I just started to become really interested in craft breweries about two years ago. I was always interested in different beer. I pretty much never bought anything I recognized at the bar, and I even started collecting labels to try to remember what I had consumed. About the same time a lot of this was going on, DC was hit with the biggest/longest week of snow it had experienced in years. As a teacher, I was out of school for an entire week. Thankfully, I am able to walk to various bars and restaurants from my house. So, one day we walked down to an amazing sub shop a few blocks away. There I found and purchased my first six-pack of 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA. I was kind of shocked to see such an interesting beer at this hoagie shop, and because we were basically snowed in, I felt the need to pick it up.
As of right now, I have two different beers from 21st in my fridge. Monk’s Blood is billed as their Belgian Dark Ale. The site states that the brewers actually traveled to Belgium to research and develop the recipe for this beer. They state that it pairs well with rich winter stews, so even though it may not be really easy to find right now, I think you can kinda call this a somewhat wintry brew. The other can I have is their actual winter beer: Fireside Chat. Their site states that this beer is a like kick in the butt and a hug at the same time. This one has various different spices included in the brewing process; however, they really don’t go into great detail on what those other spices are. Either way, having previously enjoyed the other beers I’ve had from 21st, I was very excited to delve into these two.
Both beers have a really dark color to them, and in the proper light, i would say that they both have some red coloring in there. Although Monk’s Blood is clearly more red than Fireside. They both have a pretty hazy quality to it; however, Fireside is actually harder to see through in general. Thanks to my new Victory Brewing glass, I was back to being able to see the head that developed on top of the beer. Both of them had an ample amount of head and a really nice amount of lacing on the side as well. I know that a lot of people have a fear of canned beers. The restaurant I work at is proof of that. They only have beers in can and on tap. One of those actually is 21st Amendment’s Back in Black. It’s amazing how many people immediately go tap when they hear the others are in the can. 21st here proves that you don’t have to fear the can. These beers look as good, if not better, than some other beers in a bottle.
These beers obviously move in completely different directions for smell and taste. Monk Blood is a Belgian style beer. Therefore, it has a lot of rich citrus smells. I was a little surprised to smell so much cherry in here as well; however, I think it may be the blood catalyst. There is some interesting slightly spicy clove smell that you can pull out that I don’t really get out of most Belgian beers. Fireside Chat, on the other hand, has an extremely spicy smell to it. However, this is more like spices from the spice rack and not a rich clove spicy smell. The biggest spices I pull out of it are nutmeg and cinnamon.
Monk’s Blood has a surprising long malty bready intro to it. This leads into an interesting mixture of the citrus and big bold fruit flavors. I really pull out a lot of the cherry, but there seems to be some other deep red fruits there as well. The spicy clove flavoring follows bringing an interesting kick to the entire composition. I really like it actually. It adds a little bit of a different dimension to the normal Belgian.
Fireside Chat has a slightly shorter malt introduction. This leads to an immediate kick of the spices I described in the taste. I pull the nutmeg out the most, but I can tell it is a blend of different spices. I find it interesting how a lot of winter beers taste like a pumpkin beer with the pumpkin pulled out. It fits very nicely in the timeline of beer. Fireside starts to get a little sweet as an ample taste of chocolate enters the equation. I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t notice it on the nose, but it is clearly in the taste. The spices and chocolate blend into a very pleasant aftertaste.
Both of these beers have a nice amount of carbonation that doesn’t overpower the beer. If anything, Fireside’s manages to keep the syrupy nature down, while Monk’s Blood does become slightly syrupy near the end. Both of them end really nicely and keep their flavors lingering on your palate till its complete finish.
I honestly really like both of these beers, and I would be more than happy to pick up a few more at any point in time. It’s tough to choose which beer I like more when it comes down to it; however, I think I have to hand it to Fireside Chat in the end. It’s ability to blend in a very pleasant and warming amount of chocolate really won me over. Plus, I like that there is zero syrupy feel throughout. Monk’s Blood is still a great beer, but I think my choice is Fireside.
Teacher Grade: Fireside Chat : A
Teacher Grade: Monk’s Blood : A-