Thursday, October 24, 2013

Alpine Beer Company - Great

If you live in San Diego and you love beer, you've probably at least heard of Alpine Beer Company. Located about 30 minutes east of downtown, Alpine's a quaint town that definitely feels more like the towns you pass through on the way up a mountain to a ski resort than a stopping point between San Diego and El Centro that just happens to have a casino. As far as beer (especially hoppy beer) goes, I don't think you're going to find anything better in Southern California.

Alpine Beer Company is known for their IPAs and Pale Ales. And with their lineup of palate crushing beers, they should be. Nelson, Pure Hoppiness, Exponential Hoppiness, Bad Boy, Hoppy Birthday... The list of incredible hoppy beers in Alpine's lineup goes on and is mindblowing. But every once in a while, Alpine releases a beer that isn't hoppy. And, as I recently found out, that can be a very good thing. Or, should I say, a Great thing. (That was cheesy as hell. Let's just move on and forget I said that.)

As far as San Diego beers go on the Top 250 List, I've almost ticked them all. Of the ones I'm missing, I at least have hope to try them in the near future. AleSmith IPA should have been done a long time ago (I'll get to it, I promise). AleSmith barrel-aged Kopi Luwak Speedway and Stone's Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Russian Stout are both beers I hope to try over the upcoming beer week. And Lost Abbey's Duck Duck Gooze...we'll see. But the one I was really worried about was Alpine's Great- a barrel aged barleywine with barely any reviews. I joined Alpine's mailing list and kept tabs on them through social media hoping for some kind of word about it. Months passed and I had no word about Great. Then out of nowhere, Alpine released a message on Facebook saying bottles of Great were available. Luckily, I was able to land a few. At #185 (finally), Great.

Great pours a deep and dense-looking chestnut color with a thin light brown head. At 14%, I was surprised to see any head at all, and it soon disappeared, leaving only the menacing and murky barleywine behind. Any fears I had about this beer being too hot right away were tempered by the smell, which brought warm and inviting aromas of caramel, toffee, bourbon, cola, raisin skin and a bit of oak. There's a light touch of booze to it, but this beer smells absolutely amazing.

The taste opens with a rich wave of caramel, toasted brown sugar, toffee and bourbon. Booze soaked raisin and some milk chocolate show up in the middle before a finish which brings some light plum flavors and a slight woody dryness. The flavors in here meld perfectly and they're held together beautifully by a slightly oily and slick mouthfeel, which never lets the sweetness of the beer become cloying. I've had a good amount of barleywines before and I can say that this is by far the best I've ever tasted. Sucaba and Mother of All Storms put up good shows, but Great is on another level. Yet another fantastic beer out of Alpine.

Final Grade: A+

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 131

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