Review: Upland Dantalion Dark Wild Ale

Dantalion Dark Wild Ale comes to us from Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington, Indiana.  A darker, perhaps more sinister take on the American Wild Ale than is normal.  Brewed with dark candi sugar, spices, and a variety of beasties involving brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and anything else they might have snuck into a barrel that was left purposefully open for a bit.

This beer pours black at first glance, but closer inspection reveals a muddy dark brown color, thick, high carbonation during the pour leaves some floaties fron the last third of the bottle. Not really distracting due to the dark color, and the high carbonation also makes for a very thick carpet of eggshell colored head that doesn’t go anywhere and leaves some very nice strands of lace swooping around the glass.

The aroma reveals lactic sourness mixed with a milder, floral funkiness. Spice on the nose as well along with some strong esters, leather, and cranberries. Floral lotus-like barnyard funk defines the flavor, followed by lactic acid, coriander, crusty bread, and tart greens. Spots of diacetyl hint at a Flemish Red, but this is more floral and spicy. Moderately sour with a tart and bitter finish with twangs of roast and earth.

What seems very carbonated during the pour fizzles out and becomes an exceptionally integrated and smooth carbonation reminding me of my favorite Flemish Red ales. While the bubbles feel amazing, the body is considerably thin for a dark wild ale. Overall this is a complex and tasty beer. I’d like to see it tweaked to include a touch more malt and body, and this could be an excellent beer. Looking forward to trying the next batch.

TOTAL: 81/100 Points

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Review: Green Flash Silva Stout

A blend of barrel aged stout and fresh Double Stout from Green Flash Brewing  in Vista, CA.  Format:  fancy new custom Green Flash twelve ounce brown glass bottle poured into a tulip glass.  10.10% ABV.

Pours black with dark brown edges, less than a finger of tan head that dissipates fairly quickly, resulting in a thin ring which actually does leave some lacing as I partake in this beverage.

Aroma of Cabernet grapes, bourbon, candylike malts buttery oak, maple, and paper mill. Tastes of bourbon, rich chocolatey malts, caramel, and port-like vinous qualities on the midpalate. Moderate bitterness and rich cookie malts on the finish with some dry port and herbaceous reminders. Rich body and light carbonation make this silky on the palate resulting in a very easy to drink beer, perhaps outrageously so for something ripe with bourbon and over ten percent.

Good base beer here made exponentially better through barrel aging and an excellent hand in blending.  To my palate this reminds me of both bourbon and port barrels.  The beer is labeled “barrel aged stout” which does not specify a type of barrel.  Having had the bourbon barrel aged version of Double Stout, this is quite a different beer.  I would not be surprised if a portion of the blend included red wine barrels.  If it doesn’t include them, I do have some worries as to whether or not this may have some bugs in it, which means it could sour upon aging.  It is ready to drink now and so I suggest drinking  up.  Excellent beer.

TOTAL: 90/100 Points

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Cellaring Beer

Long Term Beer Storage

Part IV of IV in a series on the age of beer.  [ Part 1 2 3 4 ]

Knowing that most beer is designed to be drank fresh, and understanding that different styles of beer have different shelf lives, we now come full circle to the idea that some beer actually benefits from aging. Some brews can be excessively alcoholic, and often strong malt and roast flavors can overpower the more subtle underlying elements of a beer’s flavor. Over time the sharpness of alcohol and intense malts fade, allowing other aspects of the beers to work together in a more harmonious fashion.

Cellar this beer for delicious results.

The alcohol and roast of a Russian Imperial Stout can subside to reveal estery yeast notes that remind the palate of port wine. Beer also oxidizes over time as it reacts with oxygen, a staling process that can actually add sherry-like or chocolatey notes to a beer, turning a bracingly bitter barleywine into something more romantic to the tongue.

But what beers can we cellar? In general, let the tongue be your guide. A basic guideline that is cited with regularity is the 8% ABV minimum for consideration of cellar aging. A healthy dose of alpha acids in the form of early addition bittering hops doesn’t hurt either (meaning bitter beer ages well). A good beer can become a great beer with a little age on it, but then again, sometimes a great beer won’t get any better. The tongue and trial and error shall be our guide. Try it. Find out. While many hardcore beer geeks seek out rare beers like Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout, it is easier to find a few bottles of Stone Russian Imperial Stout and let them sit for a few years. The results can be quite surprising.

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Beer Over Time

Yeasties and Oddities

Part III of IV in a series on the age of beer.  [ Part 1 2 3 4 ]

Beyond the basics of malt and hops, artisanal brewers take advantage of countless other sources of flavor and aroma when they formulate their beers. Besides water, we are still missing one crucial beer ingredient: yeast. During fermentation, yeast not only turns maltose (sugar) into alcohol, it can provide a full range of flavors. While American strains are usually more neutral, English yeast strains provide fruity esters, German hefeweizen yeast can add banana and clove flavors, and Belgian strains can offer phenolic notes, and wild yeasts can add anything between lemons and horse blankets.

Pic somewhat unrelated. Just avoid this; it is not a real lambic.

The variety of yeasts is vast, but what does this mean in terms of keeping our beer fresh? The yeast profile of a beer should be regarded similarly to malt flavors of a beer. The overall complexity of a beer can generally be correlated successfully to the shelf life of a beer (with notable exceptions—never forget the hops). Flavors and aromas created by the yeast will fade over time, but the more there is the longer it will take to fade away. Yeast strains that add intense flavors to beers, such as Belgian ale yeast strains, add to the shelf life of beer. Neutral yeast strains, such as American ale yeast, add very little, and so the beer is only as vulnerable to degradation as the sum of its other ingredients.

One oddity when it comes to the age of beer is sour beer, or wild ales and lambics. In these beers, a spectrum of wild yeasts and bacterias help to ferment them, resulting in pungent flavors, mostly sour and funk. Many regard these sour beers as the best beers to age, even though they may have little alcohol and very few hops. While your experiences may vary, these can normally easily be stored for at least a couple of years without any negative impact on the beer.

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Review: Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter

Vintage 2009 twelve ounce bottle poured into a tulip glass. Pours jet black with tobacco brown extremities and lless than a finger of oak barrel brown head. Retention is not high, though a ring of microbubbles remains, crowning the beer. Aroma of musty chocolate, cocoa powder, malt, tootsie rolls, slightly salty with hints of vinous port wine character.

Flavor is quite vinous and ripe with cocoa, umami and classically acidic for a Baltic Porter. Tart wine grapes and dark fruits on the midpalate and the finish is quite dry, ashy even, ending with a lot of breadiness and a a bit of leafiness. Alcohol is quite concealed.

Moderate to full in body with carbonation at the same level, too many bubbles for a dry beer that isn’t too thick. More acidic and less malt dominated and thick than a typical Baltic Porter, a more historic variation on the style. Unique dry and acidic qualities make it easy to drink. Worth trying.

TOTAL: 74/100 Points

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