Possibly due to the holiday and the fact I live in a college town, last night's Columbia Beer Enthusiast gathering at Sycamore was somewhat small. This was surprising in that the tasting involved only beers on Beer Advocate's top 100 list(s). Granted, the list at BA is lacking a few great beers, but overall it is pretty solid from top to bottom.
The list is fluid as beers are rated daily. One of the beers I brought (Hoppin' Frog's B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal Stout) was ranked at 99 on the American list as of last night, but it did spend time off the list last week. Thankfully, no one minded having to drink such a lowly beer.
I'll detail what we drank below. We started with the lowest ranking beer and moved down the list. I'm not that concerned with rankings. You can look those up if you wish. Here's what we drank...
Hoppin' Frog's B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal Stout - This was a great place to begin. Someone pointed out that it was too sweet and could stand to age. I love a beer that's very drinkable but you can tell that it will only get better with age, like many beers on this list.
Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter - Too bad this beer was sandwiched between two mammoth imperial stouts. It was a good porter nonetheless. Great Lakes doesn't blow me away, but they always make a solid brew.
Old Rasputin Russian XII - This was as good as I remembered it from the summer: boozy, a touch of cola, so good.
Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout - This one was up for debate. Sanford (of Sycamore) tapped a a keg of this beer (supposedly). Many thought it tasted more like the regular Yeti. I thought it didn't taste like either. I thought I tasted some funk, but I could be wrong. I certainly would finish a pint if you ordered it for me.
Stone Ruination IPA - This was the beer that exposed me to the wonders of craft brewing, my gateway beer. It's always so good. Either because of some aging or the fact that we jut polished off some pretty intense stouts, this one was mellower than usual. No complaints though.
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy - This is a great imperial stout that brings the bitter better than most and is mellower in a can than the syrup usually found in a imperial stout bottle.
Duvel - Spicy...and I think it was skunked. The bottle said that it was pretty new, but it tasted off. Some guys were polite, but I thought it was a case of a bad bottle. I'm pretty sure Duvel didn't taste this way to me before.
Boulevard Saison Brett - It's nice that a MO beer made the list and the tasting. This beer is so much better done than the other saisons I've had over the past couple of years. Sometimes it's hard to believe that it comes from here.
Bear Republic Hot Rod Rye - I love the balance and hop presence of this beer. That said, I'm sort of surprised that it's on this list and so high (40's-50's). It's good, but there aren't beers more deserving than this? Maybe it's such a good representation of the style that it rates high. I've noticed that a lot of brews that defy classification do not make appearances on either top-100 list.
New Glarus Raspberry Tart - What a great way to cleanse the pallet near the mid-point of the tasting. This beer was sweet and not as tart as expected, but it really did the trick. I used to proclaim that I didn't like fruity beers, but I think I'm beginning to sound like all those beer novices who say they don't like hoppy beers. They usually just have to find the right one.
New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red - OK. Two fruity beers from New Glarus in a row? My palet was ready to bring back the malt and hop at this point. Again, this was another excellent fruit beer I didn't expect.
Surly Furious - Simcoe. That ammonia/grapefruit aroma and flavor you sometimes get from your favorite beer? That's simcoe. This beer comes correct with it. Furious indeed.
St. Bernardus 12 - This is my Thanksgiving beer. Give me malt, spice, coffee(?), and a touch of funk to match my smoked turkey. I was more than happy to get started on the week's festivities early with this one.
Russian River Consecration - Wine drinkers can suck it! This beer is pretty awesome. However, I have two problems with Russian River. First, this is a finely crafted beer with even finer artwork on the labels. Why be so lazy as to cover said label with comic sans? COMIC SANS!!! Second, these beers are too pricey. This 750 mL bottle was $25 and the next 12 oz.(?) bottle below was in the $13 range. Why pay those prices when you can get a bomber of New Belgium's La Folie at Arena for the same as Temptation?
Russian River Temptation - Now that I'm done bashing Russian River, I should write about the beer. Consecration and Temptation are two of the most balanced sour beers one can find (if you can find it). This one is more sour than the first, but it's wine in a beer glass. I mean that in a good way.
Founders Breakfast Stout - This beer is pure coffee, but it's done well. The day this became available in MO was the day this place became a little less miserable.
Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA - Mangoes are my favorite fruit. Why wouldn't you want a beer that taste like mangoes?
Stone Russian Imperial Stout - This is the mother-ship of all Russian imperials. Interesting how much Stone is consumed in our little beer community despite their refusal to distribute here. I'm not sure they have to legally sell in Missouri. We all are too willing to ship their beer or drive to every corner in order fill that gap in our cellars. Either way, this is always welcome at the table.
Bell's Hopslam - I now have a new appreciation for Hopslam. I was always convinced that it needed to be consumed ASAP in order to enjoy the freshness of the hops. The fear is that the hoppiness will fade with time, leaving the beer undrinkable - especially at $19 a sixer. Last night proved me wrong. One of the beers shared last night was cellared and the other was kept in the fridge for the past nine or ten months. I was lucky enough to swipe a sample of each. The cellared beer was very mellow, like a light barley wine. The cold bottle was able to hold onto quite a bit of the grapefruit present in a fresh bottle, but it too was mellower. I will definitely do my best to save a six-pack the next time Hopslam hits town.
Rochefort 10 - "Always good; malty." That's all I had written at this point in the tasting. I think you'll understand why.
Alesmith Speedway Stout - I wasn't sure about this one at first, but it grew on me. Where most stouts pair chocolate with coffee, this one brought the orange zest to the party. There aren't many better combos with chocolate than orange.
Ballast Point Sculpin - Grapefruit and simcoe. I'm sensing a trend in the realm of IPA's and DIPA's.
Abyss - This chocolaty imperial stout actually had some spice but didn't overwhelm you with syrup.
Pannepot Old Fisherman's Ale - Sweet and tart, this beer was lost as it made a solo flight around the table of fallen beer enthusiasts. I was told it's nothing like the real thing. I wouldn't have known the difference at this point in the evening.
Overall, it was maybe the best tasting we've had in the first 18 months of the Columbia Beer Enthusiasts. I enjoyed it immensely, maybe too much. Now, where's my vitamin B?