Me & Julio: Day One

So, I’m currently trapped in Boston, on a schedule of essentially 9 consecutive days (yes, including the weekend) of all-day meetings.

Since I recently discovered that there’s a ridiculously well-stocked liquor store very close to the Boston office–and when I say ridiculously, I mean thousands of different varieties of beers; I still haven’t even seen the entire stock–I have decided to buy single bottles of a bunch of promising beers that I have never previously tried, and have a couple each night during this séjour. Having the suite hotel, with the full fridge, makes this an even more sensible idea.

This process will fill three different purposes:

  1. Provide me with some content for the blog that doesn’t require a whole lot of brain power… I’m going to be pretty depleted at the end of each marathon day, and I don’t see the situation improving during the week.
  2. Having a couple of nice beers after a long day might be a nice change from my normal “two beers a week on poker night” pattern. Let’s call this item medicinal reasons–to keep my stress levels adequately low after these sessions.
  3. I can, of course, bring some beers home with me at the end of the trip. Sampling a variety of new beers means I have a decent shot of finding something I quite like, which I can pack up and bring home, either for me to drink later, or to share with The Boys.

With that in mind, I did a Julio’s run today, and picked up some candidates for early evaluation.

Tonight I managed to try two of them: Dogfish Head‘s Midas Touch Golden Elixir, and FoundersBreakfast Stout.

Details after the jump.

Midas Touch Golden Elixir

Tonight’s experiments started with the Midas Touch Golden Elixir–yes, I selected a few things that weren’t porters or stouts, just for variety, despite that fact that Julio’s has more options just in the “opaque beer” categories than I would be able to sample in months.

I’ve tried several other Dogfish Head beers in the past, notably including their super-hopped ales, so I thought I would give this one a try. The label’s description, “Handcrafted Ancient Ale with barley, honey, white muscat grapes, and saffron” piqued my interest. I’ve enjoyed some other “really old school” beers, notably including the Fraoch Heather Ale, so why not?

I didn’t know it at the time, but the story behind the recipe is also pretty fascinating. Here’s an excerpt from the beer’s page:

Most remarkably, the tomb held the largest Iron Age drinking set ever found–157 vessels, including a ram-headed and lion-headed situla–for preparing, serving, drinking and libating a special beverage at the funerary feast of the king. The secrets of the beverage were revealed by the new methods of Molecular Archaeology. Dr. Patrick McGovern of the Museum discovered that the residues inside the vessels belonged to a “Phrygian cocktail,” which combined grape wine, barley beer and honey mead. Starting with the ancient chemical evidence, Dogfish Head Brewery “re-created” a marvelous golden elixir, truly touched by King Midas.

The short version of my findings is that I probably won’t be buying this again. It looks nice, although the bottle I have is not nearly as dark or reddish as the sample shown in the photo there–more a golden colour, with hints of red. It smells great, with the honey very noticeable on the nose. However, I didn’t find the actual taste to my taste, as ’twere. The first sensation is a strong bitterness at the back of the throat, which fades, leaving not unpleasant yeast & apples flavour on the tongue. This lingers for a while, softening and with the saffron coming forward. At no time was there any hint that this was a strong beer–it’s 9% nature was perfectly blended into the flavour profile, and I could see this easily getting people into trouble. It’s definitely distinctive, and I can see lots of people, especially fans of old school British ales, liking it, but I thought it was just OK.

For comparison, Michael Jackson said: “A wonderfully complex beer, a wonderfully delicate beer, a dangerous thing, a great drink to welcome people to a party.”

Founders' Breakfast Stout

For my second beer tonight, I chose a “Breakfast Stout”. Admittedly, almost midnight is not the usual breakfast time, but something that’s described on the label as “Double Chocolate Oatmeal Coffee Stout” at 8.3% is beer that’s not just for breakfast any more.

The audience for this beer is easy to pick out: people who really like coffee. Black coffee.

If there’s chocolate, or oatmeal, or even roasted barley, in there it wasn’t detectable to me. This was a coffee beer first and foremost.

Despite not being a fan of the hot beverage generally, I like the taste of coffee, and I take it black, so I actually kind of liked this beer. It was filling, full in the mouth, and tasted like strong black coffee. The relatively high alcohol percentage was not noticeable as part of the mouth experience.

Anyone who doesn’t like “coffee-flavoured coffee” is really not going to like this one, though.

Sadly, I don’t see a lot of situations in which I want that coffee experience along with an 8.3% alcohol boost. And frankly, I like the flavour of stout, so I’m going to be looking for stouts that are closer to the traditional flavour profile.

If I ever decide to pull another Lost Weekend1 I could totally see myself having a couple of these around for that all-important pre-shower beer, though.

  1. A vanishingly small possibility, unless there are some startling changes in my life.(back)

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This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.