by Brian Wall
I recently had a birthday and with that special day came an opportunity to sample a couple of very serious beers from the cellar. As these are very limited and difficult to locate sometimes, it seemed like the perfect time to drag them out for a tasting. While cellaring has long been reserved for wine enthusiasts, beer lovers have come into their own by doing the same. The biggest concern for cellaring a beer is if it will survive the time.
The best rule of thumb is to cellar in a cool, dark area and plan on only cellaring a beer with an ABV over 10%. Anything less may lose flavor and runs the risk of being a little more “boozy” than you’d prefer.
This day first brought the Bourbon County Brand Stout by Goose Island Brewery. Goose Island is situated in Chicago and although they were purchased by AB InBev in March 2011, they still produce one of the most sought after brands of beer- Bourbon County stouts. There are five varieties and they are only released in limited batches. This past year, it was not uncommon to be allowed a purchase of one bottle per person at most of the stores. Lines do form and not everyone may get a bottle. Since there was only one bottle of the standard Bourbon County Stout in my cellar, that was an easy choice to start my special day.
The scent from opening was mixture of bourbon and coffee. Seeing as though this beer rings in at a strong 14.2%, I was expecting the booziness. The color was pure black and seemed to absorb the light. The flavor was strong coffee, chocolate and a hint of vanilla. This beer is a sipper through and through. The flavors intensified as the beer warmed and remained coffee/vanilla throughout the tasting. Definitely something that you will want to try if you can find any of the variations out there.
The second serious beer sampled from the cellar was Jester King’s Atrial Rubicite. Jester King is nestled downstate in Austin and has become a favorite of most beer traders and collectors. Jester King has a reputation for the sour ales they produce and the wild ales from wild yeast. The flavors vary from strong sour to mild tartness depending on which ale you are sampling. If you enjoy a Saison or sour beer, they are something to check out.
The Atrial Rubicite is a limited-release sour that is sold in smaller bottles and is brewed with raspberries. The initial scent was strongly tart and slightly wood-musty. Seeing as this is a sour ale, it is to be expected. The pour was raspberry-red and opaque. Carbonation is very light from this bottle-conditioned brew. The flavor was sour and very tart with a very dry finish. I almost felt the need to drink a glass of water with this beer. The more that was sampled, the more the sour, tartness and dryness maintained. I was expecting a slight bit of sweetness as other raspberry sours have shown but this one gave no sweetness at all. Regardless of the tartness and dryness, it still remains a world-class beer and something any true beer connoisseur should sample at least once.
These samples were definitely on a special day and the rest in the cellar will need to hold for another special day. Keep your eyes open for them as they are limited-release and only come around once in a while. Slàinte.