This blog will kick off a five part series throughout 2010 to compare the 2009 versions of Saint Arnold Seasonal Beers to the 2010 version. The Ferm is a decent fan of Saint Arnold, except for some notable dissensions for the Divine Reserve.

For some reason a good 15 months ago, I decided to save one bottle of each of the Saint Arnold Seasonals. I thought maybe there would be one time the next year when I really wanted one of the off season variety. Well, it ends up being, as Sir Ron has published, with one and only one, you end up holding back for that really really special occasion which never comes.

So as I got up to one of each, the question became. What next? Do I save a second of each? For Spring yes (actually two from this year for three total). Wait, I have an idea. I wonder if I (a very amateur beer taster) could tell the difference between brews of a different year? We're talking same brewer, same style, different vintage. Probably not. I've tried a couple of taste tests before (Kona vs. St. A. Lawnmower, Red wine with and without the Vinturi). Very mixed results. Some would call them "within the statistical mean". But what the hey, I've got a few St. Arnold Spring Bocks to burn.

So the test was set up like the two above. Two identical small beer taster glasses on a coaster with a mark under each to differentiate. Gameday temperature was 50 degrees (the temp of my aging beer fridge, but unlike most, I actually do like beer a little warmer than ice cold). FWIW, St. Arnold recommends 40 degrees for the Spring Bock. A tasteless wheat cracker to be consumed between all sips. Best of 7 series, World Series, Stanley Cup style. The beers are rotated left and right in circles so many times I lose track.

Round 1: The Bock is a pretty flavorful beer ("robust, deeply flavored lager" according to the website link above), I feel like my taste buds are more or less just woken up by the flavor but not really tuned in yet. I probably like the second sip better, seemed to have a bit more flavor which I like. Turned out that was the 2009. Okay, 2009 takes a 1-0 lead.

Round 2: I take both sips. Whoops, I forgot the cracker in between. What to do? Well, the first tasted more flavorful (but maybe the second was on it's coattails and blended in). It's 2009. A contingency point is awarded, if it is within one at the end, we'll re-play it. But for now, 2009 2, 2010 0.

Round 3: Hmmm, this second one really does taste different and better (to me, just more alive with flavor). The other one, good but more toned down. It was 2009 again. A near sweep at 3-0 (contingency still in play).

Rounds 4-5. I've got it now, I can tell a difference. If 2009 was first, I knew right away. If it was second, I would think "hmmm, that might be it" then take the second and say "nope, it's #2".

I play through all 7 rounds for sport now. Hit the 2009 7/7. I mean that's me, I like more flavor. I have a feeling I could have picked it 100 times in a row if a) I didn't lose mental focus and b) I didn't pass out.

Of all the taste tests I've done, this one was the first where I knew what I was drinking. I was surprised at the result, but maybe others have noted the flavor difference as well. Maybe the brewer tweaked the recipe. Also consider the year aging, somebody smarter than me can tell me what factor that might have.

I do remember last year I would hit up about one 2009 Spring and think "I need to move on". Maybe my taste buds were saturated or something. This year, I could go two deep before lightening up. I had thought it my taste buds that had changed (which happens frequently, sometimes I can't stand IPA's, sometimes I can't get enough of them).

Interesting, the next four contests (Summer Pils, Oktoberfest, Christmas, and Winter) will be from two different brewery locations. I like waiting until out of season to do these, just to enjoy the flavor when I can't get it at the store any more.

And you remember I saved two from this year, one was tested for this, the other 2010 is available for test, or special occasion, whichever comes first!

More to come!

  1. SirRon June 17, 2010 at 7:09 PM  

    Hrrmmmmm. What to do with that "notable dissension" post. I wrote it from an honest perspective, even if it was a little sensationalist.

    FWIW, I've loved the 2 DR's that were released after I wrote that.

    Pertaining to this post...I am a big fan of them at 1 y/o.

    Pertaining to your new blog post series... FTW!!

  2. Anonymous June 18, 2010 at 9:06 AM  

    In any beer hops will fade with time, so I'd expect any beer you aged for a year to be maltier. In the case of the Bock, maltier is actually the flavor profile you want. You're just lucky you didn't have one of the years where they went sour after a while! LOL!

  3. K Dub June 18, 2010 at 7:13 PM  

    Interesting article Jay R, what a great idea. I've got a few Spring Bocks from 2009 and 2010, perhaps I need to do the same taste side by side. I do NOT however have any Summer Pils from any previous year, no self control, they don't last much longer than a couple of weeks.

  4. J.R. Ewing June 18, 2010 at 7:23 PM  

    @anonymous - Interesting, yes, glad nothing turned sour!

    @K_dub - Give it a shot!

  5. SirRon June 19, 2010 at 9:19 AM  

    I suggest JR be referred to as Jay-R from now on... it's a modern twist. Holla y'all!

  6. Anonymous June 20, 2010 at 4:45 PM  

    I would expect the Summer Pils tasting would favor 2010, since by style, it should be better "fresh." Then again, you never know.

    I too hold back a few seasonals and have gotten into the habit of writing the year on each bottle.

  7. J.R. Ewing June 20, 2010 at 5:22 PM  

    Jamoosh, I think I'd have to agree, like you said, given the style, the fresher the better.

    Will probably run that test in September once the Pils start running short.

  8. K Dub June 22, 2010 at 9:25 PM  

    I'm drinking a Divine Reserve #7 right now, Russian Imperial Stout for those who don't know. Almost three years old, pretty good I must say, nice sherry notes behind the roast and chocolate.