April 18, 2014

[Cellar Review] Goose Island Big John (Vintage 2012)

Brewed By: Goose Island Beer Company (pre-InBev) in Chicago, Illinois
Purchased: 22oz bottle from a Binny's in IL; 2012 (bottled on 12/07/2012)
Style/ABV: Russian Imperial Stout, 11.5% 
Reported IBUs: 60

"Develops in the bottle for up to 1 year," she wrote. I guess that makes tonight's review timely. About Goose Island:
Goose Island is a Chicago-based brewery that began as a brewpub on Clybourn, which opened on May 1988. The actual brewery opened on 1995, and is located on the Southwest side of Chicago. The second brewpub, located in Wrigleyville by the Chicago Cubs, was opened in 1999. On March 28, 2011, Goose Island sold 58% of the brewery to Anheuser-Busch. The remaining 42% of the brewery is supposed to be acquired by A-B InBev in the future, and there has been much discussion about the brewery's takeover. On November 16th, founder and CEO, John Hall, announced he would be leaving Goose Island. On January 1st, 2013, Anheuser-Busch "veteran" Andy Goeler will take over Goose Island. Additionally, around the same time as John Hall's departure, resident barrel-program leader John Laffler also announced his departure from Goose Island. There have been many changes regarding Goose Island...so we will see what the future has in store for Goose Island. 
A little over a year ago I jumped into a bottle of the Goose Island Big John. I really enjoyed the beer at the time, with its big chocolate-umami character, but I'm really excited to see how this one has aged down the stretch. You can read about the Big John on Goose Island's website, but all you really need to know is that this is the Bourbon County base beer brewed with tons of cacao nibs. The suggested cellar window is one year, which puts my bottle just a few months past its supposed prime. This one has been properly cellared, so without further ado....
Goose Island Big John (Vintage 2012)

Like my soul, this beer is dark and inky black. The only thing more impressive than the black, oily, opaque body is the three fingers of thick, bready, mocha-brown head that is produced. The head settles into a coating one centimeter thick, and swirling the beer in the glass produces glossy alcohol legs and streaks of brown, residual head trickling down the sides of the glass.

I thought the aged Night Stalker was going to unlock the Bourbon County base beer (Cook County Stout), but the aged Big John is evidently where it is at. I'm getting HUGE Bourbon County qualities on this beer's aroma. There are big brownies, chocolate, deep fudge aromas, and tons of fruity notes. I'm picking up big raisins and figs, courtesy of the time spent aging. There's some coffee and dark fruits in here, along with some hints of meaty roast, and last but not least: a little oxidation. 

Wow, this is fantastic! This is a huge improvement over the fresh version. This tastes like Bourbon County Stout without the Bourbon. I'm getting huge chocolate, brownies, big fudge, subtle hints of coffee, and tons of raisins, figs, and elusive dark fruits. There's a subtle kiss of umami and soy in here, but it has mostly dropped and would probably go unnoticed unless you are familiar with the beer fresh or the Night Stalker. This is very much a chocolate/brownie/fudge-driven Stout, with intense chocolate sweetness balanced by nice bitterness and roast, alcohol, and a giant mouthfeel. 

This is full-bodied with a huge, chewy mouthfeel...but despite the chew this is also pretty smooth, and the roast, hops, and alcohol cut through the beer. At 11.5%, this is fairly drinkable. It pretty much tastes identical to Bourbon County, without the bourbon. Palate depth is off the charts good, and the duration here is amazing. The complexity is average...this one definitely leans on the chocolate. Up front is huge chocolate, syrup, molasses, brown sugar, brownie, fudge, and big sweetness; that rolls into some more chocolate, dark fruits, coffee, some woody creamer, chocolate-dipped cherries; the back end has lingering roast bitterness, anise/licorice, coffee bitterness, dark fruit acidity, and finishes bitter, dry, and sticky. This is good fucking shit. 

Rating: Above-Average (4.5/5.0 Untappd)

Like the aged Night Stalker, this is a Strong Above-Average from me, and WOW. I highly recommend aging these two beers. The Big John wasn't bad fresh, but what I hold here in front of me is this epic Imperial Stout...it's basically Bourbon Count sans bourbon. I have nothing else to add here, I'm happy I pulled this out when I did. If you do age this, shoot for that one year window. Food pairings here include dry chocolate cakes, ice cream, steaks, burgers, grilled red meat, and chocolate fondue. 

Random Thought: And my heart was just broke as the Hawks lose to the Blues..../sigh. 

April 17, 2014

Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout

Brewed By: Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, Michigan  
Purchased: 12oz bottle bough at West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago, IL; 2014 
Style/ABV: Russian Imperial Stout, 11.0%
Reported IBUs: ?

Tonight's beer is a straight up RIS. There are no bells and no whistles to see here. This one isn't aged in a barrel, and it's not brewed with coffee or chocolate. Hooray. About Dark Horse
Dark Horse Brewing Company is a brewery based out of Marshall, Michigan. The brewery was founded in 1998 by Aaron Morse, but began as a restaurant owned by Bill Morse. Aaron suggested turning the restaurant into a brewpub, and the rest was history. For more info, check out their website HERE
The Plead the 5th Imperial Stout is an annual, February release. This one is brewed with lots of roasted malts and hops...you know the drill. This beer also comes in several barrel-aged varieties...hopefully I can get my hands on some of those someday. 
Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout

This one pours out dark and inky, even by Imperial Stout standards. The head is bready and dense, with a dark brown mocha/truffle color. Bright light confirms the depths of this beer's darkness, and swirling the beer results in glossy brown streaks painting the side of the glass. It's an ominous look.

The aroma here is huge, like getting smacked in the face with grilled/charred ribs. There's a big smokey, charred note....with lots of chocolate, coffee, roast, and ash/dirt. Actually, the aroma really suggests coffee, with earthy coffee dominating the nose. There's a deep woody note in here as well, with some hints of spirits (bourbon) and molasses. 

Like a slice of well-crafted chocolate cake and a cup of espresso, this is rich and dark with layers of flavors and impressive boozy warming on the back end. I'm picking up tons of coffee, chocolate, roast, bourbon, woody vanilla, toast, and dark grain. The body is big, with almost powder/chocolaty density, and with waves of truffle and dark chocolates and coffee. The coffee hits dirt, ash, and sharp espresso, with hints of espresso and vanilla. It's a huge Stout. 

This is a full-bodied, big beer. At 11.0% you do get some booze, but it is welcomed. This is well-carbonated, and really has a nice mouthfeel. It's pretty much perfectly executed. This one isn't too sweet, and cleans up nicely, with a dry and bitter finish. Palate depth and duration are both outstanding, and so is the complexity. This is smooth as hell...up front you get big chocolate, roasted malts, cake, truffles, and bitter dark chocolate; the mids dial up huge coffee, espresso, woody vanilla, some hop kick; the back end mixes chocolate and coffee, with dark grains, toast, espresso, and fade to dry and chocolate. Just...fantastic. I want more of this.

Rating: Divine Brew (4.5/5.0 Untappd)

This is super solid, so I'll throw this a Light 
Divine Brew. Basically, check this out if you can. This works on so many levels, and there's a ton of flavor going on here. I plan to seek this out, and this would be a great Winter Warmer or whatever. Food pairings here include dry chocolate cakes, grilled foods, ribs, steak, or even a burger with bacon. This is just fantastic shit, and it's cheap and available and from the Midwest. 

Random Thought: I'll maybe pen more thoughts on the Left Hand/
Spiegelau Stout glass later, but I really like it. I look forward to getting some Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro in it. 

April 16, 2014

[Cellar Review] Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (Vintage 2013 - one year later)

Brewed By: Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware
Purchased: 12oz bottle bought at ??? in IL; 2013 (bottled on date: 02/??/13)
Style/ABV: Imperial IPA/American Strong Ale, 15.0% ~ 20.0% 
Reported IBUs: 120

It's been a little over exactly one year since I reviewed the 2013 batch of 120 Minute IPA. It seems like we are due for an update. About Dogfish Head:
Dogfish Head is a craft brewery based out of Milton, Delaware. The brewery was founded by Sam Calagione back in 1995. The brewery began as a brewpub (the first in Delaware) called Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, and was originally located in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The initial brewing setup included three kegs and propane burners. They brewed 12-gallon batches of beer three times a day, five days a week. In 1996 the brewery began bottling their beer, and by 1999 they had distribution to around a dozen different states. In 2002 the company outgrew their Rehoboth location, and moved to Milton, Delaware. More info can be found HERE. You can also check out the brewery's Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, or Google Page
I'm not going to introduce the 120...if you care that much, check out my original review. I'm not sure if the bottle I'm opening tonight came from West Lakeview Liquors where I bought the bottle I reviewed back in 2013. This may be from a batch brewed slightly later, possibly purchased from Binny's. The bottled on date is smudged, but what is visible is: "Bottled On: 02/??/13." With that said, let's get this beer into a glass and see what's going on.

[Cellar Review] Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (Vintage 2013)
The appearance is already starting to lighten up a bit, with the beer pouring into a semi-hazy dark orange body. The body has some nice gold tones, with some amber as well. The beer kicks up a finger's worth of amber-tinted head, and the head leaves webs of lacing, followed by glossy alcohol legs. Bright light really reveals the beautiful golden-orange body, but you can see the suspended yeast mucking up the beer in bright light as well. There's nice carbonation and some head retention as well. 

As far as the aroma goes, this has already begun the march towards becoming a full blown Barleywine. Gone are the intense plums and candi sugars. Gone is the boozy apricot and tangerine. I'm getting big pine, toffee, pine sap, maple syrup, marzipan, dark sugars, brown sugar, molasses, and underlying hops. There's still some boozy pine, orange, and lemon on the nose...but this beer is closer to a Barleywine at this point in time than it is a boozy Imperial IPA. It's incredible what one year of aging can do to a beer. 

The taste has held up better than the aroma. While the front end is loaded with pine, pine sap, maple syrup, marzipan, and huge brown sugars, the mids hit you with boozy apricot and guava, orange and tangerine sweetness, sugary Pine-Sol, and boozy raspberries that are inherent to DFH's high gravity lineup. I'm getting a lot of dense, boozy sweetness, with huge raspberries, candied citrus, fruity plums, and big fruity alcohol. The beer has cakey malt sweetness, and there's still some enamel-crushing hop kick. This tastes like it could easily mellow out for another year or two. The finish also cleans up relatively dry, all things considered. 

After a year, this is still full-bodied, dense, and over-the-top. This beer is insanely sweet, and it's boozy. At around 15%-20%, you'd expect that. The beer has a good mouthfeel with lots of carbonation, hop kick, booze, sugar, and a surprisingly dry and slightly bitter finish. The 120 IBUs are hardly noticeable on the huge malty backdrop, but you do pick up some alcohol. Palate depth and duration are outstanding, and complexity is very high as well. While the aroma of this vintage has turned into a Barleywine, the beer still tastes like a mix of an American Barleywine and a super high gravity, overly hoppy IPA. Up front: cakey malts, pine sap, maple syrup, brown sugar, marzipan, big sweetness; the mids roll into huge guava, tangerine, boozy sugars, fusel alcohol, fruity sweetness, Pine-Sol, plums, and boozy raspberries; the back end features trailing raspberries, alcohol, hops, and fade to sticky/dry.

Rating: Divine Brew

This is still an epic sipper, probably a Light Divine Brew. There is nothing else quite like this beer...and it really deserves your attention over an hour or so. It's a sipper, and it's also a great Winter Warmer. It's in that realm of Scotch or Port Wine. This is aging wonderfully, and has a long way to go. Right now I feel like this could easily age for two or three more years. I'll probably pull a bottle in two or three, and then again in five. I also have a bottle of Fort going, which I hope to dig out for a very special occasion. 

Random Thought: I've been seeing the 120 on shelves a lot more these days. Given that fact, definitely think about picking up a few bottles. Try this one fresh, and let it age. It's a fun one, and one of DFH's more interesting releases.