Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly

You knew I'd have to review a Southern Tier beer before I called it a wrap, right? This is one of only two Southern Tier beers I haven't yet reviewed.

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (706) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 8, 2012
I poured a 22oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Chestnut brown to dark orange color; seemingly opaque but very cloudy body. Forms a small, yellow, soapy head which dissipates but leaves plenty of lacing on the glass.

Smell: One of the sweetest IPAs on the nose: pure orange juice concentrate plus confectioner’s syrups. A hint of solvent as it warms.

Taste: Oak aging is a process you tend to associate with stouts, but it can be done with imperial IPAs if the goal is to sweeten and soften them and Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly is proof positive of that. This is one of those beers that could be just as easily classified as a barleywine and it’d be just as applicable. Intense bitterness combined with rich, dank, syrupy sweetness. Though not quite as extreme as a "triple IPA" the actual palate is similar.

Intense bitterness right from the get-go, but coupled with strong confectionary sweetness to keep it well-balanced throughout (in fact, it might even be more sweet than it is bitter). Toffee and butterscotch are quite prominent in the palate, plus a slight buttery/lollipop taste which imparts a hint of astringency. Perhaps this is due to my bottle being nearly six months old, but the hop bitterness certainly hasn’t faded. A delectable beer for sure, but nothing that’s truly mind-blowing. So much better than average, but not quite world class.

Drinkability: For such an intense brew, you’d think Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly would be a beast that’s difficult to tame, but it’s remarkable just how easily drinkable this beer is. The oak aging does bump up the sweetness, but at the same time seems to take the edge off the hops. Though very sweet, the body is not sticky or chewy and the aftertaste is quite clean with just a touch of sticky bitterness. At 9.5% ABV I had no problem drinking an entire 22oz bottle myself as there wasn’t much alcohol presence of effect (at least not right away). All in all it’s a nice alternative to a barleywine.

Grade: 8/10

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