Today, we have a bottle of Avery Brewing Company’s The Czar, an Imperial Stout… from 2013! I got this baby from my good friend Tom, who graciously gifted it to me for my birthday this past summer.
Not all of my beers are for drinking, but I still want to show them off, so we’re starting a new recurring series on the Windowsill. These won’t be reviews, just an exhibition of sorts. Let’s call it… Cellar on the Sill!
The Czar is part of Avery’s Dictator Series (along with the Maharaja Imperial IPA and the Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest), which was discontinued in 2017 (except for the Maharaja). It’s name, and the art on the label, is inspired by Russia’s last emperor, Nicholas II. Long story short, the House of Romanov ran Russia for over 300 years, until a guy named Vladimir Lenin came along and riled up the proletariat—that’s the working class—to the point of inciting a Karl Marx-inspired communist revolution.
Lenin wasn’t a fan of the Romanovs, and said specifically that Nicholas II was “the most evil enemy of the Russian people, a bloody executioner, an Asiatic gendarme…a crowned robber.” When the revolution hit, the Romanov family was gruesomely executed, ending the House of Romanov’s reign.
Politics aside, the Czar is a pretty solid representation of Nicholas II. For one, it’s an Imperial Stout, which was essentially invented by British brewers in the late 17th century so that they could ship their stouts to then Russian dictator Peter the Great. It’s brewed with German Hallertau hops and English London Ale yeast, which fits into Nicholas II’s family tree, since he was first cousins with both England’s King George V (seriously, have you seen the resemblance?) and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II. Royals gonna royal, I guess?
There’s more to this beer than a good name, though. I can’t give a full review until I try it, but from what I hear, it’s one of the better Imperial Stouts out there. I wonder how it has aged? Hopefully better than the 300-year Romanov family reign. I don’t need a revolution in my stomach!
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Clearing out the archives for Stout Season on the Windowsill!
Today’s Windowsill brew is one of the reasons I love craft beer. If you follow my site, you know I love the Jesus series of stouts from Evil Twin Brewing. You also know that Bomb! by Prairie Artisan Ales is the reason I started drinking craft beer. Now what do you think I did when I heard that Evil Twin and Prairie were collaborating on a beer that was, essentially a mix of the two? Well, I damn near had a heart attack, and then I went out and snagged a can of their collaboration, Bible Belt.
As I mentioned, the recipe for this amazing stout begins with Evil Twin’s Even More Jesus imperial stout. It’s an amazing, chocolaty, thick, fudge-like, ooey, gooey, stick-to-your-ribs stout—one of the best out there. Once that’s ready, those crazy sons of bitches add all the same spices and extras—aging the brew on coffee, vanilla, chillies and cacao—that go into the Bomb! stout. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine for sure is. The best part of all, in my opinion, is that the tag team of Prairie and Evil Twin brought in a third partner, just to brew it all… Westbrook Brewing Co.
What an amazing triple threat of craft brewers, and what an incredible resulting brew. Bible Belt, baby!
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All of my BCB hunting had me tweaking for a barrel-aged stout!
All week long, I’ve been hunting and collecting the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand releases, knowing that I probably won’t get to taste their bourbon barrel-aged goodness until at least January. That seeking built up a thirst for something barrel-aged, chocolaty and with the consistency of motor oil… Delicious, 16% ABV motor oil.
When you need a good stout, you can’t go wrong with Colorado’s Avery Brewing Company. They’ve been putting out incredible beer since 1993, and today’s beer is no different. The Tweak has a backstory as interesting as its recipe. Avery has a famous stout they used to brew called Mephistopheles’ Stout (I had a bottle from 2007 on the Windowsill earlier this year). It’s a hefty whopper of a stout, indeed. What better to make a hefty stout better than to barrel age it?
That’s where the Tweak comes in… sort of. It was first brewed under a different name, Meph Addict. As you can imagine, that name did not come without controversy. It sounded like something Walter White would be concocting, and not a craft brewery. The decision was made to change the name to Tweak, which is still a Methamphetamine reference… if you want to get technical.
That being said, this beer was pretty awesome. It’s aged for four months in bourbon barrels, resulting in a viscous, oily, boozy and chocolatey stout, with really great notes of coffee, to boot. I’m so glad I picked it up. It really hit the spot, and damn near knocked me on my ass!
Head over to Instagram to see more great barrel-aged stouts on Windowsills!
One thing beer hunting has taught me, it’s to never give up. This beer is proof that it pays to keep working the internet and the phones when you’re trying to track down specialty brews. Being that I don’t want to pay over $100 or more for the Chicago-only Proprietor’s Stout (that’s what “empty” bottles are selling for on Ebay), the acquisition of this 2018 Bourbon County Brand Reserve brings to an end my hunt for this year’s BCBs from Goose Island Beer Company. It was a fun ride, too!
How did I get the 2018 Reserve? I went back to a watering hole that had previously been emptied—the East Side Grocery on 2nd between 74th and 75th. Knowing they were expecting another shipment, I called them Thursday afternoon, and they graciously held me a bottle. Store policy dictated that I also had to buy another flavor in order to get the 2018 Reserve, which I suppose is fair enough. I ended up deciding on another bottle of the regular Bourbon County Brand Stout, which was the cheapest option available. Good to have another one for cellaring anyway, right?
I have to give yet another shout out to Windowsill Hero, Kristena, who once again saved me a 30-block trek to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She actually also saved me from not getting the 2018 Reserve at all. As it turns out, through what I assume is a miscommunication, when she got to the store, they didn’t have my bottle held, and claimed to never have heard of any Kristena. Did she give up? No! Like any true Windowsiller, she—in her own words—caused a scene until they “magically found” one last bottle behind the counter. She made the clerk so nervous that he had to call the owner… twice! Anyway, she bought it, and delivered it to my desk the next day. Hero! It’s good to have friends who enjoy a good treasure hunt!
The difference between the 2018 Reserve and the 2018 regular is all in the barrels. The recipe for both beers is exactly the same. Same malts, same hops, same aging time. Other than the packaging—how cool is that box and the silver label?—the only distinction between the two is that the 2018 Reserve is aged in 12-year-old Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon barrels. The Elijah Craig won whiskey of the year from Whisky Advocate, which is basically the top prize in the industry. I bet it’s gonna be smooth. I hope so, anyway… it was pricey!
Anybody want to send me the Proprietor’s Stout? Lol. Worth a shot, I think!
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I’m still hunting down the BCB releases for my Windowsill!
BeerMenus saves the day again! I sat down to eat my lunch today, which gave me an opportunity to search for more places around my office that might be carrying Goose Island Beer Company’s 2018 Bourbon County Brand releases. Again, I hit upon a local shop with several of the variants, including the Bramble Rye Stout! The place, Malt & Mold-Gramercy on 2nd Ave between 21st and 22nd, is a small shop that sells two basic things: Craft beer (the Malt part of the name) and Cheese (the Mold part of the name). I’d never heard of it, but it ended up being pretty awesome. Check out the beer and cheese gift baskets they do!
As any good hunter knows, if you have the chance to get your prey, you take it. I called up Malt & Mold to confirm that they, indeed, had the Bramble Rye, and had them hold me a bottle. I gathered my heavy jacket (it’s cold out there in these NYC streets), and my hat, and started the roughly 24-block-walk. I hustled all the way, making it basically in 20 minutes. I couldn’t browse long because I had to get back to the office, but the little I did see was pretty impressive. Lots of solid craft beer, including what looked like the remnants of several cases of the BCB releases and even the 2018 Founders CBS (You’ll be mine soon, horse). In short order, I picked up the bottle from behind the counter and paid for it. I returned to work feeling great… the thrill of the successful hunt! I may or may not have changed the lyrics to “Bamboleo” by the Gypsy Kings to “Bramble-eyo.” Reports of that are, and will remain, forever unconfirmed.
The Bramble Rye is a little bit different than the other BCB stouts. First of all it’s aged in rye whisky barrels, rather than the traditional bourbon barrels used for the other variants. Secondly, Goose Island brewed this one with additions of blackberry and raspberry—in both juice and pureé form. The fruity stout is something I haven’t been able to taste too often, but I’m excited to crack this one open, and soon.
What’s your favorite variant so far? What has been the toughest to track down?
Check this one out on Instagram right now! You can also see the other variants!
This was a great weekend to get the CBS on the Windowsill!
From one craft-questionable barrel-aged stout on the sill to another, we move onto today’s brew… The world renown Canadian Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Company. Why do I call it craft-questionable? Because, in December 2014, Founders sold a 30% stake of its company to the Mahou-San Miguel Group. MSMG is a Spanish brewery that opened its taps in 1890 and is, today, the biggest producer of beer in Spain. Since the Brewers Association rules state that a brewery cannot be more than 25% owned by a macro-brewery and still be considered craft beer, Founders lost its certification.
Like with the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stouts, my opinion on Founders is clear: if you make great beer, I’m gonna drink it. Because I have a friend that used to work for Founders, I’ve been exposed to a lot of their beer. I have very rarely been disappointed. The CBS is one of the finest stouts I’ve ever tasted. What Founders did was take its legendary Breakfast Stout and age it not just in bourbon barrels, but bourbon barrels that had previously housed maple syrup. The coffee, chocolate, maple and bourbon flavors mix together to make an absolutely amazing brew. I don’t care who owns 30% of the CBS, I’m loving 100% of it.
Thought I was done with these on the sill, but surprise, surprise!
There’s only one thing better than scoring a specialty release beer on the day it hits stores: Getting one of the rare variants three days after it reaches shelves! Thanks to my good buddy, Brian, and a well-placed day off from my day job, I managed to snag the Goose Island Beer Company Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout from Ridgefield Wine & Spirits in Ridgefield, CT.
I was driving around town after running some errands, when I got the word from Brian. I immediately drove to get some coffee—a little Nitro from Donut Crazy in Westport—and then made the roughly 30-minute drive to Ridgefield. Although the cashier temporarily put a fright in me by saying the system showed they didn’t have any left, she quickly asked the manager and he came out from the back with a bottle for me. I snagged the second-to-last one!
I will be reposting this once I taste it—probably some time in early 2019—but I was too proud of my find to not share it with you guys. Like the other Bourbon County Brand Stouts, this one is aged in bourbon barrels that are at least four years old. However, Goose Island’s brewers decided to add Grade A vanilla beans from Madagascar to the mix. The vanilla variant has been gone from the Bourbon County Brand release lineup for a number of years, but it’s back for 2018… and on my Windowsill.
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Now, this release is not without controversy in the craft beer community. You see, back in 2011, the Chicago-based brewery was purchased… by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Yep… Big Beer. For many craft enthusiasts, this was the end of the Goose. No Big Beer will touch their lips, and so, no matter how good a Goose beer is, the Goose is dead to them. I respect that, but for me? If you take the time and care to make a beer like this, you’re still making craft. It’s craft supported by a giant corporation—the enemy of small batch and craft breweries everywhere—but it’s still a work of art. I still believe this beer is great, and I’ll continue to try to snag some every year… Big Beer or not.
What do you guys think? Should BCB lovers be ousted from the craft beer community? Or is it OK to lust after this quality stout every Black Friday? While you mull it over, check out some more information about the releases I’ve been able to score so far.
2016 Bourbon County Brand Stout
Style: Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels
Special Notes: Aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels that are at least 4 years old.
Malts: 2-Row, Black Malt, Caramel, Chocolate, Munich 10, Roasted Barley
Special Notes: The Wheatwine Ale is making its debut in 2018 as the first of the Bourbon County Brand brews to deviate from the imperial stout recipe since the Barleywine debuted back in 2013. Aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels that are at least 4 years old.
Malts: 2-Row, White Wheat
Availability: Even more limited… Why are you still reading?
Special Ingredients: Biscotti, Hazelnut, Chili Peppers
Who needs a break? A break from beer? Not me!
The “Break” series is one of Evil Twin Brewing’s ongoing series. From donuts to biscotti to maple bourbon to raspberry, the series has some of the best experimental stouts I’ve ever had. For me, the “Jesus” series still wins out, but I also haven’t had a Break that I’ve disliked. Definitely love what Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is doing with his recipes!
The Imperial Biscotti Chili Hazelnut Break is a big time stout that packs a ton of punch, with incredible flavors of roasted Italian hazelnut, vanilla and even a hint of chili pepper. Got all that? Can I get a hell yeah? I loved this brew. From the upfront sweetness and creaminess to the nice little heat from the chilies on the finish, it was on point. Also, it was 11.5%, so you know I really did need a break after I had it. Pair it with some Nutella crepes for desert!
Check out Beers on Windowsills for more great craft beer!
Are you pining for a good, light stout? Well here you go!
Pine Island Brewing, located in Pine Island, NY, opened its taps in October of 2015. Former CPA, and avid homebrewer, Mike Kraai is behind the relatively new brewery’s recipes. One very cool thing of note about the tap room… it’s located in a renovated firehouse. It’s definitely on my list of breweries to visit when I head up to the Hudson Valley area.
The Oatmeal Crème Stout is Pine Island’s winter seasonal. It’s creamy and smooth from beginning to end, as an oatmeal stout should be. Very malty too, as it’s brewed with Maris Otter, Black Malt, Flaked Oats and added Lactose. I tend to like my stouts a lot heftier than this one—it’s only 5%—but the Oatmeal Crème had some solid flavor. Very tasty!
Thanks to @bklyndena718 for picking this one up for the Windowsill!