Saturday 27 January 2024

DOT Brew Cellar 8

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2019 | ABV: 14.4% | On The Beer Nut: December 2019

Today's beer is an interloper, having come to me recently from the stash of someone else; someone who realised that after more than four years of hoarding it that they just didn't have a use case for a double-digit, double-barrel-aged rye wine. Well on this dark and chilly evening, I certainly do.

When first released, the liquid was already two years old, a blend of amber ales aged in two different types of whiskey barrels. Now it's had even longer, a waxed cap actually making itself useful for once. The aroma still offers subtle, warming notes of dark sherry and unmistakable alcohol. It has held on to its light sparkle and there's no nasty oxidation, other than what's allowed to be there from the sherry component. No vinegary tang, either. In fact I'm not seeing much difference between this now and how I described it in 2019. Fancy chocolate, plum pudding, and a subtle whiskey warmth all still present, and absolutely nothing to complain about.

I confess that I thought the only thing that would happen here is the beer would get worse. I don't know what could have happened to improve it. As things are, I'm very happy with the serendipitous stability.

Friday 17 November 2023

Franciscan Well Jameson Stout

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2012 | ABV: 7.8% | On The Beer Nut: December 2012

This is my second and final bottle of this beer in the stash. When I reviewed it here in 2017, I remarked that it hadn't changed much, but may be on the cusp of either greatness or ruin. Today we find out.

The carbonation seems to have been a victim in the intervening years and it really doesn't want to form a head at all. And if gas has been getting out then presumably gas has been getting in. It certainly seems drier, and a little papery, but is far from ruined by oxidation, I'm happy to say. With that newfound extra dryness, the chocolate element has been relegated to the background. The honeyed whiskey is completely gone.

It's actually all rather plain. The one new feature is a mild tangy sourness. Combined with the simplistic dry roast, it ends up tasting a bit like Draught Guinness, and it definitely didn't used to. The big and smooth texture is still there and is something of a redeeming feature, but this is well past its best.

It's still OK to drink, enjoyable even, but if you're still holding on to some, get it drank before something worse happens to it. I would be very surprised if it suddenly took a turn for the better. For the reason I'm opening this particular bottle now, see the main blog.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Metalman Decade

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2021 | ABV: 5.2% | On The Beer Nut: July 2021

New stash rule: if a beer looks explodey, it gets opened immediately. This tart porter with cherries certainly did, though the can seamer has proved fit for the task of keeping it all in. It was put away only two years ago, though is already of historical interest as Metalman has since folded. It's quite poignant that Decade was created to mark ten years in business when they had so few left.

The can was just shy of a year past its best-before and poured extremely fizzily, unsurprisingly, though in fairness it didn't gush out. It still smells properly roasty, and rich with it, in a way I don't think this beer did when fresh. Dryness is still a core feature, but it tastes mellow, not sharp: chocolate and mocha, rather than pure coffee beans. I also get more of the cherry than I did before, representing as a sweet jelly or jam, right on the finish. Amazingly, the fizz doesn't get in the way and it doesn't feel over attenuated.

I think this beer has rounded out nicely over the two years. All the benefits are preserved and what were once subtleties of flavour are more pronounced. That it doesn't taste drier than I remember it seems to be in defiance of science, but it's far more likely that my memory is at fault. Either way, if you have surviving cans of this and they don't look about to blow, they're worth drinking, or possibly even ageing further.

Sunday 22 January 2023

Hertog Jan Grand Prestige

Origin: Netherlands | Date: 2017 | ABV: 10% | On The Beer Nut: February 2009

If memory serves, it was literally the last day of 2017 when I picked this up in a supermarket in The Hague. The 2018s had already started appearing on the shelves so this was a last chance to get a 2017 into the stash. It's a mass-market beer from the world's biggest producer so I wasn't planning to age it long-term. Five and a bit years seems like a fair amount of time to check in with it.

Looking back on my review of a fresh one in 2009, it seemed quite a busy affair, all acetone and forest fruits. So it was a surprise that there's basically no aroma here, only minor hints of chocolate and raisins. The texture is very smooth, yet there's no heat, which is surprise given the strength.

If there were spiky higher-alcohol edges on this to begin with, they have all been planed off by time. The end result is a beautifully integrated palate of port and dark chocolate with flecks of vanilla, black cherry and cocoa. Black Forest gateau comes to mind. While it's not hot, it does have a warmth which I thoroughly enjoyed on this cold winter evening. It made me want to light the fire and sip slowly in front of it.

I genuinely expected this to be a mess so I'm delighted how it turned out. This is exactly what the stashing project was meant to bring out and I'll be buying more than one bottle of the next vintage I have the opportunity to collect.

Sunday 11 December 2022

Eight Degrees The Oak King

Origin: Ireland | Date: 2017 | ABV: 6.5% | On The Beer Nut: December 2017

Around this time every year the Eight Degrees press parcel would arrive: a box of bottles, cans and merch involving whatever special winter seasonal they had on the go at the time. I couldn't tell you if this bottle of their 2017 Brettanomyces-fermented barrel-aged pale ale came in one of those. I loved it on its release so it's entirely possible that I bought it. I notice from my notes at the time that the complexity of the bottled version outstripped that of the draught one. So how would it be after five years of maturation?

It looks pretty much the same as fresh: clear and coppery. It seems like nobody makes beer that looks like this any more. The wine barrel is still apparent in the aroma; the soft white grape sitting next to a promise of spicy Brett fireworks. That's not what materialises on tasting, however. The main feature is a rather dull and earthy farmyard funk, dusted with old-lady perfume of lavender and lilac. It's fine, but it's not what I thought five years of deathless Brett maturation would bring.

I guess what's happened is the same thing that happens to Orval: it dries out as the Brett keeps chomping. The result is subtle, but very much lacks the fun, fresh and fruity characteristics of the original. Your mileage may vary, but aged isn't how I best enjoy beers like this, given a preference.

Sunday 9 October 2022

BrewDog Jet Black Heart

Origin: UK | Date: 2017 | ABV: 4.7% | On The Beer Nut: April 2016

In 2017 I was lucky enough to win a prize in BrewDog's short-lived Beer Geek Awards. It included a box of beers which had some good stuff in it, but otherwise seemed to be assembled hastily from whatever was to hand in the office. Among them was today's beer, Jet Black Heart. BrewDog wasn't doing much in cans yet and this one is marked "Nitro Test D" on the bottom, becoming the first canned beer to go into the stash.

The nitro testing went well because, following the instruction to invert the can and pour hard, I got a lasting whipped-cream head on the stout. There's a little bit of staleness or oxidation in the aroma which isn't ideal for a sweet milk stout. The flavour is spot on, though: the chocolate and vanilla tasting as fresh as the day it was canned. There's a little hop bittering in the finish as well. I don't remember exactly how Jet Black Heart is supposed to taste but I'd be surprised if this isn't it.

I have a feeling that I'll get less value out of this blog as it makes the inevitable switch to canned beers. The evidence so far is that canning does too good a job of preserving a beer exactly as it was. Maybe I just need to leave them longer. We'll see.

Sunday 12 June 2022

Bosteels Pauwel Kwak

Origin: Belgium | Date: 2017 | ABV: 8.4% | On The Beer Nut: May 2007

We were transiting through Brussels airport, Dr John and I. At the emporium of boozy delights he acquired a Kwak giftpack for a friend who, he assured me, was only interested in the glass. So the beer was spare and he gave me two of them. One was cheekily necked in the departures area, but I saved the other for future use on my vintage beer blog. That was five years ago, which I deem long enough to find out if Kwak changes any over time. As a strong and dark Belgian ale, it feels like it should, though it doesn't get the vintage treatment in the same way the Trappists do.

It probably doesn't help things that I haven't had any Kwak since that evening in the airport but I have a reasonably strong impression of how it tastes: a big and heavy sweet-banana driven ale, especially high in esters, even for Belgium.

After five years, the first thing I notice is that the lees have settled in big lumps to the bottom of the bottle, suggesting it's been busy in there and should therefore be somewhat protected from oxidation. The aroma is muddy and bready, smelling like kvass, more than anything. Certainly not sweet. And the flavour has dried out considerably, dropping the banoffee in favour of raisins, nuts and dark sherry, with a backing of strong tea and a little toffee liqueur.

I think it's an improvement on fresh, and isn't a million miles from what happens to Orval over a similar timeframe. I never would have thought of ageing Kwak had I not acquired a spare bottle by sheer happenstance, but I'm glad I did.