Last month of 2013! I had so many good beers in December, so many. With the exception of Fullsteam’s Igor, I can recommend every single one of these brews.
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Boulevard Brewing Dark Truth Stout – 9.7% – bottle
Pours a dark mahogany with a thick light brown head. The aroma is very malty with notes of toffee, banana and whiskey. The initial taste is vaguely sweet, but that’s quickly overwhelmed by bitter woodiness. Banana esters linger on the tongue as the bitterness fades into burnt oak notes and a lingering finish. It’s a little too burned-tasting for me, but it’s not bad by any stretch.
Bell’s Expedition Stout – 10.5% – bottle
This is a beautifully silky, oaky stout. Bourbon and dark malts in the aroma, and more of the same in the taste. The high gravity lends a nice burn in the finish, but it’s well-balanced by the sweetness and low carbonation. There’s even a good level of piney hoppiness in here. I think this is the best beer I’ve had from Bell’s.
Great Divide Hibernation English-Style Old Ale – 8.7% – bottle
This is one fantastic beer. I bought a six-pack for a party and I only got to have one because people loved it so much. It’s a dark reddish brown, hazy beer with a cream-colored head. The aroma is full of caramel and wood and earth and a little booze. The flavor is chock full of roasty malts and more caramel. It’s very warming, and a wonderful winter beer. I’ll have to get some more very soon.
Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu – 10% – bottle
I loved Midas Touch, the last DH Ancient Ale I tried, so I was excited about this one, which was reconstructed from evidence found in a Neolithic village in China’s Henan province. This beer smells more like champagne than beer, but at the same time WAY better than any champagne I’ve smelled recently, with a touch of yeast. Very sweet, with a mild flavor profile full of grape juice and honey. Its sweetness belies its high alcohol content, so be careful with this one.
Highland Brewing Cold Mountain Winter Ale – 5.8% – bottle
As you can see, I’ve been on kind of a winter beer kick lately, and I’ve found some great ones. Cold Mountain is a little unexpected, but definitely good. It has nice cranberry and spice flavors, but also good malt support and a smooth finish.
Samuel Adams Boston Lager – 4.9% – draft
I’ve often seen Boston Lager as a training wheels beer, a good stepping stone between the adjunct lagers and the wide world of craft beer. Having it again recently, I realize that is a bit cruel, as it’s a really good beer. It can be a little soapy, but it has a good malt/hop balance, and it’s often the best thing on tap at your average chain sports bar.
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA – 9% – bottle
I hesitate to call this beer simple, but that’s really what it is. It’s a fabulous DIPA, very sweet and boozy. I drank it pretty quickly, so I think I’ll try and savor it next time to tease out some more complexity.
Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA – 9.5% – bottle
Oh! I’ve missed Odell so much. I have a close friend who is now sadly living far away in Albuquerque, and he sent me this and a few other Rocky Mountain West beers for Christmas, and he is awesome. Both for this and for many other reasons. Anyway, this beer is dark black, but with a pale head. Like any black IPA worth a damn, Mountain Standard is chock full of coffee and chocolate and oak and hops. It’s basically everything good rolled into a liquid that by some miracle also gets you drunk. The backend is mildly smoky and the finish is slightly astringent. If you are in a state that has Odell beers then smile, friend, for you are one of the lucky ones.
Fullsteam Igor Russian Imperial Stout – 9% – bottle
Ugh. Fullsteam, I still love you, but this is not a good beer. Very strong alcohol flavor, and what I can only call sourness, which I assume was brought to the party by the bourbon barrel wood, though it could be an infected batch, who knows? On top of all that, it’s kind of a weak stout. It’s not up to par with the brewery’s normal offerings, and I’ll think twice before buying another Fullsteam bomber without tasting it first. Nice logo though.
Victory Brewing HopDevil IPA – 6.7% – bottle
Pours amber with a one-finger of cream-colored head that leaves good lacing. Aroma is citrus, a bit of pine, and a good amount of resin. The taste is very malty and resiny on the front end, big pine note in the middle and a sweet, citrusy finish. It’s a really interesting IPA, with more complexity than I think you find in most American IPAs.
Victory Brewing Golden Monkey Tripel – 9.5% – bottle
Pale gold in color, with a thick, foamy white head that leaves moderate lacing. Very yeasty nose, and nicely tangy throughout. Nice effervescence and a clean finish make this a very good tripel that’s also easy to drink.
And the winner is…
Gah, this is a tough one. SO MANY GOOD BEERS this month! I love (almost) all of you, dear beers, but I must choose somehow. How about this, I’ll give two awards, which I’ll call “Most Interesting” and “Favorite Flavor” because I have creativity and nuance when it comes to naming stuff.
Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu! I honestly have never had a beer that tastes so much like wine but is also a great beer, so my hat goes off to you.
Great Divide Hibernation! What can I say, I’m a sucker for those earthy flavors, like I’m sipping from the peat bog just downslope from the Big Rock Candy Mountain. I don’t think that made it into the song. It’s so damn cold here because of the Polar Vortex that I think I need some more of this ASAP.
That’s all folks! Thanks so much for reading, and as always, I appreciate your comments and suggestions. Happy 2014!