Last night I had a chance to check out Blue 5, a bar and grill in Roanoke that boasts an impressive 46 craft beers on tap. OK, maybe that's not insanely impressive for you BIG city folks, but for Roanoke, 46 good beers on tap makes for a damn fine evening. I sat up a couple of flights and tasted eight of the available brews, checking out the draft versions of some of my bottled favorites and a few brand new (to me) choices, too. Here's how it shook out:
1) Allagash Yakuza is a very light, mild Belgian triple. Pale, clear yellow, mild aroma. Slight flavor, mildly fruity, with a crisp finish. Just not a lot going on.
2) Allagash Curieux is an oak aged Belgian triple, and that oak aging really takes up a notch better than the Yakuza. The same mildly fruity start is complimented with a big, vanilla/bourbon finish that makes it both smoother and stronger than the Yakuza. I really enjoyed it.
3) I had the bottled version of St. Bernardus Abt. 12 last week. I loved it, and I loved the draft version even more. There is so much complexity to the full, rich flavor. Cinnamon tones, plus raisins and currants, bananas and all-spice, and a huge, rich, malty finish. This was the highlight of the night. Absolutely delicious by any standard. I recommend it without reservation to everyone.
4) Duvel is another strong Belgian with a light body and slight aroma. It has apple and banana notes in the middle and another smooth finish, but overall didn't really do a lot for me.
5) Old Rasputin on tap is sweeter and richer than the bottled version. There was a strong, creamy, very sweet chocolate quality here that seemed to be to be very distinct from the same Russian imperial stout when poured from the bottle. It was delicious, but seemed to pack a lot less bite.
6) Founder's Breakfast Stout on tap was the disappointment of the night. It was nowhere near as chewy or full as the Breakfast stout I'm used to. The strong baker's chocolate taste wasn't as pronounced. The coffee/espresso quality was more of a forward presence, though.
7) Unita's Sea Legs is an oak aged Baltic porter, and it's delicious. I loved it. The bourbon quality is present as a rich vanilla, and the malt had a nutty, bready character that just worked perfectly with the oak. I'd suggest this as a great starter for anyone who's interested in bourbon barrel aged beers, it's very smooth and very sweet, but not at all subtle. Of the beers I tried that were new to me, this is the one I'll most certainly add to my own regular rotation if I can find it.
8) Arrogant Bastard, a beer I love, but this was my first chance to have it on tap. It was amazing and absolutely better than it is in the bottle. It was very smooth, buttery, with a little more citrus and a little cleaner hop finish than I'm used to. Stone, as always, FTW.