Drake’s Jolly Rodger….AAARRRRGGHHH!!!!!

Avast ye land lubbers!  Come all, ye salty dogs!  Alright, I have to quit writing in Pirate speak because apparently I am unable to type it without talking it, and my throat is starting to hurt.  Today, once again from the state of California (that will change soon, I promise), I bring you Drake’s Jolly Rodger Imperial Red Ale.  I had a bomber of their 2010 batch, and after some research I noticed that the labels have recently changed.  In fact, it appears as though Drake’s is going through an image change entirely.  Above you can see their current logo.  Not too long ago, their visage gave homage to the ships of yore, and looked more like this:

I like the new look, but I like the old look, too.  I have to be honest, when it comes to visual aesthetics, I am not anywhere near the pack of the common US consumer.  I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on the label or the look of the bottle/can/case/etc.  I am solely concerned with the product inside.  If you hand me a bottle of pure liquid ecstasy (in terms of beer…don’t spike my drinks with E), I will always enjoy that beer, regardless of a label picturing 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag, or something equally unsettling.  I’m here for the beer.  That being said, I completely understand I am in the minority in this thinking, and that image is what will get you new customers, which is what businesses need to survive.  Now, with that being said, I think I was here to drink some beer…

I love a Red.  I love Imperials…I mean, more booze, how can you go wrong?  I love Pirates.  Our household celebrates ‘Talk Like  A Pirate Day’ every year in full gusto.  Seeing this beer on the shelf, I couldn’t resist.  The Drake’s Jolly Rodger Imperial Red Ale weighs in at an 8% ABV, which is not all that high in the realm of Imperials, but it is a kick up from your standard Red.  This beer was in a 22 oz bomber, and I would be consuming it from a pint glass.  At this point, if I haven’t mentioned it before, traveling limits the glassware, so there might be some times where beer is consumed in glassware that is less than ideal, but that just gives me all the more reason to drink that particular beer again in the future! 

The beer is a lovely dark-coppper color, with a miniscule ring of head.  This is alright with me because Red’s don’t always rock the huge, foamy heads that you get with other styles (i.e. Porters and Stouts).  The smells are of alcohol and hops, and I am thoroughly excited!  I wasn’t really geared up to have a hoppy beer when I pulled this Red off the shelf, thinking more along the lines of caramel malts and sweet overtones, but being a hophead, this revved me up a bit.  Extremely hop forward taste on the middle of the tongue, with a tang and bitterness on the finish that is similar to many fresh-hopped IPAs.  Impressive pull with a red.  The more you drink, the hops continue to overpower, but there is a subtle malty flavor that sneaks in under the major flavors of hops, keeping everything nicely balanced and on an even keel.  The finish is, once again, more typical of a strong IPA than a Red.  It is smooth, and at the same time has a sour/bitter finish.  Easy to drink for a strong beer drinker, but may scare off a newbie just dipping their toes into the craft beer waters.  As far as drinkability, I am on my way to the store to buy more bombers…if I can find someone to drive…

As an added bonus, I am going to throw in another beer on this review.  That’s right folks, it’s a Twofer!!  With a little description, I am sure you will understand why.  Once upon the time the Drake Brewing Company made a beer called….wait for it…Jolly Rodger.  It was a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy style of beer.  The beer has since been retired.  This was all confusing to me at first due to the recent image changes that I previously mentioned, but with a little research it was all figured out.  And of course, with research, one gets thirsty, so let’s look at the retired Jolly Rodger…

In this review I am going to take the liberty of being a bit more short and vague, since the beer is no longer brewed I’m chancing it that most people won’t be able to find it.  But, in case you do, here is my take.  Once again I was pouring from a bomber into a pint glass, and this version of the beer presents with a dense, foamy head and a dark, amber/red color.  JR 1.0 has a sweet caramel and molasses smell, with a nice undertone of scotch (hence the name).  This one was playing more to my sweet tooth than JR 2.0 with the hop heavy smells.  Also, I love me some scotch, so I’m looking forward to this predecessor.  The beer carries a rich, malty taste, with hints of fruit in the aftertaste, which caught me off guard a bit.  I couldn’t really pinpoint the fruits, but the flavors were very similar to some barleywines.  This pirate was very drinkable in moderation, and I found that it actually tastes more full and flavorful at room temperature, as everything gets a chance to expand and release.  All in all, not one of my favorites, but if you happen to stumble upon this dinosaur out in the wild, it’s not a bad catch.

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