Parallel 49 – Russian Imperial Stout 2014

I’ve been getting pretty lax about posting to the blog, but it’s not due to lack of beer drinking so much as lack of commitment. I do vow to continue to post up about relevant local beers though, which is what I’m doing now. With the recent influx of so many great import beers here (Dieu du Ciel, Trou du Diable, Mikkeller, Bruery, and so on) I’ve found myself drinking unusually few local beers so far this year.

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I’m planning to swing things back into equilibrium this summer, though I’m at the mercy of a) the local importers of craft beer and b) my own free will. In any case, today I’m posting up about the beer I drank last night, a pretty fresh 2014 RIS from Parallel 49. As can be seen above, this bottle comes waxed with a burgundy wax, a symbol of age-ability. I have last year’s RIS in the fridge also but I wanted to start with a fresh bottle as a basis of comparison in recent memory.

Both the nose and taste of this particular stout is heavily centered around the roast character. There isn’t a lot of adjuncts present, but the roasted malts are rich and expansive. I pick up chocolate on the nose but not very much in the taste. I taste more vanilla and a little bit of coffee, plus some licorice back there. Interestingly, despite being aged in whiskey barrels, I’m not getting a lot of oak or whiskey. That is in stark contrast with one of this beer’s local adversaries, Driftwood’s Singularity, whose primary palate point is big bourbon flavour. Parallel 49’s RIS take a bit of a different approach and it’s by no means a bad thing – I think there are plenty of folks who would prefer this over Singularity, most notably those who aren’t big on bourbon.

I look forward to cracking open the bottle of last year’s RIS and will report back when I do.

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Pro-Tip: Use the two-fang bottle opener common to wine openers to “bite through” the wax. Other style openers likely won’t be able to cut through the wax without you having to cut some wax off first.

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BA Bottleshare #2

The Canada forum regulars on BeerAdvocate got together late last year at member rutager’s house for an unofficial BeerAdvocate bottle share. We’re not sure, but it could have been the first of its kind. Well, last weekend (March 8th), the follow-up event took place at another member’s place, Boozecamel.

Much like the first go-round, there were a lot of awesome, coveted, rare, and ridiculous bottles. Here are some of the phone pictures I took during the evening – unfortunately the photography will be pretty lackluster compared to what I would normally use for the site.

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One of the earlier bottles was Upright Brewing’s Blend Love. This is one that I’ve longed to try, and it did not disappoint. The mug on the bottle is that of Ben Love’s, the guy behind Gigantic Brewing. He doesn’t look nearly as mean in photos as he does on the bottle.  I didn’t take much for notes, but it was tart and full of fruit flavour, but also a good barrel quality as well. I will never pass up an opportunity to buy a bottle.

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Before our palates were in any way compromised, Tom pulled out a collection of Still Nacht bottles. Now I’ll admit, I didn’t know very much about these guys, though I knew they carried a little clout. Pegged as a Belgian strong pale ale (and they mean strong… 12% ABV), these were unlike anything I’ve ever had before. The small bottles are 2010 and 2012 editions while the large bottle is the 2010 Reserva, having spent 25 months in Bordeaux barrels. It goes something like this: the 2012 bottle is really good, a unique mix of Belgian yeast and fruit and malt that I’d not experienced before. Kind of like a quad, but there are lighter fruits like apple and pear too, and the yeasts are a bit different. The 2010 bottle is a full step ahead of the 2012 bottle, as the fruits have exploded into full spectrum. Then there’s the Reserva, which has not lost any of the great characteristics of the base beer but add to that deep and complex oak and wine notes, and decent tannin level. Just mind blowing. I would put it in my top 10 beers ever, probably.

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Anchorage, one of the greatest ninjas in brett-beers, has this brett DIPA. Bitter and sour together is a bit of a tricky thing. This is a fine example of doing it right. Like other brett-IPAs I’ve had, the full hops kick is tempered by the wilder yeasts and bacteria. A great balance between acidic qualities, with plenty of lemony citrus.

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Pardon the size of the photo above, but damn it, it needs to be stated loudly. This is barrel aged Speedway, and it’s got coffee. I’m not too up on the Speedway variants, but I think this bottle is pretty special, or at least it tasted that way. This should be a poster-child for coffee-bourbon-sweetness balance. Absolutely one of the best stouts I’ve ever had.

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This stuff’s ridiculous. If ever you want to do a lot of damage to yourself in a short period of time using beer, this would be a good place to start. It’s 26% ABV. I’ve had a few beers in that range now, but this is the closest to a “normal beer” any of them have tasted. The grain bill is intense, and it feels like it’s just barely in solution at all. You almost need to chew. It has the flavours of a typical big stout, but all of them are unusually intense. What it doesn’t have, curiously enough, is the taste of alcohol – something you can get in heaps from beers half its strength.

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Just a little late-in-the-game Fou Foune action. I would normally never crack a bottle of Fou when I’m already tipsy, but it’s just the nature of the evening I guess. Bright, rich orange fruit must.

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Firestone Parabola is another beer I’ve heard plenty about but never had the chance to try. I distinctly remember passing it up on a previous Portland trip (too many bottles already), and now I regret it. I get the hype. Parabola has this toasted coconut character that’s quite unique and really delicious.

I’m skipping a few bottles (including the one I brought), but here’s the end result: a dozen awesome beers between the five of us (actually there were 13, a Prairie Artisinal bottle is missing). I was happy to call it after this, I was definitely tipsy. No duds, and lots of really special (beer) experiences. And another thing – despite the rather unusual group from a personality standpoint, we all got along famously and, as far as I know anyway, everyone really enjoyed themselves. Maybe it’s the beer I associate with these guys, but I really enjoy their company.

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Hair of the Dog – Cherry Adam from the Wood

I’ve said it before on my blog and I’ll say it again: I’m a bit of a Hair of the Dog fan-boy. I love their bottle design and the fact they sell primarily 12oz bottles; I love their beer structuring of selling a few dialed recipes and adding all these variations of the same base beer; but most of all I love the beer itself. Everything’s bottle conditioned and brewed with aging in mind – but they are all also good fresh.

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Here’s a prime example of a variant. The base beer, Adam, is a dark “old ale” which is a lightly smoked, not-quite-stout ale with a lot of complexity already. Cherry Adam’s brewed by taking Adam and marrying it with cherries in bourbon casks for 15 months.

The result is as glorious as I could have hoped for – more glorious than I expected, really. It looks almost the same as Adam does – nearly black with a tan head – but there is a slight hint of plum in the body and pink in the head too. I knew this was going to be good as soon as I took a whiff – cherries, plums, dried fruit, all with a tart edge, but also a rich malt sweetness and gentle smoke character also.

The smoke picked up a bit when I took a sip, though it is not overpowering and balances great with the dark and red fruit body. The smoke comes across as charred wood and peat, which I really enjoyed. There is a tannin and oak quality here that contributes to the beer tasting and feeling much like a sherry or port.

Speaking of the feel – this beer is exceptional in this regard also. Mouth-coating like honey, it just sticks and stays. Its sweetness is tempered perfectly, not coming across cloying at all. Also the beer has a great warming effect but there is no taste or burn of alcohol to be noted.

I would say this is a very good age for this beer (this bottle was about 16 months old at consumption), though I bet it will still have many great years ahead as well.

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Mikkeller / Anchorage – Invasion Farmhouse IPA

IPAs brewed with brettanomyces are a good example of how beer styles tend to cross-pollinate, so to speak.  It’s not a new thing, but with the huge insurgence of creative brewing going on these days there are now all kinds of combinations such as brett-IPA’s you can get your hands on.

One such example is produced by one of Danish brothers Mikkel and Jeppe, and I hope you can guess which.  The other is the man behind Evil Twin.  That’s a whole lot of amazing beer being produced by these siblings, and more impressive yet is neither one of them actually has a brewery.  They are both “gypsy brewers” who basically just rent space at whatever brewery has the space and the is the right fit for whatever beer’s up next.

This particular Mikkeller brew was produced in Alaska, at Anchorage Brewing Company.  Seems like a bit of an obscure place to go for such a delicate beer, but it is not by chance.  Anchorage has a whole lineup of beers brewed with brettanomyces. It can be said it’s kind of their thing, and I’m confident that they’re pretty damn good at it.

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Anyway, I better get to this beer before I run out of energy. Labelled a “Farmhouse IPA” which alludes to the “wild yeast” nature of the beer.  As an aside, using the term “wild” has kind of become a legacy term – modern “wild ales” are often brewed with store-bought lactobacillus, brettanomyces, and the like just because it’s easier and more predictable.  I guess you could say the flavour is the wild part now.

Appearance: It looks like an IPA for the most part – tangerine orange in colour, though its colour appears almost to be at half-saturation, with kind of a greyness to it.  The head starts out strong but doesn’t last all that long before it’s just a ring.

Smell: It’s a familiar smell, like a saison brett.  The brett character is there but well integrated in with other notes.  Grassy must, earthy, and orange citrus.

Taste: Tangerine skin followed by lemony acidity. Complexity is very good, there is a deep seated mustiness that is gentle enough that it’s additive to the flavour and not the flavour itself. I kind of expected this to taste like I’m used to an IPA tasting like, but with some funky side to it. It’s not really like that though, because the brett is much more integrated into the beer.  It lacks the spice of a saison brett and it has more citrus than one, but otherwise it’s pretty damn similar to a well executed saison brett.  And to me, a well executed example is one that almost has a gueuze-like quality that gives the beer a feeling of age and oak.

Feel: The carbonation is mild and the body is silky.  Quite nice for the style.

Overall: This was a good buy. It wasn’t cheap ($25) but I’m happy I spent it. I’m not sure I’d stock up on it but I’d buy it again.