I have a little beer fridge where I hide the fancy beer, the beer that I want to last a reasonable amount of time. We throw a lot of parties at my house, and we're all about guests helping themselves to the beer in the fridge once we float the kegs of home-brew. That's the downstairs fridge, that is. The fancy beer fridge is cozily hidden upstairs, and that's where the rarest craft brews go. So what's in this fabled fridge? Join me as we discuss five delicious craft brews: three Russian Imperial Stouts and two IPAs.
Black Metal Imperial Stout, Jester King Craft Brewery
This one wins Beer of the Year in my book. The Austin-based Jester King isn't a very rare brewery in these parts, and I have about seven more of these bottles at home, but since they've replaced this magnificent brew with an (also delicious, but not quite the same) version made instead with onsite-derived farmhouse yeast, at least three of these 750s will remain in the beer fridge, waiting for the day the world slowly ends in nuclear fall-out and I decide to drink
one three more beers before I take my government-issued cyanide capsule. The Black Metal is a Russian Imperial Stout, an exceptionally malty beer that pours black as midnight on a moonless night. It's got plenty of the style-typical chocolate and coffee notes, but it's incredibly well-balanced with some kick-ass hoppiness. The mouthfeel is hella creamy; this beer just paints your glass as you pour it.
Jester King is a bit of a hero to beer lovers in Texas, having fought the notoriously hard-assed TABC and won. Two of TABC's more ridiculous beer-prejudiced laws included restrictions against breweries informing consumers where to buy their beers, and restrictions against accurately labeling their beers; they had to be labeled as "beers" "ales" or "malt liquor" depending on alcohol content, regardless of style. Thanks to the Jester King lawsuit, that's no longer the case. It's a small step in the uphill battle of micro-breweries and craft brew lovers against the big bad TABC, but it's important nonetheless. You can read about their original lawsuit here, and the ruling here.
You can find Farmhouse Black Metal Imperial Stout in quality beer stores and pubs all over Texas. You can find the original Black Metal Imperial Stout in my beer fridge, and I'd just like to see you try.
Cali-Belgique IPA, Stone Brewing Company
The Cali-Belgique is a Belgian IPA, a new-ish style developed as more Belgian-style beers climb aboard the hoppy train. Belgian beers aren't generally very hoppy, and it makes for a very interesting marriage when the tastes combine. Stone Brewing Company's Cali-Belgique is a nicely carbonated beer, light in color and wonderfully complex as the hops play with the Belgian yeasty, fruity taste. It's a very clear pour with a pretty little head, and it's got a bright, refreshing taste that makes me want to gulp it down as I sit on a pier, dangling my feet in the lake.
Stone Brewing Company, home of the famous Arrogant Bastard Ale, has been around since 1996, operating out of Escondido, California. They're one of the fastest growing breweries in the U.S., with their beers sold all over North America.
Hel & Verdoemenis, Brouwerij De Molen Brewers
Our second Russian Imperial Stout is from a Netherlands brewery, a very nice medium-bodied beer with a rich chocolate color and aroma. It's quite smooth and mellow, a nice combination of malty with some roasted bitterness on the end. It's got a terrific head on it. De Molen evidently used to have some challenges with head consistency, as some reviewers rated earlier bottles as "gushers" and some complained of little to no head at all. That's definitely no longer the case; Hel & Verdoemenis is now perfectly bubbly. The beer is meant to be aged, as you can see on the label.
It should be good for a quarter of a century if stored properly, but good luck lasting that long in my beer fridge! De Molen has a brewing capacity of 500 liters with specially adapted boilers invented by their brewer and founder, Menno Olivier. The website says "the oil-fired mash tun (kettle) is electrically heated and makes the mash tun for brewing in the infusion system." You can find De Molen brews all over the United States.
Japanese Green Tea IPA, Stone Brewing Company
Here we have our second IPA and our second beer from Stone Brewing Company. The Japanese Green Tea IPA is a special brew, however, in that it's a collaboration between Stone, Baird and Ishii Brewing Companies, all sale proceeds of which were donated to Japanese tsunami relief programs. Pretty cool, right? The Japanese Green Tea IPA is a wonderfully original beer with a noticeable green tea and citrus flavor that isn't messing around. It's got a cloudy pour and a decent head, really big on malt and hop notes after the citrusy tea flavor settles.
Baird Brewing Company is located in Japan, and Ishii (called "the smallest brewery in the world", although I thought I'd visited that in Bend, Oregon) operates out of Guam. It's pretty tremendous that the California-based Stone reached out to these international breweries to create a charitable collaboration, and a really cool beer to boot. You can find Japanese Green Tea IPA across the States and in Japan.
Outer Darkness, Squatters Pub Brewery
And finally we have our last Russian Imperial Stout, from the Salt Lake City-based Squatters Pub Brewery. Squatters was established in SLC in 1989 and began as a small brewpub before expanding to three locations and a microbrewery. The eco-conscious company is committed to buying locally from farmers and suppliers. I've done a sampler of most of their beers on my beercation, and they know how to brew a great beer.
Outer Darkness is 10.5% ABV, pretty high considering most Utah beers (the ones available on tap instead of in bottles) have to be 4%. For that reason, I didn't have this Belgian-style Imperial Stout while at the Squatters brewery, because they can't serve it on tap. This beer is malty as they come, packed with roastiness with delicious chocolate and coffee notes. It's smooth and balanced with moderate hop flavor and a bit of spiciness on the end. You can find Squatters beers around Texas and Utah, and randomly in Wisconsin.
So that concludes this edition of What's In My Beer Fridge! Our last visit introduced five beers I procured on my recent visits to Boston, Oregon and California, and next time I'm going to do a whole post on fancy cans!