January 2013 Archives

Arcadia Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

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I have been a fan of barrel aged stouts since my first sampling of Kentucky Breakfast Stout, back when it was really amazing. Lately I had got the inkling, that I wanted to try a few of the overly popular ones that I had not tried yet, such as FW Parabola, Avery Mephistopheles, and to a lesser extent, Bell's Black Note. I was very pleased with Parabola, Mephistopheles was not really what I had expected, and Black Note greatly exceeded my expectations. I also picked up some Abyss to age, and discovered that Dark Horse Barrel Aged Plead the 5th was bottled.

Back in the early 2000's when I moved to Michigan, Arcadia was a very questionable brewery. Their ales varied from mediocre, to just plain crap in my opinion. I had placed them on my black list until I tried Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter, just an amazing barrel aged selection. I had been considering striking them off my blacklist due to their massive improvement over the last decade.

Barrel_Aged_Arcadia_Imp_Stout.jpgIn addition to trying a few new barrel aged stouts in December I have to admit that I had boarded the barrel aged stout hype train, and I was trading for the likes of Black Tuesday, Darkness, 50/50 Eclipse, and Speedway Stout. So when I saw that Arcadia had released barrel aged versions of their barley wine Cereal Killer, and their Imperial Stout all dressed up in red wax at $8.00 dollars a bottle, it seemed like a steal. It should be noted at this point that when you find yourself buying and trading for 12oz bottles of bourbon aged beer that exceeds the price of a fifth of bourbon, you have just jumped the tracks aboard the nutty beer hype train.

Anyhow.. I had only one bottle and was desperately interested in getting my hands on another, which I did today. Two in fact. Apparently some guy from Chicago had bought an entire case of it. Well guy from Chicago, I hope you learned your lesson about buying an entire case of beer before you try it. I am now stuck with two bottles of this stuff and that is embarrassing enough. So on to the review.

It pours a dark caramel with minimal head. The aroma is coffee, oak, and barbeque. Somewhat unique in the barrel aged stout world with the strong barbeque aroma. The first word that came to mind was disappointing. It has a light body for an Imperial Stout, a sweet syrupy barbequed oak flavor, and chocolate notes. No dark fruits to speak of, no viscous body, no head retention. I really feel that Arcadia pulled a fast one here. Using the reputation of their great barrel aged porter they dressed up their mediocre barrel aged stout and sold it for the price of a Sierra Nevada six pack. This stout is decent, not great, but decent. It improves as it warms and never becomes remotely impressive. For a dollar or two a bottle this would be a truly awesome beer. But when it is 1/3 more than Bell's Black Note or Dark Horse Plead the 5th it simply serves to ensure that Arcadia stays on my black list for at least ten more years. Good job Arcadia.

In the end perhaps I should thank Arcadia for just announcing 'next stop sanity' for this hype train rider. It was fun while it lasted but by wallet and palate just decided this is the end of the line for this rider.

Bells Black Note

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Black_Note.JPGThe appearance of Bell's Black Note is a rich dark ruby mahogany. No light penetrates it's depths. It is perhaps the darkest stout I have seen to date. It pours with a minimal head and delicate lace that clings to the circumference of the glass. It presents a very pleasant bourbon nose. However unlike many bourbon barrel stouts, this one is not overpowering. Black Note still allows the rich malty notes and dark fruits to come through in the aroma. Overall a decently complex aroma for a bourbon stout.

Its taste is balanced just like the nose. Smooth and sweet, it coats the tongue giving a tiny alcohol burn in the finish, it is incredibly balanced for an 11.8% stout. This is the most balanced and drinkable bourbon stout I have had. The thing I really like about this ale is that unlike Brooklyn Black Ops where the Bourbon is almost undetectable, this bourbon is present. You don't need to go looking for the bourbon by any means, however it still allows the complexities of the base ales to come through. It is not so dominated by the bourbon that it's overwhelming.

My first impression that I had was that this was the best bourbon barrel stout I have ever had. But I have already said that about Founders CBS and Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th. So to be honest, I guess it is in the top two or three barrel aged stouts of all time. More balanced than Bourbon County Stout for sure, and even more balanced that BA Plead the 5th I think. It has everything that a huge bad barrel aged stout has, tannin bite, alcohol burn, bourbon, but all in it's place. The tannin bite and alcohol burn are just a passing glance. The real show here is the Imperial Stouts and their malt complexities.

Let's just say that jetting out of work at lunch to drive to Kalamazoo was worth every moment. I was so excited when I picked mine up I was shaking. I think that means you're a true blue beer geek - or something like that. 

Russian River Redemption

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RR_Redemption.jpgRedemption pours golden, slightly hazy, with a quickly dissipating head. Its nose yields Belgian yeast, banana, coriander, lemon, and various spices. Very clean tasting for a Belgian with very detectable hops in the finish. Medium bodied, very aromatic, and lightly carbonated. The hoppiness and sweetness set this one apart from the run of the mill Belgian. So far this was my least favorite of all the Russian River ales I have sampled. This is no doubt due, at least in part to the fact that this is simply not my favorite style of beer. Overall an excellent ale, I enjoyed the additional hop presence. While I would not seek it out again, definitely one I would recommend trying.

Russian River Supplication

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Russian_River_1.JPGThanks to Adam, a friendly trader in California, I received a Russian River Supplication as an extra (he also gave me two other amazing extras including Blind Pig, also a top notch RR offering). Kyle and I popped it open tonight. It pours a deep honey red with a minimal head that remains present for some time. The nose offers oak, vanilla, motor oil - Kyle called it burnt rubber - and sweetness. The first taste hits you with a sour cherry tang, the burnt rubber and pinot noir notes. A green apple peel sourness is also very present. Kyle found notes of Vanilla from the oak. I loved this brew, absolutely amazing. I am not a huge wine nut - there is just to much beer to sample to ever get there - but new world Pinot noir is my favorite style of wine. What I find most appealing about a brew like this, is that it is both tasty and unique. As an example take Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Cherry Stout, it's good, it's dominated by cherries. But it's not unique, why pay $50.00 for a flavor that I can get from a Cherry Pie or a $1.50 ice cream cone. It's nice but it's nothing special. Supplication on the other hand is just not a flavor that you can pick up at the local grocer. It's complex, it's balanced, it presents two sides, the sweet and sour, and it does it through exquisite means using the earthy, leathery dryness of the oak Pinot noir barrel. Overall very impressive, more impressive that my stupid Kodak camera which has a habit of corrupting photos, like the one of Supplication in a glass.


The Brewmaster


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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