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Beaumont's Journal
Of Corpse Revivers, Rum and One Very Fine Porter
As I type these words, the days and hours and seconds of 2005 are slowly ebbing away, as is the amount of time I have left before my bimonthly e-mail arrives from the esteemed Mr. Dalldorf, reminding me that my contribution to his splendid publication is overdue. Typically, this is a state of affairs that drives columnists to desperate measures, such as year-end review stories or personal reminiscences.

So why should I be any different?

As I look back on the past year, I’m reminded of any number of noteworthy events and experiences, from my appearance at February’s Cheers Beverage Conference in Irvine, Calif., espousing the virtues of beer and food partnerships to bigwigs from most of the major hotel and restaurant chains, to my December trip to Bavaria in the company of a host of luminaries from the great world of beer journalism. Mostly, though, I’m reminded of tastes, from extraordinary bourbons to ultra-hoppy ales and sublimely complex dunkels to rich, power-bomb rums. What follows is a handful of highlights:

Revive This! — I’m still blown away by one of my Christmas presents from 2004, namely Ted Haigh’s outstanding book, Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. More than just a recipe book, this delightful tome details the stories behind 80 wonderful early 20th-century cocktails, including the Corpse Reviver #2. An aesthetically compelling and mouth-tinglingly tasty blend of one ounce each of Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, gin and lemon juice, spiced with just a drop of pastis, shaken and strained into a martini glass and garnished with a maraschino cherry, the Corpse Reviver is one turn-of-the-last-century eye-opener that’s definitely worth exploring.

Meantime Brewery’s London Porter is near-perfect, with a sweetish, lightly roasty aroma and plummy, roasty, gently sweet character.

Barley Wine Balance — In February, I was mightily impressed by the Schooner's Grille & Brewery (Antioch, Calif.) Barley Wine, last year’s champion entry at the Toronado’s annual Barleywine Festival. More British than American in style, it boasts a broad, malty body, slightly herbal nose and deeply warming character. A deserving winner, for sure.

Rich Rum — Ever tried a 21-year-old rum, one that’s truly that age, rather than merely composed of a selection of rums with 21 as the median or oldest age? If not, believe me when I say that you should, starting with Appleton Estate’s 21-Year-Old. Its hugely spicy nose sets the stage for a massive, cocoa-accented and spicy-fruity body with definite after-dinner appeal. Don’t let the cola get anywhere near this baby, but do try it alongside some quality dark chocolate.

Boston en Provençe — Inspired by 2004’s almost stupidly complicated Benevolence, an ale that incorporated into its creation three yeasts, sour cherries, honey, a 12-year-old barley wine and a Jack Daniel’s barrel, I paid a late spring visit to Cambridge Brewing, where Will Meyers has seemingly never met a creative challenge he wouldn’t accept. What caught my attention this time was L’Amour du Jour, a lavender-scented beer that almost instantly transported me to the purple fields of France’s deep south.

An Odd Ghost Indeed — I was delighted to discover at the Mondial de la Bière a wide selection of beers from the Brasserie Fantôme of Soy, Belgium, including the intriguing Fantôme Chocolat. Completely unlike any chocolate beer I had previously encountered, this ale’s cocoa notes lay both over and under the spicy, slightly funky body, in complete harmony with its herbal accents. The final words of my notes say it all: “Brilliant, complex.”

The Glory of Grain — A summer trip to Ireland took me to the Cooley Distillery of Dundalk, located a short drive north of Dublin. There, in the company of Blender and Quality Assurance Manager Noel Sweeney, I sampled the company’s entire line of whiskeys, including the surprising Greenore, a single-grain whiskey aged eight years in bourbon barrels. Fresh, sweet and fruity, it has a soft, green-appley character that I not only found very pleasant on its own, but could detect to varying degrees throughout Cooley’s range of blended whiskeys. Along with Cooley’s peated single malt Connemara, this is more than reason enough to reevaluate the way we view Irish whiskeys.

A Pair of Outstanding Black Beers — In my new role as a member of All About Beer magazine’s tasting panel, I was privileged to sample the Meantime Brewery’s London Porter, a near-perfect porter with a sweetish, lightly roasty aroma and plummy, roasty, gently sweet character. Shortly thereafter, I encountered another fine pint of black in the form of Tsarina Katarina Imperial Stout, a thick, oily-rich imperial boasting complex flavour notes of well-roasted coffee bean, licorice, prune and cocoa. Unfortunately, while the Meantime is available sporadically throughout the States, Ontario’s Scotch Irish Brewing Company produced only one batch of the Tsarina, which sold out almost as soon as it was made available. Here’s hoping for more.

A Kentucky Dram — Following a seven-year absence, I returned to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in 2005 and was rewarded with a taste of the Four Roses Single Barrel, a medium-weight whiskey that shows its high rye content in a tremendously spicy character loaded with notes of black pepper, orange peel, cumin and caraway, backed by gentle vanilla notes. Only available in its home state but worth the trip.

The Best of Bavaria — My December trip to Germany, about which you will no doubt read elsewhere in this issue, afforded me my second chance to taste what may well be the finest example of a Münchner dunkel ever to cross my lips: the Andechser Dunkel Naturtrub Juliläumsbier. Unfiltered and of 4.9% alcohol by volume, this wonderful lager shows notes of toasted caramel, cinnamon, light chocolate and black bread in the nose and a gentle mix of roast, cocoa, earthy hop and faint tobacco leaf, amongst other malty flavour notes in the body. Its sensorial impact was almost equaled by the Weltenberger Wintertraum, a 5% alcohol festbier with a toasty aroma and soft, almost toffee-ish body boosted by floral notes and a hint of almost iodine-accented smokiness. Either of these wonderful brews would be enough to convince even the most hardened of ale-heads that lagers, too, are worthy of consideration.




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