Birthday Beer Reviews | Part 2

Shall we jump right in? (Click here to read the last batch.)

Birthday Beer No. 3: Downtown Brown (Lost Coast)

From: Ben Rice, fellow beer geek

After tasting Lost Coast’s Great White witbier, I stopped buying their beers. This wasn’t a conscious decision; at the time, witbiers were my favorite style, and Great White simply didn’t sink its teeth in and drag me to a watery grave (in a good way), so my brain added “Lost Coast” to the list of labels it subconsciously ignores on sight. This is a bad habit for a beer geek. Every time I bypassed this beer, I was unwittingly dismissing a fantastic session brown.

The Picasso-man on the bottle hides a surprisingly dark ale, which leaps into the glass like melted chocolate (the dark kind) and builds a beige head that deflates almost before I can smell it. (Almost!) Unleashing aromas of nuts, raisins, and chocolate, this beer bears its unabashedly sweet and malty nose like a merit badge. Those nutty malts — mostly hazelnut and peanut — dominate the brew, but hints of caramel, roasted coffee, and some evasive dark fruits emerge over time.

Lost Coast has crafted a smooth, sweet beer that would provide a superb gateway into bigger brown ales, such as Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar. But forget those “big” beers; there’s nothing wrong with modest, simple brews, and I could drink this one every night. In fact, thanks to Ben, I did for almost a full week. He bought me an entire six-pack!

Birthday Beer No. 4: Bran Reserva (Birrificio Montegioco)

From: Alex and Dave, friends of a beer geek (but picked out by me, the beer geek)

With gift card securely pocketed (and triple-checked), I drove to Plaza Liquors, the best beer store in Tucson. Something about this store entrances me; I always spend at least an hour wandering around gazing at all the glossy bottles. Eventually, I unsheathed 17 bucks worth of gift card and bought Bran Reserva. No, that isn’t the name of the world’s most expensive high-fiber beer-muffin; it’s a tart ale from Italy. The Italian brewing industry has bloomed during recent years, moving onto the world beer stage as more than a producer of light pilsners. Bran Reserva is one of the remarkable beers with which they’re doing it.

Pouring oily, inky black and stirring up only hints of a head, Bran Reserva immediately reminds me of a high-ABV stout. What little foam there is dissipates quickly, settling around the edges. Scents of sour grapes and cherries float up from my glass, and now I start reminiscing about all the Belgian sours I’ve ever drunk. Smells just like one.

Unsurprisingly, it tastes like one too! Tamer than many sour ales but also better balanced, Bran Reserva is neither too sour nor too sweet — the tart cherries mix with the stout-like chocolate and smoke, and I detect red wine in there, too, nestled within the dark fruits and dry finish. As it warms, the flavors harmonize further, turning each mouthful into a tart, vinous symphony.

I really enjoyed this one (clearly — come on, I’m using symphony metaphors), and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind spending extra for exotic beers. After drinking this one, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Italy.

Birthday Beer No. 5: Imperial Russian Stout (Stone)

From: Alex and Dave, hopefully still friends of a beer geek after hanging out with him while he drank this

This was the second beer I bought at Plaza. Actually, I bought many beers that day, but this will be the last review in this birthday series because these were the two I drank first, and let’s be honest, I’m not going to review 20 more beers for this article. As much as I love you guys, I have other stuff to do. Like sleeping.

After talking stouts with a knowledgeable Plaza employee, I had to go with Stone’s Russian Imperial. Apparently, this year’s batch has aged particularly well, and since Plaza had already done all the aging for me, the decision was an easy one.

I drank the Imperial Russian at a bar earlier this year, so I already knew it would pour midnight black with a dark mocha head. I was not, however, expecting the smell: Before, this ale knocked me on my ass with bitter, roasted aromas. Now, it’s all sweet chocolate and hot alcohol. After a sip or two, those extra months in the cooler really start to speak. The voice still talks about smokiness, but briefly this time, in  a whisper; the chocolate and malt are doing the screaming now. Drinking this beer reminds me of the conversations I’ve had with Great Divide’s Yeti. And, as stouts go, few beers have more to say than Yeti. But consider Stone’s Russian Imperial added to the few.

Thanks again to all of my super generous friends and readers!

4 Responses to “Birthday Beer Reviews | Part 2”
  1. Ben says:

    your point about great white holds true. the stuff is nearly undrinkable. not a particularly interesting brew, but i quite like downtown brown. it’s sweet in a very delicious choco-coffee kind of way and it just drinks so smoothly. plus it never seems to have the batch-to-batch differences of newcastle, so it’s a more consistent brown than that more widely-known variety.

    • Scott says:

      I agree (obviously) with all of your points. Definitely prefer Downtown Brown to Newcastle. Thanks for the comment! This article was starting to feel kinda lonely. 😀

  2. Deb says:

    Happy Birthday! I know it’s kind of late, but it sounds like you’re still enjoying it. 🙂

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