Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Coming of the Anniversary Beer

Anniversaries are usually a source of fear for mankind. That is because forgetting said anniversaries typically gets mankind into very hot water with womankind. So it comes as no surprise that the word "Anniversary" should evoke a visceral stab of dread deep in the bowels of your average beer drinking male. Until recently, that is.

Now, it's possible for that self-same word to evoke feelings of joyous anticipation, IF it is applied to a beer. For a long time, craft brewers celebrated the anniversary of their founding by giving themselves a quick pat on the back and then getting right back to their desperate struggle to survive. But these days, with the growth and health of the craft brewing movement, such occasions can be celebrated more extravagantly, with the release of an anniversary beer. For me, the proliferation of such beers is another sign that craft brewing has come of age and I welcome them as such. Not to mention that some (though not all) are truly kick-ass beers...

Case in point, Stone Brewing's 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Stone burst on to the seen a dozen years ago with its iconic Arrogant Bastard and has been a consistent producer of cutting edge beers ever since. I have to admit that I think in recent years they've been rushing their Arrogant Bastard out the door a little too soon, but that's my personal opinion. I still love their IPA, their Ruination Ale, their Double Bastard, their Imperial Russian Stout, their Old Guardian Barleywine, and so on, and so on. The bottom line is that Stone's got plenty to celebrate, so let's talk about the beer.

I tasted the brew in a 21 oz. goblet poured from a 22 oz. bomber purchased in Anchorage, though I've also seen it in the local Safeway, which indicates its got a pretty wide distribution. Weighing in at a hefty 9.2% ABV, it's definitely a sipping beer. It pours a deep black color with a dense tan head. The roasted notes dominate the aroma, but the cocoa flavor comes through strongly on the palate, with a long, lingering finish. The oatmeal gives it a silky mouthfeel that compliments the thickness of the beer very well. All-in-all, a wonderful celebration of Stone Brewing's 12th birthday.

So keep your eyes out for these anniversary beers. Not every one of them is a home run, but every one is usually an example of a craft brewer swinging for the fences...

No comments: