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There Are Still Good Things In The World: Imperial Craft Beer Edition

Notre Dame, The Game Penises, and Horse Poison King Cans can suck it. We’re living well this week.

College World Series - Vanderbilt v Virginia - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Let’s be blunt: we’re all a little tired of this shit, and in need of some good in our lives. With that in mind, I invite you all to cleanse the last two weeks in eternal hellfire. See you in hell, Notre Dame. You can suck it, Game Penises. King Can Challenge: we can do better.

We’re living right this week. At long last, in honor of last week’s Great American Beer Festival, I bring you the Inaugural Imperial Craft Beer Live Your Life Right You Deserve This Treat Yo-Self Challenge.

The Rules:

  1. It must be craft beer (no Blue Moon or Shock Top; and for the love of God, no freaking King Cans).
  2. It must be “Imperial,” i.e. at least 8.0% ABV. For example, Double or Triple IPAs, Imperial Stouts, Scotch Ales, Bourbon Casked Errythang, etc.
  3. No spending limit. TREAT YO-SELF!

Andrew VU ‘04’s Review

The Drink: Big Sky Brewery’s Ivan the Terrible Imperial Stout

Cost: $10 and change for a 4 pack from the guys who judged me whilst buying a king can the last time.

ABV: 9.5%

Nose: Coffee, chocolate, and the slightest hint of caramel.

Mouthfeel: Not as heavy as you would think. You expect it to coat the palate, but it’s a bit more slippery.

*Note: About halfway through, it turns into a palate coater. Let it open up a bit; warm up a bit.

Tastes Like: To be honest? An Imperial Stout. Most high abv stouts are coffee and chocolate forward, with coffee aftertastes, as they pretty much have to be to get the yeast to eat at a rate to produce a damn near 10ABV. This does not disappoint, as it tastes exactly as you would expect it to. The only minor quibble I have is that... well... it tastes exactly as you would expect it to. In other words, it’s not complex. It’s all surface, but it’s a tasty surface.

On second thought, let this one warm up a bit and the chocolatey notes open up. A few degrees warmer, and the chocolate becomes wrapped in caramel, and the coffee runs away until it’s time for the aftertaste. It gets a lot better the more the glass is in your hand. Might as well take the next one out now, so it’s closer to the desired temperature by the time I open it.

What it did to me: Allowed me to watch the Rams and Vikings—two teams I care quite little about—without much complaining, and without once allowing my mind to wander back to the work I’ll need to do this weekend. Warmed the chest, and flipped my brain’s switch from Angstarbeit (which may well be a German term I just made up for the feeling of anxiety which accompanies finishing one large stack of work, and immediately finding an even larger stack of work has just arrived) to “let’s look at pictures of crying Chugger fans, because damn it, you deserve this” (Schauen wir uns Bilder von weinenden Chugger-Fans an, denn verdammt, du verdienst das)!

Ideal For: Sipping on an unseasonably cold late summer, early fall day, idly watching Thursday Night Feetball, and laughing at the tears of Chugger sadness (seriously, read this... they’re lobbying for another whack-nuts coaching search already... with Bobby Petrino as the target). Even more ideal for those two weeks out of the year that Glacier National Park is just perfect (and not the remaining 50, where you will surely freeze to death).

Rating: 8/10 schadenfreude Chuggers’ coaching search threads 4 games into the new coach’s tenure. It’s no Against the Grain Bo & Luke Stout, but I can’t hold that against them. Not every beer can be aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, after all.

Christian D’Andrea’s Review

The Drink: Tyranena’s Lost Adult Unfiltered Double Dry-Hopped Imperial India Pale Ale

Cost: $10 for a four-pack at the brewery, $12 at Total Wine

ABV: 8.3%

Nose: Dry hops, little bit of fruit.

Mouthfeel: I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.

Tastes Like: Hoppy up front, then really smooth, giving way to some juicy citrus flavors. The taste lingers for a while, but in a good way.

What it did to me: “Lost Adult” is a great name. “Lost Adult Unfiltered Double Dry-Hopped Imperial India Pale Ale” seems like some kind of conspiracy to give the woman who writes the names of the beers on the taproom’s chalkroom carpal tunnel syndrome. Egregiously long name aside, this beer is AWESOME.

Let me break into an aside about Tyranena. It’s about 30 minutes east of Madison, WI and 45 mins west of Milwaukee in a delightful little town called Lake Mills, where the bars on main street still offer $3 burgers. For, let’s say, the first three years I lived in Wisconsin, Lake Mills was just an exit off I-94. But then I expanded my drinking horizons to find their taproom for a layover on a brewery-tour trip of MKE and, holy shit, it’s incredible.

I’ve been extremely lucky to be surrounded by great breweries thanks to my residency in a state founded by Germans (the good kind). I’d conservatively say I can drive to 20 different breweries in 30 minutes or less where I am right now. But I don’t know any that have the range and drinkability of Tyranena, who constantly has 6-8 brewery exclusive beers — some called Brewers Gone Wild! that are always

a) a little weird, and
b) always at least pretty good

Ask nicely and they’ll throw together an eight-beer sampler (about 4oz per pour) for something like $10. It’s great. And their beers aren’t just your standard microbrewery clusterfuck of hops that serves as the latest shot across the bow in the war to make the world’s bitterest beer. They stick to their strengths and focus on instead making their tried-and-true brews a little better each time. And they also do a ton of darker beers that are exceptional — Chief Blackhawk Porter especially.

So yeah, come to Wisconsin and check out our breweries. But on the way to Milwaukee from Madison, pull off in Lake Mills for a beer. I’ll be there Friday night before we hit the Brewers game, so if anyone from Tyranena is somehow reading this, come say hi.

Ideal For: Drinking. About three should do the trick if you want to feel a little better about last week’s bed-shitting against South Carolina. It’s 8.3% but it drinks like a five-percenter. And it’s packed with flavor. Just top notch, definitely my favorite beer of the year. MAYBE even my favorite beer ever.

Rating: 10 blowout victories over Tennessee out of 10

Tom Stephenson’s Review

The Drink: Real Ale’s Real Heavy Scotch Ale. Tag line: Rich & Malt-Driven. Part Highlands. Part Hill Country.

Cost: $5.99 at Spec’s, plus the ungodly Texas sales tax

ABV: 9.3%

Nose: Well... it smells like beer. What else are you expecting me to tell you?

Mouthfeel: Tingly, I guess.

Tastes Like: Hops. Come on, were you expecting me to pick something with a “hint of coffee” or “blueberry notes”? This tastes like beer is supposed to taste, you cretins.

(Related: This is why Tom writes about sports and not beer.)

What it did to me: So my wife, when I told her that I was writing about this, suggested that I take the opportunity to plug a local brewery. This isn’t exactly that; Real Ale is brewed in Blanco, a dot on the map somewhere between Austin and San Antonio, but it’s pretty ubiquitous in grocery stores in Texas.

The Real Heavy is basically exactly what it sounds (and looks) like. It’s a very dark, very hoppy beer that you drink when you need a break from dealing with the daily stupidity that accompanies being a criminal defense lawyer. It’s also got a high enough alcohol content that it will make you rapidly forget the latest Vanderbilt football game, in the frequent event that you are in the mood to do such things.

Ideal For: Proving that you are, in fact, a real man who likes real beer and probably has chest hair. If you asked Siri “what is the opposite of Bud Light Lime,” Siri would tell you this beer is the opposite of Bud Light Lime. Also probably ideal for making yourself real heavy, now that I think of it.

Rating: 9 Josh Henderson Years of Eligibility out of 10. The 9 is for this not technically being a local beer. Next time, we’re going with Buffalo Bayou.

VandyTigerPhD’s Review

The Drink: Abita Strawberry Lager “Harvest Series”

Cost: I don’t remember, I stock up on these when they’re in season and literally stack them to the ceiling. I think they’re like $10.99 a sixer?

ABV: 4.3% but I drank two so that counts right?

*Editor’s note: No.

*Reviewer Retort: Boo-urns.

Nose: It’s a strawberry wheat beer, and it smells like wheat and strawberries

Mouthfeel: I don’t flippin’ know what to write here. It’s light to the taste and has very little acidity, hoppiness or really anything you’d associate with even amber weight beers.

Tastes Like: Most of y’all have probably had Abita’s Purple Haze. It’s similar to that in that it has a mid-fruit taste and while a wheat beer it’s not overwhelming in the wheat like a lot of craft beers are. The only real difference is that you can taste the strawberries in this more than you can taste the raspberries in Purple Haze. It’s a flavorful light beer that has a flavor I like.

What it did to me: Not much of anything because it’s only 4.3% and so yeah. I realize I cheated but I’m sitting here not wearing pants (THE SIGN IS CLEARLY POSTED ON THE AOG DOOR!) and going out to get a craft beer would require putting on pants, going down 6 flights of stairs, going across the street and buying a beer from the gas station only to walk back and do it again.

I’ll instead just say that back when Abita Strawberry was limited to just Louisiana for distribution, things got about as insane as an LSU home game when it was in season. You’d literally get calls from friends about a supermarket that just got it in. You’d show up, fight through an angry crowd of half drunk Cajuns, shoving strollers aside and taking Bowie knife wounds along your way to get to your prize. I still buy em 60 beers at a time now, but that’s mostly because they’re not in season too long.

Like this, but with adults.

Ideal For: Seriously, this beer is awesome for drinkin’ when doing yard-work in August. It’s light enough that you’re not weighing yourself down with death in the hot Southern sun and humidity but enough flavor and alcohol to make you forget you’re doing yard work in a sauna. Leave it to Louisiana to make a beer ideal for these conditions.

Rating: 7 of 10. It’s not the best beer ever or anything, but it’s a very tasty beer that has wide appeal. Definitely above average.

*Editor’s note: Definitely.