Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ithaca Excelsior! Twelve

Eric and Gina join me for a back-to-back review and this time we head down to the basement to fish something out that I've been hoarding for at least nine months - Ithaca Beer Company's 12th Anniversary Ale. It's a Belgian quad and it's even made with actual Trappist yeast! How awesome is that? It's also a big beer at 12% ABV too. How would this beer made here in upstate New York compare to the Belgian beers its inspired by? Let's see....

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (630) - Albany, USA - MAY 21, 2011
Anniversary ales are pretty big these days, although I guess they always have been. As a craft beer enthusiast I’m always excited by these beers since breweries tend to go all-out and brew beers of epic proportions. The problem is these beers tend to be difficult to drink, appeal to a limited beer drinking audience, extremely expensive, and trying to find the perfect occasion to bring them out of the cellar is tricky. That wouldn’t seem to be the case with Ithaca Beer Company’s 12th Anniversary Ale - part of their "Excelsior!" series of big, limited brews. It’s brewed in the traditional Belgian quadruple style and even uses a Trappist yeast strain. The result should be an American version of Chimay Blue or Westvleteren 12, right?

I split a 750ml bottle with two friends and poured it into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Dark maroon/chestnut color with a mostly opaque appearance. Forms a small, off-white, foamy head which dissipates and doesn’t leave much lacing.

Aroma: dark fruits all around including plum, fig, red apple, plus some malty, almost syrupy sweetness.

Taste: While Ithaca 12 may have the superficial resemblance to Belgian strong dark ales, the major difference lies in the taste. Whereas the Trappist beers tend to be peppery and spicy, this brew is all about the sweetness. The first sensation of the first sip was like drinking slightly carbonated maple or toffee syrup. The palate does have a strong flavor of dark fruits, but unlike a Belgian quad, it’s difficult to identify any individual flavors.

The beer is extremely energetic, which is ironic because the alcohol it well masked with no rubbing alcohol taste or burning or warming sensation. The only problem is the palate here isn’t entirely appealing, due to the massive sweetness. The palate doesn’t open up much as it warms, and becomes markedly more bitter if the yeast is added.

Mouthfeel: Soft, thick, syrup-like with a lingering, sugary aftertaste. Thins out as it warms.

Drinkability: A sipper, even at fridge temp. The 12% ABV gives the palate a lot of chutzpah, and the alcohol does catch up with you after one serving.

Overall, a good beer to be sure but a little disappointing considering the $15 pricetag. A beer like this should be at least an A-, but it’s only a B and while satisfying, there are plenty of other beers of the caliber that are much cheaper and more drinkable and sociable.

Grade: 7/10

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