Dipping into your cellar to pull out a special bottle is something that used to be fairly exclusive, wine connoisseurs only. These days, cellaring is gaining more and more traction among hardcore craft beer consumers, who continue to revolutionize the industry.
If you are of the belief that every self-respecting beer nerd should have a few beers stored and aging in a cool, dark location at home, then you will certainly be excited about a special re-release from Surly Brewing company. I found it exciting enough to dip into my own cellar and pull out some bottles I had been aging, including the special re-release.
Leading up to this year’s Darkness Days, Surly Brewing Company has dropped a small allocation of their 2016 Darkness, an annual high-alcohol Russian Imperial Stout that is always loaded with huge chocolate and roast flavors but is nuanced differently every year.
When I first tried this 10.3% abv beer when it was released last October, the first thing to hit me was chocolate and roast but it was immediately followed by a huge blast of alcohol. I also remember it pouring a rather large head that seemed somewhat over-carbonated. I immediately noticed that cellaring really did a lot to this beer, in my opinion, starting with the more reasonable head and subdued carbonation.
The alcohol also fades dangerously into the background and the burnt toffee, tobacco, cherry, and even hints of orange are pulled forward to play with the strong notes of bitter chocolate and roasted malt and coffee. The body also seemed to thin out a bit but it still comes across as fairly creamy for such a bitter, no lactose, no oat stout.
To me, when cellared for a year it seems to come even more in balance; and in my opinion, the only thing that could make this beer better is a bourbon barrel. I am now even more excited, so much so that I am currently cellaring the loan barrel aged Darkness I purchased this year.
Since I was already thinning out my cellar, I decided to reach for a 2016 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year by Anchor Brewing of San Francisco. This is always one of my favorite winter warmers and the 2016 is the first one I have ever cellared.
Even after spending 10 months in my cellar, it still delivered an abundance of toasty blend of roasted malts, chocolate, spices and dried fruit like raisin and prune with slight hints of pine. I remember the pine being a bit more present when poured fresh, but the spices now come through more in a way that somewhat resembles a Mexican spice cake. At 6.5% abv this is a cellar selection that you don’t need to share or sip super slowly.
While I was depleting my resources, I decided it was also a great time to pop open one of my favorite beers that, in my opinion, is only slightly cellarable. While I do love Founders KBS, a bourbon barrel-aged stout that is released every March, something about the beer doesn’t really hold up that well in a cellar.
Throughout the last couple of years I have been experimenting with aging this brew and personally enjoy it most either fresh or after six to eight months age -- so I’d better drink it before it goes bad, right?
Full of charred oak, chocolate and roasted coffee, when aged for this amount of time, the booziness of the whiskey barrel fades considerably; which again means you must remind yourself that it is 11.8% abv and not just a delicious chocolate and whiskey-flavored treat, which it very much also is.
Finally, I finished off my weekend cellar adventure by sailing the seas of beer to Colorado’s Odell Brewing with their Jolly Russian as my captain. This huge Russian Imperial Stout delivers a whole bunch of yo ho ho and a barrel of rum that fired a warning shot across the bow.
When the first sip slid down my throat and was followed by a warming that started in my belly, I had to grab the bottle and check the abv to be reminded that it clocks in at a whopping 13.3% abv.
Cocoa and roasted coffee is rounded out well by just the right amount of rum barrel flavors like vanilla and spiced molasses. Hints of botanical hops and dark fruit notes come into play in the finish which also sees the return of the wood and booze from the rum barrel.
I hope you enjoyed following my weekend adventure into my beer cellar and I encourage you to find some beers to age at home in a dry, dark location that is temperature-controlled to be consistent, if not cooled.
Perhaps our next cellar adventure will be all about sours, but until then, cheers to good beer!
November 28th 2018
October 10th 2018
September 12th 2018
August 15th 2018
July 18th 2018
BISMARCK – Backed by police and educators, state legislators hope to curb violent crime and rising suicide rates by proposing bipartisan legislation that would allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms from those deemed…
by John Showalter
It is no secret that our world is becoming more and more computerized. Over the course of a few decades, computers and the Internet have transformed from being solely objects of luxury or business to a ubiquitous part of 21st…
Wednesday, January 23, at 6-8 p.m.Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. N, FargoMeet featured artists and learn about the Human Rights Arts Festival. The North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival is a traveling juried exhibition that…
A couple of days before Christmas, a video of “Virgin Island Vicky,” went viral. Her real name is irrelevant, but she’s a Minot native. The video shows her going on multiple public racist rants while she and her beau were on…
FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…
Compared to the Betsy West and Julie Cohen documentary “RBG,” Mimi Leder’s period biographical slice “On the Basis of Sex” is nowhere near as notorious as one might hope, but the hagiographic reverence for Ruth Bader…
by HPR Contributor
by Ryan Jankeryan.email@example.comFargo-Moorhead Community Theatre presents “A Christmas Story: The Musical” which is underway at the Stage at Island Park and will run through December 22. It has been promoted as a show both…
by HPR Contributor
by Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comphotography by Logan MacraeEver wish you could go to your favorite brewery without leaving your house? Finally, you can (sort of). Kilstone Brewing is now doing limited can releases of some…
by HPR Contributor
by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…
by HPR Contributor
By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.edu"People spend so much time mocking Trump or waiting for him to be impeached. And the danger with this kind of obsession with a single person is that you don’t see the system that produced him."—…