Another month, another colossal tick-taste at RateBeer king Craig Garvie’s. Every few weeks Craig assembles a list of beers that would have any self-respecting beer fan salivating with anticipation, and as many people as possible turn up to share the goodies. As with the others (which you can read about here), I headed down with high expectations, and left fifteen beers later having had them totally exceeded in every way.
There’s no messing about with a tasting if Craig is involved – we piled straight into the big hitters with the 13% Parabola Reserve I from Firestone Walker. Most of his hefty Americans are the result of trades – and the generosity of the widespread community on RateBeer. There are a few UK importers of such beers, but it really is fascinating to get to try beers such as this.
Thick, chewy, barrel-aged molasses from the Parabola gave way to the next beer, the sublime Pliny the Elder (8%) from Russian River. The perfect American IPA? Clear gold, fluffy white head, dark pine aromas with grapefruit bitterness, wonderfully balanced. And all in such an understated bottle. Really, really something. I’ve chewed my way through many a big IPA, but Pliny is a rare beast in that it does not punish you in any way – it’s totally rewarding.
We moved to a British stylemate – Marble Utility Special 2010 (6.5%), which was difficult to compare as they are clearly quite different. The Marble was maybe slightly fruitier – more pineapple than grapefruit – and seriously nice. We then blasted through Marble’s Stouter Port Stout, Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA (which I reviewed in detail here), and the really drinkable London Brewer’s Alliance Porter (5.3%).
Back Stateside the next two up were bourbon barrel-aged beers. Craig’s not a huge fan of the style, preferring the Imperial Stouts – I have to agree that sometimes they can just be too much. The perfect example was Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine (14.5%) – interesting to taste a whiskey barley wine, but quite cheesy and almost unpleasant. Also quite sweet was Rockyard’s Imperial Red (10%), with Central Waters Bourbon Barley Wine being the pick of the imported darker beers, due to the smooth nature of the bourbon flavours (probably due to our bottle being a mellowed 2008 vintage).
It wouldn’t be a RateBeer tick-taste without a Mikkeller beer or two, so we then put away Ris a la M’ale (8.0%), a surprisingly mild-flavoured cherry, vanilla and almond beer (apparently brewed to taste like trifle), before moving on to a spicy Christmas beer – Santa’s Little Helper (10.9%) – which was big in every category. Spices, cinnamon, dark fruit, booze – sickly in parts but not too bad overall. Another cloyfest was Weyerbacher XIV (11.8%) – large wheaty marzipan flavours throughout.
The two standout beers (not including the Pliny) came from Scandinavia, however. Nogne Ø Dark Horizon 3 (15.5%) was hugely sweet, but with a matching coffee bitterness to offset. Really drinkable – well, sippable – we followed it up with the incredibly rare Amager Ølbutikken IIIII (10.5%). Only 120 bottles were ever produced – of course Craig managed to trade for one, with his connections. Black, fluffy cream-coloured head, it had an odd nose of bourbon, coffee and tobacco. It was all this on the taste, plus oaky, with some sourness, and then massive alcohol burn. I still can’t decide whether I like it or not – it was just so complex. Which, of course, is what you really hope for from a tasting…
Massive thanks as ever to Craig for hosting – you can visit his blog here.