Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter Beers — Iron Horse Brewery vs. MacTarnahan's

Iron Horse Brewery
Mocha Death
ABV 7%

Dark chestnut brown.
Intense coffee bean, dust.
Cloying and syrupy. Cola and mild coffee.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Sweet and sticky.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):
Mediocre +

Winter Hum Bug'r

ABV 5.3%

Deep, dark black.
Aroma: Sweet, cocoa, chocolate milk.
Flavor: Chocolate milk, roasted malts, some acidity.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Balanced
Finish: Mild bittersweet chocolate hop bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good

Blow by Blow
The first battle of the new year features our first two-time participant, MacTarnahan's Hum Bug'r. Last February it pulled off a victory over the 2009 version of Anchor Brewing's Our Special Ale. So this year, it put its 1-0 record on the line against the intimidatingly named Mocha Death, a winter seasonal from Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, WA.

This year's version of the Hum Bug'r was quite similar to last year's. However, we detected more chocolate this year as opposed to the coffee notes we got last year. We also described it as "malty" last year, whereas this year's version had some nice hops in the finish which led to a "balanced" verdict. It really is a tasty, easy drinking, dark beer and it happens to be fairly inexpensive as well, making it a good value for an everyday winter beer. It also comes in six-packs for those that like smaller portions.

On the other hand, the Mocha Death was far from balanced. The aroma was like stuffing your head into a sack of coffee beans — super intense and very distinct. The flavor was way more subdued, offering cola and coffee notes, however the finish was syrupy sweet and cloying with no detectable hop bitterness at all. I have a pretty big sweet tooth and even I couldn't imagine drinking an entire pint in one sitting. If you are intrigued by the Death we suggest that you serve it for dessert since it will certainly satisfy your postprandial craving for both coffee and sweets!

Winner by unanimous decision: Hum Bug'r, giving it a 2-0 record in Bottle Battles. Congrats to MacTarnahan's!

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