Well past it's prime, but it still held up beyond my expectations. A viscous dark brown pour with a faint head and no lacing. Plums, raisins, cocoa and a surprisingly solid bourbon aspect. Almost a port wine drinkability at this time. Smooth and thick. I bet this thing was killer four or five years ago.
.. like a caramelized plum, oh ya .. . medium brown tawny color .. . nice foam .. .quite hot still, but insanely drinkable .. . hot sherry and chocolate flavours . . nice and smooth .. . very balanced.. delicious .. could age longer .. . has a hint of boccie ..
Sampled December 2007
A vigorous pour produces a fat, one-finger thick, amber tinged tan colored head. The beer sits in my glass a dark amber hued, brown color, but shows an almost brilliantly clear, cranberry color when held up to the light. The carbonation is visually slight, with only a few lonely bubbles working there way through the glass at a time. The aroma has quite a dusty malt character to it, with lots of toasted grain notes and browned artisanal bread crust aromatics. It still has a sweet smelling character to it, which definitely accentuates fruit notes of berries and perhaps some raisin like aromas. The hot alcohol that was in this beer when I first had it seems to have toned down significantly as it just plays a role in the background; it produces some aromatics notes that make me think of molasses rum. The aroma has a bit too much of a grain husk like sharpness to it, but it still has vastly improved.
Sweet and viscous feeling, this beer definitely has a creamy mouthfeel to it. The slight carbonation adds just a touch of a sparkle towards the finish. Dark, toasted malt flavors play a big role here; sharp, roast grain husk notes, toasted bread flavors, something that almost seems wood like at times. This is still a bit hot in the finish, the alcohol definitely supplies ample warming character here, which isn’t actually all that bad on this uncharacteristically cold, AZ night. Slightly fruity, though not as much as the aroma would have suggested, flavors of raisins, a touch of berry notes and at times a hint of cherry. These notes are joined by complimentary flavors reminiscent of toffee, a hint of vanilla and molasses. The alcohol, along with the fruit notes provides something like the finish of a brandy. A solid, yet initially unnoticed because of all of the malt sweetness, bitterness is found in the finish, it lingers a bit and slowly wins out over the malt sugars. Most definitely a chewy, sipping beer; thick and rich, a beer to be savored slowly over an evening in front of the fire.
This has definitely vastly improved ; initially it was something I would only just want to drink a full glass of. It still has a ways to go though, and I still think that it will improve for at least another year, if not even significantly longer. The beer still needs to soften up a bit, and a bit of oxidation should add some needed complexity.
Sampled October, 2005
6/8/8/6/6 total of 3.4
Pours a clear rich amber color and is topped by a frothy amber tan colored head. The aroma is fruity and malty; a mix of sticky toffee, cherry, and sharp alcohol. The aroma seems a bit too strongly towards the alcohol side of the spectrum, at least initially.
The taste is quite sweet and full in the palate, and the finish has a strong, hot alcohol note to it. In the finish is also a roasted astringency that has notes of coffee. As my palate becomes used to it the beer loses its initial sticky sweetness; it still tastes strongly of caramel and toffee but becomes a bit more richer. This beer is definitely on the young side, in fact this needs at least 6 months, but probably more like 2 years before it comes into its own. This beer actually has quite a bit of potential, but I wish that the brewery had brewed this two years earlier for this 10 year anniversary. I expect my ratings for this to go up as time passes.
Thanks to eagle for this one. Poured a brown with redish edges to it small head which left okay lacing. Aroma was of caramel aocohol. Flavor was the same with some wood maybe oak in there. Good beer, expected better though.
Wow, I really enjoyed this. Thanks to eaglefan538...he shoulda just poured me the whole thing, as I liked it more than he did. ;) Another dark ale with a caramel base...but a lot going on in this one. Some chocolatey notes, some dark fruit and a nice hop finish. This was what the Stone 8th was trying to be. I need more AleSmith!
Poured a red-brownish color with a small initial head that sustained itself well and gave ok lacing. The aroma was of alcohol and caramel, hard to pick up. The flavor was of lightly bittered malts featuring caramel, light whiskey, some dry figgy-ness, light brown sugar or molasses, faint wood, and a sharp but not overdone alcohol zip that was mildly warming.
This ale pours a dark brown color from a 750ml bottle. Medium sized beige/white foamy head. Aroma is caramel and fruit, brown sugar, some cherries and earthy hops. A full bodied Old Ale. Malts are caramel, brown sugar, molasses and dark fruit. Some earthy hops, but mostly this beer is malt, brown sugar and some alcohol. Lots of raisins and cheery flavors come out as it warms. Very smooth tasting, and I think the alcohol burn/presence will mellow with time. The aging potential for this beer should be good. Think I will wait to open the next bottle of this stuff in a year of so. Interesting as it certainly is mellowing as it warms. Mouthfeel is full. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is slightly sweet, with a noticeable alcohol bite.
My first exposure to their stuff was a draught Pale Ale (long before the days when they even thought about bottling), while I was bar-hopping the Gaslamp, Downtown San Diego, Winter of `95. In a word, it was not "love at first sip". Quite awful, to be honest. In my crude notebook of beer reviews (pre-Internet, of course), I gave it a measly 30 out of a possible 100. I soon retreated to my ussual haunt -- Riptides brewpub (R.I.P.) -- and dismissed AleSmith from my mind for the short-term.
A year or so later, some new-comer by the name of Stone came out, with a Pale Ale that really impressed me. "Maybe the San Diego brewing scene has some good things going for it after all", I thought. Who would have thought that ten years later, both AleSmith and Stone are now held in such high esteem that some of their bottled offerings go for big money on eBay, eh?
So while I recently had quite a few Decadences at my birthday shin-dig (which happened to coincide with the exclusive cask-conditioned release of this at O'Brien's), I now take it upon myself this evening to examine this bottled offering more in light of where AleSmith has been over the past 10 years, and where they are now, and where I see them going.
I think AleSmith has been rather variable over the years. Starting with their first shaky steps in `95, Skip Virgilo (of Pacific Beach Brewhouse brewpub fame) stepped things up nicely for AleSmith later on. At the peak of AleSmith's fame and glory (2001? 2002?), you couldn't find better bottled Belgian-style American offerings anywhere West of the Mississippi. And his American-styled IPAs and Barleywines were no slouches either. But when he left, AleSmith seemed to falter a bit -- especially in their often pricey 750 mL offerings.
Flash forward to today, some 10 years after that very first rather awful AleSmith Pale Ale I first tasted, what do we have here? A 750mL bottle (what? no more faulty corks? Thank goodness for small favors there), talking about uising a special blend of fours yeasts from the good folks down the road at White Labs (who are also celebrating their 10th Anniversary). And how this would probably live up to some cellaring. All well and good so far.
Dark ruddy red, with very little head foam. Reminded me of what so many other Barleywines look like, really.
Ditto for the aroma. Not as hoppy and assertive as ussual, but still I got the impression that this wasn't quite as much of an "Old Ale" as it was an "American take on convincing folks that their Barleywine was actually an Old Ale". Not that there's anything wrong with that, but still, it's a little weird....
Taste? Uh? Oh yeah, the taste. The be-all and end-all to this overally long review. As I aluuded to before, this really comes across to me as more of a rather smooth and slightly smokey (peaty?) Barleywine than what could really be classified as an "Old Ale". Quibbling over details? Perhaps. And for what it's worth, this works for me.
Definately hits it's stride only when it's rather on the warm side of things. Whether that be allowing a bottle to sit out on the kitchen counter for a while, or getting this cask-conditioned (and thus inherently a bit wamer than draught), this beer's mouthfeel is both warming and languid -- just kinda lays around, waiting for any and all comers to have it's way with it, no holds barred.
In the finish, this beer's heat rises up, and gets perhaps a little distracting after a while. And it's here that I think some aging would be especially helpful. The flavor profile is rather smooth as is, but I think some aging would certianly smooth over some of the other aspects of this beer in the finish.
Overall, I started off this review with me talking about AleSmith's first few teeter-totter steps out of the gate, and then went into it's rise and fall from the Skip Virgilo days, and how some of their later bottled offerings have been rather problematic. Well, with this particular 750 mL offering, I like to think that this turns the corner, so to speak, and leads a generally outstanding brewery onto 10 more years of success. Cheers!