Friday, November 6, 2009

The Session #33: Framing Beer

This month's version of The Session is about "Framing Beer". I'm not sure what Andy had in mind exactly but my mind seized on this sentence:

I have not done much blind tasting, and I would be intrigued to hear about this ‘frameless’ evaluation of beer.

Well, I have never done any blind tasting and I have always wanted to do one. This installment of The Session gives me the perfect excuse.

Now, it wouldn't be a perfect blind tasting...I was having my wife pick out 4 12oz bottles out of my cellar. I am vaguely familiar with what is in my cellar so I imagine that this colors my "blindness" during the tasting but I have enough inventory that I can't keep it all straight. My wife grabbed the 4 bottles, poured me a sample of each and did not tell me what beers she had picked until after the entire tasting was complete. Here they are in chronological order.

Beer #1

Lots of dark fruit in the nose and a bit of alcohol. Taking a sip, big flavors from this one. Pronounced alcohol is evident first. Fruity, oaky...and roasty. The roastiness comes out more as it warms with lots of sweet dark fruit in the finish. Warming alcohol as it moves down the throat.

After sipping on this for a few minutes, I am pretty certain that this is am Imperial stout. It felt like a strong old ale at first but the dark roasted malt flavors gave it away. No idea what label the beer is but if you made me guess, I'd say a young version of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

The Beer Revealed: Duck Rabbit Imperial Stout

I had the style right and I was pretty happy about that. Again, the roasted malt and strength of the alcohol flavors gave it away.

Beer #2

Big caramel aromas in the nose...some faint herbal hops too. The flavor takes a 180 from the smell. The aroma was big and rich, the taste is difficult to detect. Perhaps this is because it follows the Imperial stout but I struggle to get anything from my first couple sips. The body is thin and light, the finish is fairly clean. An American wheat beer? A golden ale? That doesn't go with the smell though. No idea on this one...I'm stumped. If I had to guess, I'd say a strong Belgian pale ale.

The Beer Revealed: Anchor Christmas 2005

Amazing. Without being able to see the beer, I picked up none of the porter-like elements I usually detect in this beer. The age on the beer explains the thinnish feel of the body.

Beer #3

Big malty caramel in the nose. Alcohol too and some pronounced bitter hops. For lack of a better phrase, it smells like a barleywine. In the mouth, big fruity and caramel malt. And hops. Lots of hops followed by an alcohol bite. The hops bite too but you can detect some citrusy notes there too. Some dark fruit and warming alcohol.

It's assuredly a barleywine, almost surely American. If I had to guess, I'd say Rogue Old Crustacean.

The Beer Revealed: 2004 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine

I am surprised that a nearly 6-year-old sample still has that much hop flavor going on. Wow.

Beer #4

Bright fruity aromas, roasted malt and no hops to speak of. Roasty dark malt in the mouth and a lot of carbonation, more than you would expect from what is almost certainly a stout. It's creamy and certainly thinner in body than the Imperial stout I had earlier. There's a character that I can't put my finger on that leads me to believe that this is not an ordinary stout. It got something extra...maybe a milk or cream stout?

The Beer Revealed: New Holland The Poet Oatmeal Stout

I love oatmeal stouts but couldn't identify that oatmeal quality beyond "something else".


So what have I learned? I learned that, unsurprisingly, beers with big bold flavors are easier to identify than those with more muted and subtle ones. I was still pretty pleased that I was able to identify about 2.5 beer styles out of the 4 I sampled...I've seen blind tastings that go far worse. I am also curious what would happen if I sent my wife to the local Whole Foods with $10 and told her to bring back 4 random single bottles what this exercise would look like. Hmmmm........

For more entries for this month's installment of The Session, check out this post on I'll Have A Beer, this month's host.


Stan Hieronymus said...

What I learned from this is you must have a pretty extensive cellar ;>)

Heath said...

Not as impressive as it was before our second child was born. Funding for the cellar took a hit!

But I do have a bit of a hoarding mentality that has kept most of the old stock intact through the drought.

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