Sunday, 11 February 2018

Eight Degrees Russian Imperial Stout

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2013 | ABV: 9% | On The Beer Nut: December 2013

I'll be interested to find out what happens to it after a year or two of cellaring I wrote about this tropically hoppy imperial stout. Here we are now, after a little over four.

The aroma isn't hoppy but is still fabulous, all strong coffee and treacle sponge. The dark roast is the flavour's main component, and there's a liquorice and tobacco bitterness. Both are very much on the down-low, and whatever fresh hop character there used to be has faded gracefully into the background. I struggled to find any real distinguishing features before I realised that the lack of them is the beer's real strong point.

Often with aged beers you get new flavours emerging, bitterness accentuating, Brett growing stronger, hot phenols and sherry oxidation coming to the fore. This has none of that: it tastes perfectly fresh and is ridiculously smooth and easy to drink. Perhaps it's a little plain for a beer of this style, at this strength, cellared for this long, but it's hard to be unhappy with it. My glass emptied much faster than they usually do for this blog.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Chimay Bleu

Origin: Belgium | Date: 2010 | ABV: 9% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007

One of the genuine oldies of the stash this, brought fresh from Belgium during a time my wife was travelling there for work a lot, and then completely forgotten about. It's a beer I drink a fair amount of from year to year, and always enjoy. A bottle with nearly eight years on it is therefore intriguing. For the record, the good brothers of Scourmont tell me I should have quaffed this before 2015 was out, so around the time this blog started, then.

It didn't gush, exactly, but on opening a plug of foam began leisurely making its way up the short neck to the lip of the bottle. It seemed thin as it poured, crackling in the glass and completely failing to form a head.

There's a sour note to the aroma, a touch of prune or damson in with the normal fruitcake. I was expecting a tangy flavour on foot of that, but no: if anything the fruitcake is concentrated. It's remarkably sweet, like a moist tea brack or even a gooey caramel square. The texture is definitely lighter, resulting in a much quicker and cleaner finish than usual. If it weren't for the busy fizz this would be downright quaffable, like an English old ale, or a glass of tawny port. The sparkle makes it difficult to relax with.

While not madly different from the original, this bottle has been enhanced by the ageing process. Whether it needs more or less time in the bottle I cannot say, but buying a few bottles cheaply the next time you're in a Belgian supermarket and putting them away somewhere would be a shrewd move.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Barrel-Aged Clotworthy Dobbin

Origin: UK | Date: 2012 | ABV: 5% | On The Beer Nut: September 2012

There was a time, up until only a few years ago, when I regarded only two Irish beers as being world class: Wrasslers XXXX stout and Whitewater's ruby porter Clotworthy Dobbin. In its heyday it offered a rich and sumptuous mix of raisin and biscuit, spiked by a surprise green hit of Cascade hops on the finish. I assume it still does, I've not had one in years. A whiskey-aged version arrived in 2012, when such things were almost unknown in Irish brewing. The three years this got in a Cooley barrel before being bottled is still pretty unusual. I liked it at the time, though never intended to leave the second bottle I bought at the RDS so long.

It's been busy over the last five years, and I got lots of froth when I opened it, fading after a moment or two to leave a more appropriate creamy topping. The aroma is a mix of boozy oaky spirit and sour and meaty old-beer smells. It's slightly off-putting. The flavour is better, thankfully. It's clean and tart, lacking the weighty warmth of fresh Clotworthy but replacing it with an interesting blend of farmyard funk and sweetly honeyish Irish whiskey. Where beers like this tend to stick to the palate, this one clears off quickly, more like a Berliner weisse or cider than a barrel-aged porter. A building acetic quality gets a little bit much as the half litre goes along, though fails to spoil the party.

It really is interesting how much this one has changed since it was untransformed 2009 Clotworthy Dobbin. The base beer's dark malts are still there, in ghost form, now thoroughly fused with the whiskey, and then the years in the bottle with whatever complex microfloral battle was taking place have attenuated the whole thing and added the complexity of a Flanders red. One has to imagine that modern sour beer styles have experiments, or rather accidents, like this somewhere at their roots.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Samuel Adams Triple Bock

Origin: USA | Date: 1997 | ABV: 18% | On the Beer Nut: February 2009

The story goes that only three batches of this were ever brewed, in 1994, 1995 and 1997. The year isn't marked on this bottle, which means it's the latest one. Since it was already a vintage edition by the time I first tried it in early 2009 the question here is really what does another nine or so years do to a super-robust beer like this, if anything?

What it did to the cork wasn't pleasant: that came out as a crumbly mush though thankfully didn't require any additional tools. I think the aroma has intensified, still showing the signature umami and chocolate syrup, but there's an extra mushroom funk which I don't recognise. I'm not sure if that's an improvement or not.

The flavour is still bang on, however, with all the same cola nut, coffee essence, dark chocolate and cherry liqueur, finishing on a Pedro Ximinez warmth. If anything, it may actually have improved, the fruit even more luscious and juicy. I remember a soy sauce twang that seems to have evaporated, or been subsumed into everything else, and my nightmare about oxidation has completely failed to be realised.

I've loved this beer from the first time I tasted it at Deveney's in Dundrum. Unless I've lost one somewhere in the bowels of the stash, this was my last bottle. And while I wish I had a few more cases to find out what happens to it in another twenty years, it is genuinely too delicious to keep on a shelf.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Eternalist

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2015 | ABV: 5.5% | On The Beer Nut: November 2015

A slight change of programming on Stash Killer! today. Rather than a beer I simply put away to find out what happens to it, this is one that I didn't think was quite ready for drinking when it first came out. Despite Galway Bay's The Eternalist having spent a full two years already being barrel aged, there was a muddyness that I guessed needed to settle out in the bottle. I hope that a further two years is sufficient to let that happen.

I poured very carefully and got a crystal-clear off-pink glassful, with no head but lots of fizz. There's a certain heavy malt character in the flavour, which immediately differentiates it from a genuine Belgian framboise, but the raspberry is bright and clean on top of this. And it's real raspberry too: slightly tart, slightly sweet, and with the woody quality of raspberry seeds.

The only real problem I have with this is that's it's too close to a real lambic without actually being one. Just a little more sour complexity and a higher attenuation and it would be bang on. Without them it's still very good, and I'm pleased that my theory proved accurate.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Beoir#1

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2014 | ABV: 9% | On The Beer Nut: April 2014

This once-off double IPA is the youngest vintage beer yet featured on Stash Killer!, but it's the last hoppy beer in the stash, and the main thing I've learned from this project is that hop-forward beers don't age as well. That said, I've opened a number of these over the years and have always found it to be good. When the fresh hops faded away they left behind a still-fruity barley wine that has always been enjoyable to drink. Let's see where the end of the line has left us.

I don't remember it being as muddy as it apparently is, though it's still an attractive deep red colour. The aroma still speaks of hops, though it's an aftershave-like musky spice rather than any fruit. Lots of caramel in the flavour, reminding me of the stronger sort of American amber ale. There's an almost port-like grape sweetness and tannin, matched to an alcohol heat, and then a leathery dryness in the finish.

It all still feels coordinated and balanced, almost like it was supposed to turn out like this. There's a luxurious richness to the whole thing; a lovely comforting warmth you can just sink in to. And I doubt if it has in any way disimproved in recent years, so if you're one of the project funders still hanging on to a bottle or two, I'd say it's good for a while yet. And your stash has just become that little bit rarer.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Westvleteren 12

Origin: Belgium | Date: 2012 | ABV: 10.2% | On The Beer Nut: December 2007

This bottle of Westvleteren 12 was not captured in the wild, acquired instead via the brick-shaped six-packs that the brewery released in 2012 as a one-off fund-raising effort. When I got it open I was surprised by the lack of head on my glassful, I don't remember that being a feature of the beer. The flavour is still undimmed, however: it still has all the complexities that made this beer so famous.

So, it's a prune-like bitterness up front, then a Christmas pudding cakey sweetness, replete with citrus peel, sweet juicy raisins and lashings of spiritous booze. Wholesome and clean, yet heavy and a little bit dirty. It's an absolute beaut, but...

I'm really not tasting what four and a half years of cellaring has done to this. There's not even a trace of oxidation, which is kind of the baseline of ageing beer. The subtle fruit notes haven't diminished and there's no extra emphasis on the weighty malt or heady alcohol either. I don't think I've ever had a beer of such high quality cause me to shrug.

If you're still sitting on most of a brick you can leave it alone for now. It's not getting worse but I'm not sure if it's going to get any better either.