The Mother of all Storms
I bought this bottle of Mother of all Storms back at Thanksgiving. I meant to try it; I really did. I was going to have it for my birthday, or for a barleywine week, or split it with people. Instead, it sat in the closet intimidating me with big scores on the review sites and a large price tag.
Mother of all Storms an English balery wine — possibly my favorite style — and aged in bourbon barrels — possibly my favorite barrel. But I was underwhelmed by the base beer — Stormwatcher’s Winterfest — when I tried it and overwhelmed by the hype for Mother.
There was no way I could be completely satisfied. I’ve been looking forward to this beer for so long and been inundated with such massive praise.
It’s good. Don’t get me wrong. Mother of all Storms is an all powerful, weighty beer. It has huge bourbon vanilla notes and woodyness. It’s got caramel and surprising chocolate notes. It’s got a full body and is devoid of cloying sweetness. It’s not a subtle beer; it’s stupendously bold. But it doesn’t seem to let go any new secrets with each sip.
It’s just not my style.
I’m sure the bottles I’m saving will, with age, mellow and settle into something more my speed, but at the moment, Mother of all Storms is an explosion of flavor. But maybe you should split a bottle two or three ways.
Lower De Boom Boom!
Why do all the biggest beers come in the biggest bottles? Sometimes it’s nice to drink a one beer and take a nap, but sometimes it’s just too much.Thus 21st Amendment’s nip cans: they’re only eight ounces and damn cute.
Lower De Boom is a big beer. 21st Amendment calls it “powerfully balanced.” I’m not sure how that’s possible. I think they mean the flavor is balanced — half rich caramel, half bitter, bitter hops, but the alcohol is nuts. It’s downright astringent. I put the rest of the four pack in the closet. If it gets better with age, I’ll let you know.
Quick while it’s still Winter!
Solstice d’Hiver is a dark barleywine from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel. I never see Dieu Du Ciel! around here. I have only seen a few different bottles, and the last one I dropped. It shattered.
Solstice d’Hiver — Winter Solstice — is dark and roasty. It’s surprisingly dark and roasty. The main flavor is bitter — bitter burnt malt and bitter American hops. There is the possibility of coffee and toffee. The body is excellent and chewy. But like I said Monday, I want every good beer to be better.
But when I attempted to use a bottle opener on the screw top cap, I somehow destroyed the lip of the bottle. I don’t think I drank any glass because I double filtered it. Hey Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, what’s up with your bottles always breaking on me?
Beer Fests and Barleywines
I can’t stand beer festivals. I hate the crowds, the drunken antics, the waiting in line. But I liked the Lucky Lab Barleywine and Big Beer Tastival. It was smaller, well staffed, and featured my favorite style on the planet.
That said, I ran into another beer festival trap, I wanted every beer to taste better. When you are comparing so many beers in the same style, you are never satisfied. I wanted every beer to be different. I wanted to combine the body of one beer with the flavor of another. I wanted to take the caramel and drop the hops. It’s impossible to take a beer on it’s own merits when it’s surrounded by so many others.
Not to mention the shear number of beers. So many! I always get a bit of choice anxiety. I want to get the best, but I have no idea what that is. And I never want to drink a beer I could find at home. So I skipped the Old Yeller vertical. I skipped the Old Foghorn vertical. I went for the strange and peculiar, and the hard to find.
And you can only drink so many ten percent beers in an afternoon.
Here is what I tried:
Widmer/Collaborator, CXI: Pumpernickel: it tastes like a bagel. Four years old, with nice bitter hops in the finish, and a grainy body.
Boulder Beer, Killer Penguin: from last years batch, nice caramel notes, but a bit flat, a bit lifeless.
Laht Neppur, Barleywine: from 2011, is again missing out on the body. A barleywine ought to be thick and chewy. It’s got the brown sugar. Still not right.
Hopworks Urban Brewery, Bourbon Barrel Noggin Floggin: More like it, molasses, punchy spice, butterscotch, nice bourbon touch.
Mikkeller, Big Worse: smells of maple syrup, grainy, bitter finish, but a particular hop — citra? one of those fancy new breeds — a hint of Rye?
Bigfoot is the premier west coast American barley wine, and it’s not too hard to find. The Trader Joe’s still has six packs sitting around from February. That might make you think it’s not very good. Bigfoot is good, and Bailey’s taproom was doing a five year vertical tasting last week. I had to get in on that.
The 2012 is still fresh, still hoppy and big. The big bitter hops give way to roasted malt and citrus. The finish is all earthy hops. There is a nice sweetness in the middle, but the feel isn’t to syrupy. The grapefruit is delightful.
The 2011 is smoother. It tastes redder — I have no idea what that means but it does. The citrus is faded, and the sweetness comes stronger, more brown sugar. The finish is still super bitter.
2010 was a good year for Bigfoot apparently. It’s still bubbly, but more subtle. A little less bitter in the mouth, but it will burn your throat a little.
And then we came to 2009. All brown sugar and burnt toast. Just enough bitterness, maybe some fresh fruit. The fruit is new. I don’t know what fruit, but it’s brown.
Lastly, we had a five year old taste of the 2008. Smoothest, mellowest, even Sarah thought it was nice. And then it turned bitter, not overwhelmingly bitter. Just enough bitter to counteract a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I would’ve killed for some ice cream as a companion.
But what do I do with this bottle I squirreled away seven months ago?
I picked up a lot of beer in Seattle two weeks ago. A lot. But I can’t really dive in till after Oregon beer month ends. But I figured this 2010 bottle of Pike’s Old Bawdy would make a good nightcap for the IPA tasting.
Old Bawdy is woodsy, smokey. Lots of brown sugar and bitter burnt sugar, toffee. The body was a little thin for my liking. Maybe that’s the two years coming out? I didn’t even realize this was a vintage bottle until I got home and put it in the fridge. I’ve never had it fresh, but this was an interesting brew. But I have never had any aged beers before. Maybe this was a bit oxidized? I don’t know. I just know I love barley wines because they take a beer and condense it into the best most delicious parts.
No one makes barley wines in Oregon. Few people make stouts this time of year. But that’s all I want to drink these days, something big and boozy. Something full of flavors. Something thick and creamy. I want chocolate and smoke. I want roasted grains.
At least Hair of the Dog can be counted on for a crazy flavorful beer. I love Adam, but the last time I had Fred I was disappointed; it was all booze and bitter. This batch though, this batch is powerful. I cracked the bottle and the bouquet poured out. The scent has everything, hops — citrus, malts — lightly roasted, and sugary sweetness. Maybe a bit of bourbon or rum — it stings the nostrils. And a bit later I get some pipe tobacco — vanilla and smoke. The head is big and rocky, but the beer is smooth and thick. The delicate foam is like a fancy latte. The taste is all over the map, molasses and brown sugar — like a cookie, citrus and pine from the hops, more of that bourbon or rum heat. The finish has a little risidual sugar and a bit of a bite, but mostly it’s warm and inviting. This is an all night beer. It’s been an hour since I poured it and it’s still opening up.
I forgot about beers like this. Why can’t I end every week with something this intense?
Last night was poker night. I brought an Old Boardhead that’s been kicking around the back of the fridge. Everyone else brought Budweiser and Heineken. I’ve been in the mood for barleywines lately. They seem to pair well with wet weather. Old Boardhead reminds me of Bigfoot, but fruitier. Orange peel and a bit of caramel. I wanted a bit more caramel. The finish was a little bitter. I picked this beer up because it was oldish, but it’s not aged. The flavors are a bit stale, not really improved yet. I sort of wish I had held onto it a little longer.
In Amsterdam, we found a beer shop, De Bierkoning, that sells plenty of beers from Oregon, mostly Rogue and a rare bottle of the Abyss, and a bar that exclusively sells American beers, The Beer Temple. It was nice to get back to the familiar. It was nearly impossible to pick from the thirty taps and hundreds of bottles. I couldn’t justify the cost of Westvleteren, but I picked up some stuff I’ve never tried.
I started with Brewdog’s Galaxy IPA. I think it was part of a single hop experiment. It was delicious smelling, super floral and citrusy, so satisfying. It tasted delicious, but came with an odd aftertaste, sort of like bitter coffee. Maybe the glass wasn’t entirely clean. Bobby got the Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout from Flying Dog. It was pretty good, chocolaty, but again a similar off flavor in the back of the throat. I followed up my IPA with a crisp lager from Mikkeller, nice bitterness. I drank that down fast, and I needed more, so I went with the Backburner barley wine from Southern Tier Brewing. It was delicious, too. Sweet smelling with a hint of soy sauce or teriyaki, the flavor was a mix of molasses and cereals. The whole experience was a little weird, American beer in Europe?
Last night we went back to Caps & Corks.
On the left we have Anchor Brewing’s Old Foghorn, which was delicious. Foghorn is an English style barley wine, less hops, more woody, oaky flavor. It’s still creamy yet dry and little sweet.
On the right Blue Mountain cherry cider, which was pretty good. It has a nice thick mouthfeel and super tart cherry flavor, but it’s a bit like cherry cough syrup.