Tag Archives: Beer Reviews

The Beermonger Review: AleSmith Decadence Imperial Porter

AleSmith 2007 Decadence Imperial Porter

AleSmith 2007 Decadence Imperial Porter

I recently had to say goodbye to a friend of mine. My best friend (‘Mother’) moved his narrow ass back to L.A. (again). Before he left, the two of us got together at Our Cute Friend’s place for a night of beer, Guitar Hero, more beer, loud music, more Guitar Hero and a ton of great beer. I took the opportunity to bring a few beers out that otherwise I probably wouldn’t crack open for myself. We drank a 2006 bottle of Dogfish Head Fort (a favorite of My Cute Friend). We drank a bottle of Avery Maharaja (one of the Holy Trinity of Weed-Smelling and Tasting Beers). We drank one of my last bottles of Stone 11th Anniversary (the instant classic; they need to bring this beer into regular production now). We pounded beers like Dale’s Pale Ale and Loose Cannon in between. We even cracked some Miller Lite for the hell of it. Thankfully we avoided the 2002 Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout I’d brought, otherwise someone may have been injured.

While we were at it I figured I’d break out a super-special Scooby Snack: A bottle of AleSmith Decadence 2007 Imperial Porter (with great thanks to Alpha-level Beer Minion Doug, who was kind enough to bring it back from one of his San Diego excursions).

We can’t get the AleSmith beers out here in VA, so don’t even ask. I’ve had their Speedway Stout before and enjoyed it immensely before realizing I was at the bottom of the (12% ABV 750mL) bottle and completely hammered, causing me to rant and rave about how amazing the beer was to my fiance who just shook her head and informed me that she indeed knew that I was drunk. As if I didn’t know.

Anyhoo, I had this bottle of Decadence and thought this would be a good time to crack it. Not only could I try out the beer, but I could get opinions of friends who aren’t in ‘the business’. Mother and My Cute Friend are into beers, so they know a thing or two about a thing or two. The ’07 Decadence is a 10% Imperial Porter, rich and malty, pouring a dark reddish-brown. Smells roasty to me at first with hints of dark fruit (very subtle, that) and the expected notes of chocolate and caramel. Expected doesn’t mean boring, though. I could’ve smelled the beer all night. That would’ve been boring. I moved on and started to drink the beer.

What an experience. Not unlike the Speedway (Imperial) Stout, the Decadence is very drinkable for its alcohol level (10% ABV). Blind, I might have never guessed that it was as strong as it was. The malts were front and center—sweet, cocoa, caramel, more of those dark fruits I’d noticed on the nose (less subtle on the palate, surprisingly) and slightly smoky. My Cute Friend was impressed, which caught me a little off-guard since he’s a die-hard HopHead usually. I guess that’s by choice, though; I’ve seen him enjoy many types of beers but I think he just gravitates to the hoppy stuff. We all came away wishing we could get more of this good stuff.

That always kills me, knowing I can’t get certain beers. That will always bother me. If there was only one great brewery out there that I couldn’t get, even if I had all others, it would still piss me off. I’d be bothering every distributor in the area to sign them up. I guess that’s what keeps me in a job. I’m off on a tangent, aren’t I? Sorry.

In the end, boys and girls, I think it comes down to this: This all happened about 6 weeks ago. This was one more night with ‘the boys’; a send-off to a guy who’s like a brother to me. Good friends hanging out like stupid kids all night—like none of us had a care. Among all of the memories of that night (admittedly there aren’t that many), the AleSmith Decadence stands out.

Forgive me if this isn’t much of a review. If you’re reading this, you’re likely into beer and you have a fairly good idea of how this beer is—it’s a fantastic, outstanding example of a type of beer that we don’t see too much of. It’s powerful, richly flavored but perfectly drinkable. The point I think I’m trying to get to is that every now and then, it’s not about the greatness of the beer. It’s about the moment and the friends you share that beer with.

I give it a 10.


The Beermonger Review: Smuttynose Big A IPA

I only got a case out of 30 that made it into Virginia, and it didn’t even get bottled last year, so I figured I should check out and review Smuttynose Big A IPA. Big A is a Double IPA that comes out of the Smuttynose brewery in New Hampshire. This is a first for me; I missed out on last year and haven’t tried it before.

The first thing I notice is that it pours a color-fade, going from a golden yellow near the bottom of my glass to a bright orange with a hint of red near the solid head. It definitely smells hoppy–not a given with big IPA’s or DIPA’s. Smells like green herbal hops, with a lot of grapefruit in the nose.

Big A comes on strong with a ton of citrusy hop flavor, with a hard alpha-acid hit. The finish comes with a hint of malt and a more subtle citrus note. The first impression is of a beer that is all front palate and finish; you get the hit at the top and you get a long finish, but the middle is a very crisp, concise beer. But in truth there is so much more. The finish blooms like a flower (watched in fast-forward) in stages that go from the initial malt hit to a lighter citrus note with a ‘feel’ of bitterness. Not that it’s bitter all the way through, because it’s not, but that you feel it all the way. It is simply ‘there’, what ever ‘it’ is. It’s a long fade into a very green, earthy hop aftertaste.

Some may try out the Big A and say it’s just another example of a over-the-top, unnecessary DIPA. The thing is, that’s the style–double IPA’s are crazy big and hoppy and you have to have a certain personality and taste to really get into them. For what it’s worth, I think the Big A is a very smooth DIPA. Not smooth in flavor, but smooth like Lando when he met Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back. This beer is what it is without pretense or self-consciousness. If you love or think you love big, hoppy beers, try one out if you can find it.


The Beermonger

The Beermonger Review: Legend Imperial Brown Ale

Legend bar and brewery down in Richmond had been operating since 1994, producing and spreading the gospel of great craft beer. They have a good range of year-round brews that I carry in the store which includes a Golden Ale, Pilsner, Lager and Brown Ale. The Brown Ale in particular seems to attract a lot of attention.

In addition to these, Legend puts out a vast number of seasonal and once-a-year brews. Maybe my personal favorite of these is the Legend Imperial Brown Ale. In the glass, it is really an opaque brown color. Held up to a light, it becomes a slightly reddish-brown, but not much light gets through. It smells like something, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. There are aromas of sweet malts and esters, but that something else is killing me…

A very organized and uniform army of bubbles makes up the head, and as you drink the beer it falls down the glass in a sparse trail of lace. Speaking of drinking it: That first sip jogs my head and I finally put my finger on it. That something I was smelling that I couldn’t figure out…Tootsie Roll! It’s not exact nor should it be, but there’s a definite sense of a mix of flavors like cocoa powder, caramel in the malt and spicy slightly fruity tang (from the extra hop going into the Imperial style) that makes you think of a Tootsie Roll a little bit.

I’ve probably gone on a bit much about that, but I was just so glad to get that out of my head. Usually that’s the sort of thing that I wouldn’t remember until I was on the verge of sleep and it would be too late because I’ve already published the blog. I may be a bit too dedicated to what I do.

Anyhoo: The extra malt feels sweet on the tip of the tongue, if that makes any sense. On the front of the palate the hop bitter comes in along with it giving the initial flavor an almost Belgian quality of spice and fruit mixed with malt. Unique in a specifically non-Belgian beer, but very cool. The cocoa and caramel dominate through the mid-palate and into the finish, which is it’s own experience. The finish starts off bitter, with the hops coming to the fore once again, but it transitions into a full-on malty fade. Finesse.

The warming finish is great for late-night hang outs on the patio this time of year (not that I was doing that), but it’s also the only thing that keeps this beer from being completely drinkable. At 8.5% ABV, though, I think that’s a pretty good thing. The Imperial Brown Ale keeps you from drinking too much of it. It knows better than you. Listen to it.

As I said, the regular Legend Brown Ale is very popular and the Imperial maybe even more so, at least around my shop. They say on their site that it’s around from summer into fall, but it never seems to last nearly that long. Again, that’s good and bad: If I could grab a bottle of this any day of the year, things might get out of hand. Then again, this is the kind of beer that gets breweries national attention.

If you dig Brown Ales and malty beers, and want to experience something new this may be a beer for you to try. It’s almost the logical extension of every Brown Ale out there. Get it while it’s around, though; if you can’t snag a bottle…road trip!


The Beermonger

The Beermonger Review: I’m an Arrogant Bastard (and you should be too)

They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single sip.

Ok, so they don’t say that, but I do. In fact, I just did. It was about ten years ago ( I won’t say how old I was exactly; I’ll just encourage young people everywhere not to drink illegally). I went to visit my best friend in Tucson. At this time I was but a novice Beer Geek: Aware of better beers but not exclusive. I’ve always managed to find an interest in the finest of all crafts, be it in music, art, writing, or beer. I was already a regular Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams drinker. I’d discovered the joy of Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde. On this initial trip to Arizona (which I thoroughly enjoyed and have made myself a promise to live in for a couple years in this life) I enjoyed many new experiences. Most of those I won’t name here. Among those I will are pints and pool at the Red Garter, a 1/2 sandwich and bread bowl at Bisonwiches and Fat Tire Ale (more on Fat Tire in the near future).

At some point in my trip, my friend, knowing I was into good beer, told me there was something I needed to try. It was a beer from an at the time new brewery called Stone. That beer was Arrogant Bastard Ale. I don’t know what to say about that night except that Arrogant Bastard is the beer that got me into craft beer.

For the uninitiated, Arrogant Bastard is a full-on assault on the senses. It smells of bitterness, is bright angry red in color and tastes like sharp earthy goodness forcing you to wake up and know that the truth is out there. It literally changed my life. From then on, I went looking for the next, the new, the different.

I had an Arrogant Bastard tonight for the hell of it, knowing I was going to write about it. It’s still the same angry red. It’s not an IPA: Rather a strong ale, with an alpha acid hit that leaves you a slight bit cotton-mouthed. It coats the glass with a sporadic, ominous lace. The flavor is that of a different type of hop; earthy, almost smoky. There is enough malt to support the hoppiness, and enough hop to make you reconsider every beer you’ve ever had in your entire life.

I’m a comic book geek, and I read something in a book recently that definitely applies here: I’ve had bigger, I’ve had better (though not many), but you never forget your first. Arrogant Bastard was my first true craft beer experience, and after all these years it seems we just know each other better. Every move, every twist and turn. This is truly a beer for the ages.

Long live the Bastard.

’till next time,

The Beermonger