Thursday, 31 December 2020

Two Hundred Fathoms

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2016 | ABV: 10% | On The Beer Nut: February 2014

It's not often that a vintage beer comes with a warning from the producer to drink up, but Galway Bay issued one such notice to holders of Two Hundred Fathoms older than 2017. I don't need to be told twice so got stuck into this bottle of the 2016 vintage. 

I'm really not sure I believe the brewery, though it's possible that this is in peak condition because it is gorgeous. There's coffee and liquorice and tar and all the stuff that makes big and serious stout worthwhile. But there's also sweeter and happier chocolate, cherry, cola and hazelnut: basically everything that's dark and lovely about beer. I genuinely didn't notice it was barrel aged as there's no whiskey gimmickry or burn; all is smooth and integrated and eminently drinkable.

All that leaves me wondering what the panic is. Oxidation? Autolysis? Because there is zero sign of anything going wrong, as far as I could taste. Mind you, this was a stunner when it was fresh on tap, so I could well believe it isn't improving. But at the same time, if you're holding some, I don't know that I'd be in a big rush to drink it. Though you should definitely drink it.

Brewery clarification incoming: it's an autolysis thing. Since the introduction of a centrifuge, there's much less chance of that happening to the bottle in your stash.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Ska Decadent

Origin: USA | Date: 2015 | ABV: 10% | On The Beer Nut: April 2019

I made a point early on of clearing the stash of anything hop forward. They just don't age as well. Recently, however, I came into possession of this five-year-old bottle of Ska's imperial IPA. Would it buck the curve? I reckoned that 10% ABV made it a contender for transformation into a lovely barley wine once the fresh hop character faded out.

It still smelled quite hoppy, a bright kick of orange and grapefruit. That's backed, of course, with toffee and booze, but as such not so different to the fresh version. Strangely the malt is not especially prominent in the flavour and it's tannic and quite dry rather than sugary sweet. There's plenty of hop bitterness, but it's not harsh, coming across smooth and zesty. There's a real touch of Negroni about it: that kind of fruity warmth with a herbal complexity on a dry base.

Looking back at my notes on this beer previously, it seems it has mellowed significantly over the years. The floral side has gone, though it's taken the sharp intensity with it. Maybe the recipe has changed but I think it's entirely possible we have a rare example of a new world IPA that improves with age, and it is definitely still a hop-flavoured IPA, not a barley wine. 

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Rascals Flanders Red

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2017 | ABV: 7.5% | On The Beer Nut: November 2017

Travel to Belgium is off for the next while, so we take our Flemish reds where we find them. This one from Rascals, brewed at their old brewery, now transferred to Lineman, was 6.4% ABV when it first appeared on draught. I said at the time that cellaring would improve it, and when bottles arrived shortly afterwards, the ABV bumped up to 7.5%, I bought one and did just that. Unusually for beers featured on this blog, it wasn't aged in my temperature-fluctuating attic but has been at the back of the beer fridge for two and a bit years.

I had to go back and read why I thought this needed to be aged. It seems the sourness wasn't sufficient -- it was all herbs and fruit and lacked tartness. Well that has definitely changed. It's gone full-on Flemish with a sharp and savoury tang that's not quite vinegar at this stage but is headed in that direction. It's a waxy twang, with lots of oak and a hint of saltpetre, showing definite attributes of Belgium's finest sour beers. The cherries, herbs and balsam resins are still there in abundance, and there's a thick boozy kick which interferes with things a little but is to be expected given the strength.

This was a very worthwhile experiment. The beer has really come into its own in its time in the fridge, much as I hoped it would. It is no longer an Irish approximation of a foreign style but something that genuinely tastes like it was aged in big foeders in a brewery that's been doing this sort of thing for decades. All you need is time.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Aul Bruin Bagger

Origin: Belgium | Date: 2015 | ABV: 6.4% | On The Beer Nut: July 2015

The Brown Paper Bag Project, an offshoot of L. Mulligan Grocer the pub, had this brewed at 't Hofbrouwerijke in Belgium as a tribute to local animation studio Brown Bag Films. It ended up being the Project's last packaged beer, and some time after the Project itself was wound up, bottles were still appearing in my local supermarket. After a few weeks of looking at them, I rescued a handful, thinking they might age well. Today we start finding out how accurate that was.

It still has the beautiful sour-sweet cherry aroma enticing the drinker in. The flavour is very much cherry driven, still tasting fresh and real after all this time. For the first few sips, it tasted much as I remember the beer originally. Could it be so robust as to undergo no change at all? No. I think this has mellowed somewhat. It was never a vinegar bomb as such, but I think age has left it less acidic and more fruit-forward. Something for us all to aspire to. There's a black pepper spice too, which I think is new. There's no oxidation, no autolysis: no off-flavours at all.

I'm taking it that this is a beer still on the upswing, and I find myself wishing they'd done it in 75cl bottles. Tempting as it is to lash into my remaining bottles, I think I'll leave it a while before the next one.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Rochefort 10

Origin: Belgium | Date: 2011 | ABV: 11.3% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007

Just a quick check-in at the Rochefort farm. This vintage of Rochefort 10 featured in an early Stash Killer! post back in 2016. I was charmed by it at the time; let's see how another four years has treated it.

Maybe it's my failing acumen, but the aroma seems less lively than I remember: still with the concentrated dried dark fruit -- raisin and fig -- but I needed a full lungful to get a proper impression. The fizz is still busy and the body full. The flavour has turned a little bitter: I get a whack of herbal liquorice and a pinch of ginger spicing, almost like some cod-Victorian medicinal tonic. The cough-syrup thickness helps that effect. I noticed chocolate and cake in the five-year version and that's gone from the nine; this is more sour than sweet. There's nothing too extreme, though, and smoothness is still the watchword. There's no trace of any bacteria or wild yeast activity, no oxidation, autolysis or any of the other bad things that happen when beer is aged. It still tastes proper.

Rochefort 10 is real a performer when it come to cellaring. If my haphazard treatment is yielding results this good, anyone can do it.I don't know that the 10 is getting better, but it's different from before, and still very enjoyable. Next time out I should have a fresh one to hand for comparison.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Bigfoot

Origin: USA | Dates: 2010 & 2020 | ABV: 9.6% | On The Beer Nut: September 2007

It's a while since Sierra Nevada Bigfoot has featured here. Back then, I drank three vintages four years apart and concluded that they weren't that different, from year one back to year eight. With another four years on the clock it seems reasonable to try again, this time picking two bottles that are ten years separated.

They look fairly similar: a rich and clear shade of red, though the older one fizzed more and piled up head as it poured, suggesting that fermentation has been active all this time. But I started with the fresh one, to set a baseline. That heavy, sweet, red liquorice rope and cherry effect that is young Bigfoot hasn't been changed this year. There's a dry edge to it, and the bitterness is toned down more than I remember. Normally I wouldn't recommend drinking fresh Bigfoot, but this is really quite nice.

How does it compare with a ten-year-old bottle? The aroma is completely different, for a start. 2020 has virtually none but 2010 shows a rich warm port-like character that I forgot is an essential part of Bigfoot. 2010's flavour has definitely dried out, and there's a strong kick of stewed tea about it. That's not unpleasant, however, and it it makes it more approachable and less boozy. There's a cough-syrup element that's unsubtle but quite enjoyable, and that doesn't seem to feature in the new one.

I think they've changed the Bigfoot recipe. Time was, the fresh one was verging on undrinkable for year one -- too heavy on the bitterness; now it's actually quite pleasant and mellow. Ten years down the line, that intensity has calmed down but remains in the slightly acrid dryness. Of this pair I think I enjoyed the 2020 more, which was not the plan. I guess it's time to reset the experiment and see where Bigfoot is at come 2030.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Lacada Utopian Stout

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2016 | ABV: 8% | On The Beer Nut: April 2016

"Limited Edition" says the label. It's something of a habit among breweries to take a recipe intended as a one-off and put it into regular production. Such has happened with this imperial stout from Lacada, now available in a full half-litre. But today I'm going back to its roots as no. 1 in the Lacada Salamander Series of experimental beers. "Best before 15/02/2017", we are advised.

It crackles into the glass thinly and I feared for the beer's smoothness, wondering if some wild fermentation had attenuated it down to thin vinegar. Thankfully not: it's still satisfyingly chewy. The various fruit, candy and cocoa flavours have melded together into a single floral-spicy taste: part cola, part Kola Kube, with a backing of tar and tobacco. A tang of hop bitterness stops the dark malt from running away with it completely. Best of all, there are none of the signs of wonky ageing: no oxidation or autolysis, all is mellow and easy-going.

I'm not sure if this one warrants further ageing. The off-flavours mentioned above could be primed to develop at any moment, and there's enough of a difference between this and how it originally tasted for me to feel I got my money's worth out of the cellaring. If you have one, get it open now, say I.