We’ve long been fans of Paddy Longs, as you can see here (from 2 years ago, whoa). And some of us (read: Karl) have been pushing back against the all-things-bacon trend for a while (from 4 years ago, double whoa). But as the baconsanity has faded, and our appreciation of Paddy’s remains considerable, we wanted to at least shine a little light on this: the Bacolympics.
“A barley wine style ale brewed to 15% alcohol with hints of raisin, chocolate, caramel, sherry, cherry, and alcohol, just to name a few. And this beer will only get better with age.”
Dark Horse 3 Guy Off The Scale Barley Wine
American Barleywine, 15% ABV (!!!)
Sayeth the Guys:
Ryan: Sometimes I cellar a beer because I want to see what would happen to it, i.e. Dark Horse’s Double Crooked Tree or Founders Devil Dancer. Other times I feel the beer is better with some age on it, like Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Then there’s Dark Horse’s 3 Guy Off The Scale, a beer I felt I had to cellar.
I picked up a four-pack and a few stray bottles last spring (2009) and, almost immediately, Karl and I sampled two. It was nothing but a boozy, hot mess of a barleywine. So, the only logical thing to do with the remaining four bottles was to put them aside to see if things cooled off any. After 14 months in the cellar I can report back that it mellowed – but just barely.
This beer poured a gorgeous ruby/burgundy in color into our 4 oz tasting glasses. The nose was full of dark fruits, grapes, nuts, almonds – oh and booze.
at first sip, and I most definitely do mean sip, it is obvious there is a lot going on with this beer. You get some dark fruits up front along with a balsamic vinaigrette or sherry-like flavor. The booze is still present but it isn’t nearly as pronounced as it was fresh. The finish was kind of nutty, not like peanuts but more like walnuts or almonds.
This beer leaves a cough syrup like coating in your mouth.
And, as it warms, the booze becomes more and more pronounced.
This beer has developed quite nicely since it has been in the cellar. This is, without a doubt, a sipper – but a good one to have on a chilly winters night. My initial plan was to spread the three bottles I have left over the next three years but I almost wonder if I should crack one every two years. I could easily see this developing well into the next five to ten years.
Karl: Despite many visits to Dark Horse’s brewpub in Marshall, Michigan, I tend to find myself feeling hit-or-miss on their output. Love the Crooked Tree on tap, find it pretty weak in the bottle. Love the Double Crooked Tree no matter what, but their black bier doesn’t do much for me and to be honest, I always want to like their Scotty Karate a lot more than I actually do. So – what will come of an evening trying to suck back 12 oz. of aged barleywine? Dark Horse says it’s off the scale – and it is.
This pours a rich ruby/brown color, and on the nose I get a wicked amount of booze, red grape, and maybe even a combination coming together to create a port smell. Consistency could be described best by others as viscous, and by me as “slightly watered down cough syrup.” Between the body of this beer and the slightly sour grape taste, could you be blamed for feeling a little Robitussin-esque light-headedness? Well, the alcohol certainly helps.
As for the taste, holy hell is this boozy. Then, it is 15%ABV (yes, fifteen, not one-point-five, no typo there) so if it was missing that huge booze head this beer would probably kill people. Lots of grape flavor once again, with that liquor sharpness on the palate. As this beer warms up, a certain cocoa or chocolate flavor comes out and the beer thins out.
In my notes, I wrote down that I’d been drinking this beer for about 15 minutes but had only actually drank about two ounces. This is the absolute definition of a sippin’ beer. Because you don’t really have a choice otherwise. It’s just too much.
I would happily pour this again into a snifter in front of a large fire and kick back. The body of this barleywine would definitely cut through an evening of stouts on a cold night and definitely knock you out cold at the end of a winter evening. You win this round, Dark Horse. We’ll see about next time.
Andrew: It’s been more than a week-and-a-half since we dove head first into the 3 Guys Off the Scale Barleywine, and I think I can still taste it. Gigantic, huge, immense, pickawordoutofthethesaurus could all be used to describe this beer.
The beer poured a very red/copper-y color, with very little head that dissipated quickly. In the nose I detected lots of sweet malty, bread-y goodness, oh yeah, and booze.
Interestingly enough, the beer didn’t taste as malty as it smelled – I picked up notes of dark fruits (maybe raisins or cherries or something) some sweetness (toffee or caramel anyone?) and a ton of booze. The beer finished very dry, with a malty/caramel-y aftertaste. I noted that the beer that was thick, almost syrup-y as it went down, totally coated my mouth…I could also feel the burn of the alcohol as the beer went down…lovely.
Great beer – I love barleywines and this was spot on.
Ryan: Much like the New Glarus Iced Barleywine, this is another beer that screamed to us, “cellar me, cellar me – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CELLAR ME!!”
Set it and forget it, we did, for two years. And we were rewarded with a complex, smooth beer that may top out as one of my favorite beers from one of my favorite breweries.
Dark fruits and nuts dominated in both the aroma and flavor two years ago. Those were still present, but after three years (total) in the cellar so were a few new guests to the party.
First and foremost, the nose of this beer is dominated by…butterscotch. Yup, butterscotch, along with some cinnamon and clove. This smells like the winter warmer to define all winter warmers.
Take a sip you get a rich, syrupy beer that has retained a hint of dark fruit flavors, although they quickly fade away to strawberries and cream and mandarin oranges. If Short’s ever brewed an Imperial Strawberry Shortscake, this is what I imagine it tasting like. In fact, this is probably the best example I have come across of a true dessert beer. The rich, dark fruits, blended with the tartness of the strawberries and the mandarin oranges provide a pleasant contrast of flavors.
It’s hard to miss the booze in a beer that is 15% ABV, and while it is noticeable, it is not overpowering. The alcohol warms, but doesn’t burn.
The 3 Guy has surpassed my expectations by leaps and bounds. It’s delicate, it’s smooth and remarkably tasty.
Andrew: And this is exactly why we do what we do.
Sometimes our cellaring experiments fail, sometimes they end up just “ok” (like the New Glarus Iced Barleywine we talked about earlier this week), and then sometimes you just get totally blown away, like the Dark Horse 3 Guys Off The Scale Barleywine.
Holy hell has this beer developed magically in just three years.
This beer has aged into a smooth, complex, easy drinking barleywine. A far cry from the booze demon that faced us when we first had it two years ago.
The caramel malts, so present in the beer two years ago, were still up front and center, but joined by what I can describe as smelling like a barn yard, in a good way! And Ryan was absolutely spot on, this beer was really fruity. I couldn’t totally detect what was happening, but there were definitely some dark fruits and citrus hanging around.
And then there’s the booze, warm, inviting, but not burning. Just reminding you that it’s still there.
Two years ago it took me probably 30 minutes to finish this beer…this time it was gone in less than 10 minutes. I’d like more, please.
Karl: I’m not sure if Dark Horse meant the taste or the absolutely insane 15%abv when the called this off the scale, but it kinda doesn’t matter. It exceeds at both.
Even after this long, this is a candy-sweet (even sweeter than last time!) and fruity, yeasty, hearty and intense brew that finishes just a little sharp, as though to remind you just how dangerous this beer truly is.
And even though it’s been sitting for a while, it’s still got a nice thick and smooth body, making my previous comparison to port wine even more apt.
“Frozen in the cellars over a powerful twelve week fermentation. You hold an elegant riot of bittersweet sherry and dark fruit earthy notes. Warm and expansive it will fill your senses. Great for contemplative sipping now or lay down for an elegant occasion with friends.”
New Glarus Unplugged Iced Barley Wine
English Barleywine, 13.5% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
Karl: At first glance, without opening it at all, this is an extremely dangerous beer. Why? Because the bottle looks like every single other NG Unplugged series beer, so you might grab one of these out of the cooler on accident and get hammered with the 13.5% ABV out of nowhere. That’s a nail in anyone’s coffin. And after that it just gets more intimidating.
On first taste, the only thought in my head is “Holy hell, is this boozy.” Continue reading
What follows is a tale of determined, hard work by someone who wants to open a brewery and loads of detective work on our part. The result is equal parts admiration and intrigue for a brewery we still don’t know much about.
We first caught wind of One Trick Pony back in March after seeing their Craft Brewers License application pop up on the Illinois Liquor Control Commission website. And, yes, we really do routinely troll the ILCC website. That’s how we roll.
According to the craft brewers application, they were eying Lansing, IL for the brewery and were aiming to produce 230 barrels of beer in their first year of operation. The application also listed three beers One Trick Pony was registering with the state; Hanoverian, Spotted Saddle and Kisber Felver. But that was about all the information we were able to take away from the six page application and registration statement, so we went to the Googles to get more info.
There was none.
No website, no Facebook page, no twitter account. Nothing.
Since we are geeky enough to routinely visit the ILCC’s webpage we decided to up our nerd factor and hit up the Illinois Secretary of State’s webpage. We checked the licensed corporation database and, low-and-behold, One Trick Pony Inc had been registered with the state since the fall of 2011. A bit of detective work, cross-referencing the address on file and listed “Agent” for the corporation, led us to Chicago attorney Mark Kocol.
We emailed Mr. Kocol at his law office but got no response.
With craft breweries in Chicago multiplying like rabbits, and bloggers looking to be the first to introduce their readers to the areas newest brewer, we were bound and determined to track down more about One Trick Pony. Especially considering we could find so little out about the brewery.
Our next stop was the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to search through their database for One Trick Pony’s labels. We thought, if Mr. Kocol had gotten this far in his paperwork, maybe he had a few labels that had been approved. And, as luck would have it, the three beers listed above all had label approval. But when we went to view the documents, we were met with an error message informing us we had to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to view them.
Yup, they wanted a FOIA request for beer labels.
So we submitted a formal FOIA request…for beer labels.
And a few days later we were greeted with an email informing us the approved labels had been posted:
The labels gave us a bit more information about the beers listed including style, IBU and ABV. Spotted Saddle is a Pale Ale coming in at drinkable 6.1% ABV, Hanoverian is a wheat ale clocking in at 6.5% ABV and Kisber Felver is a black IPA rocking 90 IBU’s and 7.5% ABV.
The labels also provided us with an alternate way to contact Mr. Kocol.
So we took another stab at tracking down the seemingly elusive CEO of One Trick Pony. We sent a series of questions his way in hopes of finding out more about him, his brewing background, his beers, the horse thing and why there was no online presence for One Trick Pony.
The last question is what had us all baffled. We’ve become accustomed to breweries rolling out social media campaigns long before their beers are first brewed (Finch and New Chicago Beer Company) or well publicized Kickstarter campaigns building early interest in a budding brewery (Pipeworks, Arcade). Then there’s One Trick Pony, with zero online presence and only a handful of government documents giving us a tiny glimpse into their plans.
The less we knew, the more we wanted to know.
So why was information on One Trick Pony so hard to come by? Simple, Mr. Kocol was up to his elbows in getting the brewery off the ground. Beer first, publicity second.
We’ve told you before that starting a brewery isn’t easy. Remember Marika’s story in getting Scratch Brewing off the ground? Same thing goes for Mr. Kocol; it was paperwork and then more paperwork, locking in a location, buying the brewing equipment and brewing the beer. And he wanted to brew lots of beer. Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than visiting a new brewery only to find half of their tap list is tapped out.
Full pints over Facebook “likes.”
In no way are we trying to “out” anyone here. Mr. Kocol knows we’re writing this and had no objection to it. In fact. he got back to us after our second means of contacting him, kindly apologized for not getting back to us sooner, and answered one question using the question itself, when asked why we can’t find any sort of online presence:
“…Or were you more focused on getting your ducks in a row?”
There’s your answer to #6.
Now, this isn’t to say that having a huge social media roll-out leading up to your brewery’s opening is a bad idea. Nor are we saying that any brewery should have been tweeting like crazy a year before they open. We were just a little surprised and, frankly, impressed to see the marketing take a backseat to the beer.
And that beer is ready to be poured. One Trick Pony had its grand opening on June 29th. And, according to its website, currently has seven beers on tap;
- Spotted Saddle (American Pale Ale)
- Gypsy Varner (American Amber Ale)
- Hanoverian (American Wheat Ale)
- Kisber Felver (American Black IPA)
- Nordlandshest (Belgian Dubbel)
- Kentucky Mountain (Barrel-Aged Old Ale)
- Clydesdale (American Barleywine)
Eventually, Mr. Kocol, we’d love to find out more about you and One Trick Pony. And if we have to come to Lansing, IL for that to happen – then so be it. We’ll happily talk shop over a Hanoverian or a Nordlandshest. Until then, we hope the world catches up with all the work you put in to getting the brewery up and running, so the craft beer lovers in and around Chicago can find out more about One Trick Pony.
One Trick Pony:
“Aged in in 22 year-old Bourbon Barrels for almost two years.”
Arcadia Bourbon Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter
Baltic Porter, 12% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
Karl: This was a fun one simply based on style variation. Almost by muscle memory alone, when you say “bourbon barrel aged,” one almost immediately follows it up with “stout.” Not so much this time. New takes on old tropes are always fun to try but are often hit-or-miss; thankfully it was “hit” this time for this porter. (Minor side note: When it comes to stout versus porter, I almost always pick “porter.”)
Arcadia’s choice to throw this style beer into the barrels seems to be a fairly educated one, as porters always struck me as just baby steps away from stouts anyways. This particular Shipwreck (yarrrrrr) pours with a reasonably light body, tan head, a little chocolate on the nose and a touch of wood on the front end. Then on the back, coffeecoffeecoffeeburn. Aaaaaand done.
The 12% ABV is thoroughly camouflaged, the light carbonation makes this the breeziest porter I’ve had in months, and while I wasn’t completely blown away it was certainly pleasant enough. Continue reading
I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing a straight ahead review of Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt Beer, but to be honest, I figured you-all would think either a) I was trying to be an ironic smartass or b) none of you would take it seriously. But at the beginning of the month, I’ve noticed a couple other people offering their two cents including posts from SBNation and a site called TheClassical*, and I imagine the motivation wasn’t to actually review the beer, but rather just to take the opportunity to take a loose, easy shit on another sports-related promotional cheap put-your-name-on-this marketing device. There’s only one problem: they’re wrong. Which is why I’m finally writing this. Continue reading