Friday, November 18, 2011

Sampling Session – November 12, 2011

Yet another great sampling session, this time with probably the strongest selection of beers we’ve ever had and the highest overall ratings as well. The majority of the beers were in the abt/quadruple category. These are very strong, tending to around 10% alc, and very malty, fragrant, and fruity. We had a few Belgian strong ales in the mix.

The tasting session was a blind one. Only one participant, who poured the beers in flights of three beers at a time, knew exactly what we were drinking, and he didn’t let on until all of us had rated and described them.

The three highest rated beers were, not surprisingly, from three breweries that pioneered the style: Rochefort, St. Bernardus, and La Trappe.

One disappointment was the Westvleteren 12, a hard-to-find beer, that is regarded as one of the best in the world. Our bottle was around eight years-old and had oxidized too much.

The Achel Extra Bruin, however, held up amazingly well for a six year-old brew.

Chimay Blue would probably have gotten higher ratings, except that it was served alongside the La Trappe Quad and the Achel.

Near the end of the evening, we took it easy with two pale lagers, one from Tibet and the other from India, to accompany a restorative beef stew.


Average Ratings: High-to-Low  (50 points possible – five raters)
46.4     Rochefort Trappistes 10 2008 (Abt/Quad) 11.3%
44        St. Bernardus Abt 12  2008 (Abt/Quad) 10%
41.4     La Trappe Quadrupel  2008-09 (Abt/Quad) 10%
40.6     Achel Extra Bruin  2005 (Abt/Quad) 9.5%
39.4     Westvleteren 12  2003 (Abt/Quad) 10.3%
39        BrewDog Abstrakt AB:01  (Abt/Quad) 10.2%
38.6     Brugse Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel  (Abt/Quad) 11%
38.2     Struise St. Amatus - Oostvleteren 12  2010 (Abt/Quad) 10.5%
37.2     Abbaye des Rocs Grand Cru  (Belgian Strong Ale)  9.5%
37.2     Gouden Carolus Classic  (Belgian Strong Ale) 8.5%
36.4     The Lost Abbey Judgment Day  2009 (Abt/Quad) 10.5%
36        Grimbergen Optimo Bruno  2006 (Abt/Quad) 10%
35.8     La Trappe Quadrupel Oak Aged Batch #1  (Abt/Quad) 10%
34.6     Allagash Four  2009 (Abt/Quad) 10%
34.6     Ommegang Three Philosophers  2007 (Abt/Quad) 9.8%
34.4     Urthel Samaranth  2010 (Abt/Quad) 11.5%
32.8     Weyerbacher Quad  (Abt/Quad) 11.8%
32.4     Chimay Blue  (Belgian Strong Ale)  9%
31.8     Boulevard Sixth Glass Quadrupel  (Abt/Quad) 10.5%
21        Golden Eagle Lager  (Pale Lager) 5%
NR      Tibet Green Barley 10°P  (Pale Lager) 5%

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sampling Session -- October 8, 2011

Another superb sampling session at Lefty’s place in the hills above Kyoto. Twenty-one beers, great early autumn weather, and a party-crashing hornet made it a memorable day.

Two of the more unusual beers were from New Glarus: 1) Raspberry Tart and 2) Wisconsin Belgian Red. I had picked these up on a summer day trip with my daughter from the Twin Cities to a pizza farm in Wisconsin (no, they don’t farm pizzas – but rather make them with fresh ingredients they raise). I found these bottles in a gift shop located in the tiny town of Stockholm, WI (pop. 100) and brought them back to Japan. The Raspberry Tart offered a strong pie-like and jam aroma. It blended sweetness and tartness unlike any beer I’ve ever had. In fact, Lefty commented that it was really not at all like beer. The Wisconsin Belgian Red was redolent of cherry cough drops with touches of menthol, pomegranate, and cinnamon. Lefty found it reminiscent of a Kriek. Again, not quite like a beer, but truly delicious.

Jolly Pumpkin’s beautiful gold Bam Bière saison - 4.5%) was refreshing and and complex. Funky with a Brett yeast character and a dusty lemony aroma. It held subtle citrus and herbal grassy flavors. This was apparently enough to attract attention from an Asian giant hornet, which dove in, swam around, and slowly expired. These are dangerous insects, and we kept our distance.

The real treat of the day was a blind sampling of four vintages of Orval. The highest average rating was for the 2007 version, with 2008 and 2010 coming in second – with exactly the same average scores –, and two bottles of 2011 (served at different times, as a sort of control) third. All were great, and it’s clear that this beer ages well.

Deschutes The Dissident (2008) featured a somewhat lactic attack of red berry and yeast (some Brett nuance) and dirty, dusty cherry flavors

BrewDog Abstrakt AB:03 had aromas of dry strawberry and raspberry with intense dry berry and bitter wood flavors Lefty felt it was strange and even somewhat abusive, with an interesting strong fume finish

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace’s aroma was of varnish tempered by cocoanut butter. It was very sweet, with honey and lemon. The mouth feel was soft and smooth.

Average Ratings: High to Low (50 points possible - three raters)
42.33   Orval 2007 (Belgian Ale) 6.2%
42        Orval 2008 (Belgian Ale) 6.2%
42        Orval 2010 (Belgian Ale) 6.2%
41.66   New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red (Fruit Beer) 4%
41.33   Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (Saison) 4.5%
40.66   Deschutes The Dissident (Sour Ale/Wild Ale) 10.5%
40.66   Surly Furious (IPA) 6.2%
39.33   Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (Saison) 7.6%
39        Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA (Imperial/Double IPA) 12%
38.66   BrewDog Abstrakt AB:03 (Fruit Beer) 11%
38.66   New Glarus Raspberry Tart (Fruit Beer) 4%
38.66   Orval 2011(Belgian Ale) 6.2%
38.66   Orval 2011(Belgian Ale) 6.2%
38        21st Amendment Hop Crisis! (Imperial/Double IPA) 9.7%
36        Tallgrass Oasis (ESB) 7.2%
34        Green Flash Grand Cru (Belgian Strong Ale) 9.1%
33        Revelation Cat Woodwork Series Reference (Imperial/Double IPA) 11%
32.33   Caldera Kettle Series Vas Deferens Ale (Belgian Strong Ale) 8.1%
32.33   Cigar City White Oak Jai Alai (IPA) 7.5%
32        21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA (IPA) 7%
26        Duibusson Bush Amber