This is a really nice beer.  The color is a really beautiful, clear amber/red, with a very minimal, thin white head.  Putting your nose in the glass gives away the 10% ABV immediately – the smell of alcohol is strong in ths one.  Tasting is it a similar story.  There’s a really nice, somewhat chewy malt body with a good amount of sweetness.  Then there’s a touch of hoppy bitterness, but nothing too heavy.  And then it all finishes to a sort of caramel/alcohol residual flavor (not unlike, dare I say, SoCo, only, you know, good…).  It’s pretty drinkable – despite its high ABV, it feels like a fairly light beer, but I’ll say it’d definitely be best with some mildly sweet food to accompany it, like fruit or a light cookie/cake sort of thing.  Anything sweetier or heavier than that would overpower the fairly subtle sweetness of the beer.

All in all, 4 thumbs up.

I must say, I was very excited by this beer.  A certified organic old ale at 9.7% – sounds great.  Not too expensive, either.  I have to say, though, it’s pretty disappointing.  There’s some malt flavor there, and then a big gob of bitterness.  Not the kind of hop bitterness that can be described as floral, or even citrus-like.  It’s just a bitterness that clings to your mouth for dear life.  And then, really, beyond that, there’s just the flavor of alcohol.  This beer doesn’t hide its decent ABV at all – you can’t not notice it.  Blech.  It got me a bit buzzed, but that’s about the only positive thing I can say.  Seven thumbs down.

The HeBrew Jewbilation beers have always struck me as creative despite their strict rules: 1 ABV % point, 1 grain and 1 hop variety per year celebrated.  It sort of seems similar to what KFB did with Excelsior! (née Manbearpig), except…different.  Where we had no idea what our blend of however many different kinds of grain would yield, I’m sure the folks at Schmaltz (the parent brewing co.) are considerably more competent.  No doubt these are complex beers, and they’re only getting moreso as the years go by.  But they’re still really good without becoming bland or confusing messes of flavor.

That being said – the 12th is very tasty.  I had significantly more trouble finding this one than the 11th last year, so it could be that I’m not alone in this opinion.  Like I said, it’s complex.  There’s a sort of general “maltiness” and a “hoppiness,” and of course a rather noticeable alcohol aroma as well.  What stands out in the aroma for me is, for lack of a better description, the smell of fresh baklava.  I mean, like, the second that the syrup is poured onto the pastry, when everything is a hot, crispy thing of beauty (not that the resulting product is any less beautiful, but that’s the topic for another post (ooh, a post about baklava aesthetics – intriguing)).  There’s a certain sweetness reminiscent of honey, a spiciness that reminds me of cinnamon, and a malt aroma that evokes the scent of almonds and walnuts.

In the flavor, the spiciness takes a backseat to the other two major components, which themselves are transformed by their new liquid manifestations.  The sweetness loses some of the delicateness and crispness of honey to instead be more of a cloying slap on the cheek (an enjoyable, endorphin-releasing slap).  The nuttiness of the malt similarly loses some subtlety.  This is also largely due to the presence of a number of other strong malt flavors, not the least of which is one of smoked malt that lingers for some time.

As I almost always do for beers of this type (i.e., anything over 9%), I wholeheartedly recommend letting this one warm up.  Not only do the aromas and flavors open up massively as expected, there is a delightful smoothness and richness that simply isn’t there when cold.  The closer it gets to room temperature (for me, around 65 F right now), the larger the beer feels in the mouth, the more substance it carries, and the better it is as a thing to drink.

Of course, as it warms up, I get progressively more drunk from actually drinking it, but certainly that has nothing to do with my final analysis: this beer is awesome, but probably only as a standalone.  It would certainly overpower most pairings, except for perhaps some very good, preferably very dark, chocolate.

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ABV: 17.5%, apparently.

There’s something fascinating about things as old as this.  Granted it’s not a centuries-old bottle of wine or a 60-year Macallan.  But this is a 14-year old beer, which is the oldest I’ve seen readily available and certainly the oldest I’ve consumed.  This beer was brewed when I was 11.  Something about that is just… awesome.  Anyway, on to the beer itself.  At the time, it was supposed to be the strongest yet brewed.  It was done with a large amount of maple syrup, presumably to load the beer up with sugar for MASSIVE fermentation.

I read up on reviews before writing this one just to see what I was in for.  Most of the reviews were pretty negative, with unexpected language.  “Soy sauce?”  “Animal feed?”  What the…  I had to dig in.

The beer pours absolutely black, only tiny hints of deep amber on the edges of the glass, with no head whatsoever.  (It should be noted that there is a thick sludge on the bottom of the bottle that is tricky to keep out.  I couldn’t.)  Then the smell.  And the flavor.  Good God, the flavor!  I got soy sauce, and I got animal feed.  But I also got molasses, toffee, chocolate, and licorice.  Oh, and booze.  Lots and lots of booze.  The only flavor noticeably absent is hops.  None whatsoever.  This is just weird.

As it slides down your throat, it burns just enough to remind you that it is, indeed, massively alcoholic.  It leaves behind a very pleasant combination of chocolate, licorice and molasses, but also a cloying sweetness.  The sweetness sticks and prevents continuous drinking.  Two quick sips is too much.  Definitely an all night type beer.

I can understand why some people would not like this beer.  I can even understand why some people would hate this beer.  It’s weird, no doubt.  Me, I love this beer.  Maybe it’s because it’s more than half as old as me, or maybe it’s because it’s totally blowing my mind.  I wouldn’t dare touch another bottle for a month (if I had one, that is), but as a beer experience it ranks pretty high up on my list.

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Redhook Double Black Stout with Coffee (Limited Release)
ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 47

Pours a full, dark black with a foamy caramel-colored head.  Heavy malt profile, with the fairly standard array of stout flavors: chocolate, toffee, coffee (made all the more intense as a result of coffee being added to the beer) with hints of anise.  Alcohol flavor is present while not overly so.  Hop flavor/aroma is very subtle leaving the beer overall on the sweet side.  A nice beer to end a meal or to accompany a dessert without being so heavy as to overpower the food (unlike most imperial stouts).  Overall a solid if not entirely interesting beer – immensely drinkable without providing a particularly unique experience.