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.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Franciscan Well Jameson Stout

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2012 | ABV: 7.8% | On The Beer Nut: December 2012

It's getting warmer in the stash. 2017's summer break is not far away, I'd say. At the moment it's pretty much perfect stout temperature up there so I thought I'd tackle one of the big guns: Franciscan Well's Jameson Stout. This was the second large-format stout that Franciscan Well released, following the previous year's Shandon Century, and the first collaboration between the brewery and Irish Distillers. It was also, I think, Franciscan Well's last new beer before the takeover by MolsonCoors was announced in early 2013.

To be honest, I don't think the years have had much effect on this one. It probably needs more than four of them to make any appreciable difference. There's still a beautiful pot-still honey sweetness at the middle of it all, surrounded by subtle dark chocolate, coffee and caramel. The only wear and tear I detect is a pinch of cardboardy oxidation in the finish and a minor savoury tang suggesting that autolysis might be at work. But you really have to look hard to find both of these: for the most part this beer is still doing everything the brewer intended it to do. Which is good.

So, I'm only slightly regretting opening it. On the one hand I'd love to find out what happens to those honey and chocolate notes after another five or six years, but on the other I reckon that the swingtop cap is not keeping the bottle optimally sealed and this could be the start of a downward slide. I guess all that really matters is how much I'm enjoying the contents of the mug in front of me.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Black Damnation II: Mocha Bomb

Origin: Belgium/Netherlands | Date: 2011 | ABV: 12% | On The Beer Nut: September 2011

This imperial stout had me thinking about the role of coffee in beers. When it's used properly it's all about the freshness, giving the sensation of walking into a warm coffeehouse on a cold day. I can't imagine that coffee ages well when used in beer, even particularly robust ones. And Black Damnation II is certainly robust, constructed by blending two imperial stouts from Struise with a whisky-cask-aged one from De Molen, resulting in a 12% ABV masterpiece which I described in 2011 as tasting like an Irish coffee.

Not so much any more. Time has harshened what should be a really smooth experience. I blame the yeast: there's a substantial layer of sludge in the bottom of the small bottle and a definite autolytic twang in the flavour, a beefy Bovril taint upsetting the equilibrium. The coffee is still there but, as I suspected, it has lost its fresh oils and instead tastes burnt and bitter. There's a rusty metallic note as well and I've no idea where that might have come from -- oxidation maybe? -- but it's another bum note in a beer that already has enough of them.

I thought I had this ageing system down: that strong and dark aged beautifully indefinitely, but this is one of the strongest and darkest I've had on here and it's definitely gone to perdition.