Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gettin' Figgy With It

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As noted in my recent Back 2 School Booze post, friends Drew and Jake joined me in the epic tasting that was Coors Banquet Beer.

Well, after we downed the Coors it was time to transition to something a little different. When I say "a little different", I mean on the complete opposite end of the beer spectrum in quality, style, and production. Block 15's Figgy Pudding fit the bill nicely.

Photo courtesy of Block 15 Brewing Company.

The first beer ever bottle-released from our favorite Corvallis brewpub, I was lucky to find both the 2010 and 2011 vintages of Figgy in my beer/wine cooler this particular evening. The vertical tasting format highlighted some of the special subtleties of the beer and I'd like to think that Jake and Drew owe me one for sharing.

As described by Block 15 owner Nick Arzner,

Inspired by a 16th century English Christmas cake our Figgy Pudding is brewed with English Pale & Specialty malts & molasses and fermented with London ale yeast. After fermentation we matured Figgy Pudding in brandy barrels before conditioning with mission figs, Ceylon cinnamon and nutmeg.

Typically a winter seasonal beer, we threw convention out the window for a summer tasting. At 11% ABV, it didn't really matter if it were winter or summer! Here we go...

Brewery: Block 15 Brewing Company
Style: English Strong Ale Rating: 90 Rating: 90 overall
Serving: 750ml Bottle, Corked and Caged
November 2010 Release: 64 cases
Re-Released November 2011

Immediately evident upon pouring into the glasses was a notably different color. The 2011 was significantly darker, with a more opaque and syrupy hue. The 2010 vintage poured a bit more clear and had a lighter, reddish tone. The 2011 poured more head as well.

Upon taking in the nose of the two, I was immediately drawn to the 2010. It displayed more fragrance with notes of fig evident. After letting the 2011 open up a bit, I started to get some almost sour beer notes off of it

The initial impression favoring the 2010 continued on the palate. It was balanced yet flavorful, complex and delicious. With almost a barley-wine like quality, the figs, brandy, and hops combined into a super-elixer of holiday awesomeness. I want(ed) more. The 2011 vintage was a lot tighter; the flavors never seemed to really open up. It was still good, but definitely outshone by the 2010 -- which is a true masterpiece.

This is a beer that was intended to be bottle conditioned and evolve over time, so I'm left to think that another year in the bottle will be just what the doctor ordered for 2011. By then, 2012 Figgy will be out and perhaps I can finagle my way into a 3-year vertical tasting.

If you haven't checked out Block 15 yet, drop by next time you're in Corvallis. Beyond their standard 6 - 8 brews, they always have another 6 - 8 unique and rotational beers on tap. Often they have some nice high gravity options, and for an oak lover like me, plenty of barrel-aged beer. Figgy Pudding also was recently listed on Imbibe Magazine's 50 of the World's most obsessed-over beers. I'd tend to agree.


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