Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bristol Brewing XXX Warlock review

Bristol Brewing XXX WarlockDeep from the corner of the beer cellar it came, an old bottle of a one-time made beer from Bristol Brewing Company from 2006. It's a double imperial stout that was originally brewed on September 23rd, 2003, then aged for 3 years and bottled on June 9th, 2006. What brew would I dare wait 8 years to try? None other then Bristol Brewing's XXX Warlock - Double Imperial Stout.

I spied this single 12oz beer in a liquor store back in 2009 and grabbed it up quickly. I hid it away and waited for a good excuse to drink it. I'm posting this review on November 3rd, 2011 - International Stout Day or #StoutDay on Twitter. I felt this beer should finally be opened on a day worthy of the bottle.

This beer's label tells the story, "You are holding a rich, rare treat. An epic labor of love that will change your notion of what beer can be. Aged for three years, its warm toffee notes and round mellow tone are purely stunning. Like candy for the soul. Savor it now, or cellar it for a special day to come."

That's exactly what I did. And here it is over 5 years since it was bottled and released. I realize up front that aging a beer this long may not necessarily have good results, but I was willing to try it out regardless. This beer weighed in at a whopping 18.4% ABV so at least I knew this kind of beer could probably stand up to several years at least. The beer also has an 80 IBU rating which is rather high for an imperial stout. No doubt the bitterness will have faded greatly and the brew itself may end up being as sweet as molasses, but what the heck. I'm gonna drink it!

XXX Warlock was a once in a brewer's lifetime batch that a few years ago Bristol claimed that they would probably never do again. It's a super beefed up version of their Winter Warlock, a stout that they've made for years.

Appearance: XXX Warlock actually had a hiss when I popped the cap so I knew it still had some carbonation left in it. The brew poured nearly jet black and yielded nearly no head at all. Held up to the light I could barely see any change in color except for the extreme edges which were dark brown. Swirling the glass also didn't give any head or lacing. Time it seems doesn't do a thing in keeping a frothy head. No matter, this beer was old.

Aroma: OK here is where the fun began. This brew still had a powerful aroma. I could definitely smell the alcohol on this imperial stout. There was a strong sweet molasses aroma on this brew along with some chocolate notes. It had nearly a medicinal scent, yet I could still tell this was a big beer and not just all syrup. With a big nose like this, I knew this was a slow sipping beer that would pack a lot of heat. I could pick up on the honey and maple syrup that was brewed into this. Those ingredients still stick out in the aroma. There were some whiffs of dark fruit in the mix as well.

Taste: First sip... woah! Sweet malts, not very bitter, the roast had melted away into something like a vanilla toffee liqueur. It still put a bit of bubbles tingling on my tongue after all these years too, surprisingly. This beer had been left open to breathe for about 10 minutes after opening. It was cool but not cold. XXX Warlock had all the characteristics of a brandy, meaning it felt strong, powerful, with a strong taste of alcohol and malt. The hop bitterness had faded quite a bit, yet still had some quality from the hops left. The balance between malt and hops, however, now leaned heavily on the dark malt side.

This beer begged to be paired with something. And since it was sampled just days after Halloween I found that I had a lot of chocolate left over and so I paired it with a chocolate wafer crisp. Oh man, did that go well with this.

XXX Warlock labelOverall: XXX Warlock's best time may have come and gone a couple of years ago, but it was still a very smooth and enjoyable at a slow pace. It's sweet flavor comes on strong as it warmed up. It warmed me up pretty darn quickly too.

I dare compare it to a Sam Adams Utopias that I had back in 2009. Both beers shared a sweet vanilla like brandy quality to it. Although I must admit I enjoyed the Utopias more than this beer.

Even after 8 years since it was originally brewed, this beer seemed to stand up as well as I could have expected. It was strong and very sweet, perhaps a bit too sweet at this point. I missed out on getting any coffee like roast that most imperial stouts I've had usually give me. Instead, the maple and honey in this brew came out big time and somewhat masked all but the chocolate in the roasted malts. In the end, it ended up being a bit too sweet for my liking, but it still drank well slowly.

I now wish I had bought 2 of these and had sampled one of them two years ago so I could compare notes. From looking at beer reviews of this on RateBeer from 2009 it seems that this beer still had most of the same characteristics I tasted with my sample.

If you still can find a bottle of this beer available I'd still suggest you try it just to see what several years of aging can do for a strong imperial stout. I wouldn't recommend aging a stout this long unless it had at least 15% ABV or more. What you will find may still surprise and please you. It certain did for me. I'm glad I was able to wait this long. Out of sight and out of mind is the only way to cellar a beer.

Video showing the pour of Bristol Brewing's XXX Warlock:
video
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Related articles:
- Bristol Brewing Company IPA review.
- Bristol Brewing Red Rocket Pale Ale review.
- Bristol Brewing Laughing Lab review.
- Bristol Brewing XXX Warlock review.

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