Re-posted from my blog: Malted Musings.
In my continuing search for great winter beer, I have come across a few fine selections from Dogfish Head during their tasting night at Eli Cannon's Tap Room. As usual, Eli's had an impressive array of Dogfish Head available, including Palo Santo Marron, Fort, Bitches Brew, Indian Brown Ale, 90 Minute IPA, 60 Minute IPA, Chicory Stout, and Chicory Stout on the Randall. Being intrigued by the towering contraption on the edge of the bar, I went with the Randall first.
The Randall is essentially a flavor infuser that Dogfish Head have brewed up. If you're curious about it's construction and tech specs, check out its site here. In a nutshell the Randall pushes beer through a few chambers to pipe in flavor and a more mellow texture than your average draught beer. JD (Eli's Bar Manager) had the Randall set up with Chicory Stout running through vanilla bean, coffee beans, and Werther's Originals candy.
The beer pours out relatively highly carbonated, which makes the head vanish quickly. The color is a deep brown/black and the beer itself smells sweetly of light coffee. At first sip I get the sweet coffee carbonation that renders it an almost soft-drink texture. From here the beer develops a sweet, light coffee taste that builds to slightly-strong coffee bitterness, and then quickly falls down to a slight caramely sweetness. I'm left with a lingering dull pang of bittersweetness on the palate. This was a light-medium beer that had the consistency of a carbonated coffee beverage, but a much more balanced sweet taste. Interesting, complex, and easy drinking to boot!
The next beer I had was my first step into the "winter beer" section: the Indian Brown Ale. This beer pours out dark brown, opaque shade. It smells sweet and lightly malted, but overall doesn't give off much of a nose. At first sip the sharp hops kick in first. This gives way quickly to a lighter, sweeter note. From here the beer sinks to a dense, molassesy sweetness that ends up with a dull sweeter note that's tinged with a bitter hint of coffee. This is a medium beer that has very bright bitters that are evenly balanced out with dense sweetness of the "brown ale" style. It avoids being too sweet and instead has a great murky denseness to it that is punctuated by sharp, bright stabs of hoppy bitterness.
The last beer I had for my winter round up was the huge Fort. This beer measures out around 17% abv (!) and pours out a translucent reddish amber. The nose on this beer is pungent: very rich, high notes of sugary citric sweetness. At first sip you get walloped with that high sweet, sugary stab that is then mitigated almost instantly with a sharp note of alcohol. This dry, sharp alcohol note progresses midway through the taste. From here a citric (apple/pear) note sneaks in the taste profile and then dominates the back end. The beer ends on this sharp/sweet taste with dry warm hints that sit slightly sour with the note of mulled cider or wine. This beer is definitely a big one. It comes off as medium due to it's lightweight look, but Fort has a hell of a kick! It's really more of a barelywine than an ale: very sweet with prickly alcoholic notes that leave a pleasant dull tang on your tongue.
Altogether the Indian Brown Ale and Fort are great cold weather beers. The Indian Brown Ale is a good transition brew; it bridges the gap between the fall temperatures and warms you up with sweet notes that segue you into a cooler temperate. The Fort on the other hand is a straight up monster. Its a beast that's perfect for sipping on a cold fall/winter evening as you sit reflecting on warmer days ahead. A good warm-up beer for sure, but just don't get carried away by the sweetness or you may find yourself pitched into an unplanned-for long winter's nap!