The Parting Glass

Friday, August 31, 2007

Well, my tastebuds having finally recovered from the barrage of beer at the State Fair competition, I will attempt to provide for you another lovely concoction of malt, yeast, hops and water.

But before the revelries begin, there are two sad brewing notes to pass on.

First, as pointed out by loyal Keg reader roger, Michael "The Beer Hunter" (NO...not that Michael Jackson) Jackson passed away from a heart attack. A brief article can be found here compliments of Time. I must say that it was Mr. Jackson's books that first turned me on to Guinness and better beer. His documentaries are worth watching and his writing and insight into beer is legendary. He loved his beer. Besides for beer, Mr. Jackson had Parkinson's and was planning a book on that subject as well. If it were to be anything like his beer reviews, it would have been witty, cogent and relevent. He was a true beer advocate; maybe the first.

Next, Steve Harrison, VP of sales for the lovely and consistent Sierra Nevada brewing company, was found dead in the Sacremento River. The San Francisco Chronicle has more. A private citizen on a jet ski, driven to join the search for Mr. Harrison who had been missing for more than a week, found the body and called the police. Yet another tragedy for the brewing world. Mr. Harrison was Sierra Nevada's first employee. He was there as it went from a garage-based obsession to a major national craft brewery.

I can think of no beter way to mourn the passage of beer enthusiasts, and celebrate their contributions, than to hoise a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine I have been cellaring for a long while.

The head is a behemoth perfection, with thick, sticky lace and a heavy webbing down the glass. It poured a deep and dark amber color with ruby red hues.

Right away I got a perfumy hoparoma with a loely floral background. What followed was light grapefruit and a hint of pine. Big fruity esters throw a blast of alcohol. Inside of a massive malty sweetness I also got some caramel, but all of the malts can't seem to cover the hops. Not that I'm complaining.

Wow. If someone could bottle the Green Monster in Fenway, this beer wouldbe it. Huge. Intimidating. The hops control this show all night with a hard-as-nails bitterness that stops shy of astringency. Oily hops make for a slick mouthfeel. As the hops wear on, the flavor takes on a bit of earthy leafy hops. Following this is some beautiful citrus and pine. While malt may not be dominant, it still gives a solid backbone of sweetness. The caramel and a toasted malt sweetness interplay quit well with the hop assault and provide a pleasant counter-balance to keep this from being an over-hopped Double IPA. Of course, the alcohol is certainly not to be outdone and adds a slow and steady warmth, mild esters and a fruity character of ripe figs and prunes. Lot of big, big tastes.

I had a bottle of this about a year ago and it was very green; no malt character, tin-can hops. But after this extra cellaring, the beer has become magnificent. It's got enough alcohol to survuve cellaring without going stale and the complex flavors blend better over time to yield the pleasure before me today.

They brew this stuff every year. Buy some....and keep it in your basement for a year first. Break it out for a celebration. You'll thank yourself, and Sierra Nevada.

And God rest Michael's and Steve's souls.

5 comments:

Mike 5:37 PM  

I heard about Jackson and came to Around The Keg to see if you'd noted the sad day.

Indeed you had, and a sad day for the beer world indeed. I feel like I lost a drinking buddy.

Hadn't heard about the Sierra guy, but that makes it all the more appropriate that I just bought a Sierra Anniversary Ale, which I'll drink as soon as I finish my Old Rasputin.

Smitty 8:38 PM  

mike - feel free to drop a review of the anniversary ale in the comments here...dying to get someone's impression of how it tastes, seeing as how I hadn't bought any yet.

And be sure to hoist it to Jackson and Harrison.

Mike 5:43 PM  

I'm not the beer critic you are, so you'll have to excuse my lack of expressive beer-prose.

(Not to mention that it followed a massive imperial stout, and was then followed by a few more of different varieties, so my palate and my brain were quite impaired.)

But here goes: it had that familiar Sierra, west coast hop attack (Cascade hops?), but more powerful. Very bitter and effervescent off the bat. More like Stone or Rogue than a typical Sierra brew. Almost like an IPA.

But it finished off a little maltier than an IPA or Sierra pale ale. And -- and this was the unique part -- it had a sprucy kind of quality in the finish, almost like you get in Anchor Christmas ales. Very unique. A good beer.

Check it out.

George 1:14 PM  

Two loses, for sure. Jackson helped me learn about the world of beer back in the early 1980s when drinking Heineken made you weird. And I thank my stars that something as consistently solid at Sierra Nevada is on tap pretty much everywhere in CA.

Rickey Henderson 9:34 AM  

Touching stuff there Smitty--well written.

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