Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reviews: Abita Imperator Black IPA and Bourbon Street Stout

Not too long ago a box showed up at my place with a couple of Abita Brewing Company's newest bombers, their Bourbon Street Stout and their Imperator. These are both part of Abita's push to have a larger lineup of 22 oz. bottles, and I'm a huge fan of the idea. Abita has a long history of putting out quality select series beers, so seeing some of them make it to shelves in bottle form is a great thing for them and for the consumers. 

First off, the Imperator, this is the fifth in Abita's lineup of "big beers"  following the Abbey Ale, Andygator, SOS, and Strawgator. Imperator is a black IPA, listed on their site as 8% abv and 90 IBU. I remember enjoying this one when it was on draft as a select option, so hopefully the bottle release is just as good.

My first thought was that the color was spot on, a dark tone but not as rich and thick as a stout would be. The beer poured with a frothy head, more white than tan, and it lingered a good while. 

The aroma was roasty as expected, but lacking the real hop bite I would want in a black IPA. The characteristics to look for in the style are a roasted malt backbone with a hop-forward nose and taste, but this one really has more of a malt-forward presence. I'm not saying the hops didn't exist, but I would have liked them to be more pronounced. 

The taste was more of the same, this beer is a good start but it would really benefit from even more hops. I remember the draft version being a lot hoppier than this bottle, but there was no date listed that I saw, so I guess I might have been sent a bottle that had been sitting for a while. I hope that's the case, because it would explain the lack of hop profile expected out of the style.

Next, the Bourbon Street Stout, Abita's first release in their new Bourbon Street Series. This one was also a select not too long ago, and I loved it on draft. I would go so far as to say that the draft version that I tried was a top 10 Louisiana brewed beer, maybe even top 5. They cold crash it for 6 weeks after fermentation is complete, then transfer 100% to bourbon barrels for 8 weeks. I think that's on the shorter end of barrel aging, but in all honesty it's probably plenty long enough to get the right flavors. The beer clocks in at 10% abv and 20 IBU.

Like the Imperator, this had a great looking pour, dark and rich with more of a tan head. That's what you want a stout to look like, nothing to complain about so far!

While the Imperator lost some luster on the nose, the Bourbon Street Stout is fantastic. The barrel aging really gives a complex array of flavors, oak, vanilla, some roasted tones, and plenty of malty sweetness to balance out the alcohol notes. 

The taste follows through on this one strong, a complex delicious beer and a good example of a bourbon barrel aged stout. I don't know where it would rank in the pantheon of great bourbon barrel imperial stouts, certainly behind Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Founder's KBS, two others that can be occasionally found locally, but both of those are going to be a lot harder to get your hands on than the Abita Bourbon Street Stout. I think a blind tasting might be in order sometime soon!

For now though, I'd say pass on the Imperator unless you know you're getting a fresh bottle, and if you see the Bourbon Street Stout, grab a few. I plan on finding a few more to add to the cellar myself.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Gnarly Barley Radical RyePA

I hope you have all enjoyed the blind session beer tastings, but now it's time for a few known quantities... sort of. I recently got together with some beer blogger friends and recorded a beer review episode of Chuck P's Me And My Big Mouth podcast. None of the beer was reviewed blind, except for this first one.  Brenton brought it in a growler, so he was the only one that knew what he was drinking.  All he would tell us is that it was available locally.

So... by now you've seen the title and know that he brought us a growler of the Gnarly Barley Radical RyePA.  It's a 7% IPA with 75 IBU and a strong presence of rye malt. Gnarly Barley is one of the new Louisiana breweries, located just down I-12 in Hammond, LA. Their beers can be found in several bars around town, but nothing but draft as of yet.

On to the review... keep in mind that all of us but Brenton didn't know which beer we were drinking until after the comments/scores were compiled.

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge (Baton Rouge Adventures in Beer).

Serving: Poured from a 32 oz. growlito.

Appearance: I described it as a slightly hazy amber, Jay wrote that it was "copper like a shiny penny."

Aroma:
Hoppy, but a little faint, I figured this was likely from the growler. Buddy picked up piney and earthy hop notes.

Taste: Hoppy, and far more powerful than the nose, the hops really come through strong on the palate. Jay wrote that it was "like rye sourdough bread" and Buddy picked up a light spice. Turns out Jay should have stuck with his first instinct!

Mouthfeel:
A little bitter on the back end, we all thought it had a long lingering finish.

Overall: I thought it was a pretty good IPA, with a little work still to be done. We all scored it relatively high, Jay said "I dig it" and Chuck just wrote "very tasty" as far as the overall impressions. And that was before we knew we had a local brew on our hands.


Once Brenton revealed that this was the Radical RyePA I was thrilled. I can tell that they have been improving on their recipe from batch to batch and this is the best this beer has ever tasted. It's a great local addition to the scene.

Overall Rating: 72.6
My Rating: 71

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blind Tasting Reveal Time!

For the last five Fridays I've been featuring unnamed blind taste tested session beers, and now it's time to reveal which one was which. Did I guess any correct? And more importantly, which one did I and the rest of the group think was the best?

Beer #1 - We all enjoyed this one, it had a good grapefruit note to it and a solid amount of bitterness. I scored it a 71, compared to the group score of 67.25, and I took a guess, based on the grapefruity profile and high IBU level that this was the Stone Go-To IPA... it turns out that beer #1 was... the Founders All Day IPA! I'm 0/1 so far, but I've been drinking a lot of All Day IPA this football season, so I'm glad to know I scored it well even drinking blind.

Beer #2 - Another good one, but we all scored this one a little lower than Beer #1. I had it at a 67, compared to the group score of 64.5. My guess for this one was the Terrapin RecreationAle, being the only "pale ale" in the group of IPAs... and I was right! That makes 1/2 so far, but three more to go.

Beer #3 - This was the first of two that we didn't enjoy much, with a pungent and funky flavor that didn't hold up to the hops in the first two brews.  I scored it a 50, and it had a group average of 53.75.  I guessed at the Southern Tier Farmer's Tan, mostly because it was one that I didn't know much about and hadn't tried before. Beer #3 actually was... the Sierra Nevada Nooner. This was a bit of a surprise, I really expected better from the good people at Sierra Nevada.

Beer #4 - This is the one we all agreed was the best of the 5, with powerful grapefruit hop bitterness throughout. I scored it a 77, and it had a group average of 71.25. My guess was that this was the Founders All Day IPA, but we now know that that beer was #1, so I'm down to 1/4, and Beer #4, the winner of the day, was actually the Stone Go-To IPA. So, congrats to Stone Brewing! 

Beer #5 - And that leaves Beer #5, one that I thought was a little on the sweet side and a little boring.  It scored a 55 on my sheet, and a 57.5 with the group.  Process of elimination leads to the Southern Tier Farmer's Tan, but I had incorrectly guessed that this was the Sierra Nevada, leaving me 1/5 on the day.  

Most important though, our blind taste test ranks:
1. Stone Go-To IPA (71.25)
2. Founders All Day IPA (67.25)
3. Terrapin RecreationAle (64.5) 
4. Southern Tier Farmer's Tan (57.5)
5. Sierra Nevada Nooner (53.75) 

I'm not surprised that we picked Stone #1, but I am a little surprised at Sierra Nevada bringing up the rear. That's why we tasted them blind though, to eliminate that prejudice and judge solely on the beer. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Blind Session Tasting #5

We've made it to the last of the 5-part blind session beer tasting, check back soon for the big reveal and more thoughts on all five beers. As part of the Me & My Big Mouth recording a few months ago, the 4 reviewers listed below decided that we should take on a blind taste test of five session ales.  All were either session IPAs or APAs, but the main point was that we were going to try them all blind, offer up our reviews, and even take a guess as to which beer was which.

The five on the table, arranged so we didn't know which was which by Teresa Day of I Eat BR, were the Stone Go To IPA, Founders All Day IPA, Terrapin RecreationAle, Sierra Nevada Nooner, and Southern Tier Farmer's Tan.

Up now, blind taste test #5...

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: Presented in a Chattanooga Brewing Company pint glass.

Appearance: Clearish, deep amber, probably the darkest of the session beers.

Aroma:
 Bubblegum fruitiness. 


Taste: Sweet and fruity... where are the hops?

Mouthfeel:
 Nothing bad, but nothing good either.

Overall: I found this one to be pretty boring overall, and it scored a 55 with me, for the second lowest score of the group
. I wasn't certain what this one was, but the only one left was Sierra Nevada... I would expect better things from them, but we ended up with two beers that disappointed (#3 and #5) and none of these breweries should be putting out disappointing beer.


Check back on Tuesday for the blind tasting reveal!

Overall Rating: 57.5
My Rating: 55

Friday, October 10, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Blind Session Tasting #4

And now it's time for part 4, the second to last in the Feature Beer Friday! blind session beer tasting. As part of the Me & My Big Mouth recording a few months ago, the 4 reviewers listed below decided that we should take on a blind taste test of five session ales.  All were either session IPAs or APAs, but the main point was that we were going to try them all blind, offer up our reviews, and even take a guess as to which beer was which.

The five on the table, arranged so we didn't know which was which by Teresa Day of I Eat BR, were the Stone Go To IPA, Founders All Day IPA, Terrapin RecreationAle, Sierra Nevada Nooner, and Southern Tier Farmer's Tan.

Up now, blind taste test #4...

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: Presented in a Bulldog pint glass.

Appearance: Light amber color, pretty typical for an IPA.

Aroma:
 Strong grapefruit aroma, really very nice. 


Taste: Grapefruit rind bitterness. This beer is heavy on the grapefruit flavors for sure!

Mouthfeel:
 More grapefruit, and that's not a bad thing.

Overall: We all really enjoyed this one, and I ended up scoring it 6 points higher than Session Beer #1 for the highest score yet. My guess was that this was the Founders All Day IPA, but whichever one it ends up being, it's a beer I'll be on the lookout for in the future
.

Overall Rating: 71.25
My Rating: 77

Friday, October 3, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Blind Session Tasting #3

Welcome to part 3 of this 5-part blind tasting series... as part of the Me & My Big Mouth recording a few months ago, the 4 reviewers listed below decided that we should take on a blind taste test of five session ales.  All were either session IPAs or APAs, but the main point was that we were going to try them all blind, offer up our reviews, and even take a guess as to which beer was which.

The five on the table, arranged so we didn't know which was which by Teresa Day of I Eat BR, were the Stone Go To IPA, Founders All Day IPA, Terrapin RecreationAle, Sierra Nevada Nooner, and Southern Tier Farmer's Tan.

Up now, blind taste test #3...

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: Presented in an Abita Brewing pint glass.

Appearance: Very clear, bubbly, with a bit of an orange hue.

Aroma:
 Pungent and funky. 


Taste: Weak, not a lot of flavor going on in this one. 

Mouthfeel:
 Lingering funkiness, not much bitter at all.

Overall: I was not a big fan of this one at all compared to the first two, although it scored above 50 for us
.  My initial guess was that this was the Southern Tier Farmer's Tan, but that could certainly be wrong... check back in a few weeks to find out.

Overall Rating: 53.75
My Rating: 50

Friday, September 26, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Blind Session Tasting #2

This Feature Beer Friday! and the next 3 following it are going to take on a bit of a different feel... as part of the Me & My Big Mouth recording a few months ago, the 4 reviewers listed below decided that we should take on a blind taste test of five session ales.  All were either session IPAs or APAs, but the main point was that we were going to try them all blind, offer up our reviews, and even take a guess as to which beer was which.

The five on the table, arranged so we didn't know which was which by Teresa Day of I Eat BR, were the Stone Go To IPA, Founders All Day IPA, Terrapin RecreationAle, Sierra Nevada Nooner, and Southern Tier Farmer's Tan.

Up now, blind taste test #2...

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: Presented in a NOLA Brewing pint glass.

Appearance: Slightly hazy, a lighter tone than beer #1.

Aroma:
 More faint than #1, with the malt coming through a little stronger. Brenton also noted it as less hoppy than the first offering. 


Taste: More bitter than the aroma would indicate, closer to #1 on the taste profile than the aroma, but still a little more on the balanced side. 

Mouthfeel:
 Lingering bitterness, but more full than the first beer.

Overall: I didn't like this one quite as much as Session Beer #1, and the scores across the board reflected a similar opinion. Still, it was a very respectable offering and one I'd drink again
. My guess was that this was the Terrapin RecreationAle, which is why it was a little less hoppy than what I guessed was the Stone Go To IPA in glass #1. We had also recently tried the Terrapin offering in a non-blind taste test, where I scored it a 78.  This one received a little lower marks, so if it is the same beer, it just goes to show how varied scores can be and perception can be, especially tasting blind and comparing to other similar beers.

Overall Rating: 64.5
My Rating: 67