Tag Archive | redux review

Redux Review 0024: Founders Doom Imperial IPA

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What happens when you age a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial IPA in the best way possible? Today, we’re here to find out.

Without question, Founders (Grand Rapids, Michigan) Backstage Series brews are the hardest beers for me to obtain. Demand and hype are through the roof. Most shops only get one case, which in terms of the 750 ml servings these beers are doled out it, equals just twelve bottles per store. To make matters worse, these beers typically see release on a Monday, during what would traditionally be considered normal working hours. Last April, when Doom was released, I managed to snag two bottles. I immediately reviewed one while it was fresh, and scored it 94 points, one of the better Backstage Series beers that I’ve had.

I decided to squirrel one away, just to see what happens — and I aged it the best way possible; for one solid year, this bottle has remained in my fridge at a constant 38°F. With one year (and probably a few days), we’re going to crack the crown and see what we’ve got.

For those new to this beer, Doom is a bourbon-barrel aged version of Founders Double Trouble (rating: 93 points). It was previously known as “Hand of Doom” when served exclusively in their taproom; it was selected in 2013 to see a wide release in the Backstage Series.

My initial review went like this:

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Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 14 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 33 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 94 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.

So, what’s happened to this beer over the span of a year while stored in optimal conditions? Let’s see…

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The pour produced an average size, soapy head that diminished fairly quickly. There were lots of carbonation bubbles zooming to the top of the drink; the beer was golden in color and was brilliantly clear, with not even a hint of particles or sediment. Lacing was good, leaving weepy sheets of thin foam.

On the nose, not too much has changed since our initial visit — bourbon barrel collides with tropical fruit hops. We’ve got coconut, vanilla, and pineapple up front, with touches of grapefruit and orange peel. It’s almost like the barrel contributes some sweetness; there is a definite caramel malt backing, but the vanilla and somewhat woodsy/spicy barrel amplify the sweet level. As it warms, the vanilla and coconut notes show more, along with a dry twist of lemon peel.

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The age of this beer shows up on the taste; it’s not wholesale radically different but Doom is now drinking more like an American Barleywine instead of an Imperial IPA — up front, grapefruit, coconut, and pineapple. It’s initially sweet but turns moderately bitter after the first couple of swishes in the mouth; the bitterness is balanced by a solid note of caramel. The once-juicy fruits have turned dry, leaving only hints of faded pineapple, grapefruit, and spicy vanilla. The finish is warm, with a hit of the 10% alcohol, a nice layer of bitterness thanks to grapefruit rind and pine, and a layer of hot bourbon. This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.

This is still a very nice beer, and easily one of the better barrel-aged IPAs around… (barrels and IPA tend to rarely go together, in my opinion…) but as you might have expected, Doom was better fresh. I do think if you have a bottle of this and it hasn’t aged in a fridge, you will probably be in for worse results. While quite drinkable (and enjoyable!) you’ll find this is now more like a Barleywine than an IPA.

Founders Doom Imperial IPA, 89 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.

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Redux Review 0023: Dogfish Head Red & White Wheat Ale

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Dogfish Head’s (Milton, Delaware) Red & White, a high alcohol wheat beer that spends time aging on wood, is probably my favorite beer from the eccentric brewery. I reviewed it back on May 14, 2012, and awarded it 95 points, which is classic on my rating scale. At that time, I decided to squirrel away a few bottles and return periodically — two years later, we’re making that second trip, and it is the subject of this review.

Brewed only once each year, Red & White uses a Belgian yeast strain, and sees additions of coriander and orange peel. The beer is a blend — 11% of the final beer is aged in Pinot Noir barrels, while the other 89% rests on oak barrel staves. You could call this an Imperial Wheat, as it comes in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume). Sam Calagione, Dogfish’s founder, came up with the idea while attending a wine dinner, where he departed wanting to make a beer that had vinous qualities.

My initial review went as follows:

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Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 14 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 33 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 95 points, or classic on my rating scale.

With two years in the bottle, and without having been disturbed since I laid it to rest in 2012, let’s crack into it.

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Pouring makes for a small, soapy, bright white head that lasts atop a beautifully vivid golden-orange beer. The body is cloudy, as you might expect from a wheat beer; there were no particles or sediment, but there were plenty of yeast dregs at the bottom of the bottle. Lacing was pretty good for such a high alcohol beer; there was a respectable sudsy layer at the top of the glass before all the action tapered off.

Possibly the most disappointing aspect of this aged beer was the nose, which has taken a sharp decline in complexity. I remember this beer having hoppy notes, funky yeast, and a large spice presence — not today. There’s some general malt sweetness up front mixed with a bit of orange peel. The alcohol is heavy, almost boozy; there’s plenty of the oak barrel, and a slightly wine-like scent going on. Think woodsy, ashy oak and a bready sweetness. As it warms, some coriander starts to mingle. Sweet, plenty of alcohol, but dialed-down when it comes to the scents you’re here for.

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On the taste, it’s more of a return to form — orange peel, coriander, and sweet grain hit up front, with a touch of light caramel sweetness. Eventually, the sweetness starts to win out, and it’s more of a toffee/Tootsie Roll thing going on, which I find typical in some aged beers, especially Barleywines — but this drinks a lot like a Belgian Tripel, not so much in yeast flavor, but in how dry it is. There’s notes of grape skin and oak barrel that come through, and the finish is warm (not boozy!) with dry orange peel and very sweet bready yeast. Red & White is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

This beer has changed a lot, and I’m more inclined to like it fresh. There’s significantly more grape and wine-like flavors here than I remember, which I suppose is what Mr. Calagione was after; however, a fresh bottle is more beer-like and seems to be easier drinking. Perhaps my tastes have changed some. Drink it fresh if you want a beer with some wine qualities; try it aged for wine with beer qualities.

Dogfish Head Red & White Wheat Ale, 87 points. Price: $13.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle.

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Redux Review 0022: Olde Hickory The Event Horizon Imperial Stout (2012)

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Back in December 2012, I first reviewed Olde Hickory’s The Event Horizon, a limited-release Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. I gave it high praise, awarding it 95 points, calling it “perhaps the finest example of chocolate in a beer that I’ve had to date.” Why not age one and see how it does over the course of time? That’s why we are here today.

Olde Hickory Brewery is located in Hickory, North Carolina, and was founded by Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates in 1994. They started making beer on a seven barrel system, and the small batch mindset continues to this day, with batches being 800 gallons or less at a time. In fact, Olde Hickory are so small, the majority of their beers have hand stamped best by dates on the bottles.

The Event Horizon is brewed once yearly, using ten different malts and local honey. It is then placed in oak bourbon barrels and allowed to age for an undetermined period of time; release is always in the late fall. The beer is 8.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).

My initial review:

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Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 13 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 95 points, or classic on my rating scale.

With around 18 months of basement time, let’s drink this one again…

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The pour issued up a small, dark tan head that was creamy in texture, but didn’t stick around very long. The beer is a spectacular stout black, with not even a glimmer of light coming through around the edges. This brew is dark; it’s so dark, that I couldn’t begin to tell you anything about the body of the beer other than it didn’t appear to contain any particles or sediment. Lacing was good, leaving behind initial solid yet thin sheets of suds, but it grew more sparse as I sipped.

One word to summarize the nose: AMAZING! Well-rounded: tons of chocolate, both dark and milk, semi-sweet and bitter, plenty of sweet caramel, and it’s balanced with just enough bourbon barrel character to make it really interesting. The bourbon lends itself more to the spicy end, with notes of vanilla bean and mild oak. Waves of these scents compete, and as it warms, a dark fruit twist joins in. Sweet, complex, and nearly mind-blowing…now I’m ready for a sip!

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The initial flavors go off like a bomb: thick caramel, sweet chocolate, then vanilla and heavily roasted malt. There’s a kiss of dark fruit (cherries and prune) before a solid note of bourbon kicks in and continues to linger throughout. The finish sees the return of dark chocolate, and it’s layered — echo upon echo of fudge bittersweet goodness, this beer is suddenly like climbing a mountain of fine chocolate. Wow. There’s a nice honey sweetness in the back, and the concluding notes bring a wash of hot alcohol, bourbon, and toasted oak barrel. Event Horizon is full-bodied, with a thick, creamy mouthfeel.

Not only has age been super kind to this beer, but it’s turned it into a work of art. The flavors are strong, complex, and it has all melded together breathtakingly well. When I say this was a treat to drink, I’m not exaggerating. Pure joy!

Olde Hickory The Event Horizon Imperial Stout (2012), 98 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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Redux Review 0021: Lagunitas Olde Gnarlywine Barleywine

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Back on April 14, 2012, when I first reviewed this beer, I pegged it as a brew that would likely age nicely. Today, we’re here to find out…

Two years ago, Lagunitas had just announced that they would be expanding from just one facility in Petaluma, California to two — the second would be located in the middle of the country, Chicago, to take advantage of distribution opportunities. Lagunitas have almost completed the new facility and are currently running test batches in preparation to crank up to full production.

Olde Gnarleywine is a limited release, a Barleywine that rings in at 10.6% ABV (alcohol by volume). The “Gnarleywine” name comes from the fact that Lagunitas says this is a hard one to make, and the beer sits in tanks for over a month to get everything right.

My initial review went like this:

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Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 31 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 94 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.

Let’s see where we stand, two years later; remember, this is a 2011 bottle, so it’s actually three years old…

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The pour produced an average size, creamy head that lasted. The beer was amber-brown out of light; quite murky and muddy looking. In bright light, it’s a beautiful cloudy bright red, with tangerine highlights. There’s a light dusting of sediment in the beer, making it opaque. Lacing is excellent, leaving thin, solid sheets of crisp foam.

The nose has only gotten more complex with age; there’s sweet caramel and toffee throughout the sniff, with flashes of milk chocolate, booze, and dark fruits (raisin, fig, and prune). It’s a very sweet smell but the booze seems to temper it just a bit — there’s also a lingering hop presence in the form of some grapefruit and pine, with some orange/citrus spiciness. As it warms, an herbal lemon tea begins to come out — more on this in the flavor description.

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Sadly, the taste didn’t really keep up with the delightful aroma. Initially, there’s plenty of caramel and toffee, and it hangs around for awhile; middle of the mouth features some faded grapefruit hops, and sugary sweet milk chocolate. But I began to notice as this brew warmed that an herbal lemon flavor started to come out more and more, and it’s medicinal, like a cough drop. At first, it blended well with everything else; but halfway through the glass, it started to take over. The finish is hot with alcohol, riding out lemon, caramel, and heavily toasted bread. These flavors didn’t really meld well, but it wasn’t awful. Without doubt, Gnarlywine is full-bodied, and has a thick, foamy mouthfeel. And the further you got into the bottle, the more the finish hit that same herbal lemon cough drop note.

A couple of notes here: first, this beer really reminded me of Lagunitas Imperial Stout (85 points) in terms of amount of sweetness. In fact, in my review of that beer, I called it an “Imperial Stout-Barleywine.” Secondly, this beer really didn’t age well. The flavors changed for the worse and the alcohol simply didn’t budge. I think those hop flavors that were so good in the fresh bottle turned into a honey-lemon cough drop and the toasted (nearly burnt) bread on the finish never really went anywhere. I do recommend you try this beer as it is a bit of a unique take on Barleywine, but do it fresh.

Lagunitas Olde Gnarlywine Barleywine, 88 points. Price: $3.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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Redux Review 0020: 21st Amendment Monk’s Blood Belgian Dark Ale

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Here’s a beer that I’ve been looking forward to trying again for a very long time — back in early 2012, I sampled 21st Amendment’s (San Francisco, California) Monk’s Blood, a Belgian Dark Ale brewed with eight different malts, Belgian candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, local figs, and aged on oak chips. AND SERVED FROM A CAN!

I rated it 91 points, and I was so impressed with the beer that I ranked it #15 on my Top 25 Beers of 2012 list.

My initial review:

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Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 13 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 31 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 32 of 35 points

Final Score: 91 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.

What an appropriate time to dig into the basement and pull out this can, dated from 2012 — 21st Amendment recently announced that after a one year hiatus, Monk’s Blood will be returning to bottle shops as a limited release four-pack, and should remain available until the end of May, 2014. They encourage you to enjoy it fresh but to also age some. Let’s take a look and see what some time does to Monk’s Blood, the curious oak-aged beer in a can.

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Pouring spills forth a beautiful beer capped by a large, frothy head that is light tan in color and lasts. The beer is muddy and murky amber-brown out of light, but in light is revealed to be a deep mahogany with red highlights. There is some cloudiness and a light presence of particles and sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving sticky patches of foam in the initial sips.

The nose is very nice and quite complex; big notes of toasted and doughy bread, cinnamon, and dark fruit are the main flavors, followed by more delicate tones of woodsy oak, rum-soaked raisins, and sugary cinnamon. There’s lots of cinnamon here and it serves to enhance the booze in a good way, making this seem like cinnamon bread with a dipping of some thick boozy syrup. It’s awesome and I think age has worked magic here, not only making the aroma more complex, but melding the individual scents into a potent marriage.

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On the palate, the cinnamon is high in the mix, and the vanilla that was once here has taken a backseat to more of a cinnamon/oak flavor and a generous helping of dark fruits — raisin bread, doughy yeast, and toasted/slightly burnt sugar lead the way. The oak tends to come out through the middle, and the flavor pretty much stays the same until the finish, which brings on even more cinnamon and a moderate bitterness along with a delicate sugary edge. It’s interesting if a bit jarring, at first — this beer really comes into its own as it warms, just about to room temperature. The alcohol is completely hidden. Monk’s Blood is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

Overall, I thought the beer gained some in the aroma department but lost a little in the flavor — it tasted somewhat oxidized, or a little less full-flavored, than I remember. That might sound crazy given that it was in the perfect environment, a can — but that’s how my taste buds experienced it. That said, it’s still an outstanding beer, and I highly encourage you to seek out some of the fresh cans and tune in. I bet you’d never guess this came out of a can! Start out cold (45°F or less) and allow to gradually warm, sipping slowly — this brew tells a story.

21st Amendment Monk’s Blood Belgian Dark Ale, 90 points. Price: $2.49 US for one 12 oz. can.

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