Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Plan E in Action

It appears we've made it through Chocolate Ale day without anyone fist fighting each other or getting pepper sprayed.  Based on some of the local store's posts to their Facebook pages, things got a little testy.  Over at KCBeerblog their was some back and forth in the comments section as well.  Lets keep in mind this is just beer (and its not even an Imperial Stout).  We share a common interest and we should celebrate that.  The other point I wanted to bring up is to take this time (hunting for Chocolate Ale) to buy a new brew at your local store.  If you will be venturing out to a local pub in the coming weeks for Chocolate Ale, take the opportunity to try something new while you're there.  As we're celebrating craft brew we should be courteous to our servers and store personnel.

I didn't get any Chocolate Ale today but relaxed instead with a White Russian.  Well kind of.  I arrived home from work and prepared to mix me up a Caucasian.  I overlooked the fact I didn't have any Kahlua...EPIC FAIL.  Improvising, I broke open my last bottle of Sam Adams Black and Brew as a Kahlua substitute.  This didn't turn out very well and I wouldn't recommend it.  Nonetheless it was a fitting end to the day.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Chocolate Ale Day(s) 2011 - Contingency Plan!

The excitement of the hunt is building and we are within fingers reach of Boulevard’s Chocolate Ale. I visited a local store this weekend and there were over 7 pages filled with people on “The List”. What is your back up plan if you fail to land a coveted bottle of Chocolate Ale? Never fear FatCat is here for your plan B…and C…and D…you get the picture.

Plan B
Last year kegged Chocolate Ale was available around the area infinitely longer than the bottles. If you don’t get a bottle check out a local watering hole as they will most likely have pours of Chocolate ale for weeks after the initial distribution. I tried mine last year at the Flying Saucer well after the initial bottles were gone. KCbeerblog has a list of dates some local establishments will be tapping their Chocolate Ale.

Plan C
If you are not a bar fly and do not want to venture out into the urban jungle then here are some brews that just might satisfy your chocolate needs.

Best Choice if you DO like the chocolate milk overly sweet character:
Sam Adams Chocolate Chili Bock- As I mentioned earlier, this brew sports the thinner body with the overly sweet/chocolate character that is very much like Boulevard’s Chocolate Ale. The chili character/heat in this brew is minimal so don’t let that turn you off. I did see a bunch of this stuff at Tipsy’s in Mission, KS over the weekend.

Best Choice if you DO NOT like the chocolate milk overly sweet character:
Youngs Double Chocolate Stout – one of the best chocolate beers available, period. This brew does not have the overly sweet character that Boulevard Chocolate Ale has. It is more of a semisweet dark chocolate character. Very nice.

Plan D
If you just have to have the name chocolate on your bottle:
Arcadia Coco Loco – solid brew but is more of a bittersweet chocolate character
Rogue Chocolate Stout – decent chocolate brew
Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti – I like regular Yeti better but this does have chocolate
Sourthern Tier Choklat - A sweeter imperial stout with good chocolate characer.

If you just want a good sweet brew without chocolate being involved:
Sam Adams Cream Stout
New Holland The Poet Oatmeal Stout
Bells Third Coast Old Ale
Orkney Skull Splitter – Wee Heavy

Plan E
I can’t explain the psychological connection I made last year between Boulevard Chocolate Ale and a White Russian. For some reason the Chocolate Ale made me think of a White Russian. So instead of hunting for Chocolate Ale this year, I’m going to pop in one of the best movies ever made and enjoy a White Russian. The Dude abides!

Plan F
Become a homebrewer! If you like Chocolate Ale and want to always have access to it, or any other of your favorite commercial brews, then make it yourself. Homebrewing is not difficult and the rewards are amazing. If you want Chocolate Ale on tap at your place, then brew it up! For a starters list on homebrewing check out my suggestions in the homebrew section.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Big Bad Big Eddy

9.5% ABV

This is one of the beers that was unofficially involved in the Imperial Stout Tournament of Death.  I really liked it’s unique character and wanted to give it a shot when my head wasn’t swimming in 4 other imperial stouts.  Big Eddy all by its lonesome, how did it fare?

Big Eddy poured with minimal head and black as night body.  There was a very dark nose with licorice and dark fruit playing around.  The mouthfeel on Big Eddy was nice and thick giving a chewy feel to it.  The brew starts with brief sweetness and heads straight for the dark side.  The dark side is actually quite tasty it turns out.  As I mentioned earlier, Big Eddy has an almost smoky quality to it.  I didn’t describe is as much smoky in this tasting as I would call it dark sugar/fruit character.  Dark Plums are a good way to describe the character in this brew.  With most other stouts the sweetness is light on the tongue, but with this brew it is dark and heavy.  The heaviness lightens a bit on the finish with some noticeable bitterness.  When you swallow you get a hit of bitterness, some persisting dark fruit character, and then the bitterness comes back lingering slightly.  Big Eddy is for real my friends.  This thing is a beast and I can’t wait to put some age on it. 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tailgating Chocolate Ale Day

All you choco-holics out there don't have to wait until next week to get your fix.  Gomer's Midtown is hosting a tasting this Friday from 4-6pm.  The Coco Loco and Young's will definitely be on my Chocolate Ale Day contingency plan. 

Arcadia Coco Loco - Chocolate Molasses Lacto Stout

Young's Double Chocolate Stout:  Widget Nitro Cans or bottles

Ommegang Seduction: Belgian Style Porter with Chocolate and Cherries

O'Fallon Cherry Chocolate

Van Steenberge Cherish:  Rasperry Belgain Lambic

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Samuel Smith Imperial Stout

Imperial stout “season” is coming to a close.  Spring beers are starting to pop up with promises, or at least thoughts, of warmer weather.  If you’ve been keeping score at home you know I completed the Imperial Stout Tournament of Death.  The tournament included some huge players in the imperial stout game in our area.  I made an effort to try as many imperial stouts as I could around the time of the Tournament.  I did this to gain perspective on how other less hyped imperial stouts hold up to my recent memories of stellar imperial stouts.  First up is an old stand by in Sam Smith Imperial Stout.

7% ABV

The label boasts the fact this imperial stout is fermented in stone Yorkshire squares.  WTF does that mean?  We’ll look into this in a minute.  The Sammy Smith pours with a nice creamy tan head.   The nose is boozy with big chocolate notes and hints of black licorice.  This is promising.  Unfortunately, the taste does not deliver on the booziness the nose had promised.  There is an initial chocolate flavor dancing with black licorice.  The middle turns dry and the dryness lasts into the finish.  In the finish there are hints of chocolate and licorice that linger slightly in the aftertaste.  As the brew warms, the middle starts to open up and develop some complexity.  The chocolate and licorice characters begin to deepen and smoothes out the dryness.  This was a nice beer but I expected it to be bigger in character than the nose alluded to.  At 7% ABV it’s under powered compared to some of the imperial stouts I’ve been drinking lately.  So I guess the underwhelming character can be expected.  I will say this beer is very smooth and uses it’s character subtly.  Nothing about this brew is overpowering and makes it very enjoyable.  Subtlety in an imperial stout is difficult to pull off but Samuel Smith does it.  If you’re looking for a smooth well rounded imperial stout that will not pound you over the head give this brew a try.

WTF are Yorkshire squares?

I did some brief research and Yorkshire squares are fermenting vessels made of solid slabs of slate.  This is claimed to give the brew a fuller bodied taste.  I’m not sure if there is fuller body but it looks like the coolest hot tub ever.  Relax as you get tanked on 100 gallons of imperial stout?  Yes please!  Some other cool facts about the Tadcaster brewery responsible for Samuel Smith brews include:  was established in 1758, the original well sunk in 1758 is still in use drawing water from 85ft underground, the yeast used to ferment the brews is the same strain used since the nineteenth century.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chocolate Ale vs Big Foot!

A big hubbub has been brewing in town for Boulevard’s re-release of its Chocolate Ale. The buzz has reached the national level as several articles have been published on Beernews.org discussing the distribution of Chocolate Ale. There was even an article written to explain the proper etiquette on craft brew hunting for the uninitiated. Boulevard has created the perfect publicity storm: the release is close to Valentine’s Day; the collaboration of two local businesses creates a bond with local consumers; local media has given this brew great exposure; almost everyone loves chocolate which expands the consumer base; Chocolate is listed before Ale so people forget it’s beer (I kid, I kid). For whatever reason this is one of the only craft brews able to transcend the ranks of beer geeks and stir anticipation in the general population. People not usually “hunting” seem to be joining the ranks and preparing for the battle of Chocolate Ale Day. A friend of mine said there were over 100 people on “The List” at a local store. Put on your helmets kids this could get messy. Boulevard has ramped up production for the 2012 release in an attempt to meet the demand. Along with increased production, this year’s recipe has even more chocolate in it. Chocolate Ale Day seems to be slated for February 1st. If you aren’t lucky enough to score a bottle of Chocolate Ale, never fear, I’ll be posting a Chocolate Ale Day contingency plan.

Another release set to ship within the next week is Sierra Nevada Big Foot barleywine. Beernews.org reports the ship date has been set for January 30th and it should be arriving in our area in the not so distant future. Big Foot is one of those brews inherently burned into beer geek’s brains when they think of barleywine. I’m excited about getting my hands on some fresh Big Foot and enjoying the hop character as it punches me in the face.

This begs the question-who would win in a fight to the death, Chocolate Ale or Big Foot?
Prison rules apply of course.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kansas City Restaurant Week

Kansas City Restaurant Week (Friday 01/20 – Sunday 01/29) is happening as we speak, well I guess as you read. There are 139 local establishments participating. Each restaurant has a fixed menu for $15.00 per person for a 2-course lunch and $30.00 per person for a 3-course dinner.  The prices do not include beverage, tax, or gratuity.  All of the restaurants are donating 10% of the meals purchase price to Harvesters. In 2011, this event raised $80,000.00 providing 400,000 meals to the less fortunate.

If you’ve been itching to try a new place, this is the week to do it. Not only will you get a great meal, you will be helping Harvesters.  This will also be great opportunity to show local restaurants the popularity of craft brew in the Kansas City area.  Enjoy a craft brew with dinner and spread the word.  As always be safe and responsible. 

For a searchable list of participating locations:

To reserve a spot online, OpenTable has a list of participating locations:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Useless Beer Fact of the Day!

I remember doing the “Useless Beer Fact of the Day” when I first started the blog. I realized the other day I haven’t done one of these in a long time and that makes me sad. Sad face! So it’s time to turn those frowns upside down with FatCat’s patented Useless Beer Fact of the Day!!!

King Gambrinus is an icon in the beer world and adorns many modern breweries’ labels. Some have even gone as far as to refer to King Gambrinus as the patron saint of beer. With this much clout in today’s beer world, King Gambrinus must have been a real dude worthy of all this praise right? Turns out, not exactly. There are a few potential sources for the basis of this character. John the Fearless is one suspect who is believed to be the inventor of hopped malt beer. Another possibility being a cup-bearer in the court of Charlemagne named Gambrinus. A cup-bearer isn’t worthy of the current Gambrinus name so we’ll ignore it. The other candidate is Duke John I of Brabant who was called Jan Primus. Jan Primus was eventually corrupted into today’s name Gambrinus.

In any of those scenarios it turns out Gambrinus was neither a king nor a saint. Go figure.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambrinus

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Deschutes Tasting at the Foundry

I ventured out of my beer cave and went down to the Foundry for their Deschutes kick-off party Monday night. I was stoked to get a taste of The Abyss and The Butte XXIII without popping open my bottles. Each of these beers have been taunting me every time I open my fridge, with a song that could be My Last Serenade. I fought back temptation and will now tailgate each of these brews with a pour from The Foundry.

The first time around I ordered the whole flight which included Mirror Pond, Black Butte, The Abyss, Black Butte XXIII, and Hop Henge. I’ve already professed my love and affection for Mirror Pond and Hop Henge so those were no surprise. Black Butte is within recent memory so no surprises there either. Here it is, it’s what I’ve came for The Abyss and to a much lesser amount of anticipation Butte XXIII. I’m used to getting my hands on limited release brews at the liquor store and then armor car-ing them back to my place. There, I share with the members of the FatCat crew in the protection of the casa de FatCat. However, on Monday I felt like Indiana Jones on another impossible mission through the urban jungle of Westport. The thoughts of all that could go wrong running through my head (parking tickets, no tables, incorrect tapping information, and the list goes on) but I pushed through for the treasure.

The Abyss
11% ABV
65 IBUs

My first rendition of The Abyss was presented to me in a taster glass. The nose was promising with chocolaty aromas possessing a sticky sweet character. The nose heightens my anticipation of the greatness of this brew. I take a taste and I am hit with a much thinner mouthfeel than expected and some sourness on the finish. Usually sourness is associated with a bacterial infection affectionately referred to as Brett. I let the brew warm to coax out some more character but the amount in the taster glass was insufficient. I ordered a full pour of the Abyss, which came out in a tulip glass. The sourness was still there but was considerably subdued over what I experienced in the taster glass. The mouthfeel thickened a bit as it warmed and had a mouth coating sticky character. The Abyss did possess an exceptional deep chocolate character early in the palate before the sourness took over in the middle. There was some oak character present but masked by the sourness. This was not what I was expecting out of one of my Pegasus brews. The Abyss has positive attributes, but didn’t live up to the hype for me. Between Parabola, The Czar, and Oaked Aged Yeti I have been a very very spoiled beer geek in the realm of Imperial Stouts lately.

Black Butte XXIII
11% ABV
55 IBUs

Onward fellow treasure hunters, time to check out the Black Butte XXIII. Black Butte XXIII is an imperial version of Black Butte Porter with orange zest, chocolate nibs, and Pasilla chillies thrown in. Sounds a little crazy to me. The nose gives hint to a thick sweet brew with rich chocolaty aromas coming through. XXIII start with a good thick mouthfeel and big sweetness. The citrus character of the orange peel starts in the middle of the palate and persists into the finish. The chocolate nibs are well hidden and are only briefly detectable in the middle of the palate. I did start getting some more chocolate as the brew warmed up to room temperature but was never overwhelming. The sweetness and the citrus orange peel character are married throughout this brew and last into the finish. The finish was very unique with both sweetness and citrus bite playing around. I didn’t detect the chilies in this. It was amazing how well the orange/citrus character complimented the big sweetness in this brew. The Butte XXIII was the winner of the night and I came away with treasure I didn’t expect. Awesome!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kansas Could Legalize In-Store Tastings

According to a story ran by KCTV 5 there has been legislature introduced to the Kansas Senate to allow tastings inside liquor stores.  The Senate should hold a hearing on the bill in a few weeks.  Alcoholic Beverage Control director Doug Jorgensen said his agency  is neutral on the legislation.

Hopefully since this is in practice just across the state line, this will not be a major battle.  Any legislation that helps more people enjoy craft brew is a winner.  Come on Kansas let's get this done!

To read the full article click link below:

KS liquor stores back measure to allow tastings

Monday, January 16, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond with Hop Henge

8.5% ABV
95 IBUs

Deschutes has brought their second round of releases to our area giving us THE ABYSS!!!!, Hop Henge, and the Stoic.  My Abyss has been stowed away for a special occasion, I passed on the $13.00 bottle of Stoic, and I picked up the amazingly priced Hop Henge IPA.  I’ve been happy with the complexity of the Deschutes brews I’ve tried so far.  Will Hop Henge be out of this world or will it be just another in a long line of mediocre IPAs?  Put on your space suits boys and girls we might be the first beer geeks in space!

To start with, this would be classified as an Imperial IPA based on the 8.5% ABV.  Hop Henge starts off with a somewhat small one finger head.  The nose exhibits some very familiar sour grapefruit aroma with some grainy sweetness in the background.  I remember thinking, “Well this smell is similar to tons of other IPAs, how different could it be?”  My cynicism subsided and I was ready to dive into the brew.  Holy Crap, huge flavor pops you in the mouth.  There is a medium mouthfeel with a good crisp quality aiding in the drinkability factor.  An excellent malt backbone greets you early in the palate with a balanced sweetness and subtle caramel notes.  Following the malt is an orgy of citrus hop character headlined by a light grapefruit character.  The bitterness comes in about mid-palate and coats your entire mouth without any astringency.  The bitterness last into the finish and lingers on after you swallow.  The lingering bitterness is usually when the harsher hop characters become apparent, but Hop Henge’s lingering bitterness is a welcome attribute.  I would even go as far as to say the bitterness has an addictive quality.  WOW this one is awesome!

Now there could be several reasons I’m in love with this brew: 1. It really is freakin’ awesome; 2. My palate is in need of a break from giant imperial stouts; 3. The only IPAs I’ve had in the past 3 months have been astringent fresh hop ales, so the bitterness in this beer seems way more balanced.  Right now I’ll rate this brew with 4 drunken gnomes until I can compare it to some other Imperial IPAs to confirm its greatness.  However I think this has the potential to be an Epic brew after further testing.

Some of you may be questioning my use of UFOs and outer space references in this post.  Deschutes names this IPA after Stonehenge and dawns a likeness of it on the label.  I remember watching a documentary about the involvement of aliens in the construction of man kinds early construction wonders (Stonehenge, The Pyramids, etc.).  It was on Discovery Channel or National Geographic so it must be true right?  Doing a quick search I think you can actually watch the documentary on YouTube to prove FatCat isn’t off his rocker.  It really is mind boggling how ancient people mined and moved 25 ton stones that are harder than granite.  No I’m not a diehard alien existence believer but the possibility that aliens helped ancient humans build stuff is entertaining. According to Joe Rogan another theory is there used to be a race of super smart humans that built these monuments.  However the dumb people outbred the smart people to the point smart people became extinct.  Some days it appears Joe Rogan may be correct.


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Only Way to Respond to a Cease and Desist

I ran across a link on BeerAdvocate that shows you exactly how to respond to a cease and desist order.  The link is to a letter from Freetail Brewing Co. written to an undisclosed party responding to a cease and desist order.  I can't think of a better way to kick off the weekend then by laughing in the face of the law.  Check out the link below it is worth it I promise.  The response is priceless.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mirror Pond Pale Ale

5.0% ABV

Deschutes has landed and I’ve already sampled 50% of their offerings.  Who’s in for going for 100%?  Me, Me, Me.  Next up is the Mirror Pond Pale Ale for the second and final Deschutes year round brew in our area. 

The Mirror Pond pours with a pillow of fluffy white head.  Sour grapefruit aromas pour out of the top of glass inviting further investigation.  The first drink leaves me amazed at how big of flavor there is in this pale ale.  The brew starts with a toasted biscuit character and leads into a wonderful citrus hop character.  Light grapefruit dances on the palate and continues all the way to the finish.  Bitterness is present and complements the malt character wonderfully.  Everything is in balance and all the ingredients play nicely together.  There is no astringency or overwhelming bitterness to compete with in this pale ale.  This one is a winner my friends.

I’m not sure how Deschutes managed to squeeze this much flavor out of this little 5% ABV pale ale.  Although Black Butte wasn’t on my hit list, it did exhibit some good complexity.  Between Mirror Pond and Black Butte, I can say that I’m impressed with the complexity that Deschutes brings to the table.  The other positive I get out of this tasting is that I found a lower ABV brew that is loaded with flavor.  I’ve made a little pact with myself to explore some session brews this year.  Session brews are lower than 5% ABV by definition and you’re supposed to be able to drink more than one in a session without being wasted.  This year I vow to enjoy the lighter things in life.  I’ve scheduled several sessionable homebrews this year and will be looking to buy lighter commercial brews.  The Mirror Pond fits this criteria perfectly and will most likely be one of my go-to lighter brews.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Smokin' Black Butte Porter

5.2% ABV
30 IBUs

Deschutes has finally graced us with their presence and bestowed upon us the Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale.  Will these brews live up to the anticipation Deschutes has built by delaying their release several times?  Can FatCat move past his rejection issues and judge this brew fairly?   In the name of craft brew truth I will put my grievances aside and give the Black Butte Porter a fair shake.

Without considering any other factors, this 22oz bottle was $2.99.  That is an absolutely stellar price point and shines positive light on this brew already.  Black Butte pours opaque black with a nice tan head.  The nose reveals some grainy sweetness and a prominent bitter malt aroma.  The first thing that draws my attention is the thin mouthfeel of which I was expecting thicker.  The initial drink explodes on the palate and it’s hard to determine what is happening initially.  The thing that does jump out is the smoky character that starts in the middle of the palate and lasts well into the finish.  There is a brief grainy sweetness in the beginning that gives way to bitterness.  The bitterness plays Houdini in your mouth.  At first it seems like it is hop bitterness with some subtle floral character but then it shifts and seems like it’s roasted malt astringency.  The finish is very dry and offers a super subtle coffee note.  As the brew warms, the bitterness turns into a significant grainy/smoky character that gets a little too persistent.  The keyword for today kids is D-R-Y.

When I think of Porter, I’m thinking a semi-sweet brew with a medium-thick body.  The Black Butte doesn’t fit into my preconception and I am subsequently not a huge fan.  I’m thinking the thinner mouthfeel with the prominent roasted malt bitterness made this brew a little off for me.  If the mouthfeel was a little thicker I think it would have made the smoky bitterness a little more bearable.  On a positive note, the Black Butte does exhibit some impressive complexity for a porter.

This wasn’t a bad brew; it just wasn’t my cup of tea (or porter).  It did win bronze at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.  The great thing is at $2.99 a 22oz, you can try one for yourself. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ever Wonder What it Takes to Piss Off a Monk?

Try talking to him about eBay!

This is the opening line of an article posted on Beerscribe.com.  It is referring to how the limited release brews coming from monestaries are being scalped on eBay.  The article goes on to discuss the “cult” mentality that is arising out of the craft brew renaissance. People are becoming fanatical about obtaining (hoarding) certain brews and are willing to pay astronomical prices for them. As mentioned in the article it gives the example of one bottle of 2007 Surly Darkness that sold on eBay for $475.00. This outrageousness entices people to buy as much of a limited release as they possibly can. These limited releases start showing up on eBay for exorbitant prices almost immediately. This in turn leaves folks who actually want to enjoy the contents of the bottles out in the cold. The morale of the story is to stop buying all the limited release brews and let me have them.

I recently ran across a forum where the topic of debate was the legitimacy of alcohol sales on eBay. The opinions were mixed in large part the consensus was that people scalping alcohol on eBay are assholes. A section of the forum even discussed how people should report this activity to the Federal authorities as to shut down this activity on eBay. Would this help more people get a chance at the limited releases? It is an interesting discussion but in the end, I don’t think eBay is the sole source of the scarcity in craft brew world. What is even worse than craft brew scarcity, is limited release bourbons. In my quest to acquire some George T Stagg recently, I’m pretty sure I traded some portion of my soul to the devil. The cult mentality is everywhere and super limited releases are becoming the new norm across many different industries.

I’m as guilty as anyone about chasing the limited release brews in our parts. I will say however, I will never buy more than my fair share and will never put anything for sale on eBay . The other part of this craft brew cult culture not mentioned in the article is trading. Trading has been enticing me for years and I refuse to do it. It is the last step off the sanity ladder before I fall hopelessly off the deep end. I’m a member of the cult but I do have my limits.

Is the craft brew cult going too far? Are the limited releases worth the huge price tags? Would the closing of the eBay loophole benefit craft brew in general? Is craft brew trading worth falling in the deep end?

Read the full article here:

Beerscribe.com – The Cult of Beer

Monday, January 9, 2012

Imperial Stout Tournament of Death Recap

The FatCat team went into the coliseum and faced imminent doom.  We’ve returned from our journey stronger beer geeks than we were before we departed.  We have attained enlightenment and wish to share our experience with our fellow beer geeks.  Please use what you learn carefully as misuse of your imperial stout knowledge could lead to devastating pantsless results.  You have been warned!

This tournament was so much fun that I can’t wait to do it again at the end of this year.  Hopefully I can get my hands on some other imperial stouts and make the next tournament even more exciting.  Round 1 of the tournament was a no frills look into the world of the imperial stout.  It was a testament to the beauty that can be constructed with malt complexity alone.  There was no barrel aging, bourbon barrels, or cocoa nibs.  Just pure and simple malt goodness.  To me, a big complex imperial stout can not be rivaled by any other style of beer out there.  The Czar is that beer which embodies this simple malt beauty. 

Round 2 of the tournament was an introduction to the imperial stouts with bells and whistles.  Bourbon barrel aging and cocoa nibs attempt to coax ever more complexity out of this great style.  We didn’t find any real stars in this round but I guess it’s a reminder that frills don’t make a good brew.  You just can’t barrel age something to make it good.

Round 3 was the heavy weight battle.  This is the round where the hype gets tested.  Just because something is uber limited doesn’t make it a masterpiece.  As I mentioned in my previous post, consuming any of these brews individually would lead to a high rating for any of them.  Considering the hype and/or the limited availability alone, one will usually elevate the perceived greatness of these types of brews.  I wanted to remove this artificial feeling of greatness and get to the results.  What better way to do that than pit these all star brews against each other back to back.  The result was the confirmation that Parabola is truly a work of art.

Which of the limited brews are worth the hype?
Firestone Walker Parabola – Absolutely YES in every way
Goose Island BCBS – YES, not as good as I would have thought but not bad either
Founder’s CBS – NO, buy regular Breakfast Stout
Stone 2011 Imperial Stout – NO, good price but was not as good as it’s rankings
Goose Island Big John – YES, moderate price and fairly easy to get

My Overall Rankings:

Grand Champion:  Firestone Walker Parabola

2.  Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti
3.  Avery The Czar
4.  Goose Island BCBS
5.  Old Rasputin
6.  Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout
7.  Stone 2011 Imperial Stout
8.  Founder’s CBS
9.  Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS
10. Goose Island Big John
11. Dogfather Barrel Aged

Are you not entertained!?!?

First Free State Specialty Series Release!

You tired of hearing about imperial stouts yet?  Nope me either.  Looks like the first release in Freestate's specialty series will be the Ironman Imperial Stout.  It should be hitting shelves by the end of the month. 
Make some room in the old beer fridge for this one!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Deschutes is Missing!

We've waited and waited and waited for Deschutes to finally distribute to our area.  Our distribution dates have been pushed back several times building huge anticipation.  I've visited their website drooling over their brews.  Obsidian Stout, The Abyss, Hop Henge, Mirror Mirror, Hop in the Dark, and the list goes on.  We finally get a promising lead from Beernews.org that Deschutes will FINALLY distribute.  I overlooked the fact the Beernews article mentioned we will only be receiving Black Butte and Mirror Pond.  I did however remember the article mentions we will be getting limited supplies of Black Butte XXIII, The Stoic, and The Abyss.  When the word comes last week that Deschutes is finally distributing, reality smacks me in the face.  I realize we are only getting the Black Butte and Mirror Pond in regular distribution.  No Abyss and no Obsidian Stout now.  DAMN IT!  I understand their are business considerations completely above my comprehension level involved in entering a new distribution area, but am I the only one that feels snubbed by this offering from Deschutes?  I mean we've been pushed back so many times I feel that this distribution is anticlamactic.  Hopefully this is a premature rant and we will soon get a larger selection.  Either way I want my damn stouts!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Imperial Stout Tournament of Death: Round 3

Here it is, the pinnacle of our Tournament, Round 3, the all star round.  Here we pit the biggest and baddest brews I could find against each other.  All the hype goes out the window and we see if these brews can live up to their reputations.  I wanted to throw in Oak Aged Yeti as sort of a control group.  It is one of my favorite imperial stouts and is easily available.  Will the Yeti stand up to the likes of Parabola, CBS, or Goose Island?  This is not a shootout and thus not a blind tasting. We sampled each beer and ranked them in the order we preferred drinking them.  The same FatCat veterans came over and we wrapped up the first ever Imperial Stout Tournament of Death!  Here are the results.

FatCat’s Ranking:
Firestone Parabola #1
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti #2
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout #3
Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout #4
Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout #5

Greg’s Ranking:
Firestone Parabola #1
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti #2  
Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout #3
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout #4
Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout #5

Super Dave’s Ranking:
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti #1
Firestone Parabola #2
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout #3
Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout #4
Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout #5

The Winner:  Firestone Walker Parabola
The Parabola came in with high expectations.  It was my favorite beer of 2011 and is always highly touted in reviews.  The Parabola proved the hype to be true and destroyed the competition.  Parabola starts with a sweet and boozy nose.  Although the nose is not as big as the Goose Island, Parabola does make a statement.  The brew starts with good sweetness and then the bourbon starts hitting early in the palate.  The bourbon leads into a good oak character followed by a fair amount of bitterness.  For me the reason this brew was better than the others was the balance between the sweetness, bourbon, oak, and bitterness.  Some of the other brews were huge in sweetness and booze but that was it.  While the others relied on brute force to accomplish the job, the Parabola was a Kung Fu master.  It hits your palate in 4 different places before you realize what happened.  This is one of the brews I would consider a work of art.

Second Place:  Great Divide Oak Age Yeti
This was my dark horse in the tournament.  The Yeti doesn’t rely on hype, giant sweetness, or bourbon to court you.  It instead employs a solid malt character with good semi sweet chocolate notes.  Then a solid bitterness kicks in giving this imperial stout an almost refreshing quality.  The Yeti’s secret weapon is the oak character that coats your entire mouth as you enjoy this brew.  The oak, chocolate, and bitterness play a delicious symphony in your mouth.  Once you start drinking Yeti you never really want to stop.  One drink leads to the bottom of the bottle and that leads to a happy beer geek.  This widely available brew just beat out some of the biggest hyped beers available in our area. 

Third Place:  Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
One word can describe this brew and that is HUGE.  The nose has huge sweetness and booze.  The mouthfeel is huge with a big syrupy character.  Sweetness is huge, supplemented by bourbon on the finish.  One description that came to mind while I was drinking this was “milk chocolate”.  It tasted like I was drinking a Hershey’s bar.  Luckily the smoothness of this brew pulled the milk chocolate character together with the bourbon finish and made it very enjoyable.  I think some age will level some of the sweetness off and make this brew a little more decadent. 

Fourth Place:  Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
This one surprised me as to how big it was.  The nose was just as potent as the Parabola and gave the Goose Island a run for it’s money.  The taste was big in sweetness with a moderate bourbon finish.  It was like the Goose Island’s little brother.  The mouthfeel was a little thin compared to the others which hurt it in the standing.  This had some prominent molasses character mixed in with the sweetness that added to its complexity.  Overall this brew was impressive especially when you factor in availability and the relatively low price point.

Fifth Place:  Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout
I think the group had the highest expectations for this brew and it was the biggest disappointment.  In my opinion this brew was almost exactly the same as the regular Founder’s Breakfast Stout.  It had the same coffee presence with the bittersweet chocolate mixed in.  About the only difference I could tell was the maple syrup in the finish.  Instead of having the regular breakfast stout dry finish it had the maple syrup sweetness on the end.  I wouldn’t consider this an improvement. 

This round was awesome!  All of these brews were outstanding in their own right and we were very happy beer geeks by the end.  If you tried any of these brews on their own, any of these brews would be impressive.  However that's not what we were trying to accomplish here.  I wanted to know how these brews compared to each other and if they were overhyped.  I'll wrap up all three rounds in a separate post and we'll get to the bottom of this tournament.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Imperial Stout Tournament of Death: Round 2

As I’m sure everyone has been waiting with baited breath here is Round 2.  The stouts are getting bigger and badder with barrel aging added to their arsenals.  I had to make a quick substitution because I forgot to buy a Schlafly Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, so I threw FatCat’s own Bourbon Barrel Zombie Apocalypse into this round.  This is not a shootout and thus not a blind tasting. We sampled each beer and ranked them in the order we preferred drinking them. I invited some FatCat veterans over and we got through round 2 of the tournament. Here are the results.

FatCat’s Ranking:
Bourbon Barrel Zombie Apocalypse #1
Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS #2
Goose Island Big John #3
The Dogfather Barrel Aged #4

Super Dave’s Ranking:
Bourbon Barrel Zombie Apocalypse #1
Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS #2
The Dogfather Barrel Aged #3
Goose Island Big John #4

Greg’s Ranking:
Bourbon Barrel Zombie Apocalypse #1
Goose Island Big John #2
Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS #3
The Dogfather Barrel Aged #4

The Winner:  Bourbon Barrel Zombie Apocalypse
FatCat’s brew reigned supreme in this round.  This was my first attempt at “barrel aging” anything.  I used some toasted oak chips and soaked them in Elijah Craig bourbon.  I aged some of my Zombie Apocalypse on the oak chips for about two months and then bottled.  The outcome is a bourbon laced imperial spin kick in the face.  The nose has the same molasses character as the regular version except this version sports a beautiful bourbon aroma.  The brew has a decently thick mouthfeel of which I would like a bit thicker.  The taste is a little sweetness followed by a prominent black licorice note.  Intermingled are hints of oak and a slight alcohol burn from the bourbon.  There is also a bit of sour in the middle of the palate giving the impression of some dark fruit flavors.

Second Place:  Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS
This brew was big and sweet.  Usually I’m a fan of “big and sweet” but this one was overly sweet.  This is one of those brews that had the dreaded chocolate milk character.  There was some wood character followed by some fruit tastes in the middle of the palate.  Bourbon character was present but very subtle. 

Third Place:  Goose Island Big John
I previously reviewed this one and got a weird Elmers glue taste.  My internet detective work revealed this weird character was most likely alcohol bitterness from an immature brew.  I stowed this one away for almost a year and pulled it out for the tournament.  First off I will say the weird glue taste is gone so I would venture to say it was alcohol bitterness that caused the initial funny taste.  The second thing I will say is this brew was the odd man out in the competition.  It was the only one not barrel aged but instead was aged on cocoa nibs.  Big John started with a big nose of chocolate and malt sweetness.  The mouthfeel was big and did complement the sweetness of this brew.  The sweetness was balanced by a big coffee bitterness which started to hit you in the middle of the palate.  There was a bit of chocolate on the finish but was fairly subtle. 

Fourth Place:  The Dogfather Barrel Aged
This one was the least favorite of our group.  It had a prominent sour character that the others in this round did not.  Some of us perceived a sourness while others thought the strange character was bitterness.  Whether it was truly a sour character or just a byproduct of bitterness, this was the most bitter of all the stouts.  It was so bitter that Super Dave referred to it as a “Black IPA”.  The sourness/bitterness dominated and was followed by a bit of coffee-like quality.  There was a dark chocolate character in the aftertaste.  Overall this was an awkward barrel aged stout.  If you recall my previous review, the regular Dogfather was really weird in the fact it had an overwhelming cherry character to it.  Laughing Dog pulls weird stuff in their brews and the Barrel Aged Dogfather is no exception.

The first round was outstanding, this round not so much.  I was largely disappointed in this round of the tasting.  The bright spot is FatCat’s brew took top honors but the bad thing is I was expecting the other brews to be better.  My homebrew is neither terrible nor award winning but I would expect breweries “special release” imperial stouts to be more exciting than this.  Never fear round 3 will be one for the ages as they say. 

Upcoming Round 3:
Firestone Parabola
Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout
Founder’s CBS
Oak Aged Yeti

I also have a bottle of Goose Island BCBS that may sneak its way into the tournament!

Hope everyone had a safe New Years and look forward to sharing a craft beer filled 2012 with everyone.