The week to end all weeks for beer lovers is here. Houston Beer week started off with a BANG on Sunday and continues at a feverish pace the rest of the week. Monday you didn't see me at any beer dinners, instead I headed to the Flying Saucer for a very special beer tasting. Brock Wagner, owner and co-founder of Houston's own Saint Arnold was there to lead a tasting of all 9 Divine Reserves (Flying Saucer also provided some very fine cheeses courtesy of the Houston Dairy Maids). Brock had lots of great stories to go with the beer as we all worked our way through these 9 beers. The oldest of which has almost hit 5 years.
DR 1: The first Divine Reserve and the only one that I didn't get to drink fresh (I did have it about a year and a half ago for the first time). This was bottled on 17 October 2005 and weighed in at 10%. It was made with a 100% Maris Otter malts with Northern Brewer and Cascade hops in the kettle. In an unusual twist it was later dry hopped with the German noble hop Saaz. The beer pours a cloudy amber brownish. The nose is syrupy sweet, malts, toffee. The body if medium, some notes of alcohol up front, the hops have subsided, concentrated flavors, sherry like notes. Bread pudding quality, caramel, treacle. Still a good after dinner drink, but I wonder how much longer this one still has.
DR 2: This is Saint Arnold's 10% Belgian Quadruppel, bottled on 18 July 2006. Brewed in two different batches, with two separate yeasts, a Chimay yeast and then Chico yeast. Right at the end of fermentation and before bottling the two batches were blended together before allowing fermentation to complete. The hops used for this one were Perle, Liberty, and Saaz, and its also the first Saint Arnold beer to use an adjunct, in this case brown sugar). The beer poured a cloudy orangish amber, the nose is full of fruity esters from the yeast, pears, grapes almost a Sauternes quality. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, those same yeasty estery notes, brown sugar, some white fruits, really complex and tasty, I loved this beer fresh and still really enjoyed it.
DR 3: A double IPA weighing in at 10% this one is a winner of the Big Beer Brew Bash and was bottled on 21 September 2006. The pours a clear orange color with notes of syrup, caramel, but not a lot of hops on the nose. However this changes with the firs sip. The beer is sticky with hops, resinous, massive hops on the finish, extremely malty as well, caramel, toffee, some hop oxidation that gives it a sherry like quality, makes this beer taste more like an American Strong Ale than a DIPA.
DR 4: This was the first Divine Reserve that I was able to get in a 6 pack and I loved it. A 8% Wee Heavy that was bottled on 20 February 2007. This is also the only DR that has won a medal bringing home a Gold Medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup. The beer pours a very rich dark brown notes of raisins, figs, concentrated dark fruits and a smokiness are all on the nose. More of the same in the mouth. Dark crystal malts, plums and cherry's are all there as well. Surprised by the smoke, as I don't really remember this one having a lot of smokiness to it.
DR 5: This is the one a lot of folks were looking forward to. A 9% Russian Imperial Stout that has won massive raves and was named one of the top beers of the year in 2007. It was bottled on 28 August of that year and has an interesting story as well. Evidently when the beer was being thrown into the fermenter it was under hopped, so to bring the hop levels back up Saint Arnold ended up using hop oils and hop extract. The beer pours a pitch black and smells of massively roasted black malts, chocolate, coffee, burnt malts. The mouthfeel is still pretty full bodied, Chocolate, darkly roasted coffee beans, some astringency, figs, raisins. After 3 years this one still could go many many more and continue to be amazing.
DR 6: A massively hopped American Barleywine that weighs in at 10%. 225 lbs of 100% Columbus hops were used to create this monster, bottled on 6 April 2008. It pours an almost reddish color, some hops on the nose, but lots of malts, toffee, caramel, some piney notes, sugary sweetness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with pine notes a plenty. Some oxidation here as I got notes of sherry, along with caramel, toffee, treacle, some fruity notes as well. This one is still good and probably has another year or two.
DR 7: This one I expected to like the least due to fact I didn't expect the style to age very well. A 8% Weizenbock this one was bottled on 5 September 2008. The beer pours a light cloudy brownish color. No banana flavors, but there is a spiciness, some cloves and chocolate. Light bodied, with lots of spices and cloves. The harshness that was there fresh is gone and this one is smooth if a little light flavored. It's evolved (or devolved) into a light dunkel weissen.
DR 8: At this point my palate was starting to go so my notes aren't the best. This was a 9% Scotch ale bottled on 20 August 2009. It poured a hazy orange color, still some peat-y qualities on the nose some residual sweetness as well. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and good levels of smokiness still present, grapes, prunes, sweet malts, fruity esters from the yeast. A good beer that I think still has some time.
DR 9: Even though this one is not quite a year old I was extremely excited to see how this Imperial Pumpkin Stout has held up. Bottled on 11 November of last year it is the strongest of the Divine Reserves weighing in at 11%. It pours a dark ruby brown color with a lot of pumpkin still present on the nose. Lots of pumpkin pie spice as well along with a good dose of chocolate and roasted malts. Its a full bodied beer, lots of chocolate, spices, pumpkin. This tastes AMAZINGLY still. Lots of all spice, cinnamon, brown sugar. Really Really good. It was at this point that Brock made the biggest announcement of the night: This Imperial Pumpkin Stout will become a yearly seasonal release starting next year! That is great news for any beer lover.
Overall I was really impressed by how well most of these beers have developed over time. The 5 year old DR1 is still really good. Last night shows that Saint Arnold brews some of the best beer around and that DR series has developed into an amazing line up of beers. Remember that DR 10 an English Barleywine comes out November 1.