Posts Tagged ‘stout’

Peace Tree, Day One

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Over the next several days I will be tasting everything I can get my hands on from one of the most exciting new Iowa breweries, Peace Tree Brewing Company in Knoxville. They started making beer barely more than year ago, and hosted their grand opening just last March. However, as I understand it, they now produce as much beer as anyone else in the state.

What has driven this explosive growth? The powerhouse team behind Peace Tree, Megan McKay Ziller, her husband Scott Ziller, and her father Daniel McKay have managed to hit a sweet spot that has enabled their continuous expansion. In my mind it is three specific factors.

First, the beer. No brewery can have any measure of success without consistently producing drinkable and interesting beer. Peace Tree lured brewer Joe Kesteloot from the Cold Spring Brewery to capably tackle that side of things. This and the next few posts will certainly examine Peace Tree’s beers.

Next, the marketing. The label and tap art is unique and interesting but also classy and consistent. The bottled beers come in those squat, round bottles you’d usually see holding a particular Jamaican beer (“hooray, beer!”), which makes them stand out just a little bit more. And above all, the team has done a great job of getting accounts in some important Iowa bars and retailers, making their beer highly available. I’ll talk more about this later.

Lastly, it is authenticity. Peace Tree exudes honesty. The brewery is named for the old stump that today juts out of the reservoir named (questionably) Lake Red Rock. Before the area was flooded, this tree served as a meeting point for Native Americans, and later fur traders.

It is in that vein that tonight I taste two beers that are named for local landmarks. The Red Rambler is an homage to the building the Peace Tree brewery is in, which in a former life was a Nash Rambler dealership. After that I’ll have the Black River Gumbo Stout, named for the rich black gumbo soil of the Des Moines River. This brewery actually has a beer named for dirt.

The Red Rambler pours mostly clear, a beautiful copper to ruby color, with some creamy off-white head. The nose is light but very intriguing. The malt is most prominent, with plenty of melanoidins making toast and caramel notes. In the background lie nut and raisin aromas, with a bit of a fruity hoppiness adding character.

The flavor is very refreshing. The bitterness is immediately apparent – strong, but smooth. Rich malt flavors help bring it in balance, but this beer still leans towards hoppy. Herbal hops combine with bread and toast for a lively and interesting flavor. The body is present, but not full, and the carbonation light and creamy. The malt flavor lingers for a moment, the herbal hops just a moment longer.

The Black River Gumbo Stout is, appropriately, a very dark beer, black to all but the brightest of lights. The ample creamy head is pale bronze color. The aroma is rich with roasted malts. A toasty, woody, even smoky character is offset by a rich and sweet nuttiness. Hazelnuts and walnuts are joined by plums before being overtaken by burnt bread. A deeply mesmerizing aroma.

The flavor is certainly roasty, but much less oppressive than suggested by the aroma, coming off more like coffee and chocolate. Fruity character from the Belgian yeast makes for a lively balance. Thick caramel and roasted malt flavors do battle with the herbal hops and fruity yeast across the surface of your tongue. Eventually the malt wins out, leaving a caramel malt sweetness and roast malt bitterness lingering for a moment, not unlike a good coffee.

+Peace Tree Black River Gumbo Stout

4.0 (4-9-7-4-16)

+Peace Tree Red Rambler

3.7 (3-8-7-4-15)

Thirsty Bear Brewing Co.

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Last week was SF Beer Week. I understand there were a few good events all over town. Unfortunately I left just before it got started.

Also, all month long is the Strong Beer Experience at the Magnolia Pub and the 21st Amendment Brewery. I did stop by the latter for the three drinks I was allowed (it seems like a good idea that they have set that limit) and enjoyed them. It was a bit too crazy in the bar to take good notes, but I know I was a fan of the Imperial Jack, a beer which I understand was guest brewed by the folks at the Elizabeth Street Brewery.

The next night I had a few drinks around the corner at the Thirsty Bear Brewing Company. This certified organic brewpub also serves Spanish food that looked quite tasty, but unfortunately I was not at all hungry by the time I got there. The two vessel brewhouse and six fermentation tanks occupy the place of honor protected by a pane of glass behind the bar. They are situated in a depression in the floor that simultaneously puts the neatest parts of each tank at bar level as well as keeping the dirty operations from the eye of the visitor. They also have flamenco here! (though not the night I visited.)

I had two beers while at Thirsty Bear, a gravity-served stout and the IPA. The Cask Stout was absolutely pitch black, a black hole shade of black. The long-lasting creamy head was a deep ochre hue. First on the nose are light roast notes from the dark malts. This is followed by hazelnuts and nutmeg, and subtle aromas of toast. Overall light, but with an intriguing fruitiness.

Toasted and burnt bread flavors and some smokiness betray the roasted malts, but the smooth creamy palate is much lighter. As it is a cask beer, the carbonation is very mild, allowing the roasty bitterness to become somewhat more astringent.

The bartender recommended the Howard St. IPA, and I can’t refuse a hoppy beer. This one is brilliantly clear, the color a beautiful ruby tinted amber. It has some creamy head and an herbal nose with hints of citrus.

The hoppy bitterness is strongly herbal, bordering on the character of a California common ale, but there isn’t the same long lingering bitterness on the back of the tongue. The herbal hop flavor leans towards minty. The flavor is just a bit green, dirty but not very earthy. It has some body, but is perhaps a bit thin for an IPA.

Thirsty Bear Howard St. IPA

3.5 (4-7-7-3-14)

Thirsty Bear Cask Stout

3.4 (4-7-6-3-14)

Session #30: Beer Ice Cream

Friday, August 7th, 2009

session_logoThe Session is a monthly beer blog carnival. You can read about its origins here. This month (Beer Desserts) is hosted by David Jensen of Beer47. The prompt is located here and the roundup is posted here. David wants to know if beer goes with or in desserts and asks, “What beer desserts have you tried and liked?”2009-08-07-sun-rye

Just days before the prompt was posted my friend Jordan and I spoke about making ice cream. We had discussed several strange and interesting flavor ideas (including chili pepper) but somehow beer had escaped us. Fortunate, then, that this Session topic is beer desserts!

We made four varieties: one with my homebrew altbier, one with Redhook Sun Rye, one with Boulevard Single-Wide IPA, and one with Murphy’s Oatmeal Stout. For the first three we loosely followed a recipe from the Pencil & Spoon, chosen for its simplicity.2009-08-07-jordan The idea here is just to combine the dairy (we used half & half), beer, and sugar and churn. For the Sun Rye and altbier we mixed at a ratio of 6:3:2 half&half to beer to sugar. They both turned out fine but are quite subtle. On the Single-Wide we upped the ante, with almost one-to-one beer to half & half. This turned out to be about the right ratio, yielding a great hoppy flavor.2009-08-07-murphys

For the stout we went with a traditional egg based recipe somewhat like this one at Brian’s Belly. We boiled the half & half and beer while mixing the eggs, sugar, and a bit of cocoa. After tempering the eggs with a bit of the cream we mixed it all, cooked for a bit, then cooled it before churning. The flavor was not all that different from the others but we could tell right away that it was a lot creamier!2009-08-07-eggs

For all of these we used a bit of xantham gum, which acts as a binder as well as preventing the formation of ice crystals.

Every one of these beer ‘screams turned out great, but the Murphy’s and Single-Wide were particularly fantastic. The Murphy’s tastes much like a coffee ice cream, but the bitterness and malt flavor remind you that it’s actually stout. The balance between the sugar and hops in the Single-Wide is ideal, and the floral hop taste is just incredible.

2009-08-07-churnRed Hook Sun Rye Ice Cream
5 cups half & half
20 oz Sun Rye
1/2 cup sugar

Homebrew Altbier Ice Cream
3 cups half & half
12 oz homebrew
1 cup sugar
pinch xantham gum

Single-Wide IPA Ice Cream
3 pints half & half
36 oz Single-Wide
1.5 cups sugar
a few pinches xantham gum

Murphy’s Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups half & half
16 oz Murphy’s
3 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 cup sugar
pinch xantham gum

Sprecher Tasting Notes!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Astute readers may remember that I said I had lost the notes I took on the Sprecher Brewery tour. Well guess what? Cleaning out my disc golf bag I found them! That’s certainly a strange place to put them, but that’s where both of my “lost” pages were squirreled away.

First up, the Mai Bock. This blonde beer has a slight amber tint. There is barely any haze below some creamy white head. The aroma is bright with malty caramel and bready notes. The taste is dry and the body thin, so immediately this seems almost flavorless. Upon inspection you may note the hint of a dirty, earthy hop flavor that reminds me somewhat of the hops in PBR.

Next I tried the IPA², their double India pale ale. This one is a pale caramel amber color and is almost clear. The head is creamy and off white. There is a slightly sweet, delicate floral hop nose that comes through as lilacs and roses. The flavor is rich with earthy hops. On the sides of the tongue a somewhat one-dimensional bitterness disappears quickly, leaving a lingering malty sweetness.

I went on to have the Abbey Triple. This golden yellow beer has some turbidity and some white head. The aroma is exactly that of one of Elvis’s favorite sandwiches, peanut butter and banana. I would hardly believe it transcribing these notes now if I hadn’t written, “No foolin. An Elvis sandwich. Weird.” The flavor is strongly of bananas with a bit of clean malt and clove character coming through. This one has a lot of unfermented sugars remaining giving it an over the top sweetness that turns cloying. I’m not really sure why all these breweries think that you make a Belgian-style tripel with hefeweizen yeast, but this is yet another one. (Brewers: go with Wyeast 1762 or White Labs 500, please!)

Then, at the behest of the brewers, I tried Hop on Top, their new extra pale ale. They were soliciting comments, so presumably this was still in beta, and it showed. Brilliantly clear and the color of straw, this beer has only a hint of white head. The hop aroma is grassy, sharp, and green (the character of fresh, unkilned hops). The first thing I notice on the taste is that the body is pathetically thin and the beer entirely lacks malt flavor. There is a strong grassy hop taste, but this takes on the almost medicinal character of hop extract. Watery and thin, this beer is actually very unpleasant to drink.

To wash that taste out I had their Russian Imperial Stout. It is pitch black with a big pillow of tan head (that doesn’t quite last long enough). The nose is mild, earthy, and dry, with toast and a good amount of coffee. The roasty and robust flavor, strong with coffee (though not overpowering), is almost meaty. A light sweetness and plenty of carbonation activity keep this richly flavored beer from being oppressive. Sprightly, like Chris Farley.

+Sprecher Russian Imperial Stout

3.8 (4-7-8-4-15)

+Sprecher IPA²

3.3 (4-7-6-3-13)

+/-Sprecher Abbey Triple

2.8 (3-7-5-2-11)

+/-Sprecher Mai Bock

2.6 (3-7-4-2-10)

--Sprecher Hop on Top

1.5 (1-5-3-1-5)

Bell’s Expedition Stout

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Bell's Expedition StoutFrom Bell’s Brewery up in Kalamazoo, Michigan I’m having a bottle of the Expedition Stout, their imperial. As I understand it this is basically twice the recipe for their Kalamazoo Stout, so it will be interesting to see how it compares with my rating of that beer.

The Expedition Stout has a pillow of thick, frothy bronze head atop a nearly pitch black beer. Holding it up to the light I see it has a tinge of a deep dark caramel or amber. This beer is richly aromatic, with the smell of dark roast coffee beans and mocha. Just a hint of sweetness on the nose, as dark chocolate. A sweet alcoholic complexity as well, like brandy. Just a bit of raisiny fruit.

The taste is rich, full and sweet, but neither cloying nor overpowering. Plenty of dark chocolate and caramel flavor, with a background of well-done toast. As it sits on the tongue the alcohol comes out just a bit: delicately hinting at strength, like brandy. The caramel recedes and in its place is strong black coffee, a dark South American roast. Remarkably thick, this stout is somehow still playful.

More action every time I set down the glass, the Expedition leaves a strong lacing. Wow this is good. I wish my roommate hadn’t just lit that cigarette, but it pretty much overpowers the smell drifting in my door anyway.

++Bell’s Expedition Stout

4.3 (5-8-9-4-17)

DarkLord Day!

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

edit – Well somehow I missed that DLD has branched off to its own website, So the Internet confirms that it was this past weekend.

2009-04-25-meThe last Saturday in April is traditionally known as DarkLord Day. This is because the release date for and all sales of DarkLord occur on this day. I was informed that TODAY is the last Saturday in April, so I have to assume that today is DarkLord Day, though you’d never know by visiting the Three Floyds Brewery website – it hasn’t been updated in over a year. Well, as I couldn’t make it to Munster, I decided to open up a bottle of last year’s vintage.

DarkLord is a Russian imperial stout. This style classification does for stout what imperial IPA does for India pale ale: turns it up to eleven. More properly, it did for stout what India pale ale did for pale ale: gave the beer the legs needed to handle a long voyage out of England, this time to the court of Catherine the Great. As with all historically bigger styles craft brewers have taken it to an extreme. DarkLord, for instance, is around 13 percent alcohol, though you’d hardly notice it for all the flavor they have packed in there.

A big beer like this you must treat as you would a bottle of fine wine. Don’t drink it cold as you will lose all the flavor. Slightly chilled is best, at what we call ‘cellar temperature’. Pour yourself a snifter then give it a few minutes to breathe. Swirl it and appreciate the coating the beer leaves on the glass.

2009-04-25-lordDarkLord is nearly pitch black. Only a bit of caramel brown is visible around the few bubbles. The hint of sienna head that forms when pouring quickly dissipates. While carbonated, it is not too effervescent and the syrupy thickness does not abide head. The nose is rich with roast malt character: dark Columbian coffee is most prominent, mixing with the aroma of bitter chocolate, toffee, caramel, as well as a fruitiness of prunes and raisins. A beer like this I could sit here and smell all day. It’s been about a half hour so far and I’ve yet to take a sip. But in the name of journalism I must proceed.

As always my first reaction is surprise at how mild it is despite intense flavor. That’s the paradox of the DarkLord: full of woe and fury but never releasing too much at any one time.

The flavor as well is dominated by the roast malt. Coffee stands out at first, accompanied by chocolate, milk, dark, and bitter. The fruit note is perhaps more clear on the taste, with raisins, dates, prunes, and black caps. The Lord is a fountain of flavor: caramel, toast, toffee, vanilla, coffee, roast, maybe even a hint of bourbon (though I know there’s none in there). One thing melds into another on this diabolical ride.

Very thick and somewhat sweet, yet light-years from cloying. This beer is simply fantastic.

++Three Floyds DarkLord 2008

4.4 (4-9-8-5-18)

(P.S. if you were at DarkLord Day and have an extra bottle I will trade for one of last year’s and/or homebrew)

Millstream Beer and Chocolate Tasting

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Millstream Beer and Chocolate PairingYesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Beer and Chocolate Tasting put on by Millstream Brewing Company. This event paired chocolates from the Chocolate Haus in Amana with eight radical one-off beers. Six of them were brewed by Millstream brewer Bill Heinrich, with one offering from Millstream’s sales guy Dan Carpenter as well as a coffee porter brewed by head brewer Chris Priebe. The event was coordinated by Nick Snavely. Tickets sold out over a week ahead of time and the place was packed the whole time. The impression I got from people is that everyone was very impressed with the beers, and the chocolate pairings were quite fun. I took tasting notes but forgot to write down process information so let’s see what I can remember.

The first beer I had was the Czech Pilsner. Made with loads of Czech Saaz hops, this one is a well executed Bohemian style pilsner. It’s a crystal clear straw with some white head. The hop aroma is very grassy and earthy, and behind it I notice just a bit of a corniness. The flavor is massively grassy, with a lingering bitterness on the middle of my tongue. It is deep, earthy, and herbal. There is a hint of sweetness, perhaps some dimethyl sulfide.

The pils was the only beer that seriously follows any style conventions. Most of them have a Belgian character; Belgian styles are pretty loosely defined as it is. Bill was not afraid to take liberties to ensure the brews were interesting, further complicating things. Many of the beers were made with a strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast, which develops different characteristics depending on how it is used. Most of these were fermented with usual brewing yeast Saccaromyces and then aged on the Brett, giving a berry-like fruity flavor and aroma as well as a noticeable funk.

Next up the Saisonnier Gran Cru. This was actually fermented with Brett only, except for a shot of ale yeast to help it along when it was being sluggish. When Brettanomyces is used for primary fermentation, it tends to behave alot more like the normal Saccaromyces. It does dry the beer out a little more, leaving a dry, dusty flavor accented by the funkiness.

The Saisonnier pours a milky straw color, with some creamy off-white head. The aroma is delicate and elusive, featuring light fruit (raspberries) as well as some funk (wet pavement?). The taste is dry, with a somewhat zoological funkiness. A bit of malt flavor breaks through. Despite being so dry there is a bit of a cloying sensation, as well as a lingering bitterness. The nose is fantastic but the flavor doesn’t quite match up.

The sign describing the beer officially named Dan’s Barleywine had a telltale note on the back. The reminder to the server read “Dan’s Awesomeness”, and that’s not too far off. Blended from two-year and three-year batches, the barleywine poured a deep dark sienna, lightly hazy, with persistent creamy head. It also leaves a little reminder on the inside of the glass. The rich, round aroma is a treat: chocolate caramels (so good), coffee, and hazelnuts. Despite the intensity of the aroma and alcohol, the flavor is light and balanced. Major coffee flavor dominates, with a roast and caramel malt character that reminds me of burnt cookies. Both malty and pleasantly bitter, “Awesomeness” is thick and coats your mouth. Do yourself a favor and ask Dan for a bottle.

Moving on to the Belgian-Style Tripel. This golden ale was made with the strain of yeast normally reserved for Bavarian hefes: generator of strong banana esters and clove phenols. This gives the Tripel a serious banana aroma, somewhat sweet, with hints of clove and black pepper. There is barely a tinge informing you of the level of alcohol. The flavor is very malty, with a big bready, biscuity taste. It is somewhat sweet with a rich, round alcohol warming sensation. Noticeable as well are banana and clove flavors. The thick coating feeling probably derives from the fact that this tripel is not as carbonated as many. Despite the use of wheat and Bavarian weizen yeast, this beer is most definitely a tripel, and a well executed one at that.

The Belgian Quad is a good example of the use of Brett to age. It is a cloudy deep dark brown with some tan head. The aroma is lightly sweet and strongly fruity of raspberries and mango, with just a bit of banana. The flavor is strongly alcoholic: somewhat sharp, almost medicinal berries. There is a bit of lingering bitterness and a thick, cloying sensation. A somewhat similar beer, the Wheat Wine is a cloudy unearthly red with almost no head. The aroma is lightly fruity, with a bit of wood and funk; the flavor roughly alcoholic, with some berries. A strong bitterness is simple and harsh.

Head brewer Chris Priebe brewed up a batch of Sumatra English Porter with real Sumatra coffee. It pours somewhat clear, a dark russet wtih some cheesy off-white head. The aroma is very light, with only a bit of roast malt and some caramel. The flavor is dry and roasty, with a strong rich roast coffee presence that lasts. Hint of an earthy hop flavor balance, and a coffee astringency lingers a bit.

By far the most impressive beer available was the so-called Wheat Stout. I can’t say enough good things about this beer. Made with Templeton Rye whiskey and plenty of roast and wheat malts and fermented with weizen yeast, this beer is simply impressive.

First off it is utterly black. There is just a hint of a creamy copper head. The nose is rich and playful, with a roast aroma that tickles the nose. The whiskey comes through quite well: malt, rye, and some notes of alcohols. There is also a serious banana and clove character. A taste is heaven. It is all too easy to overdo it on a whiskey addition, ruining the beer. Here the Templeton is perfectly balanced with the other flavors. The roast comes through first, followed quickly by the rye. There is a bit of astringent bitterness. This beer is thick and chewy. It is delicious. A tour de force.

++Millstream Wheat Stout

4.4 (5-9-8-4-18)

+Millstream Czech Pilsner

3.3 (3-6-7-4-13)

+Millstream Saisonnier Gran Cru

3.5 (4-8-6-3-14)

+Millstream Dan’s Barleywine

4.0 (4-9-7-4-16)

+Millstream Belgian-Style Tripel

3.5 (4-7-7-3-14)

+/-Millstream Belgian Quadrupel

3.1 (3-8-5-3-12)

+/-Millstream Wheat Wine

2.5 (2-6-4-3-10)

+/-Millstream Sumatra English Porter

3.0 (3-5-7-3-12)

Chicory Stout

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Dogfish Head Chicory StoutFrom the ever-interesting Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware I have a bottle of Chicory Stout. This is rich dark stout made with roasted chicory as well as organic coffee from Mexico. Roasted chicory has a history of use, especially in Europe, as a coffee substitute. The interesting ingredients don’t end there, though. Sam decided to throw in St. John’s wort, licorice root, and oatmeal to make a robust and chewy brew. Let’s see how it is.

The bottle proclaims “Goodness beneath a bone white head.” I would say the head is much darker, but who is going to call them on that? It’s creamy and it lasts on top of the almost pitch black reddish stout. The nose is strongly roasty. Coffee and roast malt are prominent, but a dry, somewhat woody roast character is present as well. I am unfamiliar with that aroma, so I’ll attribute it to the chicory. The nose is subtle, with just a bit of caramel sweetness.

The flavor is rich, roasty, and robust. Dark coffee flavors mix with a playful bitterness that reminds me of tonic water. Some chocolate is hiding in there as well, a dark baking chocolate. An earthy, almost peppery hop character is noticable. The roast is strong and lingers, not too harsh, just in perfect balance. The creaminess helps there, with a full palate that is never cloying.

+Dogfish Head Chicory Stout

4.0 (4-7-8-5-16)

Stout Week: A Couple Oatmeal Stouts

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Nothing could have rounded out stout week like the wet snowfall that has blanketed Iowa today. To wrap up the beer ratings I am trying two oatmeal stouts. Rolled oats are used to add body to beer, giving oatmeal stout a viscous palate often described as chewy. They also add proteins that are helpful to head retention, so these beers tend to have a thick moussey head.

The first example I have is a local one, Hub City Oatmeal Stout. Hub City’s beers tend towards the lower end of the carbonation spectrum, falling closer to real ale than many microbrews. Despite the lack of effervescence this beer pours a creamy fallow-colored head. The beer itself is a hazy auburn. I smell some roast malt but it is overpowered by brown malt aromas: mainly biscuits and caramel. There is a pronounced yeast fruitiness as well.

The flavor is quite similar to Guinness Draught: relatively mild, with some roast character and a strong astringent bitterness. The fruity notes (berries and mangoes) promised by the aroma come through as well, rounding out the flavor. The palate is much too thin for an oatmeal stout, and is bordering on cloying.

The second oatmeal stout I’m trying is The Celebrated Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. The brewery this beer is produced in draws water from a 1758 well. The beer is fermented in what are called “Yorkshire Squares”, square-shaped fermentation vessels built from large slabs of local slate. Oatmeal stout had fallen extinct when Michael Jackson wrote about it in 1977, inspiring the founder of Merchant du Vin importers, Charles Finkel, to commission Sam Smith to resurrect the style. So (if you want to provoke a fight) you could say this is the original oatmeal stout.

This beer pours a near-black with notes of sienna and a fair tan head. The nose is strongly fruity with faint hints of roast and black malt. A cidery, almost vinous flavor greets you at first, with the roast malt and coffee flavor not far behind. The whole tastes almost of cotton candy. Some lingering sweetness helps that impression. While somewhat chewy, I would prefer if it were marginally thicker. Then again, if I had my way you’d have to floss after having an oatmeal stout.

Next time I do a stout week I’m getting a bottle of Lion.

+Hub City Oatmeal Stout

RateBeer: 3.2 (3-8-6-2-13)

+Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout

RateBeer: 3.5 (3-7-7-4-14)

Stout Week: Bourbon County Vertical

Friday, November 28th, 2008

This evening, after the family Thanksgiving celebration, Matt and I had a mini vertical tasting. This is when you open several vintages of the same beer and compare. We are both fans of the special reserve beers from Goose Island, so we’ve got a few still around from last year. Perhaps at some point we can do a vertical with Matt’s Matildas.

Tonight we had a 2007 and a 2008 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. This is a serious imperial stout, probably weighing in around 10 or 11 percent alcohol, before it is aged in bourbon casks for several months, bumping it up to 13%. The story goes that every year when this one is bottled the Goose Island top brass comes around to the packaging line to ensure they get their cases.

Bourbon County pours a thick hazelnut black with no head, just a few stray bubbles. Make sure you drink this out of a thin, clear, ideally stemmed glass, as it will reward you with an enchanting copper coating. The aroma is sweet and playful, with notes of black licorice, light oak, and some bourbon. The 2008 has a sharp alcoholic nose as well as something that smells like twizzlers. The roast aroma is more prominent in the 2007, which has an overall rounder, more robust nose.

Bourbon and roast malt ride the egg-nog thick wave of this ale. Caramel, licorice, and some anise round out the flavor. The 2008 is again just a bit too boozy. The palate is chewy and sweet but not at all cloying, and somewhat smoother on the 2007.

Overall both vintages seem very similar. Where there are differences I attribute them to the varied fermentation of the beer in each batch rather than to aging. Somewhat more care was taken with the 2007 batch, and whether it was the fermentation or barrel aging, it did not pick up the unpleasant sharpness of its younger brother.

++Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2007

RateBeer: 4.2 (4-9-8-4-17)

+Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2008

RateBeer: 3.9 (4-8-7-4-16)