Take a Trip With Me: Flying Fish Exit 18 Baltic Porter

Flying_Fish_Exit_18_Baltic_Porter

On the docket:  750 mL bottle of Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Exit 18 Baltic Porter, no best by/born on date.

Poured into:  Jester King Snorkel snifter

S:  A pitch-black body fills out the snifter, capped with a khaki head that builds, sticks around long enough for you to notice it was there, then makes a smooth exit  (See what I did?).  The result is a soapy vapor-trail like film on top, coupled with a few bubbles and a tightly hugging ring around the perimeter of the glass.  Lacing is spotty and nearly absent.

A:  Dark and brooding.  Roasted malt, mainly coffee and dark chocolate.  Though the malt is the star of the aroma, one can detect a faint bit of citrus and pine from the hops.  Faint whispers of molasses and date/fig, not unlike its cousin, the Russian Imperial Stout.

T:  Much of the aroma follows through to the taste, but that’s fine by me.  Dark, bittersweet chocolate and coffee arrive first, speeding through to the middle, where the fig and/or date flavors get picked up, holding a cardboard sign saying, “will work for beer.”  The trip ends with a hop bitterness, some pine and citrus—and as the beer warms up—a wave of booze.  It’s to be expected.  This Baltic beauty clocks in at 9.5%, so sip with care.  While the booze is present, it’s not alarming.  It’s welcomed, much like finding the highway deserted in the wee hours of the morning on one’s way to work.  An added bonus- a slight (but noticeable) bit of black licorice on the end.

F:  Smooth, creamy, luxurious.  I’ve used that trifecta to describe beer before, but it’s apt.  Delicate carbonation, enough to free up some of the traffic, but it’s more a three lanes back to four, not three lanes back to five, to continue the transportation metaphor.  The hops help to dry out the tongue in the finish, and combined with the roasted malt, provide a nice astringency that gives balance to what could be a too-sweet beer.

O:  So far, my favorite Exit done by Flying Fish, and a great representation of the style.  This is a “clear your schedule” type of beer, especially if you’re not keen on splitting high-abv offerings.

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

Suggested food pairing:  grilled red meat and roasted vegetables, hearty stew, earthy, nutty cheese, coffee-driven desserts or maybe even Black Forest cake.  Also good as what I will start calling a “cocktail beer,” in the sense that it’s excellent in place of dessert itself; enjoyed on its own.

It’s Been 20 Years? Stone’s Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Stone_Bitter_Chocolate_Oatmeal_Stout

On the docket:  22 oz. Stone Brewing Co.’s 20th Anniversary Encore Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  Bottled:  1/10/16.

Poured into:  Stone Brewing Co. branded pint glass

S:  An ebony body fills out the glass.  On top sits an espresso-foam tan head, thick and sustaining.  Lacing is thick and regular.  Bubbles may be present, but the body is so dark, I cannot see them.

A:  Great aroma of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt and cut oats.  The hops are lost under the amazing, midnight black medley.  As the beer warms, the alcohol is a bit more pronounced.

T:  The nose carries over into the taste.  Added to the fold is an initial sweetness.  It quickly fades, and the dark, bittersweet baker’s chocolate comes through.  Roasted coffee and a liberal dose of bitter hops carry on through to the finish.  Hops provide a piney punch on the end.  Alcohol is present as a pleasant tingle as the beer approaches room temperature.

F:  Fluffy, smooth, creamy.  For such a high abv beer, this one is easy to drink, mostly due to the oats, lightening the body.  It is titled Bitter Chocolate, and they’re not fooling around at Stone.  Between the hop bill and the treatment of the malt, there is a significant drying effect on the end of this beer.  Long finish, with a bracing bitterness.

O:  Luxurious, sweet but mostly savory.  For those looking for a “grows on you” type of beer, this is for you.  Dark chocolate fans should grab this one.

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

Suggested food pairing:  Tiramisu, sweet cheesecake, nutty/creamy English cheese, barbecue with sweet sauce

My Empire for a beer: Cuvee van de Keizer

On the docket:  750 mL cork and cage bottle of Brouwerij Het Anker’s Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (Blue) bottled:  2/24/2012

Poured into:  Hand-washed Maredsous stemmed goblet

S:  A luxurious raisin-brown body sits beneath a beige head that builds, then dies.  Some soapish suds hang around, plus a round bubble-peninsula formed on one side of the goblet.  Lacing left is thin and very delicate.

A:  A date-lover’s dream.  Rich aroma of dark fruit, fig, dates.  Plums.  Subtle spicy phenols, and tell-tale fruity yeast esters (plus a small hint of bubblegum).  A bouquet fit for a king (or an emperor).  The hops here are quite muted at the outset.  The alcohol too, is well integrated into the beer, as I can’t detect from sniffing this beauty that it’s 11% abv.

T:  Oh.  My.  God.  Dark notes of molasses, Belgian candi-sugar, bittersweet chocolate.  Fruit overtures of… is that raspberry?  A slightly tart and medicinal cherry.  Plums.  Dates and figs bow to the tongue.  This guy also contains port notes (not to be confused with Portnoy- an emperor in his own right).  Hey, don’t forget the light impression of leather and tobacco– that one takes a bit to show up, but it’s there.  Call me a joker, but I also get a little bit of soy sauce and yeah, I’ll go there- umami.  Just a hint of bitterness and astringency, but in a pleasant way.

F:  I don’t say this often about mouthfeel, but this beer has it all.  It possesses great carbonation, especially on the roof of the mouth.  Slick and regal, and at the same time, made deceptively light due to the aforementioned carbonation.  It’s got a long finish, and this is where the alcohol is most present.  Give it a few seconds.  A rampant lion, that booze.

O:  This Belgian Strong Dark is more than capable of expanding his empire into your mouth and subjugating your senses.  However, this is more of a friendly annexation, not a hostile-takeover.  Though I’m not truly an expert (in my head I am), I’d say it’s fair to theorize that an older bottle might have more port, and a younger bottle feels a bit hotter in the alcohol department.  4 years?  Perfect.  Though this is not Chimay Grand Reserve, this is truly a regal libation.  I could drink this for days, but it would pull me under.

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

Suggested food pairing:  Korean beef barbecue, creamy and pungent cheese, fruit cakes, candied fruit

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.

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

Big. Beer. Barleywine.

On the docket:  Smuttynose Barleywine Style Ale (part of the BIG BEER Series).  Bottle conditioned, and brewed in 2013.  Excellent- pre-aged.  No waiting needed.

Poured into:  Jester King Snörkel snifter.

S:  An opaque tawny, brown body sits below a quick-rising khaki head.  After a minute or so, the head dies down, sitting tight and sudsy.  I’ve not even had a sip, and there’s lacing on the glass, medium bands of beauty.

A:  This big beer boasts fig, caramel and pine in the initial aroma.  Further inhalation provides sweet malt and certain fusel booziness.  It smells characteristic of an American Barleywine.

T:  The taste mimics much of the aroma, adding a bit of earthy, spicy hop signature.  The malt sired toasted brown bread and caramel.  When on the cold side, the alcohol is masked.  When warm, it’s easier to detect.  Bitterness helps balance out the sweetness.

F:  Some carbonation present, enough to keep the sweetness from dominating and creating fatigue.  Medium body, dry bitter finish that lasts and lasts.  Woo!

O:  In addition to being a favorite style, I also appreciate that this example produced by a respected American brewer bridges the gap between treacle-sweet English BWs and hop-bomb, abrasive US versions (fresh Bigfoot comes to mind).  Thus one hits all the marks- hoppy, boozy (in a good way- not hot and solventy), nice initial sweetness.  A fine example of the style.

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

Suggested food pairing:  Creamy goat cheese, braised beef, spicy Thai or Indian curry (if you’re the masochistic type)

It’s Scolgian… it’s Botch? Ach… McChoufe

On the docket:  750ml bottle of Brasserie d’Achouffe’s McChouffe, bottle date:  best before end of 2015.  Seems like I’m cutting it close.

Poured into:  Etched Chimay Goblet

S:  An initial mass of beige-gray head, thick and puffy forms.  Underneath, a dark, burnt-sienna body sits, with an orange tint at the base.  Tiny bubbles snake up to the top.  Eventually, the head dies down to a thin cap on top, bubbles populating the head, sort of like soap.

A:  Fruity esters immediately wend their way into your nose, laddie.  Ef ya couple that with some yeasty bubblegum and a bit of caramelized malt, you have the knack of it.  The hops, while muted, are spicy and earthy.  It’s entertaining to smell, the sweetness being a draw factor here.

T:  Some of the aroma carries over into the taste.  The fruit here is dark and plummy, but gentle.  A spot of hay, or husk, sweet caramel, a definite melanoidin tang like that of a Scotch ale, and a bit of spice and earth from the hops.

F:  Tingly carbonation, chewy mouthfeel, fluffy.  Deceptively light bodied.  A kiss of warming alcohol on the end, more pronounced as it warms up (at 8.0%, it’s certainly prudent to exercise a dram of caution.  A finish that sticks around.

O:  Though the brewery calls this beer a brown ale, and while they’re not exactly wrong, I feel that comes up short in describing this one.  Picture the offspring of Gerard Butler and Ellen Petri (go ahead and look her up, I had to, too) in a beer, and this is much closer to the mark.  There are equal parts Scotch ale and Belgian Strong Dark in here, and they combine to make something that while new, is evident of its parents.  This is a pleasure to sip and meditate on; much like the upcoming celebration of our Lord’s birth.

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

Suggested food pairing:  Molasses grilled barbecue ribs, beef Szechuan, sharp cheddar cheese, crème brûlée, on its own as dessert