Monday, October 17, 2011

Saint Arnold: Divine Reserve 9 Vs. Pumpkinator

Last week, Saint Arnold did something they've never done before, re-release a Divine Reserve (well sorta, but more than that in a minute). Last Thursday, marked the release of a new seasonal, released only in Bombers and on draft of Pumpkinator. It ended up being a lot harder to find than many expected. Most folks thought that Pumpkinator would be no different than any other Saint Arnold's seasonal, but that wasn't the case, as it turned out to be kind of a Divine Reserve type day with folks tweeting about where to find a bottle or two. Folks have been calling this a re-release of Divine Reserve 9, which in a way it is, but it also isn't an entirely correct statement either. Yes both are Imperial Pumpkin stouts, made with lots of pumpkin and spices, but DR9 weighed in at 11%, Pumpkinator weighs in at 9.5%, so there is a difference and abv can affect a lot about a beer. So how different are these beers? I have had DR9 at different stages of its life, read about my thoughts here, and here. However, in honor of Pumpkinator's release, I wanted to know how DR9 was tasting now, about 2 years after its release, so I did a tasting of both beers and here are my thoughts:
Pumpkinator: It pours very dark, with a little taupe colored head. A ton of spices on the nose with just a hint of pumpkin and some roasted malts. Medium bodies, maybe a little light, but not bad. Lots of carbonation which was surprising, very spicy, lots of cinnamon, cloves, and that same hint of pumpkin. Its liquid pumpkin pie. Really spicy, but I don't believe its as harsh as I remember fresh DR9 being. The beer is almost chewy its pie-like qualities. As it warms, it gets really good, some chocolatey coco notes come out that play really well with the pumpkin. There is some boozy notes, but again not nearly as much as DR9. A very good beer.
Divine Reserve 9: It pours a very dark chocolate black with a quarter inch head of taupe colored foam that quickly dissipates into a thin cap around the surface of the beer. The nose is of dark fruits, sweet malts and fruitiness. Some canned pumpkin and just a hint of those pumpkin pie spices. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy, lots of roasted malts, figs, raisins, dark chewy malts. Cake like, I compare it to a chocolate pumpkin fudge brownie. Most of the spices are gone now, but there is still some light alcohol notes, but its not unpleasant. A great beer that has aged wonderfully and has some more years to go.
The Verdict: Two good beers. I think I might like Pumpkinator a little more fresh than I did DR9. There is a smoothness and a roundness that wasn't there on the DR release. However, I also don't think Pumpkinator will age as well as DR9 has. DR9 was so powerful when first released that it needed time, Pumpkinator is good now. Yes it will age and do so very well I think, just not as well as DR9. Both are good beers, and its a step in the right direction for Saint Arnold to start a special seasonal release of bomber beers. The next one to be released will be in the spring and will be a version of Divine Reserve 11, definitely one to look out for.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stone 15th Anniversary Ale

Anniversary ales are becoming more and more popular these days. Each year brewery's release a special beer celebrating their birthday. Even Texas breweries are getting in on the fun, Real Ale released their own 15th Anniversary ale, an Imperial stout earlier this year. Stone, though is different, they've been doing anniversary beers for a long time and were probably ahead of the curve on this one, as they are on many other trends in beer. When I see their anniversary beer, I'm always a little surprised at how relatively young they are. The same age as Real Ale brewing, but younger than Saint Arnold's, Avery, and some others. I guess I've always just thought of Stone as being around much longer.
For Stone's 15th they made what they are calling an Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. Now if your saying, hmmm that sounds familiar, its because it is. They have a black IPA called Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, itself based off of their 11th anniversary beer, and a beer that I enjoyed. So whats the difference?
The Beer: This Black DIPA weighs in at 10.6% far heftier than SSR's 8.7%. It pours a dark rich chocolate brown with a cafe colored head. Hoppy hop hops on the nose. Citrus peel, pith, fruit all of it. Hints of coco and roasted malts struggle to make their voices heard through the din of hops. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, some astringency either from the booze or from the hops. Roasted malts, grapefruit, citrus peel, chocolate malts. Very very resiny, course, harsh. Much more so than SSR. This is not a gentle beer. There is no balance here, its harshness and hops. Warming it helps some as it gets fruitier, but there is still that harshness that distracts from everything else. Its an interesting brew, and I love hops, but give me an SSR any day over this. I'll give it a C.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Boulevard Nommo

I count myself lucky that Texas is one of the states that gets not only Boulevard Brewing's regular line up, but their premium series of Smokestack beers as well. I've been impressed with almost everything they have put out in this series of beers. Their newest Smokestack beer is a dubbel, but of course you know its not just any dubbel. This one has been brewed with Molasses and had spices like coriander, Cinnamon and star anise added as well. That's a lot of things going on, but would it come together harmoniously or fall flat on its face?
The Beer: It weighs in at 8.1% and pours a deep rich garnet color with a thick dense of cafe colored foam. The nose is spicey, I really get some coriander here, maybe some star anise. Fruity esters, banana and cloves from the yeast used. Full bodied, and those same banana and clove esters, coriander. I was expecting this beer to be sweet, but it was surprisingly dry. It tastes of fall to me. Notes of coco, and cinnamon show up as it warms. Rich, flavorful, multiple levels. Spices get you, tickling the back of the throat not unpleasantly. Continuing to warm up allows even more coco flavors to pop out. This is a seriously rich complex beer. The dry finish really works helping to keep the beer from being sweet. This definitely did not fall on its face, it worked and worked well. This gets a B+ from me.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet

Another beer from one of the newer breweries in the Texas Market, this one is an infamous Black Pale Ale. How can something be black and pale at the same time? A question for another day perhaps. This beer as all that are labeled as such are dark heavily hopped beers, this one especially so, weighing in at 80 IBU's.
The Beer: At 7% this is not overly high, nor is it a session ale, somewhere in the middle it pours a dark black with ruby streaks when held up to the light, capped with a taupe colored head of foam. The nose is chocolate, burnt coffee beans, roasted malts, and a whiff of citrus peel on the nose. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, lots of black patent malts here. Burnt malts before being walloped with hops. Citrus pith bitterness abounds on the tongue, but I keep going back to the malts that don't hide behind the hops. There is a chalky quality to it, a burnt malt taste to it as it warms up. This overly roasted quality gives some balance to the hops, however I could do without the chalky taste. This one gets a C+ from me.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

MIkkeller 10

Gypsy brewery Mikkeller is one of the more unique breweries in the world. No real place to call a home they travel around the world (mostly in Europe) brewing at different breweries. They also make some really good beers. One of the neat things they did a year or so ago was create a Single Hop series of beers. 10 different beers brewed exactly the same way with the exception of the hops used. This method allowed one to see the impact hops made on all aspects of a beer. I was lucky enough to try a few of these single hopped beers at a Camp Beer earlier this year. Mikkeller has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other with this beer. They have taken the 10 hops used in their single hop series, and blended them into 1 beer.
The Beer: This American IPA labeled beer weighs in at 6.9% and pours a cloudy orangish copper color with a thick dense head of off white foam. Spicy, citrusy, fruity, earthy nose with a hint of toasted malts. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a good level of carbonation. Resiny, floral, notes of grapefruit and tropical fruits. Marmalade with toasted biscuits comes to mind. Resiny finish. Its an OK beer, but as with the single hop series, I think it highlights why most beers use a blend of hops, and why certain hops blend better with some than others. A mishmash of hops thrown together will be hoppy of course, but many nuances are missing that leaves a good beer feeling muddled. This one gets a B- from me. A good beer worth checking out.