Tasting the AleSmith Decadence Anniversary Ale 2009

California is filled with some of the worlds best breweries, and I am madly jealous of my friends who live there. It seems like every day there is a new beer, or festival, or event happening in California to celebrate great beer – and the great beers continue to flow. One of my favorite such breweries is AleSmith. We don’t get their beers in Ontario, but they are being distributed further across the US all the time.

In 2005 AleSmith celebrated their 10th year brewing beer by creating the Decadence Anniversary Ale. This is a celebratory beer that can be cellared for years, or enjoyed immediately. It comes around every fall, and each year it is a different beer and beer style, but always is decadent. This bottle that I had, and was eagerly excited to try was the 2009 Dunkel Weizenbock. This is a pretty big, and complex beer style – also at 9% abv.

It came in a gold foil covered 750ml wine bottle. Essentially what you get is a combination of rich dark malts, caramel malts, malted wheat, and a German Yeast. This is AleSmith’s celebration beer, so should we expect an explosion of flavor here? I think so!

I opened the Decadence cool around 8C (45F) and poured it gently into a tulip glass. The pour was rich and lively showing huge crashing waves of pale cream carbonation rushing through a dark mahogany beer. What built in the glass was a glowing amber brown beer which was menacingly close to black. It shone with deep purples and garnet, and an opaque raisin burning deep in the center. The head was big and powerful; a tall 3 inches above the beer, it showed great retention. The carbonation was tight and perfectly uniform with amazingly spherical bubbles from head to toe. The beer itself was nice, but this magnificently cream colored light tan head really caught my eye.

The nose was richly aromatic with classic Weizenbock flavors. Big rich dark fruit perfumes from the beer bringing raisins, dates, plums, mashed bananas and prunes. Spice lingers the whole time with a richly boozy scent and touches of black pepper, clove, cinnamon and allspice. I get a lot of malt here that comes off powerful.. very powerful. Rich toffee and burnt brown sugar plays a dominant role and bitter chocolate and roast flows in from the sides. This is a beastly beer that smells like 9%.

But now its time to get right into this beer, and in a big way. The first sip was wide and overpowering. A thick rush of sticky, malty brown sugar and stewed plums wash right over my tongue touching baked cherry pie and molasses. All the fruit flavors here come pilling in at once. Plums, raisins, dates, figs, apples and bananas crash right down on your tongue, flow off to your cheeks and then fade into bitter chocolate, roast and a touch of herbal hops.

The overall sensation here is warming with an intriguing balance between rich malt, complex spice, dark bitterness and booze. It is a big beer with big flavors that are actually a bit tough to get through. The alcohol adds a bit of a rough edge to the beer, and leads me to believe that this will improve and mellow with some time in the cellar.

As the beers warms though there is a smooth wave of new sensations coming though with espresso, biscuit, toast and cherries. What helps the beer very much is the soft and elegant mouthfeel that is a touch creamy, and lightly effervescent. It really feels refined. The finish is lightly crisp but largely rich, still. The flavors linger in your palate with a dry, Cab-Sav sort of feeling. Even with the big alcoholic feeling, it is still very drinkable as a slow sipper. Definitely not for the faint of heart, or even newbie beer drinkers. There is a lot in this beer, and it will overwhelm under experienced palates.

If you love rich beers though, and love weizenboocks, this celebratory beer will be a great pleasure. I still think it will be best in 2012, but now I would enjoy it with roast beef, Indian dishes, any chocolate deserts, with a nice maduro cigar, or on its own by the fire.

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