As the New Year’s approaches, here’s a look at some of the last beers I’ll have in 2012.
I’ll start with the best of the bunch – the Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout. I tried this for the first time last night and really enjoyed it.
The Narwhal comes in at a hefty 10.2 percent ABV. It has a touch of booze on the nose, and you definitely get a little heat when you drink it, but it does not detract from how good this beer really is.
The dominant smell is roasted coffee, and that continues on into the taste. Along with the roasted coffee you get some nice dark chocolate undertones with a hint of vanilla in the finish.
It is a full-bodied, yet smooth brew. Narwhal is definitely worth seeking out.
Next up is Victory Brewing Company’s Red Thunder. The Red Thunder is a Baltic porter fermented in red wine barrels.
I love a good Baltic porter and wish more breweries attempted them. Victory’s Baltic Thunder is a fantastic example of the style, and the Red Thunder tops it.
The red wine gives the beer a tartness you don’t normally get in a Baltic porter, and then blends well with the slight roasty chocolate flavors you get in the porter.
Although based on the Baltic Thunder, this is a totally new beer that I really enjoyed.
Another good stout that has recently been released is Baxter Brewing Company’s Phantom Punch Winter Stout.
This 6.8 percent canned stout is extremely easy to drink. There’s a lot of coffee flavor, but there is some chocolate as well, and the vanilla beans used while brewing really comes through. There is a touch of hops in the finish.
If you like a good stout that isn’t an imperial, this is one I would recommend.
Next up is another Imperial Stout, this one’s Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout.
This beer was just missing something for me. It had the flavors you come to expect from an imperial stout, such as coffee and chocolate, but there is not one flavor that stands out and makes you take notice.
It’s certainly not a bad beer, but one that stands firmly in the middle of the pack.
Another beer that falls in the middle of the road for its style is the brand new Narragansett Brewery’s Private Stock Imperial India Pale Ale.
This is Narragansett’s biggest beer, at 8.6 percent. It’s not a bad beer, but it reminds me of double IPAs from about 10 years ago when brewers just added a bunch of hops, forgetting about balance.
The citrusy hoppy flavor dominates any of the malt sweetness. If Narragansett dialed up the malt backbone to balance this beer, it could have been truly good.
Finally, something a little different – the Downeast Ciderhouse Cranberry Blend.
For anyone who reads this blog, you know I’m a fan of a good cider, and Downeast’s original cider is one of the absolute best made in New England.
The Cranberry Blend is also a treat. I’m not a huge fan of cranberries, but the cranberries add a tartness to the cider that makes you want to take sip after sip. It’s a refreshing treat and if you’re a fan of cider I can’t imagine you not liking this one.