I had a chance to try six of the eight upcoming holiday ales from Lompoc because two of them hadn’t been brewed yet. It was a fine evening to spend at the Sidebar, with tales of brewing and recollections of Don Younger, including the classic, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.” I can’t speak for anyone else but I certainly had a good time. And by god, I need to make a shirt with Mr. Younger’s quote on it. That should make money, damnit.
Here’s what I thought of the beers I tried that evening.
The Jolly Bock was a malty, red lager that they said wasn’t quite finished yet. It showed: the beer was a solid, malty brew it had only the barest hint of hop bitterness at the end to balance it out. The lack of strong carbonation held it back I believe, but not by much. Should be fine come it’s release near the end of the month.
8 Malty Nights, a beer inspired by the Chaunkah holiday (it was even blessed by a rabbi, the first year they made it!) had great roasty chocolate flavors in the nose and through the mouth. I found it to be one of the highlights of the evening and I’m told it’s going to be bottled this year, so I look forward to getting some of that to share with friends.
The third beer, Franc’ly Brewdolph is one that I have a little trouble with. It had been aged in Cabernet Franc barrels and just blended that day when I tried it, so there was practically no carbonation to it; this beer definitely resembled a fresh beer, just brought out to play.
But it was good. Really good: someone mentioned that it tasted like cranberries and that’s not an unfair description: the tartness at the end was right out of a nice dry white wine and I really liked this beer! This beer is going to change, though: carbonation is, I’m told, going to subdue the oak flavors a bit and bring up the fruit, and the tartness should mellow a little. However I don’t want it to; I want people to try this one because it’s really tasty.
That said…I also really want to try it when it’s carbonated too, to see how it changes. I have no doubts that the Franc’ly will be a good beer and represent Lompoc well at the Holiday Ale Fest, I’m just curious if the changes will be for the better or even out.
The C-sons Greetings was a definite highlight of the evening. My notes say ‘Pine sword across the tongue!’ It’s a really good IPA and this year’s batch should be given to anyone who enjoys NW style IPAs.
Old Tavern Rat was the penultimate brew and, despite being a barleywine, had a very strong bitter note at the end, uncharacteristic for the style. It was explained to the crowd that this year, the OTR was brewed on a different system; the one at the main brewery, instead of where they had usually done it, at the NW 23rd location. Despite knowing the new system might provide more hop bitterness at the end and planning for it, this beer came out a bit different than expected.
Which I find comforting as a home brewer. Even the professionals occasionally have trouble with their alchemic processes! I also find it really interesting: they took a recipe they knew well and were able to adjust, yet brewing on a different system-a set of tools they knew well-led them to making a beer that was different than expected.
That’s fascinating, to me. Now, the OTR may or may not be for you but I think it will be worth trying some this year and comparing it to last year’s batch, should you have some, or next year’s batch, when it comes out.
Finally, there was a bourbon barrel aged wee heavy, brewed in conjunction with LOLA. This spent months in barrels and was made with fifty pounds of molasses! This beer is a strange one, in a good way. The nose is very bourbony and had me thinking it was going to be really potent. But the mouthfeel was very light, the ABV only 7.5%, so it drank like a much lighter beer. Really a wonderful drink and I recommend trying it if you get the chance.