April/May 2009

Smoked Beers & Oak Aged Beers

Oh, the joys and delights of that effervescent, refreshing combination of barley and hops and
with a bit of flavor excitement of smoke or wood. Or bourbon. Out of hibernation, the
Beer Beacon tasters gathered for some delicious March beer madness.

One of the joys of beer exploration is to experience all the new varieties and goodness of beer pleasure available today. We're not all beer snobs, but the beer journey does separate the beer swilling masses
from more refined beer palates. So open your taste buds and join us on another beerventure.

We really appreciate all the breweries that sent samples to the Beer Beacon. There are so many exciting flavors in beers today and we enjoy sharing the beer adventures with you.

Next: Double and Imperial IPAs.

The Place:
The Brewing News Headquarters , Buffalo, NY

The Tasters:
Our core group of tasters minus one: Vinny, Hop Jack, Evil and Gerg
all took part in this monstrously flavorful beer session.

The Method:
Tasters are served each beer, with only the information of the
style the brewery is emulating, when there is a style. The beer name
and brewery are revealed to the tasters as each next blind round is served.

The Beers:

Fireside Ale, Weyerbacher Brewing
905 Line Street, Easton, PA 18042

Vinny, the Flavors Guru, commented that the caramel & smokey malts with the rich semi burnt caramelized, light musty fruit taste was interesting. Evil said the creamy head was “visually appealing”, but he would have liked more smokiness. Hop Jack found it somewhat malty and an easy drinking beer. Gerg thought there was a hint of smoke up front with a molasses soft finish. The head lasted a long time, which is always nice. Weyerbacher's description as an intriguing dark ale with a touch of smokiness is right on.

Smokestack Heritage Porter, East End Brewing Company
6923 Susquehanna Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15208

Definite smoky taste here Evil noted, with a big burnt roast flavor. Gerg found the smoke enhanced the other flavors nicely. Hop Jack noted the smooth, creamy opaque head with a taste of roasted grains with hints of coffee and chocolate. The Beer Diva is usually put off by smoke, but has smoke memories awoken with pleasure by this delightfully caffeinated, hearty chocolate stout. Definitely worth a try.

Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, Great Divide Brewing Co.
2201 Arapahoe Street, Denver, CO 80205

A blast of espresso coffee notes, a “Good Morning Nose” said Gerg. Hop Jack commented on the dark creamy head with a full toffee-coffee body --“a worthy beer, with a nice lasting finish”. Vinny thought it was like a rich espresso martini that would wake you right up when you've started to wind down. Evil agreed and called it a “Pick-Me Up” beer. The Beer Diva thought of dark chocolate cappuccino beans - there's some bold happiness in a complex beer.

Insanity, Weyerbacher Brewing
905 Line Street, Easton, PA 18042

Vinny noted the surgery nose and said the tongue had a scattering of sweet hop bitterness with a dose of fresh cut wood - it was interesting. The Beer Diva agreed - sweet, with a bitter oak puckeryness. Gerg thought the slight vanilla, caramel apple taste was all up front, with the wood in the after taste. Evil said “This beer looks and smells like a young and tart Liberty Ale that's drunk on tree sap”, but she has potential. Hop Jack said it was oaky, winey, and perhaps under attenuated and thought it would age with more complexity.

Heresy, Weyerbacher Brewing
905 Line Street, Easton, PA 18042

Hop Jack liked the chocolate whiskey nose, but the finish was surprisingly dry. Gerg commented on the cocoa and wood taste, but thought there should be more heartiness for the style. Vinny thought the roasted coffee and maple nose, along with the sugary, light oak coffee flavor hid the alcohol well. Evil's mind was wandering - “it's a north east dark haired body that will give you a warm sensation.”

Our Barrel Ale, Anchor Brewing
1705 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

Gerg thought this beer smelled like a night he wished he remembered. Hop Jack liked the complexity - the nose of dates and raisins and the full body that was subtlely hoppy and malty. Vinny commented on the big nutty “Frangellica” whiskey taste - it's a malt and fruity hops dance with alcohol in a wonderful barleywine like beer-hybrid. “Yee-Haw!” exclaimed Evil, “Talk about Hair of the Dog That Bit You - you can do shots of this!” The Beer Beacon panel all thought the creativity and uniqueness of this beer was delightful. The Beer Diva inquired of the trustworthy steward, “How many bottles do we have?”

Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, Michigan Brewing
1093 Highview Drive, Webberville, MI 48892

Vinny found this one very impressive - the additional alcohol from the barrels drove the hop-laden malts to another beer chemistry level. Gerg thought it was sweeet, boozy goodness - like those chocolate cherry bourbon candies. Hop Jack thought the malty, sweet taste was warming and stayed to the finish, but was almost cloying to a Hophead. Evil said this was “The Hair of the Angry Hair of the Dog”. The Beer Diva doesn't usually like beer and bourbon together, but this is a tasty big stout and especially nice to share before bedtime.

Black Gold Bourbon Imperial Stout, Full Sail Brewing
506 Columbus Street, Hood River, OR

Wow! Hop Jack noted the definite bourbon and vanilla aroma that dominates this beer - like a Bud run over by Jack Daniels. Coffee, chocolate and molasses, and strong bourbon flavors, commented Vinny. “Burned my nose hair, then my mustache,” said Evil. Gerg liked the cocoa powder, bourbon nose with the initial bite of hops in the flavor. We all thought it mellowed out as it warmed and would be wonderful on a wintry Sunday afternoon.

Oak Aged Yeti , Great Divide Brewing Co.
2201 Arapahoe Street, Denver, CO 80205

Hop Jack thought it was complex, with a roasty, coffee toast flavors with hints of oak - “you know it's a beer”. Evil found the start sweet, the bite bitter and the body chewy. Vinny noted the oakey, California Chardonnay nose and the big maple sugar and coffee flavors. Big hops and strong coffee, a great balance that hides the alcohol. Gerg liked the solid backbone with a big oak forefront. The Yeti is assertive and would be excellent paired with a hearty venison stew.

Big Black Voodoo Daddy Imperial Stout, Voodoo Brewing
215 1/5 Arch Street, Meadville, Pa 16335

“Campfire and malt nose” said Vinny, with a smokey, sweet and molasses body and a raisins and oak finish. Hop Jack liked the molasses, raisins and dates flavors and thought there was a good balance of hops and malt. The Beer Diva thought the roastiness hid the alcohol well - this one's clever and sneaky. Evil called it a funky cornucopia of flavors - Jealousy in a bottle.

--- by The Beer Diva, Beer Beacon columnist

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