Sunday, April 22, 2012

Avery Review #9 - Uncle Jacob's Stout

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Apr. 22, 2012

So it was 4/20 here in Boulder on Friday, well, I suppose it was 4/20 everywhere else on the planet as well, but in Boulder, CO (and my former home of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, CA) the day has some meaning.  As for me personally, it’s not my cup of tea, so I stayed away from the giant pot-smoking festival on campus and instead enjoyed a cigar on the back porch after tasting and reviewing Beer #9 in The Avery ProjectUncle Jacob’s Stout.

Initially I thought I had missed out on Avery’s Uncle Jacob’s, but I had the good fortune of finding myself at North Boulder Liquors a couple of days ago (while unsuccessfully searching for a beer for The Barleywine Project) and I was thrilled to come across this monster of a beer. 

I try not to get too excited about a beer I have not yet tried, particularly when reviewing it.  I have often found that this leads to disappointment, but as with many others in the past, I’m not very good at containing my excitement, particularly when it comes to a style I really enjoy such as this one.

So, the details on this whopper of a beer; Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout:

Cost: $10.99 per 12oz. bottle
ABV: 17.42%
IBUs: ???
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: American Double/Imperial Stout
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A/4.47 – Outstanding
My Beer Advocate Rating:A+/4.7 - World Class
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 6
Brewery Description: Uncle Jacob's Stout
Bottled On: March 27, 2012

APPEARANCE:  (4 out of 5) This beer pours absolutely black as night.  Not even a hint of light is getting through this dark, viscous substance.  An eighth of an inch-thick mocha colored head appeared for about ten seconds, but vanished even before I could snap a picture.  It left a small ring of tan foam on the outer edges of the glass though.  My guess is that there will be no lacing on this one as the beer is probably heavy enough to drag anything in its path off the side of the glass. 

Yup.  No lacing.  

SMELL:  (4 out of 5) Wow.  Based on the smell, we might have another Bourbon County Brand Stout here…and I do not say that lightly.  The Uncle Jacob’s smells like bourbon.  It has some big oak notes with vanilla, toffee and a little boozy heat underneath.  In fact, in some ways it is reminiscent of a cross between Bourbon County and Rumpkin.  The oak, high alcohol content and what has to be the yeast makes it somewhat similar to the Rumpkin.  The only complaint here is that the aroma could be stronger.  The BCBS really attacks the nose.

TASTE:  (5 out of 5) Wow.  Yep, again, I’m starting a paragraph off with a wow.  This is close.  In fact, this is the most similar beer I have ever tasted to Goose Island’s Legendary Bourbon County Stout.  There’s probably enough malt in here to choke a horse, but somehow it all balances out with an exceptionally pleasant oakiness.  Unlike in the BCBS, chocolate is more dominant than vanilla, but the vanilla builds throughout the sip and is certainly noticeable.  Also, somewhere in this wildly complex brew a tiny, tiny touch of lemon works its way onto the palate and lingers after the beer is gone.  As someone mentioned on Beer Advocate, there also seems to be a hint of cherry.  Again, wow.  There is a lot going on in the Uncle Jacob’s Stout.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4.5 out of 5) There are very few styles of beer that I want to have the mouthfeel of this one, but this is a wonderfully slippery beer.  It is motor oil all the way, but never turns into sludge in your mouth.  In other words, it is not mouthcoating.  Sticky, yes.  Mouthcoating, no. 

OVERALL:  (5 out of 5) Given that Bourbon County will be unobtainable for me this year, I am happy to have found a completely legitimate replacement.  I am not prepared to say it is as good as BCBS, but just like I gave Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout a nice side-by-side comparison with it last year, I think Uncle Jacob’s Stout deserves a shot at it.  While we’re discussing match-ups, I also think this could be the best Avery beer I’ve ever had, but I would have to put it up against Maharaja and Rumpkin.  In terms of hitting the style, this certainly beats both, but as an overall beer, I will need to do a taste test.  Maybe this will be The Avery Project’s halftime show.

As a side note, I did not realize this until after I wrote the paragraph above, but I have apparently given the three Avery beers in question nearly the exact same rating - 4.7 for the Maha and Uncle Jacob's and 4.68 for the Rumpkin.  I think a recount is required here and I'll get to work on obtaining the supplies for that now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Barleywine Review #9 - Three Floyds Behemoth Barley Wine

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Apr. 10, 2012

Big thanks to my guy Jonathan back home in Chicago for this bottle of Three Floyds Behemoth!  I have been looking forward to cracking this beer open again since I first tried it last year on a cool, crisp winter afternoon in Munster, Indiana at the Three Floyds Taproom.  There’s no need for any further rambling, so let’s get into this bottle.

Location: Purchased at Cardinal Wine and Spirits, Niles, IL
Cost: About $18.99/22oz. bomber
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: 80
Brewery Location: Munster, IN
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.2 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.03 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Rank: 461/11th
Brewery Description: Three Floyds Behemoth Barley Wine
Bottled On: 2012

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) The Behemoth pours a color that rests somewhere between the deep copper color of a great DIPA and the mahogany of a typical Barleywine.  So, it is a little on the lighter side of the Barleywine spectrum in terms of color.  The head is a nice inch-thick with strong retention, in fact, it took about three or four minutes for it to recede into a cap of thin, but full coverage of the surface.  The beer is clear, although the near-mahogany color makes it tough to see all the way through the tulip glass it is in.  Finally, the lacing is decent, but not outstanding.

SMELL:  (4 out of 5) The aroma is fairly strong, but more in the bready and yeasty direction than I remember it.  Citrus, like orange and lemon, along with some pine flavors are present and pleasant, but they lurk behind the breadiness more than I would like. 

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) Rich caramel and toffee are the first and most aggressive flavors to hit the palate, but that breadiness from the nose sneaks up quickly and takes the middle part of the sip.  The finish is big, resinous, pine hoppiness.  Along the way hints of lemon, orange and grapefruit make appearances.  Also, if you pay close attention to the details, there is a tiny, tiny pinch of roasted malt tying everything together and keeping the big, sweet caramel malt balanced. 

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) The Behemoth has a big mouthfeel with medium carbonation and slight pucker towards the end of the sip.  That pucker comes with a drying bitterness after a wave of sweetness up front.  This Three Floyds offering is complex even in the mouthfeel.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) While this is one outstanding Barleywine, I do have to say I enjoyed last year’s batch a little more – or maybe the difference between the bottle and the tap is greater than I thought.  The bottle had more booze and a stronger hoppy bite at the end.  Neither of those things are necessarily a bad thing in a beer as far as I am concerned, but this particular beer just went down so smooth and easy when I had it on draft at the FFF taproom last winter. 

I know this beer will age very well, so my second bottle is going into the cellar for at least a year (three if my will power is strong enough).  I will buy this beer again, but paying $18.99 for the bomber is a bit much, especially when a 6-pack of Bell’s Hopslam is available at roughly the same time of year in Chicago for the same price, maybe even a buck or two less.   

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Avery Review #8 - New World Porter

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Apr. 6, 2012

Review #8 for The Avery Project is the third regular, year-round release we’ll be reviewing from this Boulder institution - Avery New World Porter (Avery IPA and Joe’s Pilsner were the first two).  This beer has been described as a hoppy porter and even by Avery themselves as Black IPA.  But, then again, that’s sort of what Avery does, they put lots of hops in things. 

My personal experience with this beer is surprisingly limited.  It is not easily found on tap and when I am at the tasting room here in Boulder I typically reach for what I cannot just pick up at the Liquor Store.  While I have had a few tasters of it, I have never actually had an entire New World Porter from Avery all to myself.  So, here’s to new experiences!

Location: Boulder Liquor Mart
Cost: About $1.89/12 oz. bottle
ABV: 6.7%
IBUs: 45
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: American Porter
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.92 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.88 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 438
Brewery Description: New World Porter
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (3.5 out of 5) This is a pretty dark beer, black all the way through with a pale, red light breaking through at the edges.  The head is about a quarter-inch thick and seems to be fairly strong, but disappears quicker than I expect it to.  The lacing is fairly strong.

SMELL:  (3.5 out of 5) Raisins, chocolate malt and a touch of coffee greet the nose with less hoppiness than I expected lingering in the background.  The aroma is quite pleasant, but not as strong as I would like it to be. 

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) Here’s a shocker, Avery hit the nail on the head in terms of the style, but they made it hoppier than most other beers in the category.  Roasty malt flavors begin each sip as some lemony citrus notes creep in.  Chocolate, toffee and coffee all enter the mix mid-sip and then the Columbus hops (one of my favorite varieties) take over for the finish providing some spicy, bitter and earthy characteristics that almost make it taste like a black IPA.  In fact, the bottle calls it “A Pioneer Black IPA”.  It also then goes on to say that this beer is “Expanding the porter category”.  Anyhow, as it warms caramel enters the mix, however, the citrus component becomes stronger as well, maybe a touch too heavy.  Despite that minor criticism, though, this is a surprisingly tasty beer.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) The New World Porter is creamy and smooth, but it still has a decent sparkle to it.  It is medium bodied and while it leans towards the sweet side up front, it finishes on the dry side. 

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) The last review here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights was of Avery’s Hog Heaven Barleywine (Although it was not reviewed for The Avery Project, it was reviewed for The Barleywine Project instead).  In that review, I defended Avery’s decision to call it a Barleywine since many people, including some Avery employees I have spoken to about it, think it should be renamed Hog Heaven Double or Triple IPA.  In the case of the New World Porter, which Avery themselves also refers to as a black IPA, there is a stronger case for renaming it New World Black IPA.  This beer does have many characteristics of a Porter, and ultimately, it still is one, but it is a very, very American-style Porter with a lot of IPA traits.  It could easily be recategorized and no one would bat an eye.  Finally, at 6.7%, the NWP can sneak up on you.  It tastes like a much more sessionable Porter than it really is, but the near-7% gives it a punch.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Barleywine Review #8 - Avery Hog Heaven Barley Wine

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Apr. 5, 2012

The Avery Hog Heaven Barley Wine is a particularly interesting beer for us here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  To begin with, it is the only beer that potentially belongs to both projects we’re currently working on, The Barleywine Project and The Avery Project.  So, I had to decide whether or not to be lazy and just count it as a review for each project or just for one.  I went with the latter. 

In order to complete The Barleywine Project, Hog Heaven is necessary.  For The Avery Project, though, it is optional.  I would rather give another of Avery’s beers a chance to shine, particularly since I have such great access to them.  This is the same reason that I will not re-review The Maharaja from Avery as I already reviewed it for the DIPA Project.    

Anyhow, the second reason The Hog is interesting is because it is one of only two offerings on our Barleywine list that is available year-round.  The other is Uinta Brewing Company’s Anniversary Barley Wine Ale.  The Uinta is brewed in Utah and just recently snuck onto the list in the number 20 spot.  Whether or not it remains on the list until I get to it is another question. The DIPA Project list changed occasionally, but the Top 20 always remained intact, with a few beers simply switching positions a few times.  The Barleywine list has proven to be much more volatile so far.   

Finally, one last point about the Hog Heaven before the review, in terms of a Barleywine it is somewhat controversial.  Many people claim that it is more of a Double or Triple IPA.  In fact, I have heard some people who sell it claim that they believe it would sell better if it were renamed Hog Heaven Imperial or Double IPA.  This is one of Avery’s oldest recipes, though, and from what I hear it is one that is close to Adam Avery’s heart, so the likelihood of it changing anytime soon is slim.

In all honesty, I have found myself on both sides of this controversy at times.  It is a beer I am familiar with and have tried many times and in many different forms.  I have tasted it in the Taproom at Avery, I have had it in the bottle, I have tried it fresh and I have been lucky enough to sample two, three and four-year old Hog Heaven.  With that said, I have never reviewed it, nor was I ever in a position to seriously focus on it for the sake of determining what style it should be called.  I just wanted a big, flavorful beer.  So, I suppose we should just call this post the Myth Buster’s edition of 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  Is Hog Heaven really a Barleywine?  Let’s find out.

Location: Boulder Liquor Mart
Cost: $2.39 for 12oz. bottle
Glassware: Funkwerks Tulip Glass
ABV: 9.2%
IBUs: 104
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.97 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.23 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Current Rank:
Brewery Description: Avery Hog Heaven Barley Wine
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) The Hog Heaven pours a penny copper color with a half-inch thick cap with some staying power.  Others who have reviewed this beer have reported a haziness to it, but that has never been my experience and even after pouring the entire contents of the bomber into my glass, the beer underneath is crystal clear with hundreds of bubbles drifting northwards towards that cap.  As for the lacing, I would call it superb – look at that!

SMELL:  (4.5 out of 5) The nose on this one is delicious.  A big dose of pine blends with banana, clove and maybe a little brown sugar.  For a Barleywine that has been dismissed as a mislabeled Double or Triple IPA, this smells an awful lot like a Barleywine.  The only difference is that those Barleywine aromas are just accented with some strong hop aromas.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) The first sip confirms that the Hog Heaven is most certainly a Barleywine; a hopped up Barleywine, yes, but still a Barleywine.  OK, now that that argument is settled, what else is going on in this one? 

To begin with, there is plenty of hop flavor packed into this beer, but despite the 104 IBUs, the typical bitterness associated with the hop is muted.  Instead, a big, sweet wave of caramel and bananas crashes into the palate right off the bat and any bitterness comes in later in the form of grapefruit and lemon which are riding a second wave of floral and piney hoppiness.  The finish leaves an interesting medley of slightly puckering bitterness along with a sweeter taste from the flowers, pine, caramel and banana.  The Hog Heaven really stays with the palate.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) Big, sticky, rich, smooth and creamy.  This Barleywine goes down incredibly smooth and leaves a nice bittersweet finish on the palate. 

OVERALL:  (4.5 out of 5) Again, for all the talk about this beer being more of a Double IPA, it sure seems like a nicely hopped Barleywine to me.  After tasting this beer with purpose and without distraction, it is hard to see how I ever believed it was more of an IPA, but at the same time, it is pretty damn hoppy.  Given that intense hop flavor, this is one of the better Barleywines to taste fresh.  With the complexity, intense malt flavor and high ABV, though, it also makes an excellent candidate for aging.  I’ll be putting a couple bottles in the cellar soon.

By the way, Opening Day at Wrigley Field is today - in the words of the late, great Steve Goodman "Hey Chicago Whatd'ya say the Cubs are gonna win today.  Go Cubs Go!"