Monday, May 21, 2012

Getting Jolly with my friend Roger

May 20, 2012 marked two significant occasions in Pacific Northwest booze lore: the final day of 2012 Seattle Beer Week and the first birthday of this fine educational publication you are reading right now,

Fortunately for Andrea and I, we live in Seattle so Seattle Beer Week served as a de facto 10 day celebration of the greatness that is us, and our humble little blog. Emphasis on *humble*.
One of the events I particularly enjoyed this year was the Jolly Roger Vertical Event at Maritime Pacific Brewing Company. Not only was the beer damn good, but as I bellied up to the bar to sip some brew and reminisce on my Jolly Roger Christmas Ale experience during Winter Beer Month, and reflecting on the past year of our new blog format.

Until the launch of WestToast, I'd been primarily a wine writer and really didn't understand how connected beer was to the world of wine.  I'd been to plenty of wine vertical tasting events, but beer?  You can do that?   As I learned at Maritime Pacific, the answer is yes, and it's every bit as meaningful as a wine vertical.

So, on to the event.

Jolly Roger Christmas Ale is an English Strong Ale / Winter Warmer, weighing in at about 8% ABV. Released annually in the winter, I was a little surprised to see a vertical tasting in May but that wasn't going to stop me. I arrived slightly after 5 PM to a packed house. Despite a full selection of draft beer and food, the star of this show was the 5-year vertical tasting of Jolly Roger featuring the 1997, 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2011 vintages. A 15 year old beer? I couldn't even legally drink then!

As I started to taste through the beer, I was particularly struck by the 1997...followed by the 2004 and then the 2005. As I dug a bit deeper into why the older vintages were speaking more to my palate that specific day, I found that the older versions had a bit more complexity and had opened up after years of conditioning. Turns out, hops fade over time which increases the perception of sugar and booziness in the older vintages, and being a sweet tooth who likes higher gravity beer both are good for me.

This was an important lesson, one that I fully comprehended in wine but hadn't even thought about in the beer landscape. Much a wine will change over time, so does a beer. It takes a hearty beer to stand up for 15 years and Jolly Roger is definitely a strong contender. I'm definitely waiting for the 2012 release this holiday season. After all, who doesn't need a good strong beer to help get through the holidays?

Or, a random Tuesday night during Seattle Beer Week. Five tasters, five ounces each, 8% ABV. You do the math.


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