Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sharing is Awesome

My buddy Craig was opening some of his bottles that were suspected of being infected (Abyss '09 apparently smells like metal and tastes like death at this point) and came across his '09 Portsmouth Kate the Great.  If you don't know (which I guess most of you don't), Kate the Great is an imperial stout made once a year by the Portsmouth brewpub in New Hampshire.  They produce around 900 bottles which get snapped up immediately.  Before this year, the line generally started forming some time in the middle of the night.  Given they release the bottles in the middle of winter, those people are freaking crazy.  And probably still cold.  This year they did some bizarre lottery ticket thing so it was all a crapshoot.  Less freezing, more gnashing of teeth about how life is unfair.  All this boils down to is that Kate the Great is nearly impossible to get and Craig is awesome for sharing it with me.
Kate is an imperial stout which is partially aged on port soaked oak chips.  Or at least I think that's true.  For some reason it's impossible to find any information on it.  Ah well, pretend it's true, you don't know any better.  Smelled really great, lots of dark fruit notes: plum, grape, etc.  First sip had some vanilla and chocolate but is quickly overtaken by the tangy fruit flavors.  A little oak appeared as I drank more but again the fruit was the major flavor through and through.  Both Craig and I thought it was pretty tasty and unique but neither was totally convinced that it wasn't off.  Unfortunately I can't see myself getting another bottle in order to be able to do a comparison.  He has more of a chance since he knows some people with 2010 bottles so I'll just have to live vicariously through him.

After that we opened one of mine, Midnight Sun Berserker.  I brought this home from our recent San Francisco trip and was lucky enough to find it there.  Midnight Sun is a brewery in Alaska and only a few of their beers show up in other areas and they generally go fast so lucky me.  It's an imperial stout brewed with molasses and maple syrup and then separately aged in red wine and whiskey barrels (according to their website) and then blended back into a monster beer at 12.7%.
Smells of oak and some sweetness which reminded me of brown sugar mixed with oats.  Started sweet up front with a little heat in the back.  The finish was also sort of oaky in a good way.  The middle had some big chocolate and some roasted notes and Craig thought he detected some hops.  I wasn't sure but there's so much going on that it's totally possible.  As it warmed and I drank more I start noticing more chocolate plus some of the normal mild dark fruit that are often found in imperial stouts.  Great malty sweet aftertaste which leaves you wanting more.  We both really liked this one.  Definitely powerful but as a slow sipper it's tasty.

Even if the Kate may have been off, it was still tasty and it's probably the only time I'm going to try it so I was still super happy.  The Berserker really held its own as well which is impressive considering the difference in hype.  Mmmm, hype.  Really nice of Craig to share the Kate with me and some of the other stuff he brought over (in case the Kate was undrinkable) that we didn't get to was ridiculous as well.  He brought a beer from 2005!  Crazy and generous bastard.


  1. Hi old friend - It's been a long time and this is an old post, but I'm visiting DC and had dinner with Chris tonight and when we told him about our Kate the Great saga, he told us about your beer blog... Good stuff. We had a whole bunch of '11 Kate when we still lived in New Hampshire and with the help of some friends, we brewed a Kate clone this winter and it seems to be pretty good. Maybe at some point, we'll meet again and talk about beer!

  2. Janine! Hey! Dunno if you'll look back at this but I'll respond anyway. You could have emailed me too. I think there's an email somewhere on this page.

    I'm so jealous about your Kate the Great! I've wanted to try another vintage since the '09 was super vinous and not a great representation of it. And now it's gone possibly forever. I guess you don't live in New Hampshire anymore so you probably didn't try the new Imperial Stout at Portsmouth. Well, hope things are well anyway!