I have been slowly collecting things for some time. Different things at different times because different times require different things. As a child it was action figures, then baseball cards, and after that it was comics books. As of now, of those things, I have only the comic books and those are at my Mom's house slowly depreciating in value like an investment made as a child should.
Music and books without pictures soon took over the secret spaces and shelves of my childhood and these things have stuck with me, following me around in milk crates and over-packed boxes, constantly growing, constantly requiring more secret spaces and shelving. In the room I'm sitting in now, there is a closet and in that closet is a small, crooked bookshelf. Beyond the fact that the bookshelf is old and crooked and generally visually unnerving when its crookedness is out among and next to the perpendicularity of everything else, this bookshelf is in the closet because I just have a thing for putting bookshelves in closets.
In front of this crooked bookshelf, in the closet, is Wife's wedding dress -- a light, cotton, white sundress – hanging under plastic in front of the books that I just can't seem to pack away in an attic box. On the bottom shelf sits my copy of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Next to it used to sit Dylan Thomas' Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, but I loaned it to someone, forgot who, and never got it back – which is a shame, because I read it constantly in college and loved it.
I first read Joyce's Portrait on trip to visit friends in Los Angeles after graduating from college. The friends I was visiting had another friend visiting from somewhere else and she was generally shocked that I read books or really that anyone read books, especially such a book with as pretentious of a title as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. She was a realist from New Jersey, which I found just as shocking. So while our mutual friends were at their day jobs, we would go to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and she would talk and I would act aloof.
I became homesick faster than I figured, said my goodbyes, and returned to the East Coast. Flying into Philadelphia, seeing the lights of the whatever treatment plants along I-95, I was overcome with a feeling of joy and my heart felt full and whole. It felt like home and for the first time in a long time it was good to be somewhere.
At the Philadelphia Airport, my mother greeted me at the gate with a hug and then asked when the last time was that I washed my jeans. And why I hadn't shaved. Then she told me I looked like a bum. She may have said I smelled like fish. And then she asked if I had a good time and how much I had to drink on the flight. She asked if I was hungry and if I had a coat, because I would need one, she said, because there wasn't going to be California weather happening outside. She informed me there would be Pennsylvania weather outside and that she had made cookies. I found both pieces of information very reassuring.
It was good to be home.
I had a similar feeling recently, the night before Thanksgiving, when I drank too much beer and got overly sentimental with people I hadn't seen in awhile. I expressed that feeling by asking an old friend if he kept anything in the left breast pocket of his jacket. I advised him that if he did he should empty it because I was going to crawl inside it and live there so that we would never have to be apart again. As I reached for the zipper of the pocket he smacked my hand away.
I asked if maybe we should just hug.
He said no.
I hugged him anyway and whispered in his ear that we should get the band back together.
Recently, I put together a set of shelves for my basement – not for music or books – but for tools and beer, my two latest collections. The shelves took me no less then two separate weekends to assemble and make sturdy and involved no less than three thousand screws, four knuckle scrapes, two different hammers, a block of wood, and a paperclip that I fashioned into the world's smallest screwdriver.
Over the past year I have been slowly hoarding Imperial Stouts to prepare for the winter time, in hopes of not having to actually leave my house on cold weekends, ever. As I went though the slow process of purchasing different stouts and placing them on my shelf, I started to think of them in pairs. Honestly, I started to think of the whole thing as some sort of fight club where my Imperial Stouts would punch each other in head to head tasting battles. I imagined building a small octagon shaped table where I would sit and drink these stouts. I imagined myself coming up from the basement with a bloody lip and a swollen eye and having Wife ask me if I had been sitting at the Octagon again. My shirt would be covered with the dark stains of stouts. I would shout “Freedom!”
As I shopped for beer with these imaginary fights in mind, I started to call them “Stout Bouts.”
Later, I realized that “Stout Bouts” was a stupid name and vowed to never say it again. By “later”, I mean after today.
So, for the inaugural Stout Bout, I chose two Imperial Stouts from Evil Twin Brewing – the Naked Lunch In A Copenhagen Heavenly Resto and the Christmas Eve At A New York City Hotel Room. Obviously, the names are similar, and other than the label stating that they are both Imperial Stouts with 10% ABV, there is little to help you decide which you might want.
For the sake of science, I think it is important that I make you aware of any preconceived notions that I may have had going into the comparison.
I had previously had Naked Lunch. I really liked it. Also, a bottle of Naked Lunch is about twice as much as a bottle of Christmas Eve, at least at my beer store. On our leader boards, Naked Lunch comes in at 0.28 BAR (the 229th Imperial Stout), while Christmas Eve -2.49 BAR (the 307th Imperial Stout). And while I expected both beers to be a bit better than those numbers suggested, especially considering my love affair with a majority of the Evil Twin beers I've had, all the signs were telling me that I would enjoy the Naked Lunch more. However, the Christmas Eve did have a fancier bottle cap.
Evil Twin's Naked Lunch In A Copenhagen Heavenly Resto vs. Evil Twin's Christmas Eve At A New York City Hotel Room
The Christmas Eve is the beer pictured in the photo above. You can see it has a nice tan head happening and that produced some nice lacing as I drank it.
The Naked Lunch looked pretty much the same but without the head. It had a few bubbles happening around the edge but not enough to produce a head or really any lacing.
Christmas Eve wins that round.
Christmas Eve has a roasted yet sweet smell. Like a burnt molasses, but subdued. Or roasted licorice, but again subdued. Hints of dark chocolate and something herbal and alcohol, like the perfume of an old woman that makes good pizza or maybe her shirt if she had done a shot of blackberry schnapps while make said pizza.
Naked Lunch has a more baker's chocolate aroma and less molasses, more bittersweet than sweet, and again – subdued. The licorice smell is there, but takes a back seat. The herbal pizza lady shirt still applies, but she has spilled chocolate milk on it.
Naked Lunch wins. But it is close.
Christmas Eve has a taste that matches the smell, licorice and molasses, but not as sweet as the smell had me expect. The taste also presents some espresso notes I didn't catch in the aroma. There is a candy sugar sweet alcohol element to the flavor, like a blackberry schnapps that goes real well with roasted char flavor of the malt. The bitterness and the booze are both subtle and work well together.
Naked Lunch is more bittersweet chocolate and coffee with less of the licorice and dark fruit sweetness. Similar roasted char flavor of the malt but with more of an oak to it than the schnapps of Christmas Eve. You follow this right? The alcohol is more noticeable from the warmth in my throat than the flavor.
The differences between the two are interesting – very similar flavors but in different orders and amounts. Slight edge to Naked Lunch, as the licorice or anise flavor is more subtle.
Christmas Eve is tiny bubbles and sharp. Gets slick as it warms, but maintains that tiny bubble feel due a bitterness that at times feels like carbonation.
Naked Lunch has the lighter mouthfeel of the two. The bitterness isn't as harsh on the tongue and so it gets a bit more of a creaminess to it because of that, which is really nice. Really it is the light and creamy mouthfeel (by 'light', I mean comparitiviely to the Christmas Eve and other Imperial Stouts) that make this one stand out.
The biggest difference lies in this category and Naked Lunch does something special here.
Both are very good, better than our Leaderboards suggest, and I recommend them both, but the edge definitely goes to Naked Lunch. The balance of flavors and mouthfeel there are something special and unique, especially for how subtle it is considering the ABV.
Turns out, they are the same beer just brewed at different breweries. Christmas Eve is brewed in Connecticut and Naked Lunch is brewed in Holland. Now, I didn't realize that until after I drank them both and I was looking up there scores on Ratebeer, where it noted that Naked Lunch was an alias beer for Christmas Eve. I reached out to Evil Twin on Twitter, and they verified that the recipe was the same but the location was different.
Oh, those gypsy brewers.
They definitely had similarities. But they also had differences, the biggest being the mouthfeel. I wonder if that is possibly from the two different brewing location? Or perhaps it resulted from the Naked Lunch being purchased a few months prior and the aging of it changed things? My best guess is that the aging, while only a few months, may have changed the flavor profile a bit, bringing the chocolate notes more to the forefront of Naked Lunch and the difference in brewery accounting for the difference in mouthfeel.
Actually, my best guess is that the difference in brewery had everything to do with it.
Finally, it is entirely possible that I focused on differences when comparing them and in fact they were much more similar than I perceived.
Same beer, different brewery. Huh.
Also, I need a snifter.
Follow J. R. Shirt on Twitter @beeronmyshirt.