Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne Ø Special Holiday Ale

A / 4.45
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 9.00%
Purchased: By a friend for ~$5.00 for a 12 ounce bottle at Vintage Cellar in Blacksburg, VA

An emerging trend amongst successful breweries is to form partnerships with other breweries in which the brewmasters brainstorm ideas for new recipes with each other, and brew their collaboration beers at each brewery, typically as a one off specialty. This is the first example I've tried of such a beer, this one produced by Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, CA, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter, MI, and Nøgne Ø, of Lillesand, Norway. Keep them coming!

Mahogany/ruby-brown with a lot of bubbles that cascade about from the pour, beneath a tight, tiny-bubble, tan head. In a special Sam Adams glass, I saw plenty of lacing and a resilient head. Visually very pleasing.

I can definitely pick up the sage first, followed by juniper berries, with a slight citrus throughout. The smell finishes with subtle, roasted chocolate malt. It's also got a light perfumy floral thing going on, maybe from the caraway seed although I'm not really sure what that smells like to be honest. Very complex nose, which carries over to the flavor in a big way.

In the mouth: piny, musky evergreen sap you could crawl in and get lost in, a gin-like juniper bite, with sage on the periphery that seizes the finish. A very thick and mysterious mouthfeel that does well to balance the bitterness of the spices. Not much out of the malts in terms of flavor other than a solid backbone, enough sweetness to mellow it out and enough roastiness to not be too sweet. The rye and oats really contribute positively to the mouthfeel, creating a slick, spicy wonder that allows you to pull the most out of the spices. The alcohol is well-hidden until you stand up after half a bottle and fall over.

This is indeed a crazy beer...big thanks to Aaron for surprising me with it. It's an acquired tasted, but focused, and personally I enjoy it. As a homebrewer who's been dabbling in herbs and spices this winter, it's inspiring to sample such a masterpiece of extremity and balance. Here's to more collaboration beers from great brewing minds!

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