Saturday, May 7, 2011

Allagash Curieux 2009 Review

Brewery: Allagash Brewing Co. | Beer: Curieux 2009
Style: Tripel | ABV: 11.0% | IBUs: Unknown
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Allagash CurieuxWe had a bit of sad news here in Texas recently when Allagash announced they were pulling out of bunch of states, including ours. I've only had one Allagash brew so far (maybe that's why they're leaving!), so I figured  I should post up the review as a farewell. The good news is, it's a hell of a beer.

First, a little overview of Allagash. Founded in Portland, Maine in 1994 by Rob Tod as a fifteen barrel brewery with one beer, Allagash has come a long way, establishing itself as one of America's top Belgian-style breweries. They now brew a stable of regular beers, along with a long list of specialities, all of them bottle conditioned. Losing them from the Texas market stings, but I guess if you snooze, you lose.

In 2004, Allagash launched their Barrel Aged series with Curieux, a big Tripel aged for eight weeks in Jim Beam barrels. The brewery claims the beer picks up notes of soft coconut and vanilla along with the bourbon. Sounds like a perfectly planned beer, right? Turns out, that's not exactly the case.

According to Tod, as recounted in a post Washington City Paper, it originally sprang from a bottle shortage. A batch of Tripel was ready for bottling, but unfortunately the bottles were held up in customs. Instead of dumping the beer, they decided to age the beer in some Jim Beam barrels that had recently arrived. While they didn't have high hopes at first, the resulting beer was good enough to keep making, eventually kicking off the Barrel Aged series.

Let's satisfy out curieux-sities and jump in, eh?

Appearance: A bright and hazy golden-orange body capped by over two fingers of fluffy near-white head that features good retention and decent lacing.

Aroma: All of the usual citrus and spice notes you'd expect from a Tripel mixed with plenty of booze around the edges and some vanilla and whiskey notes presumably imparted during the barrel aging process.

Taste: It's fruity, spicy, and bready like most Tripels, but there's far more complexity to come. You certainly don't have to look far to find plenty of oak and whiskey notes, unlike some barrel-aged beers I've tried. That eleven percent alcohol is present throughout and adds plenty of additional spiciness, but never seems out of place. Booze, whiskey, and vanilla come together in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and creamy with smooth carbonation. There's a few hints of burn from the alcohol profile, but it's all rather deceptively smooth. Dries up in the finish.

Drinkability: A beer crafted for savoring, to be sure.

Verdict: Curieux is quite a special beer; it's essentially a damn good Tripel accompanied (not dominated) by complex barrel and alcohol character. If I had the funds, I'd secure some bottles for cellaring, as I'm sure this just gets better with age.

Grade: A

Note: While the review above is being posted in 2011, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2009.

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