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Taste-Testing the St. Arnold Brewing Company's Divine Reserves

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In anticipation of the upcoming release of St. Arnold’s Divine Reserve number seven, I participated in a vertical tasting of the six previous St. Arnold’s Divine Reserves yesterday. And what a wild ride it was. These quirky beers were manufactured as a creative outlet for St. Arnold’s brewers without much regard for marketing. They are brewed once and then the recipe is retired.

Only 325 cases of Divine Reserve number one, a hazy unfiltered barleywine with remarkable chocolate-like aromas, were released in 2005. Spec’s Warehouse went through its entire inventory in 20 minutes. The beer settled during aging and is now crystal clear, drinking beautifully.

In 2006, St. Arnold’s made 787 cases of Divine Reserve number two, a fruity, high-alcohol Belgian “quadruple” made with Chimay yeast. Also in 2006, the winner of the Big Batch Brew Bash, St. Arnold’s homebrewing competition, cooked up 542 cases of super hoppy imperial India Pale Ale, which was released as Divine Reserve number three. Divine Reserve number four, a rich malty “Wee Heavy” won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup competition in the Scotch Ale category. 823 cases were sold.

Last year’s Divine Reserve number five, a Russian imperial stout, was my favorite. I usually think of stouts and porters as thick, flat and sweet. This one was crisp, hoppy and delightfully bitter. I don’t think I have ever quaffed a dark beer I liked better.

Beer Advocate Magazine

was similarly impressed, rating it one of the top 25 beers produced in the U.S. in 2007. Divine Reserve number six was American barleywine with an amazingly intense piney aroma. Around 1200 cases of each of these beers was released.

Priced by various retailers between $11 and $15 a six-pack, every Divine Reserve has sold out the day it was released. The limited edition beers age well and are coveted by beer nerds and collectors.

Rumor has it that Divine Reserve number seven will be a dark wheat beer. -- Robb Walsh

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