New Belgium Oakspire

I’m a big fan of bourbon, so when I saw this on shelves, it had to come home with me.

ABV: 9%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to wikipedia.com, “Knob Creek is a brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey produced by Beam Suntory at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. It is one of the four Jim Beam small batch bourbon brands targeted for the high-end liquor market. Its siblings in the line are Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden’s. The primary expression of the brand is bottled at 100 proof (higher than the typical 80 that is the minimum required by U.S. Federal labeling requirements). Knob Creek was formerly aged for nine years, but is now sold with no age statement. Knob Creek comes in a rectangular bottle with a corked or twist-on cap and wax-sealed top. The bourbon has a dark, golden-brown color. According to the company, this is due to the relatively long aging process, which allows it to absorb more sugar from the wood than is the case for the other Jim Beam Small Batch brands. The company describes the flavor as ‘rich, sweet, woody, full-bodied, almost fruity’, and the aroma as ‘toasted nuts, grain, oak’. In 2009, Beam ran a campaign to publicize their shortage of Knob Creek bourbon. Demand exceeded the 2000 forecast, when the stock began the aging process.”

Random: This is a collaboration beer between Knob Creek and New Belgium.

The beer poured with a finger of tan head that dissipated quickly, but left some lacing on the glass. The body was brown and clear with some visible carbonation. The nose had vanilla and bourbon along with some sweet molasses. The taste was sweet and had some vanilla along with caramel. There was some raisin and fig as well and only a very small amount of bourbon. There were notes of molasses and the beer was just too sweet for me. The body was on the thicker side with lighter carbonation. The booze was relatively well hidden. It had a lengthy finish with molasses and caramel. A bottle was $2.83, which came to $.24 per ounce. I thought given the collaboration, this would be amazing, but it just missed the mark for me.

Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0

Firestone Walker Dark & Stormy

I found this beer sitting on a shelf, gathering dust at the local Buy Rite. Let’s see how it was.

ABV: 11.1%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “From the jungles of Jamaica to the barrel room at Firestone Walker Brewing Company comes Dark & Stormy—an exotic mashup of Helldorado and Velvet Merkin aged in rum barrels with a touch of hand-zested lime and ginger. Like its namesake cocktail, Dark & Stormy combines a rich sunset color with spicy rum goodness. Helldorado (blonde barleywine, 80%) sets the tone with its signature honey-coconut character, while Velvet Merkin (oatmeal stout, 20%) rounds out the blend with a hint of rich roastiness. Both beers were aged in barrels sourced from a leading Jamaican rum producer, imbuing Dark & Stormy with delectable rum qualities unlike anything Firestone Walker has offered before.”

Random: This was released on Black Friday in 2017.

This beer poured with a one finger, tan head. It dissipated slowly and left some lacing on the glass. The body was a cloudy, dark brown with some carbonation visible. The nose started with a lot of ginger and lime zest. It had a sweet molasses and rum note as well. The taste was intense. It started with the sweet molasses and rum with a touch of smoke. It then went into the ginger and lime notes. It also had a caramel note as well. The body was on the thicker side with a lot of carbonation. It had a lengthy finish with rum. I picked this bottle up for $10.99, which came to $.92 per ounce. This was definitely an expensive bottle, but an interesting interpretation of a cocktail. I would have this again.

Untappd Rating: 4.5/5.0

Ballantine Burton Ale

Tonight’s beer is one that had been hanging out on the shelf awhile. Let’s see how it was.

ABV: 11.3%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “First brewed in the 1930s, Ballantine Burton Ale was given as a gift to close friends and family of the brewery after being aged for several years in American Oak barrels. Master Brewery Gregory Deuhs has recreated the original recipe and cellared a limited number of cases to further develop its complex character. The maturation process transforms the taste of sweet malt into nuances of sherry, stone fruit and raisin, with the oak mellowing to a sweet, toasted vanilla-like flavor. We are making available our limited batch as a special holiday winter warmer for under your tree.”

Random: Ballantine was originally brewed in Newark, NJ.

The beer poured with a quarter finger of tan head. It went away rather quickly and left little lacing on the glass. The body was dark brown and slightly cloudy. I couldn’t see any carbonation. I let the beer warm up for a few minutes before trying it. The nose started with some booze and quickly transitioned into pine, dates and brown sugar with some wood and vanilla. The taste was intense at first. It started with the same booze punch, but didn’t seem to have the same pine note that I picked up in the nose. It went towards the sweeter side with brown sugar, dates, vanilla and sherry. The body was on the thicker side with low amounts of carbonation. The finish was lengthy and sticky with sherry. A bottle of this was $2, which came to $.17 per ounce. This was an interesting beer with a lot of depth of flavor. I will be looking for this beer next Christmas.

Untappd Rating: 4.5/5.0

Zaftig Shadowed Mistress

This was the second beer that I had at Hopyard 62 in Grove City. This ended up being my go-to place after work in Grove City. The beers that they were getting were impressive and compared to New Jersey prices, their pints were really cheap. Let’s see how this one was.

shadowedmistress

ABV: 8%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Zaftig is all about full bodied ales for a full bodied experience. We’ve spent significant time doing market research (well yea, drinking beer) and have really developed a taste for some of the best craft beers around. We truly respect the innovators and leaders of the craft beer industry (too many to name here, but the likes of Dogfish Head, Stone, Rogues, Bells, Founders, etc…). When you hear a musician talk about their inspiration coming from other great musicians that came before them, we think of our beer in the same light. We aim to produce every beer to the standards of our favorite beers from the breweries we admire. With that, we’ve coined our motto, full bodied ales for a full bodied experience.”

Random: I was really impressed by the Ohio beer scene. They had a lot of solid breweries out there, although I didn’t get to visit a lot of them.

The beer poured with a quarter of a finger of light brown head that dissipated slowly. The body was dark brown and clear with no visible carbonation due to the dark color of the body. The nose was incredibly smoky with some ash. It also had prunes and dates. The taste was also incredibly smoky with smoke and wood ash. Prune came through next. Booze gave some warming at the back of the throat as well. It had a thick and chew body with light carbonation. The finish was lengthy and ashy. This was an interesting beer and I’m glad I tried it, although it would have been hard to finish more than one.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Ellicottville Caramel Apple Cuvee

Sometimes I buy beers that I don’t have high hopes for, but if they execute, I think they’ll be amazing. This was one of those beers.

caramelapplecuvee

ABV: 8.5%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Cuvée (pronounced koo-vay´) is a distinctive beer, designed to mature in wood. Ours is a strong blonde ale brewed with caramel, tart green apple, citrus rind and mild vanilla. The character of each barrel blends with the beer’s complex flavors, creating a dry finish with a bold oak essence. From sip to swallow, an interesting and unique flavor experience.”

Random: This beer is available from August through October in bottles and on draft.

The brew poured with a slightly off white head that was half a finger high. It dissipated quickly and left no lacing on the glass. The body was a clear, light orange with mild carbonation visible. The nose had caramel syrup and green apple peels with some sweetness from brown sugar. The alcohol was hidden in the nose. The taste mostly mirrored the nose. It had a lot of caramel and green apple skin and a touch of grassy hop, which didn’t work with the rest of the flavors. After the beer warmed, brand and vanilla came through with a touch of heat at the back of the throat. It had a medium thick body with moderate carbonation. The finish was lengthy with vanilla bean and caramel syrup. I picked this up for $1.83, which broke down to $.15 per ounce. I enjoyed this beer and thought it was interesting, but I wouldn’t want more than one.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Harpoon Arctic Ale

Tonight’s selection is from Harpoon. I find their beers to be a bit hit or miss, so let’s see how this one was.

arcticale

ABV: 13%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “A beer designed explicitly for adventurers and explorers, Arctic Ale is steeped in lore and legend. Originally brewed by request of Queen Victoria of England in 1851, Arctic Ale was developed as ‘life sustaining support’ for sailors sent to search for lost expeditions charting the Northwest Passage. Drawing inspiration from these curious and intrepid voyagers, our brewers have created this rich, robust, deep-flavored ale. Despite its dark coffee-like hue and aromas of bourbon, dark fruit, and chocolate, this ale is deceivingly smooth with a rich malt character and subtly sweet finish. While our drinkers today may not have the same need to stave off scurvy, this hearty ale is one that can be enjoyed today, but also placed in the hold for years to come.”

Random: This comes in at 32 IBUs.

This beer poured with a half a finger of ecru colored head. It dissipated quickly and left some lacing on the glass. The body was a dark brown color with no visible carbonation due to the color. On the nose, the first thing that I picked up was booze. After I let it warm for another ten minutes or so, I got some maple and leather. The taste was sweet and malty up front. It also had maple, but some notes of leather and tobacco. The dark malts came through with booze next. The body was thick and chewy with light carbonation, making this a good winter sipping beer. It had a lengthy finish with cloying sweetness. I picked this bomber up for $7.99 ($.36 per ounce), which isn’t a bad price for this beer, except for the fact that it was way too sweet. I wouldn’t have this again.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Berkshire Brewing Company Raspberry Strong Ale

Since my transfer, I spend a lot less time in the car. The only downside is that most days, I have to be in work by 4 or 5 AM. Val hates this. I usually get up around 2:30 AM or 3 AM and get in the shower. I try to be as quiet as possible and turn on as few lights as possible so as to not wake her. The cats, on the other hand, think I’m up specifically to play with them and want me to pet them. Eventually, it should feel normal to get up that early…I hope.

farmstand

ABV: 9%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: This is a winter seasonal.

Random: My office is freezing right now. It can’t ever be a comfortable temperature.

This beer poured with a one finger, cream-colored head. It dissipated quickly and left no lacing on the snifter. The body was a clear, cherry color. There was visible detritus in the body with no carbonation visible. The nose had raspberry extract and overripe raspberries. I couldn’t get anything else on this. The taste had syrupy raspberry extract with honey and light spice. It had a floral characteristic to it as well. This tasted nothing like a barleywine to me. The body was much lighter than a typical barleywine, although the sweetness was cloying. It had very little carbonation. The finish was lengthy and sweet with overripe raspberries. I have no idea what the price of the beer was since I got this as a gift, but I wouldn’t buy this one. It had no balance to it. At least the booze was hidden.

Untappd Rating: 2.5/5.0

Hair Of The Dog Fred

While I was in California, there was a small beer store that I found that had a bunch of hidden gems in the cold case. When I saw this beer, I knew it was coming back to the room with me, since I never thought I’d get a chance to try it.

fred

ABV: 10%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Fred was created to honor beer writer and historian Fred Eckhardt. Fred is a big inspiration for me and many other brewers. Fred’s work in all-grain brewing and beer styles helped me become a better brewer. Fred the beer is a deep golden color. It is made with aromatic and rye malts and includes 10 different hop varieties in an effort to incorporate the whole world into this beer. It has 10% alcohol by volume and 65 IBUs. We hope that Fred will inspire you to share your knowledge with others as Fred has with us.”

Random: I know the beer is not meant to be consumed out of this glass, but it was either this or a plastic cup. The joys of traveling.

The brew poured with no head on top of a cloudy, golden-yellow body. There wasn’t any visible carbonation but lots of sediment floating throughout the body. The nose was boozy with a lot of heat. There was also a syrupy sweetness from a ton of candi sugar. The taste was also very boozy. It had a medicinal note that reminded me of a yellow cold medicine I took as a child and had to be bribed with chocolate to consume. It had the same thick, cloying sugar note. The body reminded me of an aged spirit. It was thick and syrupy with no carbonation and a significant burn on the throat. The finish was insanely long with the same medicinal sugar note. A bottle of this was expensive at $11.99 ($1 per ounce). Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to say that I tried this, but it just wasn’t my thing. I don’t know if it needed more age or it was a bad bottle, but I didn’t enjoy it.

Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0

Sierra Nevada Terra Incognita

The other half and I went for Korean barbecue. I thought it was the same as Mongolian barbecue (which it obviously wasn’t) and the whole place smelled like meat. It wasn’t my favorite dining experience. But, I’m glad I got to try it.

terraincognita

ABV: 9.8%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “‘Collaborating with Sierra Nevada on Terra Incognita the past three years has been a great experience,’ said Steven Pauwels, Boulevard’s Brewmaster. ‘We learn from each other, laugh a lot, and the beer we’ve made has impressed my taste buds every time. This year is no exception.’ Terra Incognita celebrates and merges strengths of Sierra Nevada (savvy use of whole-cone hops) and Boulevard (barrel aging prowess). The beer’s name means ‘land unknown’ and recalls the centuries old California Trail that connects the two breweries—an overland wagon trail across the western half of the US from Missouri river towns to what is now the state of California. This year’s final blend of Terra Incognita is a precise ratio: 55 percent wine barrel-aged ale, 32 percent bourbon barrel-aged ale, and 13 percent fresh ale. Sierra Nevada assertively hopped the brown ale before splitting it between red wine and bourbon barrels where it matured for 6 months, resulting in a 9.8% ABV blended beer whose earthy malt flavors are dressed in notes of tart fruit, vanilla and coconut.”

Random: I managed to get the flu on my business trip. I hate being sick away from home.

The beer poured with a half a finger of tan head. It went away quickly, but an eighth of an inch crown hung around on the body. The body was dark sienna and there was some carbonation that I could see. The nose started with light brown sugar and malt. It quickly went into a vinous quality with red grapes. It had a touch of vanilla and oak character from bourbon aging. The taste started with vanilla, coconut and oak. It then went into the same vinous quality with red grapes. It followed up with a slight sweetness and brown sugar. Some molasses came through too. The body was thin for the style and had light carbonation. It also had some booze warming at the end. The finish was shockingly quick with vanilla warming. The bottle was $15.99, which came to $.73 per ounce. I liked this beer a lot, although I thought the vinous quality took away from the other flavors, not added to it.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Dogfish Head Higher Math

This beer doesn’t need much of an introduction, especially since the website goes into such detail. Let’s crack it open.

highermath

ABV: 17%

Style: American Strong Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Way back in the early ’90s, a 20-something waiter in New York City named Sam got a taste for small American ‘microbrews.’ A do-er, Sam stopped by a homebrew store and embarked on the first batch of his very own beer. On the way home, he spotted a bag of cherries at his local bodega and thought they’d make his beer a little more interesting. He was right, and the day after he and his friends enjoyed that first batch, he started researching what it would take to open a brewery. The rest, as they say, is history. Higher Math is a tribute to that auspicious first beer and celebrates 20 off-centered years of Dogfish Head. It’s a golden strong ale fermented with sour cherry juice and cocoa nibs and clocks in a 17% ABV. Higher Math has forward notes of cherries, pineapple and stewed fruit, with late notes of cocoa. It has lingering sweetness and a notable warmth from the alcohol.”

Random: This comes in at 35 IBUs.

This beer poured with a half a finger of off-white head. It dissipated slowly, but left no lacing on the glass. It left a crown on top of the clear, dark brown body with high carbonation. The nose had significant sweetness up front with honey and bourbon. Molasses came through too. Booze was prevalent, although not nearly as much as I thought it would be. The taste was really sweet. Lots of malt came through with caramel, molasses and vanilla. Dark fruit came through too, specifically raisins and dates and dark cherries. I didn’t pick up any of the cocoa notes that they said would be in the beer. The booze was strong and made this beer a true sipper. It had a thick and syrupy body with light carbonation. The finish was lengthy with lots of sweetness and booze. This beer was expensive at $8.99 a bottle (and limited to one per person where Val got it for me). This came to $.75 per ounce. I thought I was going to love this beer, but it was just too sweet for my liking and to me, it wasn’t worth the pricetag. I won’t be having this one again.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0