These notes will be in media res, unedited, rough drafts. They happened at the tapping party, with friends, in the crowd.
For those who don’t know, Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, entered several beers earlier this year in the Arizona Strong Beer Festival. The gold medal went to Katastrophic Humiliation, a barley-wine style ale made by Black Bridge. To celebrate and commemorate the win, the brewery had a tapping party for the newest iteration of Katastrophic tonight, May 12, 2017. This is not the recipe that won gold but a new version.
Brewer Tim Schritter has always been inspired by the beers at Stone Brewing. This is evident in his hop-forward, high alcohol interpretations of every beer style. For Katastrophic, he followed the Stone ideal of recipe tweaking and added some different hops to the 2017 version of Katastrophic.
Here are my notes and impressions. They are not final verdict on the beer, simply my thoughts and those of my drinking compatriots. Support your local, y’all, go find out for yourselves if it’s gold medal worthy.
It smells tropical. Interesting. I didn’t catch that during the sneak drink earlier this week. There were no hops evident at all then. So, this soft tropical, maybe papaya smell, that’s gotta be the Mosaic hops, which is the new ingredient this year. I am right. Seriously, it smells fantastic. I love Mosaic. Brilliant hops.
Reddish copper body. Good head retention. Red and purple appear. Hmm. Okay, well, my wife and a friend were wearing purple, so maybe I am biased. But the color was solid. Just what a barley wine should be.
But The Taste …
Tastes of plum. Maybe Jamaican coconuts … hahaha, anyway. No not really. No coconut. That reference was for something else. The tropical taste was there, the … melons, let’s say, are very apparent. There are a few readers who will dig that reference. (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more …).
Its got a medium body, but feels heavier. High alcohol, I’m guessing. It is incredibly sweet and a little tart. Just like a good wife….
Almost like a Reisling? Hmm. Well, it is a barley wine, so that’s cool.
A B3 patron was cognizant enough to have a sample of the 2016 gold medal winning beer on hand. There are not enough thanks we can give this craft beer enthusiast. Here is the comparison:
The 2016 gold medal beer is vastly superior. Fine. Not vastly. Just mostly. It has a splendiferous malty and bready body, clean and precise at the edges like a dense Dostoyevsky novel. Gorgeous and intimidating. Age gives it a brilliant attenuation and a cleaner, crisper taste. There are no hops apparent in the nose or the body. The Mosaic hops softens the character of the 2017 batch. That is not in any way derogatory. After a year of aging, this new batch could easily outshine the 2016 version.
The Conclusion of the Matter …
Wow, what to say about this beer. According to BJCP guidelines for English Barley Wines, the aroma should be “very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel- like aroma in darker versions or a light toffee character in paler versions. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dark or dried fruit character, particularly in dark versions.” This isn’t really a dark barley wine; however, those elements are present. Vinous and complex alcohol flavors definitely present themselves. American barley wines should have hop flavor and bitterness. This one has just the flavor. It does possess a well integrated alcohol presence. It also has the alcohol warmth and chewy complexity of a British Strong Ale and the raisin/apple smell and taste of a Belgian dubbel.
Schritter has again produced a beer that is just what it should be, yet something it shouldn’t be. If this beer were a book, it would be a Lovecraftian work, a libation of expectation and madness and something you know has completely altered your palate.
I’ve got to give him homebrew cred, too. He realized in the midst of brewing that he did not have the hops he wanted. But there was no going back; the beer had to be made, had to have hops. He improvised. The Mosaic hops were on hand and in the quantity he needed. How many times does that happen to us as homebrewers? You’ve just got to work with what you have. And how often does that brewing crisis lead to a beautiful beer? Most of the time! And that’s the case here. The universe wants good beer, y’all! Deny it not.
If it were a book it would be, if not Lovecraft, Cloud Atlas …
If it were a movie it would be Inception …
I’m still not a fan of the beer’s name. It’s cadence just doesn’t work for me. And I still hold to what I said four years ago. This beer has no “attitude” in the arrogant, supercilious sense. It is dignified and sure of itself. That is so much cooler. It is what it wants to be, which is not what you think it should be. Very well done.