The Forgotten Pleasures of Fine Beer

I’ve gotten a request to review some beverages I’ve had recently.  Might as well start with the one I just finished: Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout.  It has a wonderful roasted coffee flavor which is enhanced by the brewer’s licorice.  I also noticed some vanilla and a slight dark chocolate flavor.  I’d especially recommend it with some grilled steak or similarly cooked beef.  This is the second Bell’s I’ve had, and they really live up to their reputation.

For the next few reviews, I’d like to note that I’ve been saving these beers for after Lent, so any discrepancy between how other people have reviewed them and mine may be attributed to that–especially if I give a sour review.

Then, yesterday for dinner, I had the pleasure of sampling Hitachino Nest’s 2011 Commemorative ale.  The combination of coriander, nutmeg, and cinnamon in this ale played off each other quite nicely.  Having said that, you’d get something equally good and refreshing at a lower cost by buying Smuttynose’s Star Island Single or something better and equally expensive by buying Orval Trappist Ale.  The other Hitachino Nest I found recently was their White Ale.  Apricot, orange peel, and banana combined in a most pleasing fashion.  Just a hint of bubblegum could also be detected, but it added complexity rather than tainting the other flavors.  So, it was a very enjoyable drink, but I still feel like I’d prefer to stick with American and Belgian Witbiers.  Now, I just have one more Hitachino Nest: their Japanese Classic Ale.  Like their magnificent Hitachino Nest XH, they stored this beer in sake casks, so I’m expecting very good things from it.

For Easter dinner, we were treated to a variety of splendid drinks, which fits our festal custom of appalling grandmother by imbibing as much as temperately possible.  Dinner started off with some Nicolas Feuillatte Vintage Brut Champagne.  Its sweetness made it incredibly drinkable, as did the soft fruit flavors.  My father’s a particular fan of this vintner, and I’m very glad for that.  For our red wine, we had an above average red wine, which was at the same time a below average Brunello di Montalcino.  This was the La Resina 2005, which on the opening had flavors of iodine and tart cherry–rather proving that it ought to have been decanted.  (I’m not responsible for the blunder!)  But it was still enjoyable and mellowed out quite nicely: the tartness of the cherry softened and revealed some nice red currant notes.

Following this, I opened up some Hofbräu München Dunkel.  When I had this at the beginning of Lent, it had a pronounced roasted walnut taste with some soft fruitiness underlying it (red delicious apple, I think).  After aging the over forty days of Lent, the fruitness completely took over.  A sweet cherry taste dominated, but at the same time, it was restrained by toasted wheat bread and a hint of dark chocolate.  So, I enjoyed it for its roasted flavor before giving up alcohol and for its fruit after taking it up again–after trying it, my sister commented on how I always pick good beer, while my brother is not as fortunate in his selections.  We topped off the meal by having some Woodford Reserve bourbon and Tito’s Handmade vodka.  Both of which, in my humble opinion ought to have been finished sooner.  The flavors were not as integrated as they should be.  I give the Woodford Reserve one month.  Tito’s can last longer, but it’s missing so much of the complexity one loves!

At dessert, I opened up my last bottle of Brooklyn Brewery’s Chocolate Stout.  This is the kind of stout which can only be had with dessert: it has some rich bittersweet chocolate, espresso, fig, and some alcohol flavors.  This is a bit overwhelming on its own, but when paired with dessert it is exquisite.  Unfortunately, the time in the fridge was too much for it, and I had to pour what had once been a dessert beer par excellence into the sink.

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Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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