Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Challenges Go To 11

This past Saturday evening we hosted an imperial stout challenge. Yes, I know, you should have been invited. After all, you have been faithfully reading my stupid rants all this time. I'm sorry I couldn't invite you, but you see, I only had one bottle of some of these beers and wouldn't have had enough to go around if you were there. Trust me, I didn't even want most of those people to be there, but I either owed them money or they invited themselves, and I didn't have the guts to tell them no.

I didn't have a set amount of stouts for the tasting- I just kept going deeper in the fridge and found more and more stouts. Along with the two Marcus brought over, we ended up with eleven imperial stouts. That's one more than other websites' imperial stout challenges, which only go to ten. And it's a hefty amount when you consider that most of these beers are at least 10% ABV, but the pours were only three ounces each. And the three ounces were plenty, judging by how silly we all were by the end of the night. It's a good thing those people I didn't want to invite all brought food (one brought a bread made with stout) because those imperial stouts on an empty stomach could have landed me a headline in the Albuquerque Journal. And not one that says, "Local Beer Blogger Brings Joy to All".

I'll spare you the tasting details; it was mostly arguments about the various tastes people got out of the beers. I wasn't even really listening; I just wanted these people to leave already so I could enjoy my beer. This was a blind tasting where each beer was put in a numbered cup and tasters rated the beers on a five-point scale. No one knew which beer they were rating, so there was no bias towards any big name or reputation. All are highly regarded beers and (except for one) the scores were pretty close, as it should be with such good beers. The results are as follows:

11. Victory Storm King (0.79)- When you can't even average one point, you know something is wrong with your beer. When one of the taster's comments is, "Smells like my flip flops", you know you shouldn't have invited the idiot who wears flip flops when it is 30 degrees outside.

10. Southern Tier Oat (3.1)- The huge amount of oatmeal may have made this stout too smooth. There just wasn't a whole lot of flavor in this one.

9. Avery The Czar (3.28)-This 13% stout was a little strong for most of the tasters. I'm all man and can take a little alcohol, so I gave it a 4.

8. 2008 Stone Russian Imperial Stout (3.52)-I thought this would fare better, as it has had more than a year to mellow the 11% ABV. A couple people thought it was too sweet, and one likened it to a Good and Plenty candy.

7. Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti (3.61)-This was the favorite of two tasters who don't know what they are talking about. It was very good, with hints of chocolate rather than overwhelming chocolate, but there was still a sweetness that kept the overall scores lower.

6. 2006 Rogue Imperial Stout (3.75)-The oldest beer in the tasting wound up in the middle of the pack. It still had a surprising alcohol bite but was also very flavorful.

5. Chama River Anastasia (3.83)-The only local representative in the tasting, Chama scored well but most people commented that the beer would do better with more age on it. I have another bottle, so we'll see if that is true. It's pretty great right now, but good luck finding any.

4. Southern Tier Mokah (4.02)-This mix of Southern Tier's Jahva coffee and Choklat chocolate stouts was sweet in a good way, but I don't know if it belonged in an imperial stout tasting. It is great for what it is.

3. Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (4.1)-This beer is only sold one day a year, and was my highest rated beer of the tasting. Maybe I unconsciously realized that this was Dark Lord, and thought about how much it cost to fly to Chicago, rent a car to drive to Indiana, pay for the hotel, and buy the beer, and scored accordingly. Everyone else liked it too, though.

2. 2008 Deschutes The Abyss (4.27)-This is one of the top rated beers on BeerAdvocate and Ratebeer, and its placing here is no surprise. Most people commented on the nice coffee flavor in the beer.

And the winner is...

1. 2008 Schlafly Imperial Stout (4.3)-Who? Scoring the big upset is this underrated brewery out of St. Louis, who had the overall favorite beer of the night. The beer is aged in Jim Beam barrels, which adds to the flavor but did not overwhelm like some bourbon aged beers do. My second highest rated beer of the night, but I could certainly go either way between this and Dark Lord. Thanks to Marcus for bringing this one- I will be hounding him to pick up more when he visits Missouri in December. And congratulations to Schlafly for taking top honors in this tasting of much prestige, but they should take it with a grain of salt. After all, look who some of the judges were. I would much rather have had you there. Maybe next time, huh? There will definitely another challenge- I still have Full Sail Black Gold, Goose Island Bourbon County, Founders Breakfast, Port Older Viscosity, and more...

Your invite is in the mail!


JayTee said...

well at least you enjoyed the company.

ASTX813 said...

I love to see Schlafly get the nod - it gives me a warm sense of hometown pride. Plus the ABV gives me a warm sense of, well, warmth. :) I'm actually beer-tripping through the area between the holidays next month and would love any suggestions along the route. We're starting at Four Peaks (AZ) and working our way back via New Belgium, Boulevard, and others. I might have to check out this Chama of which you speak. I might be able to bring some of Shlafly's other fine offerings if you'd like to try to make some trades...

ABQbeergeek said...

Jesse- oh, I enjoyed having YOU there. It was those other people I was talking about.

You should check out Chama River. Gold in the GABF Pro-Am, Bronze in the oatmeal stout category. Plus some of the best rotating taps in the city. Send me an email to and maybe we can work something out!

Bill Aimonetti said...

Ok, I have been reading all your stuff for the past year or more. I want to play......How does one get on the guest list for these challenges? Always have rarities to contribute..... nice job!

ASTX813 - Papago taps provide a much better selection than four peaks. Also check out the rotating taps and amazing bottle selection at the Whole Foods Chandler location. Don't forget some tasty darks at the Il Vicino taproom in Abq.

ASTX813 said...

Bill, thanks for the Papago tip, I'll definitely see if we can throw it into the mix. I think Il Vicino is on the itinerary already. Luckily, we'll have pretty much a whole day to experience what PHX has to offer. Sadly, I think we won't even have a whole day for Boulder, Longmont, Ft Collins, Denver... I should have convinced everyone to make this a longer trip!

ABQbg - will shoot you an e-mail here shortly.

ABQbeergeek said...

Bill- good call on Papago. Sometimes I go to their website just to read their current tap list.
I toyed with the idea of making the stout thing open invite, but to be honest, I am scared of people. There are a lot of weird ones out there. And once they are in your house, how do you politely get rid of them?

But send me an email. Next time we do something I will let you know.
If your references check out, that is.