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Decadence Anniversary Ale 2008 by AleSmith Brewing Company
English Barleywine
11.00 % ABV

Review by SAP on 07/26/09  
Score Appearance Smell Taste Mouthfeel Overall Impression Year
72 3 11 13 3 6 2009
A vigorous pour into my 25cl tulip glass produces a voluminous, five-finger thick, amber tinged, full tan colored head. Lots of lacing is left on the sides of my glass as the head slowly subsides. The beer is a dark, concentrated amber / dark red-plum color that shows a clear, bright cranberry color when held up to the light. The aroma is a mix of Christmas spices, candied fruit and dark bread notes. This reminds me a bit of a rum soaked fruit cake; aromas of dark cherries, candied raisins and dried berries are accentuated by spice notes of cinnamon, all-spice, mahleb and some fenugreek. Alcohol vapors provide a warming, spicy note to the end of the aroma and there is also an underlying toasted grain character that reminds me of brown-sugar crusted, darkly browned bread crust. If you breath quite deeply there is a light tartness to the finish that accentuates the fruit aromatics, but this time brings out notes of plum, sweet-tart apples and even some fig notes. The aroma on this is actually quite nice, it really reminds me of the holidays with notes reminiscent of fruit cake, or of a dark, sweet, caramelized spice cake / bread.

Somewhat thick feeling as it first hits my tongue, this beer is not nearly as sweet as I was expecting. There is a substantial browned malt flavor here, but what I notice before this is a tartness that seems to be lactic acid derived. Subsequent sips of this brew have me noticing a bright fruit character, one which is clearly helped along by the tartness; flavors of plum, raisin, fermented prune and moist-dried fig are all noticeable. There is a touch of weird, almost vegetal character and a touch of a metallic note in the finish; these seem to couple somehow with the un-characteristic tartness in something of an off-putting way. The dark malt provides a touch of toasted biscuit character, maybe a hint of roast even. My vigorous pour knocked much of the excess carbonation out of this beer, but it is definitely a bit on the high-side for what I would want in this beer. This beer is also a bit on the light side for a beer of this strength; I have a feeling if it had not been infected it would be quite the lush beer right not; the body is still rich and this is still clearly a sipping beer. Alcohol flavors in the finish add a touch of spicy heat and my belly is definitely feeling a bit of warmth. The tartness gets in the way of a rich, sometimes toffee-like, caramelized character, as well as the savory, nicely browned, toasted malt character. The mix of alcohol, tartness and vegetal / metallic notes in the finish can be a bit jarring; this beer doesn’t quite come together in the end.

Coming back to the nose after a bit the tartness becomes a bit more noticeable and it mixes with the almost hot alcohol. This is definitely a strange beast, after really enjoying the aroma the flavor just doesn’t quite live up to my hopes. Even the nose clearly has some other influence than an English yeast strain, but it sort of works there. The flavor on the other hand is just a bit too cacophonous; the notes don’t quite mesh into a unified whole. I wonder if some age, maybe even substantial age, might turn this into an interesting, funky 17th century Old Ale. I definitely need to figure out if I want another bottle of this, it might get really interesting in a couple years, on the other hand it might just get worse too. In the end this is just interesting enough to be enjoyable. If it wasn’t such a crap-shoot, I would definitely buy a couple of these to sample over the years.

Purchased: Plaza Liquors, Tucson AZ

Served In: Tulip

Review by seaoflament on 07/02/09  
Score Appearance Smell Taste Mouthfeel Overall Impression Year
82 3 10 16 4 8 2009
I picked up a bottle of this at SouthBayDrugs this past Monday as soon as it arrived. Last year I bought a few bottles of the 07 Decadence but used them mostly for trading, even as extras, and when I wanted to buy one for myself it was gone from the stores. It took me a while to acquire a bottle (thanks Bill) so now I'm drinking one of these right away.

I'm always excited with the AleSmith Decadence beers, it seems like they can do no wrong in this series and feel they are their best crafted beers. I'm glad I started to develop a taste for Barleywines (mostly English-style) so I'm able to appreciate this beer to the fullest.

I'm using my Bruery tulip for this beer and serving only halfway the first time to get a more concentrated aroma out of it. A nice "hiss" sound when I crack the cap. The beer is a dark brown with a reddish color when held to the light. About an inch of creamy foam topped the beer and reduced to a thin layer in about a minute, leaving some lacing on the sides of the glass.

Now I know what some people mean when they say "tart/sour cherry aroma" yes it can be interpreted that way at first impression but a few sniffs later it blends with the rich malt and estery yeast profile. One of the first aromas that comes to mind is a combination of toast and fresh cherry jam with a bit of alcohol. There are also notes of plum, raisins, caramel, toffee, and a bit of chocolate but not as much as I would have liked. I feel as if the alcohol and yeast spiciness get in the way a bit. The first layer seems a tad too spicy with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. I'm typing this even before taking my first sip and I already feel like this one still needs some more time in the bottle. I'd say this one exhibits a strong fruitiness, especially a dried-fruit characteristic in the vein of cranberries, cherries, and apple. Ok, after a few minutes the toast, caramel, toffee, and chocolate notes of the malt begin to strengthen but the spiciness still gests in the way a bit. This one already shows signs of sherry-like or vinous notes. After the beer warms up the aroma seems a tad more balanced and floral.

The flavor starts off with dried cherry, dried cranberry, intense fruity flavors, toast, caramel, toffee, bready malts, a touch of brown sugar, spices, and alcohol heat in the finish. Very similar to the aroma but I think I enjoy the taste just a hair more. A bit nutty on the second sip with the same fruitiness, the spices in a lesser degree, and the malt in the finish. A bit of coffee late in the aftertaste with some cocoa. Dried, dark cherry on the front of the palate with a mixture of fruits that lead to a vinous flavor, spices, toast, caramel, nuts, and a touch of chocolate. The finish is a balance of some sweetness and medium dry finish. Some low bitterness in the finish/aftertaste is apparent.

Medium to high carbonation at first, for the style, with a full body but not "chewy" or heavy. The carbonation feels a little lower, and suits the beer better, once it warms up. Fairly easy to drink and goes down rather smooth. The 11% is incredibly well hidden.

Quite good right now but I'd like to try this one in a couple of months to see how it changes.

Served In: Tulip

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