Free Beer Tastings are FUN…

this is how my afternoon started. tasting delicious icewines with cheese pairings. yum and wow.

Last night marked the second of four FREE beer tastings at Cork & Bottle and Clever, and it was a great success!  Thank you to everyone who came out! But I still need LOTS more food items and donations for 2nd Harvest, so please, please bring them by the shop when you can!!

It was a veritable hodgepodge of beers, as our England vs. USA tasting was unavoidably postponed.  But don’t worry folks, the transatlantic duel will transpire soon! Nonetheless, I received GREAT feedback on each of the beers and my blog as well. Thank you for all of the insightful comments and advice everyone….

IMG_0914BEER #33

Sinebrychoff Porter: ABV: 7.2% Yes, it’s almost impossible to know how to pronounce that word, so don’t ask me.  I fumbled through it all night like an amateur.  It just doesn’t roll off the tongue….

The beer pours out dark and dense.  I don’t really know what to expect, because the last time I drank this one, I had imbibed on numerous glasses of wine, a cocktail or two, and was 3 sheets to the wind. I addition, you could summarize my knowledge of Baltic-style porters in three words: doesn’t know much.  But that’s gonna change, friends, I am determined.  I have several on my list, and I am in it to win it, so to speak.

There are definitely some meaty/savory type aromas that are difficult for me to identify specifically, particularly because they are not direct and showy, just revealing a leg or two.  What is more predominant is the molasses and dark cane syrup aspects, along with dried dark fruit, such as raisin and fig. They continue to become more pronounced as it warms in the glass.

Although it has a rich, full mouthfeel, it is lighter in body than I expected.  Meaning, I anticipated this dense, weighted palate, with tons of coffee and chocolate, with a super bitter finish.  Shows what I know. While there are faint notes of tobacco, no real coffee or chocolate make a cameo, and the finish is fairly mild. In fact, to my surprise, there are almost stony aspects to the nose and palate. It reminds me strangely, yes even bizarrely, of the wet stoniness of lean Chablis and Alsatian Riesling, although the two liquids could not be more different if they tried! Hmm!

Overall, people at the tasting really went for it and enjoyed it, or it was not their party at all.  To me, to be this dark of a beer, I thought it drank fairly easily, and is not nearly as foreboding as one might think upon first take. Which might explain why a porter from Finland is in a decent number of bars here in New Orleans….

IMG_0915BEER #32

Sierra Nevada Porter: ABV: 5.6% Remember what I said about Sierra Nevada when I reviewed the stout? Easy drinking beers that you can consume several of without a problem? Same goes for this guy.  The porter is a good bit lighter than the stout in color, aroma, and body, and this may or may not be a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for.

I personally, between the two, prefer the stout, and having tasted them tonight side by side, here’s why.  The porter has some nuttiness, specifically a note of tamari almonds, like the stout.  There is a fair amount of smokiness on the nose, but only remains present in the bottle.  In the Riedel, it vanishes.  On the palate, there are notes of brown sugar and sweetness, but like the other aspects, it’s restrained.  Too restrained, in my opinion. I want it to jump out more. Show yourself! These are good aspects, but they hide behind a curtain you can’t lift.

This is why I prefer the stout.  While I think it needs to show a little more attitude as well, there is a greater presence in the nose and palate of that almond nuttiness, soy, and molasses. I would like to see the stout act as the porter, and Sierra Nevada come up with a big, brawny, kick-you-in-the-teeth stout….Whadda ya say guys?

IMG_0911BEER #31

Bellhaven Scottish Stout: ABV: 7% This laddie was not part of the tasting, so I furtively drank it on the side whilst I poured the other delights for the crowd.  But never fear, my trusty Riedel was by my side to give its oh so accurate read of the situation.  But, I gotta tell you, I had some trouble with this one.  It just wasn’t giving off alot of aromas.  And I waited patiently, as I do and will do with all of my beloved 100, to warm, and still….not much.

I was able to detect some meatiness(but hard to identify exactly what), along with a bit of pepper, and root beer.  But I was searching.  The palate was a bit more forthcoming, with definite notes of caramel and toffee, and what we decided was something akin to to that sweet coating on Cracker Jacks on the entry.

Now people, I know you must think, “She is making this up!” But I swear to you, I couldn’t come up with this if I tried.  I smell what I smell, and remember, that sense is inextricably tied to memories, and when we smell something our brains recognize, the memory comes flooding into our present.  It’s really an amazing thing actually, once you train your nose to work with your brain (and believe me, it takes alot of practice!), your whole past opens up. Its pretty freaking awesome.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed with this beer, and was really hoping for more character and pizzazz. I can’t believe I just used that word. I feel like I should be wearing white gloves, a sequin leotard, and doing jazz hands. Sheesh.

BEER #30

Picture 40Samuel Smith Imperial Stout: ABV: 7%  This beer was the hands-down favorite of the tasting crowd last night. Wine and beer lovers alike agreed. And the why I think is easily answered by tasting most of the Samuel Smith brews.  Steeped in history and tradition, these beers are solidly made, time-tested, and perfected to be enjoyable every time you pop a top.

I have not had this beer in what must be two years, so my memory of it was more than skewed.  I had remembered it being very espresso-like, with lots of bitterness on the finish.  Not so good on the recall there girl. Tonight, I smelled roasted aromas on the nose, malty notes that followed through on the palate.  In fact, as it warmed, I literally got malted milkballs (yes, like Whoppers) on the mid-palate.

There was an sweet yet nose-burning element (not too strong) that I was having trouble identifying, when Mike said, “Do you get something like a sweet whiskey?” And there it was! That nose was bourbon!  If you wanna get specific, Maker’s Mark, with that trademark sweet, wheaty nose, but name any bourbon, and you are pretty much there.

There is nearly no bitterness on the finish, as I had so erroneously remembered. In fact the palate was super-smooth, with no rough edges that I could find.  With its fairly low ABV, 7%, this is perhaps the easiest Imperial Stout I have ever tasted.  If you are wanting to venture into the admittedly intimidating black hole of Imperial Stouts, and your toe is on the edge, start with this one.  See you on the other side…


And finally, in honor of San Diego Beer Week, VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE BREWERY!


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