Before officially ringing in the new year, I am looking back at 2010 to reminisce about all the delicious beers I came across. (I am also playing catch-up on last year’s New Year’s resolution. Still counts, right?) This Super List post has the beers that tickled my fancy in October, consisting of some timely fresh-hopped beers, along with a few surprises like a celebrated local homebrewer’s take on a bourbon barrel-aged sour ale.
Enjoyed any of these beauties yourself? Let me know what you thought of them.
Stone 07/07/07 Vertical Epic Ale Aged in Red Wine Barrels (on draft at Stone Total Tap Take-Over at ChurchKey) – This special rarity is part of Stone Brewing Company‘s Vertical Epic series of annual beers that are brewed to be aged until December 2012 (12/12/12 to be exact). This version of the 2007 batch was aged for eight months in red wine barrels. The original brew, a hybrid between a Saison and a Belgian-style Tripel, is brewed with grapefruit, lemon and orange peel and Belgian yeast. The 8.4%-abv medium-bodied beer had a sweet, boozey nose with red wine notes. It tasted rich, a little salty, and had some plum flavors. The mouth feel was buttery, and there was a hint of coconut in the beer’s dry finish.
Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels (on draft at Stone Total Tap Take-Over at ChurchKey) – The 9.6%-abv beer poured black with subtle red hues. It smelled like bourbon-spiked hot cocoa. A deep chocolate taste gave way to flavors of roast, coffee, and then booze. It had a think, chewy mouth feel but was drinkable for the style and relatively high alcohol content.
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Emporer’s Grand Cru Vintage 2006 (on draft at The Brickskeller) – This beer has been a favorite since the Bruce and I shared our first bottle during Bohemian Caverns’ old Belgian beer happy hour many years ago. The Grand Cru of the Emporer (Blue label), or Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw in Flemish, is brewed each year on February 24 to celebrate the birth of Charles V, 16th-century ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. This 11%-abv Belgian ale was murky brown with a foamy, rimmed, cream-colored head. There was prune, raisin, and a hint of anise in the nose. Warm, boozey, and a bit salty, the vintage ale reminded me of pralines. Probably due to four years of aging, the beer had a tiny hint of tomato sauce, a common off-flavor due to oxidation. But the beer still tasted wonderful.
New Holland Charkoota Rye Smoked Doppelbock (on draft at Rustico in Ballston) – With the image of a flying pig on the label, this Michigan beer is New Holland’s tribute to all things pork (think charcuterie and smoked bacon). The 7.7%-abv dark lager is made from rye and four other malts, including barley smoked over cherry wood. With the intensity of ash and pork aromas and toffee and smoke flavors, the beer was impressively balanced. A lager, the brew had a nice dry finish with some spice in the after taste.
DesJardin Bourbon Barrel Aged Oud Bruin (at DesJardin homebrewing headquarters) – This remarkable 12%-abv Belgian-style Flanders Oud Bruin (code for sour brown ale) was aged in an A. Smith Bowman barrel that held Virginia Gentleman bourbon. It smelled like bourbon with a touch of sourness and had coconut, Worcestershire sauce flavors followed by an acidic tartness. Nathan Zeender, the talented local homebrewer behind DesJardin Brewing, let me try a batch of the same beer fermented with tart cherries hand-picked in at HartlandOrchard in Markham. They were both lip-puckering good.
Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA (on draft at Two Brothers Tap House in Warrenville, IL) – October is the time for fresh harvest ales. This 6.7%-abv orange amber IPA was brewed with fresh Centennial hops within moments of the time they were picked. The result was sweet and fruity and smelled surprisingly like a strawberry and banana smoothie with some honey and grapefruit thrown into the blender. As the beer’s name suggests, Heavy-Handed is strong and full-bodied, but I was impressed with its balance.
Pizza Port Riptide IPA (on draft at the Tomme Arthur Fresh Harvest Tasting at The Brickskeller) – Another wet-hopped ale, this brew was made with fresh Centennial and Simcoe hops at the Pizza Portbrewpub location in San Clemente, California. The nose was very bready with nut, oat, and toast notes. The 6.5%-abv pale amber beer tasted as it smelled with some nice fruit and malt flavors. Medium-bodied with a crisp finish, this beer was much more drinkable than some of the hop bombs dished out that night by Tomme Arthur, founder and director of brewery operations of Pizza Port’s production entity, Port Brewing Company.
Image from TheWineAndCheesePlace