Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Posts Tagged ‘aged beer’

Bell’s Expedition Stout – 2007 & 2008

Posted by jwpiper on June 29, 2009

It’s a warm summer night (but the coolest all week), and I’ve got a taste for something rich, sweet, and complex. I’ve been wanting to do a side-by-side of some cellared Expedition with a fresher batch. The batches selected are 8183 and 8864, which Bell’s has so responsibly provided a webpage to decode: they were bottled on September 25, 2007 and December 8, 2008, about 21 and 7 months ago, respectively. Poured at cellar temp.

2008 Expedition Stout

Appearance
5
Pitch black and thick – not Dark Lord thick, but very heavy and viscous. The head is a light mocha color and pours to several cm over a 6 oz pour. It sticks around leaving a haze on top of the black liquid beneath.
Smell
4
As expected, a deep roasted flavor with hints of coffee. More raw and boozy. Elements of grassy hops, when sniffed after it’s older brother.
Taste
4
The roasted malts are so strong – without much booze and definite warmth. The hop finish is still present and a bit grassy as in the aroma. This truly is a complex beer which still hasn’t 100% come together yet. This just seems so raw and disjoint when next to the 2007. A real detriment to this beer since it is usually so delicious in its own right. Makes me hesitate to every do a real, side-by-side RIS tasting.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Exemplary thick smoothness with just enough carbonation prickle to clean it up in the finish. Not chewy or heavy.
Drinkability
4
Come on – in truth this is a sipper. But a delicious one. It might be tough to get through two of these.
Overall
4.25
A fine beverage. I would’ve listed it as on of my top beers, but having its year older counterpart is making this one a bit harder to enjoy. It may have ruined me to fresh Expedition!
Price
$2.50/12oz.

2007 Expedition Stout

Appearance
4.5
A darker, mocha colored head. The pour produces less than 1 cm of head which pretty quickly disappears leaving just a ring around the glass and a few islands here and there.
Smell
4.5
Richer and maltier with caramel and chocolate and devoid of any hint of the fresh grass. Some dark fruit aromas appear as well.
Taste
4.5
Wow, so rich and dark. Chocolate and roasted goodness. Sweeter, but not overly sweet and with a well balanced bitterness on finish. Some warmth with no booze. This has become a very special beer. The finish seems to last forever.
Mouthfeel
5
It has gotten thicker, smoother, and is just a bit creamy.
Drinkability
4.5
I could drink a couple of these with no real problem. Extremely tasty and complex – it entices me to keep sipping.
Overall
4.55
This beer, I think, still has a little while before it peaks. Its storage has been non-ideal (in a kitchen cabinet where temperatures vary quite a bit over the course of the year). I think I’ll be cellaring pretty much every bottle of this I buy for at least a year.
Price
$2.50/12oz.
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Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout

Posted by jwpiper on April 3, 2009

I’ve been meaning to break this out for some time, as I figured it would be right about now that it would start balancing out some. Having just sampled the Hoppin’ Frog Barrel-Aged BORIS, and giving my palate a chance to rest, I figured now was the time. Split a bottle straight from the cellar with my wife into two snifters.
Appearance
4.5
Nice thick, black pour with a 2cm tan head which sticks around as a thin layer for a little while.
Smell
4.5
This beer is all about the bourbon. Tons of bourbon on the nose. Some deep, rich smells including wonderful roasted malts. There’s a ton of richness here.
Taste
4.5
Bourbon up front, giving way to the nice Blackout malt profile. The hops have died down some as compared to fresh non-barrel-aged Blackout. Sweet, with some fruits, even some bright almost sour fruitiness. The finish is bourbon and vanilla and a little oak. The few months this has sat has allowed the beer to balance and mellow a bit. I like this quite a bit more than fresh, personally. But the bourbon may have died down just a bit, but the beer is still very bourbony. There’s a bit of heat, but the alcohol is remarkably well hidden.
Mouthfeel
4.5
This is incredibly smooth, but with a good amount of carbonation. Very thick and viscous, but it ends on a fairly clean note. This may be the remaining hop bitterness. A hint of chalkiness, which I like for a big RIS like this.
Drinkability
4.5
Tons of interest. The bourbon isn’t as overpowering as I often find it on tap at the brewery. Sipping this one, but I’m finding it easy to drink.
Overall
4.5
For me, this is better than at the pub. An excellent beer, heavy on the bourbon, but at this point, some 6 months after the release, very well balanced.
Price
$14/22oz. A pretty good price for a BA RIS.

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Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS

Posted by jwpiper on April 3, 2009

I took a long lunch to drive down with Matt G. to Hoppin’ Frog to grab a case of their Barrel-Aged BORIS Imperial Oatmeal Stout. I had to get my hands on the BA version of a beer I like as much as I do BORIS The Crusher.

It was my first trip to the brewery. A real nice group of folks – if a bit eager to sell you some beer. Seems they get quite a few randoms without much knowledge of beer since they were so surprised to see people who knew what the heck a Wee Heavy or DIPA were. Wish I could’ve stuck around to shoot the breeze, but we had to get back to work.

My understanding is that the beer was only barrel aged since January. They started bottling at 9am and were still bottling when we arrived. I’d guess that the bomber I’m sharing with my wife tonight is only about 7 hours old.

Appearance
4
Pours a rich deep black color with a 1.5cm light mocha head which rapidly turns into a ring around the top of the beer.
Smell
4
The nostrils are quickly filled with whisky aromas and a little must. This is also accompanied by the nice roasted aromas familiar to BORIS drinkers. A reasonably well balanced profile – not too dominated by the whiskey, but definitely boozy.
Taste
4
Similar on the tongue – some whisky but not at all dominating. A nice alcohol warmth, maybe just a bit too much in the finish. Nice, smooth, roasted flavors – some chocolate, more than I remember in the normal BORIS and just a hint of vanilla in the end. The vanilla and whisky play nicely together in the long finish.
Mouthfeel
5
Regular BORIS has the most incredible smooth palate and this follows suit. So silky smooth from the oatmeal. Definitely an interest beer for this alone.
Drinkability
4
This is a complete sipper. Plenty drinkable, but the alcohol is hitting me a bit too hot as I get through the beer. Also, you’ve got to drink it slow in order to get the vanilla and whiskey on the finish, which is the best part of the beer for me. Not a problem.
Overall
4.1
A worthy beer with plenty of its own unique character. By no means my favorite BA RIS, but again – it’s in its own category almost. I appreciate the balance and relative subtlety of the whiskey. An excellent beer. Not enough barrel character to let this age for an extended period, I don’t think.
Price
$14/22oz. A decent value for a BA RIS. From what I’ve gathered, it’s only aged for a couple of months, which may explain it. Also, the regular Hoppin’ Frog BORIS is a bit pricey for a RIS.

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1999 Chimay Blue

Posted by jwpiper on February 7, 2009

The beer which I wasn’t going to leave Kulminator without trying was an aged Chimay Blue. I figured 1999 would be just about right – old enough to be one of the older beers I’ve had, but young enough that I shouldn’t tun too much of a risk of it being way over-oxidized. I was looking for something which would allow me to make some generalizations about aged Chimay’s which get some pretty high billing as extremely cellerable beers. As before, it was brought straight from the cellar and poured perfectly into the Chimay glass, leaving a finger of beer left in the bottom with most of the yeast.
Appearance
5
Basically black with a nice off white head which holds well through the session.
Smell
4
A little thin. Smells of cardboard. Some rich fruits. Sweet.
Taste
4.5
Again a little thin. Cardboard yeast dominates. Extremely well balanced flavors. Port flavors, but not too much. Rich fruits: prunes. There’s a lot going on in this beer.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Smooth and mildly tingly.
Drinkability
5
So smooth, well balanced, and alcohol completely hidden.
Overall
4.55
A fine beverage. Might have been a bit over-oxidized for my taste, but still quite good.
Price
€8/33cl or thereabouts. Unfortunately I don’t remember exactly. I’d buy it again, but I prefer the

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2003 Rochefort 10

Posted by jwpiper on February 7, 2009

My original plan was to grab just a couple of beers at Kulminator before going for dinner and maybe return afterwards. So, I had to go for something special from the start. Since I’ve always thought Rochefort 10 should age well, I figured I’d give a bottle from 2003 a try. The numbering on the bottle was 281008, which means it was brewed at the end of September in 2003 – more than five years ago. It came to me straight from the cellar and was poured perfectly into an old school Rochefort glass, leaving the last 2 cm in the bottle with the balance of the yeast.
Appearance
4.5
Pours a dark brown with amber highlights, developing a nice tan head which quickly recedes.
Smell
5
Some port qualities – less than expected. Nice rich fruits, like dates. Caramelized sugars.
Taste
4.5
Still has the caramelized sugar backbone. A bit thinner than I expected, but very little alcohol bite. There was minor oxidation. Rich fruits on the palate as suggested by the smell. Some chocolate as well.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Much thinner than I usually prefer for this style, but it is so smooth and the thinness deceptive – as the flavor is by no means thin. Provides a tickle of carbonation.
Drinkability
5
So easy going. A sipper, but not because it couldn’t be consumed faster, but because it’s a precious treat. Very, very easy going down.
Overall
4.65
Delicious – again, not nearly as delicious as Westvleteren 12, particularly with a few years under its belt. Final pour is thick and sludgy. It adds some smoothness and bready notes – quite good. Don’t be worried about mixing this in unless you prefer the appearance of a clean pour.
Price
€6.50/33cl. A no brainer in my mind – or age your own. I don’t know if or when I’ll ever buy enough of this to hold onto for 5 years, so I’d likely go for this again if/when I’m back at Kulminator.

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La Trappe Quadrupel 2002

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

After my surprisingly pleasant experience with a fresh La Trappe Quad, when I saw an aged bottle at ‘t Arendsnest Nederlands Biercafe, I had to give it a try. The bartender went through a door in the back of the bar and down some stairs for a few minutes, ascending with the bottle of La Trappe Quad bottled in late 2002 in hand. The 6.5 year old beer was poured at cellar temperature (about 55 to 60 degrees) into a La Trappe chalice leaving a couple of cm at the bottom of the bottle with most of the yeast.
Appearance
4.5
As compared to the fresh bottle, it’s thicker, cloudier, and richer in appearance. A nice head developed (it truly was a perfect pour complements of the bartender). Perfect lacing on the glass with each sip.
Smell
4.5
Port all over the place. Prunes and raisins. After tasting, an underpinning of cardboard emerged in the nose – in a good way.
Taste
4
Sweet prunes and raisins. Rich. Yeasty in that cardboardish way. Still a bit metallic. The apples have gone, which is something of a detractor, but I don’t miss the sourness much, just the extra layer of flavor. There are plenty of layers to replace it though. The finish falls a touch flat. Not as sugary sweet, there is a port sweetness instead. The finish is more attenuated. A yeasty finish with still some bitter notes. This becomes dominant about halfway through.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Smooth and rich without being cloying. Plenty of carbonation. Wonderful. A bit drier than the fresh bottle.
Drinkability
4.5
Goes down smoother because of the smoothness. The richness makes it more inviting.
Overall
4.3
I find this beer to be quite interesting. There was no difference except appearance between the first and second yeasty pour. I wonder if it was disturbed on the bartenders climb up the stairs or if the yeast doesn’t stick to the bottom even during a perfect pour. The beer was overall better than the fresh bottle, but I did miss the candied sugar and sour apples.
Price
€7/33cl, I believe. Definitely worth it to try from time to time.

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Thomas Hardy’s Ale

Posted by jwpiper on January 10, 2009

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I tried this beer for the first time. And it blew me away. Matt C.’s impressions were quite different from mine based on his first experience. I could only guess it was because I drank one with four years age on it and perhaps his was new. Well, we decided to split a 2005 at cellar temperature just to find out. He enjoyed it considerably more and I not as much as my first experience with the 2004. I’ve pasted my review on the 2004 below for comparison.

2005 Thomas Hardy’s Ale

Appearance
4
Amber with a white lacey head – much more head than the 2004.
Smell
4.5
Raisins and caramel. Very sweet and a bit boozy. The smell fills the room again.
Taste
4.5
Super sweet, again with raisins and caramel. There are some hoppy notes and bitterness in the finish.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Smooth, mouth-coating with effervescent bubbles.
Drinkability
4
An after dinner sipper.
Overall
4.35
Definitely not as balanced as the 2004. Still a very excellent beer. I’m interested to see what this one is like in 2010 – ie, are the differences because of the batch or the age or just because of different drinking circumstances.
Price
$5/250ml bottle. I can find this now for $0.50 less now that the store ran out of the 2004. I’d much rather have bought more 2004, but we’ll see if another year lets this catch up.

2004 Thomas Hardy’s Ale reviewed 12-06-2008

Appearance
4.5
Opened the bottle, and the beer couldn’t wait to get out. So there was plenty of foam to start with, but it quickly dissipated over the caramal-amber brown pour. Plenty of carbonation seems to be appearing at the top of the beer, but there is no lace.
Smell
5
Wow, the aroma… it fills the room with raisins and roasted malts. Smells like a fine port. Plenty of dried and ripe fruits and sweetness in the aroma.
Taste
5
The flavor seems to be a concentration of the smells. Raisins, and figs, and caramel, and burnt sugars. This one is sweet and complex, definitely a dessert beer. There is a a little of balancing bitterness in this as well.
Mouthfeel
5
The mouthfeel is perfect for a beer like this. The beer coats your mouth – very smooth and thick. But there is the perfect amount of carbonation to cut the sweetness and thickness.
Drinkability
4.5
This is a sipper, but very drinkable. As a dessert beer, which I’m having a hard time not thinking of as a fine port, I can’t imagine drinking too much of this.
Overall
4.85
Extremely enjoyable. I don’t know if this is best beer I’ve reviewed to date, but it’s hitting me perfectly today. Definitely a beer which has its time and place.
Price
$5.50/250ml bottle.

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Decadence 2007

Posted by jwpiper on January 10, 2009

This is my first post about anything Alesmith. Where to begin? Alesmith was the first of my American brewery obsessions. The first brewery in America to make me go several hours out of my way to visit it. The first American brewery to force me to fly cases of their beer back to my home. Indeed, even since discovering some distant stars including Russian River or Deschutes, and even with delicious breweries so nearby and available, I would call Alesmith my favorite American brewery. They truly are craftsmen.

I consider myself blessed to have opportunity to partake of their special offerings, including the Barrel-Aged releases and the yearly Decadence offering. I recall when they announced that Decadence would be an Imperial Porter. My anticipation was palpable. Fresh, this beer was incredible. I enjoyed several at the time and bought a case for the cellar.

Now I revisit it after nearly a year to ruminate, and I am not disappointed in the return on my investment. The 750ml bottle at cellar temperature was split into 3 snifters.

Appearance
4.5
Pours black (very, very dark brown) with a large khaki head which turns to a thin lacey layer.
Smell
5
The smell immediately introduces itself and quickly dominates the room. It is concentrated with smells of very sweet fruits, particularly dates. There is also chocolate and tootsie roll.
Taste
4.5
The flavor borrows from the aroma. It is very sweet at this point, but with excellent balancing bitterness. The booziness of the offering is still there, but more subdued than last year. There is plenty here to carry this one further into the future.
Mouthfeel
4.5
This beer is thick and full-bodied. It is smooth and the carbonation lends a light airiness to it at cellar temperature.
Drinkability
4
This beer is very much an introspective sipper, but there are very inviting smells and flavors through the session. Very drinkable for 10% ABV.
Overall
4.55
Fresh, this was a special beer. I wanted this one to develop a bit, and I should have tried it at 6 months because it seems to have evolved pretty quickly. At this point, though, it is better than fresh, in my opinion. It has taken on some additional barley wine characteristics, and it is an excellent beer which will continue to mature in the cellar.
Price
$10/750ml, if I recall. A good value on an excellent beer. Of course, finding this for sale would be difficult at this point since it was a one time release almost a year ago.

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Fresh Westvleteren 12 vs. Aged Westvleteren 8

Posted by jwpiper on January 3, 2009

There’s something about the most excellent of beers which makes the memory of every other beer you’ve experienced up to that moment fade. For me, those excellent beers include Alesmith Speedway Stout, Thomas Hardy’s Ale with some age, Westvleteren 12, and Westvleteren 8 with some age, to name a few. That moment becomes a singularity – as if nothing like it happened before or since.

I have a decent stash of 2-3 year old Westvleteren 8 which I open only on special occasions – though sometimes the occasion is only made special by the opening of one of these bottles. A few months ago, I returned from Belgium with a set of fresh Westvleteren 12. A series of innocent events (described along with reviews, here: Westvleteren 8 and here: Westvleteren 12) drove me to perform the comparison of these two beers which I intended those months ago.

Objectively, I recognize the incongruity of the times I’ve had that moment with Westvleteren 8 at my home and the singularities I’ve experienced with Westvleteren 12 at In de Vrede over the past 2 years. As an aesthete, this contradiction doesn’t bother me; indeed I revel in it. However, some (I concede the possibility that this group includes only myself) might call me hyper-rational. The scientist in me could not abide the inconsistency and savored the possibility of so worthy an experiment. To be fair, at the first sip the aesthete savored it as well.

While the comparison will never fade from memory, I fear I may have robbed myself of the deliciously contradictory singularities which could have continued in each new experience with either exemplary beer. I do relish in the still unanswered question, “At what point, if any, will an aged Westvleteren 8 surpass a fresh Westvleteren 12?” In the meantime, I can only hope, and indeed suspect, that these divine Trappist brews will continue to transcend reason and recollection to demand the title, “Best Beer in the World” in that moment.

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