A Totally Jekyll & Hyde Beer Moment

I posted a fairly glowing review a few weeks ago about Smuttynose Imperial Stout.  I was impressed with it’s rich, smoky flavor and its in-your-face hop profile.  But then something happened last night that totally changed my thoughts on this beer – I had another one.

It was the same beer at the same location, probably even poured into the same glass.  But my take on it was totally different.  The aggressive hop profile that I appreciated before now seemed to dominate the beer from nose to finish, and the roasted flavor I had enjoyed seemed a little thin and wooden this time around.

I know it’s not the beer –  it’s me.  And it reminds me just how much my expectations and appetite affect what I taste.  

I wasn’t expecting much the first time I had this beer, with its modest label and sub $6.00 price, and so it over-delivered.  But my expectations were higher last night, because I remembered being impressed with it.  It had gained a spot in the “Good Stout” section of the beer shelf in my brain.

And I was in the mood for a “Good Stout” last night, as I like to have a bomber of good sipping beer as I watch Mad Men in the man cave on Sunday nights.  This is when beers like Southern Tier’s Mokah and New Holland’s barrel-aged Dragons Milk ale really shine, with their rich, sweet flavors that continue to deepen as they slowly warm.

The Smuttynose Imperial Stout didn’t fare well in these conditions, as its hoppiness took over as it warmed, throwing the beer out of balance and pushing it out of my “sipping” territory altogether.  Not to say that it’s a bad beer (not even close), but it turns out that it’s a beer I have to be in the mood for or else I’m not going to enjoy it.

And that’s what I learned last night.  There are some beers like Founder’s Cerise, the afore mentioned Dragon’s Milk, Trappistes Rochefort 8, and a handful of others that I know I will enjoy regardless of the circumstances under which I drink them.

But those beers that can transcend mood (or even create a mood) are rare, and most beers are dependent on what my tastes buds are looking for at that given moment.  If I’m in the mood for it, I’ll love it, if not, I won’t.

Apparently I need to move Smuttynose Imperial Stout from the “Good Stout” section of my brain to the “Good Stout When You’re In The Mood For A Hop Blast” section, where it’ll sit alongside my wife’s beloved Victory’s Storm King.

Both are great choices when you’ve got a taste for them, but I wouldn’t invite either of them to curl up with me while I watch Don Draper’s life slowly unravel.

So is it just me? Have you ever had a Jekyll and Hyde experience with a beer you loved or hated the first time you had it, and then had a completely different take on it the second time?

Or am I just precious?

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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19 Comments on “A Totally Jekyll & Hyde Beer Moment”

  1. Don
    August 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    Good point Jim! I have had a jekyl and Hyde moment with none other than 21st amendment’s Monks Blood. Their wonderful raisiny, fruity, malty, woody ale I love so much. I wonder if sometimes it isn’t the beer itself, or various bottlings (or in the case of Monk’s Blood cannings) or if it is my taste buds are sometimes more receptive to some flavors and less so to others. Monk’s Blood is a very complex beer with lots of stuff going on, so there might be times that my taster is picking up on one thing and not another. But this has been that Jeckyl and Hyde brew for me.

    • August 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

      Same thing happened to me. I loved Monk’s Blood the first time I had it and then was a little let down the second time. Maybe it was my mood or the novelty of the can wearing off. I dunno.

  2. Rob Crozier
    August 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    I had a Hyde and Jekyll experience whereas the first time I tried Flying Fish Exit 16 I hated it and poured it out. Second time was a different story and I loved it. I will admit there are beers that I’ve tried and come to the conclusion that no matter how many times I would have it, I wouldn’t like it so I don’t give it that second chance. I guess there should be a three try rule for some beers where two out of three successful tastes make it.

    • August 30, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

      I like to try everything twice before I decide I really don’t like it. I tried Duchesse de Bourgogne twice and it didn’t click, so I probably won’t try it a third unless someone puts it in front of me.

  3. Rob Crozier
    August 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Agreed, if a beer does not pass the 2 taste test then it definitely doesn’t get a third try.

    • August 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

      Two strikes and you’re out – we’re hardcore!!

  4. August 30, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    I used to LOVE Bell’s Oberon. It was a top-five beer for me. Then one year rolled around, and I had it… and it was mediocre. I had it several times over the next few weeks to be sure, but it was a different beer. I think. My theory is that it was after the hops shortage, when lots of breweries changed their recipes. Or maybe they ratcheted up production and gave up some life for better quality control and more widely palatable taste. Or maybe I changed. I have no idea. But I’ve never liked it since, even though I remain a fan of other Bell’s beers.

    • August 30, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

      Maybe that’s why Oberon didn’t live up to the hype I’d heard when I finally got a taste. I thought it was pretty average.

  5. August 30, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    I’d say you are definitely precious! 🙂

    • August 31, 2010 at 11:26 am #

      I was waiting all day for someone to hit that softball, Scott.

  6. Scott
    August 31, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    First thing that comes to mind for me is Oak Aged Yeti. I loved it the first time i had it and then took a bottle up to my dads since he has the KBS hook up and had to appologize for how bad it was. It went from a wonderfull stout to a soy saucy mess.

    • Don
      August 31, 2010 at 10:38 am #

      Maybe you got a bad bottle, or perhaps the absolute awesomeness of KBS just made it pale by comparison?

    • August 31, 2010 at 11:29 am #

      I loved KBS when I first had it – thought it was amazing. I put one of the bottles away for a while and opened it the other night. It wasn’t as magical as I remembered. Very good, but not mind blowing. I’m not sure I was in the mood for it.

      Point is most every beer is going to benefit or suffer from the context in which it was consumed – that’s probably what happened with the Yeti. I love those beers and rarely pass them up. I think I have a chocolate oak aged at home, unless my wife drank it. She does that.

  7. August 31, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    How about a Hyde and Jeckyll experience? First time I had ‘The Poet’ from New Holland I was stunned how bad it seemed. I had another bottle about 6 months later and thought it was outstanding (or at least pretty-good). I suppose I’ll try it again in the future to see if it gets put on my good list or yucky list.

    • August 31, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

      Maybe I should give it another go, too, then Scott. I had the same experience as you did the first time – not all that great. maybe it has improved?

      • Don
        August 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

        I think that sometimes there are breweries that are somewhat inconsistent in their QC and we nerds pick up on that. At least I think that happens, but what the hell do I know…

  8. August 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    I did for me, but it was like two completely different beers. Could have been age, or thinking back, the mushrooms I ate in the park that day ended up giving all the food I ate a weird flavor.

    • August 31, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

      Was the first bottle talking? Because that’s a sign that the mushrooms might have swayed your judgment.

  9. August 31, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    It was, but I think it was speaking in Armenian which I don’t understand so I didn’t consider it an issue until now. Anyway, voices or not, there was a BIG difference. Actually, had someone not given me the second (non-talking) bottle, I would have never tried The Poet again. Now, its up for consideration.

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