Thursday, February 25, 2010

Swapping up the order of things

-Anonymous toast

I have two posts left about Seattle and another one about Denver, but I just returned from Vine Street where they’re holding Stout Month for all of February. (It’s also being held at Mountain Sun and Southern Sun for those of you northwest of Denver.) I’ve been meaning to return there since the beginning of the month, but time’s been escaping me. So tonight I met an old friend to catch up over some tasty dark beer. As a result, I'm neglecting the other posts and focusing on my new favorite thing about February.

Vine Street has a full sheet (front and back) listing and describing the beers offered during the month. My issue with this, and I admit it’s a purely selfish one, is that each night only ten of these beers are available – five Mountain Sun brews and five guest beers. Fortunately, there were more than enough beers on tap tonight that I wanted to try. Sara and I ordered four eight-ounce beers a piece, sticking to the stouts the other wasn’t drinking. She sampled the Mountain Sun drinks and I took the guest route.

So here are my thoughts on the four:

1) Deschutes The Abyss 2009 Reserve

I expect a beer with “Reserve” in its title to be something special. I also usually enjoy and respect Deschutes’ beers. The Abyss was good, but to my palate it was little more than a traditional stout – strong smoky flavor, fruity smell which develops into a taste as you drink more of the beer. It was good, but certainly not memorable.

The website describes the beer as one with “immeasurable depth… [with flavors that] draw you in further and further with every sip.” It also has an impressive ABV at 11%, making it strongest beer I’ve encountered in awhile. I wouldn’t have expected the alcohol content to be that high, which speaks positively of the flavor.

The Abyss was released for the fourth time on November 3rd of last year and is a limited release, coming out about once a year. Knowing this, I’m glad I tried it. But, again, of the four I tried this evening, it will be the first I forget.

2) Left Hand’s Fade to Black Stout

From the first sip I felt like I was stepping up the stouts. This may not be a better stout by professional standards, but it was certainly more interesting than the Abyss. And when you drink as many stouts as I do, “more interesting” often means better.

Fade to Black had a creaminess that is comparable to a milk stout, without the thick whole-milk like quality that makes a milk stout so dense. The smell was sweet, with a hint of fruit similar to the flavor of dried strawberries. The smoky flavor is more subtle than most stouts and is more of an aftertaste than anything else. But it stays with you after each sip. Of the four, this was definitely the beer I most wanted to savor.

3) Golden City Javapeno

Recently, my boyfriend has been obsessed with Golden City. For the past couple weeks, I’m fairly certain he’s brought it up every time I’ve seen him. I’ll refrain from discussing the actual brewery until he actually takes me there, but as a result, the name sticks out. Even then, I would probably order a stout called “Javapeno” regardless of where it was brewed. I mean it’s coffee and spicy things in a beer. Pair it with cheese and all of my favorite things are covered. (I wonder if Golden City does beer and cheese nights…)

Considering the name, the flavor of the beer was calmer than I would expect. It had a smoky front, with hints of java and chili. It certainly lacks the grab-hold-of-your-tongue-and-make-you-curse intensity that I have encountered in every other chili beer I have had. But the flavor grows. It stays on your tongue, subtly. It never becomes overwhelming, but the chili characteristics certainly are there. The java even compliments the chili creating a very comfortable complexity. With its creamy texture, it was the first chili beer I could drink a full pint of, and even consider ordering a second.

4) Nitro Young's Double Chocolate Stout

After the Javapeno I didn’t expect to find anything better. The list said this was one of their biggest selling beers during stout month, but I know I don’t think like other people, so my expectations were not that high. Oh boy, was I wrong.

Foamy alcoholic chocolate milk. That’s what this beer is. In the best of ways. The beer is soft, not smooth, but soft on the tongue. It smells of chocolate, with a slight hint of fruit. The taste has a slight smoky touch to it, supporting the chocolate, and develops into a beautifully complex alcoholic chocolate milk. Damn it’s good. Drink this beer.

I will finish the posts on my Seattle trip soon and catch up on the other Colorado drinking events that have happened since I returned. But, for the time being, if you like dark beers and are within driving distance of Denver or Boulder go to Stout Month. Seriously, go. Now. And when you get back, let me know what you thought. I certainly enjoyed it.

(A note about the photo: Sara would like me to let everyone know she had gone through a long day of class and work before meeting me.)

1 comment:

  1. we are really going to need to go back to vine street.....