Saturday, June 19, 2010

Redhook 8-4-1 Expedition Ale



After a two-week hiatus, "CHAD'Z BEER REVIEWS" IS BACK! Henry joins me to review a bomber of Redhook's 8-4-1 Expedition Ale, which is a limited edition imperial brown ale. I've never had an imperial brown before so I was very eager to try this beer especially considering I am a big fan of the brown ale style.

3.9
   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (602) - Albany, USA - AUG 11, 2010
I’ve been taking an expedition through the world of craft beer over the last two years and I’ve encountered many things, both good and bad. What I always enjoy is encountering a beer that radically departs from its style guidelines or a beer that proves an otherwise ho-hum style can surprise you. Redhook’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is a perfect example of this as it takes the otherwise pedestrian brown ale style and makes it incredibly robust and complex.

APPEARANCE AND AROMA

I split a 22oz bomber with a friend and poured my half into an English pint glass (nonic). This beer pours to a lovely color of pure mahogany, which is mostly hazy but free of sediment. It forms a thick, eggshell-colored head which leaves plenty of lacing on the glass and never fully dissipates.

The aroma is fairly mild. There’s a noticeable honey and malt scent with some dark fruit notes and just a touch of alcohol.

TASTE

If you know me you know I’m a fan of brown ales. They tend to be sweet and mild which makes them easy to drink and very satisfying. I couldn’t help but wonder if an imperial brown ale would be a contradiction in terms. Thankfully, 8-4-1 Expedition Ale was anything but.

There’s so much going on with this beer it’s difficult to find a starting point to describe it. Much like the aroma, the palate is rife with dark fruit and a rich sweetness. While not quite as fruity as a barleywine, 8-4-1 does have some notes of cherry and plum up front, but they are quickly overshadowed by a rich sweetness on the back end. Caramel and honey combine to form an almost syrup-like texture, and the beer leaves a pleasant aftertaste of dark chocolate.

The bottle’s description claims the beer is brewed with cherry-wood smoked malts and brown sugar. While I wouldn’t say there’s an overtly smoky taste here, there is definitely a rich brown sugar flavor and perhaps a hint of smoke to the palette. As the beer warms, the sweet flavors become more prominent and surprisingly soft around the edges to make for a delectable palate found in traditional dessert beers.

DRINKABILITY

As tasty as the palate is, it’s really no surprise 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is a sipping beer. The palette is strong and slightly peppery at first, especially when consumed cold. As it warms it seems to round out the edges - creating for a thick, soft, and sticky mouthfeel.

The brew weighs in at 9.5% ABV which probably has a lot to do with the intensity of the palate and the noticeable warmth on the throat during the swallow. As tasty as this beer is, it can really only be enjoyed by the sip, as bigger gulps only magnify the potency. I recommend splitting a bomber with a friend or a special companion as an alternative to dessert.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Redhook is a brewery that had never really impressed me until now. With 8-4-1 Expedition Ale, they’ve shown they can make big, complex beers that can compete with the bigwigs of the craft beer community (since Redhook is partially owned by Anheuser-Busch, they’re often scoffed at by beer geeks). However, this is a limited seasonal so it’s a bit pricier than the average Redhook beer, but the quality is worth it if you like beers of this type. I know I did.

Grade: 8/10