Monday, November 3, 2014

The Best Thing I Swallowed on Sunday Episode 21

Today was a hectic one at the ol' office, so I'm keeping this episode short. Rather than talking about three new beers on tap at work, I'm limiting myself to just two. One beer absolutely blew me away, and the second actually surprised me quite a bit. Ballast Point's arrival in Chicago several years ago introduced me to the first West Coast IPA that I truly enjoyed--Sculpin. Today witnessed my introduction to another of Ballast Point's amazing beers. Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter is superb and has to be one of the best examples of the style. Just one whiff of it told me that today's competition would be a foregone conclusion. But this isn't to minimize the second-place holder. Lakefront's Rendezvous, a Bière de Garde, is very impressive and highly drinkable.

Can you guess which beer is which? Can you?

I had no idea that Lakefront had such a nice beer in them, so imagine my surprise when we tapped a keg of Rendezvous after blowing through their Pumpkin Lager. Don't get me wrong. I like Lakefront's beers, but I don't love them. They are solid but I never really crave them. This might upset some folks from Milwaukee, but it's how I feel. Rendezvous is a Bière de Garde that weights in at 7.2% ABV. For those who don't know, a Bière de Garde is a French version of a farmhouse ale or saison that is traditionally brewed along the Franco-Belgian border during the winter and consumed in the summer. The style can be more pale in color, although these beers tend to be amber colored. The French variation also is generally less hoppy and relies on a heavier malt profile for flavoring. Rendezvous has the clear amber color of a Bière de Garde, and has a fluffy, though short-lived head of foam that left some nice lacing. The aroma is malty-sweet. There's not a lot of carbonation, and the body is fairly light, with a soft mouthfeel. The flavor is obviously heavy on the malts, and is therefore a bit sweet. The finish was somewhat dry, which is more akin to a saison. Rendezvous was a solid beer and very enjoyable.

Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter is simply a great beer. How we ended up with a keg of this at the Hopleaf is beyond me, but I am extremely happy that we did. The aroma and flavors of this imperial porter were mind blowing. It pours black and has an everlasting cocoa-colored head of foam. The aroma is vanilla, chocolate, and roasted coffee. Vanilla, roasted malts, chocolate, and sweet coffee greet the tongue, while a nice bitterness rounds out the sweetness. The 10% ABV sneaks up on you, since the flavors are both intense and long-lasting in Victory at Sea--masking the alcohol almost entirely. I cannot write enough good things about Victory at Sea other than to declare it the obvious best thing I swallowed on Sunday.

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