Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
Many of the rare beers I offer are not only on the strong side, but can often come in larger bottles as well. A 22 oz bomber isn’t a great feat when tackling a 5-6% Pale Ale or IPA, but 750 mL wine-bottle size beers clocking in at 10-15% ABV or higher take some doing. I get asked all the time: “How does someone drink all of that?” Well, the answer is most of the time, we don’t.
Bottle shares are a time-honored tradition among beer geeks, where a group gets together and opens rare/high-ABV beer that we might not want to take on alone. It’s a great excuse to get together with friends and an opportunity to try some beers you may never had heard of, or hadn’t tried in a long time. Recently I had a couple friends over for a night of bottle sharing and UFC — here are some of the highlights of our evening:
Olde Hickory The Event Horizon: I’d heard the name Olde Hickory here and there but I’d never had the chance to try anything from the North Carolina brewery. An Imperial Stout released once per year, The Event Horizon is aged in several types of bourbon barrels before being blended. The Event Horizon tasted more chocolaty than anything else—rich, dark chocolate dominated the brew. Not what I expected, but very, very good.
DC Brau/Ska Taster’s Choice: I picked this one up in the city a while back, and had wanted to try it. This was a one-off made by DC Brau with Colorado’s Ska Brewing Company and legendary ska group The Pietasters. A Doppelbock brewed with coffee beans, I was surprised Taster’s Choice wasn’t maltier, but thoroughly enjoyed it. The brighter-than-expected malts and roasty coffee played very well together.
Hair Of The Dog Fred: Portland, Oregon’s Hair Of The Dog Brewing Company is revered worldwide for their artistic, rich, cellar-worthy Ales that place and emphasis on balanced yet unique recipes. It had been years since I’d had a Fred Ale, and this one did not disappoint. The hops are very floral, but the viscous feel of the beer gave this bottle of Fred a subtle mead-like quality. Once upon a time, we could get Hair Of The Dog beers in Virginia; I’d love to see them back here again.
Ranger Creek Small Batch Series 4: This was the one beer of the night that I was a little wary of. The San Antonio, Texas brewery and distillery occasionally release a short-run special beer with a different recipe each time. Batch 4 is Ranger Creek’s 10% ABV Mesquite Smoked Porter aged in their own Texas bourbon barrels. I expected an over-the-top, smoky sweet mess: what I got was barbecue in a bottle — in the best possible way. For all the ways Small Batch 4 could’ve gone wrong, it didn’t.
Central Waters Peruvian Morning Stout: How we ended up with so many Stouts and Porters is beyond me, but this one in particular I was looking forward to: the same group of us had opened one of these a few months back and something had gone wrong in the bottle, spoiling the beer. This bottle was right-on thankfully, and Wisconsin’s Central Waters has a bona fide hit on their hands with Peruvian Morning. A bourbon-barrel aged Coffee Stout should almost feel cliché these days, but Peruvian Morning strikes just the right balance: the coffee is pungent and roasty without feeling smoky; the bourbon is prominent in flavor without making the beer boozy during the back palate or finish.
Thomas Hardy’s Ale 2008: Because any excuse is a good one for a bottle of one of the best Barleywines ever. This ’08 Hardy’s was super-young, but you could feel where the sugars had already started to fade off, allowing the focused malt flavors to come through. Lots of caramel with just enough hops to give it a good backbone and have a subtle affect on the overall flavor of the beer.
If you’ve been attending bottle shares lately, let’s hear about what you’ve been able to try. Until next time.
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