Friday, February 19, 2016

A Whale A Week: Alesmith Barrel Aged Speedway Stout

Now in my second year, A Whale A Week is my challenge to try (with an array of beer loving friends) a rare beer for every week of the year.  Last year I had a great time with this and have continued it for 2016.  Not every beer will be a truly "white whale" beer, but all are hard to find and a treat to try!

Alesmith Barrel Aged Speedway Stout 2013

This is my second review of an Alesmith beer for A Whale A Week.  The first was last year for the Vietnamese coffee version of Speedway Stout and you can check it out HERE if you like!  This past summer my wife and I were able to get out to the brewery itself during the American Homebrewer's Conference in San Diego.  The space was in a suburban office park and was actually pretty nondescript overall.  We were both a little disappointed that they had no special release options on tap at all--just the stuff we can get in the bottle in Minnesota now.  Still a fun stop, but not the angelic choir experience I was hoping for.

The barrel aged version of the Speedway Stout is a strong 12% ABV Russian Imperial made with coffee and aged for up to one year in premium bourbon barrels.  The most recent special bottle release sold the bottles for $27 each at the brewery and this one is very tough to find!  There isn't much information on type of coffee or barrels used available.  The version we tried was from a big beer trade I did a few years back and is from 2013.  The beer has a score of 99 on Beer Advocate and 100 on RateBeer.

This week's tasting panel was made up of: Me (Eric Wentling)--Homebrewer for over 20 years, BJCP National ranked judge, home coffee roaster.  Beau Hammel--Homebrewer of tasty stouts.  Katy Hammel--Excellent wife who was willing to come out late on a work night!  Sarajo Wentling--My other half.  We served this beer into snifter glasses after warming up a bit.  The ladies didn't want to write stuff up--just taste the beers.

Eric: Sweet malt.  Toasted coconut.  Light roast coffee.  Vanilla notes (barrel?) Roasted dark malt leading to impression of very dark chocolate.  Aromas are all smooth and meld well together without being out of balance. Some alcohol zip.  No hops.
Beau: Prominent bourbon, vanilla, roasted malt.  Strong burnt coffee.  Brown sugar.  Dried cherries.  Oak really comes out as the beer warms.  Booze is somewhat solvent-like.

Eric: Dark brown in color to nearly black.  Fairly large dark tan head with fine texture that really sticks around.  More than I usually see in such a big ABV beer.
Beau: Caramel colored head (low to medium) with poor retention.  Opaque, very dark.

Eric: Powerful bitter dark chocolate with hints of vanilla right off the bat.  Seems very sweet at first, but ends dry, accentuating the bitter chocolate character.  Strong alcohol warming borders on too hot.  Body medium and somewhat creamy but that dry end makes it feel a little lighter--not as thick as expected.  Mild dark roast coffee notes, but subtle.  Some black cherry as it warms.
Beau: Medium mouthfeel, somewhat hot with a drying finish.  Strong bourbon flavor.  Alcohol comes out.  Tannins.  Roasted malt and chocolate are hiding behind the booze.  Very little hop bitterness.

Eric: Pleasant.  The dark chocolate is a winner (especially considering there isn't any chocolate in this beer.)  The coffee is pretty subtle, perhaps faded since 2013, but at least doesn't have that vegetal note that old coffee beers often have.  More complex as it warms up.  I still like the Vietnamese better.  4.25
Beau: Really nice booze/bourbon flavors and complimentary coffee/chocolate/fruit.  Could use a little bit more body.  Dry/tannin finish brings up booze and dominates the other flavors.  4.25
Katy: Mmm, I like it!  4.25
Sarajo: Ohhhh, this is good...  4.25

Overall Score: 4.25
Well this was the most standard score I think we've ever had in this series!  A solid beer.

Photo details: Taking a picture of this shiny bottle with tons of gold reflections was mind-bogglingly hard.  Eventually I got a mediocre shot of it.  Not having the ability or time to go out and shoot some Formula One racing, I got creative instead.  I took a small chalkboard of Sj's and made some white lines, adding the car from our set of Monopoly on this impromptu speedway.

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