Being friends with avid beer lovers and attending tastings put on by collectors around the valley definitely has its perks. So many perks, in fact, that I usually don’t know what I’m getting myself into when I decide to connect with said people. This past Saturday, I attended a tasting at the house of one of Arizona’s best-kept beer-community secrets, a man who goes by Dak. With over 4600 reviews and ratings on RateBeer, over 400 trades with other beer lovers from around the country, and a cellar that holds numbers in the hundreds, this guy is definitely an asset to any team that wants to attribute itself to good beer. He’s also a mighty fine person to just hang out with and can host a hell of an evening. I’ll do a separate post in the coming week with all of the pictures of the beer I was able to taste, though I didn’t set any of them aside to rate specifically. Other than this one.
AleSmith Barrel Aged Decadence Anniversary Ale 2005 (111/124)
Dak handed me the bottle as it was down to the end (with about 15 people at this tasting, none of the bottles lasted long) and instructed me to review it. The least I can do is oblige the man who has only solidified my appreciation of craft beer and the people involved since the day we started talking. (Not to mention, he was the one who GAVE me the Bitches Brew for review expecting nothing in return. I can’t say enough awesome things about him.) I have to be frank here and say that my review is going to be sub-par for multiple reasons, specifically that I was really more interested in basking in the moment as well as the fact that I was at least 10 tastes in at this point, so please, forgive me for my terrible notes.
Poured into my designated tasting glass from Cigar City Brewing, it appeared a rich dark chestnut brown with ruby/copper highlights and was very murky and speckled with sediment. I can’t say much about the head, as I didn’t pour it myself, and it was probably a good 2 or 3 minutes before I was able to really delve into it and take pictures, so judging solely from the photographs and what I’ve read about most extensively aged (as well as barrel aged) beers, I’m willing to deduce that what I saw when I was snapping shots is pretty much all there was. A few large bubbles submerged under smaller bubbles in a medium pearly, wheat-colored ring of foam hugged the glass while floating heavily on top of the liquid. As I drank the beer, there was no lacing left behind and no visible carbonation throughout.
Now that we’re done with the easy visual part, I can’t guarantee my opinions and findings with this beer, but I will try my damnedest to decipher my scribbled notes. As I stuck my nose in the glass, I initially came out with lots of vanilla, milk chocolate, and caramel, which made it seem very sweet. As I returned to the brew, thick oaky notes and pieces of syrupy brown sugar toffee floating in bourbon presented themselves alongside some deep, rich malts and slightly fainter dark fruits, namely raisins and figs, which I actually didn’t find until after I had started tasting. Despite all of the very sweet components, the larger presence of the bourbon and oak really smoothed everything out without making it too mild or too heavy.
How am I doing so far? Not too shabby for a beer I had 3 days ago in the middle of a busy and delicious tasting, if I do say so myself. Now for the flavors. From what I remember without looking at my notes, and while reading through what I found in the nose, I think that the taste and the aroma were pretty similar and complimented each other in their similarities. According to my notes, the whole drink was ridiculously smooth and dominated by the bourbon and oak flavors. I found some faint dark fruit molasses (raisin and fig again, maybe some dates), quite a bit of vanilla and caramel, sweet dark malts, chocolate, toffee, and a very light doughy yeast that seemed a little out of place. I may have imagined the yeast altogether, but with all of the “specialty yeast strains” they used in this brew, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that some of it may have survived. Regardless, it wasn’t a feature that would ever characterize this beer for me, so I’ll just focus on the sweet, sweet dark and malty and bourbony love that poured from this bottle. I did enjoy that there wasn’t a sweet aftertaste and that the mouthfeel was creamy without being thick or syrupy. The carbonation was lightly spicy, due in large part to the alcohol (11%) I’m sure, but over the course of my tasting, it actually felt rather soft, though far from flat. Overall, trying to tell that this Decadence was 11% alcohol was impossible. It was just too smooth in execution and too velvety in flavor, which made for one hell of an experience. I only wish that words could do it justice. This was definitely one of my favorite beers from the tasting and I am counting myself extremely lucky to have had this opportunity.
On that note, I am really looking forward to the next tasting and can’t wait to see what rare and extreme aged beers I’ll be able to immerse my senses in while gaining valuable insight and experience within the beer community.