Last weekend I went out to Millburn New Jersey to lead a private tasting for a group of guys and I pulled all the stops for my beer selection. I always try and bring a wide range of beers to any tasting but for this one I made sure there weren't any safe plays and every beer was something to remember. Along with the straight light to dark selection, I also brought a few beers for demonstration purposes and set up a blind side-by-side of two well sought after barrel aged beers.
NOMADer Weisse: I went with my faithful Berliner Weisse from Evil Twin for the first beer in the line up. I wanted to make sure I had something tart and this is such a good beer that I wouldn't be against bringing it to every one of my tastings. I got a few strong yes's this time around as several of the guys were interested in making this a go-to beer for summer drinking. It's a bit pricey but to have 6 in your cooler on a hot day is always a good idea.
Enjoy After 12.26.2015: Stone calls this beer an IPA but after almost a year in the cellar it's anything but. Opening this even a few months after the initial "enjoy after" date yielded just the right about of funk from the brettanomyces yeast strain and was incredibly easy drinking for such a complex beer. Along with the funk you get a lot of bready malts and even some pepper similar to a saison. I was happy to see that the vast majority of the group really liked this beer especially because it was being consumed at it's peak.
T1 Tripel: Transmitter is one of my favorite breweries in New York and as part of their CSB I've had a chance to try a lot of their beers and this Tripel is one of their best and very different from others on the market. Just about everyone in the room said they weren't a fan of Tripels but all loved this beer. You get more citrus and light tropical fruit flavors compared to the typical clove and banana flavors from other America iterations of this beer. Transmitter usually makes multiple variants on the same style of beer so this is definitely one to keep an eye out for in future releases.
*Hop Flavor Demonstration: Before jumping into the IPAs I did a quick demonstration to show what happens to hoppy beers after they've gone beyond their prime freshness window. I had a bottle of Ballast Point Sculpin in my fridge since October and I was just as curious as everyone else as to how this beer would taste beyond it's prime. I was actually surprised because while you definitely got a lot of caramel as you'd expect from an IPA that's this old there was still a fair amount of bitterness. Someone later noted what is the big difference from the next two IPAs we drank and this and the answer was balance! Along with this beer not being balanced at this stage of it's life I also highlighted how those caramel flavors are what will peak through instead of bright hops.
All Citra Everything: This was the first time Other Half released this beer in cans and this was super fresh at only two weeks old. I wanted to go with this IPA first so that everyone got a feel for what Citra hops brought to the table and it was a chance to talk about the trend of single-hopped IPAs. As soon as this beer is poured you can smell orange, mango and a myriad of other tropical fruit flavors. It's balanced and beer that leaves you reaching for another sip again and again. Single-hopping beers is a trend that I hope continues for a long time to come.
Green Diamonds: This is another great IPA from Other Half but it has a totally different flavor profile. While the Citra hops lead to a lot of citrus (shocking, I know) flavors this beer is all pine resin and delicious dank aromas. This is a big beer at over 9% abv but it drinks easily and if you're a fan of pine-forward hops then this is definitely one worth trying if you see it on tap or can snag cans. This was also a big winner with the group, at least for those who enjoyed IPAs but it was probably a 50/50 toss-up between both Other Half beers as to which was the favorite.
KBS and BCBS Blind Side-By-Side: For the dark beers I brought two of the best known barrel aged beers that every beer nerd seeks out when each beer is sold at their respective annual releases. I had set it up so that it was a blind side-by-side between Goose Island's Bourbon Country Brand Stout and Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout. While both of these beers are great in their own right this blind tasting wasn't totally fair, the BCBS was a few months old and had some time to mellow out while the KBS was just bottled a few weeks prior. Just about everyone in the room noticed how much coffee was coming through on the KBS and the darker brown head was a give away for me. I was blown away by how great this vintage of BCBS tasted, I still have another 10 bottles in my cellar and I can't wait to open each one over the next couple of years and I'm definitely going to let my lone remaining KBS mellow out for at least another 8-10 months.
For my last trick I pulled a Grimm Afterimage from my cooler for the host who was generous enough to share it with everyone. This isn't my favorite of their IPAs but its still damn good and worth sharing with friends when I do get my hands on it. All in it was a lot of fun drinking such a wide array of really good beers.