They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Relic, Legend, Folly, New vs Old, England vs America

Me and Jeff (@juffage) had another one of our little bottle shares tonight. Jeff, being an American, always has a good supply of bottles from the US that I'm always interested to try. I always have a good supply of aging beers that Jeff's always interested to try. It only makes sense that we get together every now and again to drink some of these beers together, bringing beers from both sides of the pond to join in epic beer geekery.

Jeff brought out the big guns from the states in the form of a Dark Intrigue - a 75cl bottle of Bourbon Barrel aged Imperial Stout (Storm King) from Victory Brewing. As Jeff had never tried these two; I brought a Thomas Hardy's Ale from 2006 and a Harvey's Imperial Extra Double Stout from 2003.

The Thomas Hardy's may have been the strongest of the three (11.7%) but it was the lightest in colour so we decided that should be first. At the moment, TH is not being produced, and Jeff had heard quite a lot of hype about the beer so I thought it was time he saw what all the fuss was about.

Appearance: Thick caramels, Brandy like in observation.
Nose: Huge on the honeycomb, almost like mead. Plenty of booze. Burnt caramels and treacle with lots of apple and orange fruitiness.
Taste: Tonnes of toffee. A small hint of aniseed and plenty of meaty flavour (that word umani or umnie or whatever...) Possible raspberry flavour is mixed with candy sugars and loads of burnt brown sugar sweetness, which is a little cloying. Some whisky and Brandy flavour is there to remind you of the power of this beer.

"It was the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset."

 - you don't see descriptions on beer labels like that these days.... and I especially like the part where it states you should leave the bottle standing "for 48 hours to allow settling" before serving if disturbed.

Next up was the monster from Harveys. A 9% beast with a legendary status amongst beer geeks and CAMRA award givers alike. This was the last corked bottle I have, they're produced with crown caps now, so this last, 2003 vintage, was quite a special deal.

Appearance: Liquid coal, like looking at a block of solid jet.
Nose: Scorched leather, crispy burnt beef, soy sauce and smoked tires.
Taste: On first evaluation it's probably a little oxidized, but it's really not putting us off. The body seems to be thick and chewy but light at the same time. It's like drinking a blend of beef jerky that's been soaked in soy sauce - just incredible! There is a bit of sweetness about it, but it's a very Port-esk beer.

This beer is nothing short of legendary, historic, epic and epically strange. I must insist that anyone who hasn't tried this beer; find it.

Jeff's contribution to the swap was this bottle of the dark stuff from Victory. When he asked me what I'd like to try, I didn't hesitate when I saw this one in the list - Regular Storm King Imperial Stout is a fantastic beer, aging it in Bourbon casks just seems like such a good idea. This 9.1% American powerhouse has quite a bit in common with Harvey's Imperial Stout: I've never tasted a IS like Harvey's before, and I've never tried an IS like Dark Intrigue before.

Appearance: It pours with an interesting looking layered head.
Nose: Smells like a vanilla ice cream and cola float, with s'mores blended in, topped with coconut.
Taste: "candy medicine" was Jeff's first observation. It's a lot like a watered down Bourbon which masks pretty much everything else. Some sickly sweet oaky resin, it's a weird beer indeed. I'm pretty confident this is how the beer is meant to be, and unfortunately it's just a bit of a mess. It's a real shame, as Jeff and I were very exited about this beer, and it took some effort and time to get it here. Unfortunately it just didn't hit the spot..

It's 2 - 0 to Britain I'm afraid...

I said this sounded like a good idea, and it does... Bourbon Barrel Aged Storm King sounds great, but like many things that sound great - sometimes they don't end up how you expected them to. I've had quite a few Bourbon aged beers over the last couple of years, and I've been disapointed more times than I've been impressed - and don't even get me started on rum aged beers! In my opinion, if you're going for barrel aging; stick with the Whisky casks, specifically: Highland casks.

Sometimes New is not better...


  1. I've yet to get hold of the harvey's stuff so need to get on it!

    Had a press release email a few months back that Thomas Hardy is being brewed again, emailed for more details but none were forthcoming.

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  3. I'm quite tired of bourbon aged Imp Stouts, they too often taste all the same. But so far I've loved most of the bourbon aged scotch ale (wee heavy) I've tried. It seems like a more suitable mix and it really brings something more to the beer. I'm pretty sure there is a beer well suited to age in rhum barrel! I think that blending a barrel aged beer with a fresh one is also something that brewers should go for more often. I foresee that the art of blending will become more important for beer in the futur. It is already used a lot for sour beer, and not just in Belgium.