Beer Review: Listermann’s Cincinnatus

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!

Boozing on a Budget: Evan Williams 1783

Boozing on a Budget: Evan Williams 1783

I don’t always drink spirits, but when I do, I prefer bourbon. Not that I’m the Most Interesting Man in the World (or probably even part of the top quintile of the Most Interesting) or anything. 

In addition to being not-overly-interesting, I happen to be not-overly-cash-endowed. Because of this, I like bargains. And in the world of bourbon, there is not better deal than Evan Williams 1783. At $11 or so a bottle, this, in many people’s minds, would dip into the infamous “Bottom Shelf” designation. Luckily for you and your wallet (or purse, of course), this price has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of 1783, which drinks like something twice it’s price.

I’m not a bourbon connoisseur, but I’ve got to the point where I can appreciate a bourbon that can be enjoyed without a mixer – or even without much more than an ice cube or a splash of water. Evan Williams, a ten year old small batch offering, drinks smooth as silk (perhaps even a tad too smooth, entering “soft” territory) without the need for any ice or even a drop of water. It’s not the most complex bourbon out there, but it has a pleasant caramel sweetness, a hint of citrus, and a decent amount of oakiness. The best part about it is that it lacks the characteristic harshness and burn of most cheap, young spirits.

Is Evan Williams the best bourbon I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking? Obviously not. I wouldn’t expect that from a $10, or even $20, bottle. It is however, in my modest opinion, better than pretty much anything in it’s price range and is more than acceptable for everyday drinking – whether you like yours neat or cocktailed up. This is definitely will be in constant rotation at my house. Two thumbs up for Evan Williams 1783 from this moderately interesting guy.

For much more thorough and informed reviews than the one above, check out Evan Williams 1783’s Bourbon Enthusiast review page.

Beer Review: Boon Oude Kriek Mariage Parfait (2008)

2008 Boon Oude Kriek Mariage Parfait

During my last trip to Party Source, I was lucky enough to find a 2008 bottle of this amazing Kriek. Not only does it look pretty cool, but the taste is up there with some of the best (and much more expensive) sours that I’ve been lucky enough to try in the past. This is not a fruit lambic like Liefmans and other sweet offerings: the tartness of the cherries is matched is matched by the mouth-puckering base beer.

Like other lambics, this one isn’t cheap ($8.99 for a 375ml bottle), but you’re paying for a delicious beer that has been cellared 3+ years for you. Sometime you just have to pay for convenience.

Beer Review: Flying Dog Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout

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.