Deschutes Black Butte XXI Imperial Strong Porter Wow, age hasn't slowed this puppy down at all. Still huge and boozy. This was brewed with cocoa nibs and roasted coffee beans and a good portion was aged in whiskey barrels. This is the biggest porter that I can ever remember tasting. It was a bit hard on the palate until I got to my second glass and my palate adjusted. Big dark monster, dark chocolate, espresso, burnt caramel, whiskey. Very rich and thickly textured. Honestly this is a great after dinner quaff, not the best kind of beer for dinner. Calling this balanced is like calling a huge Paso Syrah balanced. Even most of the good ones aren't really about balance, more about power and that is what I would say this is about. 4.3/5
Grand Teton Brewing Co. 5 O'Clock Shadow Double Black Lager Super imperial in style, drinks like a medium bodied stout. 7.6% ABV. Supposed to be a schwarzbier in style that was doubled up. Dark brown to black in color. Very creamy and rich, loads of dark smoky flavors, moderate foamy head that lasted awhile. Killer nose with loads of malty aromas. Chocolate, brown sugar and some root like earthiness. Nice lager but a little over the top for the style. Easy drinking 3.6/5 FWIW, we had a small bottle of Bell's Special Double Cream Stout along with the 5 O'Clock Shadow. The Bell's blew it away. Way more structured, smoother, richer better balanced, more complex. I would give this one around a 4/5, maybe a little higher.
Founders Porter This is without a doubt the best NORMAL production of Porter that I have ever tasted. The ONLY Porter that I have had that I would say is better was the cask version from Russian River. Their normal version was not nearly in this class. Anyhow, it is very darkly colored, full of dark roasted chicory roots, chocolate, coffee and malt. Only 6.5% ABV. Exceptionally well balanced, rich but not goopy. No holes, had a long finish. 4.5/5
Societe The Widow Dark Belgian Ale Near perfect cross of a west coast IPA with a dark Belgian. Toasty, malty, yeasty nose. Loads of cream and brown sugar character up front with a good dose of coffee, black pepper and earth in the middle, finishes with some moderate strength hops. Comes off as complex. 4.2/5
Uinta 19th Crooked Line Birthday Suit Sour Cherry Ale 5.7 ABV 16 IBU. Fairly light brown sour ale, very dry, perhaps an ever so slight sweetness to it. Super low IBU, very clean and crisp. Nice sour character, not vinegary at all, more like citrus. Cherries give this a slightly red hue. Brown spices, yeast, slightly malty, cherry citrus, grapefruit. Nose is muted. Good bubbles but the head blew off quickly. Not terribly complex but nicely balanced. Nice entry level sour for those who haven't had many. 3.6+/5
Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale Sour beer. Wow, this is the most balanced sour I have ever tasted. Sour cherry fruit over the top of brown ale. Killer nose, citrus with brown spice, yeast and hints of cherry. Poured with a good head of bubbles that slowly dissipated. Lite caramel, nutmeg, some hops. Best American brown sour I have had to date and I would put this up against any of the best Flanders Reds I have tasted to date. 4.5/5
Societe Harlot Belgian Extra The Harlot, IMHO, is awesome. Super well balanced, wonderful Belgian yeast notes, a rich buttery palate with notes of orange citrus, vanilla, coriander laced brown spices, 6.5% ABV, good head, loads of tine bubbles that lasted awhile. Just as good on day two! 4/5 Tried the IPA and this Blonde Belgian. Honestly, they were both awesome. The IPA is more on the Sculpin side but a bit heavier. The super hop heads may not love it as much as some but it is a well balanced beer.
Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout Had this on tap at a Taco Mac in Atlanta. Awesome stout, super rich and creamy. Not sweet, per say, but very little hop bitterness. Loads of espresso and vanilla character. Lots of roasted malt character. Very earthy, lots of rooty flavors. Awesome on tap! 4.2/5
Bells Cherry Stout This was on tap at Taco Mac in Atlanta. Good night! This could be odd for some people because the cherries are tart and sour. It has a fair amount of the boldness that the Expedition has though backed off just a bit. Had an edge of sweetness but that was balanced by the tartness from the cherries. I liked this a lot. I love sours and I love stouts, this was a combo of both.
Russian River Salvation Dark Ale This is the new batch, bottled on 4-18-2012. This is said to be a Belgian styled dark ale and while it does have the balance of a Belgian dark, I did not pick up on the more typical yeast character that I get from most Belgians, but perhaps I am not that experienced yet to understand the nuances. Killer brew none the less. Similar to the Societe Dark Ale that I recently discussed but more chiseled and less creamy. Loads of brown spice, some wild exotic fruit that I have seen others describe as banana, tough call for me but it added some nice complexity. Slight caramel, some chocolate and espresso. Malty. Great balance. My kind of dark ale! 4.3/5