Well, a lot of us have kinda jumped the gun on this month's Session, using the annual review template devised at Pencil & Spoon. I published my run-down just before Christmas. But other than best beers, what else are our hosts asking of us? Mistakes, regrets and embarrassing moments? There's not too many of those, I think. In fact I set about undoing some earlier regrets by seeing more of the UK in 2009, and London in particular. I plan to continue that in 2010 with Brighton and Cardiff already looking likely, and I really should do a proper beer tour of Belfast before the promotional rail offers end. Perhaps my biggest regret is not getting out of Europe all year, nor yet having any plans to do so next -- but if I can squeeze in some more time in Belgium and the Netherlands, that'll be some level of compensation.
And then, as I said last week, there's Copenhagen, and the prospect of another giant European Festival, in early May. As the centrepiece of my 2010 plans, what better beer to mark it on Session day than the last of my haul from the 2008 gig? It's not the first time that Mikkeller six-pack has featured in the Session. Last April I opened the barrel-aged rauchbier, and in July I tried their internationalist collaborative "Belgian stout" (you'll find the remaining pair of barley wines reviewed here).
Last two out of the bag were more imperial stouts. I assume that the base beer was the same for both, and certainly their imperial credientials were identical: both super-thick, mouth-filling and gut-coating, with all the dark chocolate, coffee and liquorice bitterness that you might expect, balanced beautifully against treacle and caramel. The difference comes in the finish.
Barrel-aged Black As Coal presents with rather more fizz and foam than its companion, but settles down fairly quickly. Its signature feature is a powerful knock-you-down astringency and an extra medicinal bitterness deriving from its six months in French oak.
Though aged a month less, the whisky-barrelled Black As The Night is definitely not lacking in comparative character. The woodiness is toned down slightly, but there's a lovely Christmas cake dark booziness to it. Perhaps not as full-on as the fresh oak one, but better balanced. I'm reminded of White Gypsy's forthcoming Vintage. I reckon the Bushmills-aged version will be the one to go for.
That's another resolution for 2010 right there. Happy New Year everyone!
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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