Samuel Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout is a holiday treat for this holiday week. It starts with a creamy head that hangs around for a bit. The nose is full of holiday spices like ginger and cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. It’s not a sweet beer as I was halfway expecting, but roasty and spicy instead, with coffee and heavy spices in the middle, and a bit of molasses and oak and booze in the finish. It has a heavy, silky mouthfeel that’s buttery at the finish. It’s a twist on the usual holiday brews, and though this was batch number one, and I think there’s some refining yet to be done to the recipe I think the folks at Boston Beer Company have come up with a promising new holiday option.
Merry Christmas! La Fin Du Monde is a golden Belgian Tripel from Unibroue, the Belgian specialists from Quebec. It’s got a beautiful head that’s reminiscent of champagne but lasts much longer. The nose has loads of sour Belgian yeast and some grassiness. The middle is carbonated with a punch of tart apples and pears, and bit of honey gives it some sweetness. The finish is bitter and earthy. This is not a small beer by any measure at 9.0% ABV, but the carbonation and lighter flavors make it more refreshing and festive than the complex and captivating brews Unibroue produces. In this holiday season, this would be a fine alternative to champagne for the beer aficionado.
Tonight I’m trying thee 2012 version of Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout. It’s described as “midnight black and bold – with notes of baker’s cocoa and dark roasted coffee.” It’s definitely dark and bold. There’s a large head that dissipates quickly, and the nose has cocoa and lots of earthy notes. The middle is dry and dusty, and bitter with that heavily roasted coffee. The finish is actually kind of hoppy, with citrus and some spices, but there’s still some malty molasses flavor to balance it out. It has a bit more carbonation that I expect in a stout of this this style and alcoholic content. (10.2% ABV) All in all a good, but not great imperial stout.
Another classic craft brew in a bottle is Breakfast Stout by Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I can’t bring myself to drink in the morning, but if I were to have beer for breakfast, this would be the one. It pours without a lot of head, and there isn’t a lot of carbonation, but the head that is there is creamy and heavy. The scent is heavily laced with espresso and a hint of chocolate, and the middle is chocolaty, milky, and smooth, with just a hint of pine. The finish is a bit spicy, with more coffee, and the warmth of the alcohol. This is an exceptional beer, and one of my all time favorites.
I found a couple of offerings that I hadn’t tried before from what is perhaps my personal favorite brewery, Unibroue. Unibroue is located in Quebec, Canada, and they focuses on Belgian style ales and they have turned out some truly stunning brews. Tonight I’m trying Trois Pistoles, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, brewed with spices. The head is beautiful and creamy and fairly rich. The nose has cherry, sour Belgian yeasts, and some earthy notes. The middle is rich and well rounded with berries, oak, orange, spices, and a hint of booze. The finish is warm and spicy, with some vanilla and lingers on the tongue. It’s got massive amounts of flavor, and I love that it’s not overly sweet, with just a hint of sugar in the middle. Once again, I think Unibroue has produced a winner.
I’ve previously reviewed Lindemans’ famous Framboise (raspberry) Lambic, and today I’m having another one of their many lambic offerings: the Cassis, or black current lambic ale. First off, this one was a challenge to open! There was a standard bottle cap, underneath which was a cork, requiring a corkscrew. Once that was removed, the beer required quicker reflexes than I anticipated as it turned out to be under the same sort of pressure you’d expect from a vigorously shaken bottle of Champagne. So, I unfortunately immediately lost a couple of ounces to the tabletop immediately surrounding the bottle. Once in the glass though, it’s beautiful. It’s a darker, hazier purple than than framboise, and the coloration reminds me of pomegranate juice. The nose has wonderful sour wild Belgian yeast notes. The middle is extremely tart and dry and the currants remind me of cranberry or pomegranate. The finish is full and sweet, and the fruit still dominates. It has a fairly heavy body and is richly flavorful throughout, and there’s a sweetness that makes this a drink a lovely treat most comparable to a dessert wine.
The core of this beer is the yeast, according to the collaborators for this beer: New Belgium and The Lost Abbey. The yeast strain is brettanomyces, which gives the beer both its name and its tropical fruit flavors The nose is floral and yeasty, and the middle is sweet with pineapple and peach flavors, fading into a sour, mildly malty finish that has some notes of orange. The spotlight here is strictly the yeast. This is like a wheat beer that has a very neutral base in order to highlight specific flavors. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, but it doesn’t stand out in any particular way.