Monday, January 31, 2011

A Researcher, an Engineer, and a Blind Russian Walk Into a Bar...

Actually, the researcher is me. The engineer is Jerry Hartley. And the bar is Jerry's:

And the Blind Russian? Actually, Russians. Imperial Stouts, specifically.

The award-winning restaurant/pub The J Clyde regularly hosts beer dinners, complete with a different beer to match each of the 5 meal courses. If you've never been to one you're missing out!

They also host beer tastings. They're sort of like this...

Except we all kept on our shirts (well, for most of the night. kidding.), and we taste tested Russian Imperial Stouts.

You can read the guidelines for the tasting here. We rated the beers on a 1 to 5 scale (1 = worst; 5 = best). Aroma accounted for 10% of the total score; Appearance (20%); Flavor (60%); and Mouthfeel (10%).

The beers were blinded, meaning each person was given only the number of the beer they were tasting and no other information. The beers came out in a different order for each person at the table.

The first two beers that I tasted were Avery the Czar and Great Divide Yeti (of course I didn't know that at the time).

I have to say, I was underwhelmed by the Czar. But perhaps it was a victim of order effect:

"The relative position of an item may uniquely influence the way in which a person reacts to the item."

(Hey, I warned you I was a researcher! If you really want to geek out on this order effect thing, click here.)

I tried the Czar a couple nights before the tasting and thought it was very good. But compared to the Yeti -- side by side, without knowing what beer was in front of me -- I liked the Yeti much better. In fact, when all was said and done I rated the Yeti #2 overall, giving it mostly 4 out of 5 in most categories.

The second group included Bell’s Expedition, Good People Fatso, and Good People Fatso brewed with the wrong yeast (aged one year).

I was blown away with the Expedition. I scored it mostly 4’s and 5’s. In fact, it was my favorite beer of the night. The GP Fatso rated 3’s and 4’s, but the Fatso brewed with the wrong yeast wasn't even in the same league.

The third group included Moylan Ryan Sullivan, Left Hand Imperial Stout, and Sweetwater Happy Ending.

I wasn’t blown away by any of these beers. The Happy Ending made me happiest, I suppose. But it still only ranked 5th overall (tied with GP Fatso).

The last group included Sam Adams Imperial Stout and Straight to Ale Laika.

I thought both were very good.

When all was said and done my ratings looked like this:

1. Bell’s Expedition
2. Great Divide Yeti
3. Straight to Ale Laika
4. Sweetwater Happy Ending
5. (tie) Good People Fatso and Sam Adams Imperial Stout
7. Left Hand Imperial Stout
8. (tie) Avery The Czar, Moylan Ryan Sullivan, and GP Fatso (wrong yeast)

The official scoring for 25 or so tasters (Fisher -- who Tanya has now knicknamed the "King of Sample Sizes" -- would not approve of such a small N):

Good People Fatso 3.93
Bell's Expedition Stout 3.78
Samuel Adams Imperial Stout 3.73
Great Divide Yeti 3.50
Avery The Czar 3.49
Straight To Ale Laika 3.47
Moylan's Ryan Sullivan's 3.42
Left Hand Imperial Stout 3.27
1 Yr Old Fatso (wrong yeast) 3.25
Sweetwater Happy Ending 3.04

I think I personally lowered Fatso because it came out with the Expedition (which I loved) -- again, that "order effect" thing.

It would have been nice to taste a few others (i.e. Old Rasputin or Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout) to see how they would fair against the competition. But 10 was probably the right amount with the small pours of each we were given. Of course, there is this new research that suggests "a pint a day keeps the doc away". With that in mind, you might want to know that the next J. Clyde tasting should be Double IPAs in April.

P.S. I'm a glutton for punishment, so if you have suggestions for any other Imperial Stouts I should try, please let me know. All in the interest of scientific research, of course!


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