Dogfish Head makes a lot of interesting beers. Unfortunately, not a single one of their beers, interesting or otherwise, makes it to my neck of the woods. Dogfish Head Fort is a big beer that I'd only heard of in passing and certainly wasn't expecting to ever procure a bottle of it, but here we are... I picked up a couple bottles of Fort in Denver a few weeks back and decided to open one up this afternoon. Having known virtually nothing about this beer ahead of time, I didn't really plan ahead. All I knew is that this beer was brewed with raspberries, that's it... the bottle doesn't really give any other specifics. As I sat down with my glass of Fort I started doing the usual research and found out that this beer has a Belgian base at its heart and is considered the world's strongest fruit beer at 18% ...yup, 18% alcohol. I'm definitely surprised, but I'm not deterred...
Russian River's Belgian and barrel aged beers have a near legendary reputation as some of the best beers produced in this country. That reputation also means they are also some of the most sought after beers, making them difficult or impossible to find in most markets. I returned from an out of state trip a few months back with a few bottles of Russian River beers so I could try them out and see if they live up to the hype. This is the first bottle I'm reviewing, Russian River's Supplication, a Sour Ale aged in oak barrels.
St. Bernardus is a name that often comes up when people talk about Westvleteren. Westvleteren 12 is regarded by many who've had it (which is a very small fraction of the overall population of craft beer drinkers) as the best beer in the world. Part of it's allure is the nearly unobtainable nature of this beer. St. Bernardus, on the other hand, is a much more widely available beer and one that is considered a very close second when talking about the best beers in the world. As someone who hasn't had the Westvleteren 12 or St. Bernardus, I'm approaching this beer with few preconceived notions about these beers and I'm looking forward to evaluating each one on their own merits.
I feel like I should make a confession before starting in on this beer. First, I have yet to drink a Victory beer that I liked. A couple of them weren't bad, but I wouldn't buy any of them again. That shouldn't really be a problem since Victory doesn't distribute to my area... Secondly, I love Weizenbocks. This is definitely one of my favorite beer styles. My diluted German heritage might have something to do with it, but I think I'm predisposed to liking Weizenbocks. So, I feel conflicted about trying to review this beer... On the one hand, I know I like this style of beer but on the other, I know I don't like any of the Victory beers I've had before.
Belgo Old Guardian was one of just a couple Stone beers I recently picked up in a visit to Colorado. Knowing that Stone was already in talks to bring the bulk of their line up to Missouri, I wasn't looking to stock up on their beers... but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to grab a few of their seasonal and limited release beers. I always wanted to try the Old Guardian Barley Wine, and honestly had never heard of the Belgo version, so I decided to pick up a bomber. Barleywines are great, most of the time... I'm a little apprehensive about Stone's take on the style, but I'm willing to give it a try. I'll try anything if you add a little Belgian yeast to it.
21st Amendment is an interesting brewery. I had the pleasure of visiting their brewpub in San Francisco last year and I really enjoyed it. It's a tiny little place with about a dozen different beers on tap at a time. 21st Amendment doesn't bottle, but they do can their beer for export to other markets. Since my trip to San Francisco I've managed to have a few more 21st Amendment beers and I've liked each one better than the last. I have heard a lot of good things about the Monk's Blood, a Belgian style Strong Ale, and I can't wait to try it. I really like the Belgian styles, but I've never had one out of a can before... this should be interesting.
Schlafly's Bière De Garde just feels right. It tastes great, looks great and goes really well with a robust pizza. What more can I say? This was the first true Bière De Garde that I ever had and I return to it every time I want a hearty and sour full bodied beer with my dinner. This Bière De Garde smells like a farmhouse... but in a good way. It smells warm and wheaty, sour and a little fruity. The flavor of this beer is complicated and yet still familiar. It is sour and creamy with just a hint of spice. It's as if they took a wheat beer, a trippel and a Märzen; pour them all in to a vat and through the mystical art of brewing, came up with this delicious Bière De Garde. My one gripe with this beer, and it is a small one, is that it ultimately is more sour than sweet. It's a small complaint, but I'd love to try a version of this beer that has a little more sweetness in the aftertaste.
Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter was a big surprise to me when I had my first bottle last year. This beer has a generous amount of vanilla brewed in, and this is abundantly apparent upon taking your first sip. You'll notice right off the bat that this beer isn't (as) bitter, despite being a pitch black Porter. Rather, this beer is sweet like dark chocolate with a creamy vanilla element that makes everything go down really smoothly. You don't need a sweet tooth to enjoy this beer though. While you can pick up on hints of caramel, chocolate and bourbon - this beer is never overbearing. There are a lot of different sweet flavors in this beer and that's because it takes a lot of sweetness to make up for the bitterness that usually comes with being a Porter.
When I bought this Chimay sampler a few months ago I didn't really plan ahead as far how I was going to drink these three bottles. I ended inadvertently drinking them in the most american way possible, which would be Red, White and finally Blue... I started off with the Red because it is the Chimay I see most widely distributed. I drank the White next because it was the end of summer and I was wanting something a bit "lighter" ...like I said, I didn't do much research ahead of time. That left me with a bottle of Chimay Blue which I was a hesitant to open up, at least until I was ready for a nearly double digit ABV beer. I recently went to the grand opening of a new liquor store in town and they had all of their beers sorted in order by rating, from highest to lowest. I couldn't help but notice that Chimay's Blue garnered a 100 point score, ranking right up there (at least according to this liquor store) with Nøgne Ø #100 and Old Rasputin. Since I recently drank an Old Rasputin, I figured the time was right to finally crack open the Chimay Blue that's been waiting so patiently for me.
Dogfish Head's Festina Pêche sounds like it'd be a one trick fruit beer. Judging by the name and this beer's label you'd expect it to be something like Pyramid's Apricot Weizen. That isn't necessarily meant as a dig to either beer, I like Pyramid's Apricot quite a bit. Like many fruit beers though, it's just that... a beer with some fruit in it, nothing terribly special. The Festina Pêche is a bit different than other fruit beers because it is based off of the Berliner Weissbier style that is quite unique. A stock Berliner Weisse is very tart like a hard cider. Dogfish Head took the Berliner Weissbier and added their peaches to that to create an even more unique beer.