Before I delve into Parts III and IV, you might be asking yourself, “Hey, what happened to part II?” Alcohol induced amnesia happened. I took four trips into San Francisco to participate in Strong Beer Month, and I underestimated its ungodly power every single time. I have a ticket that proves I in fact tasted Magnolia’s Rye Rye Rocko, Promised Land IPA and Quadlibet for Tenderfeet, but my hippocampus seems to disagree that those beers ever passed over my tongue. Promised land was really good (I think). It also makes your head feel really good. Rye Rye Rocko makes it feel even better. Tenderfeet then makes walking in a straight line into a fun little personal challenge. I give them all 10/10. My liver gives me a 0/10 and would like a new owner that actually takes care of it.
Part III took me back to 21st Amendment to get obliterated on a Thursday afternoon. Hooray for senior year!
Framboise Forte d’Or
First up was the Amendment’s Framboise Forte d’Or, an oak barrel aged Belgian style strong golden ale with raspberry puree weighing in at a lean 10.4% ABV. It pours a slightly reddish brown with a thin beige head. The nose is dominated by the raspberries, as is the initial taste. The oak doesn’t come through until the finish, and is very faint. At the finish, the alcohol comes on in an incredibly sharp fashion (even in comparison to the other strong beers) and essentially obliterates any other aftertaste that would have lingered. However, it’s still an interesting beer and worth a taste, especially for people who like fruitier beers (read: women) (just kidding) (sort of). I was expecting something more similar to a Belgian lambic, and it more resembles straightforward Beligan ale with some raspberries thrown in. It definitely gets bonus points for uniqueness.
Overall score: 8/10
Bike Lane Hopper
Beer number two was a 9.6% ABV Imperial Black IPA known as Bike Lane Hopper. Fun fact that you don’t care about: this beer was called Two Lane Black Top in 2013, and was the first strong beer I ever tried! It was awesome back then, and it’s still awesome now. It pours a midnight black, and produces a thick and foamy off-white (and almost tanned) head that sticks around longer than CC Sabathia at a Sizzler. The nose produces a surprisingly pungent hit of citrus from its Amarillo and Citra hops, which is followed by a subtle hint of dark chocolate and maybe even some coffee. After the hops have their fun on your tongue, toasted malt comes to quickly dominate the taste. As someone who tends to dislike stouts for their heaviness, this hybrid beer is a perfect alternative, as it maintains a nice lightness while still packing a dense malt flavor. That being said, both the hoppy character and the maltiness pack an impressive punch, and together can be a little overwhelming on the palate. It’s definitely not a beer to just throw back, but should rather be sipped. Anyone who enjoys the Amendment’s Back in Black (which I believe is sold in cans year round) will definitely enjoy this beefier (and far more destructive) version.
Overall score: 9/10
Last item for the day was Hendrik’s Stout, an imperial stout sitting at 9.3% ABV. Full disclosure: I don’t like stouts. However, this one wasn’t too bad. It pours a thick jet black and produces a light tan head. The nose brings out nuts and coffee. The forefront of the taste is overtaken by the traditional roasted maltiness, but gives way to a surprising sweetness, as oats round out the aftertaste. Yet that sweetness gives way to bitterness as coffee comes into play. For someone who enjoys stouts, I imagine this would rank among the better ones. I’ll grant that it’s smoother than most, and actually doesn’t feel as creamy or heavy as many. I still wouldn’t go out of my way to try it again (unless conquering Strong Beer Month is again on the line).
Overall score: 7/10
Two days later, it was time for the fourth and final round back at Magnolia.
Let it Rauch
Oh. Mah. gawd. This one wins Strong Beer Month, hands down. A German influenced smoked beer at 8.8% ABV, this beer is simply phenomenal. It pours a deep amber and produces an off-white head. The nose packs a big punch of sweet caramel and toffee malts, followed by even sweeter smokiness. The palate again brings big hints of caramel and toffee with earthy undertones, which give way into a mildly smoky finish. That smoky finish is not something you find commonly in beers, and really makes this one unique and interesting to try. That combined with its sweet malt character make it an absolute delight to sip, almost like a Vienna Style beer was left on the barbecue overnight. It’s like drinking a campfire, if campfires made you super duper drunk. I dub it the Strongest Beer.
Overall score: 10/10
Another stout, which immediately lands this beer in my “meh” category. This one comes in at 9.7% ABV, and pours a jet black with a thin and frail beige head that dissipates quickly. The nose brings up toasted malts and brown sugar. The taste is full bodied and well balanced, never really tasting too malty or too thick. However, the high alcohol really content comes through on the finish and dominates the aftertaste. Otherwise, nothing much stands out in the flavor. Just your run of the mill stout. I’d pick the 21st Amendment’s offering over this one.
The 12th and final beer of Strong Beer Month, Old Thunderpussy is a 10.6% ABV Barleywine. It pours a murky amber and produces a big off white head. The nose has far more malt and caramel than you would expect from a barley wine, and even brings some notes of molasses. The flavor is brutally alcoholic, but does carry a nice sweetness with caramel and molasses, which delves into a bitter finish. It’s definitely an interesting drink, but the alcohol really makes it somewhat tough to do so (especially when it’s your third strong beer and standing upright has become a bit of an endeavor).
Also, I may have forgotten to take a picture of it. Alcohol.
Overall score: 8.5/10
And that’s a wrap! Strong Beer Month is awesome, and I would highly recommend anyone to experience it for themselves next time February rolls around. Just realize it probably takes a few years off your life.
You could certainly go with some more Tool, but I’m going to take a slight step in another direction and go with Smashing Pumpkins, mainly because Siamese Dream sounds really awesome when you’re trying to not pass out on Bart on the way home. Billy Corgan might be the most underrated front man of all time. No one (including him) denies that he can’t sing worth a damn, but, man, that dude could write songs. I’ll grant that when Smashing Pumpkins are bad, they’re awful. About half of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is unlistenable. And what the hell even is that cover of Landslide? Stevie Nicks wants to start doing cocaine again every time she hears Corgan gurgle his way through it. But when Smashing Pumpkins are on, they freakin’ rock. I’ve spent the last eight years of my life trying to figure out how Corgan can make a guitar sound like he can when he tears through the riffs in Cherub Rock. Also, Siamese Dream turns 21 later this year, so it just seems fitting. Enjoy.