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Avery Tectum Et Elix

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The last year has seen many breweries upgrading their facilities and increasing production, often dramatically. Colorado's Avery brewing is among those ranks, with a new facility, increased production, and a greatly expanded barrel aging program. 2 years ago, they had 250 barrels aging a variety of beers in their warehouse and they're now at around 2000 barrels. This a welcome development and probably explains how I could get my grubby hands on several of their barrel aged beers over this past year. I'm pretty enamored with those beers, so when this beer, part of a recent trend that's been dubbed Sour Spring, showed up in my local bottle shop, I took the plunge despite never having had any of their sours before (unless you count the infected Black Tot, I guess).

Tectum Et Elix translates to "roof and grains", a reference to their new brewing facility. The new building also seems to be the inspiration for the cryptic little description for this beer, number 26 in their barrel aged series: "Conceived in the alley. Born under a roof on Nautilus. Where 'drain' isn't just a noun but finally, once again, a verb as well. FINALLY!" The new brewery is located on Nautilus Court in Boulder, Colorado, so that line is easy to figure out. Presumably there's an alley next to the building where people hang out and come up with beers or something. And the notion of drain being a verb rather than just a noun is perhaps a reference to draining barrels after a long wait? This beer spent 9 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels along with a mix of yeasts and bacterial beasties (apparently straying from their normal Brett strain to experiment with others). Worth the wait? Let's take a closer look:

Avery Tectum Et Elix

Avery Tectum Et Elix - Pours a clear, golden orange color, radiant with a finger of white head. Smells intensely earthy, lots of funk, hints of fruit, sour cherries, but really earthy, horsey, barnhouse stuff (supposedly due to the use of different Brett strains than normal Avery sours). Taste is more on the fruity side, sour cherries, some earthy funk, sweet fruit, and a little vinegary sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, moderately acidic, light bodied. Given that the normal barrel aged Avery beer is somewhere north of 14% ABV, this sucker feels downright approachable at 5.5%... Overall, it's a nice little sour number, nothing ecstatic, but really very nice and quite tasty and it grew on me as I drank. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15. Bottled: Apr 16 2015. Production: 908 cases.

On deck is Insula Multos Collibus, a sour aged in bourbon barrels with cherries. After that, who knows. The production on these things is way, way up, so I'm sure we'll see more Avery barrel aged wonders as time goes on. In the meantime, I've got my hands full with VT and Boston beer, so it may be a while...

Alpine Nelson

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Inspired by a 2003 trip to New Zealand (the image on the label is a bay from the Nelson region of NZ) where the owner of Alpine stumbled upon NZ hops (then not used very much in the US) and decided to make a Kiwi inspired beer. The hop bill is comprised of all NZ hops with Nelson Sauvin being a specific focus, though others are clearly in use.

This video mentions that the first hop addition is extra double super secret, the second is Nelson Sauvin, the third is Southern Cross, and the fourth is a combo of Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross. There is a dry hopping period as well, but the hops used are unspecified (my not particularly insightful swag: Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross). My impression is that Nelson Sauvin is an intense citrus, grapefruit, almost wine-like hop, while Southern Cross is a more mild, floral affair that would match really well with the rye in the recipe. I was very much impressed with Duet, so let's see how Nelson stacks up:

Alpine Nelson

Alpine Nelson - Pours a clear, very pale, golden yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells of citrusy, vinous fruit, grapefruit and the like, maybe something more floral and earthy lurking in the background. Taste has a beautiful grapefruit and vinous fruit character to it up front, followed by some rye spice in the middle, and a well balanced, light, dry bitterness in the finish. Great hop character without overpowering anything, and perhaps the first time I really get Nelson Sauvin. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, and crisp, absolutely and dangerously quaffable. Overall, another spectacular IPA from Alpine. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/22/15.

I also managed to score some Hoppy Birthday whilst out and about because Alpine distributes here now, and it was quite nice (I didn't take notes because I'm the worst, but it was very light and quaffable, great hop character, though not quite as potent as Nelson or Duet). I'll also be checking out some Captain Stout at some point in the near future as well, and who knows, if they keep distributing out here, I'll almost certainly be drinking more of their goodness.

A couple years ago, I acquired a bottle of Great Divide's Barrel Aged Hibernation in a LIF. It was quite nice, but the barrel component wasn't quite as integrated as I expected. This could be because the bottle was nearly 2 years old or it could be that the Stranahan's barrels they used don't really live up to the more common bourbon barrel approach. The former could be addressed by snagging a fresh bottle of BA Hibernation (which I see are circulating in the area right now), but the latter will be more of a challenge since Stranahan's is relatively small, there aren't that many breweries that use their barrels, and then there's the fact that they have asked brewers not to disclose their name on labels anymore. Also, the nature of a small distillery like Stranahan's can lead to inconsistency, which could also translate to their barrels... I'm not an inconsistency hater and can even find it charming in some instances, but that doesn't make a true miss any less annoying!

All that being said, it's my understanding that Great Divide does still use Stranahan's for their barrel program, and when I saw this barrel aged barleywine (for 12 months, no less), I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm happy to report that this worked out better than the old ale (though it appears some folks have gotten infected bottles - mine was not, so I don't know how prevalent any of those issues was):

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian - Pours a dark, murky amber brown color with a finger of off white had that sticks around for a bit. Smells of dark fruits, raisins, plums, with some caramel and toffee and hints of whiskey in the background. Taste goes to a similar place, rum soaked raisins and plums, hints of slightly boozy oak and whiskey, and a malt backbone of caramel and toffee, finishing with that touch of whiskey and vanilla. As it warms, it gets a bit deeper and the whiskey comes out a bit more. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tightly carbonated, with a moderate amount of richness from the barrel aging, silky smooth, with enough alcohol heat in the finish to keep it a sipper. Overall, very well executed bourbon barrel barleywine, quite a treat. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/16/15. Bottled on: March 26, 2015.

This was very nice and makes me want to go out and grab another BA Hibernation, though I really shouldn't, as I'm drowning in good beer over here. I know, woe is me, but I've got to drink down my cellar a bit and oh, it looks like I've got a trip to Vermont on the near horizon, so this is going to be rough. For certain values of "rough".

AleWerks Lover's Greed

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How do you do, dear reader? I am your most obedient servant and I am right heartily glad to see you. Forsooth, I have a most curious beer to discuss with you. Hailing from the honorable brewery known as Aleworks, situated close to the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia, this elixir began its life in a traditional brick wrapped brewhouse with open flame (as opposed to the modern heathens who useth more gentle steam systems), then slumbered for nearly 18 months in French oak barrels formerly used to age red wine. Truly a testament to the fleeting virtue of patience, that most humble of qualities. Hold ye onto thine britches, for these suds pack a sour punch:

AleWerks Lovers Greed

AleWerks Lover's Greed - Pours a pale, hazy reddish orange color with a finger of fizzy head that quickly resolves into a cap of head that sticks around for a while. Smells of vinous fruit, sour cherries, and tart vinegar. Taste is surprisingly mellow, definitely lots of tart fruit, cherries and grapes, vinegar tones, a little in the way of oak and vanilla, sour but not overpoweringly so. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated but smooth, slightly acidic but not a monster. Overall, a nice American wild ale; it's quite approachable and goes down rather easy, comporting itself well in a crowded and competitive style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/16/15. Vintage: 2014.

Many thanks to Danur for the bottle! Also, I beg your pardon for my horrid attempts at colonial speech. It's funny, AleWerks has even dropped Williamsburg from their name, so I'm guessing they're trying to distance themselves from that connotation. Regardless, I've enjoyed most everything I've had from this small operation, and have been on the lookout for Bitter Valentine for a while now... There's always next year.

Midnight Sun Berserker

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Alaska is a cold place, so I guess it makes sense that brewers situated in that bleak environment would resort to big, heavy malts and lots of booze. And thank God that they do, because I love those beers. Midnight Sun exemplifies this approach, with a line of impressive imperial stouts, one of the best barleywines I've ever had, and now this barrel aged monstrosity.

In Old Norse literature, Berserkers were warriors who dressed in bear pelts and fought with an uncontrollable, trance-like rage. It's speculated that they entered this state of wild fury through the use of drugs, though probably not a depressant like alcohol. These days, it's mostly a cheesy reference or way to describe comic book characters like Wolverine. And also this beer, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout brewed with maple syrup and molasses. I sure do enjoy me, well, all of those things, so let's get to it. My love for you is like a truck, Berserker!

Midnight Sun Berserker

Midnight Sun Berserker - Pours a deep black color with a beautiful cap of dark brown head (maybe even a sorta amber tint to the head, very pretty, but short-lived). Smells of dark, roasty malts, vanilla, sweet brown sugar, dark chocolate, and a touch of bourbon. Taste starts with a nice, rich caramel that quickly yields to brown sugar, syrupy molasses, almost fruity, vinous flavors, a little oak and vanilla, boozy bourbon, then dark chocolate and more traditional roasted malts emerge towards and into the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little boozy heat. The closest thing I can compare this to is The Abyss, but with a little more barrel character. Overall, this is a rock solid Bourbon barrel aged stout, right up my alley. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.7% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/15/15. Vintage 2015. 30 IBUs.

There is a beer called Son of Berserker that is made from the second runnings of Berserker's no doubt large malt bill, and honestly, at this point, I'm down for just about anything from this brewery, the bigger and burleyer, the better.

Alpine Duet

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Of the west coast ballers of hoppy beer, Alpine seems to be among the top tier. Hushed tones and angelic choirs, I have been craving their wares for many a moon. I finally managed to snag a bottle in a cross-country trade, and then I find out that they've started distributing to Philly. Literally the day after I received this bottle of Duet in the mail, I spy a local beeratorium tapping 3 of their most sought-after beers. It turns out that Green Flash's recent acquisition of Alpine has translated into more production and wider distribution. Go figure. If this bottle is indicative of the trend, it is a most welcome development!

The Duet in question refers to the two most prominent ingredients of this beer: Amarillo and Simcoe hops. Both are staples of the modern American IPA, but rarely have they been employed in such an efficent and downright delicious fashion. All of Alpine's labels feature historically significant buildings located in Apline, CA, in this case, we've got the Alpine Community Church, truly a great representative of such a heavenly beer:

Alpine Duet

Alpine Duet - Pours a slightly hazy golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells great, lots of citrus, grapefruit, a little mango, some more earthy floral aromas pitching in as well. Taste starts off with a blast of sweet citrus that doesn't really let up until some light hop bitterness course corrects in the finish. The hop character does get more complex as I drink, what was initially straight citrus gets more floral and maybe piney as it warms up. The bitterness is perfectly matched yielding a fantastic balance that most IPAs do not manage. It's not a bitter bomb or anything approaching that level of bitterness (definitely less bitter than many beers), but there's enough there to balance out the citrusy sweet hop and malt backbone. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and clean. It is utterly, dangerously quaffable, and perfectly balanced. Overall, this is a superb IPA, delicious, incredibly well balanced, and just phenomenal. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a Charente glass on 5/8/15.

Naturally, I have another beer on its way: Alpine Nelson. But I may apparently be able to dig up some others locally as well. Naturally, these folks have made a rather fantastic first impression in a pretty competitive category, so I'm looking forward to more.

Logsdon Peche 'n Brett

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What do you get when you take Logsdon's already amazing Seizoen Bretta, stick it in oak, and then cram it with 1.5 pounds of peaches for every gallon of beer? You get a gigantor peach singularity that curves spacetime and collapses in on itself such that scientists don't really know how to measure any of this except to say that it's delicious. First released in 2012, it quickly achieved walezbro status, disappearing immediately upon subsequent releases. I assume production has been ramped up for the simple reason that I was actually able to get my grubby biscuit snatchers on a bottle, and lo, it was good:

Logsdon Peche n Brett

Logsdon Peche 'n Brett - Pours a radiant yellow gold with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells of pure, juicy peaches. I have never had a beer that had this much peach going on. Sure, there's some light, musty funk if you look for it, but the aroma is really dominated by those peaches. The taste has a little more balance to it. Still lots of peaches, but you get more of that musty Brett, a little spice, some oak and maybe even a dry tannic quality. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, medium bodied, perhaps even a bit of boozy heat, but not at all unpleasant. Hot damn, this is a peach bomb. I've never had anything quite this intensely peachy. Overall, a pretty fantastic beer and a must for peach lovers. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/8/15. Bottle No. 12628. Best by: 01/2020.

While not distributed here, my understanding is that Seizoen Bretta is generally available wherever it is distributed, which is just inconceivable to me. That stuff is absolute nectar of the gods, and you would do well to seek it out by any means possible. As much as I enjoyed Peche 'n Brett, I can't help but fall back on Seizoen Bretta as a more regular option. And honestly, everything I've had from Logsdon has been pretty fantastic. Indeed, got a couple more in the pipeline, so watch out...

A Pair of Forest & Main Releases

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I've been doing a better job keeping up with Forest & Main's bottle releases lately, in part because they're such low-pressure affairs. Unlike a Tired Hands release, where you need to arrive at least a couple hours early, I can roll up right around opening time and still snag a bunch of bottles. People do wait in line, but it's definitely a more relaxed atmosphere and everything moves swiftly once the doors open. Oh yeah, and the beer's pretty good too.

Two beers at the latest release. One was Paradisaeidae, named after a family of birds known as the Birds of Paradise, a barrel-aged saison brewed with Forest & Main's local saison yeast, conditioned on lemongrass and lime, and dry hopped with Motueka. I never knew this, but Forest & Main's saison yeast is foraged from a variety of flowers and fruits growing within a few blocks of the brewpub ("Cultures from mulberries, cherries and honeysuckle made the final cut.") They switch up the yeast every year, so you can expect significant variations between vintages.

It's unclear if every saison they make uses this foraged yeast, but the second bottle I snagged, Ash & Alder (presumably a reference to the trees used to make Fender guitar bodies) was a more traditional saison except that it was dry hopped with Mosaic and Mandarina Bavaria. Unlike Paradisaeidae, this is not barrel aged and isn't really suitable for aging. I'm sure it would do just fine, but judging from the nose on this sucker, you really want to drink it fresh. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's take a closer look at both of these beers:

Paradisaeidae

Forest & Main Paradisaeidae - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of dense white head. Smells funky, sour, fruity, with some oak pitching in for good measure. A very well integrated nose, actually. Taste starts off with a sour little snap that quickly subsides as things get earthy in the middle, funk and oak, some fruity hops and hop bitterness emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, lightbodied, moderate sourness and acidity, a little dryness in the finish. Overall, a nice sour saison, but not quite the equal of some of their other offerings, notably Moeder saison or Marius variants. Still very nice, a solid B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/10/15. Bottled: Feb 26 2015 (Released May 2015)

Ash and Alder

Forest & Main Ash & Alder - Pours a more hazy, slightly darker golden color with tons of fluffy white head. Absolutely beautiful nose, perfect melding of saison spice, fruit, and funk with citrusy hops. Great tropical fruit aromas, oranges and the like. Taste is a little more subdued than the nose would have you believe, and the balance definitely leans more towards the spicy saison up front, with the hops kicking in towards the bitter finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, crisp and clean, and very, very dry. Overall, this is one of the better hoppy saisons that I've had, well worth checking out when fresh. A high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/10/15. Bottled: Feb 13 2015 (Released April/May 2015)

As per usual, solid work from Forest & Main. Always consider heading up there and should really visit more often. I am getting better, I swears.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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