Sunday, December 12, 2010

Beer Quest (day 3): Bell's Expedition Stout

(Click here for Day 1 or here for Day 2 of the Bell's Expedition Stout Beer Quest)

So far this beer quest (which all started with this review) has taught me one thing: the universe despises me.  Expedition Stout appears to be everywhere except where I go.  If the place is more than 30 minutes from me, it seems they have it.  Shangy’s, my favorite beer distributor, let me know via Facebook that they have it - but do I want to drive 30 minutes to buy a case of a beer I’ve never tasted?  I’m not that desperate yet.  Also, Abe’s, a six pack store in Bethlehem, has the Expedition Stout listed on their website.  But now we’re talking a 45 minute drive for a six pack.  I hate myself, but not that much, not yet.

Even Wife has noticed how this sinking ship of a beer quest has turned the twinkle in my eye to more of a twankle and a twitch.  In my infinite sadness, I convinced Wife that a dinner out at Union Jack’s Inn on the Manatawny would help raise my spirits.  I love this place: decent food, amazing bottled beer menu, good stuff always on tap, a staff with great beer knowledge, and for the summer months there is awesome outdoor seating.  The fact that Wife agreed to go without me begging leads me to believe that perhaps the stars are aligning and tonight may just be the night that I put this little beer quest to bed.

But the universe wants me miserable and unhappy.  So of course they don’t have Bell’s Expedition Stout on tap this night.  But a man-child in an elf hat happily informs me that they will have it on tap on Saturday, December 18th.  Well that’s just great, keep taunting me world.  I thought of clapping my hands, rubbing them together quickly and repeatedly and then reiki-ing that elf to death.  At least now I know I can expect some sort of Final Destination horrible accident to happen to me on December 17th.  Mental note: sleep in on the 17th and avoid hanging self in the shower like an idiot.

Buddy the Elf goes on to suggest several alternatives for me and eventually I agree to a New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk because I vaguely remember reading a blog post where the author said this was one of his favorite beers.  I like bold statements so I will give it a shot.  The Dragon’s Milk (10% ABV)  is an oak-aged stout that poured black, had a little tan head and smelled like booze.  Hardly carbonated, I liked some of the flavors that the first sip started with: some chocolate, vanilla, and roasted coffee.  However, it finished with a bourbon taste and like I’ve said before, I am not a fan of the taste of bourbon.  For this reason, Wife says my Roman Emperor name would be Vaginitus.  Whatever, I drank it but grimaced a bit at the end of each gulp.   After a brief chat with  Buddy it is confirmed that any oak-aged ale is going to come with those same hints of bourbon, so I can pretty much cross those off the list.  Good to know.  Lesson learned.

Unable to decide what to drink next, I followed my elf hat wearing waiter’s advice and got a few 5 ounce samples: Victory’s Yakima Glory, Rogue’s Double Mocha Porter, and some sour that I can’t remember the name of unfortunately.

Victory’s Yakima Glory (formerly Yakima Twilight) has a great description (from the Victory website):

The tenacious grip of big, juicy hop aroma and character slides smoothly into rich, dark malts. This heavyweight battle between fresh, Yakima Valley hops and dark, roasted malts is resolved harmoniously as the flavors merge to deliver complex satisfaction with a warming edge.  Bask in the "glory" of the bright and brassy hops!

Who wouldn’t want to drink that?  That might be the best description I’ve ever read.  Unfortunately, the brew doesn’t deliver.  There was a nice hoppiness up front, a good aroma with a mild taste but then not much else.  No heavyweight battle here.  This beer finished pretty watery and I got not warming edge.  Maybe my palate isn’t complex enough to pick up on some of the subtler notes of the malts but according to the description, I wasn’t expecting subtle.  But this beer might be nice for a hearty night of drinking with some buddies as it goes down real easy and packs a 8.7% ABV.

The Rogue Double Mocha Porter ( 8.2% ABV) was really good and the 5 oz disappeared quickly.  I would drink this again in a heart beat but I think it is pretty limited so I may not get the chance.  This has a pretty mild finish - a dry cocoa kind of bitterness that you might expect - but I almost want more of a bite at the end, almost like your expecting something more and it is not quite there.  Still delicious though. 

My last 5 ounce sample was the sour (Buddy the elf recommended it be last to minimize the impact on my palette for the other two samples).  Sours are beers that are, well, sour - like a cross between beer and candy and cheap wine and fruit that makes your lips pucker.  Not something I would recommend to a new craft beer drinker right out of the gate but something that, now that I've finally had one, I think everyone should try.  I wish I could remember which brewery it was.  I believe it was a mash up between an American microbrewer and a Belgium brewer but I could also be making that up.  I still had not eaten at this point and I was drinking rather quickly with no breaks or water so things were starting to get a little silly.  I really liked this sour.  It reminded me of a more sour, more tart, more fruity tasting Troeg’s Mad Elf - which, by the way, is an amazing holiday beer that everyone should try.  The 5 ounce sample was gone in around 30 seconds.  I thought about ordering another but wasn’t sure if I could handle a whole glass of the sour.  I also thought about another Rogue Double Mocha Porter but was afraid that the sour had messed with my palate and that I wouldn’t appreciate it as much as I did the first time.  So, I asked Buddy the elf to get me something good and hoppy to burn the sour off my tongue.

He brought me a draft of Green Flash’s Imperial IPA (9.4% ABV).  This was super-hoppy like an imperial IPA should be - as imperial apparently means very hoppy.  Very bitter, perhaps a little too bitter, with out much sweetness so it helped me forget the sour rather quickly.  I liked it but it didn’t blow me away.  I would definitely give it another try because I don’t remember a whole lot about it.  Maybe it wasn’t that memorable or maybe I was further on my way than I care to admit.  Based on this night and this “Evolution of the Beer Geek” at Beer and Whiskey Brothers, I think I have achieved Craftus Erectus (that just sounds perverse and I want to delete that sentence but I won’t).

Regardless, I still need the try this Bell’s Expedition Stout.  So after another unsuccessful stop at Wegman’s, I called Union Jack’s and made a reservation for the evening of December 18th for their 12 Bell’s of Christmas event.  All Bell’s brews on tap including the Expedition Stout.  With my luck, that keg will probably be kicked before I get there. 

Or a plate glass window will fall on my head from absurd heights.