Tonight/Today’s post will be covering the tasting notes of the three beers left from last weekend’s tasting. Cascade‘s Bourbonic Plague, Moonlight Meadery‘s Oaked Wild Blueberry Mead, and Foothill‘s Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate. Let’s go in ascending order so we can end on the best of notes.
We’ll start with Foothill‘s Bourbon Barrel Sexual Chocolate. I’d like to preface with the fact that while I liked the non barreled version of this beer better, other members of the tasting had just the opposite to say. The flavors were all spot on though, honestly the only complaint I had was with the body. But being barreled, naturally it thinned out. Stats on this beer include an abv of 9.75% and an ibu reading of ~85. Yet the resulting brew is neither bitter to excess, nor alcoholic to excess.
It’s rather odd though, being the hype that this beer didn’t get (possibly because it wasn’t $45 a bottle) as it too (again, like Rare Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island) was aged in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle Barrels. Sadly I am not enough of a bourbon geek to appreciate the differences.
The look was a beautiful blend of deep mahogany chocolate hue with dark, inviting burgundy edges. The head is wonderfully frothy, very cappuccino like. An amazing shade of tan is appreciated as it slowly (and I mean slowly) dissipates down to a few mere centimeters of what began as a towering two inch head.
The aroma was relatively standard. Bourbon notes melding with the malty sweetness of a Russian Imperial Stout. There’s a hint of something that reminds my nose of bakers chocolate as well. Toffee and oak notes can be coerced out as well. For a near 10% brew, I couldn’t find a lot of alcohol in the nose aside from the initial onslaught of bourbon.
The taste, as I mentioned earlier, reigned a tad thin for my tastes. The mouthfeel is nice though, not overly slick from the liquor at all. It’s rather tame at first but it does open nicely albeit tardy. Lots of chocolate flavors coming through, all types of dark chocolate dance around with a mild bitterness that again reminds me of baking chocolate. The bourbon really opens up after the swallow. Really this beer is just a great meld of bourbon warmth and chocolate depth. Very enjoyable, but I don’t think it’s different enough to really go out of the way for. ***
Onto Moonlight Meadery‘s Oaked version of their “Wild” Mead. This brew is 20% wild NH mountain blueberries and 80% NH wildflower honey. The resulting Melomel (fruited mead, I’m learning too!) was then oaked and ended with an abv of 14%. This is my first commercial mead, although Moonlight errs on the artisanal side.
The sight is an imaginative blood red. The deep crimson depths hold zero carbonation and the alcohol has legs galore. Agitate the glass and all you see is a dull haze coating the walls.
The aroma is stunning. Stop in your tracks stunning. It’s very potent, with a buttery and rich nose coming forth without any hunting. There are hints of wine-like berry notes, tannins, a delicately sweet sugary type of smell from the wildflower honey, but very little if any oak is perceived. There is a definite ethanol bite to the nose, along with some traces of vanilla (which could be the oak actually coming into it a bit for me). For all it’s beauty and wonder, the smell can simply be summed as honey drowned blueberries. But do not undervalue the richness, it is heavenly.
The taste is also a bit thin, much like the Bourbon Barrel Sexual Chocolate. But it is a honey-wine after all so I may be coming off a bit judgemental to those that know mead. What starts as a moderate sweetness alongside some fruit meat, more tannins, and more alcohol; expands into an exceedingly dry sweetness from the honey that is much stronger than the initial hint suggests. The aftertaste is very wine-like. With the tannins and blueberry meat really shining through on the tail. Incredibly hearty, and I truly look forward to more from Moonlight Meadery! ***
Ah. While the mead was excellent, Cascade‘s Bourbonic Plague (a gold medal winner at GABF in 2009) was the highlight of the night. Let’s go into some stats, shall we? 12.1% abv, sweet jesus. Started life as a sort of Baltic/American Double Porter, which was spiced with vanilla bean and cinnamon, which then spent 12 months in select Bourbon and Wine barrels. I’m assuming this is where most of the lactic fermentation takes place. If you didn’t know, Cascade‘s sour brews are Lactobacillus only. No Pediococcus or Brettanomyces in these to my knowledge. Then the barrel aged version was fermented again on a heaping helping of fresh Dates. All the work they put in is worth it. When we get to the nose you can tell how much I’m fawning over this brew.
As you can see from the photo it did gush a little. Ok…it snaked out the neck of the bottle after every pour. It was rather impressive, although may have detracted slightly from the brew, unsure as this has been my only taste so far.
The appearance is rather nice for a beer that gushed. Typical Porter shades of deep brown and blackness. The edges get a great warm deep amber when the light is aimed. The head stays for days, although the lacto does make some nice funky patterns on it if you let it sit for a moment. Rather creamy too. It’s a surprisingly ivory shade of white, almost too white, and laces like heavy cream.
The aroma is up there with my all time toppers. Deliciously rich and complex. Smells of cola syrup in a sort of simplified way. Rich sugars from the Dates mix with lots of vanilla notes (thank you beans…), oddly an incredibly slight chocolate smell pokes in as well. Cinnamon makes itself known near the end, but seems to mumble during the roar that is the nose of this brew. The very end brings more Date smells to the mix. I still get a wonderful cola syrup memory though, I’m talking about straight cola syrup, the old fix a stomach ache kind. Must just be my nose tonight, again I am not getting much alcohol in the scent, but others at the tasting find otherwise.
The flavors are incredibly well melded. The bourbon comes through, but brace yourselves, I found the wine barrels to be a bit overpowering. This is the exact opposite of what I would nearly always say. Usually wine barrels are underdone in my opinion, and bourbon barrels are overdone. This is just the opposite and what I always say I want, but I just felt the wine presence was too much with all the lacto tartness going on. The cinnamon provides a welcome subtle warmth that the bourbon just couldn’t muster. I can’t seem to find any vanilla or much of the bourbon flavors at all though on the tongue. I think the Dates and Date meat round out the body and add to the nose more than they add any noticable flavor for me.
All in all though, Bourbonic Plague is a beer I wouldn’t hesitate to grab. It’s incredibly well done as were all of tonight’s brews.
Again my thanks to John and Jen for hosting this wonderful tasting, providing some great tasty snacks, putting up with me photographing the whole night, and providing the highlight brew of my night. Oh and also for giving me more brews to blog about, Thanks guys!