After a shower and a much deserved Troegs Nugget Nectar, I headed out for some beer shopping and drank a couple while I was there. The highlight was Rushing Duck's Ded Moroz Russian Imperial Stout. It was perfect for a chilly afternoon. The sweet, roasty malts were decadent and the alcohol was warming but didn't burn. At 11.2% ABV I expected to get a kick in the back of the throat but ended up with a nice smooth sip. It went down way too easy for a midday beer but it endeared me to Rushing Duck and I will be seeking out some more of their selection in the near future.
From their I headed home and took in a Green Flash Friendship Brew (Black Saison which was great), Blue Moon Proximity (wheat ale with overly sweet wine notes which left a lot to be desired), and an Avery Ellie's Brown (it more than lived up to it's reputation). Then it was time for the night to start.
The initial conversation centered around my trip to NYC for the Spiegelau event and then we dove into the tasting notes of each brew as we imbibed. There were some great selections that deserved more time but as conversation strayed we had to jump to the next beer to keep it fresh. Here is the list followed by the highlights:
Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #45 Director's Cut
Victory Baltic Thunder
Two Brothers Bonfire
River Horse Hop Hazard
Goose Island Demolition
Widmer Brothers Brrrbon '11
Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye
Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter
Boulder Killer Penguin
Lakefront 25 Imperial Stout Anniversary Series
New Holland Night Tripper
Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout
The Bruery Smoking Wood
The highlights of the beers I had already had in the past were The Ruthless Rye and the Bourbon County. The rye notes of the Ruthless kick out just enough spice to make you almost forget about the hops and then yield and give the right of way to the resinous bouquet. The Bourbon County Coffee provided enough of a jolt of caffeine to get us through the rest of the meeting while underplaying it's 14.3% ABV and drinking like an early morning wake-me-upper.
I am a big fan of the 100 Barrel Series (my favorite is still the Island Creek Oyster Stout) and Director's Cut proved no different. A stout/pale ale blend reminiscent of a black & tan with more balls. It wasn't strong on roasted malts in the nose and the leading flavor was light hoppiness of the pale ale which blended into a stout at the tail end. At a relatively low 6.25% it could be easily sessionable if you were to break out a few bottles among friends. Unfortunately we only had one.
With a very stout/porter forward list it is hard to pick many that stood out. So I will go with the Beer-of-the-Night. That honor goes to The Bruery Smoking Wood. It was right all over. The toffee colored head, luscious viscosity, and going-from-mellow-to-in-your-face-on-the-sip smokiness were all perfect. I can envision it on a night around the fire or right alongside a juicy burger with bacon, the smoke cutting through the fat and marrying the bacon in harmony.
Overall a great night, with few low-lights (but low-lights nonetheless). It was not the best night we have had as far as selection goes as more than two thirds fell into the same category creating a blending effect on the palate. Only the first of each style really stood out while the strongest impression was saved for last. Smoking Wood didn't need to save the night but it did save our palates, giving us all a memorable experience and something to look forward to next month.