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Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXVII – Imperial Porter at 11.6% ABV | 60 IBU

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXVII – Imperial Porter at 11.6% ABV | 60 IBU (C$23.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 20-Jul-2015, acquired 16-Oct-2015, reviewed 22-Jun-2020)

Appearance: deep cola red with one finger of loose light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin ring, spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: complex, red berries, stone fruit, molasses, bourbon, cocoa nibs, floral. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (9/10) Palate: medium-full body, moderate-low carbonation, off-dry moderate bitter warming slightly tart finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

The third in a four-vintage vertical, this is now five years in the bottle. I haven’t done any of these fresh as a baseline here, but I last had this vintage just about two years ago, and I’m thinking it’s improved a smidge over what it was then. Specifically, I think it’s gotten a little smoother, with the flavours slightly better-integrated. The finish, in particular, seems to be more mellow now. Not quite enough to bump the scoring, but more of an improvement than I was expecting. A very nice one, overall. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXVIII – Imperial Porter at 11.6% ABV | 51 IBU

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXVIII – Imperial Porter at 11.6% ABV | 51 IBU (C$23.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 13-Jun-2016, acquired 18-Sep-2016, reviewed 21-Jun-2020)

Appearance: deep cola red with one finger of loose light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin ring, spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: cocoa nibs, peat & oak, brown sugar, orange peel, dark fruit, toasted bread, vanilla. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (9/10) Medium-full slightly sticky body, moderate carbonation, smooth warming finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

The second in a four-vintage vertical, this is now four years in the bottle. I didn’t do a fresh one as a baseline here, and the first in this vertical (the XXIX, from 2017) was already pretty smooth at three years old, making me think it might already have been at or near the sweet spot for cellaring. This one has some significant, though perhaps not fundamental differences: specifically the absence of cinnamon and cayenne, and the presence of peaty scotch barrel notes. Like the newer, however, it’s simultaneously pleasantly complex, yet seamlessly integrated, with no single element dominating. I last did this one a couple of years ago, when it was just over two years old, and I’m not detecting a lot of changes – structural, aroma, or flavour – in the intervening time. I’m starting to think these things don’t change much on cellaring, but we’ll see what happens with the next one, a XXVII at five years old. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXIX – Imperial Porter at 12.2% ABV | 55 IBU

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXIX – Imperial Porter at 12.2% ABV | 55 IBU (C$24.99 at Oak & Vine, 650 ml, packaged on 12-Jun-2017, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 21-Jun-2020)

Appearance: deep cola red with one finger of loose light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin ring, spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: cocoa nibs, brown sugar, cinnamon, rum barrel, dark fruit, cayenne, toasted bread. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter, mild peppery spice. (9/10) Medium-full slightly sticky body, moderate carbonation, smooth warming finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

The start of a four-vintage vertical, this is the youngest at three years. I didn’t do a fresh one as a baseline here, but I’ve done a couple of two-year-olds, so I’m thinking we may well be starting off with something that is already at or near the sweet spot for cellaring. Though, given the ABV, it could continue to develop for quite some time, and in any case, I really don’t expect it to decline rapidly. This one is simultaneously pleasantly complex, yet seamlessly integrated, with no single element dominating. In particular, the cinnamon and cayenne are both relatively mild, and though they become more noticeable as the pint progresses, they remain unobtrusive throughout, contributing to a smooth warming finish. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Cascade Brewing Cascade Strawberry Ale (2014) – American Wild Ale at 7.56% ABV

Cascade Brewing Cascade Strawberry Ale (2014) – American Wild Ale at 7.56% ABV (C$27.63 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 11-Dec-2015, reviewed 21-Jun-2020)

Appearance: clear ruby-tinged pale amber with one finger of loose pale ivory head diminishing rapidly and loudly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: oak, funk, jammy fruit. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high tart, moderate sweet, low bitter. (8/10) Medium-light body, lively carbonation, mildly warming tart finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

To be honest, I don’t think I’d’ve guessed strawberry in a blind tasting. There’s jammy fruit, yes, but it’s a long way behind oaky barrel funk, and not readily identifiable as strawberry – though on the second pour, it’s much more noticeable as such in the lees, and it does eventually come through a little more in the finish. (Which I guess is hardly surprising, given how hard it is to brew with strawberries.) The high acidity, as is pretty much the standard with Cascade, puts a bit of a limit on how much and how quickly one can drink this without incurring a bit of heartburn. Decent enough, but really not worth the price of admission – which is also pretty much the standard with Cascade. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Brouwerij Het Anker Gouden Carolus Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (2014) – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 11% ABV

Brouwerij Het Anker Gouden Carolus Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (2014) – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 11% ABV (C$13.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, packaged on 19-Jun-2024, acquired 1-Mar-2015, reviewed 20-Jun-2020)

Appearance: clear deep amber with one finger of dense creamy ivory head, excellent retention and heavy tenacious lacing. (5/5) Aroma: roasted malts, stone fruit, caramel, toasted bread, brown sugar. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate-low bitter. (9/10) Medium slightly slick body, lively carbonation, smooth warming slightly sticky finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

So this one’s been gathering dust in my cellar for quite a while. I have only the vaguest recall of trying a prior vintage, maybe a 2013, prior to putting this one down, and being quite impressed with it at the time. Mind you, at the time I knew what I was talking about even less than I do now, so take that for what it’s worth. However, this one right now, after more than five years’ cellaring, is certainly pretty darned close to what I described back then, and scores about what I gave it then. Which just goes to show – if you wait long enough, eventually I’m right. (18/20)

9/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Cascade Brewing Blueberry (2015) – American Wild Ale at 8.23% ABV

Cascade Brewing Blueberry (2015) – American Wild Ale at 8.23% ABV (C$32.03 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 18-Aug-2016, reviewed 20-Jun-2020)

Appearance: clear ruby-tinged pale amber with one finger of loose pale ivory head diminishing rapidly and loudly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: blueberry, oak, citrus zest, light funk, tannins, caramel, wheat. (9/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, low bitter. (9/10) Medium-light body, lively carbonation, mildly warming tart finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

Blueberry Ale? Of course I had to use my PRB “Newfoundland” TeKu glass – there’s not much more “Newfoundland” than blueberries. I know how difficult it is to retain blueberry flavour in brewing, which makes this one particularly impressive – I’m guessing because the blueberries aren’t added at the beginning of the brewing process, but instead used for post-primary ageing. Not even close to worth the hefty price tag (albeit a bit of a bargain compared to one of its brethren that I’ll be doing shortly) but definitely a solid one. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2012) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU

Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2012) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU (C$4.46 at Andrew Hilton Wine & Spirits, 341 ml, packaged on 27-Sep-2012, acquired 15-Jan-2016, reviewed 19-Jun-2020)

Appearance: opaque unrelieved black with one finger of creamy dark beige head diminishing rapidly to a thin ring, spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: toasty malt, boozy dark fruit, chocolate, marshmallow, leather and tobacco, oak, bourbon, vanilla, coconut. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (9/10) Medium-full slightly viscous body, moderate carbonation, lingering bitter and warming finish verging on astringent. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

The final one in the deepest vertical I’ve ever attempted, and indeed the deepest vertical I’m ever likely to attempt: a nearly-complete run, newest to oldest, of 2018 to 2012 vintages, missing only the 2015. I did a baseline on a brand-new bottle of this a few years ago, and at the time noted definite alcohol heat and slight astringent thinning in the finish, both of which I hoped would mellow with age.

The first in this vertical (the 2018) was nearly two years old, which I felt marked a reasonable start to truly cellared vintages. It exhibited a slightly tempered alcohol presence as compared to the baseline fresh, though still had a slight but definite astringent edge. Through the second (the 2017), third (2016), and fourth (2014), I noted a definite trend in improvement, with smoother warming, reduced astringency, and development of some coconut. The fifth (2013) didn’t represent a clear improvement over the newer 2014, and this one is at the very least not an improvement, and may in fact represent just the very slightest backsliding – particularly in the finish, there’s a little thinness in the body, and it seems like there’s little astringency returning. I’m going to call six or seven years old the sweet spot here, and suggest that eight years old and beyond is probably on the downhill side of diminishing returns. I don’t regret the exercise, but don’t see the point of ageing beyond that point. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2013) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU

Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2013) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU (C$5.00 via trade, 341 ml, packaged on 6-Oct-2013, acquired 18-Aug-2014, reviewed 19-Jun-2020)

Appearance: opaque unrelieved black with one finger of creamy beige head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: toasty malt, boozy dark fruit, chocolate, marshmallow, leather and tobacco, oak, bourbon, vanilla, coconut. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (9/10) Medium-full slightly viscous body, moderate carbonation, lingering bitter and warming finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

The fifth one in the deepest vertical I’ve ever attempted, and indeed the deepest vertical I’m ever likely to attempt: a nearly-complete run, newest to oldest, of 2018 to 2012 vintages, missing only the 2015. I did a baseline on a brand-new bottle of this a few years ago, and at the time noted definite alcohol heat and slight astringent thinning in the finish, both of which I hoped would mellow with age.

The first in this vertical (the 2018) was nearly two years old, which I felt marked a reasonable start to truly cellared vintages. It exhibited a slightly tempered alcohol presence as compared to the baseline fresh, though still had a slight but definite astringent edge. Through the second (the 2017), third (2016), and fourth (2014), I noted a definite trend in improvement, with smoother warming, reduced astringency, and development of some coconut. As we close in towards the end, we’re now at nearly seven years old, and the smoothing trend seems to have flattened out. There’s essentially no astringency remaining at this point, but it’s not dramatically different than the 2014. As far as I can tell, it’s essentially identical to the newer one. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2014) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU

Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2014) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU (C$4.79 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 341 ml, packaged on 17-Sep-2014, acquired 7-Dec-2014, reviewed 19-Jun-2020)

Appearance: opaque unrelieved black with one finger of creamy beige head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: toasty malt, boozy dark fruit, chocolate, marshmallow, leather and tobacco, oak, bourbon, vanilla, coconut. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (9/10) Medium-full slightly viscous body, moderate carbonation, lingering bitter and warming finish. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

The fourth one in the deepest vertical I’ve ever attempted, and indeed the deepest vertical I’m ever likely to attempt: a nearly-complete run, newest to oldest, of 2018 to 2012 vintages, missing only the 2015. I did a baseline on a brand-new bottle of this a few years ago, and at the time noted definite alcohol heat and slight astringent thinning in the finish, both of which I hoped would mellow with age.

The first in this vertical (the 2018) was nearly two years old, which I felt marked a reasonable start to truly cellared vintages. It exhibited a slightly tempered alcohol presence as compared to the baseline fresh, though still had a slight but definite astringent edge. Through the second (the 2017) and third (2016) I noted a trend toward slight improvement, smoother warming, reduced astringency, and development of some coconut. We’re now getting into serious cellaring time, at nearly six years old, and the trend of smoothing out continues, with astringency lessened to the point of near non-existence. It’s still best enjoyed as a slow sipper, but is now smooth enough that one could drink it faster, were one so inclined. Overall, it’s slightly better again than the 2016, though not the point of a bump in overall scoring. Given the trend thus far, I strongly suspect the final two will remain at or near this level, but we’ll see. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2016) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU

Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe Special Reserve (2016) – Russian Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 84 IBU (C$6.01 at NLC Stavanger, 341 ml, packaged on 12-Oct-2016, acquired 22-Nov-2016, reviewed 18-Jun-2020)

Appearance: opaque unrelieved black  with one finger of creamy beige head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: toasty malt, boozy dark fruit, chocolate, marshmallow, leather and tobacco, oak, bourbon, vanilla, coconut. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (8/10) Medium-full slightly viscous body, moderate carbonation, lingering bitter and warming finish verging on astringent. (4/5)

The Great Cellar Drink Down continues. What? I’m in quarantine in a (supposedly) sold house, so I can’t get anything fresh, and who knows how long my collection will go into a storage unit after we pack up here and find a new house – could be months, easily, subjected to wild temperature variations. No, better it end here, with dignity: cue the swelling orchestra.

The third one in the deepest vertical I’ve ever attempted, and indeed the deepest vertical I’m ever likely to attempt: a nearly-complete run, newest to oldest, of 2018 to 2012 vintages, missing only the 2015. I did a baseline on a brand-new bottle of this a few years ago, and at the time noted definite alcohol heat and slight astringent thinning in the finish, both of which I hoped would mellow with age.

The first in this vertical (the 2018) was nearly two years old, which I felt marked a reasonable start to truly cellared vintages. It exhibited a slightly tempered alcohol presence as compared to the baseline fresh, though still had a slight but definite astringent edge. The second (the 2017) appeared to have improved slightly in both regards, with a smoother warming and a less pronounced astringency, as well as a previously unobserved hint of coconut. This one, at nearly four years old, is definitely continuing the trend of smoothing out, though the coconut is now less noticeable. This is just enough better to warrant a small increase in score, but we’ll see whether that trend continues as we progress further into the past with the next vintage. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com