Monday, June 25

Beer Review: Block 15 Brewing Belmont Station 15th Anniversary Ale

"Last year we were asked to brew a special beer commemorating Belmont Station’s 15th Anniversary. Belmont Station has played a very important role in the growth of craft beer in the Northwest. Fifteen years ago there were not many places where one could purchase import and craft beers, and many might say that Belmont Station began the trend. 

I remember first visiting Belmont Station ten years ago when it was located next to The Horse Brass. The place was small but lined wall to wall with beer selections. At 23 years old, and growing into my craft beer shoes, I remember being joyfully overwhelmed at their selection: beer from all over the world and styles I had never heard of. Truly a young beer lover’s dream shop. It sure as hell never crossed my mind that my own beer would someday is on the shelf of such an amazing establishment, let alone special ale to mark their anniversary. 

Normally, designing a beer tends to come from various inspirations, with little pressure. I was honestly a bit nervous for this project. I wanted the beer to be unique and bring together the feel of Belmont Station, a place where imported beer sits alongside local craft beers.

Belmont Station’s owner and I share a love for the Van Winkle line of bourbons. Immediately, I knew I wanted to work with 15 yr old Van Winkle barrels. Of course that bourbon, and thus the barrels, are only available in very limited amounts and I figured procuring a dozen would be a long shot. The next day I reached out to my contact (yes, it is a secret) in Kentucky, and as luck would have it the 15yr was scheduled to be dumped that week. 

For the base beer we worked on a recipe inspired by the theory of a strong Scotch style ale. The beer was brewed with Marris Otter, c-120, roast, and a touch of cherry wood & peated malts, golding hops and Scottish ale yeast. After 10 days of cool fermentation we racked the beer into the fresh Van Winkle barrels for maturation.

At three months the beer was sampled. The bourbon was gentle with thick malt notes, fruits, light wood, and smoke. More time was needed.

After a few more months we again sampled the beer. The bourbon was more pronounced but also more mature with caramel, jammy fruits, and a backdrop of gentle smoke. The beer was good, really good, but I didn’t feel it was worthy of the project. We needed to contribute a gift from our cellar. We began to play around with blending proportions of bourbon barreled Oud Bruins from our wild program. The blends changed the structure of the beer dramatically. Acids meld well with the thick malt and aged wood gave a more mature finish. Fruits notes became accentuated adding layers of complexity. It was decided that our final blend would include 11% 24 month Oud Bruin and 11% 9 month. 

The blend was cellared an additional two months and has transformed the beer into a completely new experience. Tart acids balance the big malt and jammy fruits with moderate cherry notes and a whisper of smoke. The bourbon barrel added notes of refined whiskey, caramel, and wood. A unique ale that we are proud to offer as Belmont Station’s 15th Anniversary beer. 

Total Production:
84 Cases, 750ml bottle conditioned, corked and caged.
5bbls on draught"


Appearance: (4.5)
- Pours a nice super dark malty looking Scottish, like a root beer. The tan fingers of thick foam stick around, and settle to an everlasting thin pillow with fluffy lace all about. Really a pretty beer.

Smell: (4.5)
- Nice tart and sour aromas. Nice oak aromas, vanilla, currants, and much like a splash of a fine port wine. Nice blended grain and malt sweetness as well. The tart and hint of funk really makes my mouth water.

Taste: (4.0)
- Love the tartness in the brew. Subtle currants, fruits, and grassy notes. I served this out of my cellar, so it is warmed up a bit. Light malt sweetness, hints of vanilla and oak, and a little tobacco. The more prominent flavor though seems to be it's soured tart flare and perhaps some herbal and grassy hops which are light. Overall great but I am sure would get better over time.

Mouth Feel: (4.0)
- Nice smooth medium body, creamy almost from its fine and abundant carbonation. Not at all sticky, but only a touch drying, which balances its mouth watering tartness. Little chewy.

Overall: (4.0)
- Nice solid beer. It only gets slightly lower marks than near perfect because its flavor seems to lack the depth and complexity of some others of the style. It is a stellar and solid beer don't get me wrong, and i am sure it would develop more over time. I need to get more of it. Overall nice and easy to drink, like a fine wine. Block 15 beers are always amazing.

4.13/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
( Rating Scale)

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