A bright blue cloudless sky. Crisp and breezy April air. Sun-dappled stone pathways. The subtle perfume of flowers dancing in the air. Wisteria hanging lazily above our heads. Beer flowing in every direction....Is this the beginning of a fantasy dream scenario?
Something like that. This was the idyllic setting we all joyously found ourselves in this past Sunday at Stone's monumental Oakquinox, where over 100 beers were offered to the 800 high-spirited attendees.
Dr. Bill took on the Herculean task of seeking out beers from all over the world that were all produced with some type of wood treatment, from oak chips to barrel-aging. And not just any barrels folks...We saw brandy, Bourbon (from producers such as Buffalo Trace and Jim Beam), Sherry, wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel, to name a few!) and even aquavit.
Amongst this incredible array of choices, aromas and flavors, our sensory organs were doing gymnastic backflips and becoming blissfully dizzy! It was truly an incredible morning-into day tasting extravaganza. My biggest complaint was that I could not stay and enjoy the rest of the mirth and celebration until sunset....This is why the number of beers reviewed here is abbreviated, as your loyal gal in the field had to go....to work. Yeah.
Here are some of the brews I was able to taste in my whirlwind morning:
Cascade Apricot Ale: Vibrant tree fruit, of guess what...yes, apricot and peach. Good sour tang on the palate. My breakfast beer today, and probably will be again. Would be a great refreshing substitute for for those tired mimosas at Sunday brunch. This is wakeup juice!
Avery Depuceleuse (Zinfandel Barrel Aged Wild Ale): Definite notes of cherry with lots of oak on both the nose and palate. Coming strong off of those Zin barrels. Tried to remember how similar/different this is from the Brabant. I recall more raspberry and red fruit notes on the Brabant, while this is dominated by oak. There are some fresher fruit notes, which gives this beer an interesting twist and tang...
Green Flash Black Freak: Whoa. Heavy bourbon and port aroma'd nose. A rich full mouthfeel of whiskey, dark fruit, and molasses. This one makes you sit back in your chair. Not exactly a morning beer, but would be lusciously decadent after a big meal.
BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Flanders Red: One of the most pleasant surprises of the day. Delicate floral aromas mingled with gentle sour notes on the palate. Still, it packs a bigger mouthfeel punch than expected from the nose! As it warms, brett aromas emerge.
Ballast Point Hout Series Black Currant: Talk about floral notes! And of course, tons of wonderful black currant aroma and flavor. Had this one at Port Brewing's 2010 Belgian Beer Party. Enjoyed it then, enjoyed it now.
Drake's Tropic Thunder: This is a VERY drinkable sour. A session sour, if you will... Tropical aromas of pineapple and mango mingle seamlessly with stone fruits of peach and nectarine. Mild and easy, this a great summer sour or for those gingerly venturing into this incredible category.
Drake's Kuato: Dark, yet delicate fruit notes of fig and both golden and dark raisin. Wonderful fragrance to this beer, almost perfumed, with aspects of toffee with a nuttiness. A great juxtaposition of darkness with sour. The kind of beer I would like to wake up to...
Sierra Nevada Wood Aged Old Ale: Matt from 2GuysDrink nailed it right off the bat...Worty. That, combined with tons of woody aged-plank and bark notes, leave me not so satisfied from this beer. With a somewhat watery finish, I just couldn't get into this brew. Moving on...
Lagunitas Saison: A richer than expected nose of baking bread dough, tart crust, and apricot. The richness doesn't follow through on the palate, but possesses a smooth, easy palate. While this is a fairly good summer Saison, it died out on the palate, and I was left wanting more fullness through the finish.
Triple Rock Keyser Soze (Bourbon Barrel Aged): Nice! Vanilla, molasses, fig, and downright dried fruit darkness. This beer packs a wallop and should be taken in small doses like espresso. After all, you are talking about a beer named after the Prince of Darkness. What did you expect?
The Bruery Melange No. 3: Now that’s what I’m talking about! Delicious aromas of a freshly baked fig tart with spiked creme anglaise or toasted bread with that fantastic Dalmatia fig spread you buy at gourmet shops. This lush beer is one I want to have again. In larger quantities…but choke, choke, it’s 17%, yes you read right, 17% ABV. That’s port status.
Avery Moloch (Blend of The Reverend and Samael's Oak-aged Ale in Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels): Whew. That's a mouthful to say. And believe me, so is the beer. Huge aromas of syrup, dried tree fruit (apricot, peach), and graham cracker lead the way into a sweet palate with definite notes of oak and bourbon from the barrels. None of us knew the ABV on this guy, but with it's components, aromas, and flavors, we were betting in the teens easy. I would sip this like a cognac after dinner. No way I could take this on in quantity! (Turns out it is 13%)
HaandBryggeriet Barrel Aged Porter (Akevitt Barrels): Remember the guys in Norway who consecrate their mash tuns with fire and chant? And made that insane Dark Force Double Imperial Wheat Stout I had for my 100 beers 30 days (Stouts vs. Porters) challenge last fall? CLICK HERE for a trip down that crazy memory lane beer experience. It's pretty damn funny.
This beer is smokey, which I have come to LOVE in certain beers, but turn many other people off, including one of my drinking companions at Oakquinox. That smokiness follows through on the palate, but then...there is something in the finish I don't like. Thus, this beer unfortunately did not fulfill my hopes for it. Shucks.
Russian River Consecration: Oh my dear Lord, I adore this beer. As one fellow beer lover stated, "After a run of experimental beers, it is awesome to return to one of the greatest." And he wasn't kidding. Consecration on tap is one of the most delicious beers out there. I savored every aromatic sniff-sniff and let it roll over my tongue practically in slow-mo. Yumminess at it's zenith.
Alpine Beer Co. Great: One of my favorites of the day. And at a WHOPPING 14% ABV, it's no joke either. Caramel, toffee, baking bread dough, vanilla, and of course, oak and sweet bourbon. Here's the thing...so many beers at this ABV overwhelm you with the alcohol almost to the point of undrinkability. Not here. Remarkably balanced, this is a beer I would definitely want to have again. Well done Alpine!
Unfortunately at this juncture of the day, I have laid down my tasting book to join in the revelry and have no notes for the following amazing beers past the first Firestone. A gigantic THANK YOU to Christian for the Firestone Anniversary Vertical!!
*Firestone 10: Tons of wonderful dried fruit aromas of fig, date, and raisin. Molasses and maple syrup. Wonderful complexity, and the declared favorite of the group. Wonderful.
*Firestone 11: A much milder version of the 10. All the same aspects, just subdued. Thinner through the palate and finish. Quite good, but lacking the complexity of the 10.
*Firestone 12: A return to the richness of the 10, balanced and delicious, and yet could still age a bit more to allow some more of the alcohol to burn off, and let the rest of those wonderful dried fruit and dark aromas to emerge.
*Firestone 13: Still a baby, and full of boozy aromas, this guy begs to be put away and reappear at a later date...
*Cantillon 2006 Kriek: Absolutely one of my favorites of the day. After a run of barrel-aged heavy hitters, this was so incredibly refreshing to my palate, and had me wanting to start anew! Unfortunately, like Cinderella at the ball, the clock chimed and I had to climb into my Honda Civic chariot before I turned into a pumpkin.
Many, many unending thanks to Dr. Bill and Stone Brewing Co. for throwing one of the most AMAZING beer festivals ever! Enjoy the slideshow!