If I were to pick 3 of my favorite robust beers in my store and bar, it would hard to narrow it down. But that’s exactly what I sat down a few weeks ago and started doing. And if any of you know me, I tend to buck the trend. This time of year, I should be concentrating on lighter, crisp sunshine-in-a-bottle beers … but I recently became the proudest uncle of two little twins. And the first thing that came to mind is that I should have a cigar with the proud father. That lead me on a yellow brick road that brought me to figuring out what beers could hold up to a powerful cigar. Now I am not a cigar aficionado – I can’t sit still for more then 10 minutes and a good cigar requires more then 10 minutes. Nonetheless, here are three of the boldest and more interesting beers that I sell. Now before I get to them, I am not claiming these to be the best cigar beers. Nor am I claiming these to be best beers within their specific category. So no nasty emails or endless pontifications on your personal favorites!
Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Quadrupple, 11.3%)
As with all Trappist breweries (seven in total), Rochefort makes enough beer to financially support it’s monastery located in Trappist Abbey of Rochefort, otherwise known as Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy.
This is the third in Rochefort’s line-up, the two others being the 6 and 8. The 6 being a Belgian Strong and the 8 being a low-gravity version of the 10. If you are not familiar with Belgian Quadrupples, this is the king of Belgian style ales. These are easily the richest, strongest and most complex ales in the market. Common tasting notes are raisins, rum, plums and alcohol. These beers almost always have an ABV of 10% or more.
The Rochefort nose offers Champagne notes, raisins, rum, figs, alcohol and a dessert sweetness. The palate offers sweetness, raisins, ripened plums and plenty carbonation to help loosen and lighten up such an enormous ale.
2012 Samichlaus Classic Malt Liquor (Doppelbock, 14%)
This is probably the only malt liquor beer I have ever had and sell in Veritas and Craft Bar. Most of my customers laugh when they see ‘malt liquor’ printed on the label, reminiscent of the 40s you see hood rats drinking in the city. But rest assured, the two words is where the similarities end.
The Samichlaus is brewed only once a year, starting on December 6. After a three week fermentation, the ale is cold conditioned aged) for 10 months and released just in time for Christmas. And the net results shows why this ale took about a year from start to finish. Raisins, dried cranberry, maple, dates, figs smack you in the nose with port wine, sherry, plums, grapes, and even ripe cherries hitting your palate. Calling this ale just a doppelbock would be like calling describing The Godfather as a movie.
Brewdog Paradox Smokehead (Imperial Stout, 10.3%)
If you are a scotch fan, then this is your ale. There are lots of similarities between stouts and whiskey. Both are made with barley. Both have smoky/roasted notes. Both are for the seasoned drinker. Both are different then other styles of their respective category. After the ale is made, it is aged in Paradox’s whisky barrels.
The Paradox Distillery is in Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland. Paradox and other distilleries in Islay are known for their super smoky and super peaty scotches. These scotches test the limits for scotch drinkers. All of the smoke and peat from the scotch soaked barrels makes its way into this ale. The nose offers plenty of peat, smoke, fruit and honey. The palate offers even more peat and smoke but an alluring smoothness. The 10% ABV shows it’s self but the abundance of flavor creates a real balance.
There is something to be said about all of these beers. If you are a casual beer drinker, maybe these ales are not for you. They certainly are not cheap. I would drink any one of these closer to 60F (so just 10 degrees less then the temperature of the shop). I would definitely want a friend to split these beers as the ABV is high enough and you want to open other beers in the same categories to get some immediate perspective – splitting the beers will help with the alcohol consumption.