Saints, you're gonna be the death of me. The past few weeks of heart-pounding, show-stopping, hoarse throat, hands shaking, sore calves football is about to put me in the grave. This Sunday was no exception. If I had gotten any closer to the TV, I would have been inside it....
After a big Saturday night, I figure pizza, Zapps potato chips, and an Espresso Stout are JUST what I need to get going again. Having made pints of Guinness for dinner Saturday night instead of food, I am ravenous. So I head over to Stein's deli to pick up some new and unique beers for my challenge. Dan does an amazing job of finding obscure producers, AND his sandwiches are downright delicious. But as I entered, I quickly gave up the possibility of sandwiches (hence, pizza), because the place was PACKED! I lingered, staring longingly at his cold selection, and finally decided on the Hitachino Espresso Stout (wake me up please!) and another Norwegian Imperial Stout. (that Dark Force and Pumpernickel Porter I got from him were amazing) And thank you Dan for being a supporter of my quest.
As gametime approached, I had all my goodies before me like a kid at a birthday party. After inhaling a delectable slice of carmelized onion, gorgonzola, and arugula pizza and countless potato chips, I'm ready for a pick-me-up. In hopes that the Hitachino Espresso Stout would be every bit as delicious as the Nils Oscar Coffee Stout, I opened the bottle with gusto....
Hitachino Espresso Stout: ABV: 7.5% Well....boo. I just don't like it. Now if this is a favorite of yours, I apologize right up front. But flowers in my espresso stout is NOT what I want. And guys, I mean TONS and TONS of flowery aromas. And green pungent herbs too, but it is the floral notes that overwhelm me. And putting it in the Riedel makes that aspect explode. I could smell it from a foot out of the glass. Now if that aroma is coffee or chocolate, yeah!! Too much flower, and it becomes like a overdoused,perfumed Texan lady with big hair and a fake tan. Yikes.
I don't really get much else on the nose unfortunately, and what I really had hoped for was a nice rich, espresso and cocoa aroma, with perhaps some nuttiness for good measure. There certainly are those notes in the palate, with a measurable bitterness on the finish, but it just seems unbalanced and disjointed from aroma to palate. Now, I am all for experimentation and making different styles of a particular brew, but this just seems off the scale. If someone is expecting the beer version of a clean, lean shot of espresso (which I kinda was), this isn't it. This one was TOUGH for me to drink. Had the floral/herb aromas not steamrolled my sensitive little snout, I might have been okay. So word to the wise and nose-conscious, if you plan of drinking this beer, you might want a clothespin near by...
Eel River Raven's Eye Imperial Stout: ABV: 9.5% "While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door." Ahem. I wandered off there....
For my other three libations, I head over to my good friend Stacey's for a delicious dinner and the Pats/Colts game. FYI: Stacey is one of the best non-professional cooks I have ever met. That girl needs to open up a business or something. S0 as the pasta dish bubbles enticingly in the oven, we embark on trying the other beers, while simultaneously chatting it up and staring in bafflement at the TV screen. Good times.
Ok, so this guy is organic. I know what that means in the general sense, and BELIEVE me, I think organic fruit and vegetables taste way better than the standard. And I shuck out the shekels to have them, despite the wee wee weeing of my ceramic cherry piggy bank. But in beer its a little harder to discern, at least as far as this one is concerned. With the Bison Organic Stout, the flavors and aromas were definitely some of the most pure, clean aromas and flavors of any beers so far. The North Coast was definitely interesting with its citrus note, but was that a reflection of organic practices or not?
With the Eel River, there was no discernible advantage that it had over any other beers. In fact, it was difficult to even point out aromas, because the heat on the nose(meaning alcohol) was preventing a good sniffing. This happens in wine, and is most unfortunate, because you miss the personality of the fruit, and in this case any aromas lingering underneath. There are the expected notes, of molasses and dark brown sugar, but that's about it. If the alcohol were balanced, I think there would be a heap of aromas and flavors just waiting to burst out...
Ridgeway Brewing Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout: ABV: 8% And boy is it holidayish (I realize that is probably NOT a word). Just as you would imagine, tons of cinnamon, allspice, and clove dominate the nose. Think mulling spices. We debate about another aroma, trying to pinpoint exactly what it is. The first guess around the campfire was elfin magic (good call Bobby). After deciding that the Keebler elves were out, the next thought was licorice, but it wasn't quite that strong....and we finally decide it is the more delicate anise. (The meeting of Dorks are Us is now in session, I being its proud President). Quite frankly, I am a fan of neither, so it wasn't a smell I was loving, but it definitely falls into that "holiday scents" category. There were even pine, yes like the tree, notes.
There was no real bitterness, but a distinct drying on the palate, much like a dry red wine would do. The label reads, "This brew is as dark as it gets, as black as the lump of coal you'll be getting for Christmas." Not even close folks. Apparently they have not seen what the Norwegians can do.(drink the Dark Force pal, and THEN tell me your beer is as dark as coal. Sheesh) The color was a dark brown, nowhere near approaching black coal, so don't be expecting it guys.
This is definitely a beer for the Thanksgiving/Christmas yuletide Joy to the World time. Drink this with spiced cookies or bread. This is an example of like with like, which is always a safe bet in pairing wine or beer with cuisine. Match the aromas and flavors in the beer with those in food. So, I wouldn't put this with your main course, but rather with dessert or sweet snacks.
Nogne O Imperial Stout: ABV: 9% Calling Norwegian beer #3 to the front. Not QUITE as intense as the Dark Force, but still holding its own in the motor oil category, this beer is my final of the day.
Like the two other Nordic brews, this pours out espresso color with a lingering dark brown head. Intense dark chocolate is by far the most dominate note on the nose and palate, along more subdued aromas of coffee and roasted malt. The latter intensifies as the beer warms. There is a nice bitterness on the finish, with an almost ashy aspect, which shows much more from the bottle than the Riedel.
The most interesting and surprising note to this one is the hop feature. It is such a pleasant and welcoming aroma to the density of the dark chocolate. Unfortunately you ONLY really sense it in the bottle. Once poured into the Riedel or a pint glass, it is lost.
This beer was definitely my favorite of the day. I would pair this with a dark chocolate dessert, such as a lava cake, or even just nibble on squares of either dark or semi-sweet chocolate.....either way you're lovin' it.
P.S. On the label of the beer: "The name Nogne O means "naked island", a poetic term used by Henrik Ibsen (he wrote A Doll's House if you remember that one from high school) to describe any of the countless stark, barren outcroppings that are visible in the rough seas off Norway's southern coast, where the brewery sits." I love to learn from the back of a beer label. Intoxication and education!!