I know, I know; I grabbed it on impulse) there's still a tight collar of persistent tan foam around the edge, and the aroma is pulsing at me from over a foot away. Let's go. Deep bittersweet chocolate, fresh coffee grounds, toasted pecans, and caramel aromas. Luscious. Ah ha. Not a syrupy, under-attenuated mess at all, this is a scarily light-bodied 10%. In fact, there's just enough body to handle the booze. Chocolate syrup, light bright Kenya AA coffee, sweet rolls, and some of that pecan...but the bourbon barrel character is restrained, an accompaniment rather than a steamroller. It's coming through at the finish, though, and that's nice.

I'd like to like this more, but the lightness is too light. If you're going to go big, barrel age an imperial stout, you ought to go big, I'm thinking.

Verdict: Yawn



2SP SIP (Stigz's Imperial Porter) imperial porter, 8.4%
2SP is one of the crop of new breweries here in southeast Pennsylvania, and this is my draft beer for the week. I dropped down to the Hulmeville Inn again this afternoon, figured to get a taste of pre-storm frenzy...but not in this more working-class bar. Just another day for cable installers, welders, and fire fighters, which is part of why I like going there. The other part, of course, is the truly great draft beer selection, with local stuff like this (and Tired Hands, and Neshaminy, and Yards), and plenty of the best from away as well.

2SP's brewer Bob Barrar is well-known around here and at the GABF for his excellent big dark beers; when he was at Iron Hill Media, they called him The Machine for the clockwork way he won GABF medals. I figured this was the way to go, and I wasn't wrong. This is a big sweet chocolate cake of a beer. Get a whiff; ahhh. Chocolate, cocoa, Graham crackers, and light coffee beans on the nose. Annnnnd...the same on the tongue, with maybe a bit more coffee. Gotta love an honest nose.  Wait, wait...there's hop note on the end, too, just to wrap things up.

Creamy smooth, rich and sweet. Actually reminds me a lot of the Abita, but no barrel is mentioned, which makes a difference. Is it what most folks expect from "imperial porter"? Probably not, in these lupulin-drenched days, but I found it delicious, and could have gone another round if I hadn't still had to pick up sidewalk salt, and the day's mail, and gas for the snowblower, and a nice block of cheddar...just because. Now we're hunkering down, just me and the family, with only a fridge full of food and about 300 bottles of whiskey between us and starvation. See you on the other side.

Verdict: Good