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Random beer tasting notes....

Several new beers I've tried recently:

1) Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, 2014 release. Tasted by itself, not blind. It's okay; I don't think this is going to take home any prizes in a blind barleywine tasting. What I do notice is that trademark Stone dryness. Does anyone else pick that up in alot of Stone brews? Dryness just has no place in a BW for my palate. But otherwise decent texture. Just nothing to write home about.

2) Deschutes Obsidian Stout. Had fairly high hopes for this. Definitely well made, but again, this is dry on the side of North Coast Old Rasputin; but without that rich luciousness of Rasputin. Glad I bought and tried it, won't be rushing to finish off the other 5 bottles.

3) Bokcor Cuvee de Jacobins Rouge sour ale. Now this is interesting. Kind of a tart-cherry tripel perhaps? And it really earns that "sour" ale label. Will buy again, interesting, unique... more of a "conversation" piece beer than something I'd quaff glass after glass, but I did buy only one bottle then was lamenting not having another after that. Just interesting, not the best brew I ever drank.

Putting up this thread in hopes it might be useful for postings on similar random tastings.

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  1. You mentioned "dry" for the barley wine and stout, but those are fairly rich, heavy brews. I am wondering what temperature you had these -- sweetness decreases with temperature, and perhaps you might have had them too cold? Just a thought...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Tripeler

      Depends on style. Obsidian is American stout, and Old Guardian is American barleywine. Stylistically both of those can be pretty dry, vs. Russian Imperial stout (Rasputin) which is much sweeter, or English barleywine which is also sweet.

      1. re: Tripeler

        Temp was same as the outdoors... probably around 50 plus or minus? Not refridged at all. The dryness is definitely in those two brews (Obsidian and Guardian). As for stone, I've noticed that same sort of "gravelly" (or "stone") taste in alot of their beers... as though they're targeting that side of the flavor spectrum.

      2. Along with our "2014 IPA Championship", we also sampled some stouts a friend brought along.

        He brought 6, we chose to drink 3:
        Boulevard Smokestack Imperial Stout
        Left Hand Milk Chocolate Stout
        and one other that escapes me...

        Of the 3, the BSII was really quite interesting. Liked it, and intend to add it to a relatively huge blind stout tasting I have planned in a month or so...

        And the LHMCS was respectable too, thought not to the par of the Boulevard.

        The other wasn't remarkable.

        13 Replies
        1. re: TombstoneShadow

          Not sure what you mean when you say "on par" with the Boulevard. One is a milk stout, the other an Imperial stout. The only thing those beers have in common is some roasted grains in the bill.

          It's a bit like dinging skirt steak for not being ribeye.

          1. re: Josh

            Milk stout doesn't necessarily mean simpler... there are "ribeye" quality examples, including several on this list: http://www.ratebeer.com/beerstyles/sw...

            Your point's a good one, I guess I've just tried enough of these that I don't have a problem mixing different styles in the same tasting... I like the whole stout spectrum from dry to sweet to infused to barrel aged, if it's well made it will stand out.

            1. re: TombstoneShadow

              I don't really consider the beer rating sites' classifications to be worth much, since the data is all crowdsourced. The BJCP classifications are much more rigorously researched and compiled. When you compare BJCP's entry for sweet stout against the entry for RIS you can see immediately why they aren't really comparable:

              Sweet stout - http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style1...

              "Overall Impression: A very dark, sweet, full-bodied, slightly roasty ale. Often tastes like sweetened espresso."

              RIS - http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style1...

              "Overall Impression: An intensely flavored, big, dark ale. Roasty, fruity, and bittersweet, with a noticeable alcohol presence. Dark fruit flavors meld with roasty, burnt, or almost tar-like sensations. Like a black barleywine with every dimension of flavor coming into play."

              I don't have a problem enjoying all kinds of beers in one session, either. But I try to compare like with like. I am sensitive to it because I feel like I always run up against beer geeks who give lagers short shrift for not being IPA's.

              1. re: Josh

                " ... I feel like I always run up against beer geeks who give lagers short shrift for not being IPA's."

                Amen, brother.

                1. re: Josh

                  Ahhh... okay....

                  Thanks for the link to the BJCP, looks like a useful reference.

                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                    Some people in Europe and Britain don't care much for BJCP classifications, but since they haven't come up with anything better I'll stick with the admittedly imperfect BJCP categories. I've done some beer judging for a few different competitions and the BJCP classifications are what were used as the guide in judging.

                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                      The BJCP classifications are about as useful as the GABF categories. Remember the real reason beer is judged is for MARKETING. The more people that you can award medals to, the more money you can make.

                      The minutia and careless way the groupings are made are maddening at best, and more likely misleading. BJCP exists to self perpetuate itself and tries to set itself up as the be all and end all. I personally prefer a crowd sourced view because you are going to see a spectrum of opinion rather than the Gospel according to idiots.

                      1. re: cwdonald

                        BJCP materials are designed chiefly to judge a brewer's fidelity to style criteria, and are oriented strongly toward finding defects.

                        GABF grew out of that, I suppose, and so may be somewhat similar in that way.

                        Crowd source is good for a fast impression, but one might look elsewhere for a more unbiased view. In the old days, when there weren't so many beers, and not so many new ones, you could sort of keep up with books like Jackson's pocket guides, but of course he couldn't keep up with the pace. Today it's still hard for the top writers to keep up.

                        1. re: cwdonald

                          A lot to unpack in your comments. Having known a fair number of BJCP certified judges, some of whom are brewery owners, physicians, attorneys, university professors, and engineers, I find it pretty absurd to label it a "Gospel according to idiots".

                          Competition seems to be a natural impulse among humans. It seems strange to claim it's solely about marketing. The World Beer Cup and GABF existed long before the recent popularity of craft beer. I would also add that brewers I know who enter their beer in competition take those competitions pretty seriously and put forth their efforts to make their best beers.

                          Lastly, I find it *really* strange that you'd look at something like the BJCP entries for sweet stout and RIS and describe them as careless when they specifically isolate range of ABV, IBU, etc. vs. the RateBeer list which has people comparing 5% milk stouts with relatively simple grain bills to 10+% RIS with more complex recipes.

                          1. re: Josh

                            I agree with a lot of your comments, but I would be surprised if the GABF competition hadn't started at least partly to market craft beer. It provides a huge showcase for journalists to cover each year, and there is not a doubt in my mind that breweries hope to medal so they can use it for marketing.

                            I think the BJCP guidelines, while meant as standards by which to judge a brewer's skill at brewing to specific criteria caused some in the hobby to look at the guidelines as definitions of certain beer styles. E.g., I recall years ago a homebrewer questioning the inclusion of ginger in a witbier because it wasn't in the guidelines. To my mind, part of Belgian brewing is to not be too concerned about the guidelines.

                            Having said all that, most of the faults I just mentioned would be those of the individual, not the guidelines.

                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                              One time I was on a panel judging Belgian dark strong and one of the judges dinged a beer for not being hoppy enough. The rest of us had to point out that is nowhere in the guideline for that style.

                              Dinging a witbier for ginger seems just as strange - that strikes me as a style where the spicing would be given some leeway.

                      2. re: Josh

                        > I feel like I always run up against beer geeks who give lagers short shrift for not being IPA's.

                        Times have changed, now they praise lagers that taste like IPA's. ie Jack's Abby ;-)

                        1. re: LStaff

                          That's an unfair dig at Jack's Abbey. While some of their beers are heavily hopped, they aren't a one trick pony - for example. the Smoke and Dagger is a delicious twist on schwarzbier that doesn't remotely resemble an IPA.

                2. Interesting barleywine I'm just sampling for the first time.... can't hardly pronounce it:

                  Solstice d'hiver by Brasserie Dieu du Ciel. Brewed in Quebec. I think the vendor said it's at least a year old if not 2?... definitely not the most recent release.

                  I like this, not crazy about it. What's distinctive is that it's somewhere between an over-the-top sweet barleywine and a semi-dry. Very rich texture. Flavor is a mildly bright floral caramel, not very complex or evolving.

                  I don't know... the more I sip it the more "average to above average" it is. Not tasting it blind but if I were I think it would probably be a comparison that would make a truly awesome BW look that much better.

                  Interesting if for nothing else than the 10.2% ABV. Packs a serious punch.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                    You should see if you can find JW Lees' Harvest Ale. One of the great barleywines. Ages really well.

                    1. re: Josh

                      That's an interesting one. It's filtered, yet ages well.

                      I don't fully understand aging. I don't think it relates necessarily to the presence of yeast, but I have this strong (likely erroneous) feeling that yeast is the key. Perhaps someone can better explain this phenomenon.

                      1. re: Jim Dorsch

                        Aging is largely a function of oxidation. Might be able to argue that bottle conditioned beers take up oxygen during refermentation, thus the effect of aging is more gentle/elegant on bottle conditioned beer. My understanding is that dark malts contain anti-oxidants that also slow the rate of oxidation. Since every beer contains different ingredients, brewed using different equipment, and is bottled on different bottling lines, its really beer/brewery specific.

                        I feel as though I have written this before on this site.

                        1. re: LStaff

                          You probably wrote it, I probably read it, and then forgot it, as I am wont to do.

                      2. re: Josh

                        I just opened a 2008 edition of this beer, and man it was terrible. Disregard my recommendation.

                    2. Rogue Shakespear Oatmeal Stout:

                      I just don't care for this. Like their Rogue Chocolate Stout much better, not that it's a world-beater but far better.

                      RSOS is dry, murky, bitter... how this ever got a 97 style rating on ratebeer I'll never know.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: TombstoneShadow

                        How old was the bottle you got to taste?
                        I have had it from time to time and consider it very good, but stout isn't one of my favorite styles.

                        A real surprise was the Campfire Stout by Highwater in California -- it tasted like s'mores! Right down to the roasted marshmallow flavors.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          Trip as far as I know it's recent release, just bought it off the shelf (cooler actually), of a place that has a great selection but doesn't harbor old bottles. So probably recent.

                          1. re: TombstoneShadow

                            I haven't done the Rogues in a while (just too many other choices in beer), but my recollection is that their beers lean towards the bitter end of the spectrum, with the Shakespeare being the most extreme example of that. If you like sweeter stouts, Rogues generally aren't a good option.

                      2. Had a Lugene "Chocolate Milk Stout" by Odell last night...

                        It's pleasant, nothing disagreeable... nice medium-rich texture, hints of chocolate in a mild flavored stout...

                        Overall just didn't pop for me and I don't recall it as fondly as the Left Hand Milk Stout I had a week or so ago.

                        1. Interesting chocolate stout quaffer: Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout.

                          Nothing earth-shaking here but:
                          1: Absolutely nothing not to like
                          2: Medium rich texture, a bit richer than some of SS's thinner brews.
                          3: Mild and pleasantly-lingering chocolate notes...
                          4: Overall flavor category is probably best described as "semi-sweet". or on the "sweet side of dry". Definitely not a dry stout though not deeply into the sweet spectrum either.

                          I would absolutely buy this again and include it in a blind tasting of similar brews. At the end of the day I'm not thinking it's a grand champion but it's the kind of stout you have to beat out to get to that list of finalists.

                          1. Notes from celebration last night at great micro-brew bar. Also my ratings:

                            Boulevard Imperial Stout (on tap). Rated 98-99. Excellent. Best of flight one. Despite 12% ABV, chocolate-cherry notes come through. Superb. Beat this and you have one of the best stouts going. Also tried vs. New Holland Night Tripper and BIS is better, just more complex.

                            La Trappe Quadrupel (Bottle). Very nice. Mildly rich strong belgian caramel flavor. Scores at least a 94-95.

                            Ommegang 3 Philosophers (bottle):Rated 95+ Everytime I sip this it gets better. Semi-sweetish, luscious. Better than La Trappe. Other friends really like it. A dark and evolving quad... more rounded and soft in flavor. Would be interesting to include in blind tasting w/ other Belgians. Raise final rating to 97+.

                            Great Divide Hercules IPA (on tap): Rated 97+. Medium bitter IPA, lingering delicious notes, just nice.

                            Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye (on tap). Rated 95-ish. I like this in the bottle, and very glad to see it on tap. Definitely better. Lip smacking semi-sweetness. Lacks that singular harshness you get from the bottle. Really improves in the glasss. Excellent choice on Draft. Raise rating to 96. Note this is example of a harsh young IPA improving with a bit of aereation.

                            Dupont Avec les Bons Voueux (on tap). Grows on me a bit, but still just "inoffensive". Off-dry winy notes. Don't know why this scores so high on ratebeer. No rating, not interested to try again.

                            Green Flash Palate Wrecker. Rated 85-90. Nice first taste. 2nd taste a bit too bitter up front. Just lacks the subltlety of hercules or Ruthless Rye. Still worth trying.

                            Mothers Holy Moly. Not rated. I just don't understand this. Supposed to be a "vegetal" beer?

                            Anchorage Bitter Monk... a "citrusy" IPA. Rated 98+. Everyone says they like this alot. "Delicate", "I can smell it across the table". Really unique, loved this, never had anything quite like it. Better be good at $25 per bottle!

                            Firestone Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA (bottle). Just not loving this. No score. Don't take that as totally bad, just a "who cares" to this. A friend of mine gladly finishes off the bottle.

                            New Holland Night Tripper Stout. Nice, yummy. 2nd tasting heads up vs. boulevard imperial... it's a bit more singular in flavor than the complex BIS. Both are delicious though.

                            Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison. Liking this, would try again. 2nd sips bring out the raisiny notes. 95-ish. Nothing not to like, blown away? no. 94-ish.

                            The "best of show" awards probably go to: Anchorage Bitter Monk and Boulevard Imperial Stout, just perfect examples of their categories and very unique. From my notes I seemed to really like 3 philosophers too, it's just not as memorable the next day :) Any beer rated 95+ made a very good impression. It's just they had to compete against BIS and Bitter Monk which were so unique.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                              Boulevard is great. Across the board.

                            2. Just had the 2014 Stone Imperial Russian Stout... Tasting notes follow:

                              This is slightly to the dry side of the sweet-to-dry stout spectrum; but w/ pleasant hints of sweetness.

                              Very modest tarry notes... not as overtly dry as, say Old Rasputin, but definitely not a "sweet stout".

                              Nice creamy texture, seemed a bit thin and effervescent at first, but this gave way quickly to a more luscious texture.

                              Just overall very rich yet easy to drink... nothing not to like. If any thing a lack of "surprise" flavor notes: no pronounced chocolate, cherry, caramel, etc. though those all might emerge as "hints" of flavor. But lovely despite the straight-forwardness.

                              Will definitely include this in an upcoming monster stout blind tasting. Further, it's probably my single-favorite brew I've ever had from the Stout label.

                              1. A few recent random tastings:

                                1: Ommegang Tripel Perfection. I didn't love this. Non-blind tasting and didn't have it with a baseline comparison. Just okay, probably wouldn't buy again.

                                2: Unibroue "Grande Reserve 17". This is supposed to be a some sort of "spiced" brew. Label says it was bottled in 2011? Anyway very uninteresting, a totally disconnected set of flavors.

                                Lips of Faith 2013 Le Terroir. This is billed as a "dry hopped sour ale". Again, it's just okay. Definitely a sour. Didn't taste it alongside another one.

                                The above 3 brews were all very highly applauded by various rating forums. Leaves me wondering what they were thinking. THe TP was fair, the Le Terroir I guess okay if you like that style, and the 17 just plain what(?).

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                  I've never found Unibroue's beer to age well. Try something from them that's fresher.

                                  Similarly Lips of Faith beers are really hit-or-miss.

                                  Rating forums are generally worthless, IMO.