Hey there! How are you? Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and that you find yourself motivated and energized in this new year. Ha! I actually wrote that with a straight face. Let's just say I hope you're able to stay awake late enough in the evening that you can enjoy a fine glass of wine or a nice cold beer or, hell, two fingers of your favorite single malt.
So, since this is only January, I am still abstaining from wine until Mrs. Big Dubya is able to, once again, knock back a bottle or two in a sitting with me. So, beer it is until then. I know, I know, can't you just sense the disappointment in my voice? It's just soooo hard. Anyway, let me tell you about what I've recently had worth trying:
Great Divide, Yeti Imperial Stout: Now, those of you who know me know of my affinity for Guinness. I loves me some Guinness. This is the stout I know and the one I compare all stouts to. Big mistake. Who knew that when I started reviewing beers here I would learn so much? Guinness is an Irish stout (huh, go figure). Imperial Stout, aka Russian Imperial Stout or Imperial Russian Stout, is decidedly not an Irish stout. Imperial Stout was first brewed in London by Thrale's Brewery for export to the Czar of Russia and was known as Thrale's Entire Porter. You're saying to yourself, "How the hell did we get on to porters?" We haven't - porter is just an alternative name for stout. Ok, getting back to the review. Holy crap I wasn't ready for that first sip. Remember what I said about Guinness? Yeah, this is not Guinness. In the glass it looked very much like stouts I've had before - deep, rich black with a medium-to-dark-brown, foamy head. The aroma was malty with hints of coffee. On the tongue it was full of flavor - the malt and coffee with some chocolate thrown in and also hints of some fruit and a touch of spiciness - but those had their asses kicked by the malt and coffee. The alcohol is also very evident, but mellowed by the richness of the flavors. I also appreciated the generous amount of hops which gave it a nice IPA quality (though not quite and I hope I'm not being sacrilegious at all by saying so). Overall it was a very nice beer that warmed the cockles of my heart and made my feet all tingly.
Victory, Old Horizontal Barleywine Style Ale: Note to self: beware a beer whose label shows the moon sleeping horizontally - could be taken as an omen and not a good one at that. It had been a while since I've had a barleywine - I believe I had a tasting of some at Barrington Brewery and that about knocked me out of my socks. I figured that since it was the New Year, might as well give something good and strong a go. For those of you who don't know, a barleywine is a strong ale which originated in England. It's called barleywine because it can be as strong as wine, but since it is made with grain - not fruit - it is indeed a beer. In the US, barleywines are required to be called "barleywine-style ale." In keeping with Victory, I chose to use a smaller font for STYLE in this header - much like they do on their label. This is what I would call a "fine, sippin' beer." This is a not a quench your thirst on a hot summer's day beer at all. It pours a deep-red/purple bordering on black. The aroma is full and fruity - there's grape and cherry - with hints of anise. In the mouth you can taste the grape and cherry - it is very sweet, but that sweetness is nicely balanced with a hoppy bitterness. It does have a strong alcohol content and will kick your ass if you're not careful. I recommend this one for after dinner - it makes for a very nice dessert beer or for sitting around a fire with a nice cigar.
Post-Script: Did you know that if you drink a White Russian followed by a Bloody Mary (or two) and then drink Ipswich IPAs, you will find yourself remarkably warm at the AFC Championship? You'll also find yourself eating Italian sausages covered in mustard, but you'll be warm.