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Last year Nate was driving from Colorado back to Michigan, and I offered him a place to crash as he passed through Chicago. It was a Friday night. At my previous job, we got out at noon on Fridays, and that particular day I had to go down to the DMV in the Loop. Since it was also Chicago Craft Beer Week, I figured, why not bar crawl my way back up to my place? I don’t get down to that area all that often, and there were some places I was interested in going.
I IMed Tim throughout the day, and finally sent him a custom Google Map of my route. This proved helpful, since on my bar crawl, I happened to be overserved. Couple that with my phone dying, and Nate got into to town and had no where to go. He called Tim, who used the map to play detective and called up the places I had been earlier that. Unfortunately, that didn’t help too much that much, since I was passed out on my couch.
Eventually (around 1a) I woke up, called Nate, and brought him up to my apartment, apologizing profusely along the way. We stayed up for a while, drank a bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru, and eventually passed out around 6a.
What does this delightful story have to do with the beer in question? Well, at some point on my impromptu bar crawl, I ended up stopping at a bottle shot and picking up a mixed six pack, including Three Philosophers. I had seen it at Binny’s a few times, and been tempted, but I didn’t want to pull the trigger on a $12 bomber. This option was a 12oz bottle, presumably for less (my inhibitions were limited at that point anyway).
I’ve been meaning to drink it for a while, but haven’t for one reason or another. It’s actually a 2010 vintage, which means it’s been aging for at least 18 months. This makes it the longest cellaring project I’ve ever done. Maybe it comes with maturity. I have a couple bottles of Russian River along with a Two Brothers Hoodwink that I’m sitting for a while. Anyway, on to the review…
Appearance: The beer pours smooth and viscous. It’s coppery with hints of ruby where the light strikes it. It had a two finger, thick, khaki head that gracefully laced down to a thin layer on top.
Aroma: The aroma is heavy with tart cherry with a sweet malty backbone. There’s a background suggestion of the alcohol heat as well.
Taste: The cherrie’s aren’t as heavy in the taste. Instead there is a raisin/prune flavor from the malt (Special B? Dark Crystal?). The malt really shines throughout the taste of this beer, and helps tamp down the alcohol heat. That heat is felt, rather than tasted, which is always welcome. The finish is where the cherries come in. For a rich beer, it finish with a very clean, slightly tart flavor from the cherries. Very nice. I’m letting it warm as I drink it. I’m hoping some more flavors may appear.
Mouthfeel: This beer is silky smooth and has some weight to it. Definitely one to sip slowly and enjoy.
Overall: I’m not sure it’s necessary for me to say this is a good beer. That seems to be an established fact. I had never had this beer before tonight, despite having the bottle for over a year, and first resolving to try it over two years ago. All in all, it was worth the wait. It had a lot of hype to live up to and met it easily. I am glad I only have 12oz bottle instead of a bomber, though.
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Previously, I had mentioned that I thought Black IPAs were getting too widespread. It seemed like every brewery at the festival Nate and I went to had 2 of either an IPA, IIPA, DIPA, BIPA or DIPA. I admit, after that festival and after that beer, I was pretty down on Black IPAs. I was just overloaded.
After about a month of having an eclectic mix of beers, I am ready to dive back in a give it a go. It doesn’t hurt that Stone makes, what I consider, the ideal Black IPA. I should mention that I picked this beer up while picking some items up at Whole Foods. I never really consider going there to pick up beers as their a grocery store (a rather pricey one at that), and I have a booze superstore 2 blocks away.
However, I’m a firm believer that one should always take a quick detour through a store’s craft beer section. If you go to the same store all the time, you only get the beers picked out by one purchaser and delivered by those distributors. Even if the new store is not an amazing bottle shop, there’s a decent chance you might find something interesting that you’ve never tried before, like this Stone Collaboration beer from 2011.
More Brown Than Black IPA is a collaboration between Stone, The Alchemist and Ninkasi. The brewers came together after Hurricane Irene hit Vermont and essentially destroyed The Alchemist brewpub. In this video on Stone’s youtube channel, John Kimmich talks about walking into his bar and brewery and seeing the discussion. They also talk about the beer:
The proceeds of this beer go to a worthy cause; now I just hope the beer is worthy!
Appearance: The beer is a dark, opaque brown. There are ruby sparks at the thin parts on the glass, but very little lights gets through. There was a of finger, bubbly white head that laced down the glass to a thin film over the top of the beer.
Aroma: There’s definitely hop notes in the nose. I’d say mostly resiny with spicy and floral notes. Underneath the hop aroma, really holding it up, is a rich, caramel-y malt smell. This is what these new style, dark IPAs should smell like.
Taste: There’s a lot of bitterness in this beer, and it really lingers after the sip. I wouldn’t call it muddy or messy, but it’s trending that way. After the initial taste of hops, the malts come into the taste. They are sweet, roasty with hints of caramel, and really balance with the hops and round out the beer. The sip finishes with some aggressive, lingering bitterness that is tempered and cleaned up by the sweetness of the malt and the bubbles from the carbonation.
Mouthfeel: This is a very rich, smooth beer. It doesn’t have the dryness one normally associates with an IPA or, even, a Black IPA. It feels like a rich brown ale. The head on top contributes to this feel as well.
Overall: I really like this beer. For my money, Stone has the best Black IPA out there, and this is a worthy sibling. The fact that a slice goes to charity is purely a bonus. Hopefully something like this beer makes it into production at Stone. This is what needs to happen in Dark IPAs.
Stone has quite a few canonical beers. Arrogant Bastard is one of the best West Coast beers. Sublimely Self Righteous Ale acted as the model for black IPAs as they rose to ubiquity. Old Guardian is right up there for American Barely Wines.
While I spend a lot of time in this space talking about the joy of creating or trying something surprising and genuinely new, I do appreciate the standards. It doesn’t seem like summer without Saison DuPont. Two Hearted isn’t exceptional in any way besides being the best widely available IPA in the country. These beers act as guideposts for innovation and change. They are the established base that brewers use for inspiration.
A lot of times, I overlook beers because I see them all over. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to give the out there beers a break and go back to the beers that either created or defined styles.
Appearance: This beer was not as dark as I expected. The beer is a coppery, tan, with ruby tinges when you hold it up to the light. There was a fluffy, off-white head that faded quickly to a thin film.
Aroma: The smell is all malt. Tons of caramel and biscuit comes through. There’s a hint of alcohol heat at the back end of the nose. It certainly isn’t cloying, but has a bit of sweetness to it.
Taste: The taste a bit sharper and drier than the nose. The hops are certainly not overpowering, but come in to help balance the flavor and keep it from being overwhelmingly sweet. At the front of the taste there’s plenty of caramel and malt. The hops follow to dry it out a little bit more. At the end of there’s a fair bit of alcohol heat. You don’t want to have a beer that’s 11% not to have a little kick to it.
Mouthfeel: It’s not as viscous as I thought it would be. There’s not much carbonation; just enough to keep it a little lively. It could actually use a bit more carbonation to keep it from being a bit syrupy. Still, that’s not necessarily against style for a Barley Wine.
Overall: I’m not exactly sure if this is the perfect beer for a 80 degree night with about 90% humidity, but this is certainly a good beer. I had this “cellaring” for about 6 months before cracking it open. That’s really nothing for this beer. I’d be curious to try it after sitting for a year or two. This is certainly a great example of a Barley Wine. There’s a little bit of that Stone, West coast style with the somewhat aggressive hopping, but I think that helps balance it out, rather than move it out of style.
Stone has a long history of collaborations. Not all of them are hits, but I can usually find them at my local bottle shop for about $3 for a 12oz bottle. As unit price, it’s a little high, but it’s a low enough price point that I don’t mind dropping it on something that could be a crap shoot. And, with some of these somewhat out there beers, you may not want much more than a 12 ounces.
I’ve been on a saison kick for a little over a year, since I tasted my first batch of Rye Saison. We recently brewed a second batch, and since we certainly can’t keep well enough alone, we decided to split off a bit and do something different. Naturally, I’m always looking for inspiration, and this really seems to fit the bill.
Here’s Sam Caglione of Dogfish Head tasting the beer in a Reno 911 costume (… I don’t know):
Yeah… so there’s that. Anyway, these are three great brewers getting together to do something right in my wheelhouse. Even if it was more expensive, I would have probably still would have picked it up.
Appearance: The beer is the color of golden straw. It’s very transparent with a steady stream of bubbles rising from the stem of the goblet. There’s a very minimal white head that quickly reduces to a small patchwork on covering about two thirds of the beer.
Aroma: The nose is led by very earthy, grassy notes from the hops. There is also an herbaceous quality that comes across a little savory and a little spicy. Very interesting aroma.
Taste: Very, very dry. The beer is crisp, clean and dry like a good saison should be. The first taste is the grassy notes from the hops. What follows is a progression from the different herb flavors.There’s a lingering spiciness from the herbs (maybe the thyme?) that leaves the palate fresh.
Mouthfeel: The beer is light and dry with very bright carbonation. Right to style for a saison. A little more head might be nice, but that’s picking nits.
Overall: A lot of beers that are conceived from a joke or reference sacrifice the quality of the overall beer in order to make the more clever joke. This beer manages to pull off the parsly, sage, rosemary and thyme theme by choosing a beer that would be enhanced by the herbs. This is a good beer. The collaboration, theme and whatnot add to the story and help to elevate the beer. A story can elevate a good beer, but it can’t save a bad beer.