I am a diehard fan of setting out on the open road when life gets a little stuffy and stifling. Hence…my years zigagging the east coast as a loyal Deadhead. And then a Phish follower. And numerous camping expeditions. Those of you how know me well, are aware that I get ants in my pants, so to speak, and gotta go see the world. Which might also explain my living in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, New York, Atlanta, California, and New Orleans. Really.
I was feeling a major case of cabin fever Friday morning, and decided to strike out with my friend and supporter, Mike. I had learned, shockingly, that Alabama had distribution rights to several beers I wanted to get my hands on for this challenge. Namely Great Divide and Bells. So onward we traveled toward the ole Heart of Dixie, the land which birthed Hank Aaron, Jimmy Buffett, Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson, and Hank Williams.
I had read on Beer Advocate that Hopjacks was THE place to go in Mobile for delicious craft and import beer on draft and in bottle. And so, that became our watering hole for the day. With the Bama game on, and dark beers in hand, it was a great way to spend a lazy Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving….
BEER # 91
Great Divide St. Bridget’s Porter: ABV: 5.9% First up! This beer had a nice burnt caramel color and an inviting nose of a malt shake with milk chocolate. Add some vanilla and a delicate touch of lavender (Yes, lavender! Nice!) to that and you have a nice easy-going porter to start the drink-fest.
In the pint glass, you also get an agreeable smoky aroma that you don’t get in the Riedel. This is the FIRST AND ONLY time I have gotten something better out of the pint glass than my trusty dork glass. Hmm. The body and mouthfeel are pleasant and rounded with an balanced bitterness on the finish that is not strong but present. Thank you Great Divide!
Rogue Imperial Porter: ABV: 8.2% I have never seen this one on draft! Yum. Yum. Yum. This is a GOOD beer. One I wish I could drink again, but I have no access to it. If I am ever in Oregon, my beer-lovin’ behind is making my way over to Rogue to stock up.
What an irresistible nose: clove, baking spice, nutmeg, pepper, and dark, dark chocolate. Like the dessert that I had no room for on Thursday. This is not your average porter. And thank God, because I am over mediocre offerings, like the Butte Creek.
This was just delicious. And with a good honest dose of bitterness on the finish (Thank you!), you’re palate wanted to keep drinking. And so I did. That one went down in a hurry….Time for some food. Perfectly cut potatoes fried in duck fat with sea salt and ground pepper anyone?!
Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout: ABV: 9.5% Well done Great Divide. Intense black-brown color with a dark brown mocha mousse colored head. If you don’t know what mocha mousse looks like, think the color of coffee with just a dabble of milk in there…This sucker is opaque, and coats the glass. Lovely. I am reminded of that crazy, intense espresso on every corner in Italy. That stuff will keep you up for days.
In the Riedel, you get dark syrupy and pepper aromas combined with a burst of hoppiness. There is an essence of orange here, but not like in the grocery store, more like standing in an orange grove, with the green smells of leaves and grass around you.
On the palate, you get that punch of espresso I was expecting, along with tobacco and paper on the finish. There is a definite, measurable bitterness here, which seems to be a combo of both the hops and the roasted malts. This is a wonderfully balanced, interesting brew that for me, should be one of THE Imperial Stouts you try if you are setting out to understand the American style.
Left Hand Milk Stout: ABV: 5.3% After the success of the Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout, I was convinced that there WERE good Milk Stouts out there, and I would give it one more try on my journey. But admittedly still a bit squeamish, I asked for a taste before I settled in on a whole pint. Whew! It’s good.
If I had to only select one word for this beer, it would be….1 guess. Yep, creamy. Subtle black cherry also appears in the aroma. Ok, brewers and beer lovers who know alot more than me: what is UP with all the dried and dark fruit aromas in Milk Stouts? The Farsons Lacto was overbearing dried black currant, and every one I have tasted has had some element of dried fruit in it. Help, this inquiring mind wants to know. Is it something specifically tied to the use of lactose? Is there a particular, unique yeast used in Milk Stouts?
There is also a nice woody aroma that emerges, and after some discussion, Mike nails it as pecan shell. I’m serious, it smells EXACTLY like the shell and pith of that glorious nut. In the pint glass, I make a quizzical face as I suddenly get this strong cologne-type smell. What is that? Oh, wait, that’s just the douchebag behind me that decided to take a bath with his perfume. Sheesh. So scratch that, no cologne on this beer. This is a good effort by Left Hand. Fairly easy to drink, but with a weight that makes it difficult to imagine drinking more than one.
Bells Kalamazoo Stout: ABV: 6% And finally, to round out our delicious and decadent beer drinking adventure, the well-known and loved Kalamazoo Stout. When I first heard the name, I thought why would they name a stout after that little plastic thing kids blow on? Then I realized, it’s Kalamazoo not Kazoo, champ. Ohhh, that makes more sense. At any rate, I have been looking forward to trying this one for quite some time. And believe me, I was not disappointed. I bought a sixer to take back to New Orleans with me. I have some beer folks to share this with.
But I’ll admit, when I first read the label and saw “brewed with licorice”, my heart sank. I’m sorry all you black and red whip lovers, but I have NEVER liked licorice aroma or flavor. Not even close. If it is in anything I’m consuming, drink or food, it stands out like Nixon’s nose, and I am pushing it as far away from me as possible.
So I nervously pour it in the Riedel, and take a timid sniff. Yep, smells like licorice. Duh. But here’s where I am SHOCKED. I like it! It is not overbearing, but is somehow gentle and perfectly balanced with the other aromas. Those being liquid dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses and savory, almost meaty aromas.
That molasses follows through on the palate with a swift kick of vanilla. And as I leisurely took my final sips, I got an aroma and flavor of chocolate mousse. Like the final bite of a delicious dessert. Great job Bells.
And as we set out into the dark night, back to the land of jazz, Mardi Gras, and damn fine Creole cooking, we reminisced about our lip-smacking, delectable day of drinking great beers and devouring the yummiest pizza and fries I’ve had in years. All to the soundtrack of the Grateful Dead, of course…