Talk about a blast from the past. I was doing a little bit of cellar reorganization when I noticed my last remaining bottle of Bell's Batch 9000. Thanks to the Bell's ultra-handy batch finder, I was reminded that Batch 9000 was packaged on January 27th, 2010. So yeah, we're looking at a bottle just over three years old. I remember attending the inaugural Brewvival festival in February of 2010 and this beer being a hot commodity. Once inside the gates, many rushed directly to the Bell's tent to make Batch 9000 their first sample of the day. It's hard to blame anybody for hurrying to try a Bell's beer; it's become one of my favorite breweries by putting out consistently good (at worst) beers across a variety of styles, as well as my overall favorite beer (Two Hearted). I reviewed a bottle of this beer back in September 2011 and thought it was still a bit boozy and one dimensional after sitting for ~20 months. How will an extra year and a half treat it? Let's find out.
Brewed by: Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Style: American Strong Ale
Bottle size: 12 oz.
How does it look?
Batch 9000 pours a dark brown color with some reddish highlights when held up to light. A fairly aggressive pour yields maybe a finger of tan foam. It fizzes away after a few minutes, leaving behind a faint cap. Ever looked at Jupiter? That's the general shape of what's going on at the top of this beer. The colors don't match up, but it's an intriguing formation vaguely resembling Jupiter's collection of storms, gases and whatever the hell else happens on that planet. Space. Thin sheets of lacing remain stuck to the glass with each sip. We're off to a good start here.
How does it smell?
18 months ago, I wrote that this beer's aroma was sweet and boozy. And back then, that was all that needed to be said. Having some more time to sit around has really mellowed this beer out. There are still plenty of sweet elements here, like molasses, caramel, vanilla and dark fruits like raisins. There's an interesting black licorice component that I think works well with the bitterness of the roasted malts. And yeah, there's still some heat from the alcohol in the nose, but not nearly as much as before. Where it was front and center before, it's more of a supporting character now.
How does it taste?
Lots of flavors going on here. Molasses and caramel provide a lot of sweetness. Then those dark fruits come in, I'm thinking raisins and plums, to give more sweet flavor. Just when you think this beer is going to be a sugar bomb, in swoop balancing flavors like Dikembe Mutombo in the paint (you know you love it); we're looking at a coffee-like combo of roasted malts and bittersweet chocolate.
How does it feel?
This is where it really gets fun. The pour looked sort of thin, making me think this beer had slimmed down as it got older. Not the case. Batch 9000 has a big, chewy body; the viscosity reminds me of a solid imperial stout. This beer hasn't lost much carbonation over the last ~38 months, as was proven by an audible hiss when I pried off the cap, but there aren't nearly enough bubbles to break up the oil slick that is Batch 9000. And that's exactly how I like it. It's not quite syrupy enough to put on my waffles, but it's close. The finishing bitterness is pleasant, which is good, because this beer completely coats the inside of the mouth.
How does it drink?
This is your classic contemplative sipper. Ever had a beer where you took your first sip and thought, "Man, this could take me hours to finish," but in a good way? That's Batch 9000. It's big. It's complex. And it's so flavorful and interesting that I feel like I'd be doing it a disservice to quickly throw it back. The presence of the 12.5% ABV, a major deterrent during my first experience with this beer, offers nothing more than a warming sensation. This would be a great beer (provided you still have it) to share with some friends, but man, it would be too hard to not be selfish with it. Bell's recently released a bourbon barrel-aged version of Batch 9000 which, just, wow. I don't even know what I'd do with that. But I suppose I'll seek it out. You know, for educational purposes.
Final score: 4.4/5 Pints