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February Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a gathering of beer minded individuals from my work who get together about once a month at a local BYOB for good company and libations. As per usual, a good turnout, with a good representation from the core team, but also some very welcome new faces. About half of us are, at this point, avid homebrewers, so discussion veered into a rather nerdy realm from time to time, but that's all good, and there was also a nice contingent of non-beer drinking peeps who were bemused by our nerdery, but steered the discussion other ways as well. Good times had by all.

February Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, initial thoughts on each beer are captured below. As you might guess, conditions here are not ideal, nor did I always drink a full portion, so take this with a gigantic grain of salt if you dare. Or not. I am pretty awesome, so I'm sure these inchoate notes are all you'll really need. In order of drinking (not necessarily in order pictured):

  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale - A pretty basic Blonde Ale, comparable to most macro slop, but a step above such extremes. B-
  • Kaedrôme Saison - This is drinking well, though it still has not carbonated as well as I'd have liked. I don't know if this is because the yeast is just so old and overstressed or if it's because it's been so cold lately and my cellar is just so cold that it's taking the beer a while to condition. Whatever the case, the flavors are at the right place, and there is enough carbonation to make it drinkable, it's just that I wish there were more. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen - Holy curry, Batman! At first, the curry seemed to overpower everything else, but as I drank and as it warmed (we had some of this later in the evening as well), the coconut and hefeweizen notes came out a bit more. Its a very interesting, weird beer, but I don't think it's quite the right combination of flavors for beer. C+
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids - I think you all know how much I love me some saisons, even weird, incoherent takes on the style, but this one seemed to be filled with a sorta burnt rubber band aid flavor that overpowered everything else. Perhaps not totally undrinkable, but I'm really, really happy I only tried a smallish sample of the stuff. D
  • Green Jack Rippa - I've seen this around and been curious about an "English Triple" beer, and it was an interesting beer, though it came off as being incredibly boozy, which is a bit odd for an 8.5% beer. To be sure, that's not a whimpy ABV, but it's also not something I'd expect to be quite so powerfully boozy. It had a nice malt backbone too, but not enough to stand up to the booze. C+
  • Ken's Homebrewed ESB - A light take on the style, though perhaps it just seemed that way because we had this after the boozy bomb previously mentioned. Still, very easy drinking stuff, malt forward but quaffable. B
  • Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale - Now, this beer club group occasionally visits an authentic (at least, to us Yanks, it seems so) British pub called The Whip Tavern. They have this rather spectacular dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding, so hopes were somewhat high for this beer. To be sure, I was tempering my expectations by the fact that a lot of English ales, even stuff like this that is flavored with adjuncts, come off with hints of diacetyl, but in this case, my fears were unfounded. It's nowhere near as good as the actual dessert, but it had a really nice toffee/caramel character that worked really well for the beer. B
  • Chimay Tripel (White) - A beer I've obviously had many times before, and it's just as good as ever, though I seem to have veered away from a lot of the Belgian styles that initially hooked me on good beer. Still, this is a nice one. I'd probably downgrade to a B+, but it's still very nice.
  • Starr Hill Psycho Kilter - A nice take on the Scotch Ale style, certainly not a top tier effort, but a nice, malt forward, relatively low carbed beer that doesn't quite bely its relatively high 9.3% strength. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked Version) - This is the version of my RIS homebrew that was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes. In this version, the charred oak really comes through strong. Not a ton of bourbon, though it is there. The charred oak is pretty strong at this point, which makes me think that perhaps I should have soaked the oak cubes in bourbon for longer than the 1-2 weeks I employed. Still, this turned out well, though the blended version seems to be the best version. B+
  • Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - A beer I've had and reviewed before. It is still pretty fantastic stuff. A-
  • Deschutes Jubelale - Another beer I've had a few times this year, and it's a nice winter warmer style beer, malt forward with lots of spice, quite enjoyable (and surprisingly did not suffer from a no doubt beleaguered palate at this point in the night). B
And that just about covers it. Already looking forward to the March beer club, where I'll be able to share some Fat Weekend IPA...

Dark Island Reserve

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Get a load of this marketing fluff: "The idea behind the Dark Island Reserve was to create a super-premium, unique and special beer that set new standards in Britain in quality of product and packaging." Translation: "The idea behind the Dark Island Reserve was to create a beer that is super-expensive."

This is a Scottish ale (like, for reals, a beer brewed in Scotland, not just a beer in that style) aged in whisky casks. RateBeer sez they were Dalmore barrels, but the bottle label sez they're "hogsheads used to mature fine Orkney Single Malt Whisky." Well, Dalmore isn't on any of the Orkney islands, so perhaps that was an old batch. If they're really using Orkney casks, they're using either Highland Park or Scapa barrels. I've always found the overpowering peat smoke of Islay Scotch to be a problem for barrel aged beers, but neither of these distilleries put out anything that aggressive. This doesn't mean they're bad or anything, and I know Highland Park casks can be used to great effect in aging beer. Scapa seems to have less of a reputation for complexity, but I'm sure it would work fine.

So does this marketing fluff and high price tag translate into amazing beer? Well, it's fine, but not really:

Orkney Dark Island Reserve

Orkney Dark Island Reserve - Firstly, yes, it is a gorgeous bottle and overall package. Certainly ticks those Pavlovian checkboxes for us beer nerds. But, you know, you can't drink the packaging. Pours a deep, dark, clear brown color with half a finger of quickly disappearing light brown head. Smells of booze, bready malt, toast, maybe a hint of peat smoke and Scotch (which yields complexity, not overpowering Islay smoke). Taste has that bready toast base, with some caramelized sugars or molasses peeking through, and just a bit of boozy Scotch. As it warms up, the Scotch comes out a little more. Mouthfeel is full bodied, smooth, a bit of richness, but not as much as I'd like from a whisky barrel aged beer. Overall, it's good. Even very good... but not really worth the price tag. I'm feeling generous, so give it a B+, but unless you see it for cheaper than $20, I'd give it a pass (and given that it usually goes for double that, you'll probably never see it that low.)

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml taped swing top). Drank out of an Only Void snifter on 7/12/13. Gyle 10, Vessel 9. Bottled 12 November 2012. 3641 bottles produced.

Well, I guess you can't win them all. I suppose a B+ isn't a "loss", but maybe I'm being too generous. In any scenario, I don't think it's worth the price. Onwards and upwards.

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale

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I'll be the first to admit that my palate isn't the most refined of them all, but one of the things I appear to have absolutely no tolerance for is Diacetyl. It's a byproduct of fermentation that can yield powerful flavors of butter or butterscotch to a finished beer. I know what you're thinking: Butter and Butterscotch are awesome! And yes, it is, but you wouldn't put a pat of butter in your beer, would you? That's kinda gross, is it not? Well, to me it is, but to some, low levels of diacetyl are actually desirable (high levels, not so much). Notably, a lot of English pale ales tend to lean in that direction. Not all of them are like that, of course, but that just makes sampling British beers a bit of a crapshoot for me. In this case, an expensive crapshoot, as I (wrongly) assumed that a port cask aged barleywine would have minimal diacetyl.

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale - Pours a cloudy orange brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smells of toffee and some fruitiness, presumably from that port cask. The toffee has that buttery diacetyl note that I generally hate in British beers. And yep it's prominent in the taste too. I've had worse examples of this, but I just can't get on board with that particular character. Otherwise, it's got some nice port notes, and some caramel and toffee that are nice. Mouthfeel is rich and smooth, full bodied. Overall, it's clearly well made, I just can't get past that diacetyl. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (adorable little 9.3 oz bottle). Drank out of a snifter on 6/1/13. Brewed in 2011.

A pity, as I like a good Porto every now and again and you rarely see US beers aged in Port barrels. Yeah, so anyway, I'm probably not going to check out the various other barrel aged treatments of this stuff, especially given the expense (for a tiny bottle, no less). Fortunately, I had some other great beer this weekend that would make up for this one, so stay tuned.

Courage Imperial Russian Stout

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This is as close as I'll ever get to the ur-example of the Russian Imperial stout style, the granddaddy of all those monster stouts I love so much. Its origins date back to the 18th century, when an English brewery by the name of Thrale's brewed an extra hearty stout for export to the court of Catherine the Great in Russia. The apocryphal story of the beer's high alcohol and hop content is that they needed to do so in order for the beer to survive the trip (something about the beer freezing). This is apparently bunk. It turns out that the court of Catherine the Great was just a whole lot of fun, if you know what I mean.

Thrale's was eventually bought by Barclay Perkins, and soon after that, this beer changed hands again when Courage took over Barclay. There it stayed for, oh, let's say about 2 centuries. Courage fell on hard times, and by extension, so did their IRS. The style basically went extinct in Britain when Courage brewed their last batch in 1994, but us cheeky Yanks kept the style alive (what with our penchant for extreme beers) and UK brewer Wells & Young's purchased the Courage brand, re-instituting the venerable IRS in 2011. It comes in an adorable little 9.3 ounce bottle and carries a rather large price tag. I guess I should expect a high cost given the .rar bottle count of just 210,000. This thing is going to taste so rare. Sarcasm aside, I figured a beer this storied and influential deserves a look:

Courage Imperial Russian Stout

Courage Imperial Russian Stout - Look at me, with all my fancy camera angles. Oh, right, I already set aside sarcasm. The beer pours a pitch black color with a couple fingers of light brown head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of Euro hops, light caramel, toffee, slight roast. The taste features that caramel and and prominent toffee character, those Euro hops (guess: Fuggles or some form of Goldings), with a very subdued roast character emerging in the finish. This is going to sound silly, but it tastes British, the sort of thing I'd call out blind for sure. That Euro hop character was surprising for a big stout like this, and the toffee notes also seem distinctly British. Or maybe I'll full of shit. Mouthfeel is not quite as rich as I'd like, but definitely a lot to chew on, well carbonated, full bodied, but nothing overwhelming either. An interesting change of pace, for sure, though not a face melter or anything. I'm really glad I tried this, though something about that toffee character always bothers me. It wasn't as big of a deal in this beer as it is in, say, a British pale ale, but I still found that a bit odd. I'll give it a B with the proviso that this just isn't suited towards my tastes.

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (9.3 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/8/13. 2012 Vintage. Best by 16/08/25. Bottle No. 116,808 of 210,000.

I'd be curious about how time treats this one. According to Martyn, the hop character fades considerably (unsurprising, especially since he's drinking a 40 year old bottle of the stuff!), though the toffee notes seem to stick around. On the other hand, I'd rather save my shekels and pick up an American facemelter more suited to my tastes.

February Beer Club

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Yeah, so I'm still running dry on beer puns. Fortunately, there's a pretty good chance you don't care about that, so I'll just explain that Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. It ended up being a rather small gathering this month, with just the core group showing up... and yet, plenty of fantastic beer was had by all.

Beer Club February 2013
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Despite the less than ideal conditions, I'm going to record my thoughts on each sampled beer. For posterity! Yeah, the sip test is often unreliable, so take this with a giant boulder of gourmet sea salt, you nerd (he sez, as if it's a bad thing). Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Samuel Smith's Organic Lager - Pretty standard Euro-lager affair here, though perhaps a higher quality version of such. Nice noble hoppiness and a surprising yeast character (nowhere near a Belgian strain, but it did add character to an otherwise normal beer). B
  • Eagle Rock Jubilee - One of my contributions for the night, or should I say, it's actually Jay's contribution, as this was part of our trade. I figured I shouldn't hog all of it to myself, though perhaps I should have, as this was reallly good. Smooth, creamy, spiced but not harshly so, this was a beauty. They call it a spiced old ale, but it feels a whole lot like a winter warmer and heck, let's just call it good beer. Beer Club crowd seemed mighty impressed as well. A-
  • Cisco Lady of the Woods - My other contribution, I liked it so much the first time, that I just had to share another with everyone else. I'm always surprised at how well received sour beers are by the Beer Club crowd, though perhaps I shouldn't be. I tend to call this beer club, but it originally began as beer and wine club, and this beer certainly has a nice Chardonnay character that turned some heads. Still an A by my reckoning...
  • Heavy Seas Black Cannon - One of them semi-local Maryland breweries, this wound up being a very solid black IPA. Beautiful nose, slight roasted malt character dominated by piney, resinous hops and maybe a bit of citrus. Alas, the taste didn't quite hold up, though again, still a very solid beer. B
  • Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve - Hoo boy, I hope you like clove, cause they must have packed this thing to the gills with cloves. Fortunately, I do like that, though the beer is pretty straightforward otherwise. B
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers - One of my long time favorites, just as good as ever. Fancy new label, too...
  • Heavy Seas Bourbon Barrel Aged Siren Noire - Holy chocolate milk, Batman! Seriously, like drinking slightly boozy yoohoo. Not getting much bourbon at all, though perhaps it's contributing to the almost creamy, vanilla character that goes so well with the chocolate flavors that dominate this beer. Really enjoyable and perhaps the most interesting beer of the night, if not exactly the best. B+
  • BrewDog Tokyo* - Another beer I've had before, this thing is a total monster. Clocking in at over 18% ABV, it's a pretty potent beer, though the solid malt backbone and addition of cranberries and jasmine help even that out a bit. Still a B+ in my book.
And with that, we had to cut things a bit short. A few sad beers were left unopened, but it was starting to snow and we didn't want to crack open that bottle of 14% Samichlaus (seriously, beer club compatriot Anthony brought Samichlaus and Tokyo*, which average out to somewhere around 16% ABV, pretty badass if you ask me. As a fan of older vintages of Samichlaus, I advised him to cellar this 2010 vintage until at least next Christmas and he seemed pretty excited about that prospect). So that just about covers it for this beer club. At the next beer club, my Fat Weekend IPA should be ready to go, so I'm pretty excited.

January Beer Club

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I've more or less run out of beer puns for beer clubs, so you'll just have to deal with it. I know, you all love puns, so you're all broken up about it, but you'll just have to deal. Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As per usual, this gathering is anchored by a core group of stalwarts, along with assorted return guest stars. So it was a solid turnout, lots of beer, good BBQ and just an all around good time.

January Beer Club 2013
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In accordance with tradition, my thoughts on each beer we sampled are recorded below for posterity. Standard disclaimers regarding non-ideal tasting isolation conditions apply, so all you pedants better stay frosty, as nearly all of this will be untrustworthy/awesome. Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer - Things started off on a bizarre note. It's basically alcoholic ginger ale, which is fine for what it is, I guess, and definitely attracts the non-beer folk due to it's high sweetness and ginger spicing, but I found it kinda poopy. It's actually good that we had it in this sort of setting where I only had to try a tiny sample, but I'll give it a D, because fuck ginger beer. Seriously guiz.
  • Belhaven Scottish Ale - Belhaven is supposed to be one of the top Scottish ale styles out there, but man, we must have gotten a bad bottle. It has that gross diacetyl buttery flavor that I get out of a lot of British pale ales and have grown to hate. I'm not sure if that's just the beer, or if it's the clear bottle, or what, but it felt kinda skunky too. Not totally undrinkable, but I was again glad that I only took a very small sample of the stuff. D
  • Abita Jockamo IPA - While a big improvement over my first two tastes of the night, this strikes me as being a fairly unremarkable IPA. It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over BMC (or, since we're talking about my college years, Natty/Beast), but nothing special at all. A nice hop aroma, but a taste that fell a little flat and bland. B-
  • Old Forge Overbite IPA - Ahhh, now that's more like it. A really nice semi-local IPA, lots of that citrusy, floral hop goodness, maybe a little pine too, was a real breath of fresh air after the first three beers of the evening. It's not a world beater, to be sure, but these guys are totally making a name for themselves in the Philly area, and this makes for a pleasant enough IPA. B+
  • Birrificio Del Ducato Nuova Mattina - Guest star Steve contributed this very nice Italian beer to the proceedings, a Belgian style pale with lots of sharp carbonation, sweet and spicy (lots of spices used in making this, and they contribute, but not overwhelmingly so), bready, with a touch of light fruit. Overall, it's got a really nice rustic quality, an almost quaffable beer, really enjoyable. B+
  • Widmer Brrr - A totally solid winter warmer, pretty light on the spices actually, though it works well enough. It's not the sort of thing that stands out in a tasting like this, but it's totally serviceable and would probably get the job done if needed. B
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale (2011) - A vintage bottle of my very own homebrew? It's still doing pretty well, actually, though I do believe it has peaked and is now on a bit of a downward swing. It's still retained that sorta creamy vanilla caramel base, and the spices are still there, particularly clove with a hint of cinnamon, though those are diminished from last year. It's held up about as well as I could have hoped, though it's not quite as fantastic as it once was. B+
  • Allagash Fluxus 2012 - Another of my contributions for the night, it's a totally solid Belgian pale ale, actually quite similar to that Nuova Mattina beer, though with less carbonation. Still, a very nice Belgian yeast character, spicy and biscuity. Not especially a standout, especially amongst Allagash's lineup, but a solid beer nonetheless. This could be tasting fatigue setting in, but I'll go with min instinctual rating of a B
  • Traquair House Jacobite - Ah, now this is a Scottish brewery I can get behind. Of course, this is a slightly stronger style, but I like me some Wee Heavy/Scotch Ales, and this is a pretty superb example of the style. Big rich malt character, brown sugar, some fruitiness, a light booziness, and all of this is very well balanced against each other. Truly a solid beer, and widely available too, well worth checking out for the Scotch Ale fan and a contender for best of the night. A-
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale - Once again, this might be tasting fatigue setting in, but I was expecting more out of this. Don't get me wrong, it's a totally good beer. Not very red in appearance, but it certainly smells/tastes like an imperial red, big, well integrated citrus and pine hops mixed with those crystal and red malts. Very nice, would like to try again in better conditions. For now, we'll give it a provisional B+
  • DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus - Perhaps the strangest beer of the night, but it worked surprisingly well. You could say it's gimmicky, it being a "Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter", but this is quite possibly the perfect beer for a tasting like this. Exclamations of "Whoa" and "It smells like peanut butter" all around the table. It tasted like peanut butter brownies that were perhaps a bit overcookied so that you got that roastiness. Kinda like the edge/corner piece (which, you know, I love). It worked surprisingly well in this setting. I have no idea how I'd react if I were to drink an entire bottle, but I'm feeling generous enough to hand it a B+ (though it's probably more of a B)
  • Victory Oak Horizontal - Another of my contributions for the night, it's just as good as I remembered it. The bourbon, while prominent, was not overpowering at all, which endeared it to some folks who don't tend to like bourbon. Still an A- and a fitting end to the evening.
So there you have it. After a shaky start, things livened up quickly, and this sort of ratings distribution is actually quite nice. I mean, this isn't the most exclusive of beer clubs, after all, and only a few of us a really huge beer nerds, but it's a lot of fun and I always look forward to beer club. February's meeting will come soon enough!

Decembeer Club II: Electric Boogaloo

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As usual, a core group of stalwarts showed up, along with some new faces and other return guest stars. All told, a solid turnout, plenty of good beer, and a fun time had by all.

Decembeer Club 2012
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Apologies for the image quality. Brightness kinda got away from me there. Stupid flash. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. Standard disclaimers apply, though I think I've achieved a new level in beer nerdom in that I've already had (and probably reviewed) a lot of the beers presented here. Go figure. Roughly (yeah, yeah, gimme a break, it's a social gathering after all, you're lucky I can do this much) listed in order of drinking, not the order in the picture above:

  • Hitachino Nest White Ale - This has actually been on my radar for a while, but it's not something I've ever tried before. It's a very solid Belgian wit beer, not super strong on the wheat (though it's there), more defined by the Belgian yeast character of fruit and dry spice. Sorta reminded me of St. Bernardus' Tokyo beer, which is not suspicious at all, as Hitachino is Japanese (I swears, I didn't realize it when I was drinking, except perhaps subconsciously because Hitachino does sound pretty Japanese). Really worth checking out, and it won't break the bank like St. Bernardus will. A-
  • Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer - This must be the 4th or 5th time I've had this. I've always enjoyed it too, though I didn't have any sticky toffee dessert dish to pair it with (like I normally do). A solid contribution from a beer club newcomer. B+
  • Ommegang Scythe & Sickle - Malt-focused, Belgian-style harvest ale, recently reviewed! Well chosen and well placed in the tasting. This works well with food (which came out as I was drinking this)... B+
  • Ballast Point Sculpin IPA - Yep, another that I've had several times before, but I do love this beer. It seems that some beer club members have been doing some research on Beer Advocate and this is a pretty good choice. Well played, Paul. A-
  • Magic Hat Hi.P.A. - A decent enough IPA that I think just pales (pun intended!) in comparison with Sculpin. Flavors seemed muted and a little bland, but seemingly well crafted enough. Not something I'd seek out again, but I wouldn't turn it down if you handed me one. B-
  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel Xmas - A variant on my homebrewed abbey dubbel beer, when I was bottling and I got to the bottom of the bucket I added a cinnamon stick and some clove to the remaining beer. Alas, I didn't get much additional spice out of this, at least in my small sample. However, I feel like the beer has finally conditioned into something solid. Still not quite what I was going for, I think perhaps too much in the Special B department, yielding a bit too much in the way of toasted malt character, but still, it's coming along well. I will refrain from rating this for now, as I don't think it's peaked yet, but perhaps a full review will be forthcoming.
  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) - Just reviewed this one yesterday (along with the 2011 variety). This was one of my contributions, so of course it was good.
  • Evolution Secret Spot Winter Ale - I've enjoyed most of Evolutions offerings that I've tried so far, and this one is no exception. But it's not really exceptional either. Another beer that may have suffered a bit by comparison to the previous beer. Technically an altbier, this drinks kinda like a winter warmer without the spice. I like. Want to try again in better context. B
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Yep, just reviewed this one too. Big flavors do well in beer club setting.
  • Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2011 - One of my contributions... I've had the 2010 vintage, and though Mikkel claims to tweak the recipe every year, this seemed pretty similar to me. It's listed as a Belgian Strong Dark, but it reads more like an Imperial Stout. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts, smooth, well hidden booze. It's said that this is a spiced beer, but it's hard to detect in this. Definitely a complex beer, and I'm guessing the spices contribute to that without being overpowering. Overall, a very good beer, worthy of the holiday. A-
So there you have it. Another successful beer club. Good company, good food, good beer. As always, already looking forward to the next installment.

I've finally completed the cycle. Ola Dubh is a series of beers aged in different vintage Highland Park Scotch casks. I've already had four of the five available vintages, and they've ranged from the sublime to the merely great. Strangely, the "youngest" vintage was also the hardest to find (probably because it's the "cheapest", though it's still obscenely priced), but it also happens to be aged in the casks of one of my favorite "everyday" scotches, so I figured I should just go ahead and try both during the same session.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 and Highland Park 12
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Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 - Pours a very dark brown with the slightest tinge of amber and a half finger of head. Big aromas of caramel, chocolate, and whisky, with some oak and vanilla and maybe even honey. The taste hits with a surprisingly peaty, smokey flavor right off the bat before settling into more typical caramel malt flavors. But that smoke is kinda ever-present, even in the finish and aftertaste. This is a little surprising given that I don't think of Highland Park as being a smokey peat bomb. On the other hand, while smokey, it's nowhere near as awkwardly balanced as beer aged in Islay Scotch casks, so there is that. But even this amount of smoke makes it harder for some of the more traditional chocolate and caramel flavors to assert themselves. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a little thinner than expected, though there's obviously plenty here to chew on. Well balanced carbonation and it actually goes down pretty easy. Overall, this isn't a disaster or anything, but it is a bit of a letdown when compared to the others in the series, which are just much more balanced and complex. I'm still glad I tried some and it was enjoyable enough to warrant a weak B, but I'm again curious as to what a fresher bottle would taste like.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a snifter on 11/9/12. Bottle Number: 07449. Bottled in February 2010.

Highland Park 12 - Holy shit, I don't think I ever reviewed Scotch before. What do I do? I'll just pretend it's beer. Pours a golden light brown color with absolutely no head (uh, not that there's supposed to be, but come on, work with me here). Smells, um, like whisky. No, seriously, it's got a very light peat and smoke profile going on (though nothing that I'd think would lead to the smokiness in the aforementioned beer), along with some light caramel and honey, with that high octane, nose-singed alcohol note. Taste actually follows the nose, though some other notes emerge too. Light smoke and peat (again, not so much that I'd expect beer aged in these casks to be overwhelmed by it), some caramel, maybe a little graininess, some spicy character, and you know, booze. Mouthfeel is relatively smooth, with some of that spicy alcohol adding a little harshness. Overall, it's one of my go-to Scotches, it's got lots of complex flavors going on, but it's the complete package. Good stuff. I'll use my Scotch ratings scale. 4942 points.

Whisky Nerd Details: 43% ABV bottled (750 ml, 1 dram pour). Drank out of a Glencairn nosing glass on 11/9/12.

So there you have it. Not quite the face melting night I was hoping for, but enjoyable enough anyway. This more or less completes the cycle of Ola Dubh for me, unless Harviestoun starts sourcing more obscure Highland Park casks or something. Despite my thoughts on the 12 above, the rest of the series has been excellent enough that I'd love to try other vintages/specialty Scotch aged beers from Harviestoun. Speaking of the rest of the series, I think the final ranking of beers based on the vintage of the casks they were aged in comes down to: 40, 18, 30, 16, 12. Unfortunately, these things are obscenely expensive, especially when you hit the older vintages.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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