Friday, April 22, 2011

Captain Lawrence 5 Years Later Ale

This is one of the most expensive beers I've ever purchased to review on this show. Captain Lawrence, a New York state-based brewery, is one that I like and trust so plunking down $18 for this bottle didn't seem like much of a gamble at the time. Despite the name, it is NOT any kind of aged or cuvee beer. It's an imperial black IPA weighing in at 10% ABV. I've been sitting on this bottle for over a month waiting for someone to come help me review it, but I didn't want to wait any longer since it's a hop-forward beer. Was it worth the $18 price tag? Let's see....

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (627) - Albany, USA - APR 22, 2011
Black IPAs are a fairly new style among the craft beer market, but what’s even newer are double or imperialized versions of these beers. It’s hard to get a new style right, let alone make a great product when the brewers and drinkers have little experience with it. But the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company has done just that with their 5 Years Later Ale. This is a beer that has plenty of good features individually, which create for a great feature collectively.

I poured a 750ml bottle into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Extremely dark maroon hue which can be mistaken for black. Forms a huge, frothy, dark yellow/tan head. It leaves great lacing on the glass and retains extremely well.

Smell: Very much in the tradition of a strong East Coast-style India Pale Ale. Light citrus and flowers with noticeable pine resin. As it warms it begins to emit a slight solvent-like fume, which is common in black IPAs and imperial stouts. It’s distracting, but tolerable, and probably the only thing keeping this from being a perfect beer overall.

Taste: Let no one say this is anything less than a robust beer. Hops light up the palate throughout the first half with a noticeable bitterness and pine-sap like stickiness. The second half is more in keeping with an imperial stout with deeply roasted malt bitterness and a rich, semi-sweet chocolate finish. There’s some coffee notes as well as some burnt popcorn flavor in the aftertaste, combined with both milk and dark chocolate.

This is a very unique and tasty palate to be sure. Despite what I just wrote, it’s actually quite difficult to describe. Throughout it all is the sheer energy that comes with an imperial beer as there’s substantial weight to the palate here. The hop presence is strong enough to create for a pleasing bitterness and taste you want in an imperial IPA. However, the malty component and sweet finish help to keep the beer from being one-dimensional and cloying.

Mouthfeel: Despite the intensity, I’d peg this beer as being on the lower end of full-bodied, if not medium-bodied. Fairly soft texture, somewhat crispy with low carbonation.

Drinkability: While it weighs in at 10% ABV and packs a punch to the palate, 5 Years later is still a highly drinkable beer overall. I found myself finishing my first serving after only 4-5 swigs. There is a bit of an alcohol presence to be sure, both in the taste and the constitution, but it’s nothing obnoxious. This beer is extremely versatile and would be ideal to have to with any red meat meal or any dark chocolate dessert.

Overall, a very impressive beer in more ways than one. Maybe not perfect, but so close.

Grade: 9/10

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