It started on November 1, 2008, when I decided to celebrate the birthday of a keg of Bell's Expedition Stout (dated 11/01/07, and kept in the basement of the Blue Nile), as well as have our own release party for Surly Darkness. And all of our other taps turned to the dark side, as well as some extra kegs I managed to sneak in, via jockey boxes, and the occasional cask ale. That was the year that Summit heard about the party and wanted to get involved with a firkin of Great Northern Porter, with black treacle, never before released at a bar. It was called Ale Saint's Day, on account of the fact that November 1 is known as All Saint's Day, and it was a roaring success. Even got interviewed by the Star Tribune for that one. I've learned a lot since then, like how to do sample sets (or as some call them, flights), what works, what doesn't, etcetera.
The second year, the event fell on Halloween and was called Ale Hollow's Eve. The big draw that year was a quarter barrel keg of Surly Darkness that had also been aged for a year, on tap alongside the current year, 2009. And so continued a tradition, where every year on the Saturday following Darkness Day, all of the taps at the Blue Nile turned over to porters and stouts. They became StoutFests, since I couldn't keep coming up with clever names for events that fell on Nov. 2 or October 30. Some obscure brews were tapped on those days, like Salopian Entire Butt English Porter, Sinebrychoff Finnish Porter, and Troubadour Belgian Stout. What else? New Holland Dragon's Milk, Founders Breakfast Stout, Odell Bourbon Barrel Stout, Flying Dog Gonzo Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter, Deschutes Abyss, North Coast Old Rasputin, Brooklyn Black Chocolate, Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat, New Belgium Clutch, ...I could list them all, but I won't...or will I? Widmer Raspberry RIS, Stone Belgo IRS, Sierra Nevada Narwhal RIS, Central Waters Satin Solstice, Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Baltic Porter, Alaskan Baltic Porter, Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, Bell's Kalamazoo Stout, Left Hand Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter, Lucky Bucket Certified Evil, ...Great Lakes/ Deschutes Class of '88 Imperial Smoked Porter, Left Coast Voodoo American Stout, Moylan's Dragoon Irish Dry Stout, Southern Tier Plum Noir, Southern Tier Warlock, Stone Espresso IRS, Surly Cacao Bender, ...that's SurlyFests 2011-'13...let's see if I can find the list from the other years....ooo, found the list from 2009!...Tyranena The Devil Made Me Do It Coffee Imperial Porter, Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence, Bell's Rye Stout, Flat Earth Black Helicopter Coffee Stout, Nogne-O Porter, Southern Tier Oat Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Lion Stout, Bell's Expedition 2008 (another aged one), Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Surly Bender...must find the 2008 and 2010 lists...
So, it happened again on the 2nd of November, last weekend, and I didn't do quite so much promotion, not that far ahead of the event, but we still had about 30 people waiting outside to come in when we opened. This is one event I've done that has always drawn a good crowd. And once again, there were no kegs that ran out during the event (actually, we ran out of Darkness the past two years, but that had been on tap for days earlier), which isn't surprising, since most people were enjoying the sample sets, and only taking 4 ounces out of those kegs at a time. You can get 150 four once pour out of a 5 gallon keg. (And we're only doing small kegs these days. There's a very good reason for this.) Don't think we had 150 visitors, and not everyone tried every beer, though some tried. Good fun, great beer people with great beer taste. And then we have an African DJ event and we're only making mixed drinks and opening bottles of Heineken and Guinness. Night and day. At least we have Darkness to drink at the end of the night...night and day. I'm indulging people in beer geek heaven in the afternoon, and suffering under the rudeness of besotten Kenyans at night. My life, welcome to it.
Enough of that, here it is, one of the most popular kegs of that night, Heresy, the oak-aged version of Old Heathen, the Russian Imperial Stout, from Weyerbacher, of Eaton, Pennsylvania. And guess what, I wrote about it from a bottle, back in September of 2004. Here are those notes from then:
Deep ebon hue, nearly all light is trapped inside, with mere crimson glimmers at the cracks...nice, though brief, cocoa-colored head.
Aroma is a bit on the shy side, not quite unfolding all the delights I anticipate from a top-of- the-line RIS. Molasses, maple, anise, espresso, the usual suspects.
Taste: nice, and rich, and very good in the mouth, but fairly underwhelming, compared to the better IS's out there. Cocoa gets thicker in the texture...alcohol, also, seems humble at first, though speaks up later in the game.
A bit hoppier than I expected, as well, and it all feels on the whole, mellow and smooth, despite the jumped-up flavor characteristics. Tasty, and not too overbearing. Gets thicker, richer, tastier as we go further in, but not too much so. A milder, mellower, balanced RIS than those I'm used to, but there's nothing wrong with that, is there? I didn't think so...
The more I drink of this, the more I like it. Doesn't blow me away, but that's okay.