Beer Review 0579: AleSmith Decadence 2013 Anniversary German Doppelbock Lager

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AleSmith Brewing Company is located in San Diego, California, and was founded by Peter Zien in 1995. AleSmith has deep roots in the homebrewing community; Mr. Zien was a home homebrewer himself who dreamed of wanting to own a brewery. Well, that dream came true; Zien is also San Diego County’s only BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) “Grand Master” beer judge. BJCP sanctions homebrewing competitions.

To continue the homebrew theme, the other major half of AleSmith, Tod Fitzsimmons, was a former president of the homebrew club QUAFF. He joined the company as a brewer in 1996.

Very recently, AleSmith earned the #1 slot on the website RateBeer’s ‘Top Brewer in the World’ list. (Of note: I’ve only ever reviewed one other AleSmith beer because they are not distributed here in North Carolina; it was Speedway Stout, and I awarded it a perfect 100 points!)

Starting with their 10th anniversary in 2005, AleSmith began brewing a beer called Decadence, which changes style each year in celebration of another successful year in business. The 2013 version, commemorating 18 years of brewing beer, was a German-style Doppelbock Lager, brewed in the same tradition that Bavarian monks follow. Doppelbock was the style famously called “liquid bread,” and AleSmith invites you to drink this “meal in a glass” now or cellar it for later. Decadence 2013 registers 10% ABV (alcohol by volume).

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The pour kicks up an average size, creamy and frothy head that is light tan in color and has staying power. The beer is a beautiful amber-red, more toward red, and is crystal clear, free of particles and sediment. It leaves a small amount of lacing as you sip. Decadence 2013 is a gorgeous beer.

On the nose, we’ve got a nice array of traditional Doppelbock scents — sweet caramel, bread, and light notes of orange peel. This is a beer that develops as it warms, and I advise you to save some sips for later so you can experience it (more on the ease of drinkability later). The beer has nice milk chocolate notes that are tempered with, believe it or not, vanilla. As it warms, you’ll start to pull out some dark fruits, especially raisin and prune. But the biggest surprise: for 10% ABV, there’s not even a subtle hint of alcohol.

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Hitting the palate, we’re got bready sweet caramel, mixed with hints of spicy orange peel and milk chocolate. There’s some toasted bitterness in the middle, and as it warms, notes of prunes begin to surface. The finish is bready and grainy, with leftover caramel and a touch of vanilla. It’s sweet, working out the bitterness found in the mid-palate. There’s no alcohol in the taste, only in feel — you can feel the booze in your nose. This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

It this a really good, tasty beer? Yes. But it fails to soar, and that’s disappointing considering it is a special anniversary brew. That said, this drinks exceptionally easy for 10%, and I do think it is solid for the style. And Doppelbock is a style that I adore. Lacking a little pizzaz, but you’ll still have fun with this bottle.

AleSmith Decadence 2013 Anniversary German Doppelbock Lager, 91 points. Price: $11.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle.

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