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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Can You Hear the Thunder?

As reported, Victory won't be releasing Baltic Thunder until October 15. "No packaging," admitted brewery president and co-founder Bill Covaleski when I asked him why the long wait. But a guy who had some tiny part in this beer's creation can wheedle his way to zwickel-side and get a sample.

Actually, I met Victory publicity-wrangler Jake Burns in the parking lot and asked him if I could get a taste of Thunder, and he said sure, why not, I'd like a taste too. Ron Barchet laughed when I told him why I'd stopped by, and said "I think that when we go to package that tank there's not going to be any left!" And he paused and got that reverent, serious look he gets when he talks about beer, and said, "It's really good."

I'm happy to report that he's right. Jake screwed the pigtail onto Tank V10 (erk. Kind of ominous, that) and poured me off almost a full pint of the 8.5% stuff. It was dark and rich-smelling, prunes and plum pudding, moist chocolate cake and a subtle vinous aroma, and I couldn't help thinking of the mythical Herzwesten Dark from Tim Powers's The Drawing of the Dark (fergodssake, if you've never read this, get it): "Then he sat down, and even without bringing the cup to his nose he smelled the heady, heavily aromatic bouquet. God bless us, he thought rapturously, this is the nectar of which even the finest, rarest bock in the world is only the vaguest hint. In one long, slow, savoring swallow he emptied the cup."

I didn't empty the cup, but the temptation was there. What I did taste reminded me of my oft-quoted characterization of a Baltic porter as a trainwreck between a doublebock and an imperial stout: only the imperial stout train was 120 boxcars long and high-balling it. The beer was as smooth as only a long-aged lager can be, but it had a burnt bitter edge to it that recalled some of my favorite impies, like Smuttynose and Courage. It brought to mind the original limited edition Perkuno's Hammer, the 300-bottle brew that was supposed to be a one-off and proved to have a life of its own. Best -- or worst -- of all, Jake and I agreed that it maybe tasted like a 6.5% beer at most. "This sucker's dangerous," I said, "It's a 'Where did my knees go?' beer."

Consider yourself warned.


Steven said...

"...and poured me off almost a full pint of the 8.5% stuff."

Malt Head!!

Sorry, just had'da. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Actually, it should be 299 bottles after you had your taste...:)

Now, this sounds like a grand beer. My wife and I split 2 4 packs of Heavyweight Beer last year. Now, neither of us are lightweights when it comes to beer but good lord 4 beers each wiped us out. The beer was really good but damn it was sneaky.

Will this be available only at the brewery? Or by some other means?

erik.ellestad said...

Why, I just started reading this publication, and you've mentioned "The Drawing of the Dark"!?

You have my attention, sir.

Lew Bryson said...

Definitely available at the brewery and 'outside' it as well, draft and 750 ml capped bottles.

Always good to meet a Tim Powers fan!

I can neither confirm nor deny that statement. My secretary will issue an appropriate release on my position at the proper time.

Anonymous said...

Trainwrecking survived the crossover eh? Awesome! It was THAT quote that inspired my old, old, old review way back when. I even remember Tom e-mailing me about it.

You can't hurt the Hammer. Maybe rename it...but...

Bring the Thunder!

TC said...

I, for one, will be dining at Victory on October 15th, and taking a case of the stuff home, to boot. Been looking forward to this beer coming out all year. I've missed the Hammer.

ksqdomer said...

The question is... Will future batches be lagered as long? Doubtful right?

Lew Bryson said...

The question is... Will future batches be lagered as long? Doubtful right?

Doubtful, yes, but not out of the question. And there is more on the way, so we'll soon see the effect.