Back in November we brought you the summary of a tasting hosted by the UK’s leading Ratebeer.com exponent, Craig Garvie. Having powered through 6,200 beers and sakes, Craig decided to get a regular group together to taste unusual beers and have a social occasion at the same time. Like a book group, except with less Jane Austen. Anyway, mid-January seemed like a good time to do it again, so the BeerCast descended on Craig’s house with a few beers – the infamous Garlic Beer amongst them (which amazingly he liked).
To give you an idea of what was to come, the warmup beer was one of the ‘100 Belgian beers to try before you die’ (from the book of the same name) – Fantôme Black Ghost (8%), an unusually spiced farmhouse ale. Sour and yeasty, it set the tone for the evening, as rare and expensive beers appeared left right and centre. Not to mention beers that score in the uppermost percentiles on the ticker websites. Bells Java Stout (7.5%) and Goose Island Fleur (7%) were up next, both fascinatingly interesting.
There was no time to rest, however, as we moved on to the big guns – possibly the biggest of all American craft beer guns – Three Floyds Darklord (15%). Such is the mystique that surrounds this particular beer, it deserves it’s own individual review – so check back for our thoughts later. In Ratebeer’s recently announced Top 50 global beers, Darklord placed fourth. Just as I was thinking how impressive that was – the next beer up was even higher on that list.
Hailing from Örebro in Sweden, Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter (9.5%) is currently joint top of Ratebeer’s rankings. Out of the many tens of thousands of beers listed, it sits atop the pile with an aggregate score of 4.48 out of 5. Only the peerless Westvleteren 12 stands shoulder to shoulder with this Scandinavian imperial porter, having currently achieved the same score. Whether you consider it to be the joint best beer in the world or not, that’s a pretty impressive achievement.
As expected, it pours a thick, gloopy black with no head. The aromas and flavours of Kaggen Stormaktsporter are almost hard to put into words – it’s extremely viscous, with an oaky, slightly smoked finish. Big alcohol backbone reminiscent of Madeira or sherry, with a sweetness that gives way to alcohol burn. What else is there to say? These beers are so complex everyone has a different opinion – I’m just glad that I got to sample them to add mine to the mix (my score being 4.1, by the way).
From there, the big beers kept on coming. Another astonishingly rare bottle came out next – Lost Abbey’s now-retired Veritas Ale 003 (8.0%) – a blend of three of their other beers, which apparently fetches up to $300 a bottle on eBay. Only sour fans would contemplate that kind of outlay – incredibly tart, sharp and puckering – pickled onions, gooseberries and balsamic vinegar was what I wrote down. Just too sour for me.
We then whizzed through a few more – Mikkeller Funk(e)* or fung’ke e’st r (9.4%), a Brettanomyces aged, yet quite honeylike Belgian-style beer with a bizarre name (apparently it reads as funky easter), then De Molen Stoombier Gedrooghopt Safir (5.6%), and from Australia the 5.8% Cascade Stout. We still had time for more rareness – Firestone Walker Eleven (11%) and Thirteen (12%), two more retired barrel-aged imperials full of sweet syrupyness.
I had time for a nip of one of the few BrewDog beers I’ve not tried – Sink the Bismarck (41%) – the massively hopped IPA slipped me by when it was released, and having tried all the other abv war ‘beers’, I gave it a go. It’s quite something on the nose – enormous alcohol aroma, combined with a massive hop presence. It tastes of burning heather honey, pine air freshner and Dettol. Extremely oily and astringent, more liqueur than beer – it’s incredibly fascinating.
Anyway, time was drawing to a close, and we powered on to yet another limited edition beer – Goose Island Bourbon Country Rare (13.5%), which comes in a single malt-style presentation box. Big pruney bourbon aromas dominate this one, with a massive whisky taste combined with a dark sweetness. It’s so astringent that there’s actually a kick to the back of the throat at the moment of swallowing – a challenging brew, no doubt.
Time to wrap up this post – as ever it could be almost three times in length. Finishing with the strangest beer on the agenda – Baladin’s Xyauyù (13.5%), and not just for the spellcheck-challenging name. I’ll replicate here my tasting notes, written at the time, to try and sum up this Italian monster… Thin viscous browny-red. Grain whiskyish sake aroma. Flavours of raisins? Whisky/cognac palate. Cloyingly sweet. Marzipan. Brown sugar – Demerara.
Massive thanks to Craig for the tasting, and to all those who brought these spectacular beers along.