The siblings are in town for early uncles and auntie first Christmas. I stocked in well over the last month or so...and then we all get sleepy after a big sherry trifle and only open a couple. I will just have to work through these over the next few days - a Belgian, three English, two central New Yorkers and two Californians. Click on the pic for the better view. I have already reviewed the Old Foghorn and will tie my review of Chimay Red into a comparison post on Belgian Dubbles I am planning. It is, nonetheless, going to be tough being me for the next few days...
- Middle Ages Wailing Wench: Far right in the photo. Middle Ages Brewing is Syracuse's own micro of distinction, one distinction being the kooky medieval branding. Wailing Wench actually caught my eye for the exact replication of a fantasy of a few of my pals from 20 years ago - cleavage and 8%. Kind of fits into the Hercules and Rocket Robin Hood TV cartoon running joke in my life. Good to find out that the ale does not have to rely on the branding for sales. Dark malt, spicy hot. I found lime juice, cinnamon and burnt sugar with a bitter greens finish. The creamy tightly bubbled rocky head head held up throughout. Brother #1, who got half, thought it was as close to mowing the lawn as a beer can get. He has not had Ruination IPA. Big with heavy body but worthy and balanced even with the volume at 11. All advocatonians and I give it 100% - a classic American Double IPA. $4.19 USD for 22 oz at the Galeville Grocery.
- Rouge Santa's Private Reserve Ale: Third from right. I maybe should have had this one before the Wailing Wench. It is a little fresher and one notch lighter at only (only!) 6% making it a bit of a transition mentally. Nevertheless, this is probably the first Rouge I have not absolutely loved from the first sip. It has tannic bitter greens over a fairly unlayered and unmassive maltiness. This is odd as the brewery states that at least six different high quality malts go into the beer. All I get is one recessed biscuity note which sits oddly, leaving an impression of a big bitter arugula salad with one animal cracker crumbled on top. These massive beers are fairly common in the US and it must be difficult for a brewer to find their point in the market, their reason for being in the game. The name makes you think of holiday ales like the far inferior Old Fezziwig by Sam Adams but there are not figgy pudding spices or other references in the beer. Santa must just be a hop head with a taste for arugula. $3.79 USD for 22 oz at the Galeville Grocery.
- Harvey's Elizabethan Ale: Second from left. Vintage 1998, bottle 3508, 275 ml, $3.99 at Party Source, Syracuse. I swished and poured the yeast at the bottom of the bottle in the Belgian style leaving a cloudy rich brown look topped with a very fine beige foam on top. The smell is all spice, yeast and mellow heat - not unlike a Belgian dubbel. It is creamier in the mouth than a dubbel, however. Full and rich with wonderfully balanced hops. The yeast component of the flavour is particularly fine, giving a sense of baked Christmas goodies - mincemeat pie in particular. It has an oily texture like an oatmeal stout but much heavier body than most of those. The low end of the beer advocate reviews makes me think there might be some significant bottle variation but for my money this is worth that risk. This will easily take the best part of an hour to sip through.
- Harvey's Christmas Ale: 275 ml, $2.99 at Galeville Grocery, Syracuse. Fourth from right. Nowhere near as interesting as the Elizabethan Ale. Spend the extra buck. The aroma is very nice with rich malt and fine Goldings candycane hop. But that is it. No head at all. Virtually still. Heavy raisin or fig malt with some heat of alcohol but no real layering in the taste. Burnt toffee. 8.1%. Not real ale as there is not scum of yeast at the bottom, where all that good flavour and spice lay with the Elizabethan. Reviewers who say port-like have never had decent port. It is like the inside of a candy bar, caramel. Santa deserves better. Santa will get at least an Elizabethan Ale from me if we ever meet.
- Middle Ages Druid Fluid: Second from the left. I bought a four pack of 12 oz bottles of this for about 8 dollars US and I am wondering if I have ever had a better buy in terms of quality for price. A barleywine with a big hoppy edge. Fantastic. 9.5%. The brewery describes it in these words:
An epic barleywine, made in the tradition of British Farmhouse Brewing. Lavished with a velvety blend of six different malts this is a warming beer with a lush mouthfeel. The complexities your discriminating palate will detect are ever changing as this barleywine matures. When young, an assertive hop character predominates and with age the beauty of the big malt balance unfolds.So...I am guessing this is something of an infanticide - but it is loverly. The malts are rich and, unlike the Harvey's Christmas, not cloying at all despite the extra 1.5% of heat in the bottle. It has that juicy quality that overcomes all - extremely moreish. The hop has a bit of citrus and a bit of menthol. One advocatron calls it a "session barleywine"! Between this and the Wailing Wench, I am looking forward to many more of Middle Ages's brews.
- Thomas Hardy Ale: 8.5 oz for 4.49 USD at the Party Source, Syracuse. Lovely pure big malt. Made by O'Hanlon's, it has its own website. Pours still leaving only a thin white ring at the edge of the of clear rich brown liquid. For 11.7% it is not hot though there is heat. Fig and date, hot apple butter, thick malt cut clean by pine-mintish hops. To have a basin would be a wonderful thing, to soak legs of lamb and to help me soak that leg of lamb. It is like sherry or balsamic vinigar - concentrated. Maybe between an oloroso sherry and a twany port. Add 60% water for an ale. In the mouth it becomes floral if you swish and swish but, still, shy of maple syrup. Fantastic - beer rebuilt in a way or, as the name would suggest, rediscovered. The Beer Advocators consider. From 2004, bottle # 33676. Time might open it up like an inky rich red wine. The yeast is like tasted cake, eggy in a way. Rum and egg nog is not far far away. The fruit in the grain fills the aroma after half an hour - dried peaches and apricots, pears and apples. Wonderful.