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Boston Beer Co Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection New World

Boston Beer Co: Samuel Adams: Barrel Room Collection: New World (USA: Abbey Tripel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Deep overripe banana to gold. Thin white dash for a head.

Nose: Resin. Light aniseed. Caramelised brown sugar. Passion fruit. White pepper. Watermelon jolly ranchers. Golden syrup cake.

Body: White pepper. Frothy lemon sherbet taste and feel. Slightly sour grapes – both red and white. Brown sugar. Peach. Candyfloss. Hop oils. Syrup texture at back. Banoffee and vanilla.

Finish: Red grapes. Madeira cake. Slick hop oils. Blackpool rock. Banana.

Conclusion: Ok, first impressions – this is balanced nicely. It is smooth like a lot of the American takes on the Abbey Tripel, but has just enough genuine rough edges to remind me of my preferred Belgian take on the whole thing.

I think it is partially the raw sugar feel on the sweet side of things, and the pepper character behind it all. The little spark of sugar gives the impression of being a little unrefined, and a little less attenuated than it could be- while the pepper adds a little kick to the end. Both give it the charm it needs to not feel over polished.

I’m not getting a huge amount of obvious elements from the oak, I mean there is sweetness, but it is a Tripel that is expected, that is kind of a no duh. It is smooth, but yeah, it is an American take on Belgian beer, that is also a no duh. I’m sure the oak will have had its influence, but I couldn’t say what without having access to the unaged version to compare.

There is a large chunk of tropical fruitiness, though it feels somewhat more artificial than what you would usually get with the hops – it could be the slightly syrupy backing, it makes it feel like hard sweets rather than the more natural take which would have suited the beer more.

It is an impressive beer, maybe a bit too sweet – the artificial feel hurts it a bit but the mix of tropical fruit, rough edged tripel and spice strikes a rounded and impressive balance.

Not the best, but very solid, and the mix of character means it is not just a clone of what the Belgians do, but neither does it forget its roots. A very bright fruit tripel, rough edged but too sweet. Still well worth a try.

Background: I very much enjoyed my first experience with the Barrel Room Collection, so I decided to grab another one from the range from Independent Spirit. This one is a take on the abbey tripel style, and was shared with friends.

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Boston Beer Co Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection Stony Brook Red

Boston Beer Co: Samuel Adams: Barrel Room Collection: Stony Brook Red (USA: Sour Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry red. Browned thin bubbled moderate sized head.

Nose: Acidic apple. Vanilla bourbon notes. Malt chocolate. Dry oak. Port soaked raisins. Figs. Strawberry and red cherries. Shortbread.

Body: Figs. Bitter back. Chocolate syrup. Oak. Spicy mulled wine. Toasted teacakes. Red cherries. Chocolate cake. Brown bread. Sultanas.

Finish: Red wine. Raisins. Mulled spice and spiced orange. Acidic apple. Vanilla. Oats. Chocolate drops and chocolate cake.

Conclusion: I like to describe those shifting odd flavours found in tart and acidic beers as “almost holographic flavours” – talking about the fact that they seem like an illusion caused by the tongue’s response to the mix of the acidity and the base beer.

Oddly this has those flavours despite the fact that the beer isn’t that tart or acidic. Well it is a little, but generally whatever harshness it had has been mellowed by the barrel ageing – yet still it somehow has a magnificent range of those holographic feeling flavours.

Initially acidic apple seems the main course to this beer, but after a while you realise a slightly bitter chocolate cake is the solid core that has been marked by drying oak ageing. Then from that core the fruit and tartness seep out into the outer edges.

What seeps out is brilliant dark fruit, full of figs, vinous red wine and raisins – that dark fruits mix gives the beer a real depth. The acidic apple that seemed so prominent early on floats above it all adding acidic freshness to what would otherwise be a heavy beer.

The oak ageing works here nigh perfectly, adding toasted teacake flavours, vanilla notes and smoothing everything together. It gives a cask ale style feel with the intermingling flavours, which makes it wonderful to dissect and examine.

So a very mellow sour red ale, but still with a lot of life that would come with the sharper and more challenging elements that make the style stand out. It walks a thin line between accessibility and quality and marks well in both. A lovely toasted texture, just enough sharpness and a rock solid core. Very much worth getting.

Background: Samuel Adams rarities are getting easier to find in the UK, though not hugely so. Thus Independent Spirit brought through a few cases of their Barrel Aged selection and I grabbed this one, what seems to be a Flemish style red that has been aged in Bourbon barrels. Drunk with friends, this has a surprisingly easy to get out cork. Which I appreciate. Oh, also how cool is the bottle shape? – kind of like a telescope – I may be easily pleased but that is just fun.

Boston Beer Company: Samuel Adams: Oktoberfest (USA: Oktoberfest Marzen: 5.3% ABV)

Visual: Slightly bronzed amber, the glass filled to the brim leaving but a thin dash of head around the edges.

Nose: Dry malt and rye. Light glacier cherries underneath.

Body: Dry and crisp. Light cherries and fruitcake. Toffee sweetness and good malt. Some very light dry liquorice. Light pineapple hops.

Finish: Harvest wheat. Almonds. Dry liquorice. Slight shrimps and thousand island dressing (That last one could be environmental, see background)

Conclusion: How should I review this beer, as an Oktoberfest, or as a beer in itself? Lets go with as a beer in itself, but note that this varies quite heavily from the usual German take. It is much more fruity while still keeping the dry refreshing elements of the style.

Ignoring the most unusual element of the tasting, mainly because I believe it was introduced from the environment rather than the beer itself (Shrimp?), then we find a beer that is quite close to what I would expect of the darker lager style I normally associate with Samuel Adams. It does work well, a touch overly fizzy but not heavily so. The fruitcake flavours combined with Oktoberfest crispness cuts a nice balance between refreshing and flavour.

As I found with a lot of beers this trip, the beer was initially over chilled resulted in muted flavours, but the USA heat meant that it didn’t take long to reach only nicely chilled.  When taken at that point it is quite a pleasant beer that mixes the better elements from the darker and lighter lager styles.

I like this one as a refreshing pint that doesn’t bore you.

Background: Drunk during the road trip of awesome. Samuel Adams is a beer that got me through many visits to America before craft beer became easily available so a chance to drink their Oktoberfest seemed one not to miss. This was drunk near the beech, which I think may account for a few extra flavours which may not entirely have originated in the beer.

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