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Beer Review #265 Narwhal Imperial Stout

01-26-03We had a nice bit of snow here in northern Delaware last night and I was sipping on an imperial stout as the flakes came down. We only ended up with a tease of a 1/2 inch, but the beer at least measured up. Narwhal Imperial Stout is brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. This imperial stout comes in at a nice high 10.2%.

Like most imperial stouts this beer pours an inky black. It doesn’t pour as thick as some imperial stouts that I have had in the past. There is a decent tan head that stays longer than expected but eventually fades away to just a thin surface floating layer. I had no idea if this one was clear or not because this is one dark beer. Ever the thin layers near the edges yielded no light. The nose is packed with roasted malt. There is some slight chocolate in there as well. I didn’t notice anything on the hop front nor did I get any heat. Impressive. This beer just smells big. Maybe I have had too many imperial stouts in my day, but you can just tell this beer is big by the smell.

The roasted flavors of the nose carry through to the flavor. The roast is clean and enjoyable and not to “bitey” as other beers of this style that I have had. A nice bitter bakers chocolate flavor edges out the roast halfway though. A sight hop flavor comes in at the end. The hops was a bit piney but I honestly could get more descriptive then that as the malt bitterness ruled this beer. While I didn’t describe a lot of flavors, the interaction of the flavors really makes this beer complex. As the balance changes from roast to bitter chocolate to hops the beer shows itself fully.

I really, really dig this one. I’m usually split on liking/hating imperial stouts. They never seem to be able to achieve a true balance and any complexity that they do have gets overshadowed by roast or hops. This one stays complex and in balance. I really liked it and I’m going to be getting some of this beer to age in the basement for some time. (more…)

Beer Review #134 Wolaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter

Now if that isn’t one of the longest names for a beer ever I don’t know what is. Wolaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter is brewed by Otter Creek Brewing of Middlebury, Vermont. The actual brewer of this beer is a bit of a mystery to me. Wolaver’s Organic Brewing is the brewery that this beer is named for, but I believe that it is owned by Otter Creek. Perhaps it is a separate brand of Otter Creek, kind of like how Blue Moon Brewing Company is a subset of Coors. Nomenclature aside, I tried their Oktoberfest last year and wasn’t a big fan of it, but I have had a few other beers of theirs and enjoyed them quite a bit.

Alt Gracia Coffee Porter is a certified organic beer and the label says it is, “brewed with coffee and vanilla beans.” Shocking, a coffee beer brewed with coffee! This porter pours a nice black color and has a thin tan head. I couldn’t tell if it was clear or not since it was so dark but clarity don’t make a whole hill of beans to me. Call it a homebrewer’s mentality. The nose has lots of rick coffee coming off of it. There is some dark bitter chocolate in there as well. The vanilla does make an appearance, but it isn’t overly strong. Thank God. Overall I would describe the smell of this beer as “earthy.”

On the first taste I was surprised at how smooth this beer is. All of the components flow nicely and evenly. There is a good amount of coffee and chocolate but they are not overpowering in anyway. This beer still has a porter feel. When I was drinking this porter I felt like it had a “milk shake” quality to it. I’m not sure how to describe that feeling, but drinking this beer reminded me of a watery milk shake. Chocolate.

This beer was wonderfully drinkable. Lots of bold flavors but they stayed restrained enough as to not take over or take away from the rest of the beer. This porter comes in at 5% ABV and I think it could be a great beer to have on the coming crisp fall days. If you are a fan of coffee beersĀ  I think this one could be right up your ally. (more…)

Beer Review #33 Ommegang Abbey Ale

11-08-02I thought I was out of my Belgian kick that I was on over the summer, but I found another reason to continue. Ommegang Abbey Ale is a Belgian Dubbel from Brewery Ommegang out of Cooperstown, NY. I saw two options of bottling for this beer, a four-pack or a 750 ml corked bottle. I opted to go for the four-pack as it was a better buy and I didn’t have to drink it all at once.

I allowed the beer to warm up at cellar temperatures as it takes on a different feel when it is colder. The cold attempt I made I didn’t get much aroma, but a lot of sourness. Once I allowed it to warm on my next beer, I had a much better tasting beer. It pours a deep ruby color with a thick light brown head. The head on the beer is made entirely of tiny bubble (high carbonation) and a thin layer of head lasted through the entire drink. The Abbey Ale is pretty clear with some haze from the yeast and a few groups of things in suspension, as common with most Belgian beers.

11-08-03The nose was very fruity. I think the smell that stood out the most was a grape to sour grape smell. The yeast was also heavy on the nose with some hints of malt. No hops were detectable. On my first sip I was hit with the malt on the front, followed by a sourness, and then the Belgian yeast bite. There was a grapy aftertaste. As I kept drinking some bitter chocolate notes came though as well. The Belgian yeast had a slightly different twang than a normal Belgian yeast strain, it was much more sour. Most of the time you get a spiciness from Belgian yeast, there was some, but not as pronounced as other Belgian beers I have had.

The mouthfeel was medium and the high carbonation was wonderful. I really enjoyed drinking this beer. It is a perfect beer to drink slowly during a long period of time. As the beer warms to room temperature a host of new notes come out and make it more and more interesting. Ommegang Abbey Ale comes in a 8.5% which is on the higher end of ABV for Belgain Dubbels.

There were a few interesting notes on the back of the bottle as well. It says, “Part of the Duvel family of fine ales.” Brewery Ommegang was named after Belgium’s oldest medieval festival. This beer is also cellared at the brewery. If you like Belgian beers give this one a try, you will not be disappointed. It is wonderfully flavorful and complex. It really was a treat of a beer to drink. (more…)