We're going head to head tonight, two behemoths duking it out, looking for some Winter supremacy. These high gravity heroes are cockle warming wonders and I am pitting them against one another. A one-night only, main event to see who can win the hearts and minds of the masses...or at least my palate. Sorry I got carried away. It happens.
Review #42 & #43
Monster Ale 2011 ABV 10.8%
Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn, New York 12 oz into a Chimay goblet
Cereal Killer 2012 ABV 10%
Arcadia Ales Battle Creek, Michigan 12 oz into a Chimay goblet
A - Both pour rich hues of brown, bordering on mahogany, with the Arcadia being just a tick darker. Brooklyn is ever so slightly more translucent at the crest and along the glass, and also has just a bit more of a head, though neither have much more than a film layer. Monster is retaining the cream colored head more at the edges of the pour, and Cereal Killer is concentrating the distinctly larger, moderately yellow, bubbles towards the center. Looks alone, they're both gorgeous--a draw.
N - Monster has a rich grain, yeast and bread laden initial whiff, with dark dried fruits. There is some brown sugar and slightly burned caramel playing around the edges, but seem to be tamed by grassy, leafy hops and a leathery scent that rest towards the back end of the nose. Cereal Killer is rich. It is definitely a hot brew, with alcohol hitting up front, something likely that would ease with aging, but this being a 2012, it is powerful. Some soaked, dark fruit and toffee, and then it hits me. Raisin. Ugh. I don't like raisins much, and it took a minute, but its there. On that basis alone, Monster gets the edge.
T - This Brooklyn is a Monster. A molasses and malt monster. Very sweet, but not to the point of unpleasantness. Ripe fruit tastes mingle well with aged, dried fruit. A harmony of plum, fig, cherry, balanced with strong malt character and just enough hop presence to make it all blend well. The age has had an effect for sure; this is my second time trying this, last time was nine months ago, right after purchase, and it was diabetic sweet and almost astringent. The other two will wait until next Winter; and I am looking forward to it. The high ABV is there, but it isn't the lead role.
On the flip side...This Cereal Killer, it could very well kill me. Sugary sweet, with lots of heat. Not very much balance. Its got promise, there are all sorts of wonderful flavors at the edges, but over ripe fruit, corn sugar and alcohol just overpower and overtake it from the get go. With age, I think the malt will make a stronger appearance, and the alcohol will certainly ease. Its all a question of whether the fruit and sugar and hops round out and learn to play nice. There are a couple more...see you next year.
Obvious edge to Monster
M - Monster has a light to medium mouthfeel, with just a touch more creaminess to the texture and the lack of such a big alcohol punch. The Arcadia is actually quite pleasant with the carbonation cutting the over sweet flavor just a bit.
This has gotta be a draw. I mean, it would take some serious error to lose on mouthfeel.
O - I guess it really was unfair to compare the two. One year difference in bottling is huge in big beers like these. From 1/8/2011 for the Monster to 1/2/2012 for the Cereal Killer. These are both what they should be; massive, warming beers, with strong flavors and serious attitude. You can't take a barleywine lightly ,and as a novice homebrewer, I doubt its an easy style to perfect or even do well. Glad to have both of these tonight, and glad I have a couple more for next year.
I did notice after looking at some other reviews that the years are a huge factors apples to apples. Some people are really down on certain years of each, while other love them. A large majority of that is age, to be sure, but there are other factors. Too often, storage of beer is overlooked. Its one thing to store it right once you have it, but what did the distributor and store do before you owned it? My recommendation is to search Beer Advocate and Rate Beer for the places other people have favorable reviewed before making purchases. It doesn't always make a positive difference, but it certainly can't hurt.