I was shut out of this year's StoutFest at Goose Island so I decided to have my own. The evening was split into a couple of phases -- Dark Lord '08-'11 and then a blind tasting of some random bottles I had. The Bramble Rye was served with a chocolate stout cake at the end of the evening.
With the Dark Lord, the '09 and '10 were the clear favorites. The '11 had a really pronounced coffee flavor that I wasn't expecting (it was a nice surprise). Either the '08 was a bad bottle or maybe I aged it improperly - or maybe it just turned bad due to age - but it was a drainpour for me. Sour, acidic and just really unpleasant.
With the blind tasting, the Eclipse came out on top, though one rater radically changed her judging criteria halfway through the tasting, possibly skewing scores. With the Eclipse (Elijah Craig 12yr, fyi), no single flavor really jumped out at us but it just had an overall enjoyable aroma, flavor and body. A case where the sum was greater than its individual parts, you could say. The 2010 Night Stalker came up next - a little oxidization that faded quickly enough, leaving a really nicely structured, big stout. No longer a huge hop presence. The Peruvian Morning really suffered when next to all of these others -- I had a couple of bottles before and enjoyed it well enough, but when stacked up with these others, it's thin body and weak finish no doubt contributed to its last place ranking. The End Of Days was really interesting - a chili beer where the spiciness was really, really noticeable. I'll be curious to try their next batch, which I believe is due to come in at a slightly higher ABV (8% vs. the 6.5% in this release).
The Bramble Rye was divisive. I didn't get that traditional aroma I associated with Bourbon County and the taste was all fruit. It tasted like liquid raspberry jam. I didn't get any rye flavor on the palate, either -- I think the fruit really overwhelmed everything else. Again, it paired nicely with the dense chocolate cake but I would be hard-pressed to enjoy a glass of it by itself (and the ~4oz. I had with the cake was plenty).