With the initial pour, it appears rather thin, colored a clear pale honey-yellow. Thick wisps of a wheaty haze fall as it sits, eventually clouding the entire brew and darkening the color to a more uniform honey-gold – though the thickness remains 0n the thin side. The carbonation is quick and sparkling, erupting as it hits the glass and building a nice 3-finger thick head of thin, lacy foam that sticks around for quite a while afterwards, falling into a gossamer ring and sheer patches as I sip it. While the bubbles seem hardy enough, they refuse to stick to the side of the glass, leaving no trace it was ever there.
I have to be frank here and say that my review is going to be sub-par for multiple reasons, specifically that I was really more interested in basking in the moment as well as the fact that I was at least 10 tastes in at this point, so please, forgive me for my terrible notes.
Poured into my designated tasting glass from Cigar City Brewing, it appeared a rich dark chestnut brown with ruby/copper highlights and was very murky and speckled with sediment. I can't say much about the head, as I didn't pour it myself, and it was probably a good 2 or 3 minutes before I was able to really delve into it and take pictures, so judging solely from the photographs and what I've read about most extensively aged (as well as barrel aged) beers, I'm willing to deduce that what I saw when I was snapping shots is pretty much all there was. A few large bubbles submerged under smaller bubbles in a medium pearly, wheat-colored ring of foam hugged the glass while floating heavily on top of the liquid. As I drank the beer, there was no lacing left behind and no visible carbonation throughout.
Now that we're done with the easy visual part, I can't guarantee my opinions and findings with this beer, but I will try my damnedest to decipher my scribbled notes. As I stuck my nose in the glass, I initially came out with lots of vanilla, milk chocolate, and caramel, which made it seem very sweet. As I returned to the brew, thick oaky notes and pieces of syrupy brown sugar toffee floating in bourbon presented themselves alongside some deep, rich malts and slightly fainter dark fruits, namely raisins and figs, which I actually didn't find until after I had started tasting. Despite all of the very sweet components, the larger presence of the bourbon and oak really smoothed everything out without making it too mild or too heavy.
How am I doing so far? Not too shabby for a beer I had 3 days ago in the middle of a busy and delicious tasting, if I do say so myself. Now for the flavors. From what I remember without looking at my notes, and while reading through what I found in the nose, I think that the taste and the aroma were pretty similar and complimented each other in their similarities. According to my notes, the whole drink was ridiculously smooth and dominated by the bourbon and oak flavors. I found some faint dark fruit molasses (raisin and fig again, maybe some dates), quite a bit of vanilla and caramel, sweet dark malts, chocolate, toffee, and a very light doughy yeast that seemed a little out of place. I may have imagined the yeast altogether, but with all of the "specialty yeast strains" they used in this brew, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that some of it may have survived. Regardless, it wasn't a feature that would ever characterize this beer for me, so I'll just focus on the sweet, sweet dark and malty and bourbony love that poured from this bottle. I did enjoy that there wasn't a sweet aftertaste and that the mouthfeel was creamy without being thick or syrupy. The carbonation was lightly spicy, due in large part to the alcohol (11%) I'm sure, but over the course of my tasting, it actually felt rather soft, though far from flat. Overall, trying to tell that this Decadence was 11% alcohol was impossible. It was just too smooth in execution and too velvety in flavor, which made for one hell of an experience. I only wish that words could do it justice. This was definitely one of my favorite beers from the tasting and I am counting myself extremely lucky to have had this opportunity.
Had I known that such a thing as chocolate beer existed, I may have learned to enjoy beer much quicker and easier. My lovely fiance plucked this beauty off of the shelves for me earlier this week and I have been both slightly frightened and anxiously curious to try it.
There's not a whole lot to say about the color, as it's your typical burnt gold, thin and watery-looking with very little haziness. But the head? That is the best head I have ever seen. Can't beat 3-fingers thick. Thick, fluffy, white, and it stuck around for a good long while, losing very little weight as I let it sit. I took about 10 photos of it and would put them in my wallet to show off if I had a wallet. Or anyone to show them to. Or if I was a crazy person...I'm not crazy.
As I got over the awesomeness of the foam, actually, even before I became preoccupied with the foam...CHOCOLATE! Seriously, my nose was overcome with chocolate. I buried my nose in the glass and immediately was overcome with warmth and happiness; it was like holding a mug of hot chocolate on a freezing winter night. Only everything was literally in reverse. Either way, the smell was unmistakably white chocolate and cocoa powder with a light hint of wheat.
Once it was in my mouth, it more closely resembled the aftertaste of dark chocolate but in a lighter chocolate. To make more sense, it was a tart white chocolate. And although the ale has quite a thin mouth feel, it never really falls off into the watery category. Closely followed by the immensely pleasurable chocolate is the light wheat again. The best part about this beer was that the chocolate was not overwhelming and allowed it to taste like a hefeweizen infused with chocolate, rather than chocolate dipped in beer.
I would definitely try this again, though with some dessert, like crème brûlée or chocolate covered strawberries or fondue. This is a mid-winter beer, for 50º and below only and make sure there are going to be plenty of sweet, sweet after-dinner delights to pair with the already sweet company you'll hopefully have.
It poured a murky, earthy sediment-clouded golden amber with a dull bronze glow in the light. There was no foam buildup, though within 3 seconds of pouring, a small half-finger thick head built and fell with the excitement from the released carbonation, which continued to form bubbles along the inside of the glass for another 30 seconds before it wore itself out. Once the carbonation was exhausted, there was really nothing left to look at but what resembled unfiltered apple juice.
The smell was a tangy, almost sour cinnamon apple and carried a nice spiciness due in part to cinnamon as well as a light whiskey alcohol that wafted out as it warmed. Hiding in the depths were faint oak wood notes, hints of honey, and a light yeasty undertone.
Although I’ve been holding onto this cider for a few months now (it was released back in October), it was still really crisp and juicy, filled with honeycrisp apple-wine that was slightly tart and prickly at the beginning. It smoothed out near the middle with a little bit of whiskey, soft understated notes of oak wood, and a hint of spicy cinnamon-tinted earthy flavors. It held a light to medium body with a light, crisp, and quite dry mouthfeel, despite the juiciness of the flavor. The 8.3% ABV did not come out in the nose or the flavor, despite the small hints of it here and there, and never truly gave a full reading of the amount of alcohol actually present; though I did feel a slight warming sensation halfway through, I found myself wanting to sip it slowly in order to fully appreciate the dynamic layers, so I was never overwhelmed by the alcohol.
All in all, it was very reminiscent of a freshly cut honeycrisp apple soaked in whiskey and slathered in homemade caramel on a perfect fall day and almost makes me wish for fallen leaves and pumpkin carving. Almost. I will safely be listing this as my third favorite cider from Crispin/Fox Barrel from this point forward.
Poured into a standard tumbler, Widmer's W'11 KGB Russian Imperial Stout appeared an opaque tar black throughout most of the glass, but near the top, right under the head, a thin highlighted layer of burnt sepia with jeweled garnet tones glimmered in just the right light. A layer of caramel colored foam built quickly from the bottom with medium bubbles while fading just as fast off the creamy top, reaching about 2 fingers thick through the end of a vigorous pour. It eventually faded to a thin, velvety sheet that laid gingerly across the liquid and left evenly spaced lines of lace along the glass.
Hints of a nutty coffee and roasted, smoky malts slathered in melted pieces of dark chocolate dominated the nose from the very first whiffs. As it slowly warmed, aromas of toasted caramel, burnt brown sugar, and toffee wafted from the beer, closely followed by some mild earthy citrus hops that were hardly noticeable. Something sweet was trying to push its way through the heavier fragrances, but I couldn't quite grab a hold of it - I've heard others describe dark fruits and berries, but I just couldn't pick them out over all of the roasted, toasted goodness.
Segueing right into the flavor profile, I was met with an extremely deep and bitter roast coffee that smothered my entire tongue on the first sip and nipped my taste buds awake. Toasted grainy malts helped to smooth it out, and as I continued drinking, I found that it became more and more silky, eventually keeping the bitterness at a level where the other flavors could present themselves. I was a little surprised that the dark chocolate in my mouth was much less pronounced than it was in the nose, but it also seemed to taste sweeter than it smelled and added an extra bit of roundness to the beer. About a quarter of the way in, the alcohol started to peek through and offered a quick burst of warmth while pairing with the hops and medium carbonation to produce a peppery/spicy character. As the bitterness continued to fade (or as my tongue became more used to it), touches of caramel, brown sugar molasses, and toffee, all slightly burnt, aided in smoothing out the brew and gave me a few more dimensions to work with. Overall, I found the W'11 KGB held a fairly light and oily mouthfeel as well as flavor - especially for an imperial stout - hiding in a medium body, but it's still quite drinkable despite the high alcohol content. In the end I feel like it could use that fruitiness that continues to evade me through both the nose and taste, even just to help wash down the smoky, biter aftertaste that lingered on the back of my tongue for the next 15 minutes after a drink.
W'11 KGB Russian Imperial Stout is most definitely a winter beer, to be enjoyed as a heat source for the coldest days. So if you still have one in your fridge, I recommend drinking it now, before it gets too warm outside, or wait until next winter, because the weather where I am right now unfortunately does nothing to compliment the beverage.
The Infinium poured a crystal clear amber with bright golden highlights shining wherever the light caught it. It was obvious from the very beginning that this beer was going to have more champagne characteristics, especially when I poured it and a huge 4-finger thick head of large, clean bubbles built up effortlessly, threatening to spill over the sides. Unfortunately, the head didn't last long and quickly fell into a few carbonation-fueled islands of small rapidly popping bubbles. Throughout the duration of the drink, there were lots of champagne bubble lines constantly flowing from the bottom and sides of the glass that transferred over into the mouthfeel quite a bit.
I was surprised when I initially smelled mashed bananas in the light aroma, but they were well balanced by snippets of cloves, sweet malts, light sprinklings of brown sugar and slight hints of apple cider that came through as it warmed. There were some very quiet hints of light wheat and a yeast (which I've seen referred to as a Belgian yeast) seemed to pop out once in a while with the bubbles, while something bready - almost doughy - hid in the background. It was a nice clean smell with very little discernible alcohol in the nose, and was a nice combination of beer and champagne, neither really overwhelming the other.
As soon as it hit my tongue, there was a distinct sharp green apple tartness that really surprised me as it was very reminiscent of a bright cider, but with nice full carbonation, which was more of a champagne quality. Despite the initial shock of sour apple, it easily transformed into softer sweet, chewy, bready malts and the belgian yeast with a touch of spice swirling around golden delicious apples. The mouthfeel was very smooth, creamy and refreshing and I found it very difficult to detect the 10% alcohol in the taste - that presented itself in a nice warming sensation that built gradually. Overall, I think I've decided that this beer is more like a heavy champagne than any kind of beer, even though it nicely holds qualities from both categories. I do not think many beverages, regardless of what they are made of or where/how they are made, are worth $20 , but that is no reason for me to go and rip apart how this beer let me down, was a disappointment, or didn't live up to my expectations. If I were to go into every beer (or any experience for that matter) expecting to encounter every good rumor and all the built-up hype I had heard about it, I would be severely disappointed with a lot of things in life. How could I be happy? Instead, I went into this beer ignoring what everyone else had said and had my own wonderful experience with it. I really enjoyed all of the different components that brought it together and would gladly buy it again for a special occasion if it were continued.
Listen up: if you’ve still got a bottle and are waiting to try this, make damn sure you have Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew album at the ready, because a brew this fine can only be made finer with the soulful moans of a sultry jazz-line (why yes, I did win a free album thanks to Discovery Channel and Sony Records back when the beer was first presented). Sexy, rich, and dark are the very base words I could use to describe such an amazing drink as this, but that’s not telling you even the beginning of it. I could write another thousand words about the way this beer warmed me to my very core, about how it swung with my soul and stole a little piece of my heart in a smokey back room filled to the brim with a trio of voices from a saxophone, a piano, and a trumpet. What I could say and what I’m about to say are never going to be able to do justice to what really is. An experience such as this has to be first-hand or you will never be able to fully appreciate just what it is that makes the dresses stretch a little bit tighter, the fingers fidget steadily faster, the hips sway more loosely and the steps trip to the beat of the heart behind them rather than the beat of the drums. Maybe I’m being dramatic, maybe I’m caught up in my own empirical evidence and personal observation, but isn’t that how every beer wishes to be savored? Building a story out of a fermented beverage is no easy task; brewing an ale that creates its own story and manages to pass it along to any who will sit and listen for a while is an even more difficult endeavor. Miles Davis does it. Dogfish Head does it. Bitches Brew does it. Listen to the music.
Bitches Brew poured an opaque tar-like jet black into my snifter with a dark chocolate-mahogany aura glowing in just the right light. It built a finger-thick deep mocha head of dense, creamy foam that held on with slightly better than average retention. Thin sheets of continuous lacing clung to the glass with ease, leaving nice rings of dark tan residue. Once the head finally receded, a thin velvety blanket of tiny bubbles was left just on top with two or three minuscule islands of medium bubbles slowly popping their way into the dark oblivion below them.
The nose was full of rich dark toasted barley malts, salted caramel toffee, dark bittersweet chocolate, and covered with a good slathering of burnt brown sugar and vanilla. There was something deliciously herbal that lingered just within the sweetness of a light honey, leaving me at a complete loss of words for how it smelled exactly. Hints of a milky coffee poked through here and there, though not as much as I expected out of an Imperial Stout, especially when the beer is 3/4 stout and 1/4 honey beer with gesho root. Huge roasted aromas smothered everything in a way that kept it warm and inviting, but they were stopped just short of overwhelming by a round smokyness and a rather sharp, sweet aroma – almost a second bite of saccharine honey – that cleared my nose. Near the end of the glass, as the beer became more room temperature, a soft and mildly noticeable alcohol became present, but it was far from off-putting and was actually rather inviting.
Not able to wait much longer after I started picking apart the different scents, I carefully pressed the edge of the glass into my lips and let the rich, dark liquid trickle across my tongue. Right up front, a deliciously rich bittersweet chocolate malt flavor stroked my taste buds while a mellow undertone of grainy, bready malts filled in any gaps. I found it particularly enticing that the one thread of honey beer with gesho root was so prevalent despite the other three threads being Imperial Stout – I also found it interesting that this created an environment that was much sweeter than it was bitter with virtually no coffee flavor. Instead of coffee, I was treated to a caramel sweetened honey, brown sugar, and a dark, earthy molasses all bathed in a rich smoky cedar. Somewhere deep in the murky depths, a hint of dark pitted fruits – plums, black grapes and overripe cherries – accompanied by just the right amount of herbal hops and dark chocolate kept this beer smooth, silky, and easy to drink. Though I’m positive the full body and medium mouthfeel with low carbonation definitely aided the relaxed, yet exciting, drink down. The amalgamation of flavors that erupted from this brew and maintained their ground while joining hands with all of the others during every step of the drink is impeccable. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted another beer that has used such interesting ingredients and had them work as well as this one. There isn’t enough I could say about it! Ending on a very clean note, with little bitter aftertaste, each sip leaves me a little bit warmer than when I went in…making me crave more while enticing me to hold back and wait.
I apologize if it feels like I rushed through this, but a relationship of this distinction can’t last and needs to be taken to bed quickly, if you know what I mean. It will be gone in the morning and all you’ll have left to hold on to is a memory of a night in a smoky room, being serenaded by a saxophone, a piano, and a trumpet; you’ll have a story you can tell to anyone who’ll listen.
Poured into my tumbler, it was a crystal clear, bright and sparkling honey-golden-amber color with virtually no visible carbonation. I managed to build a 3-finger head through a vigorous pour, but once it settled, it held a creamy 2-finger white head of fluffy soap bubbles with excellent retention. There was quite a surprising amount of lace that lined the glass in intricate sheets while a thick island of large soapy bubbles mingled with a thin covering of minuscule bubbles that covered the rest of the liquid. Hopslam carried a very nice head for such a huge Double IPA.
My nose was immediately vanquished by the aromas as I poured the beer from the bottle into the tumbler. As soon as I opened the bottle there was an enormous explosion (and I cannot stress how huge this was) of floral, grassy and citrus hops that bombarded my nostrils. The subsequent mushroom cloud offered a rich body of zesty grapefruit, sour orange, tart pineapple and even light melon notes near the edges. All of the hoppy-ness was beautifully rounded out with softer florals, fresh cut grass, and a sweet honey slathered over faint biscuity malts. Somewhere along the process of whiffing all this beer, some hints of pine managed to peek through, but they were far from consistent and stayed fairly well hidden. Overall, the scent was remarkably fresh and green - like walking through a botanical garden on a dry spring day. Even with all of huge aromas and the amount of hops that come out in the nose, nothing in the smell was overwhelming or burned. It may very well be on the best smelling beers I've ever had the pleasure of sniffing.
Once it was finally in my mouth (though, honestly, this was the third Hopslam I've had since it was released), there was a very bitter, tart, but crazy smooth wave of resiny pine flavor - or at least more than what was in the nose, though the zesty orange, grapefruit and even some lemon were definitely alive and kicking. Rather than being sharp and biting, like one might expect from a Double IPA packed with 6 different hop varietals, all of the hops were smoothed out fantastically with the sweet honey and light bready malts. Again, nothing was overwhelming or completely took out the other flavors; everything worked together perfectly, and in doing so, any trace of alcohol that might be expected from a beer with 10% ABV (holy wow) is obliterated. Due to the fact that the alcohol is so well hidden, Hopslam is very, very easy to drink, though being as smooth as it is and so well-rounded doesn't hurt either. I did find that when the drink first hit my lips, it started off dry, but by the time I swallowed, it almost felt slick across my tongue, ending only slightly dry and with a very light bitterness that gradually died away before the next sip. Holding a medium mouthfeel with light carbonation kept it from being spicy, and even though I found it difficult to pick out the alcohol, it definitely started hitting my brain after half the glass.
In complete honesty, if you aren't sure if you're a fan of DIPAs or even IPAs in general, this beer is something I would recommend to all of the fence-sitters. Regardless of the amount of alcohol, both the nose and flavor come together so ridiculously perfectly that you would be hard-pressed to find another beer that might convince you that these two categories are not all that scary.
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