OK, back on track, finally. I think. It's been a busy few weeks, but I hope you'll bear with me.
The nice thing about these big beers is that they do keep well. In a previous post we covered aging in pretty gory detail. What we discovered in that article are that the two biggest factors in aging are yeast and alcohol. In both cases, more is better. For yeast you are looking for sediment in the bottom (the yeast) that is active. High alcohol means a lot of sugars. A lot of sugars means that if there is yeast, there is something for the yeast to act on. A lot of sugars also means a lot of flavor, malt flavor to be precise. Over time these flavors will meld together and the flavors will mellow and combine to create greater complexities.
This beer hasn't really been aging that long: a few months to be precise - this is definitely from this year's batch, but I think I bought it in, maybe, December or so. So, it's got a few months on it. In a few years, the others in my cellar should be pretty interesting.
A final note: Imperial Doppelbocks are not typical. It's great to see Capital experimenting with these because, in my mind at least, doppelbocks and other lagers are what Kirby and Co. do best. I had this doppelbock straight out of the fermenter back in early December, so it'll be fun to taste it in a bottle to compare. The notes on the front of the bottle indicate amber candi sugar was used to increase fermentables and, therefore, the alcohol. That means, the body probably isn't a whole lot bigger, but the alcohol will be pretty high and there should be a little bit of hard-candy-like sweetness in the finish along with a long, esthery, finish.
Let's find out shall we?
Capital Imperial Doppelbock
BeerAdvocate (B+). RateBeer (78).
Appearance: a thin, wispy head that even an aggressive pour doesn't do much for; the alcohol clings to the side providing wine-like legs; more carbonated than I might have otherwise expected; the deep, deep caramel color is virtually impenetrable
Aroma: malt, malt and more malt; lots of big, malt complexity in the aroma; the candi sugar and alcohol are there at the front, but the caramel and munich(?) malts come in quickly; they all combine for a pretty amazing earthy fruity aroma, like caramel or sweet chocolate covered cherries or figs; a slight brandy aroma; if it seems like I'm writing a lot about the aroma, it's because, well, the aroma itself is pretty damn awesome
Flavor: thick-bodied with alcohol present in the front, middle and finish; the candi sugar is present though the base malts really shine to provide a sophisticated, brandy-like flavor; as it warms up, the caramels and biscuits come out more in the finish
Body: coats the mouth like a syrup, without being syrupy, and the alcohol provides a continuity of flavor that really stands out
Drinkability: a four-pack goes a long way, one person really doesn't need more than a 1/2 bottle of this, but it would definitely pair well with most any sophisticated winter Wisconsin meal; I wouldn't feel bad serving or drinking this at any dinner instead of wine
Summary: very, very nice; I wish the flavors really popped more, as it is they are surprisingly subtle behind a pretty big wall of alcohol giving it more of a wine, as opposed to barleywine, character; I think this is because with beers like this, we are used to barleywine, and ale yeasts that provide big yeast esthers and flavors of their own that compete with, and add to, flavor complexities; in this case, the lager yeast finishes clean and somewhat dry, leaving the ale expectations unsatisfied; but, amazingly, the lager yeast allows the yeast to stay out of the way, really allowing the alcohol and malts to shine; moreover, also missing here are the big hop characters that we often find in barleywine; again, the lack of hops (many barleywines can be in excess of 80+ IBU!), really lets the malts and alcohol render this closer to a wine than an barleywine; this is a beer that really needs to be served at close to cellar temperatures, not refrigerator temps, so pull it out and let it sit on a counter for a good 20 to 30 minutes before you even serve it - the sweet spot for this thing is close to 55 or 60 degrees