full swing. The holidays are time to enjoy time with family and
friends, do some shopping, and drink some awesome beers.
The week before Thanksgiving saw the NYC craft beer scene taken over by Grimm fever. Grimm Artisanal Ales is a small Brooklyn-based brewery operated by a husband and wife team. They've been releasing some very limited batch beers over the last several months that have really taken off. When I heard they were going to be releasing two beers, Tesseract double IPA, available in tall boy cans, and Bourbon Barrel
Aged Double Negative stout, in 22oz bombers, I knew I wanted to get in on the action. The week before I tried their Purple Prose sour on tap at Alewife in LIC, Queens, which only made me want to try the other Grimm offerings even more. Both Tesseract and BBADN were available at
a couple of stores near my office so I ran over and picked up four Tesseract cans and one BBADN bottle during lunch. It's a good thing I went when I did because both stores sold out within about two hours.
I put the BBADN in my beer cellar to age it a bit but I was excited to drink the Tesseract as fresh as possible. I had one can that night and was very impressed. Citrus, pineapple and passion fruit on the nose. It smelled great. The taste was also very fruity which worked in perfect balance with the hops. Very drinkable, and this is from someone who typically steers away from IPA's. I'd definitely get this again, in fact I'd order it at a bar if I see it available, in can or on draft. Beers like this are slowly turning me into a hops head.
The week of Thanksgiving brought the annual release of Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout. I had planned on attending an event the night before turkey day that was going to debut the 2015 vintages but with our very own Scott Holbrook under the weather I decided to stay at home and do my own tasting with another friend rather than trek into the city for a solo mission to a super crowded bar. We started by
splitting my second Tesseract can. It was just as good as the first. My friend said she liked it more than Heady! IPA praise doesn't get much higher than that. After that I had to get to some barrel aged beers so we had a blind taste test of '14 Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout against a '15 Founders KBS. These two behemoths of barrel aging both clock in at over 11% and are two of my all-time favorites. The BCBCS has obviously been aging longer than the KBS, by about 6 months. I had my wife pour the beers so we didn't know which was which, but it was clear almost immediately just by looking at them. The KBS had much more carbonation left and poured with much more head. The BCBCS has only the faintest of heads and it faded almost immediately. Both smelled great but I thought the BCBCS tasted better. I remember drinking the '14 BCBCS fresh last year and thinking the coffee had a lot of pop, like an espresso, and that with some aging it would mellow down to more of a regular coffee. This was definitely the case, coffee flavor remained but not as strong as it was a year ago. The KBS was good too but for some reason I think 2015 was an off year for
Founders. The fresh KBS I had in April when it was released seemed to be lacking then and aging the last 7 months didn't really improve it. It didn't make it worse, don't get me wrong, it's still a great beer, but it's simply not as good as the Bourbon County Coffee. For the finale I planned on having a '13 Goose Island Bourbon County Backyard Rye as our "dessert beer." By the time we finished off the KBS and
BCBCS we were so full and well on our way to hangover city we decided discretion was the better part of valor and to save ourselves for the impending food and drink onslaught that was coming in less than 24 hours on turkey day. Now I have a Backyard Rye chilling and waiting for the right moment.
For Thanksgiving day, I decided to go the festive route and focused on pumpkin brews. I brought a '14 Southern Tier Warlock pumpkin stout, a '15 Southern Tier Pumking, and '14 Avery PumpKYn, a bourbon barrel aged pumpkin brew. I've been holding onto the pumpKYn for over a year now in hopes the alcohol burn, attributable to its 17% abv, would temper a bit with time. The aging certainly helped this beer be more
drinkable. It was good but I had higher hopes. Very sweet, almost more liqueur than beer. Thankfully, no pun intended, the Warlock and Pumking were on point. Aging the Warlock for a year helped bring the malt forward even more, which was delicious. The Pumking was good as always.
After Thanksgiving I took part in some Black Friday beer shopping, primarily goose hunting for Bourbon County. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on everythign I wanted except for Rare, which was super limited, and super expensive, ranging anywhere from $60 to $100. I
also tried this year's BCBS regular and Regal Rye. The regular was great, the best it's been in years. The Regal Rye, however, didn't do it for me. The blackberry/cherry flavors didn't seem to be in balance with the salt that was added. I was expecting something similar to the Backyard Rye, but it was not alike at all. A little disappointing, maybe some time aging the bottle I have will do it some good. I haven't tried the BCB Coffee Stout yet. I've got two bottles of it, so
I'm planning on having one fresh soon and I'll age the other. I also picked up a can of Grey Sail's Farmers Daughter IPA that I've heard great things about. It lived up to the hype, it's a very good northeast IPA. I put it just a hair below Tesseract.
The week following Thanksgiving featured a Founders tap takeover at Draught 55 in Manhattan. The top billing of the takeover went to Founders CBS, their super rare Canadian Breakfast Stout, aged in maple bourbon barrels. I'd had it a few times before and this time I'd have to say it was the best yet. A little sweeter than KBS, with the addition of the maple, it hits all the right notes. Awesome beer, in my top 5 for sure, but I sitll put it behind Goose Island's Bourbon County Coffee and Vanilla Rye. Also on tap was Founders new Project
PAM, a black IPA also aged in maple bourbon barrels. This one just wasn't for me. The sweetness didn't mix with the hops. It reminded me almost of a barleywine, which I'm not a fan of. The surprise hit for me that night was Stone's Xocoveza, a choclatey, cinnamony, mocha
stout. It was on tap from Draught 55's Stone take over the night before, and I'm glad it was still available. I really enjoyed it, great flavor profile, not too sweet, not too much coffee, very well balanced.
All in all, a pretty epic week and a half in craft beer. I'm looking forward to what the rest of 2015 brings before ringing in 2016!
Happy holidays to all.