I went with a group of fellas to a Bell’s beer dinner last night, where Bell’s brought in a number of rare offerings. On the whole, the beer was good (one was outstanding), the food was good (for RFD), and the pairings worked well. Forgive me, as I am going off some sketchy iPhone notes. I may make passing mention of some of the food…none of it was BBQ.
Oatmeal Stout: Bell’s doesn’t F around. We dove right in with an oatmeal stout that has a soft and pleasant smell of coffee and chocolate. The coffee stands out a little more than the chocolate on the taste, in a not over-the-top way. And the oatmeal adds a nice creaminess to it. One guy commented that it tastes a little like coffee ice cream, which I think is about right. It paired well with the beef stew.
Raspberry Ale: Why the hell is there a “p” in raspberry? This is the beer I was looking forward to the least, and I ended up not minding it. It tastes like a tame raspberry. Profound, I know. It is a little tart, with a not overpowering sweetness; and it isn’t all up in your grill (like the beer’s presumptuous, little, red, corpuscular namesake is). At the end, I felt like it tasted like a raspberry sweet tart. But I still liked it, and it finished cleaner than I thought a raspberry beer would.
Hopsolution: This beer was brewed solely for the Illinois market as Kalamazoo Hopsolution, and stemmed from some sort of dust-up with Bell’s distribution in Illinois. It is apparently a tweaked version of Bell’s Two Hearted. It has a nice ripe, resinous hop aroma. The taste is the same, with some citrus notes. It is pretty sweet, but is ultimately nicely balanced, with a good malt backbone.
There was something ever-so-slight that irked me (almost not even worth mentioning). There was a mulchy/earthy thing going on that nobody else at my table noticed. Jerks. I should note that the paired manchego mac & cheese made this taste go away. I liked this, but I like Two Hearted much better.
Golden Rye: This beer is like Oberon’s teenage, emo, spiced, rye cousin. I wanted to believe that it’s dark eye make-up, black dyed hair, and surly, angst-ridden attitude were noble; but ultimately everyone else at the table convinced me that this teenager’s rebellion lacked substance. It is interesting, but we all agreed it needed something more…like some hop character, a little sweeter, a bigger mouthfeel…something. Fucking teens.
Black Note Stout: I was hoping that the hype and my high expectations would not culminate in a let-down on this highly sought-after bourbon barrel-aged blend of Double Cream and Expedition. But I have seen the top of the mountain, and it is good.
This thing is as black as night, with none of RFD’s little LED lights able to penetrate it (although towards the end you could notice a fascinating red around the edges). It smells like chocolate, cream, oak, bourbon, and a little vanilla. The taste starts out with chocolate, cream, coffee, and very complementary bourbon, with some elusive hops that repeatedly ding-dong-ditch your tongue with every sip.
As you get towards the bottom the hops indignantly head home, and the rest of the characters stop their attention whoring and drop back in a supporting role for the oak to shine. It is at this point you feel like one filthy-rich, classy motherfucker…haughtily swirling your old-ass cognac and contemplating which failing business your private equity firm should over-leverage and liquidate just for funsies the next day.
Still impressed by myself, I took a cab home, fell asleep, and was awoken by my sleepwalking 3-year-old at 3:30am. Doesn’t she know who I am? I’ve had Black Note Stout, dammit!
Notes: The Haybag was nice enough to stay home with the F-Trophy and send me out with the boys, despite the fact that she loves beer as much as any of us. Thanks!
Also, I don’t think I can comment on the drinkability of the Black Note. By the time it came around, I think a glass of water would have seemed challenging to get down my pie-hole. I seem to remember, though, it was pretty drinkable for something so huge.