76 / 100
12oz bottle purchased from Whole Foods SoMa in San Francisco.
Pours a lightish, browning black, with a fine, slightly filmy, slightly bubbly head of off-white. Lacing is minimal, but forms in oblique streaks. Body looks light and fluid, with fine carbonation. Decent look, but not exceptional.
Nose is pleasantly light, with some dedicated roast characters giving a faint suggestion of acidity. Some black olive character comes through as well with this roast. It's pretty light on, but pretty pleasant, and stylistically very appropriate.
Taste is similar. Pleasant roasted character, but a nice dryness and lightness in the body to keep it clean and drinkable. The roast flattens out towards the back, leaving a pleasant toasted grain flavour, and mellowing into a dry, almost crisp finish. Where the acidity was on the nose, this dips to become smoother and more savoury, leaving it crisp but interesting.
Feel is light and dry, but matches with the beer nicely.
Overall, this is a great dark lager. It has the lightness and freshness of a lager, with some genuinely well-delivered roasted characters from the malt. It's a delicate balancing act, and it's performed very well here.
79 / 100
Pours a dark-brown colour. Seriously, we need a scale to measure the darkness of beers like this. But this is up there in darkness, yet light gives a glimmer of brown. Head is ochre, just deliciously dense and retaining as stubbornly as opponents of gay marriage. Lace is amazing. This beer looks amazing.
Smell is quite delectable as well. Dark and roasty backbone but a hell of a lot of sweet booziness. Bourbony coconut notes, peanut and vanilla on there with a chocolatey, nutmeg edge to it. Hint of licorice and pepper as well. Good spicy dark notes but the sweet complexities overlying are just wonderful.
Taste is very pleasant, with dark notes that aren't quite as roasty as I'd like, kind of lightly toasted rye bread on there with dark caramel. Then big booziness comes to the fore, with vanilla pods and coconut and a fair sticky rye note, with a nutty edge like pecans for a hint of bitterness. Slightly buttery on the back. It's all very nice flavours but I feel like it's a bit straight-lace ultimately, and doesn't quite ram the flavour home in the way it could. It's like it's a bit afraid of its own strength.
Full and a bit bitey. Good body, but from the front to the back I get that sense of booze, which is unfortunate, but it's not hot enough to really mar it.
Good brew, lots to like. I feel maybe some more roasty bitterness would absolutely run this one up the flagpole for me. Still a great drop though.
75 / 100
Pours a vivid red colour, really quite shiny. Head is cream-coloured, settled out to a thin film with very decent lace left behind. More retention would be a gas, but it still looks pretty damn good.
Smell is quite pleasant indeed. Distinct sourness, in a bacteria way, not a lot of horse blanket to it, but a pleasant sweet spice as well. Largely cinnamon, with a touch of anise as well. Smells like a good Christmas ale, but with a light sourness to freshen up. Like it a lot.
Taste is also very Christmassy - cherry notes soaked in booze, with cinnamon, clove and anise, all with a big vanilla-tinged malt underneath. Toffee, caramel, touch of red wine and some rye whiskey. Macadamias, walnuts and figs as well. Yes, not a lot of pumpkin if truth be told (was served to me blind). It's a big Wintery wonderland. I want more of that sourness I detected on the nose to cleanse it a little, but there is a hint of it just dusting off the sweetness at the end. A very merry celebration of the festive season, but more of that sourness would make this a damn 'Christmas' cracker.
Full and pretty boozey. Gets a large, quite hot note late-mid which overpowers a bit. Could otherwise have been good.
Nice, sweet Winter ale - warm and pleasant and comforting.
Bottle purchased from Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA. Shared with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a bright, brilliant rose-red colour, with a fine pink head. Speckled, patchy lace. Body is quite fluid and light, but it holds some nice fine static carbonation. Overall, pretty decent.
Nose is funky and a little acidic, with a touch of berry sweetness, a leafy, tea-like character, and perhaps a slight coconut note. It's all a little thin, but I like the directness of it, and the direct acidity.
Taste is a little thin, and the acidity seems to go directly to your stomach. There's some clear cherryskin flavour, and a touch of oak and coconut, but really, it's a bit weak and lacking in depth or at least complexity. I really want the acidity to be more pronounced if it's going to exist at all: at least let me taste it.
No, really, this is a decent beer. I feel like it's a little bit sub-par for the great tradition of American Wilds, though. There, they use all of the mysteries of their fermentation to explore strange new complexities. This feels simple and mundane by comparison.
76 / 100
Pours a dark murky red; Hellish glint at the edge. Head is lovely - dense, frothy beige foam leaving a sticky cradle on the side. Could be more generous, but otherwise looks cracking.
Smells intriguing. Lots of dark and boozey notes, with pleasant espresso character, some hint of dark wood, chocolate and some peppery spice. A slight umami aroma too, slight seafood character and some resinous hop on the back. Very, very interesting, but it's not the most instantly appealing aroma.
Taste is mostly roastly [sic] [it's a pun]. Dark but sweet with unsweetened chocolate, some espresso notes with leather, oak and some tobacco. Gets some lighter, more resinous notes late, but still bitter in spite of the fact that the hops elevate it from its dark pit of roasty. Yeah, maybe finishes a little too spicy, with a coriander-esque hang at the back. Pleasant, though, and very intriguing.
Quite full, fairly smooth. Tastes like it might be boozey, and yet doesn't quite feel it.
Not an everyday drinker, but lots of intrigue and quite pleasant. Could see beers like this acting as gateways for people who already like beer but not dark beer.
72 / 100
Purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, brought back to Sydney and cracked open with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe, just as the weather here turns autumnal.
Pours a deep and very pleasant ruby red colour, brilliantly clear and gem-like. Head is exceptionally thick and fine, leaving gorgeous streaky, but complex lacing on the inside of the glass. Body is fluid, but thick, and supports gorgeous powdery fine lacing. Overall, it's an exceptional looking beer. Great stuff.
Nose is spicy and sweet, with pumpkin pie aromas in force. Nutmeg, cinnamon and a touch of anise meld well with the sweet, slightly fruity pumpkin aromas, and the big organic richness of caramel and brown sugar. There could have been a little more oak, but that might even be asking too much. It's a damn decent Pumpkin Ale nose.
Taste is a lot flatter, and while it incorporates the spice, and indeed perhaps a little of the oak here, it really lacks body and sweetness. On the back, there are flashes of pumpkin flesh, but this is complicated by quite a prominent and pronounced booze character, which stands out all the more for the lack of sweetness. The oak at least is noticeable on the palate where it was absent on the nose, giving a lilting organic smoothness that seeks to, but doesn't succeed in, masking the flat finish.
Overall, I have to say I like it. There are bits that don't work, but it was a worthy experiment, and certainly something I'd be tempted to pick up again. This has about six months of age on it, but it feels like it could probably support even more, which is a good sign of itself. Not the best pumpkin ale I've ever had, but an interesting one nonetheless.
88 / 100
This is a spectacular looking beer. Deep, dense, pure black, slick and fluid in the glass, with a persistent, fine and creamy head of really quite dark brown bubbles. Lacing is full, sheeting and creamy. Carbonation is so fine as to be powdery. There's no beating around the bush here, this is an amazing looking beer. Possibly the best and most exciting looking beers I've ever had.
Nose is roasted and dense, but leavened with pleasant sweetness and a savoury smoky aroma. Together, these give a magnificent aromaâsmooth and supple, but vibrant, robust and confronting. The only thing I'd pick on (if I were to pick on anything, which seems unwarranted in any case), is that is lacks a little of the crazy complexity the style can have. The level that pushes it beyond "perfectly formed" into "wowee crazy" territory.
Taste is also excellent, as would be expected. Smooth sweet malts on the front, always tempered by pleasant roasted bitterness, and hints of tannic oak. On the back, the roast mingles pleasantly with a hint of resiny hop character, giving it a freshness on the back that is not often seen in an Imperial Stout. Despite the sharpness of the character, it almost makes it a smoother drinking experience, by helping it stay above the glutinous, heavy roasted sweet blackness.
Feel is also very good. Smooth but clear. It doesn't have the weight of some of the best examples, but it really has a leverage that lifts the beer nicely.
Gorgeous beer. I feel I'm certainly "just" a fan of the genre, but with beers this good in that genre, it's hard not to proselytise about them. This is a very solid example of an exceptional style. It's gorgeously smooth, sweet, roasted, complex, exciting. A brilliant brew from Uinta.
75 / 100
XVII vintage, purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a lovely thick and deep red-brown colour, brilliantly clear, and so heavy as to form the most minute, tiny carbonation. Head is riddled with large bubbled from an enthusiastic form, but is mainly formed of a fine yellow film across the top. Looks great.
Nose is sweet and heavy, but really pleasantly laced with a big hoppy presence, giving it some green, crushed vegetation characters, and the pleasant aroma of citrus.Â This is all mingled with big sweet characters of broken butter biscuits, caramel and unfermented, grainy wort. Indeed, it's like the two types of characters are sitting at either end of a see-saw, in perfect balance. Gorgeous.
Taste is similar, with again that big, almost buttery sweetness forming a solid base on which some fresh hoppiness can dance. Across all of this is a rather potent bitterness, which cuts across the palate like a big red, bloody streak. I understand itâperhaps because this is meant to sit and last for many yearsâbut right now it's a glaring injury on the palate. Feel is smooth and fluid and chewy, apart from the sharp bitterness, which almost has a kinaesthetic component to it.
Obviously, this is worth cellaring. That would cut down the raw bitterness a bit, which is just about the only unpleasant character here. Even still, it's an impressive, flavoursome and well-integrated barleywine. I'd love to try this vintage again in a couple of years.
88 / 100
Purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA, to replace the bottle I gave away to @headlessclown.
Pours a really deep dark brown, that doesn't manage to give the illusion that it's actually black. Head is a wonderfully thick and creamy ochre-brown, however, and leaves sheets of coral-like lacing down the glass. It manages to persist as half a centimetre of froth almost to the bottom of the glass. Carbonation is so fine that when tilted it almost looks like powder on the inside of the glass. Oh, I so want it to be slightly darkerâit would almost be perfect then. Screw it, I'll give it a 5 anyway.
Nose is rich and luscious which makes for a potent combination. Big sweet dark malt characters come through along with an almost spicy kick from the hops. It's a fresh, organic, slightly herbal character and it melds really nicely with the sweet roasted characters. It's also overlaid with hints of wood and vanilla. Overall, phenomenal nose. Let's face it.
Taste is similarly good, with a big, rich smoothness throughout and a light peppering on the back from the clinging, oily hops. Very decent bitterness that makes it hard to distinguish between roastiness and hop characterâa great sign in an IBA; a sign that the two sides of the beer have melded and synergised. It's smooth, rich, but bursting with flavour. Gorgeous beer.
This is an absolutely cracking brew. Rich and smooth, but bright and crisp as well. Truly this is a hallmark of the style. I'm shocked I gave away my first bottle.
Pours a metallic gold colour with nice, generous off-white head; dense and fluffy and sinking slowly. Some nice trails of lace left behind. No bead, yeah looks good.
Smells quite musty and dank. Fairly strong boozey component and sour dour spice notes - coriander and cardamom. Some light citrus lingering at the back, but yeah it's a wall of dank, gritty aromas masking what might have been very light and pleasant.
Taste is a lot lighter, with mild stone fruit characters early - peach and banana on there - that last to the end. Slight musty note with black pepper, coriander and cinnamon midway that gives way to a slight vinous yeast character that dries up the palate for the finish. Late-mid, where the crux of the palate lies, is an odd caramel toffee note that really could be earthier to match the palate, but it isn't unwelcome. Decent, not amazingly pleasing to the senses though.
Fuller than one would think, although the mouthfeel is a little empty. Decent texture.
Nice, sweet beer, but it's really lacking in the pilsner department. Needs to lean more on the non-sweet aspects to produce more balance. It stays in overall sweet territory and isn't unpleasant but not a hugely impressive effort on the imperial pilsner front.
Purchased from K&L Wines in Redwood City, CA, and brought back to Australia to share with @LaitueGonflable.
After much grunting, swearing, and pain, I extract the cork and the beer pours a crisp clear golden yellow colour, with a very full and foamy head of white. Lacing is honeycombed and thick. Body is also pretty heavy, but with lightness at the edges as it's tilted. Very fine carbonation. Looks pretty magnificent.
Nose is crisp and slightly yeasty, with some genuine light grainy pils characters. Slight metallic hop characters to itâit smells a little like dark crushed vegetation, but not overwhelmingly hoppy, which is more what I was expecting. Not bad, but could be better.
Taste is crisp and rather light for the most part, only on the back does a hint of extra sweetness and a slight heat indicate that this is anything more than a standard pilsener.Metallic hops on the back, which mix with the extra grainy body. Oh, it tries so hard to disguise what it is, and to meld in the same way that the pilsener grain and the hops would work off each other in a regular pils. It almost succeeds, and that would be an interesting outcomeâbut instead it neither makes a smooth and drinkable high-ABV beer, nor an out-there hop-tastic crazy Imperial Pilsener.
Not bad, but it should be better. It has a lot going for it, and I like how closely it resembles a standard pilsenerâbut in so doing, it actually just delineates how it is in fact less crisp and less drinkable than a regular pilsener can be.