1 liter growler; Sampled August 2009
A vigorous pour into my 25cl tulip glass produces an almost four-finger thick, lightly amber tinged, tan colored head that leaves lots of lace on the sides of my glass as it slowly subsides. The beer is a nice amber hue that shows a clear, copper-amber color when held up to the light. The aroma has notes of caramelized malt up front and a warm, spicy alcohol note to the finish. Fruity notes of dates and raisins are joined by light oak contributions of coconut as well as some toasted malt notes in the finish. There seems to be a fair amount of vanillin noticeable as well as a touch of buttery oak and even some spicy oak notes that combine with the alcohol to produce a sense of Bourbon character. There is quite a bit of malt character here with lots of toasted pale malt notes, biscuit like aromas, lots of crushed whole grain cracker notes, some caramelized pale malt aromatics as well as some toffee. After a bit it seems like the hot alcohol gets a bit too dominant in the, in fact I am soon questioning that I ever was able to notice the up front complexity that was first found in the aroma. After coming back to the aroma after some time I notice some nice fruitiness again as well as some herbal hop notes that get a bit grassy and green at times.
The beer tastes lightly sweet with caramel malt notes (though not overly so) and some toasted grain flavors. Bitter hop notes are joined by hot alcohol, and some spicy oak character in the finish. Bitter, green, somewhat astringent hop character in the finish can really linger on the palate. Up front there is a nice fruitiness, some of which seems to be hop contributed (citrus), but there is a bit more to it than that, but I can’t quite put my finger on the other notes right now. There is a nice toasted malt character to the flavor with biscuit like notes, crushed malt notes and crystal malt flavors; this last plays a supporting role and does not too heavy as crystal malts can so often get.
Coming back to the nose makes me wonder if I imagined the oak influence; hop character and fruit notes are all I notice in the nose now. Even the flavor doesn’t seem to have any real barrel character to it. The fruitiness is nice and might be from the Red Wine barrel, but I could easily be convinced that this is not the case. Overall this beer has certainly softened a bit with age as it is not as aggressive as when it is fresh. The beer does become much better as it warms up, despite starting at a 50ºF / 10ºC initial temperatures; it becomes more fruity, with more berry like notes and some notes of lightly spicy oak, a even a hint of vanillin seem to come out even.
I let this beer sit for a whole hour in the hopes of it getting more complex, finally I seem to get confirmation that this was aged in a Red Wine barrel; there is a definite red wine fruitiness (though it is soft still) and even some grape skin and tannin notes towards the finish.
Interesting, my second pour of this has me noticing more of the red-wine berry notes in the nose again. Letting this beer breath quite a bit certainly helps with the flavor as well. Still, the red wine character in this beer is easily missed, especially if you didn’t know it was there. This beer really wasn’t all that great during my first, full pour of this beer; despite starting out at only a cool 50ºF / 10ºC. I easily could have poured this beer out. I am glad I stuck with it though as it really starts to open up after warming up and being allowed to breath. In the end though, I waffle between enjoying a complex, interesting beer and not really finding this beer all that drinkable.
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