Mar 29, 2010

Karl Strauss 21st Anniversary Ale

Karl Strauss 21st Anniversary Ale

Note: this is a review of a promotional bottle I received from the brewery.

After reading the press release of the latest anniversary brew from Karl Strauss that was posted on this site a couple of weeks ago, I was both excited as hell and nervous. The brewery’s 21st anniversary is being marked with a Belgian Strong Dark Ale that’s been brewed with the juice of old vine Zinfandel grapes and then aged for a short time with American oak.

The complexities of that description definitely come through in every aspect of the beer, yet my worst fear (drinking grape juice) was all for not. The Zinfandel grapes are certainly found within the layers of this brew, but they act in a more complimentary role than as the star of the show.


The latest offering from Karl Strauss pours reddish in color with a small amount of head that faded to a thin lacing.


The beer has quite an interesting nose. There’s definitely some grape in there mixed with a waft of Belgian yeast and a decent malt backbone. I’m not sure if it’s from the yeast or the grapes, but there’s a bit of pepper on the nose, as well. It smells fairly rich.


My notes for this one simply start off with “very interesting.” The blend of the old vine Zinfandel grape juice and the beer elements make for a unique and rather complex taste. There are hints of plum and a little raisin working well with the caramel malt and a slight oakiness from the short aging process. The addition of champagne yeast late in the brewing process also has a nice effect on a mouthfeel that seems to start out smooth and then gets more active as it passes over the tongue. The beer has got a subtle sweetness, hop tartness in the finish, a peppery bite and a decent bit of heat from the 10.2% ABV.


I’ll be honest. I was afraid of this beer. I was worried that this one was going to turn out too sweet, overloaded with too much grape. As I’ve worked with Karl Strauss over the past year or so, it’s finally becoming more and more apparent that these guys know what the hell they’re doing — brewing well balanced, creative beer. Their latest anniversary brew is not exception.

Rating: 4/5

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