Tag Archive | alesmith brewing company

Beer Review 0583: AleSmith Old Numbskull Barleywine

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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!)

Old Numbskull is a west-coast style Barleywine that is produced year-round. The name gives a nod to English tradition as Barleywines typically started with “Old” in the beer name. Coming in at 11% ABV (alcohol by volume), this is a fresh bottle produced in November 2013.

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The pour delivered a very nice looking beer, capped by a large, off-white, creamy head that lingered. The beer was a dull amber-brown out of light; held in light, it became red with lighter orange highlights toward the bottom of the glass. The body was hazy yet still remained translucent, and there were no particles or sediment. Lacing was perfect, leaving behind thick sheets of solid foam as I sipped. Picture perfect for the style.

On the nose, this is much more Imperial IPA than Barleywine — until it begins to warm. Pungent and fresh hops immediately greet you, with impressive waves of resinous pine, grapefruit, orange, mild tropical fruits, and lime. The malt backing is meek at first, only giving off hints of caramel and toffee, but as it warms, it opens to expose deeper, bready notes with delicate layers of chocolate and a hint of dark fruit.

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The taste is very much the same, with untamed notes of sticky, fresh hops; big orange peel, grapefruit, sweet tropical fruits and a wallop of dank pine. This couples with a stiff note of 11% alcohol to be unpleasant and medicinal at first; when allowed to warm, more of the malt backing starts to account for itself. There’s a thin layer of caramel and growing dark fruits, with bread crust, and it helps soak up some of the alcohol. By the middle of the glass, Old Numbskull turns into an enjoyable drink that showcases the other, hoppy, west-coast side of Barleywine. This beer is full-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel. The finish edges up the dark fruits a bit, but it needs more time to be greater defined.

If you’ve got a fresh bottle of this beer and you want to open it (which I think you should), allow it to warm for about 25 minutes after you pour it — I think you’ll avoid the stiff alcohol astringency. Don’t get me wrong — the 11% never disappears, and you surely do feel it, but this becomes a much better brew as it warms. Now, as for aging…I think if you check in around 6-8 months, you will be greatly rewarded with a classic beer.

AleSmith Old Numbskull Barleywine, 93 points. Price: $10.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle.

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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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Beer Review 0510: AleSmith Speedway Stout Imperial Stout

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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.

The beer we are looking at today, Speedway Stout, is widely regarded as one of the best Imperial Stouts currently on the market. A year-round brew, Speedway Stout is a 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer that has coffee beans added. The beans are from nearby Ryan Bros. Coffee, Inc., and are locally-roasted. This beer is not distributed here in North Carolina, so special thanks to Dave (Untappd user OnWisconsin) for graciously sending me a bottle in a beer trade.

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Pouring produced an average size, soapy head that was light khaki in color and dense, lasting for a good while atop the beer. The liquid was pitch black, with just a hint of purple highlight in the bottom of the glass when raised to light. The body appeared clear, free of particles and sediment, while lacing was very nice for such a high ABV beer, producing a nice film of weepy foam that descended into the glass toward the beer.

The nose is incredible; a deep, heavy aroma that presents equal notes dark chocolate and coffee. Yes, this beer is brewed with coffee, but it’s not in the way and contributes to the other scents to be found here — the coffee is black, perhaps with a bit of sweetener; there’s a big note of caramel along with the dark chocolate, and even some milk chocolate. Speedway Stout suggests some dark fruits like prune and plum as well, has a deeply roasted note, and just a puff of smoke. This brew smells rich and hearty. A meal in a glass, or more like it, dessert.

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There’s three main flavors on the initial sip: dark chocolate, coffee, and caramel. It’s thick and viscous but not syrupy; in the middle of the taste, and as it begins to warm, notes of vanilla, creme brûlée, and a small bit of dark fruit begin to come out. But you can’t get rid of the underlying layer of dark chocolate, which serves to transition the beginning, middle, and end of the beer: the finish comes on like fine Swiss dark chocolate, with creamy and decadent notes of bittersweet heaven, burnt sugar, vanilla, and rounded out by coffee. The 12% ABV is here, but it’s hidden in taste yet present just enough in feeling to let you know this is a big beer. Speedway Stout is full-bodied, with a thick, creamy and foamy mouthfeel. Carbonation is soft, which contributes greatly to the pillowy texture.

Mind. Blown. AleSmith are hitting all the right notes on this one — I was so impressed right from the initial sip, I knew this was going to be a perfect beer twenty minutes before I finished rating it. What I like so much about this beer is that while it is brewed with coffee, the coffee doesn’t completely overtake the palate; instead, it helps all the other flavors while providing a solid base for everything to play off of. Drinkability is especially high; factor in the alcohol and the age (less than three months on this bottle) and it’s easily one of the most easy drinking, if not THE most quaffable 12% ABV beer I’ve ever had. I know I say it often, but Speedway Stout is a beer you’d take to a party full of wine drinkers and you’d show them a different, perhaps unseen side of beer.

This is one hell of a beer and you should, by all means, do yourself a favor and seek it out today! And at review #510, AleSmith Speedway Stout becomes the tenth beer to receive a perfect rating.

AleSmith Speedway Stout Imperial Stout, 100 points. Price: $13.99 US for a 750 ml. bottle.

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