Yesterday was another lovely Battle of the Beers event at The Four Firkins hosted by Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint. This session consisted of a variety of beers that you can not get in Minnesota due to distribution issues and the limited availability of some of these ales. I have always had a good time at the few of these events I have attended but I was particularly excited for this one as I had never sampled any of the beers that we were going to partake in that evening. The night started with something familiar to all (I hope) of us, some Surly Bitter Brewer and a bit of Cynic Ale as we waited for all 30 guests to show up.
The first round consisted of hoppy beers, Pliney the Elder from Russian River Brewing out ofÂ Santa Rosa, California and Hop 15 from Port Brewing of San Marcos, California. I was particularly excited about Pliney and I am pleased to report it did not disappoint. It is one amazingly smooth citrusy Imperial IPA that will impress any fan of well balanced beers, with an 8% ABV it was the lightest beer on the menu for the night. Hop 15 on the other hand is not really balanced in the conventional sense. Strong bitter flavors are present as is some tartness but none of this is particularly surprising as they use 15 varieties of hops to brew this beer. With only a sample I don’t think I was able to get used to all of the complexities of this beer and though it is a bit intense I would be happy to try it again. In addition to flavors this beer also kicked it up a notch in ABV with 9.7% and a bit of warmth on the mouthfeel. Upon the first round of voting there was only one soul on the side of the Hop 15 and after hearing his argument for the beer’s complexity I decided to join him. Alas I was the only one converted so obviously Pliney the Elder was the winner of round one.
Pliney the Elder Imperial IPA
Hop 15 Imperial IPA
Round two was Belgian beers starting with Damnation 23 from Russian River and Les Deux Brasseurs which is a collaborative brew from Allagash Brewing from Portland, Maine and De Proef Brouwerij from Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium. Damnation 23 was quite tasty, dry with apricot flavors and some nice bitterness and a decent amount of wood from the oak aging, at 10.5% ABV the scale continues to rise. Les Deux Brasseurs is brewed with two strains of brettanomyces and was simply delightful. This beer has such a variety of flavors I don’t know where to start, a bit bready with wonderful grain aromas as well as some tartness due to the brettanomyces yeast. Flavors were complex and multi dimensional including many light fruits, sour wild yeast flavors, many grains and a good does of hop bitterness that was a lovely compliment to the over all flavor. With a 8.5% ABV we’re getting a little lower than the competitor but it is still no beer to be taken lightly. Though the Damnation 23 was very tasty I had to give the Les Deux Brasseurs my vote as its complex flavor profiles made me want to drink it all night long. This decision was split better than the first but Les Deux Brasseurs was the obvious winner none the less.
Damnation 23 Belgian Triple
Les Deux Brasseurs Belgian Strong Golden Ale
Last but not least we had some solid dark ales starting with Old Viscosity from Port Brewing and Serpent Stout from Port Brewing’s The Lost Abby Brewery. Old Viscosity was one interesting beer that Port declines to classify into a style category as it may look like a stout but has many characteristics of other styles such as Barleywine Old Ale and Porter so they are happy to just call it beer and hope you enjoy it, which I’m all for. It is one thick dark ale with many dark malt flavors from coffee to chocolate, a bit of wood and much more that I would be happy to pick apart if only I had a bottle to myself. Serpent Stout is also one well crafted brew that is as dark and thick as oil. Contrasting flavors of bitter coffee and sweet creme are complimented by some spiciness and a bit of dark fruit, I particularly noticed plum. Both of these beers came in at 10.5% ABV though the alcohol was a bit more noticeable in the Serpent Stout. Both of these beers were very tasty and I would enjoy revisiting both of them but I decided to vote for the Old Viscosity simply because I thought some of its flavors were more dimensional than the Serpent Stout though it was the hardest decision of the night. Again the crowd was a bit split but Serpent Stout was the clear winner.
Old Viscosity Specialty Ale
Serpent Stout Belgian Imperial Stout
So finally the time of the night came where we had to declare an over all winner. Unfortunately there was little beer left to revisit, but that is the way of limited availability imported beer. Though all three beers got a number of votes Pliney the Elder was the clear winner due to its drinkability. As the night wore on more beers were consumed and good conversations were had. Many thanks to Alvey for hosting and Michael for the insight and entertainment.