Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Whale A Week: Cali Brandy Barrel Aged Hunahpu's

A Whale A Week is my attempt to chip away at my overstocked beer cellar, while sharing some rare beers with a variety of friends over the year.  Last week we tasted the bright and peachy Peche 'n Brett from Logsdon Farmhouse Brewery in Hood River, Oregon.  This week we travel to Florida for a spiced Imperial stout...

California Brandy Barrel Aged Hunahpu's Imperial Stout 2013

Cigar City Brewing is probably the first craft brewery to put Florida on the beer geek map.  Opening in the not-craft-beer-savvy Tampa, they started with the strong Jai Alai IPA, and have continued to put out interesting and flavorful beers over the past several years.  Their breakout "hit" was Hunahpu's Imperial Stout which is made with cinnamon, cocoa nibs, ancho and pasilla peppers, and Madagascar vanilla beans.  Sounds like a lot right?  It is, but the complexity is impressive and this has become a cult favorite among the craft beer elite.  The popularity of the beer grew so quickly that they started to do a craft beer festival called Hunahpu's Day for the release of the beer.  The only way to get a bottle of this precious liquid is to be at the festival release (or be willing to trade something impressive to someone who was there.)

For those who haven't heard of the mystical Hunahpu's Imperial stout, here is the official brewery copy:

"In Mayan mythology, Hun Hunahpu was the father of the Mayan hero twins Hunaphu and Xbalanque.  Hun Hunahpu, along with his brother Vucub Hanahpu, was tricked by the Dark Lords of the underworld and slain.  Hun Hunahpu's corpse morphed into a cacao tree, his head becoming a cacao pod, which in typically awesome mythology fashion, spit upon the hand of a young maiden named Xiquic who promptly became pregnant with the hero twins.  The twins would ultimately grow up to avenge their father and uncle and defeat the Dark Lords and ascend to the heavens to become the moon and sun."

I have tried this sought-after beer and found it to be one of my top 25 beers for sure.  So imagine for a second what would happen if about 10% of the small run of this already rare beer was aged in four to eight year old California Brandy barrels?  How rare would the beer become now?  In 2013 this very thing occurred.  In order to try to make the release more spread-out and fair, the brewery gave vouchers to many taprooms and pubs around Florida.  These vouchers were given away at the discretion of the venues--some making people complete quests, others raffling them off.  This level of difficulty in winning one of these bottles only made it more sought-after!  Not only did you have to win your bottle, you then had to take that voucher to the brewery taproom to claim it.  This version has a score of 100 on both Beer Advocate and RateBeer.

I received my bottle from my friend Jason Tuttle, when he decided to get out of the beer hoarding business a few years ago.  It has languished in my cellar ever since, perhaps waiting for this fateful day!  Jason chose this "one that got away" beer to taste, so here we go!

Tuttle, acting as Vanna...

Eric: The aroma is simply amazing!  Cinnamon, dark bitter chocolate up front for me.  Roasted malt and coffee with cream.  Slight zip on the nose from chili when one inhales too deeply--or maybe that is the alcohol.  Vanilla and oak after the first couple sniffs.  Dark fruit as it warms--dark sweet cherry and prunes.
Jason: Sweet.  Cinnamon, tobacco, prune.  Cinnamon toast crunch!  Cocoa.

Dark as the pit!  Pure motor oil, even completely opaque when pouring.  No light visible through this at all.  Not much head, but tan in color.  Fades quickly.

Eric: I get dark fruit up front of prune and dried cherry, perhaps some red grape skin/raisin.  Fades to an almost tart (without being sour) middle, followed by a lingering burn from chili and alcohol.  Cinnamon, dry cocoa, and earthy ancho chili flavor come later in the taste.  Medium body, this seems more thin than expected from the appearance and viscosity.  Dry, almost dusty finish.  Chili increased as this warms--I like it!
Jason: Not as sweet as I expected.  Flavor evolves over time.  Mexican chocolate, tobacco, concord grape, cinnamon, vanilla, brandy.  Chiles on the finish.  Dry finish takes away from the mouthfeel.  Not overly cloying.

Eric: This was much drier than expected, especially having tried the original version.  The aroma was outstanding, but I wanted a bit more intensity of those things in the flavor.  Still, the beer is complex and flavors just kept coming with each sip. I think the alcohol and tannins from the barrel dried this out too much.  I wanted it sweeter, but still a wonderful beer and well worth the wait!  4.5
Jason: I wanted so badly to give this a 5, but the beer just didn't warrant it.  The dryness on the end detracted from the beer.  I wanted more sweetness. 4.5

My friends Rob Wengler and Ron Johnson went to the 2013 Hunahpu's Day for a taping of Limited Release.  I was happy to try the beer they brought back for me and gave my reviews during the episode:  Check it out below!

So just going through the list of Beer Advocate's top 250 beers, I found that I have tried 82 of them.  Not too shabby!  I actually own another 15 or so of those, plus several different vintages, so I should be able to get up closer to 100 by the end of this year, as long as I continue with A Whale A Week.  Next week I'm going to review KBS 2012...

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