Beer Review: Redhook Calls “Dibs” with 8-4-1 Expedition Ale
“Jinx. Shotgun. Dibs.” The mere whisper of any of those words should echo of the unwritten, but ruthlessly enforced rules of childhood. Imagine yourself, age 11, hanging out with a group of your buddies where seating is limited. Little Johnny gets up leaving a prime couch spot vacant, but just as you begin to sprint towards the couch the words “seat check” exit his mouth in bullet-time slow-mo. You have two options: A) adhere to the childhood code of conduct and remain on the pink plastic tea-party chair you’ve been holding down; or B) Take little Johnny’s seat in spite of “seat check” and brace for nothing short of a modern-day stoning.
Much to my delight on Friday afternoon I found an inconspicuous UPS package awaiting me on my front porch. Inside I found two artifacts that would have Nic Cage teary-eyed at the end of another National Treasure; 650 ML of Redhook Ale Brewery’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale and the accompanying “Limited Release” glassware.
“Dibs.” Yupp, Redhook just called “Dibs” for the next open slot on the Beer Epiphany review waiting list by sending me the most awesome package I’ve ever received via the man in brown. Southern Tier’s Raspberry Porter and Schmaltz Jewbelation 13 are going to have to wait a few days to grace the Beer Epiphany homepage. Redhook has dibs. Free beer will do that, ya know.
Redhook’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is their latest “Limited Release” brew and came to my doorstep snuggly wrapped in foam. The bottle is a gorgeous 650 ML capped container with an all-business, no-artwork label. With only three (3) Ratebeer.com reviews and a no-show at Beer Advocate I feel quite privileged to be sharing my experience with my loyal readers before most others. According to Redhook, 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is:
Hand crafted by 8 brewers working in 4 teams, this Imperial Brown Ale was developed from their individual recipes carefully blended into one distinctive ale. Rich and flavorful, brewed with cherry-wood smoked malts and brown sugar.
Beer: 8-4-1 Expedition Ale
Brewer: Redhook Ale Brewery, Woodinville, WA
Style: American Strong Ale (American-Style Strong Brown, Imperial Brown)
Serving: 650ml bottle pour into Redhook “Limited Release” stemmed glass
Suggested Pairings: Smoked gouda, aged cheddar
Notes: Oak Aged, brewed with honey
8-4-1 enters my Redhook stemmed glass as a clear, bright, red. The head on top is off-white and rocky at first, but the settles into a thin layer protecting the aroma. Lacing is minimal. Speaking of appearance I must also note that this bottle is giving Brooklyn Local 1 a run in the “prettiest bottle” award category. The signature glass is nothing to scoff at either. This is coming from an avid bottle and glassware collector.
Into my nostrils comes a delicate bouquet of floral hops, candied fruit, brown sugar, and caramel malts. I’m also picking up on traces of caramelized sugar and apples. A strong alcohol character asserts itself proudly amongst it’s aromatic brethren. Both the malt and hops are quite emphatic as well. This is probably due to the multiple recipes blended into one brew.
Enough foreplay. It’s time to drink. Being marketed as an American-Style Strong Brown Ale I’m not quite sure what to expect. Upon first quaff a light malt sweetness breaks away into a steadily growing hop bitterness. The former is composed of a smokey, woody flavor (Redhook marketing suggests is there, but they are telling the truth) and the latter portion is quite more dry and bitter than the 55 IBUs would suggest. The lingering flavor does impart quite a bit of smoked wood flavor and a dash of alcohol. Supposedly there is honey in here somewhere, but I’m not picking up any traces of it.
8-4-1 Expedition Ale is medium bodied, with plenty of alcoholic warmth, and light carbonation. At 9.5% ABV I don’t recommend gulping one’s way through 8-4-1, but instead filling your glass half way a few times and truly savoring the experience. The alcohol will continue to warm your insides as you sip your way through. Also to note, don’t be afraid to let this one reach room temperature. It is quite comfortable there. The finish is very long, and comprised of an earthy, resiny, hop bitterness.
Redhook Ale Brewery’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is exactly what they claim it to be, an American-Style Strong Brown Ale. It has all of an American Brown’s qualities, just intensified. Had Redhook not been gracious enough to ship a bottle of this brew to my doorstep I still have no doubt that I would have jumped at the chance to purchase a bottle in-store or sample draft at a beer bar. This is a beer I would love to split amongst friends and let them experience what beer can be.
Limted Release, Special Edition, and all the other “hurry-up-and-get-it-now” monikers don’t always mean good beer awaits. However, I certainly won’t be sharing my last bottle of 2006 5-year aged Goose Island Bourbon County Stout with just anyone on July 12, 2011 (that’s a full 5 years to the day. I’m way excited). What I’m saying is it takes a special crowd to appreciate truly unique brews. Wits, browns, even IPAs nowadays are appealing to the masses, but there are still plenty of beers beers that don’t adhere to typical guidelines. They are too daring, unique, and brave to be subjected to rigid rules and regulation. These brews are ready to bust out and conquer the world. Not everyone will enjoy them, but they are just that much more enjoyable to those who can. Redhook’s 8-4-1 Expedition Ale is one of these brews. It’s bold bitterness and balancing smoked malt are just right for a more enlightened crowd. In short, if someone hasn’t heard of craft beer then they won’t be getting my share of 8-4-1, but I’ve got a few other micros to throw their way and open their eyes.