About a week ago I got to taste a lineup of craft beers with some friends of mine who are definite hop-heads. One of them, my buddy Walker, has cool beer blog where he's chronicling his quest to taste the top 100 beers in the world, as rated by the users of BeerAdvocate.com. Check out Walker's site here, and follow along. Lucky for me, I get to help him out every once in a while when he tastes. My friend Blayne and Lauren also came by to taste and sample some beers with us. They brought the Lagunitas and Great Divide beers, I contributed all three Trader Joe's Vintage Ales, and Walker had the Listermann, KBS, and Iron Fist.
Listermann Wild Mild Ale - 4% abv.
Lots of carbonation is present, but you can't feel it on the palate. Smells like hot metal, hint of MSG (savory), very basic aromas. Tastes of burnt oats/malts, more of the metallic sensation too. Very fat through the mid palate but falls utterly flat on the finish. Bitter notes add a pleasant note but mainly because it's just something additional to the party. Mildly unimpressed. Not a lot going on. C+.
Iron Fist Brewing Velvet Glove - 9% abv.
Nice mix of fruit and florals on the nose. Can't tease out any malts, bittersweet chocolate or other identifiers of a dark beer. Incredible mouthfeel! I can see where the name Velvet Glove comes from. Huge, thick through the mid-palate. Supremely balanced beer, the flavors all match each other in intensity. The progression of each flavor through my palate is superb. Loads of dark fruit and spice. Nice charred oak or malt too. One of the best dark beers I've ever tasted. A-
Smells like apple cider and baking spices. I get faint hints of baking yeast too. Lots of sediment. Also hints of wood glue. On the palate...Astounding. Complexity for days. Notes of caramel, wood glue, apple peel. The acidity and carbonation make this stuff amazing. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the delicate flavors and the way they're all integrated. A
Smells like lemon ginger tea to me. Lovely bouquet that has really mellowed since the last time I had this. Great spicy flavors but it's too thin still, not enough structure for me. The 2008 had more of a firm presence on my palate. The 2009 by contrast does more with its bubbles to create a sensation of body. I got cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar in the scent, some of those carried through to the mouthfeel. Also present were hints of malt and perhaps some orange peel. B
Smells like lots of baking spices and pumpkin pie too. The pumpkin in my tasting notes contributes a sense of sweetness, richness. Very dark color especially compared to the 2008. Tons of spice on the palate dominate everything. Some hints of a dark chocolate and bitter roasted malts but the alcohol does sweep a lot of it away. Immature at this point, needs a few years. C+
Kentucky Breakfast Stout - 11.2% abv
Flat out amazing. Complex bouquet of all dark flavors including beef jerky, bakers chocolate, absolutely amazing. Still amazingly diverse on the palate. Hershey's chocolate syrup, beef jerky, sweet flavors..The way each flavor integrates and progresses is impressive and speaks to the power of stouts. This is perhaps one of the toughest beers to find anywhere and now I understand why. One of the best beers I've ever tasted, period. A+
Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti - 9.5%
Crazy opaque. Cannot see through it at all, but I love that aspect. Great flavors of charcoal, burned malts, wonderful. The cayenne is nice, but it hits real quick and is done. Overall I really enjoy how complex the flavors are. Well made beer, the dark flavors of chocolate and bitter malts really restrain the sweeter flavors. A-
Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale - 9.87% abv.
Slightly overripe mango on the nose, great mouthfeel though. The acidity and dry hoppy flavors keep the ripe fruit in check. Good sweetness is tempered by the acidity and hops. A nicely balanced beer with a great component. Well worth the price. B
Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot - 7.8% abv.
Typical hoppy IPA nose, lots of ripe fruit and floral character. Very much like other IPA's but with some additional character. Vibrant acid that keeps all various flavor elements in check. Clean, crisp entry and a nice burst of hoppy green keeps the ripeness in check. A little bit disjointed for me, seems that it might be better if more of the floral and hops showed up instead of the little core of sweet fruits I was getting. B-
So of these beers, many are not available and that kind of sucks. The Lagunitas beers are readily available at places like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. The Oak Aged Yeti is available at good liquor stores and I've heard people say they can find it at Beverages & More. Luckily for us San Diegans, Iron Fist is a local brewery and their beers can be found here in town. The Trader Joe's Vintage Ales are gone, those are snapped up quickly right after their release date, usually between November and December. Good luck with the Kentucky Breakfast Stout...