Once a quarter, Cathy Rascoe and the crew from Live It Big, Inc. (a local charity incubator) put on an event called Camp Beer. It’s a structured tasting of craft beers that are usually unavailable in the Texas market, with proceeds going to charities like Friday Harbour. The September version was the third installment of Stoutapalooza- a Camp Beer dedicated to stouts and other big beers. Cathy addressed the crowd, delivering sad news- the December Camp Beer (Belgian Holiday) will be the last Camp Beer. She is indefinitely going on a Camp Beer hiatus to focus on her other beer-y projects: Houston Beer Week, Dallas Beer Week & The Draft Festival. While we will all miss the awesome times at Camp Beer, the break is understandable. However, the December 1st Camp Beer is not to be missed, the likes of Cantillon and Drie Fontenien will be part of the tasting.
Firestone Walker 13th Anniversary- Definitely a big start to Stoutapalooza, though I wouldn’t expect anything less! Technically, this is considered an American Strong Ale (coming in at 12% ABV). This is a very unique series of beers from Firestone Walker, they take some of the beer from barrels in the current and previous years’ barrel programs and blend them together; 53 different barrels made it into the 13th anniversary beer. Beers like Parabola, Velvet Merkin, Bravo Brown, Rufus, Opal, Double Double Barrel Ale and Saucerful of Secrets compose the Thirteen. Thirteen is such a rich blend of roast, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, dark fruit and booze flavors that are very well balanced.
Firestone Walker Sucaba: Sucuba, formerly called Abacus, is a 12.5% English Barleywine that has an almost port characteristic. The aroma is full of raisins, caramel and definitely alcohol. The alcohol taste wasn’t as strong as in the nose but there was some heat on the finish. It is balanced with caramel, vanilla, raisin and fig flavors. I am a Barleywine lover and this is definitely one of the best.
Firestone Walker Parabola: Hate to say it, but this Russian Imperial Stout has too much roasted bitter malt taste for my liking. The chocolate and toffee notes couldn’t compete.
New Glarus Thumbprint Cherry Stout- Besides the 13th anniversary from Firestone Walker, this was my favorite beer of the day. The slightly tart and sweet cherry taste balanced so well in the malty stout. Stouts that have a heavy roasted malt-bitter flavor don’t balance well with fruit like cherry, in my opinion, and this was done very well. Though, no surprise, New Glarus beers are some of my favorites.
Founders 2010 Nemesis- After having Nemesis, Parabola was hardly bitter at all. The tannin bitter finish and roasty, boozy flavors just didn’t work well together for me.The nose is quite nice, though, with vanilla, raisins and a nice touch of alcohol dominating.
Hoppin’ Frog BORIS The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout: Boris is a mix of an oatmeal stout and a Russian imperial stout with a good balance of booze, chocolate, and oat flavors. Though there was a slight burnt coffee flavor that was a little unsavory to me. The nose was wonderful- vanilla, chocolate and some alcohol notes.
Hoppin’ Frog BORIS Royale: The Royale was more my style, though aging anything in whiskey barrels is bound to do that. The aroma was boozy and a toasted barrel characteristic was very prominent.
Odell Cutthroat Porter- Not a stout, but was nice to try this porter in the midst of such huge beers for a change of pace. However, I do think its subtleties were lost on most of our palates. It was a bit watery to me at this point in the tasting, so I’d love to try it when its not competing against 10 other monster beers.
Odell Bourbon Barrel Stout- This beer threw everyone for a loop. It didn’t taste barrel aged and the aroma was slightly medicinal and cheesy. It was over-carbonated and slightly disappointing as most special Odell releases I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Great Divide Whiskey Barrel Aged Yeti- This beer had ‘turned’, as they say, and most people didn’t enjoy it. Needless to say, I got to have extra of this beer!
As this Camp Beer was the second to last one, we all lucked out as Cathy needed help clearing out some of her cellar. We had Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 10, Deschutes Jubel 2010, Sierra Nevada & Dogfish Head’s Life & Limb 2, and the original bottling of Jester King’s Black Metal- a treat for sure- as break beers!
See everyone in December!