Various condensed (some more than others) thoughts from this weekend's many enjoyable hours spent at DC's excellent craft beer bar, Churchkey.
First, a case study in comparison...
(Left) Ruination, and (Right) RuinTen
This requires a preface: RuinTen, Stone's reproduction of their 10th Anniversary Ruination is magnificent. But, then again, so was the original Ruination.
Now, on to the fine business of comparing RuinTen with its predecessor.
Of these two Stone hop-bombs, which were sampled side-by-side, Ruination actually offered the preferable aroma. While the scents were similar, RuinTen's otherwise appealing fragrance was marked by a hardly noticeable scallion presence. Though too minor to be off-putting, this flaw was one that Ruination, on the other hand, did not commit.
As anticipated, Ruination and RuinTen shared many aspects of their flavor profiles. And, in disclosure, this review may have been slightly compromised because of the proximity of the tastings; that is, the palate was never truly refreshed while sampling each.
The thicker body definitely belonged to RuinTen. It was much more resinous than Ruination which, of course, is noteworthy, as Ruination, itself, provides ample chewiness.
An unanticipated result: Ruination was the more "bitter" beer of the two. "Bitter" is used here with quotations because it may not be the most applicable adjective. This "bitter" was not like that of, say, dark-roasted coffee, but of a spicy, hop "bite." To profound surprise, this sort of bitterness was more prevalent in Ruination then in RuinTen (surprising, given the gargantuan five pounds of hops used in RuinTen's production).
A unique characteristic of RuinTen not detected in Ruination was a complementary but agreeable tangy note.
It seems a fool's game to attempt to judge these two Stone beers in terms of one over the other. Both being excellent beers, determining which is "better" is probably best left to the preferences of the individual consumer.
Ruination: Highest class of Recommendation. RuinTen: Same; Highest Recommendation.
More from the weekend...
...Despite European creations increasingly becoming TheCraftBeerGuru's preference, a particular Belgian exclusive to Churchkey, "Paulus" (Brouwerij Van Eecke / Brouwerij Het Sas) failed to meet expectations. Paulus had attributes seemingly consistent of a sour beer, though not being quite sour enough. Waves from the big vinous aroma hit the mark, but the lack of intensity in flavor left Paulus tasting, in a word, "bland."
Paulus: Skip in favor of better versions of the Flemish Oud Bruin style.
A beer experienced often, Flying Dog's Snake Dog, has never been as lively as it was at Churchkey, as there, it was served, slow-poured, from the cask. The aroma benefited most from such conditioning. That pungent aroma, the highlight of Snake Dog, was an absolute coniferous blast. Unfortunately, the bold, welcoming pine trait was much more subdued in Snake Dog's flavor profile rendering the overall quality of the beer as merely adequate.
Snake Dog: Mildly recommended.
The Carlsberg Carnegie Stark Porter, also drawn from the cask (and upon a trusted server's recommendation) did, on the other hand, deliver. A tremendous Baltic Porter here. This was an absolutely tasty beverage ripe with the flavor of dark currants. Hints of something mildly charred added to the body and character, increasing this beer's delicious, slightly smokey, but richly roasted nature.
Carnegie Stark Porter: Highly Recommended.
The St. Idesbald Blond (Brouwerij Huyghe) may have overachieved due to the order in which it was drank relative to the other beers during the session. This light, refreshing offering from the makers of the perhaps more familiar Delirium Tremens provided a welcomed alternative to the massively hopped and/or boldly malted brews that preceded it. St. Idesbald's aroma was surprisingly vigorous with an earthiness that reminded of pleasing firewood. The body was light, enhancing the beer's utterly enjoyable crispness.
St. Idesbald Blond: Strong Recommendation.
Of Saturday's fine libations, one of the most enjoyable (and certainly among the most memorable) was the ruby red Boon Kriek that exquisitely toed the threshold of tolerable sweetness.
Boon Kriek: Recommended (but only for fans of the fruit Lambic style)
As for Churchkey itself, as with most experiences there, the beer list proved impressive but second in satisfaction to the remarkably welcoming nature of the staff. And no praise is too excessive for a watering hole that employs those familiar with the concept of the "shower beer."
Churchkey: Highest class of recommendation.
Thanks for soaking up the drippings of a beer-logged mind. Cheers!