So far my excursion into dark beers has been less than stunning especially this week with cans of Guinness Draught and Murphy’s. I expect this beer to radically change all that, at the very least in terms of getting me drunk since this is more than double the ABV of either of those two.
OR (to a lesser degree)
In all seriousness, this is a very, very good beer. In fact, in my opinion, it’s easily the best of their collaboration beers. I was skeptical at first because I’ve never had mint done well in a beer; it’s either overpowering or overpowered. In this case, it hits the mark perfectly, melding with the chocolate and slight roast to create something far more cohesive than would be expected. It’s sweet without being cloying and improves immensely as it warms up; more chocolate, less mint. As a bonus, that 9.6% ABV is virtually undetectable. This is a nice counterpoint in the dessert beer war to Southern Tier’s delicious, yet Diabetes-inducing monsters. Despite my hesitancy on this, Stone et al. has served up a a really great offering. Recommended without any qualifications.
Louisville is reaching a little out of our jurisdiction here at QCD, but I was lucky enough to get ahold of Against the Grain Brewing’s Heine’s Big Bro from a friend, so I figured why not. The weirdly-named Heine’s Big Bro (which I’m tired of typing already and will from now on abbreviate with HBB) is an imperial oatmeal stout with Heine Bros. coffee added.
Some background from Louisville Beer:
Louisville roasted Heine Bros. espresso was hot extracted pre-fermentation, and Mary Catherine’s blend was cold extracted and added post-fermentation to give this beer an aggressive bitterness as well as a delicate yet pronounced coffee flavor and aroma. We started this imperial oatmeal stout with a massive amount of high quality Maris Otter malt and added an array of specialty malts including oats, roasted barley, and very dark caramel munich. Hefty additions of British hops early in the boil make for a powerful bitterness to balance the high malt sweetness. If your soul stays black, even in the sun, this beer is for you.
Yeah, relatively dramatic, I know. Against the Grain is making a name for themselves in the somewhat beer-poor Louisville region for their adventurous takes that depart from the typical styles and the ridiculous names each of them are granted. AtG has a hell of a great location right downtown in Louisville, attached to a sports venue of some kind (didn’t get a chance to go by the last time I was there; just drove past).
All of this means nothing without good beer, though, so what’s the word?
The following are my thoughts from the Founders “tap takeover” at the Moerlein Lager house. I say “tap takeover” since only the All Day & Red’s Rye were on tap, everything else was poured out of bottles. Also these aren’t as in depth as my usual reviews due to the nature of the sampling process and the possible alterations the Moerlein pretzels could have on my palate (by the way, if you haven’t had the pretzels at the lager house you must! They are fantastical).
Lastly before we get to the reviews, if you missed out on the lager house action last night don’t fret. Next Thursday at the Burgers and beer event at the Party Source they’ll have KBS on draft + growler fills. If you’re reading this it’s safe to say you like good beer and so I must enthusiastically tell you to get to the Party Source and try the KBS, I may be there just trying to get a growler fill of it.
When Listermann released Cincinnatus, a bourbon barrel-aged stout, last year, I was ecstatic to try it. Not only do I love bourbon barrel stouts (rather, pretty much bourbon barrel-anything), but a majority of my homebrew purchases had been made at their store. I thought it would be a nice way to try a new local offering and support my local homebrew store at the same time.
The first time I had it was at Olive’s on Ludlow during a Hoperatives Happening. It seemed a little hot, with the base beer overwhelmed by the barrel treatment, but it was not a bad first stab at a tough to brew beer. The next time I swung by Listermann, I picked up a couple bottles to cellar at home. Because I fail at cellaring, I ended up opening one a month or so after purchasing it. It was completely flat. Sad face. I was a tad irritated, but I realized stuff happens, so I chalked it up to a bad bottle. Fast forward a few weeks later: I decided to give it another whirl and open my remaining bottle. Also flat. Double sad face.
By this point, I was more than a tad bit irritated and gave the beer a relatively scathing review on Beer Advocate. Chris from Listermann contacted me on the site and graciously offered me another bottle to re-review. Having moved into our new house and using almost all my free time renovating, I unfortunately never managed to take him up on his offer.
Fast forward even further to December or January. I was at a beer tasting with some friends and someone opened an unlabeled swingtop bottle and poured some for everyone. It was a chocolatey-bourboney (yet balanced), delicious smelling and tasting imperial stout. Imagine my shock when a year or so after being extremely disappointed with older Cincinnatus, that this amazing beer in my glass was the 2011 version of the same beer! My first impression was reinforced by equally-great tasting pours of it at the Cincy Winter Beerfest. I happened to be at The Party Source a couple of weeks ago and came across bottles of the new version on the shelves there (which was a surprise to me since I thought it was only sold at Listermann’s store).
With all of that in mind, Chris, here’s your new review!
Cincinnatus pours motor-oil black with, to my extreme delight, an inch or so of mocha-colored head. Carbonation! The picture above was one of the last I took, by which time it had faded. The smell is very complex, with a good whiff of bourbon, of course, but in a reasonable fashion that doesn’t overwhelm the other notes of coffee, roasted grain, vanilla, brown sugar and oak. So far, so good.
The taste is what really impressed me. The balance of the flavors is not only an improvement on the last batch, but is up there will some of the better barrel-aged beers out there. No flavor overwhelms the others; instead coming at you in waves. The sweetness, vanilla, and oak from the barrel treatment are followed swiftly by the slight bitterness and coffee flavor of the toasted grains. It is finished up with a bit of yeast-iness which I didn’t care for, but really can’t be helped, considering that it is bottle-conditioned with live yeast. Despite being 9.5%, this is a easy-drinking beer, though I advise you to sip on it to let it warm and open up for the full effect.
Overall, this is a stellar beer. The only thing I didn’t care for was the slight yeast flavor, but I’m picking nits at this point. Too often do I pick on Cincinnati breweries for being boring and not reaching beyond the traditional styles. Listermann did reach, though not completely successfully at first. They should be credited not only for making the reach in the first place, but following up on it and making a beer that is not just a great local beer. No, that doesn’t give it enough credit. The 2011 Cincinnatus is a great beer, period. Kudos to Listermann for making a beer which it’s namesake city can be proud of.
Where to buy Cincinnatus 2011: Both Listermann’s store and The Party Source carries bottles. I’m not sure what it costs at Listermann, but they are $7.29 for a 12oz bottle at The Party Source. Pricy – yes – but perfect to buy a couple; one to drink immediately and one to put away for a special occasion.
Edit: Apparently it is also available at Party Town for $6.99 a bottle. Thanks to @sheepNutz for the tip!
A very good, if somewhat underwhelming imperial coffee porter. The coffee flavor is much more subtle than a beer like Founders Breakfast Stout, where the coffee is right up front and somewhat bitter. It’s a tad on the sweet side of balanced, with any roast notes pretty muted. I understand the idea of sweet stouts, but a sweet porter is new to me. Overall, a decent take on a style which isn’t my favorite in the world.
(@BellsBrewery Black Note tapping at @Northsidetav (2/7/12))
Last night I was lucky enough to attend a tremendous event at Northside Tavern put on by Bell’s. Because they sell so much of the brewery’s beer (2nd-most in the city!), they were able to get an awesome lineup of beers. They range from a pain in the butt to get to next to impossible to get, but all of them were either close or above 10% ABV, so I had to pick my battles carefully. Considering that I have only ever had Hopslam and The Oracle, this broke my heart.
What they had:
- Hopslam – Needs no introduction.
- The Oracle – Hopslam’s, less-hyped, more-limited, better-tasting double IPA brother
- Hell Hath No Fury: a Belgian strong dark ale
- Sparking Ale: a Tripel
- Black Note: A blend of Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout, aged in bourbon barrels
I was at the event primarily to try Black Note, and oh boy did it deliver. The beer is rated through the roof on pretty much every beer review site out there and it deserves every amazing review it gets. I am here to tell you that Black Note is the real deal: sweet, yet tempered by a slight roast; substantial barrel characteristics (vanilla, oak) without overwhelming the base beer; a substantial, but not thick mouthfeel with a creaminess lended to it from the Double Cream Stout portion of the base; and at 11% or so, just the slightest touch of alcohol heat. It very well might be the best stout I’ve ever tasted — it certainly is in my top five. If you ever see this anywhere and you pass it up, you would be out of your mind. A great, great beer from Bell’s.
After a pint of Black Note, I switched it up with a half pint of The Oracle, then returned to Black Note for another half pint. I decided 32 ounces of high gravity beer was probably enough for one evening, and walked home, the whole time wondering when the next chance to try such an amazing beer again would pop up. Even now, I still have Black Note on my mind…
(Sorry there are no more pictures of the event. They had set the lighting level to ‘sexy’ and I didn’t have a flash on my phone camera, so the pictures turned out like garbage. Nothing too exciting: a full line of Bell’s taps and a pint of Black Note which deceivingly looks like any other pitch black stout.)