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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Santa vs. Unicorn Barleywine by Pipeworks Brewing

Santa vs. Unicorn American Style Barleywine by Pipeworks Brewing, Chicago, Illinois

© 2015 popsonhops

Tasting:
Style: American Barleywine
ABV: 10.0%
Beer #: 870

Santa vs. Unicorn by Pipeworks

Santa vs Unicorn reminded me that one of my sons had read a number of books in a series called, “Who Would Win?”. In one book, the author would pit the likes of a Tyrannosaurus Rex vs Velociraptor and in another, a great white vs killer whale. It was a blow by blow breakdown of the fight highlighting each’s participant’s strengths and weaknesses. I remember asking my son who won the T-Rex vs velociraptor battle. When he said velociraptor, I was surprised until I learned that it was about a hundred of the chicken-sized dinosaurs that toppled the T-Rex.

I’m not sure it’s still on the air but I remember watching a show called Ultimate Warriors. The show had experts determine winners between two legendary fighting forces like Vikings vs Samurai. It would break down fighting styles and weapons of each force to speculate a winner. A really interesting series, until they jumped the shark by asking who would win, zombies or vampires?

I guess in the same vein, Pipeworks Brewing asks the same questions and seemingly pits all kinds against The Unicorn in a number of beers they produce. There was Ninja vs Unicorn and now there’s Santa vs. Unicorn. Frankly, I think the stealth, blade-wielding ninja would have no issue slaying either the magical, prancing variety unicorn or hard-charging, sharpened horn variety – but that’s just my two cents. Santa vs The Unicorn – interesting. Santa’s age and size might be a disadvantage, but he has tamed and harnessed reindeer and an army of elves. Possibly elves like those found in Lord of the Rings. Hmmm, let’s call the book author or Spike TV to settle the argument.

Funny, one sip I love Santa vs. Unicorn and then the next not so much. Certainly has the trademark caramel, brown sugar and the American variety hoppiness. I expected that my meter would run as either a steady improve or decline as I worked my way through a bottle. Santa vs. Unicorn is an enigma. One minute I love the boozy warmth and the next it becomes overpowering. Maybe the Santa part is the part I like and the Unicorn part not so much…a waffling 88 points.

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Runnin’ With The Devil by Nebraska

Runnin' With The Devil Barleywine by Nebraska Brewing, La Vista, Nebraska

© 2015 popsonhops

Tasting: May 20, 2015
Style: Barleywine aged in rum barrels
Beer # 746
ABV: 11.9%

Runnin’ With The Devil

Nebraska Brewing is a new edition to New Jersey shelves, arriving just two weeks ago. Cross another state off my imaginary list of beers brewed by state. Unofficially, I’m at thirty-six now. I’ve seen Nebraska Brewing beer and its bomber-sized bottles in New York for some time now. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem like they move very quickly – if at all. My place in New York has had two bottles of Black Betty ($18.99) sitting there gathering dust for at least a year. Makes my wonder, while other breweries can’t keep up with demand are we getting Nebraska beer because there is no excess demand elsewhere? Hmmm.

Runnin’ With The Devil is a barleywine and the label explains that this is a rum-barrel aged version of their Fathead Barleywine and part of the brewery’s Inception Series of offerings. This bomber set me back $14.99 and for brewers, that type of price tag escalates expectations.

My impressions – Runnin’ With the Devil is a pedestrian barleywine. Booziness is somewhat subdued but it comes through as astringent and overshadows the mellow flavor. Certainly a barrel influence is evident with somewhat damp oak and rum sweetness over mild caramel. I had higher expectations but I’ll put Runnin’ With the Devil at a so-so 87 points.

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