Wednesday, June 01, 2011



99 Bottles is having a tasting event almost every day of Seattle Beer Week this year. The evening of Saturday 28 June's tasting was five Dogfish Head limited edition or rare beers. The place was full. It was the busiest I've ever seen it for a tasting. We formed a large circle that winded its way counterclockwise through the store, picking up a beer and tasting it as we moved along, until we once again made our way to the counter and another beer to view and smell and taste.


Namaste, a Belgian-style White Ale

This ale was a hazy light yellow with a white head. It smelled of leather jacket and coriander. The same flavors were present, with the addition of wet paper and twigs.

Normally I like a paper taste in some of the drier ales I try. Sometimes that paper reminds me of a nice parchment or a favorite book, which is good. Other times that paper reminds me of cardboard or a sheet of 20 lb. copy and/or bond paper, which is neutral. And then, on occasion, that paper reminds me of wet newspaper, which is bad.

Namaste's paper flavor was the latter. There was something "off" about this white ale. I'm not quite sure what it was, but would be better able to determine such with a few more sips and a bit more time. However, I don't want to put that much energy and time into exploring it. I would give it another try if offered, but I wouldn't seek it out.


Black & Blue, a Belgian-style Golden Ale

As the line snaked through for the second time, and picked up a few new people, I came upon tasting number two. It's body was yellow with a hint of orange and capped with a thin white head. It smelled of blueberry pancakes. It tasted of blueberry pancakes with a hint of blackberry jam.

I find that fruit beers, such as this cleverly named Black & Blue, tend to be rather fizzy. This one, however, was less so, and that was welcomed. This was an enjoyable fruit ale. In fact, I kept thinking that this would have been a good addition to last week's beer and donut pairing.


My Antonia, an Imperial Pilsner

The third time through the throng, I was met with a clear clear clear straw colored ale with a full finger of white head. (Other tasters' pours looked the same. It was impressive for the small tasting glasses we had!) The nose and tongue were of parchment (good paper) with a hint of vine and leaves. I also sensed some tobacco leaf lurking in the background.

This isn't what I think of when I see the words "pilsner" or "lager," but it definitely lived up to the term "imperial." The flavors were bold, with an accompanying alcohol warmth that filled the entire mouth. This was excellent.


Hellhound on My Ale, an Imperial IPA

Trip number four gave me what was my favorite beer of the tasting. Hellhound on My Ale, a beer brewed as a tribute to blues musician Robert Johnson on the centennial of his birth, was layered and complex. It smelled of flowers and citrus and alcohol. The mouthfeel was exceptionally smooth, which countered the bitterness of the flavor profile. Caramel and orange and orange peel and resin bitterness and hints of Belgian ales, along with a whole host of flavors that were fleeting and kaleidoscopic, left me somewhat stunned.

I was literally standing there thinking, "Oh my God, this is good. Why didn't I pick up a bottle of this before they were all claimed? Oh well."

Too bad there won't be another run for this one-time homage...


World Wide Stout, an Imperial Stout

The final pass by the counter, through crowds that were now almost too packed to allow me to pass, delivered another gem of a beer. This 18% alcohol-by-volume stout was accompanied by a small block of Dove dark chocolate with almond nibs.

In my notebook I wrote, "Oh, sweet Jesus." I know that I meant it because the other notes are somewhat lacking. "Smooth. Chocolate. Alcohol." "I can feel the alcohol rather than taste it." Although I could taste it. It just wasn't overpowering. It was more like a fine liqueur than an ale. It finished with what I described as "damp brown sugar."

The chunk of chocolate was a great match for the beer, but I didn't write anything about such. I'm just trying to remember it that way. I'm nearly certain the memory is true, even though I was somewhat stunned at the time by three powerful and complex beers on the back of a great fruit ale.


"Analog beer for the digital age."

No comments: