Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Winter Seasonals — 21st Amendment/Ninkasi Collaboration vs. Rogue

21st Amendment/Ninkasi Collaboration: ALLIES WIN THE WAR!
ABV 8.5%

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale
ABV 5.2%

As we continue to chip away at the winter seasonals this battle features a holiday staple from Rogue and a newcomer collaboration from 21st Amendment in San Francisco and Ninkasi in Eugene.
The Santa's Reserve has one of my favorite labels from Rogue — it's festive, a bit edgy and features glow-in-the-dark snowflakes! The ALLIES WIN THE WAR! can is eye-catching as well with the whole old newspaper theme and photoshopped historical photo on the side, but it's such a bizarre name for a beer that the whole concept seemed a bit forced.
Despite our label bias it was the AWTW that proved to be the best in the glass. It had a nice piney hop presence to go along with its malty sweetness, but really set itself apart in the mouthfeel which was excellent — smooth and rich without being syrupy. The Rogue beer, which is a holiday version of their Saint Rogue Red with twice the hops, had great color in the glass (reddish orange) but it was all show. It was very clean smelling, almost soapy and tasted thin and bitter with simple citrus flavors. The finish left us with a long-lasting, unpleasantly harsh bitterness. So, according to Rogue, Santa prefers his beers thin and bitter. Perhaps it makes sense as sort of a counterbalance to that jolly old Saint Nick routine he puts on? But if you're asking us, we'd say leave a can of the AWTW on your mantle next to some stout brownies if you really want to get on the "nice" list for next year.

Winner by unanimous decision: ALLIES WIN THE WAR!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big, Burly Winter Seasonals — Deschutes vs. Avery

Deschutes 2011 Abyss
ABV 11%

Avery 2011 The Kaiser
(Imperial Oktoberfest Lager)
ABV 10.01%

Having recently had the pleasure of opening a bottle of 2006 Abyss for an epic battle we were looking forward to trying the newest vintage of this excellent beer. The opponent this time was a seasonal release hailing from Avery Brewing in Colorado. Both beers weigh in at over 10% alcohol, which qualifies them for our unofficial "burly" designation.

From the first bell we knew that we were dealing with two distinctly different styles. The Kaiser was a bright clear orange while The Abyss was so dark it made us uncomfortable to stare at it for too long. The Abyss continued down the dark path with intense coffee notes in the aroma along with a spicy, peppery hop presence. The Kaiser smelled intensely sweet and malty with a bit of funk (earthy, barnyardy) thrown in for good measure. Things got interesting when we took our first sips. The Kaiser was super sweet with a fruity character that was almost like pineapple and a boozy, sweet finish — total dessert in a glass. The Abyss, on the other hand, was an untamed beast — rich and viscous with the flavor of orange-infused coffee. Unfortunately the finish was harshly bitter, kind of like chewing on coffee grounds. This was a huge surprise for us as the 2006 Abyss was so amazing but it might just be the reason why they have a "best after" date on Abyss bottles. On this particular bottle the "best after" date was 8/4/12. Honestly, we've never tried a brand new Abyss because I am a compulsive hoarder of good beer so most of them get squirreled away. Based on this tasting though it's a good thing we didn't drink any of those old bottles too early because apparently they need some time to mellow a bit.

So, the winner of this battle was The Kaiser which is an awesome beer if you want something sweet and malty to either pair with dessert or be a dessert unto itself. As for The Abyss, we'll chalk this one up to a learning experience and be sure to heed the "best after" instructions next time we open a bottle.

In the interest of full disclosure to satisfy the FTC’s law, this battle features a sample bottle received from Deschutes Brewing. 

Winner by unanimous decision: Avery Brewing Co. The Kaiser