THE EDITOR’S DESK :: Trick or Treat? A Tale of Three Beers

by Harvey Gold on October 30, 2011

Sitting on the porch handing out treats while the little ones were being walked around the neighborhood, Halloween 2011 brought a couple of interesting taste sensations in additional to Skittles and Kit Kats. The first was Goose Island’s Christmas Ale for this year. Interestingly, the friend who brought it over had tried one and had expressed disappointment with it, so as there wasn’t a lot of excitement about it, I figured one less in the fridge wouldn’t matter.

It poured a nice rich brown with a very soft off white head. The nose, at first- and remember, my pal Joe had made me a little skeptical- could have foreshadowed a nice Brown Ale scent, or could have just smelled like “beer.” My first sip, however, had me telling him that there was something there. Maybe not today, was my first thought, but as a bottle conditioned brew, certainly something to work with over the next year or two or three. I was enthusiastic enough to have him take a sip, and as he acknowledged my point, we talked about the piece I wrote about tasting, how sometimes we taste a beer and there’s nothing there, then try it again at a later date and wonder what the hell had happened to our palate the first time. This was one of those. As it became a little less cold and more comfortable in the glass, this very nice offering from Goose Island displayed a notable malt profile, bringing a nice level of bitter on the tail, and a distinctive, but far from cloying spiciness… nutmeg?  As we went along, the wonderful caramely malt rose and rose, leaving me satisfied while inhaling the strong bottom-of-the- glass aroma of big, sweet malt. I think I’m going to grab a bottle or two and hold it for a year or so. This may very well be one of those really special ones, given how nice a drink it was, so young. And I think by the time we finished, Joe agreed.

Our granddaughter, Lilly was born on 10/10/10. In honor of this wondrous event, I presented the happy parents with a bottle of Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale. Tonight, after trick or treating was completed, our daughter popped it open and poured a few 4 oz. tasters. My other experience with Muscat grapes was with Dogfish Head Midas Touch, a beer with such an enormous grape and honey profile, I could only handle drinking it with dessert.

This bold offering from Stone wasn’t trying to back away from anything. While very much a major player here, the grapes worked well alongside the spice one would be looking for in a Belgian Strong Ale. Very drinkable, and smooth enough that we forgot it sits with a 9.5% ABV. The Belgian environment , for my tastes, is a much better home for the Muscat Grape than the mead recipe used for Midas. I have a bottle and think I’ll wait another year for it. We’ll see if  these grapes continue to blend and contribute to the flavor conversation, as opposed to being the actual subject.

Finally, as I was getting ready to close up shop for the night, having used up so much energy to dress up as “a tired and semi-confused older guy on a Saturday night,” I received a note from Dave Daugherty, he of  “On and Off the Beaten Path” and “Dave Speaks.” I had been wondering about the new Guinness Black Lager, so was thrilled to get this note and learn Dave had just tried it. Sadly, Dave’s experience was to the melody of “The Thrill is Gone.” Not much nose from the start, he observed he hadn’t any great expectations as their Stout doesn’t offer a lot in that area either. Pouring black with a creamy tan head, the first sip offered little. In Dave’s words “good, but not great,”  likening it to the Stout bottled without the nitro-bullet, but with less body. Tasting some burnt malt and a little caramel he found it uninspiring, particularly as compared to the very good Black Lager brewed by our Texas friends at Shiner. Dave’s disappointment, fomenting fears that his taste buds for beer might be “going numb” notwithstanding, his last words on the matter put forth the “hope that Guinness will just stick to what they have done best for over 200 years.”

We here at YBN very much like THAT Guinness.

We made it out with a secret stash of  a Reese’s Cup and some Whoppers. Haven’t paired them up… yet!

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