Shout out to the folks at Local Option who really know how to put on a first class beer event. Any great beer event starts and ends with great beers. It is taken to another level when you have great hosts as is the case with the Local Option crew. Hats off to them. The beers were quite outstanding.
Anchoring the event was Surly Darkness which, by far, generated the most buzz. It sets the bar for imperial stouts, delivering a seamless blend of coffee, baked bread, and noble hops to the palate. Evil Twin went quite a ways towards rejoining Surly's crown jewel with its Xmas Eve In A New York City Hotel imperial stout. It's a drier affair with a thinner mouthfeel. You can taste coffee grinds in it and it has enough caramel malts to prevent it from finishing overly bitter.
Evil Twin Disco IPA was an interesting entry. It reminded me of Wild Onion's Hop Slayer IPA in that it had a brown color and a ton of grainy hops throughout it. The 10% chardonnay content provided a flinty character to it and maybe a hint of vanilla. Nice touches there. The other hoppy affair of note was Victory's Yakima Glory, a brown IPA. It's much darker than the Disco but when candled reveals a reddish brown color. It has a funky malty and piney smell to it, and tastes initially of malt, only to wallop the drinker with an overload of rugged pine hops, finishing dirty and resiny.
Founders Backwoods bastard was a steady entry and reaffirmed the Michigan brewer's do-no-wrong status. Unlike Tyranena's Rocky's Revenge, Founders gets it right: the right amounts of bourbon and carbonation rescue it from being a bourbon and malt affair, and the dirty caramel from the underlying Scotch ale gives it a hint of rugged complexity. Of course, The Lost Abbey's Angel's share was terrific. It stood out as creamier and boozier than in the past, but all the rich, syrupy flavors blended in unison.
Among the misses was Mikkeller's Texas Ranger stout, a chipotle stout. The chiles overpower what would have been the more subtle stout flavors spoiling its wonderfully rich, velvety body. This would have blended flawlessly with barbeque but is off-putting on its own. Also, Dark Horse's Four Elf (2010) stout had a thinner than expected body and a boatload of lactose sugar that gave it a milky, acidic finish.