Good news if you missed the Strong Ale Festival at the Meddlesome Moth on Saturday -- you weren't alone. Which was good news for those of us who actually did go: no lines and no disappointment upon finding out that a scarce keg had run dry.
And that also means there are plenty of cellar-aged rare brews available for tomorrow's beer brunch, and possibly, if you ask nicely, at the bar tonight.
Better yet, those leftovers include some great beers, some hard-to-find ones as well -- and quite a few that fit both descriptions.
The cellar release event Saturday included a variety of rare releases that the Moth has been collecting since before the gastro-pub even opened its doors. It was a unique chance not only to try some beers that rarely make their way to Texas, but also to experience how those beers evolve over time with some aging.
But of course, it was not without some difficult choices. Just as with a multi-stage music festival with several bands playing simultaneously one must skip some beloved acts in favor of others, there were some hard choices to make when narrowing down a selection of 52 beers to just 10 samples of 2 ounces apiece and selecting a single stand-out beer for a final 10-ounce pour.
Following are my thoughts on the beers I sampled during the festival. I didn't see any of them run dry, so if you're interested, there should be some remaining tonight.
Jester King/Mikkeller Drinkin' in the Sunbelt: On a warm day, this was a great way to start off the session. A cheerful golden hazy yellow and very sessionable 4 percent ABV, this bright, citrusy Amarillo dry-hopped ale looked and tasted just like summer. If only it came in super-cheap tallboys.
Ommegang Triple Perfection: Very rich and full-bodied Belgian-style tripel. It was a tad on the sour side, perhaps from aging, but still a nice effervescent quencher that belied its 8.9 percent ABV.
Allagash Odyssey: Very good, very strong wheat beer at 10 percent ABV. Rich, creamy and toasty with malty Belgian candi sugar sweetness. Not a session-drinking wheat by any stretch, but still lovely.
Allagash Interlude: A farmhouse style ale aged in red-wine barrels, this had a lot of tartness to it. If you like your beers sour, this one's for you.
Brooklyn Monster 2007 Barley Wine: Tart for a barleywine. It's supposed to be a classic English-style barleywine, but I wonder if this one may have aged too long or somehow gotten infected, as it was on the sour side. I haven't had Monster before, so I have no basis for comparison, but I wasn't terribly impressed, and I usually like everything Brooklyn does.
Ranger Creek Le Bestia Belgian Style Strong Ale: Wow! This is a great beer, with all the lovely dark-fruit flavors you expect from a great Belgian dark ale, plus some spicy peppery and cinnamon notes. Rich and creamy with a nice balance of flavors, this Texas beer was one of my favorites.
Avery/Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation Belgian-Style Strong Ale: This beer is what happened when breweries Avery and Russian River each realized that the other had a beer named "Salvation" and decided that it would be more fun to blend the two Salvations than fight each other in court over who got to keep the name. It's a very smooth, rich, creamy, fruity, yeasty ale that shows the partnership is not contentious in the least.
Sierra Nevada Brewer's Reserve Grand Cru: A mix of oak-aged Bigfoot barleywine, Celebration IPA and Pale Ale, this is surprisingly smooth and mellow for such a big (9.3 percent ABV) brew. Very rich and malty, with hops that have become very subdued after some rest.
Green Flash Tripel: A great mix of sweet malty flavor and crisp hops, this is an all-around wonderful tripel.
Brewdog/Mikkeller Divine Rebel Barleywine: Very impressive wine- or Champagne-like barleywine brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops, Champagne yeast and aged in scotch casks and conditioned on toasted French oak chips. All these elements, surprisingly, blend wonderfully giving it a complex taste that combines tart and bitter notes with rich dark-fruit and chocolate malt flavors and, for a 13.8 percent ABV brew, unsurprising alcohol warmth.
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Stone Double Bastard: Surprisingly smooth and rich for a Stone Brewing Co. double IPA. Creamy, sweet and malty but with plenty of hop bite.
Green Flash Imperial IPA. I have yet to hear a single reaction to this beer, made with Summit and Nugget hops, that doesn't mention how much it tastes the way a fresh bag of high-quality bud smells -- citrusy, spicy and sweet. Maybe I need to quit hanging out with so many stoners.
Dogfish Head Bitches Brew: This brew, a "fusion" of imperial stout and African honey beer with Gesho root made to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis' landmark album of the same name, is one of those beers that is so hard to get hold of in Texas that the hunt is half the fun in drinking it. I opted to use my one 10-ounce pour on it, and am glad I did. It's not as sweet as I expected, and is a lusciously rich, creamy stout with notes of espresso bean and cocoa, and a tad of honeyed sweetness. Overhyped? Perhaps, but still an excellent stout.
Great Divide Belgica Belgian Style IPA: Just couldn't bring myself to leave after finishing my Bitches Brew, so I bought one last beer. Mellow and not as hoppy as Flying Dog Raging Bitch and not as yeasty as Urthel Hop-It, this is a good middle-ground for an American-style IPA and Belgian-style ale.