Ding Points: 87.00
Pour: 80.00, Nose: 80.00, Palate: 90.00, Mouth: 90.00, Global: 90.00
OK, here we are with a beer that I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Definitely a beer in a style that I enjoy very much, and despite my own protestations, The Bruery has managed to provoke quite a lot of excitement, *some* of which has been realized. The reason I’m interested in this in particular, is that my guess is that this will be a beer that falls into some of my favorite flavor profiles – we’ll see.
The beer pours with a very dark brown, close to black color with a small head. No lace, little retention and a very thin, mocha colored ring at the extremities of the surface. The carbonation is about right. Here’s my first issue. The lack of head is surely related to the ABV, and if it were taken down a couple of notches it might look a lot better.
Nose gives some nice black treacle and sugary molasses. Straightforward and expected, it hits the spot.
The first notes on the taste are dark licorice. There’s plenty of mace notes and a little burned charcoal element too. The licorice keeps coming through but in time, and as it warms, it begins to take on more herbal qualities. The gingerbread notes start to come through more along with the alcohol warmth. There feels like a small Belgian element here, although I’m not sure of the yeast used, but I would like it to be more prevalent. Again, I suspect the removal of some alcohol would help that characteristic shine through a little more. As it warms there are some more nutmeg, pumpkin and cinnamon notes, and in general the warmer this gets, the better it drinks.
Nice, lingering warmth and a good tongue coating make up the package. Unfortunately the final flourish of the beer is a solvent alcohol feel; a shame, because this is what the last memory is.
This beer is certainly tasty, a great Christmas beer and lots of potential, but I think the tastes and the beer would be even better at approx. 2-3% lower ABV. The 11.0% burns a little, and the solvent element might be reduced on the back end at a lower ABV. I enjoyed it, but it’s a heavy beer and one where the aggression of the alcohol sits a little uneasily. I understand that a beer in the style of 4 Calling Birds is not going to be ‘easy drinking’, but a fairly small adjustment here could have made this a stellar beer, whilst still maintaining the presence and majesty of a big brew.
Update: 12/25/12, one year of age on the beer.
This bottle has a $10.99 price sticker on it.
To be honest it’s a little disappointing. The carbonation has dropped away completely, to leave essentially a flat beer. There is a definite oxidation note (both expected and appropriate), but it doesn’t add much to the character of the beer. The nose and tastes still maintain that dark, molasses feel, but the charcoal and licorice harshness has definitely subsided somewhat.
This is pretty much as expected, but with perhaps a little less carbonation, but reviewing notes from the original bottle, it’s not all that surprising. As a year ago, I still feel as though this is a beer that is good but could have been stellar.
Other: 11.0% ABV, approx. $10 for the 750 mL bottle.