Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout 2015

Total Score: 8.7/10 Coffee1DarkFruits1Wood1Tulipglass1

Review #900! Only 100 more reviews till I get a free sub and perhaps a captains hat (Seinfeld reference). So what better way to go out than with this barrel aged version of one of my favourite Russian Imperial Stouts: Sierra Nevada Narwhal. I review a lot of Sierra Nevada brews, and they rarely disappoint (except for Otra Vez of course), so I really wanted to save something special for #900 and it had to be something BIG [Bearing Immense Gusto], and dark, and barrel aged – well looks like we’ve found ourselves a tasty… and no I’m not going to attempt to drink the entire bottle tonight… 750mls of obsidian nectar of the Gods in our good friend Narwhal – really, really looking forward to this – is perhaps an understatement.

Poured from a 750ml corked & caged bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Black like the inkiest depths of the vacuum of space with a thin tan ring that does little to offset the terror to be found in this dark murky soup. Less impressive beers abound freely in comparison to this Goliath. 9/10.

S: The aroma: Inescapable – a rich melange of sweet bourbon whiskey, dark fruits, molasses, a woody/oaky note, chicory, licorice, and cacao nibs. “Get down on your knees and pay me respect now” – Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout 2015. This aroma is scary assertive. 9/10.

T: Maybe it’s the 2 yrs age on it but this is nothing near as powerful as I expected from the aroma. First sip is a bit of a bourbon nip with a slight burn, dark fruits (raisin, plum) and the molasses/oaky note. Second sip comes in and dumps chicory, licorice and a raw espresso character. Aftertaste comes in with a touch of medicinal herb and espresso bitterness. 9/10.

M: Feels less viscous and heavy than regular Narwhal – which is a surprise I wasn’t even expecting! Mid to heavy bodied with a thin carbonation. 8/10.

D: It’s overall civilized, but at 12.9% ABV one gets the feeling that maybe “it’s a little too much”. Too much ABV, too much flavour going on – it’s not as good as regular Narwhal in that respect, regular Narwhal had more balance. So yeah, what I’m trying to say is that I would actually take a regular Narwhal over this, and that feels a bit of an odd statement from me – shouldn’t barrel aging make a regular beer better??? In the case of Narwhal for me the answer is a slightly perplexed “no”. Oy vey I’ve got a lot of barrel aged Narwhal to drink now… I’ve never been so daunted by a 750ml bottle of beer in my life… I need beer friends. 8/10.

Food match: I had cigars on regular Narwhal and it’s even more relevant here.

 

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3 Ravens The Druid 2017

Total Score: 8.55/10 DarkFruits1Bubblegum1Wood1Tulipglass1

I don’t mind that druid guy, he’s alright, and the beer – we’re about to find out. So this Belgian Quadrupel is barrel-aged in Shiraz and Port barrels, nice! Well I’m looking forward to this one, the bottle label describes some pretty awesome flavours: “Dark malt sweetness, banana & bubblegum esters combine with raisin, fig and plum characters from the Shiraz & Port barrel aging process…” You had me at “bubblegum”, which I love and don’t find as often as I would like to in any beer. My ideal beer would be some sort of liquid Bazooka Joe [PATENT PENDING!] brew that isn’t too sweet but full of that juicy bubblegum goodness… ironically I can’t stand chewing gum – yes, I am a complex creature.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep cola, opaque body with a tasty looking tan half centimetre of head on top. Head retains rather well, better than some Belgian Quads I’ve tried. I’m not going to lie to you – this is one appetising brew sitting in front of me. 8/10.

S: “I wish I had, suuuum… BUBBLEGUM!” – Confidence Man. This aroma is all deliciously dark fruit esters, and importantly: bubblegum. Yep, that allusive flavour and I’ve finally got my nose on it. Bit of brown sugar/molasses notes as well. This is one sugar-truck of beer I’m about to dump on my tongue. Could be a bit more complex is my only negative. 8/10.

T: Dark fruits (plum, raisin, hint of fig) mingle with a touch of over-ripe fruit, brown sugar/molasses character, some woodiness from the barrel aging, less prominent bubblegum (oh well), and a dusty/medicinal herb note in finish. Touch of booziness as well, but it’s at a “grandma pouring brandy on the Christmas pudding” level of warmth – nothing to be distracted by. Not getting much in the way of Shiraz flavours though – some pepperiness and vinous characters might well to the flavours on offer… then again it could become too cluttered as well. 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a creamy/dense carbonation. Pretty spot on texture – loving how creamy it is – it’s like the double cream granny used to dollop on her brandy boozed Christmas pudding! 9/10.

D: Much credit to 3 Ravens: this is a Quad that rubs shoulders with the Belgians, it’s got all of that “good” stuff. Plus it’s not a sugar-bomb (my pancreas thanks me) so my teeth feel moderately safe [it’s true: I cannot drink Founders Old Curmudgeon anymore due to cavities]. Pity it’s only a limited release then. 8/10.

Food match: Mounds of roasted game meats with a pile of parsnips.

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Bacchus Brewing King of Denmark

Total Score: 9.2/10 RedWine1Wood1Vegemite1Tulipglass1

Yet another Bacchus to wet my whistle (my whistle gets dry a lot and for some reason beer is the only thing that will successfully lubricate it… I sometimes drink the stuff left over once my whistle is wet too). Anyone who follows my reviews might think I have some sort of love affair with Bacchus (I’ve reviewed 17 Bacchus beers so far), but Head Brewer Ross Kenrick just seems to keep pumping out interesting brews, so who can blame me? This one is an English Old Ale brewed with a +200 yro yeast strain from Harley’s brewery in Sussex, England. The beer has been barrel-aged (as Old Ales typically are BA’d) for 12 month in oak. Some Old Ales are blended but in typical Ross fashion this is unabashedly a straight-up 9.5% beast.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Wow, almost tepid looking black goop with a khaki head that rapidly recedes. The most amazing thing is the powerful aroma wafting straight out from the second the bottle was open – even before I saw this beer it was bitch-slapping me with aroma! Ominous looking in the way that Mikkeller Black Buffalo was… I’m scared, please hold me… 8/10.

S: That aroma! It’s really grapey, like a good Flanders Red Ale, but dialled up to 11. There’s no getting around how in my face this beer is going to be. If I could articulate this pervading fragrance better I would say: Red wine grape must, woody oak character, hint of vegemite, and a touch of decomposing fruit… yes, it’s the beer equivalent of stinky cheese and I love it. 10/10.

T: All of the above: Red wine grape must, woody oak character, hint of vegemite, and a touch of decomposing dark fruits. As far as flavour types go we’ve got: Sweet, bitter, sour and umami, which would sound like a real discordant clash of flavours, however the balance here is symphonic. This isn’t just a beer – this is an experience. Wow, again for emphasis: Wow! 10/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied with a peculiar carbonation that is almost non-existent yet also quite prickly and gassy – I suspect this carbonation is down to the crazy-old yeast strain (though Weihenstephan have much older yeasts strains in their brews). 7/10.

D: This is a beer that, like a Flanders Oud Bruin/Flanders Red Ales, blurs the line between beer and wine whilst taking a piss on everything else and setting it all on fire. A challenging beer indeed, but one to be savoured. 8/10.

Food match: Wow, I’m savouring this beer alone, but a cheese platter if you wish.

 

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Bacchus Brewing Balt Action Porter (Oak Edition)

Total Score: 8.05/10 DarkFruits1Wood1Vanilla1Tulipglass1

It’s time for us to go Marty! “Where?” Back to the Bacchus! – Doc Hops. So this one came as recommended from Ross Kenrick himself – a Baltic Porter, which is brewed with Lager yeast, so you learn something new every day… problem is that I forgot 2 things I knew every day… at this rate I’ll have early-onset dementia in a less than a decade (I shouldn’t jest – dementia is a pretty serious health issue hey). So Bacchus makes a Balt Action Porter and an oak edition of the Balt Action, now everyone knows that oak is better right? No? Well it is – now you know. Flavours expected in this 9.8% ABV behemoth are dark fruits, maybe a touch of acidic sourness (as Baltic Porters are known for), brown sugar, and vanilla from the oak… this should be one tasty brew!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep cola-coloured body, difficult to tell if it’s cloudy or not, 2 centimetre tan head that fizzles down gradually like a soft drink (the fizzing is fairly audible). Stops at about 3mm, impressive that there even was a head at 9.8% ABV. 8/10.

S: Red coffee cherries and dark fruit forward aroma, notes of a slight Greek yoghurt sourness as well, oak character? Hard to tell through that predominant coffee cherries/dark fruit aroma. The lack of oak on the nose and much else apart from that which is noted means this brew falls a little short in the aroma for me. 6/10.

T: Flavour is pretty damn good though – this is deceptively easy drinking! Not too sweet either – which can be a problem with any brew north of 8%. Coffee hints, dark fruits pirouetting on the taste buds, that subtle yoghurt acidic kiss, wood character, vanilla, yes it’s got oak as vaunted on the label, all lead towards a dry/woody finish. It’s got a drying aftertaste as well. Tasty, and an excellent representation of the style – another reason for me to drink more Baltic Porters right here. 9/10.

M: Body though… needs more body at this ABV… medium bodied with a thin and crisp carbonation. Oats or lactose in the next batch perhaps Mr. Kenrick? 6/10.

D: Overall a rather tasty, nay excellent, Baltic Porter. The thin body and two-note aroma were the only things holding this back, it’s tough when you’re brewing with Lager yeast though – it’s prone to a thinner mouthfeel and crispness in general. The oak came through in the flavour though, excellent. Also the drinkability of this brew is surprisingly dangerous: 3.9 standard drinks, time for bed now methinks! 9/10.

Food match: Chargrilled steak and roast veggies… throw in a Yorkie and Diane too.

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Bacchus Brewing Barosski

Total Score: 8.4/10 RedWine1Coffee1DarkFruits1Tulipglass1

Gave this one a miss the first time I saw it, because you know: I can’t spend all my pennies on Bacchus beers (as much as I would like to), however I bumped into an fellow beerethren who rated this Shiraz Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout as their favourite Bacchus brew so far. Gauntlet down, red note ponied to the cashier, I left the bottle shop with bottle and change in hand, certain I would be the beer-drinking litmus test to some random and possibly spurious claims [Snickers is clearly the GOAT Bacchus]. Btw if you’re yet to get your hands on a Bacchus: Black Sheep in Brisbane stock them (i.e. get off your ass and get some Bacchus now).

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Despairingly black cola body with an appropriate (given the hefty 10.2% ABV) thin mocha lace ring inside the glass. The blackness within has all the hallmarks of a beer black hole – ready to suck me in with gravity more powerful than a thousand suns… it’s breathtaking – I highly suggest you try it. 9/10.

S: Deep plum, dark fruits, and shiraz characters slap you in the face like a giant facey-slappy thing. BIG stuff here, big, bold and unyielding. Hints of 80% dark chocolate and red coffee cherries add to the omnipotence of this brew. A touch of pepper in the background too… I’ll admit I’m not a fan of Shiraz wines (I find them too tannic) however this aroma is close to a masterstroke. 9/10.

T: Thankfully the flavour takes a step and a half back from that intimidating aroma and allows you to relax somewhat – I was worried for a second this would be too much even for me to handle. As above: deep plum/dark fruits/Shiraz/80% dark chocolate and red coffee cherries make for delightful RIS, which actually reminds me of the fruitiness a Baltic Porter – perhaps Ross should name the style as a Baltic Imperial Stout – it’s certainly where the BIS is at. Almost grapey note comes through as well. Finish is a slight choco/coffee bitterness. 9/10.

M: Mouthfeel is thinner and gassier than expected – medium bodied, could definitely benefit from more body – maybe oats in the next batch? 5/10.

D: A face-punch of a brew that displays Bacchus as a brewer that can rumble with the best of them. The Shiraz notes are defined and most importantly: they work well. Given that there are plenty barrel-aged beers out there now it is good to see a Australian wine barrels introduced in to the craft beer scene. Ross you are a legend, cheers to your inventive brain! 8/10.

Food match: I couldn’t imagine anything less than a chargrilled banquet here.

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Boatrocker Ramjet Starward Whiskey Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Coffee 2016

Total Score: 8.9/10 DarkFruits1Coffee1Vegemite1Tulipglass1

Mouthful of a name aside I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while… it’s 2017 now, so no time like the present (aka “that time we live in now, that is the future, with flying cars and pizza drones… Google it brah!”). Now I’ve tried some Starward whiskey, the Solera cask one, and it was one tasty whiskey, fruity and sherry-forward. So we can join dots and whatnot to work out how the Barrel Aging has impacted this brew, and my money is on dark roasted coffee, dark fruits and a sherry hint… but then again I have been known to be wrong before… once… or twice even… sorry, I wasn’t keeping score there.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Black body, obscene in its obsidian(ism), with a thin ring of dark mocha brown where a head would normally reside (this is a 10.6% ABV behemoth – don’t expect a head at this ABV and you won’t be disappointed folks). Impressive, most impressive [I’m sure I’ve used this Darth Vader quote before on a previous Russian Imperial Stout… still applies here though]. 9/10.

S: With rich ripe coffee berries, the aroma of raisins – crushed underfoot, sherry booze and a hint of vegemite, Boatrocker melds a mighty scent with which to clobber your olfactory senses like some gigantic odour-hammer. Sex Panther in a beer. 60% of the time – it works every time! [that doesn’t even make sense] 9/10.

T: Wow beer! This is a “wow” beer. Why am I even surprised? Barrel-aged in Starward casks – hat goes off. Flavour is long and complex, sherry, dark fruits (raisin, dark plum, date), roasted coffee mixed with ripe coffee berries, vanilla (from oak), vegemite and a solid belt of whiskey towards the finish – which has a slight coffee bitterness. Balance is decent, but it’s difficult to perfect a beer like this with so many competing flavours, overall it’s a touch on the sweet and boozy side. That said: Wow, this is good. My pancreas hurts now. 9/10.

M: Beer syrup, legit! Heavy, viscous-bodied with a thin and dense carbonation. 8/10.

D: This brew is a titan amongst brews. A no-nonsense heavy-hitter of a Barrel-aged monster, that brings you to the brink of ecstasy (and hangover) in a single sip. The only downside? Getting up in the morning – I’ll be feeling this one tomorrow for sure. Easily Boatrocker’s best brew yet! Keep rocking that boat guys, and I’ll keep buying your Barrel-aged beers 😉 It’s been a while since I’ve thought of Black Buffalo, however this made me think back to that venerable milestone. 9/10.

Food match: Cigars and sherry methinks!

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Nøgne Ø Quadrupel (Red Wine Barrel Edition)

Total Score: 8.95/10 DarkFruits1Vegemite1RedWine1Tulipglass1

Nøgne Ø, despite being one of those brewers from Norway with that ‘Ø’ symbol in their name, how the **** do I even pronounce that??? Anyhow, they brew some good shit, you might even say “sheeeit” to emphasise the goodness of said shit. Last brew I tried of theirs was the Imperial Stout, and like Darth Vader I was “most impressed” with this Norwegian brewer (I also even thought to myself at the time that “the force is strong with this one”). So here we are – a massive 15.5% ABV red wine barrel Quad. Socks are set to their ‘soon to be blown off’ setting.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Like most brews over the 15% mark the head reduces quickly to a thin collection of tan coloured bubbles, then nothing. Body is a cloudy chocolate brown. Everything looks decent, it’s not a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park hit but it’s neither an ugly duckling. 8/10.

S: Straight away the nose is smacked sideways by bold dark plum/red wine barrel characters. Further whiffs introduce that grape hubba-bubba bubblegum note that you get from a certain Red Flanders Ale named Rodenbach Grand Cru. A touch of sourness as well, hopefully not a defining feature, and that all too familiar Vegemite note you get in high ABV dark beers. This is indeed a formidable Quad in front of me, but who are we kidding – it’s more of a Quinque than a Quad. 9/10.

T: Woah! [said in my best Keanu Reeves impression voice] Tasty, tasty drop! Upfront dessert wine sweetness gives way to rich plum, hints of Vegemite, vanilla and caramelised (slightly burnt) sugar. Finish has a light woody dryness. The overall flavour is squarely in the realm of dessert wine with fig notes coming in as well. Damn, damn tasty. Reminds me of Commandaria port (without the metallic notes I often find in Commandaria). 9/10.

M: Heavy bodied with an almost black-hole dense carbonation. 9/10.

D: If you enjoy a dessert wine, and you know you do – you’re drinking this beer right now, look in your hand… how did I do that? Magic – you will love this rich tapestry. A downside to this beer? It is sweet. Very. No really, it’s quite sweet, you think a glass of dissolved sugar is sweet well that’s peanuts to this beer*. As far as 15%+ brews go this is definitely the best I’ve had. Nøgne Ø nailed it. 9/10.

Food match: Dessert. Cheese platter. Angina. Infarction of some kind. Early death.

*Yes I may have recently read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, what of it?

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