Lost in the Maze: Uinta’s Labyrinth

On the docket:  750 mL cork and cage bottle of Uinta’s Labyrinth, bottle date:  7/26 (year unknown)

Poured into:  Jester King Snorkel snifter

S:  The inkiest, blackest, consuming black fills my glass.  On top, espresso-foam head wells up, then settles to a small ring.  It’s completely opaque, so I cannot detect bubble activity.  I could stare into its depths for hours, but I have to smell and taste it, too.

A:  Roasted coffee, wood, the darkest of chocolate, and Oh My Sweet Lord!  Black Licorice.  Bright citrus aroma off the hops.  And yes… booze.  This black beauty weighs in at 13.2%.  Sip with care!

T:  If I were Adam, in the Garden, and Lucifer were to slither up to me with a glass of this and start speaking of rebellion–well–let’s just say he wouldn’t have to try very hard.  This is most of everything I look for in a dark, dangerous beer.  Sweet date and fig up front quickly yields to coffee, dark chocolate, and black licorice.  The bright note from the hop aroma shows up towards the end, only to be outdone by a dry, roasty, woody finish.  The faintest hint of vanilla.  Your tongue turns to 800 grit sandpaper and you go back for another seductive barrage of flavor.  A note- the black licorice is smooth and silky, like that of gourmet product, not of a candy that rhymes with sizzler.

F:  Creamy, oily, slick, coating.  Rich and luxurious.  As it warms…. so does the finish, though quite dry.  Drink cool for crispness, drink warmer for richness.

O:  Quite possibly the best imperial stout I’ve ever tasted, and though I may not have had offerings such as The Abyss, Dark Lord, Hunahpu, Speedway, Black Note, or those whales that people chase… good God!  Give me one of these every year, and I’ll consider myself a blessed man.

S:  4  A:  4.5  T:  4.75  F:  4.25  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing:  smoked charcuterie, braised beef, low and slow barbecue, tiramisu, and my personal pick- traditional Slovak poppy seed roll.  Divine flavor synthesis.

Advertisements

Dam good IPA

No, it’s not a typo.

On the docket: 11.2 oz. bottle of Brouwerij ‘t IJ’s IPA besy by:  6/2016.  Nice and fresh.

Poured into:  Man Skirt pint glass

S:  Cloudy gold body with a thick, bubble-ridden head.  Lace heavy and clingy, but the head is slowly receding as I admire it and type out the review.  Tiny bubbles rise from the bottom of the glass.  This unfiltered, unpasteurized beauty makes the buxom, inked woman on the bottle less interesting.

A:  Bright citrus of grapefruit, clean malt, and faint floral mélange.  Simple, subtle, inviting.

T:  The nose carries into the taste.  Bright citrus and a hint of pine come through in the hops department.  There is a touch of floral-ness, but only just.  The initial sweetness, while the beer is cool, is whisked away by the dry, bitter, and long finish of this Cascade and Citra-heavy brew.  As it warms, the sweetness sticks around for a second or two longer.

F:  Medium with nice carbonation, able to scrub your mouth and make you reach for your glass again.  Dry and bracing.

O:  Very pleasant take on the style from a brewery nestled into the most recognized city in North Holland- Amsterdam.  This is the first of a six-bottle gift set I received, all by this brewery.  Stay tuned for my next choice, whatever it may be.  Amstel Lite, this is not!

S:  4  A:  3.75  T:  4  F: 4  O:  4

Suggested food pairing:  Creamy cheddar cheese, summer salads, rare hamburger on brioche bun

Hop’solute Certainty: Fegley’s “TIPA”

On the docket:  Allentown Brew Work’s Hop’solutely

Poured into:  12 oz. draft offering at the bar/brewery poured into an ABW snifter

S:  Crystal clear burnished orange/amber body under a beige head that quickly recedes into a soapy island on top.

A:  I got quite a few tropical aromas including mango, guava, melon (my wife said grapefruit) plus a hint of heat and a caramel and toffee sweetness.  This brute is also dry-hopped with Amarillo and Chinook hops, what a treat to the nose.

T:  Wow!  An aggressive bitter hop assault of pine and dryness, and oh… did I say bitter?  I’ll chalk this up to the Cascade, CTZ, Summit, Amarillo, and Chinook hop bill.  After your senses recover, you can also get a nice sweet caramel to counter the hops from the Caramel malt, and even a touch of fruitcake-y sweetness.

F:  Oily, slick, and coating.  There’s a prickly carbonation that helps to scrub the palate, easing you into the next sip of this 11.5% abv behemoth.  It ends with a bone-dry finish that enables you to go back for more.

O:  Crazy, fun, fresh offering at the location.  Drink with care and a smile.  Reminiscent of an American Barleywine or Strong Ale, because technically, there is no such thing as a “triple IPA” and that’s fine by me.  I’ve read other reviews that give this beer such a hard time.  Try it fresh from the tap at the Allentown location, you might think about it differently.

S:  4  A:  4.5  T:  4.25  F:  4  O:  4

Suggested food pairing:  Pasta Primavera, buffalo wings with bleu cheese, carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting

Go “down cellar” and bring this up: Allagash Tripel Ale

On the docket:  750ml cork & cage Allagash Tripel Ale, bottle date:  8/6/15.

Poured into:  Chimay etched chalice

S:  A quickly rising, stark-white whip of head formed on the surface of a nearly Ticonderoga #2 pencil-colored body.  The head will settle down, clinging to the top in a ¾ thumb-width.  Tiny bubbles zip to the surface.  There is a visible cloudiness in the body, but this treat was bottle conditioned, so that’s just fine by me.

A:  Light, malty sweetness works in partnership with a dry, spicy note of clove.  Gentle banana and bubblegum (and I mean really gentle) yeast esters also emanate from the head.  A mild fruitiness (Allagash says passionfruit).  Spicy, earthy hops probably feel overlooked, but I waved at them, made them feel appreciated.

T:  Dry clove spice and an earthy, husky/straw flavor meet your senses immediately.  One will also detect some sweetness from the malt and the candi sugar.  There’s certainly a little fruitiness in the mouth, too.  Peach?  Apricot?  Mango?  I’ll chalk that up to the yeast.  Honey wends its way into the flavor.  The hops and the higher alcohols show up in the finish.  It’s a slight warming tingle, but by no means unpleasant. Tripels are dangerous– light body, great flavor, and well-integrated alcohol.  This one comes in at 9% abv.  Take your time with this cork and cage beauty.

F:  Light, fluffy, tingly, and like they said on the bottle, a long finish.  A great sipper.

O:  An excellent interpretation of a cherished Belgian style by an American brewery.  High marks to Allagash.  If you think this one is good, try their barrel-aged releases.

Suggested food pairing:  Rich creamy Blue cheese, Italian or clove seasoned pork-loin, fruit tart or maybe even a slice of apple pie a la mode

S:  4.25  A:  4.5  T:  4.75  F:  4.5  O:  4.5

Not The Verve: Left Hand’s Bittersweet (Symphony) Imperial Coffee Milk Stout

On the docket:  22 oz. Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Bittersweet Imperial Coffee Milk Stout (best by date of 4/17/16)

Poured into:  Jester King Snorkel snifter

S:  A coca-cola colored head forms atop an opaque, brown-black body.  It settles to a small cap, and leaves delicate, thin rings around the glass.  After peering closely at the bottom of my glass, I do see bubbles slowly tuning upwards to the top.

A:  The overture begins with roasted malt in the form of coffee, dark dark chocolate, and that oat-y aroma that reminds you of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout or Left Hand’s own Milk Stout on Nitro (or even their Fade to Black).  A pleasant surprise- despite the high abv (8.9%) I do not detect the alcohols at the outset.  Perhaps they’ll feature in the second movement, after the beer has had a chance to warm up.  The hops, while subdued, are present in the form of a faint whiff of pine.

T:  A (bittersweet) symphony of flavors swirls around your palate after one sip.  Espresso and coffee tones are at a forte volume, from the actual coffee and roasted malt.  The sweetness from the lactose decrescendos the volume, smooths out the rough edges, like a strings section rounding out a bold brass of trombones, French horns and euphoniums.  If you listen closely with your tongue, you might even hear the gentle “ting” of the dark cherry triangle.  The movement ends with a bit of clanging bitterness, the hops playing snare drum and cymbals.  A low, warm boozy bassoon completes the finish.

F:  Smooth, fluffy and velvety- flutes, clarinets and perhaps a piccolo, to extend the musical metaphor I already established.  Oily, coating.  Deceptively light-bodied despite the usual assumption people have that dark beer is heavy.  The carbonation is present, gentle pricks on the tongue.  It’s just enough to scrub away the sweetness, like an usher guiding you to your seat with a flashlight.

O:  Marvelous offering by my favorite, sinister-friendly brewery.  It’s something to take in, and enjoy.  Pick it apart, study it.  Analyze it, like you might do with a well-composed piece of music.  I did.  I’d call this one Brahms-like, akin to his requiem.

Suggested food pairing:  Bold barbecue, earthy cheddar cheese, desserts featuring dark chocolate, cherries, or coffee flavors, tiramisu

S:  4.0  A:  4.0  T:  4.5  F:  4.0  O:  4.25

Belgian Trifecta Part 3: Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) Ribbon

On the docket:  11.2 oz.  Chimay Grande Réserve (blue)

Poured into:  Chimay chalice

S:  A rich, dark, barbecue sauce-like brown body sits underneath a beige head.  I poured with enough force to create a nice, inch-plus head, but it settled down to just more than half a thumbnail.  The body is so dark I cannot see the bubble activity from the base of my etched chalice.

A:  Dark, fruity, almost bubble-gum like sweetness leads the pack, followed closely by grapey-port or sherry note.  Spicy pepper and phenols trail behind, with hops in the rearview mirror.

T:  Plum, an overall fruitiness, and a definite twang of umani.  This brown-eyed girl has a bit of port in the palate.  Like its (argued) diminutive sibling, the Rouge, the Blue also boasts fruit-cake qualities, and while bitter, gives wide berth to its sweetness.  Climbing from a manageable 7% in the Rouge to cautionary 8% in the White, Blue boasts an abv just over 9%.  You can tell, the warmth from the alcohol is certainly present, but by no means “hot” or solvent-like.

F:  Dangerously light and fluffy feel courtesy of the carbonation.  Moderately long finish of dryness, and tingle from the bubbles.

O:  Regarded as Chimay’s crowning achievement.  I understand why.  Most people don’t even considering opening this masterpiece until it’s at least five years old.  I don’t have that luxury yet, so I’ll settle (right… settle) for the fresh-off the line model.  This is a libation for sitting and sipping, not shot-gunning in a contest.  Enjoyable during cold weather in front of a roaring fire and a heavy, small-print hardcover novel.

S:  4.25  A:  4.25  T:  4.75  F:  4.25  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing:  filet with bleu cheese butter, sharp cheddar, baby-back ribs, New York style cheese cake- fruit optional

Belgian Trifecta Part 2: Chimay White

On the docket:  11.2 oz. bottle of Chimay’s Cinq Cents (white)

Poured into:  Brand new logoed Chimay Chalice

S:  A stark white, meringue-like head sits on top of a burnished bronze body.  This is not a fake tan however, but the real deal.  Until pouring the remains of the bottle (gasp) I could see tiny bubbles shooting up to join with the underside of the head that sits around, leisurely, taunting me to disturb it.  Lacing is nearly the entire side of the glass.  Wow.  Thick blotches with pockmarks.

A:  Gentle malt sweetness melds with a yeasty clove and spiciness.  Hops are very subtle, and lend a spiciness as well.  The alcohols whisper at you, leading me to believe they’re well integrated into the beer.  I could smell this for hours.

T:  Sugar and spice, which makes tripels nice, greet the tongue immediately.  Despite the sweet greeting, this beauty dries out in an instant.  The slightest touch of caramel, brown sugar, and an ending of subtle noble hops round out this beer.  Along with the previous, delicate warmth develops as you drink it.  It reminds you that though this beer is easy and enjoyable to drink, it’s got some heft.  The label states 8%.  I’ve got a small bottle, but a cork and cage version would do most people in.

F:  Tingle, tingle, tingle, how the bubbles jingle.  Most use the term “expressive” carbonation when referring to traditional tripels.  It certainly applies here.  Without the carbonation, Cinq Cents might be a bit of a chore to finish.  Thankfully, the bubbles “lift and separate” the thickness from your palate.  The hops and the spice stick around considerably after a swallow.  Then you go back for more.  Long, drying finish.  Refreshing.  But NOT a lawnmower beer.

O:  The monks of Scourmont Abbey have been at this for more than 150 years.  They’ve got their art down to a science.  Excellent execution of the Trappist tripel style, those in-the-know utter the name Chimay in hushed reverential tones, like death metal-heads do with the names Åkerfelt, Schuldiner, and Lindberg.  I could drink this all day long, but I have another Chimay beer to review.

S:  4.5  A:  4.5  T:  4.75  F:  4.5  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing:  sharp cheddar, lemon-seasoned chicken, summer salads, lemon squares or fruit tart