A few posts ago I was complaining that the beer selection around town is quite monotone. Thankfully, every now and then, if you make the rounds frequently enough, you'll find something that's sort of special and different. In this case, it was the Three Floyds Fantabulous Resplendence (BA. RB.). For their Tenth Anniversary, Three Floyds brewed an American Strong Ale (10.5% ABV!) - it won't be brewed again. Too bad.
It was found at the West Side Woodman's on Friday night. They had 4 bottles, all pushed towards the back near the 6s of the typical Three Floyds (speaking of which, I'm happy to see that they are bottling Gumballhead in the sixes now). You could tell that they had had more. And, I knew that these four weren't going to last long. Unfortunately, I couldn't buy a bottle Friday night. But, I knew that I could be back on Saturday to buy one (or two). But, I was so sure that the bottles would be gone by then, I was just about convinced to take a bottle (or two) and hide it. But, I decided not to out of courtesy to my fellow beer drinkers around town. I figured, if I can't buy, I shouldn't prevent someone else from buying it and enjoying it. So, I left it.
Well, I had a party to go to on Saturday night, and that Fantabulous Resplendence would make an excellent accompaniment to the evening. So, we headed over to Woodman's; though, I was fairly convinced that it would be sold out. Well, when I got there, I went straight to where the beer "should" be and there was a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red. What? Well, I moved it out of the way, and low-and-behold, there are two bottles of the Three Floyds left. Lucky me! So, which of you wants to admit to hiding it? Out of spite, I almost bought both of them. But, I was talked out of that, since we really only needed the one bottle.
When we finally got around to drinking it that night with some friends of mine who could be described as beer novices (in their fridge that night: Tyranena's Brown Ale (Rocky's Revenge) and Bell's Best Brown Ale - as an aside, this was kind of odd, because Bell's doesn't start distributing the Brown until late Septemeber, so it must have been left over from last year), it was a big hit. It was the first time my friends had had beer out of wine glass before (RB and BA suggest snifters, but we used red wine glasses). It poured a light, unfiltered, amber color with virtually no head at all. The smell was all bread and grapefruit. It literally smelled like a freshly baked loaf of fruit bread. The first taste was thick and syrupy and intensely malty and bitter from the high alcohol. Then the hops hit. I don't know how much hops they put in this bottle, but I'm guessing "shit ton" might be an apt description. The hops were overwhelming, and if it hadn't been for the assertive malts at first, it would have been an amazingly unbalanced beer. But, as the orange and grapefruit wore off (a bit of geek speak: I'm not sure this beer was "dry-hopped" in fact, I would guess that the vast majority of the hops were used as "bittering" hops; while there was some aroma of hops, it was deceptive for the actual taste of the hops; thus, in the brewing process, early addition of hops - called "bittering hops" - provides the high bitterness, while the later additions provide the aroma - thus are called "aroma hops" - the type of hop called "cascade" is typically used as an aroma hop and provides the distinctive American 'citrusy/orange' aroma - however, it appears here that Three Floyds used the cascades as bittering hops, and it worked wonderfully), the malt reasserted itself and blended nicely with the orange and grapefruit.
A lot of the BA and RB reviews say that this beer is all hops. But, I thought it was more balanced than that, and didn't catch the overwhelming hop aroma that many of those reviews noted. This is definitely not an IPA (or a derivative thereof). The hops are huge, but the malt here is more caramel and thick than for a typical IPA.
All-in-all, an excellent beer. My friends loved it, and it went very well with the salmon that they had cooked. Unfortunately, there probably aren't many left around town, and it was a one-off thing so Three Floyds won't be making it any more. So, the lesson here is: be vigilant, get out and look, and if you have to, move the Belgian Red out of the way to see what might be behind it.