Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Old Crustacean

Unbeknownst to me, there is apparently a title that is coveted by craft brewers.  It is the title of "Cognac of Beers."  Sam Adams seized the title for its Utopias beer, which is an American Strong Ale that packs a whopping 27% ABV. (That 27% is probably the closest any beer comes to the approximately 40% alcohol content in cognac.)  Fuller's Brewery claimed the title of "Cognac of Beers" for its Golden Pride beer, a barleywine that has only an 8.5% ABV.  I have to admit that I have not tried either beer, in part because I am not inclined to spend the princely sum on a bottle of Sam Adam's Utopia and I have not seen Fuller's Golden Pride.

However, I did come across another brewer who has claimed the title of "Cognac of Beers" and I did try their offering.  It is Rogue Ales, who claims that its Old Crustacean, with its 11.5% ABV, is the rightful Cognac of Beers." 

The Old Crustacean is an American-style barleywine, that the Rogue brewers create with just seven ingredients.  Three of the ingredients are malts: 2 Row, Munich and Crystal 40.  Two of the ingredients are hops: Chinook and Newport Hops.  The remaining ingredients are Pacman yeast and "free range coastal waters."  When all of these ingredients are combined, they produce on of the best American-style barleywines that I have had in a long time.

Although I have discussed the style in the past, some background in the American style barleywine.  The authorities at the Beer Judge Certification Program describe these beers as having a color that ranges from light amber to medium copper, although a few of the beers could achieve a dark brown color.   As for the aroma of these beers, the BJCP describes the elements as having a "rich and intensive maltiness," with a "moderate to assertive" hop character.  (The hop character is what sets American barleywines apart from their British counterparts.) The hop aromas tend toward the citrus or resin elements typical of American hops.  Finally, the BJCP describe the taste of an American barleywine as having a strong malt flavor with a noticeable bitterness, that can range from moderately strong to aggressive. 

The Old Crustacean sets itself apart from the typical American style barleywine described by BJCP.  The beer pours a dark copper in color, with brown, rust hues.  The aroma of the beer is full of sweet elements, such as notes of dried fruit, brown sugar, raisins, and marshmallow, as well as some butterscotch and toffee.  Many of these elements are also reflected in the taste of the Old Crustacean, along with other flavors, such as brandied cherries and some crystallized citrus.  Overall, the Old Crustacean displays a nice balance between the malts and the hops, all of which is encased in a gentle booziness that reminds you of why the brewers at Rogue Ales have claimed the title of "Cognac of Beers" for this barleywine. 

When it comes to pairing, this beer is clearly a dessert beer.  That means it is a beer that can be served as dessert.  While I am sure that there are other pairings, I think this beer falls within the class that is best enjoyed by itself.

The Old Crustacean is found at beer stores with a large variety of craft beers.  It sells for about $20.00 a bottle. 

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