5 “Must Drink” Beers Volume 5

Hello again friends!

It has been far to long since my last post, however with the school year in full swing again, and personally being responsible for teaching over a 120 12-year-olds in 7th grade I’m sure you can understand that my free time has been minimal and my stress level through the roof. ¬†That being said, it is time to get some new posts out there, and I have two planned for the next couple days. ¬†Shortly I will be doing an entry on creating a palatable, tasty but very drinkable Pumpkin Ale. ¬†However, first it is time for another edition of “Must Drink” beers. ¬†Even with the school year upon me, I have still made sure to try as many unique beers as possible; in fact perhaps teaching has made me drink more of them!!! ¬†Irregardless, I have some unique brews for you this time around. ¬†As is always the case, check them out and create your own opinion, if you disagree let me know, and I will gladly tell you why I am right and you are wrong. ¬†(Kidding of course!)

Let’s get started…

 

Peated Abraxxxas
Style: Sour Ale (Smoked)
(Freigeist Bierkultur  Zeil (since 2013), Germany 6% ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating:  85   RateBeer Rating: 94

Since my phone died before I could take a photo, this was the best I could find!

Admittedly this beer has confused me a bit. ¬†I had it awhile ago under the name Abraxxxas, and while it was tasty it didn’t blow me away. ¬†I recently found Abraxxxas again under the title “Abraxxxas Peated”. ¬†Since it had been a couple of years since my last experience with this beer I decided to give it a shot, especially with the fact that the word Peated was tagged to it. ¬†This time the brew was a completely different experience. ¬†I have done a bit of research and while, at least to my palate, this seemed like a completely different beer than last time, their doesn’t really seem to be any differentiation between a standard Abraxxxas and a different “peated” version. ¬†That being said I can say that the beer I had recently was much smokier, much more unique, and in my opinion much tastier then the other version I had.

While I have listed this beer as a sour ale, mainly because of its blatant but tasteful lactic sourness, this brew really does integrate a variety of styles into it, including sour ale, rauch, and lichtenhainer. ¬†If you read through one of my more recent posts called “The Return of Lichtenhainer”¬†then you would have learned that this little-known style is a sort-of hybrid of a Berliner Weisse and a rauch. ¬†It maintains the sessionable abv and the tart bite of a Berliner, while incorporating that distinct smoke flavor characteristic of a rauchbier. ¬†Needless to say this beer truly captures the essence of a variety of styles, melding together to create something very unique and flavorful.

Regardless of what style this beer reminds you of, it still packs a giant punch starting with its distinct nose, continuing through the complex and interwoven flavor, and finishing with the unique, lingering and biting finish.

While this beer is very complex, its aroma is somewhat obvious and straightforward.  There is a blatant smokey nose that hits you the second you catch a hint of it.  It is a very balanced smokiness, with very little, if any, bacon-like characteristics.  The smoke is clean, distinct and smooth; and hides any notes of booze whatsoever.  Even though the nose is distinctly smokey, there is a late blowzy almost wine-like note that sneaks in and begins to help faze out the strong smokey scent.

The flavor follows a very similar path compared to the aroma, with the exception being that the characteristic changes occur quite rapidly.  The beer starts off very smokey with a strong malt backbone.  However, just as you think the sweet smokiness is going to continue to linger on the back of your tongue, a sharp tartness takes over, overwhelming and filtering out the smokiness, while replacing it with a slightly fruity and heavily acidic flavor that almost makes you forget that this beer had any rauch-like characteristics.  While both the smoked-flavors and the tartness have their moments being the star of this beer, the two often separated flavors come together just before the long-lasting finish, to provide what I believe is the most unique and memorable moment of this experience.  While both flavors were amazing on their own, together the two create something incredibly unique.  The flavors balance each other out, making their qualities slightly subdued but very recognizable.  In the end, the tart, biting sensation coupled with the campfire-esque flavors of the smoke, truly create a unique beer that is not only worth trying, but worth trying again and again and again.

 

Fluxus (2013)
Style: Porter
(Allagash Brewing Co.  Portland, ME  6.4%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 86   RateBeer Rating: 94

A tasty porter from Allagash!

A tasty porter from Allagash!

 

Heading back to a local New England brewery, this year’s release of Fluxus from Allagash Brewing, is a dark, tasty, and complex porter that combines distinct powerful flavors with a fantastic balance that allows each flavor to play a starring role without allowing anything to become “overwhelming”.

When I first tried this beer I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of flavors in this beer.  Recently, I have found most porters to be somewhat one-dimensional.  A lot of roast, solid body and some chocolate notes and there you have it, a porter.  While there are plenty of solid porters that fit this description, lately I have been on the hunt for something different, something more unique.  Lucky for me I found this guy!

For the most part, the aroma is “pretty buy the books”. ¬†Roasted notes and hints of chocolate dominate, with a slight note of booze and a creaminess factor that indicates the type of body this beer will have. ¬†While the most prominent aromas in this beer are common to most porters, it was the light hint of dark roasted coffee that really got me excited and set the aroma apart. ¬†This sharp bitter coffee note combined with the pleasant aromas of chocolate and roast, create an enticing nose that sets the stage for what’s to come.

The flavor packs a couple other unique surprises. ¬†While the typical roasted and chocolate flavors are present, and the coffee notes from the aroma also make an appearance, it is the unique almost grand marnier-like flavor that cuts through towards the tail end that really surprises the palate. ¬†This creamy, orange-esque flavor adds a depth of flavor to this beer that I generally don’t see. ¬†This unique flavor comes from the use of blood oranges, however because of the beer’s body, the orange flavor morphs into a deep sophisticated liquor-like essence the compliments the other flavors perfectly.

While it is hard to deny that this beer is a porter through and through, the unique coffee and orange liquor-like aspects really push this beer into a whole other realm, creating a unique, balanced and flavorful brew that really makes you appreciate a high-quality porter.

Personal Rating 3.8 out of 5

 

Crooked Line Labyrinth Black Ale
Style: Imperial Porter
(Uinta Brewing Company  Salt Lake City, UT  13.2%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 94  RateBeer Rating: 99

Big and Bold.  Tasty and a punch in the face!

Big and Bold. Tasty and a punch in the face!

 

Have you ever had a beer that you were literally scared to drink? ¬†Now I’ve had plenty of big boozy Imperial beers, many that clock in at well over 13% ABV, however, I must admit this beer intimidated me. ¬†I had this bottle over at my buddy Pat’s house for several weeks before finally working up the courage to pop the cork. ¬†Again it wasn’t necessarily the alcohol content or the style of beer that scared me, granted those things contributed. ¬†However, it was the name of the beer, and the label that made me hesitant. ¬†I mean honestly just the thought of a big 13% Imperial Porter/black ale named labyrinth with a confused looking, cartoon-like person running through a head-spinning maze, suggests an experience that is really going to test a beer drinkers chutzpah. ¬†The good news is that once I finally popped the bottle, and once I finally got over the initial punch to the face, I was fortunate enough to experience a big, boozy, yet flavorful and palatable brew that truly was a unique beer drinking experience.

In my opinion this beer’s aroma is dominated by a big semi-sweet chocolate, almost nesquick-like nose with hints of booze, licorice and a touch of oak. ¬†Surprisingly, for such a “big” beer, the booze is very subdued and blends nicely with the other elements of the aroma. ¬†The oakiness is a nice subtle addition to the big chocolate nose giving it a little depth and helping make the aroma something more than just a 1-dimesional chocolate bomb.

The flavor releases more elements of a porter that weren’t quite as noticeable from the aroma. ¬†On top of the chocolate and oakiness presented in the nose a nice light roast begins to appear. ¬†Personally, I was surprised by the lightness of the roast. ¬†I expected this particular beer to pack a punch when it came to the roasted characteristics. ¬†Instead it blends seamlessly with the other flavors, providing complexity while never becoming overbearing. ¬†Also, while there was a slight licorice nose, the licorice flavor becomes slightly more obvious the more you drink, bringing back shades of the old Dark Star Porter from DFH. ¬†The huge syrupy body of this beer also helps control the booziness factor throughout the flavor. ¬†While you can clearly tell you aren’t drinking a session beer, the body along with the other amazing characteristics, really do a great job of hiding just how much alcohol is really in this beer. ¬†That being said, there is an enjoyable amount of booziness in the flavor that does help bring this beer to life. ¬†Finally, the oak along with the beers vinous characteristics, leave this beer finishing fairly dry, surprising considering how syrupy and full-bodied the beer was to begin with.

Labyrinth is a surprisingly complex and well thought-out beer. ¬†Too often these “big” beers end up being a bunch of flavors mixed together to mask an absurd amount of alcohol. ¬†However, Labyrinth is anything but this; instead it is a well constructed beer that uses specific flavors and combinations to create a complex palatable beer, while still knocking you on your ass. ¬†I can’t say I’ll be drinking a labyrinth on a daily basis, but this is certainly the type of beer I would keep in my beer fridge for those cold winter nights or for a special occasion.

Personal Rating 3.9 out of 5

 

Norm Chocolate Coconut Stout
Style: Sweet Stout
(Wormtown Brewing Co.  Worcester, MA  6.8%)
BeerAdvocate Rating: N/A  RateBeer Rating:  N/A)

I don't always like cocunts, but when I do I prefer them in a Norm Chocolate Coconut Stout!

I don’t always like coconuts, but when I do I prefer them in a Norm Chocolate Coconut Stout!


Perhaps it is the fact that the weather is starting to get the fall-like chill, and I realize the warm weather is disappearing for the year, but I’m noticing a trend in this particular edition of “Must Drink Beers”, that dark brews are dominating. ¬†Here is the 3rd dark beer in a row and this time I am throwing a shout-out to my buddy Ben Roesch over at Wormtown Brewing Co. ¬†Ben makes some really solid beer, but I think I can safely say that this has been my favorite of the bunch. ¬†More often then not I hate coconuts. ¬†I certainly hate them raw, or on desserts (granted I don’t really like desserts in general) and while I have had them in a few different beers, the addition of coconut has never really blown me away. ¬†That is, with the exception of this delicate beauty.

I call this beer delicate because it contains a ton of different flavors, yet they have all been used in such good balance that they meld together to create something flavorful and surprisingly easy to drink.¬†¬† The beer is creamy with plenty of body and drinks like a session beer, even with an ABV that nearly hints 7%.¬† The nose exudes roasted notes with a pleasant milk chocolate aroma.¬† Smooth earthy notes also make an appearance yet they stay hidden enough where they don’t challenge the stout like aroma too much.¬† The flavor is equally as complex as the nose, yet showcases a completely unique set of traits, very different from the nose.¬† While the beer maintains its stout sensibility, and there is plenty of chocolate and roasted flavors, the beer is elevated by the unique creamy-earthiness that comes from the hops and the roasted coconut.¬† As someone who really doesn’t care for coconut, it excites me that this beer uses the roasted coconut in such a smart and subtle way.¬† While you can still tell that coconut is in the beer, it is simply a component not a focal point.¬† I haven’t been able to find this beer in awhile, but if you ever come across it, I suggest you pick it up.¬† While there are a lot of coconut stouts and porters out there, I haven’t found one that melds flavor and has such depth as this particular offering from Wormtown Brewing Co.

 

Lou Pepe 2010
Style: Lambic/Framboise
(Brasserie Cantillon
Anderlecht, Belgium  5%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 99  RateBeer Rating:
100

Enjoying Lou Pepe during Zwanze Day!

Enjoying Lou Pepe during Zwanze Day!

It seems appropriate to come back to sours to finish this entry since that is where we started.  I think it is important to understand that you cannot go wrong with anything brewed by Cantillon, however this beer was special and I feel lucky to have gotten to enjoy it.  Obviously every vintage is different, but this 2010 vintage, which is still fairly easy to find with a little bit of effort is unbelievable.

First off, you cannot begin to talk about this beer without acknowledging its appearance.  This beer is just gorgeous!  It pours a vibrant blend of ruby and pink that just shines in the glass like a jewel.  A bright white head appears after pouring, but quickly dissipates, leaving behind no traces of its existence whatsoever.  There is also noticeable carbonation fighting its way to the surface of the beer.  This is without a doubt one of the best looking beers I have ever seen!

The aroma is the one area I took issue with this beer.  I will say however that, especially with an older vintage, there are a lot of outside factors that could effect the aroma.  The aroma was still pleasant, highlighted mostly by the smell of tart raspberries.  However, there was a slight hint of wet basement that made me want to spend more time drinking the beer, rather then smelling it.

Even with the minor snafu in the aroma, this beer is far to tasty not to find a deep appreciation for it.  The flavor is balanced perfectly, without the flavor of tart raspberries taking over your palate from the first sip.  While the flavor does highlight these tart berries, the sour punch is somewhat muffled early on in the flavor.  However, as the beer sits in your mouth, you are quickly hit by a puckering sourness that is incredibly flavorful and very upfront.  Sometimes beers that are high on the sourness level can become a bit overwhelming, and while this beer is very sour, the raspberry flavor as well as the hints of oak restrain the sourness just enough to keep the beer balanced.   There were minor notes of vinegar adding depth to the flavor of this beer and the previously mentioned oak really helped round out this flavor bomb.

Overall, this was a special beer.  From its initial appearance, all the way to the aftertaste of the final sip, your taste buds are constantly being hit by an amazing assortment of flavors.  This 2010 vintage of Lou Pepe from Cantillon truly is one of the best beers I have had the opportunity to drink!
Personal Score: 4.8 out of 5

I know it took awhile, but there you have it!  Another release of 5 beers I think everybody should have the opportunity to try.  Thanks for reading and as always happy drinking!!

 

Tags: allagash, beer, cantillon, fluxus, framboise, freigeist, high abv, labyrinth, lou pepe, sour beer, uinta brewing

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