Thursday, December 6, 2012

Beers with Friends

My friends and I had been trying to get together for this bottle share for quite a few months, but one of them has a job that makes it a bit tough to schedule. However, he finally had a Monday off and so messaged us that it was time. As it happened I was walking home from Sabrina's, kind of drunk already, so of course I said totally! I was originally planning on not even drinking the Monday before Thanksgiving but oh well, sacrifices must be made right?

We started off with one of the better beers of the night, Goose Island Bourbon County Rare. This is a special version of Bourbon County, aged in barrels for two years instead of the eight months or so. It did sell for quite a bit more per bottle (about $40 vs $12 for two regular bourbon county).
Bourbon, caramel, vanilla, and molasses in the nose. Exactly what you'd expect from bourbon county and quite complex. Felt a little sugary up front with chocolate, a little cherry, and then more chocolate in the finish and a little alcohol heat. No burning though and the heat was quite mild. Really delicious but surprisingly thinner than at least this year's bourbon county. I was surprised about the body though it was still pretty fantastic. Worth 40+ dollars? Eh, questionable but I don't think I would have been disappointed in paying that much for it so I guess so. Others may disagree including my wife. But she would disagree just on principle of me spending that much on one beer. Or call me crazy.

Next was another bourbon stout though very different from Rare. This was Hill Farmstead Damon.
Big chocolate up front, hints of bourbon heat, and a licorice or anise edge. Maybe some smokiness too? Body followed with more chocolate, vanilla, and a little smoke in the finish. Very interesting flavors. As I drank more and we talked about it, I felt like I found some earthiness and piney hop flavors underneath everything. We talked about it and I felt like the hops were the cause of the licorice notes as they mixed with all the other flavors. I couldn't find much bourbon though. Interesting beer with lots of complexity but hard to compare with the Rare.

Completing the circle of bourbon barrel beers, we opened the one I brought, Alesmith Bourbon Barrel Wee Heavy. This was actually the cause of my first exchange with my buddy in San Diego since he just up and offered to trade me one. Definitely happy about how that's worked out.
Huge bourbon nose with a little bit of smokiness. I've had a tiny bit of this before and found it thick with a lot of caramel, but this experience was nearly the opposite. Very thin body, but strongly bourbon flavored. A little sugary as well. Definitely calmed down a bit as I drank more, but it still wasn't quite where I wanted it to be. I wonder if I let it sit too long which is quite possible. Or, Rare and Damon blew my palate for bourbon stuff. Either way, it was decent but not as awesome as I hoped.

Before getting to my biggest surprise of the night, lets talk about one of the disappointments, De Struise Aardmonik (aka Earthmonk).
After the huge bourbon beers, this was, uh, quite a change to put it mildly. Vinegar nose with a little caramel sweetness. Sort of a Flemish Red I guess. A sweet and sour beer with a lot of vinegar up front mixing with a base sweetness. Unfortunately it also had this weird, kind of, bile like flavor that was remarkably off-putting. It basically faded after the initial rush but phew was it not pleasant at first. Maybe on its own this beer would fare better, but after three very large bourbon beers, it just didn't fit very well.

And, now, the biggest surprise of the night, Upright Flora Rustica.
I didn't know what to expect as I've never had anything from Upright but, man, this was a breath of fresh air. Smelled awesome. Minty, spicy, slightly herbal, delicious and so pleasant. Body followed with a lemony citrus, herbal notes, and mint all wrapped around a lightly tart body. The aftertaste was slightly minty too adding to everything. Really good, just flowery, delicious, and refreshing. I realize part of my amazement over this is because of the stark contrast between this and the first four beers, but I feel like it would have awesome on its own too.

Last, but not least, was a Hardywood Gingerbread Stout. Eric brought this as sort of an afterthought but I'm real glad he did as it was pretty unique.
Smelled exactly like gingerbread which was pretty shocking. And not fake like some cookies, like real gingerbread. Quite a thick body. Very impressive really. Solid stout base mixed with big gingerbread notes with ginger, brown sugar, and a sweet cookie finish. The best part was that the base beer actually seemed quite good and the spices weren't there to cover it up but instead accentuate it. Solid offering.

It took me two and a half weeks plus three mornings to write this but it was totally worth it. Rare and Damon are, well, quite rare and it was nice to get to try them. It's funny, though, that the Upright and Hardywood were nearly the stars of the night for me. Rare was quite good, not to minimize it, but those two were just something. Guess that's good seeing as how I'm more likely to try them again than the previous two! Regardless, it's always fun to share beers with friends. Until next time!


  1. How old is Rare at this point? Seems like it would be a good beer to age, but I wonder how different it was when fresh. Not that I'd turn down a sample of any size these days. Seems like a great tasting though. Might have to pick up a Hardywood Gingerbread, if I can find it...

  2. Well, I believe it was put in barrels some time in 2008. It was sold about 2 years later so some time in 2010. That makes it about 4 years old at this point. It'd definitely a beer that would age well but it doesn't mean it wasn't a bit thicker fresh. But without having tried it back then I don't know for sure.

    As far as the Hardywood, it was really cool. It's not hard to get, per se, but it doesn't get very far from the area in Virginia it's in. I think it's Richmond, but not 100%.