I have had a push/pull relationship with Alvarado Street. At the outset I felt like they made nothing but safe moves. The haze was unremarkable, the canned stouts were fine, it was a series of grounders for people just getting into craft beer. That’s fine. Bay Area Bottleshop owners had to field wince inducing calls, but the rest of us could go about our lives.
Then they started taking huge swings in crazy areas. Yeast of Eden started putting out absolute consistent fire. They made a smoothie seltzer that should have straight up won the cup. And now we get this absolute insanity: Imperial stout aged in cognac & brandy barrels for 47 months.
This is intensely ambitious and I almost feel like the name itself was cribbed from DDB parlance, but I don’t want to be that gauche. This beer is overwhelmingly complex and was a blast to unpack, peeling the layers back like a grand’s biscuit.
Without any additives, they have presented everything from blackberry tart, to fig jam, prune chocolate fondue and diner grape jelly. The cask as it warms goes from ensemble to full heated monologue, overtaking the overripe fruits, soliloquizing cocoa and almond to the back rafters.
The swallow has intense sheeting not with residual sugar, those have been stretched and tanned over 4 years in a barrel, instead it is waves of fusel heat that break against a bulwark in the back palate providing an odd Godiva dipped date. It is “she doing too much” in the best way.
I love that a beer like this, hypercasked into absurdity will inevitably draw comments of “too hot, needs age to mellow” “this will be better in a couple years” thereby undercutting the project itself. It’s like watching a Charlie Kaufman film and being like “Synecdoche New York tries too hard.”
Breweries actively are punished for taking these risks, incurring these costs, and there aren’t enough DDB dipshits yet to affirm this grand undertaking. This is that Pugachev 25year anniversary, that HOTD spirit, and I am here for it.
This is uncompromising and sacrifices nothing to secure its funding. If you enjoy brewer-as-auteur projects unfettered by front of house or marketing, this is the amazing/bonkers result.