Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Year's Sampling

We met in Kyoto last week, for the first sampling of the year, As usual, each of us brought 2-4 bottles we’d been hoarding for some time. It’s pretty cold here at this time of the year, and many of the beers we had were extra high in alcohol, ranging all the way up to 16%.

 Here are some of the highlights:

Ølfabrikken Porter  (Baltic Porter, 7.5%)
This was 2-3 year-old bomber. It had a big chocolatey nose, with some smoke and fumes, and nicely sweet dark fruits. The winey, light chocolate initial flavors went deeper into dark some sweet plums and then a bit of umami in the finish. It might have been better to have had this bottle a little younger. Overall, we felt that the body was a touch light for the style.

Two from The Bruery, which appeared in Japan a few months ago:

The Bruery Mischief  (Belgian Strong Ale, 8.5%)
This ale gave off fresh light citrus aromas, with some yeastiness, and light stinky hops. A solid but light malty initial, with touches of grapefruit and orange peel noticeable in the mid palate and some grape skins. The finish was light and so smooth. There were great tangy citrus notes from top to bottom.

The Bruery Autumn Maple  (Spice/Herb/Vegetable, 10%)
Yeasty and big earthy aromas with spice, light chocolate and moderate fumes. The individual flavor components were somewhat difficult to suss out, but we found a strong mix of dark fruit, mild citrus, as well as cinnamon and yams notes balance it out. It was very rich flavor-forward but also elegant and not overly sweet. A great take on a traditional style.

De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666  (Imperial Stout, 10%)
Large doses of deep dark fruits, bitter chocolate, along with some phenolic notes, fumes, light smoke, and berries. The initial flavors were of harsh bitter chocolate with dark berries. It became somewhat lighter and even buttery in mid palate. The finish was smooth but a bit thin. Overall, the palate was wonderful: the flavors floated gently around the tongue. Heavy stuff at first, then it lightened up, and finally landed like a butterfly.

Finally, two outstanding beers from Kuhnhenn, which is a small overachiever from a Detroit suburb:

Kuhnhenn Fourth Dementia Old Ale  (Old Ale, 11%)
This was a 2010 vintage bottle. It had a massively sweet caramel nose, with some moderately aged cheese, raisins, and light berries. The initial flavor was also super sweet: the caramel was intense but controlled, with medium-strength fruitiness. It really had one of the most complex, gentlest aromas -- I spent about 15 minutes just savoring the nose before tasting it. Amazingly good.

Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock  (Fruit Beer, 10.6%)
2012 vintage. The aromas were of jammy berries and light chocolate. A big range of explosive berry flavors right away. The mid palate mellowed into smooth sweet fruitiness, and the final was very lightly bitter. Medium body with just a touch of astringency. Such a great variety of subtle fruit flavors, which never overwhelmed the tongue. It also hid the high alcohol very well. Great!