after being sidelined with a nasty head cold last week, I celebrated getting back on my feet by cracking open a bottle of my imperial stout for a tasting.
- after experiencing some carbonation issues, I hit the bottles with some wine yeast and set them down for a couple of weeks. the new yeast did the trick, eating up the residual bottling sugar I had added earlier and carbonating up the bottles in a heartbeat. my latest gravity reading indicates that the beer’s FG didn’t shift (it stayed at 1.02), so hopefully I won’t have to worry about the wine yeast eating some unfermented sugars and overcarbing the bottles (I’m still planning on testing a bottle every week for the next month though).
- appearance: pitch black, even when held to the light. 1″ tan head fades to 1/4″ after a few minutes but sticks around. a great looking beer.
- aroma: intense roastiness with a bit of booze on the back end, slight hint of sweetness
- taste: creamy mouthfeel with a sharp, dry finish and carbonic bite. great roasted malt flavors but not a ton of complexity.
- overall: this beer still isn’t my favorite, but the champagne yeast worked great and really transformed this beer. it’s amazing how strong carbonation can completely change a beer’s profile. hopefully the finishing bite created by the wine yeast carbonation will mellow over time. I’m looking forward to comparing this to the version I finished with brett in the keg.
while kicking back with the aforementioned brew, I got to thinking about the frenzy surrounding “elite” beers here on the west coast – beers that are either exceedingly hard to find locally or costly when they do come around. I know I’m not alone in feeling envious of locals of prominent foreign breweries who can cruise by their neighborhood watering hole at their leisure and pick up some extraordinary beverages for a song. however, I have also come across consistent beer “bargains” on a weekly basis that (in my opinion) match the quality and complexity of their elusive style counterparts, often for a fraction of the price.
- for example, anyone even remotely interested in craft beer has at one time lusted after a bottle of westvleteren 12, a limited-availability belgian quad that is admittedly delicious. however, instead of shelling out $20+/bottle online or booking a flight to belgium, I recommend heading down to your local and grabbing a bottle or two of st bernardus abt 12, an equally tasty quad that goes for $4.99/bottle around here. the similarities between the two beers are striking, which makes sense when you consider their shared history.
- additionally, it seems that everyone and their cousin has a hard-on for anything cantillon these days. it doesn’t help that the van roy’s creations are nowhere to be found in the state. I have to admit, they might be my favorite foreign brewery and put out some incredible beers, but instead of chasing down cantillon’s geuze and paying a mint for it, I recommend nabbing some bottles of drie fonteinen’s oude geuze instead. in fact, although cantillon’s kriek is safely in my top five beer list, I have to admit that I prefer drie fonteinen’s geuze to its cantillon competitor (and I’m not the only one). plus, I can easily get 375s of it (seasonally) for just $9.99, which in my opinion might be the best beer deal out there these days.
- further, I know of a ton of guys who love orval with a passion. however, it’s kind of hard to get behind spending $5-6 a bottle for a session beer during a barbecue. plus, I’m never too sure how long my bottles have been sitting in some hot truck or warehouse on their way over. as an inexpensive local alternative I recommend checking out green flash’s rayon vert, which is less than half the cost and tastes to me what I would imagine orval would be like from the source. I reviewed both earlier HERE.
- other beers I could generally label as “bargains” when considering quality, price, and accessibility would have to be rodenbach grand cru ($9.99/750mL), old rasputin imperial stout ($8.50/4 12 oz.), and bigfoot barleywine ($14/6 12 oz.). again, this is only on the west coast, so your results may vary.
- as much as I like hitting the road to hunt down an elusive regional favorite, it’s reassuring to know that many world-class beers from around the globe are readily accessible from my own back yard. enjoy!