OK, first off: big news yesterday, as Westvleteren 12 hit retail in the United States for the only time ever. This is absolutely one of the world's finest beers (it scores a perfect 100 with over 1,300 reviews on BeerAdvocate), and the only way to get it, apart from this super limited release, is to travel to the St. Sixtus Abbey in Belgium. The sole reason Westvleteren 12 is available at retail (for an eye-popping $85/six pack with two glasses) is because the abbey needed a new roof. You can read all about it here, but Fairfield County residents will have to skip over the border into New York to places like DeCicco’s if they want to experience this ultra-rare elixir. A complete list of retail locations can be found here, so good hunting.
It's been my experience that, whatever time of year it is, you can't go wrong with beer from Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania. Their beers are widely available throughout Connecticut, and this week I've selected their Baltic Thunder. This Baltic porter pours a deep, deep ruby with a light colored but dense head that takes its time fizzling away. The aroma is similarly thick with roasted malts, toffee and hints of alcohol. Those darkly roasted grains come through at first sip, and lead the flavor profile. Unroasted German two row malt is also used in the creation of this beer, and there is certainly a hint of sweetness - just from the sheer volume of malt used - but this is a dry porter. The brewers say they were going for something along the lines of an 18th century English porter, and one needn't be the vampire Lestat to tell they've pretty much nailed it. A 22oz. bomber of Baltic Thunder would not be a bad choice if the dark nights are telling you do drink a dark beer.
Winter is barleywine season, and local favorite New England Brewing has answered the call with their new Premeditated Murder. I had this one on tap, and it had a chocolate aroma with noticeable hints of black cherry. A meringue-like head left a thick lace on the glass over a brew the color of well honeyed tea. There is a very smooth and creamy mouth feel here, cut by quite a bit of alcohol heat and a surprising amount of hop bitterness from a style of beer often noted for its sweetness. This one is as far from the expected barleywine as Columbus shooting for India and hitting the Caribbean, but equally as welcome a discovery. This is your 11.8% ABV beer sweater for when the wind blows and temperatures drop, and a cashmere one at that. No goats were harmed in the making of this beer, but there really is a murderers row of a lineup from New England Brewing these days. What a fantastic effort.
Stay warm, everybody.