Friday, November 8, 2013
AleSmith Brewing Company - Speedway Grand Prix
Yesterday began the 3 day epic event that is the Speedway Grand Prix at AleSmith Brewing Company. The last few years, the event has been on a single night at a local bar, but this year, AleSmith decided to do things differently. 15 versions of Speedway Stout, 3 days to try them all, and 1 very happy me. So on Wednesday, muffin tins in hand (a tradition for the event and a necessity if you want to transport a bunch of taster glasses anywhere) my friends Jason, Matt and I headed to AleSmith to partake in the madness. I tried 12 of the varietals and here's how they turned out.
12. Cherry Amaretto Speedway- Loved this one on paper, but it just didn't turn out the way I was hoping. The cherry came off a bit "Robitussin-like," as Jason put it, and the amaretto never really came through fully. I've had a few versions of Speedway from the event in previous years that were borderline gross, and this was nowhere near that level. A good sign for the event.
Final Grade: D+
11. Macadamia Nut Speedway- I really loved this one on paper as well, but the macadamia presence was a little too strong in the flavor and there were a lot of oily and bitter macadamia skin notes that took away from the sweeter and meatier flavor of the nut itself.
Final Grade: C-
10. Fresh Raspberry Speedway- Yet another one that I thought was going to be incredible. If anything, I think there were too many raspberries added to this one, and the result was a boatload of raspberry flavor, but no real trace of the Speedway itself.
Final Grade: C
9. Turkish Coffee & Cardamom Speedway- On the interesting meter, this was way, way up there. It was a really great experiment and they nearly pulled it off. I got a lot of chai-like flavors with a ton of spices that I really couldn't distinguish. The cardamom rocked my tastebuds, but didn't really let much else come through in the flavor. Enjoyable but not better than most of the other varietals.
Final Grade: C
8. Nicaraguan Coffee Speedway- The smell of this one was off the charts. Huge amounts of delicious dark roasted coffee. But...the taste just didn't live up to the promise of the smell. The coffee notes felt disjointed and it just never "wow"ed me. Worth trying for the smell, but the taste wasn't quite there.
Final Grade: C
7 & 6 (tie): Nibs & Beans Speedway and Vietnamese Coffee, Cocoa Nibs, Vanilla Beans and Raspberry Extract Speedway - I liked both of these a lot. I liked the Vietnamese Coffee one even better once I figured out that it wasn't the pumpkin speedway I had been told it was. (That really threw my palate for a trip.) The vanilla came through pretty well in both of these versions, which I liked. They just didn't add that much to the base beer, so they were middle of the pack for me.
Final Grade(s): B-
5. Pumpkin Latte Speedway- Very hit or miss in our little group, I actually liked this one a lot. There was a lot of spicy chai mixed with pumpkin pie spice with some coffee notes tucked in the back. The spice was substantial, but it let enough of the Speedway out so you could tell what the base beer was. I would say this one was a hit.
Final Grade: B
4. Lapsang Tea Speedway- Tea and coffee together? After reading the list when I got in the door, I thought for sure this was going to be the worst of the bunch. As it turned out, it was one of the more interesting varietals. The great coffee notes from base Speedway were there, but there were a lot of earthy, almost mushroom like notes mixed in that (while it sounds weird) really worked in here. The finish also brought some tingling tea and earthy hops. I can't say I would want to take pint after pint of this to the dome, but in small doses, it's really something. I would love to try this one again.
Final Grade: B+
3. Bird's Eye Thai Chili Speedway- Now we're moving into the top tier. The Thai Chili Speedway was truly incredible. The coffee element was a bit muted and didn't bring the aggressive dark roast that I've come to love in original Speedway. But this worked, too, as the lighter coffee and cocoa notes laid down a smooth rhythm before the thai chiles came in and shredded my face off. I loved this beer.
Final Grade: A
2. Pinon Coffee Speedway- We sell this coffee at my work (Trader Joes) and, while it's alright, I didn't have high hopes for this beer. We ended up drinking a crapload of it. It was amazing! Apparently Pinon Coffee was made to be put in Speedway Stout. The coffee aroma is so intense I wanted to crawl under a table and just smell it for hours. But unlike the Nicaraguan, the coffee came through in the flavor as well. Rich, roasty and ridiculously tasty. This needs to be bottled.
Final Grade: A
1. PB Cup & Vietnamese Coffee Speedway- Oh, like this was gonna be bad? Peanut butter cups and Vietnamese coffee? Just take my money now, AleSmith. The smell was pure ground up Reese's and mild roast coffee and the flavor was absolutely decadent. Wave after wave of silky dark chocolate and smooth peanut butter gives your palate a massage AND a happy ending. What a beer!
Final Grade: A+
I would have to say that the Speedway Grand Prix was a huge success. Not all of the varietals were off the charts tasty, but with 15 versions, I'm pretty sure that's impossible. If you're a fan of Speedway Stout, make sure you get to this next year. You will not be sorry. Just don't forget your muffin tin.
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129