Welcome to our new contributors, Sara, B.J., and AAK! It's wonderful to have you posting.
Yesterday evening Sara and I visited my new favorite beer purveyor, Brusin' Ales (on Broadway in Asheville -- see the link to their site on the sidebar). They do a free tasting every other Thursday, and occasionally have a slightly bigger to-do tasting as a fundraiser for their charity of choice, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Yesterday they outdid themselves. Jason Gavin of the Brooklyn Brewery (one of our favorites) was on hand with 9 (count them, 9) samples. Also present were folks from the Spinning Spider Creamery, a local goat cheese dairy from Madison County, with a good 5 or 6 varieties, along with cherries, raspberries, almonds, and little toasts to help complement the tastings.
Despite the huge crowd (fire code, anyone? I felt a little bit like I was at an indoor beer festival), it was probably the best tasting we've been to yet, at least at Bruisin'.
1. Local 1. The brewery's most recent regular offering, a Belgian-style strong golden ale (9% ABV).
2. Brown Ale. A classic and a legend in its own right. (5.6% ABV)
3. Winter Ale. Previously reviewed here over Thanksgiving. Still a winner in the Scottish style (6%)
4. Monster Ale Vintage '04. A classic Barleywine, if somewhat Americanized. Aged for 4 months. (10.8%)
5. Monster Ale Vintage '05.
6. Monster Ale '07. (What happened to the '06? "We drank it all," said Gavin.)
7. Black Chocolate Stout Vintage '04. An annual winter-season offering, Brooklyn's interpretation of a Russian Imperial Stout. (10.1%)
8. Black Chocolate Stout Vintage '05.
9. Black Chocolate Stout '07.
What was remarkable was that ever single one of these samplings was a hit with the goat cheeses. There were no strikeouts. I will say, however, that the Local 1, Brown Ale, and all 3 Monsters were an absolute hit with the cheese, perhaps even a home run in the case of the Local 1 and the '04 Monster. The '05 Stout paired with a cherry (they were excellent cherries) sparked fireworks in my mouth, a la Pixar's Ratatouille -- it was like best cherry cordial you've ever had, except with beer. The '07 Stout preferred the almonds.
What was interesting was to compare samples of the same brews from different years -- there were clear differences in both the Monster and the Stout. I preferred the '04 Monster Ale (the best balanced, I thought -- the '05 was much sweeter, and the '07 much younger and "zingier") and the '05 Stout (the chocolatiest of the three).