My dad’s a budding beer geek who tends to get stuck on one beer that he really likes and doesn’t experiment much with unknown flavors and concepts. Currently he’s infatuated with Flying Fish Brewery’s short-lived Imperial Espresso Porter, which was originally a limited run released in January ’07 but due to overwhelming demand they did another run of it in ’08. He snapped up two cases (and would have gotten more but demand was even higher the second time around) and hasn’t really tried any new beers for the past year or so.

Harpoon RauchfetzenThe aforementioned father was in my town this past weekend to hang out for a few days before he heads off to the sun-drenched beaches of Maui for a month or two. Rough life. Saturday morning we went to Harpoon Brewery’s noon tasting to check out what they had on tap. They had their full usual range, as well as their current seasonal (Winter Warmer – quite possibly my favorite holiday beer – brewed with cinnamon and nutmeg) and a few special beers. I am here today to share with you those special beers.

Harpoon has a special series where they let one of their brewers have full run of the brewery for a single one-hundred barrel batch that will only be brewed the once. It’s their place for experimenting with unusual styles without having to have a reason. It’s called (appropriately) the 100 Barrel Series. The current beer is the one pictured with this post called Rauchfetzen, which we were told translates roughly to Wisp of Smoke. This is the best smoke-beer I’ve had outside of Bavaria, Germany. The version they had on tap was slightly less smokey than the version in the bottles I subsequently picked up, and had more subtlety to it, but the bottled version is still quite good. Definitely grab a bottle of this if you see it in a store, my wife and I had it last night along side our favorite BBQ (Redbones for the locals) and it went amazingly well. Of course pairing beer with BBQ is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, but still. At the tasting they also had a cask version of this that had been dry-hopped – which was one of my favorite beers in quite some time – but I won’t go on at length about it since it’s only available locally. If you can get a taste of this, do not hesitate!

They also started brewing a new series recently called Leviathan, and the second of the series was on tap at the brewery. This appropriately named series is their monstrously big experimental beers. The first was an Imperial IPA which I heard rave reviews of at the tasting, but had been gone for a few weeks. The new one was a Baltic Porter at 9.5% ABV. It was a very thick, sweet beer that had a bit less roasty flavor than I was expecting. A very solid big, dark beer though.

My father enjoyed himself thoroughly, and tried a bunch of new beers which pushed him in new directions. Did it stick? I don’t know, but I do know that he had fun, asked lots of questions about what he was tasting, and definitely enjoyed the experience. We’ll try it again at a different brewery next time he’s in town.