I took the parents a sampling of my home brew. Due to recent restrictions on liquid that are annoying travelers and padding Proctor and Gamble's wallet, I had to check the bag containing the beer. I didn't lose any soldiers in transit, no broken bottles. Some leaks, but my sloppy capping is to blame rather than the haphazard handling by the "throwers". I used this same dedicated "beer bag" to bring back some brews purchased in Tampa. I am happy to report that these also made it safely back and I will be reviewing said brews periodically in the coming weeks.
- The Beer: Olde School Barley Wine
The Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery of Milton, Deleware
Barley Wine (Winter Seasonal)ABV: 15%Brewer's Description: Inspired by a tale of a cask doctor who brought sluggish ales back to life by suspending a fig in them. Brewed from 100% Maris Otter pale ale malt, a blend of fine hops and conditioned on dates and figs. User Instructions: open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. ALTERNATIVELY: Walk hand-in-neck with bottle into the middle of the woods. Use shovel to dig 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal bottle in plastic bag. Place in hole and pack with dirt. Memorize location and leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open and enjoy
Color: Deep amber with a light haze, head is almost non-existent
Aroma: ethanol and extra sweet fruit syrup smells dominate the nose
Taste/Mouthfeel: Thick and syrupy. Beer starts off sickenly sweet, I thought I was not going to be able to finish this initially. Other flavors make vaguely noticeable guest appearances. Perhaps some apricot and/or mango nectars. Hot alcohol notes are present throughout.
Finish: Some citrusy hop bitterness appears in the finish, but it is largely muted by the avalanche of over-bearing malty sweetness anf fusel alcohol notes. The sweetness is so thick that I would almost describe it as "slimey". It coats your palate with a film of syrup.
Notes: I enjoy most of DFH's beers (as a brewery, they are one of my most admired) and barley wines are my latest obsession in the beer world. Naturally, I thought this would be a perfect match. I respect what they are trying to accomplish here, but this beer is entirely too sweet and generally "boozy" for me to enjoy (even as sipping beer). This sugar-fed jet fuel is worth a try if you're a die-hard barley wine fan, otherwise I would suggest skipping this beast. I suspect that a year or two of aging would temper the alcoholic notes, but I see the sweetness getting stronger as the hop compounds degenerate over time. Sam, if you're listening, please bring an aged sample to the Great American Beer Festival next year for further analysis.
- The Beer: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
The Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico, California
The Style: India Pale Ale (Winter Seasonal)
Brewer's Description: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale represents a time honored tradition of brewing a special beer for the holiday season. There are generous portions of barley malts and fine whole hops of several varieties, creating a brew with a full, rich and hearty character.
Color: Pours a ruby red with orange highlights, fluffy white head with lingering lacy suds on the glass.
Aroma: Punchy grapefruit, some pines
Taste/Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation that tingles the palate with grapefruit, citrusy bitterness. Bitterness gives way to some caramel sweetness but the emphasis is all on the hops.
Finish: Dry, bitter, clean, and refreshing. Bitterness lingers in the sides of the mouth for almost an hour afterwards. This beer is bittered with Chinook hops and it definitely shows up in the finish.
Notes: Holiday beers are usually contain some combination of spices, more alcohol, and more hops. Sierra Nevada's take is definitely the latter two. This is one of my favorite seasonals. For a beer of this strength and hoppiness it remains incredibly drinkable and refreshing. It's a peppy, bright, lively beer great for spirited conversations (and probably even some playful arguments) during the holiday season.