The Session: Lovely Time Warp

tl;dr: If you like your cherry porter sweet and fruity, have this beer fairly fresh. If you prefer your cherry porter smoother and a touch sour, age this beer for at least year or more. [Guest post from my wife, Sara]

Comparing two vintages of Bend Brewing Company’s Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter made me realize something embarrassingly obvious: beer awards, like restaurant reviews or the Oscars, are entirely subjective and won’t necessarily match up with my own tastes. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to apply such common sense to beer when I’m so good at it keeping it in mind about other things.

The Lovely originally won Bronze in 2012 at the GABF and comments from the judges indicated that a bit of age on the beer would make all the difference. Sure enough, BBC submitted the same beer the next year — now aged as suggested — and it took home the 2013 Gold.

As friends know, we love to age beers. For the dark, roasty, full-bodied brews we enjoy, aging tends to bring out hidden notes and depths not found in the beer’s first few months.

And yet … the outcome was very different for me with this beer.

I first checked in a Lovely on Untappd in December 2013, calling it “a wonderful symphony of flavors” and noting that I was “looking for a touch more body after aging.” In honor of the Session theme of porters, we opened up two different bottles of Lovely side by side – one aged since 2013 and the other brewed much more recently, sometime between late 2015 to early 2016. Now, it could be that the recipe has been tweaked ever so slightly over the past couple years, so perhaps not all of my observations can be pinpointed just to aging.

The 2013 Lovely had an aroma of licorice, cherry, and maple. The flavor reminded me of a watermelon jolly rancher … not entirely in a positive way. The mouthfeel was definitely smoother than the 2016, which surprised me given that the 2013 had more head and a lacing that lingered much longer. I kept coming back to the 2013 because the mix of flavors was just so darn, well, confusing. Jollyrancher one moment, and wild raw honey the next. Ultimately though, the 2016 held my interest longer.

At first, the aroma of the 2016 hinted at far more hops than it’s older sibling. Subtle hops, but definitely bitter.  Fortunately, the flavor was all fruit — juicy, prickly cherry fruit that had me smacking my lips together for the sheer yumminess of it.

This is probably unfair to the beers, but the deciding factor came down to some nuts. Yes, nuts. A couple days before the tasting, I had roasted some pecans with maple syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon (nom nom nom!). The stark difference in how the pecans paired with the two versions of the same beer was rather startling!  For the 2013, the sweet and roasty flavors of the pecans actually made the beer even more sour.

I don’t like sour.

At all.

The 2016, on the other hand, became more wine / sherry / port-like with the pecans. A delicious combination. For the record, Beecher’s Marco Polo cheese paired very well with both beers.

All this to say, don’t look a beer award in the mouth (is that the right metaphor? I don’t even know.). And if a porter isn’t broken, you don’t do anything – not even aging – to fix it.

Session #105 Double Feature: Flirting with Coffee

This is the 2nd guest post from my wife, @esquetee  Her first was “Librarians in the Beer Tents” in July 2014.

I’m finally writing a post for a Session! This month’s theme:

“…highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature.”

Session105SQT01

 The chosen beers:

  • Péché Mortel from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel – aged 2 years at home
  • Big Bad Baptist (release #24) from Epic – aged 1.5 years at home

The common factor here: imperial stouts with coffee.  

Pour and color: the Baptist had very little head but beautiful caramel-colored lacing lingered on the surface for quite some time. The Péché had a bit more for a moment in the same color but it smoothed out very quickly. The Péché also had a touch of mahogany red in the body while the Baptist was consistently dark brown.

Left: Big Bad Baptist; Right: Péché Mortel

Left: Big Bad Baptist; Right: Péché Mortel

Aroma: Very different! The Péché has a soft fruit note underneath the light espresso scent, whereas the Baptist is a punch in the face of bitter raw coffee bean. Mark described it as “rancid” and I have to admit it was a bit off-putting at first.

Flavor:  The Péché is lovely – almost wine-like in the layers and complexity. The coffee is present without overpowering, which leaves room on the palate for vanilla and chocolate to whisper in. The body is soft as a rose petal, making it very drinkable without even hinting at the 9% ABV underneath. A seductive, dangerous siren of a beer.

Before we get to the Baptist, let me just preface by saying there is a blessing and a curse to cellaring these big dark beauties. The blessings come when you open an aged favorite that has gone from delightful to divine. The curses take a fine beer and turn it into something thin and flavorless … if you’re lucky. Fortunately, we’ve had far more blessings than curses in our cellaring experiments.  

The Baptist #24 is about 6 months past its prime, I would say. Not a bad beer at all, but not up to its full potential. Having just had a fresh batch of Baptist on tap the night before, I definitely prefer the beer with some age on it – even a little too much age like this one. The sharp bitterness of a fresh batch has calmed down some – despite the aroma – and the body has balanced out into a wonderful texture. If I didn’t have the Péché to compare it against, I might even enjoy the Baptist far more than I am at the moment. But the Péché takes the idea of coffee imperial stout to another level here, which leaves the Baptist with a consolation prize of “pretty good.” Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoy both of them.

Now … the other half of this Session called for pairing the paired beers with some kind of media — movies, TV shows, music, what have you.

When I thought about what to pair with coffee stouts, the first thing that came to mind was the memory of some old coffee commercial in the 1980s? 1990s? that went on like a soap opera series about two neighbors who kept flirting over their borrowed coffees. Best commercials ever. Why don’t they make ‘em like that anymore? Anyway …

So I went to YouTube in search of these coffee commercials. At first I thought they might have been from Folger’s, but that only brought up Peter’s Christmas homecoming. With a bit more digging I found them! The Taster’s Choice Gold Blend saga. And to make it even better — they starred my favorite screen librarian of all time – Giles from Buffy! Otherwise known as Anthony Head.

What in the world do these dusty old ads have to do with delicious coffee stouts?

Flirting! Oh yes, the flirting. The screen chemistry between those two was enough to rival Moonlighting. And flirting is exactly what a good stout should do with you. So dark, you can’t be certain of its intentions. So complex, you know there are innuendos you must be missing even as some of the innuendos make you blush. As the beer warms up and opens up more flavors, you become even better acquainted until … at last … well, stay tuned for the next episode.

Librarians in the Beer Tents

Guest post from @esquetee – librarian, beer lover, and married to the Bend Beer Librarian.

The worlds of beer and libraries will collide this week in Portland, Oregon. Mark already wrote about the 27th annual Oregon Brewers Festival, also known as Oregon BrewFest or just #OBF27 for the twitter-inclined, but just a few blocks away at PSU there will be an equally exciting though blissfully smaller festival-of-sorts going on … the Library Instruction West (LIW) conference.

On Wednesday night, brave librarians of LIW will troop over to OBF for the EveryLibrary Meetup in the North Tent. Think you’ll know us by our eyeglass chains and dusty cardigans? Expect to catch a whiff of leather and paper when you stand behind us in line? Looking forward to the hush that will follow us as we move through the crowds?

Oh no, my friend. You won’t recognize us all. But if you have a fetish for the meeting of beers and books, here are some other opportunities:

To my fellow librarians, info nerds, and beer geeks – I’ll raise a toast to you at the BrewFest.