What is the first thing you think of after a long day at work? Is it your spouse? Is it your kids? Or IS IT a delicious cold beer? Well, in my case, without either of the former, I am obviously daydreaming about a beer. And CLEARLY I'm not the only one. Why do you think the slogans "It's Miller Time!", "What time is it? It's beer o'clock!", and "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" are so loved and famous? Because let's be honest, no matter is you're single or have a litter of kids with football practice, piano lessons, and science projects at home to tend to....after work, a good cocktail, whether it's beer, wine, or a shot of whiskey is just what your tired soul ordered.
So, on Saturday afternoon/evening, STILL full from Thursday's gastronomic extravaganza, and Fridays' duck fat fries and pizza, a few stouts and porters was just what I ORDERED. Joining me were Mark and Liz (she brought me the most incredible holiday leftovers! Yeah Oyster Dressing and Black Pepper Biscuits!! amongst so many other delicious things), bringing along a Double IPA for kicks. Or as Mark said, "A palate cleanser!"
Beers 92-95 here we come...
BEER # 95
2004 Carnegie Porter, ABV: 5.5% Carnegie Porter has been made since 1863, and is the oldest registered brand in Sweden. So as you can surmise, the recipe ain't a newbie, folks. This Nordic brew is a vintage ale, 2004 specifically, and is made to age. On the website, they suggest up to 10 years. Well, I don't have 5 more years to sit and tap my fingers, so 1/2 time is going to have to do.
The nose of this Baltic-style porter is rich and sweet, with definite notes of maple syrup and dark caramel. The hop bitterness is all but gone, and the mouthfeel is smooth and balanced. The finish is a bit too sweet for my taste, and I think it needs the bitter aspect that has vanished over the years. I can only imagine that the sweetness will intensify in the next 5 years. That doesn't mean I don't want to try a 10 year or older! I think I would be an interesting tasting, a vertical, of a series of vintage ales including this one. An idea for my future!
Left Hand Black Jack Porter: ABV: 6.4% I was looking forward to trying this beer, after the success of the Milk Stout at Hopjacks. My thought was, "It will probably be a smooth, caramel and tobacco accented beer, easy to drink like the Milk Stout." The name Black Jack makes me think tobacco and whiskey for some reason, so I transferred that over to the beer. Because I think a title should not just be RANDOM, but have some correlation to the beer you're drinking. Right?
Well I am the queen of hearts (love that song Juice Newton!) with my lip stuck out, because I am considerably disappointed with my buddy Jack. There is virtually NOTHING on the nose. And believe my I search, I wait, and I search again. A little hint of pepper and spice (and nothing else nice unfortunately) and that's it. Only AFTER drinking the final beer, the Black Flag Imperial Stout with its surge of hoppiness, and returning, did it seem like a porter, with touches of maple syrup. Before that, it was just a bland brown ale. If I had to summarize in one word, "nondescript" would be my linguistic choice.
Dogfish Head Chicory Stout: ABV: 5.2% I would like to extend a very SPECIAL thanks to Jeremy Bolton, who acquired this beer for me to drink in my challenge. Thank you Jeremy!!
Boy, I was a wee skeptical on this beer because of the chicory aspect. Not nearly as apprehensive as I was about the Bells Kalamazoo with licorice, but a bit anxious that I would not like this beer that had been so kindly gifted to me. You see, chicory is HUGE here in New Orleans. Cafe du Monde, Community Coffee, and French Market Cafe are all known for their chicory coffee. It is definitely a Nawlins' thing. Chicory became useful, dating all the way back to the Civil War, to make coffee rations last longer. With a dry, roasted, bitter aspect, it was as close to coffee as they could get. Now, years later, although coffee is abundant, is a trademark homage back to those harder days. And we all know, New Orleans has had it's LION share of hard knocks.
Most unfortunately, I suppose, I have never been a big fan. I suppose, like licorice, it's either an acquired taste, or from birth, you either love it or hate it. And everyone I know seems to be on one side of the fence or another. But I decided, after my success with Bells the day earlier, there was a good chance I would cross yet another hurdle in my taste oddities....
Nice. Very nice indeed. The chicory comes right to the forefront, with its roasted bark smell. Luckily, it's not overpowering or weighty on the nose, but well integrated into the profile. There is the obvious coffee aspect...and a definite peppered ham/bacon aroma as well. Wasn't expecting that! You know I love meaty aromas!
The mouthfeel is one of a lovely, high quality iced coffee (sans ice), balanced and just the way you like it. The bitterness is almost an afterthought, rather than a sharp exit to the brew. Which was an extra pleasant surprise, because I honestly expected a mouth-drying, super tannic finish from the chicory.
Well done with the chicory Dogfish Head. I thoroughly enjoyed drinking this beer, and can see myself visiting it again. While it's not a chugger (with the chicory notes, one in a sitting is a plenty), it's definitely one you will want to drink more than once. So go buy a sixer, and skip coffee for your next brunch!
Black Flag Imperial Stout: ABV: 11% Well, friends, this was NOT what I expected....HERE'S what I anticipated and would love to write up with a name like Black Flag, and a skull and crossbones on the label: black motor oil pouring out, as black as a marauder's teeth from chewing tobacco all day, tons of dense dark chocolate, molasses,coffee, and tobacco with a big arrrrh! pirate shot of bitterness on the finish. If I was making a beer named Black Flag, THAT'S what I would shoot for. Assault their palate, like a pirate plunders a ship.
Instead, this beer is pretty darn hoppy. And let me say, I love hoppy. I think it gives refreshing and wonderful aromatic notes to a beer. And can brighten up a porter or stout beautifully. Gonzo Imperial Porter is the perfect example. Just not with THIS beer. A hoppy beer just seems to be in direct intellectual conflict with the image put forth by a name like Black Flag. OR, am I missing the whole thing and this is an homage to the punk rock band, which definitely could be described as jolting! Eureka! Probably not....
And another thing, I feel as if I am drinking a different beer than most of the reviews on Beer Advocate. Many speak of dark chocolate (no), coffee (no), and pouring out like motor oil! (not even close. or are we talking about partially used, brown rather than black oil?!) I am confused here. And I am not alone. I had Mark, Liz, and others look, smell, and taste the beer as well, and we were all in firm agreement. This was NOT like the descriptions we read. Hmmm. Perplexed. Befuddled. and Flummoxed, I retire for the evening.
P.S. Let me say that I didn't dislike this beer. I thought it had some very nice aspects with the hoppiness, but if I closed my eyes and blind-tasted this, I would NEVER pick it as an Imperial Stout. Not in a million years. An Imperial Porter, maybe because it has a dark element(eyes still closed here!) that separates it clearly from an IPA.
Also, I am surprised there was no discussion on their website of bottle-conditioning because there was ALOT of sediment in mine (in fact a big chunk on one side of the bottom). Not to mention the beer became increasingly cloudy and yeasty (which I really like sometimes) as you progressed through the bottle. I think this beer has alot of potential...as something other than an Imperial Stout entitled Black Flag....