A Deal With The Devil Anchorage Brewing Company How much did you pay?

A Deal With the Devil Barley Wine aged in Cognac Barrels. Brewed by Anchorage Brewing Company, Alaska

(C) 2018 popsonhops

A Deal With The Devil Anchorage Brewing Company

Tasting: July 13, 2018
Style: Barley Wine aged in Cognac Barrels
ABV: 17.3% (wow!)
Beer # 1,134
Batch # 2, Bottled, December of 2014

Other Bottle Notes:

Degrees Plato: 39
Hops: Galaxy

Sticker Shock

When Firestone Walker first came to New Jersey, one of their first offerings was their 13th Anniversary Ale. I had sticker shock at the $20 price tag and vowed that there was no way I would pay $20 for a single bottle of beer. Well, I passed on that anniversary ale but just a few years later, I found myself buying two bottles of A Deal With The Devil Anchorage Brewing Company for $35 each. I couldn’t believe I was doing it…but I had to have it.

The Crossroads

The second leg of my story is the reference to the deal with the devil and the connection to blues guitarist Robert Leroy Johnson (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – 1986). Although the details of Johnson’s death are disputed, it is widely held that he was poisoned at the age of 27. He is prominently mentioned as a member of the famed “27 club” — named for musicians that died tragically at the age of 27 including Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Wilson, Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse.

What makes Johnson so interesting is the legend of his rise to fame. According to this legend, Johnson brought his guitar to the crossroads at midnight and sold his soul to the Devil. In exchange for his soul, Johnson would create blues that would make him famous. You might remember the movie “The Crossroads”; the story of a young musician’s search for Robert Johnson’s 30th (and unpublished) song. However, Johnson’s fame came long after his death as he would have been 50 when his fame skyrocketed in 1961.

The Experience

Massively sweet and above all, filled with caramel flavor. The mouthfeel is like nectar and the barrel influence is ripe with underlying dark fruit. A Deal with the Devil Anchorage Brewing is by far the best barley wine I have had. In conclusion, worth every penny for 96 points.

Confused about terms used in this article? Check out my Glossary .

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Helldorado by Firestone Walker Consumer demand.

Helldorado Blond Barley Wine Ale by Firestone Walker

(C) 2017 popsonhops

Tasting: March 19, 2017
Style: Barley Wine
Beer #: 1,044
ABV: 13.2%

Helldorado

A few years ago, I sent an email to a soup company about reducing the size of their can. It went from 20 ounces to 19 ounces. The price was the same, I just thought it shouldn’t go unnoticed. I did get a reply from the company. They stated that “consumer demand” was behind the move. Who were these consumers? They must have been liquored up at some focus group to agree with giving people less for the same price is a good idea. Must have been a group of politicians.

Speaking of being liquored up. While most would applaud moving to a larger bottle or can of beer.  I was not a fan of Goose Island moving Bourbon County Brand Stout from a 12 ounce bottle to a 16.9 ounce bottle. The single 12 ounce bottle price was about $5. At 16.9 ounces, it went to about $10. That’s 42 cents per ounce moving to 59 cents per ounce (a 40% increase). In a karma moment, the first release after the size change was tainted by infected barrels and massive recalls.

My big issue with Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout, was moving something that boozy into a larger bottle. I don’t think that move was in the consumer’s best interest. I think the ideal move for “stronger” beer is to move to smaller cans or bottles. Of course, my expectation is that I’ll pay about the same per ounce. It just makes sense.

I guess Firestone Walker listened to consumer demand and announced in January that all of their proprietor’s vintage beers would now be released in 12 ounce bottles. One other bonus is that there are more units of their limited releases available. I just picked up their latest proprietor’s vintage release a 12 ounce bottle of Bravo for $8. That’s a fair deal. I’m hoping that next month’s release of Parabola is comparable.

This bottle of Helldorado is 22 ounces and checks in at robust 13.2% alcohol by volume. That’s just too much for one person to enjoy responsibly in one sitting. Thankfully, I have a friend that helped me out. I’ve aged this bottle for about a year and a half and had hopes that the booziness would mellow a bit. Well, Helldorado is still boozy but it has a bright pop of raisin and brown sugar. More of a traditional English barley wine here. Boozy character and all, 88 points.

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Bell’s Planetary Series Saturn & Neptune

Bell's Planetary Series Saturn Black Ale and Saturn Barleywine

© 2015 popsonhops

Bell’s Planetary Series

In August of 2014, Bell’s Brewery introduced the first installment of what would be a seven-part beer series – “The Planets”. Bell’s Planetary Series was inspired by British composer Gustav Holst’s century-old orchestral suite also collectively known as “The Planets”. Holst’s series of movements were composed in pieces over a number of years with each portion named for one of seven planets. Earth was not included in Holst’s series and Pluto’s discovery was just a few years before Holst’s death.

In case you’re curious, here’s Bell’s Planetary Series lineup:

“Mars, The Bringer of War” – Double IPA – 93 Points
“Venus, The Bringer of Peace” A Blonde Ale brewed with honey, apricot, vanilla and cardamom – 78 Points
“Mercury, The Winged Messenger” – A Belgian Single
“Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity” – A malt forward Brown Ale
“Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age” – A Bourbon Barrel-aged Barleywine
“Uranus, The Magician” – Black Double IPA
“Neptune, The Mystic” – A beer inspired by Dr. Bell’s Medicinal Stout, one of Larry Bell’s homebrews that also helped inspire Eccentric Ale

Bell’s Planetary Series concluded with the final release of Neptune, The Mystic in July of 2015 and with these two beers I will have sampled four of the seven releases. Sorry, I intentionally skipped Mercury and Jupiter.

Since Bell’s is not available in New Jersey, these were purchases in Rockland County.

Saturn
Tasting: December 29, 2015
Style: Barley Wine (aged in Oak Barrels)
Beer #: 883
ABV: 11.5%

The Bringer of Old Age. First impressions – boozy, raisins, caramel, vanilla and did I say boozy? Feels a little thin for a beer that’s 11.5% ABV. Not the best example of a barley wine. Probably needs more age than the 6 months I gave this bottle. Eh – 86 points.

Neptune
Tasting: December 11, 2015
Style: Stout
Beer #: 884
ABV: 9.0%

Lots of interesting ingredients here: star anise, dried cayenne, raisins, dates, black pepper, hickory bark, dandelion root, nutmeg, grains of paradise and fenugreek seeds (whatever they are). Neptune delivers lots of complexity. It’s spicy with a little late heat. Neptune is Layered in earthy, woodsy and I pick up on some of the individual ingredients, strong in nutmeg, mellow in raisins. An appropriate beer to have during the Christmas season. A tad bit thin which is surprising for a stout with a higher ABV. All in all, Neptune was enjoyable and probably best left as a one and done – 88 points.

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Garden State Rhapsody by Clown Shoes

Garden State Rhapsody & Hammer of the Holy by Clown Shoes

© 2015 popsonhops

Tasting: April 1, 2015
Style: Stout
Beer #: 719
ABV: 12%

Garden State Rhapsody

Over the past few months, Massachusetts-based Clown Shoes has created a number of “state exclusive” stouts. Garden State Rhapsody is the exclusive release for my home state – New Jersey. Even though I missed seeing the initial wave, I came across a cache of eight bottles of Garden State Rhapsody at an out of the way beer store earlier today. I was happy to take three bottles home with me.

The label of Garden State Rhapsody describes this beer as a blend of twelve rye-aged barrels of Undead Party Crasher (89 points) blended with three rye-aged barrels of an experimental barley wine.

Garden State Rhapsody delivers wine must up front along with mild chocolate and some smokey, vanilla undertones. Opens up to reveal a very pronounced sweet influence of the barley wine. Really nice stout from Clown Shoes 92 points.

I’ll add my thoughts on the other Clown Shoes stout pictured – Hammer of the Holy – in a separate post.

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