This column was also published as From the Bottle Collection, another column I write. If you’re into extreme beer, or beer that has plenty of pleasurable taste, please savor a bottle or two, after you read. On various web pages some of the pictures of the different beers mentioned may not appear, for many reasons. If you wish to see this column as originally formatted both From the Bottle Collection, and my other column Brew Biz: Werts and All, can be found on a regular basis at professorgoodales.net …a site all about beer!
Over, or up, there!
Is it a bird?
Is it a million tornadoes, nuclear destruction, or fire, or a flood?
Is it a comet, or an asteroid?
Or will the Mayans just give us the bird?
Being New Years and all, as you may of heard: and if you haven’t you really need to crawl out from under that Stone Mountain-size pebble you’ve been living under, this is the last year for humanity. The Mayans, who somehow missed predicting Cortez and are now extinct, somehow managed to predict that this is the year we’ll all give up our holy, and less than holy, ghosts: or spirits if you will.
So, let’s par-tay!
But if I had to choose only ten beers before the calendar kacks us all… damn this is so hard… which ones would I choose? There’s so many that have been, oh, so delightful. No insult to those who didn’t make the list but still I love. Hey, I was headed to my apocalypse bunker so I grabbed quick.
So here are my top ten: not in order of best to better, or better to best; which is why I used letters instead of 1-10. They’re all just heavenly quaffs to have before I go to hell, or heaven, or the planet Beetlejuice where the death zombie bureaucrats will occupy my time as I avoid sandworms…
A. North Coast Old Rasputin- another Russian Imperial will be mentioned, but they’re both ex-ell-ant. Old Rasputin has the body, the complex malt: the everything. I had Rasputin years ago and still love it.
B. Caldera’s Old Growth Russian Imperial- As good as Rasputin but a bit more smokey, a bit more sweet, and a nice thick pour. Complex, black as hell and almost gruel-ish. What was the OG on this bugger? Neither is all that hop dominated: the malt is what matters.
C. Fresh Frog Raw Hop Imperial Ale- The greatest mix in the world of traditional hopping and that nice green as a frog in the grass fresh hop sense. The body alone is impressive, and I love big bodies: just ask my wife. Oh, damn, when she reads this I’ll get slapped for that one.
D. (Speaking of “Dam”) Any version of Hoppin Frog Hop Dam. This is just nice, super hoppy, beer.
E. Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale- Another great fresh hop ale. I think the version with New Zealand hops is better than the regular. This is all grass in the sense of fresh, unlike Hoppin Frog’s Raw. I love both. Body not quite as heavy: but substantially pale malt-ish.
F. Old Foghorn (Anchor), or Bigfoot (Sierra), or McGuires “I’ll Have What The Gentleman On The Floor Is Having Barley Wine”- That last one would only be preferred if the bottle had been well kept and not gotten cardboardy. Not brewed anymore, as far as I know. The brewer had left the building and his trainees/brewer-compatriots haven’t followed suit. For some reason it doesn’t store well. Foghorns the same, only not as delicate, but I find Sierra’s version usually stores well. McGuires is the sweetest, followed by Anchor, then Sierra. Sometimes the last two switch places, depending upon what year, since I have the sense the recipes have been tweaked. High hopped but the sweet malt and high abv just commands the brews. YUM!
G. Anchor Porter- What? You think all I would want to do is get shisen faced if it was the end of the world? Of course I would! But I certainly would enjoy a break with a few good bottles of Anchor Porter, especially if I could magically conjure up fresh versions of the original. They changed the recipe to be more like Sierra’s. Nevada’s is good, but I think Fritz’s first recipe was better than both, and the second recipe just a tad better than Sierra’s. Deeply roasted: both, though I think Anchor’s origin had more roast. Hops dance way in the background.
H. Cigar City’s Maduro Brown Ale- This has to be one of the most complex, interesting, Brown Ales I have ever had. Neither Northern or Southern, its seeming high gravity complexity is in a world of its own. But it’s not a Porter, tis a Brown. Hops mostly absent.
I. Urthel’s Hop It- I like the original brew tradition mix: just enough Belgian to blend perfectly with an IPA that becomes more of a complex Pale due to the mix. If it had stayed a true IPA it would have clashed, I believe. If it had been more Belgian the funk would have over ruled the IPA. I find those who prefer later attempts and prefer them either fall into IPA lovers, of lover of Belgian beer, categories. I think they fail to appreciate the perfect dance between Belgian and IPA turned Pale that is Hop It.
J. Left Hand’s Smoke Jumper or their Widdershins- Either will do. One’s a great smoked Porter with a malt complexity I dream about some nights: great smoke without being harsh, and the other oak cask Barleywine that’s more than just a Barleywine. Widdershins Barleywine varies a bit every year, but I’ve never had a bad version.
Substitutes? No way in Hell can I list them all: Gaffel Kolsch… a true Kolsch, not this nonsense Americans keep claiming is “Kolsch:” the water profile makes all the difference. Anything by North Coast. Saranac’s Big Moose Ale: hey, I’m from Big Moose and it’s a damn good beer. Thirsty Dog’s Siberian Nights, Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S or D.O.R.I.S (Hoppin Frog again), Red Brick’s Vanilla Gorilla and most beers from Willimantic Brewing in Willimantic, CT. would do. or from The Church in Pittsburgh… damn it! I am so sorry, as much as I’d like to I can’t have them all.
Well, I have more I could take into the Mayan Apocalypse Bunker: too many to list. What would you hunker down with?
Better be quick before the Mayan clock gets you.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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