Unibroue Grande Réserve 17 – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 10% ABV

Unibroue Grande Réserve 17 Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 10% ABV ($10.69 at Dominion Stavanger, 750 ml, bottle date 13-May-2013)

Pours clear deep amber with one finger of frothy light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is caramel malt, Belgian yeast banana and cloves, dark fruits, oak and leather, tobacco. (8/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter. (9/10) Medium body, lively carbonation, lingering spicy finish with a moderate alcohol warming. (5/5)

I sound like a broken record when talking about Unibroue, but they really do a very impressive job of the Belgian styles. This thing is complex and has benefited from nearly a year in my cellar (and nearly two in the bottle), mellowing the ABV and tempering the woody and vinous notes. Lots of dark rich fruit, and an almost nutty finish. I could have thrown a lot more aroma comparisons in there: bubblegum, cinnamon, citrus peel, raisins, bread dough – basically, if you can think it, you can find it in there, especially as it warms and opens up. Yet, for all the complexity of flavour, it’s not heavy or syrupy. Extremely well done. (18/20)

9/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Unibroue Maudite – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 8% ABV

Unibroue Maudite Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 8% ABV (750 ml, bottle date 23-Sep-2013)

Pours clear pale to medium amber with one finger of pillowy off-white head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, no lacing. (4/5) Nose is banana and cloves, doughy yeast, stone fruit, caramel malt. (8/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter. (8/10) Medium body, lively carbonation, off-dry lingering spicy finish with a moderate alcohol warming. (4/5)

Not a lot to say about this – a true classic, and one of the best Belgians outside of Belgium. Smooth and drinkable despite the higher ABV, which manifests as a pleasant warming. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Maracaibo Especial – Belgian Strong Ale at 7.5% ABV

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Maracaibo Especial Belgian Strong Ale at 7.5% ABV ($15.19 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, bottle date 15-Nov-2013)

Pours clear pale to medium amber with two fingers of frothy off-white head, excellent retention and lacing. (5/5) Nose is complex, dry funk, apple cider vinegar, sour cherries, some spice, citrus, and cocoa. (8/10) Taste is mild sweet, mild bitter, moderate tart. (8/10) Medium body, prickly carbonation, off-dry tart finish. (4/5)

Utterly unlike any brown ale I’ve ever had before. I guess that’s the thing with JP, huh? No matter what they call the beer, it’s a sour. Brown ale? Sour. Stout? Sour. Saison? Sour. Witbier? Sour. Not that I’m complaining – far from it! This is an excellent, mild sour, with pleasant astringency and cellar floor funk. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best brown ale I’ve ever had – mostly because brown ales tend to be yawn-inducing at best, while this is actually interesting. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brouwerij Oud Beersel Oude Kriek (Vieille) – Fruit Lambic at 6.5% ABV

Brouwerij Oud Beersel Oude Kriek (Vieille) Fruit Lambic at 6.5% ABV (Via trade, 375 ml, best before 12-Dec-2032)

Pours clear ruby red with one finger of frothy pink head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, minimal lacing. (4/5) Nose is dry funk, light vinegar, sour cherries, some mineral and woody oak. (8/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter, moderate tart. (8/10) Light to medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry tart finish. (4/5)

A really nice kriek – lots of pleasant fruit, but not to the extent that it overwhelms the underlying lambic character. Tart but not aggressively so, with a touch of dry brett funk. I like this. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Garrison Brewing Company Black I.P.A. – Black IPA at 6.2% ABV

Garrison Brewing Company Black I.P.A. Black IPA at 6.2% ABV ($5.97 at Dominion Stavanger, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours clear amber-brown with a three fingers of loose light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is pine and tropical fruit, dark roasty malts, mild chocolate and coffee, some flowery and herbal hops. (6/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter. (6/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, lingering and building bitter finish. (4/5)

Not bad, but a bit muddled. The dark roasty malt flavours overbalance the hoppiness somewhat for my taste – I’d like to see brighter hops and a bit less of the dark roast. A decent enough brew, for all that. (12/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Ballast Point Brewing Company Victory at Sea – Imperial / Strong Porter at 10.0% ABV

Ballast Point Brewing Company Victory at Sea Imperial / Strong Porter at 10.0% ABV ($10.52 at Specs Main Branch, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours semi-opaque amber-brown with two fingers of loose tan head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, heavy lacing. (4/5) Nose is strong milky coffee, vanilla, mild cocoa. (9/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (9/10) Full creamy body, moderate carbonation, slightly sticky astringent coffee finish. (4/5)

Very nicely balanced sweet strong milky coffee with mild vanilla. Were it not for the carbonation, you might be able to convince somebody in a blind taste test they were drinking iced café au lait. Yes, it really is dominated by the coffee to that extent – and that’s not even close to being a criticism. The huge alcohol is nearly non-existent, except for a distinct tendency for the room to get a little wobbly towards the end of the bomber. (18/20)

My 135th from the 2013 Edition (new to that edition), and 150th combining both editions.

9/10 #1001beers #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Mikkeller / Three Floyds Blå Spøg Else Blueberry Bluebic – Lambic at 7.7% ABV

Mikkeller / Three Floyds Blå Spøg Else Blueberry Bluebic Lambic at 7.7% ABV $34.50 at Sherbrooke Liquor, 750 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours clear reddish purple with a short pinkish head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, no lacing. (4/5) Nose is vinegar, sour cherry and blueberry, woody, funky. (8/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter, moderately strong sour. (8/10) Medium body, prickly carbonation, very dry tart finish. (5/5)

That’s a heckuva sour. Loads of fruit (yes, blueberries) and vinous notes, mild funky, with a super dry mouth puckering finish following a mouthwatering aroma. Really good, but stupidly expensive. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Big Rock Brewery Barrel Aged Edition: Bourbon – American Strong Ale at 11.0% ABV

Big Rock Brewery Barrel Aged Edition: Bourbon American Strong Ale at 11.0% ABV ($6.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours clear medium amber with one finger of dense off-white head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is boozy bourbon, caramel and toffee malt, oak, coconut. (6/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter, boozy edge. (5/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, boozy finish. (3/5)

Coconut. Seriously? Gotta be the first time I’ve ever gotten that in a beer. Very similar to the cognac, with only a slightly different – yet every bit as aggressive – boozy edge. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Big Rock Brewery Barrel Aged Edition: Cognac – American Strong Ale at 10.6% ABV

Big Rock Brewery Barrel Aged Edition: Cognac American Strong Ale at 10.6% ABV ($6.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours clear medium amber with one finger of dense off-white head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is boozy cognac, caramel malt, mild bready yeast. (6/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter, boozy edge. (5/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, boozy finish. (3/5)

Well, once again, I gotta give credit to Big Rock for trying something outside their norm – but this is really a bit of a beast. The barrel notes completely overwhelm everything else, giving it a boozy edge that’s every bit of the ABV and then some. This isn’t so much a cognac-aged beer, as a depth charge made with Traditional and Courvoisier. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Phillips Brewing Company Polaris – Milk Stout at 5.5% ABV

Phillips Brewing Company Polaris Milk Stout at 5.5% ABV ($6.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours clear brown with one fat finger of dense tan head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, minimal spotty lacing. (3/5) Nose is roasty malts, mild coffee and cocoa, lactose, very slight smoke. (6/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter, mild ashy smoke, faint sour. (6/10) Medium body tending to watery, moderate to low carbonation, off dry bitter finish. (3/5)

Not really working for me. The body is definitely too thin and watery for the style, and there’s an ashy smokey tinge that I’m not hot on. There’s a hint of sour that initially got my hopes up, but ultimately it feels more accidental than interesting – maybe a little lacto, in addition to the lactose. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Beer Reviews