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Your Beermonger: Raiding the Cellar, and Trying my Homebrew

by Nick Anderson October 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

I picked a hell of a day to get food poisoning this week — right before my birthday. Not that I’m a big birthday guy, mind you: I try to avoid people finding out about it, keep things low-key. Still, I was determined to open a couple special beers in my “cellar” (aka my basement fridge) and as your intrepid Beermonger felt a responsibility to do so. At least that’s what I told myself.

Anyway, the two beers I brought up were interesting both in how they’d changed, and how they made me consider cellaring in the future.

Evil Twin Christmas Eve At A NYC Hotel Room Imperial Stout: Absurdly long name for a tasty beer. This bottle was from the first run we got in Virginia (received during November of 2012), back when it was being brewed at De Molen Brewery in the Netherlands and retailed aroun $11 per 11.2-ounce bottle. Today, we see Xmas Eve every few months or so; now brewed at Two Roads Brewing Company in Connecticut, it comes in four-packs selling around $15 each — a marked improvement though still not cheap.

That price is well-earned: Evil Twin’s Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso has a special touch with Imperial Stouts, and it shows in this beer. Fresh, Xmas Eve is a robust take on Imperial Stout; 10 percent ABV, with bold cocoa and raisin flavors along with a touch of heat. Xmas Eve it full-bodied without being rich. With a couple years on it, a lot of the cocoa has blown off, but Xmas Eve retains the boozy kick and dark, “stewed fruit” notes of its youth. It’s still a great beer, but I think I missed some of its more robust qualities; I can’t say I’d cellar it again for this length of time. Perhaps a year or so would strike a nice balance, but today I’d say snag some and drink it as you see fit.

Founders Backwoods Bastard (2012 Bottling): In fairness to the 2012 bottle of Evil Twin, it’s a big beer but not one made for long-term aging. In contrast, the bottle of 2012 Founders Backwoods Bastard I opened is built from the ground-up for the cellar. A Scotch-style Ale aged in Bourbon barrels, Backwoods Bastard is one of those rare beer that geeks like me like to talk about, but don’t want to talk about too much. It doesn’t get the over-the-top hype and publicity that Founders Kentucky Bourbon Stout does, and that makes it easier to snag some of the supply that the Michigan brewery sends out every November.

I’ve shown remarkable restraint with this 2012 four-pack of mine — this is only the second of the four I’ve opened so far. While, like wine, the vast majority of beers are made for immediate consumption, Backwoods Bastard shows the potential in the rare beer that can benefit from some time put away. Where the smoky, boozy, and sweet mix of the malts and barrel influence would have felt a bit disjointed and cloying when released, today every element is integrated, working in harmony. Often unspoken in discussion of aging beers is how they can mellow, making something as strong as Backwoods Bastard (10.2 percent), with the heat of the Bourbon barrel, feel approachable and even elegant. I’m going to need another four-pack to replace this one, as I don’t think those last two bottles are going to survive the winter in my home.

Last up this week: I jumped the gun by a couple days and threw a bottle of my Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA homebrew kit in the fridge. I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised — it’s not great, but it’s good! The IPA came out a bit more “English-style” than I expected, with a subtler, grassier hop character and nice malty body. It reminded me a bit more of an ESB than anything else, which was reinforced in my mind when my wife ended up enjoying it too (she’s an ESB fan).

There’s a lot of room for improvement: the beer came out cloudier than I’d like (I’m hoping Brooklyn Brew Shop’s new auto-siphon with help keep things cleaner during my next brew), and while I dig the “fizzy” feel of it I’d like to have gotten a touch more carbonation into it. For a first-timer, though, I don’t think I did all that bad. Here’s to the beginning of a new, expensive, time-consuming, nerdy hobby. Until next time.

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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