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Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

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Great moments in trademark history: When Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing realized they both had a beer in their lineups called "Salvation" they considered several options. They could have pursued lawsuits, but that's boring and costly. They could have taken their dispute to Thunderdome, but they couldn't book the venue in time (also: it's a fictional venue). Instead, they simply decided to blend the two beers together, neatly defusing the crisis. Apparently over a drunken night at Russian River's brewpub (well, probably not, but I like to think of my brewing heroes as being constantly drunk), they mixed together the two beers in varying degrees and figured out the right proportions, eventually scaling the process up to commercial levels and releasing the result as "Collaboration Not Litigation Ale". It's pretty much the poster child of craft brewer solidarity and it's one of the reasons beer nerds love this whole craft beer thing (though there are obviously some folks who just don't get it...)

I've seen bottles of this around in rare instances, but never pulled the trigger. After my Pliny the Younger adventure on Sunday, I noticed this was also available and thus made the best of the situation:

Avery and Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation

Russian River and Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale - Pours deep brown color with a little amber peeking through and a solid finger of light tan head... Tons of lacing, industrial strength stuff, you could barely see through the glass even after I was finished. Smell is very spicy and peppery with a little bready Beligian character too. Taste is also quite spicy, with a nice sweet flavor, perhaps dark candi, and a little fruit. Mouthfeel very smooth, lightly carbonated, but still enough to cut through the malt and alcohol... As it warms, the texture becomes almost creamy... Overall, quite good and I'm really glad I got to try one of these! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.72% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 3/18/12.

Russian River's Salvation has actually been on my to-drink list for a while, I just haven't gone out and gotten a bottle. For that matter, I've not had Avery's Salvation either. I think it'd actually be very interesting to try one of each, then the collaboration, just to see how the flavors have blended. Avery is certainly a brewery I haven't had a ton of exposure to, but I've had almost uniformly good experiences with them (and Russian River too)...

Beer Club: The End is Beer

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. We had a good turnout this month, with quite a few interesting beers to try. As usual, we hit up a local BYOB, this time a Thai place. Good times were had by all.

Beer Club March 2012
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so the below probably isn't completely representative of reality. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Elysian NIBIRU Yerba Mate Tripel - I arrived a bit late to the gathering, so I didn't get to have a lot of this, but it was a nice Tripel style beer with a twist. Apparently part of a twelve beer series celebrating the Mayan apocalypse of 2012... (also the source of the "End is Beer" pun). I wouldn't call it a top tier beer, but it was nice. B
  • Lakefront New Grist Sorghum Beer - Wow, is this a light colored beer. Incredibly light beer in every way. Not bad, per say, but there's not a ton of flavor here either. It reminded me a lot of a less tasty but better balanced Coors Light, if that makes any sense (which it probably doesn't). Certainly not a great beer, but it has it's place. C+
  • Tröegs Nugget Nectar - I've actually reviewed this before, but I've revisited it a couple times since then and I have to admit that it gets better every time I try it. Nice hoppy citrus and pine resin character, with some earthy/herbal notes as well. An excellent beer, I'd upgrade this to a B+, maybe even higher (this was generally considered the best beer of the night by beer club homies)
  • My Homebrewed Simcoe IPA - Seemed to go over very well with the beer club folks, even the people who don't normally love IPAs. Not to toot my own horn, but this did turn out really well. Tons of citrus and a little pine from the hops in both the nose and taste. The bitterness is well matched and pleasant. Really solid beer. B+
  • Atwater Dirty Blonde Ale - A very nice, sessionable wheat ale that sorta suffered from being tasted after a few stronger, fuller flavored brews. A very nice beer, to be sure, but it was hard to really pronounce it a great beer compared to other beers in the tasting. B-
  • Stillwater Of Love & Regret - Another of my contributions to the night, I bought this last week without realizing that I'd actually had it before, so I figured I'd share the wealth. The bottle did sorta explode when I popped the cap, instantly foaming over. Luckily, we did not lose much of it, and the beer still tasted wonderful. It's got a saison style feel to it, but a little fruitiness and lots of spice too. Very nice beer and one of my favorites of the night, though some others didn't care as much for this one... B+
  • Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale - This Irish Red Ale seems to share something with the typical English Pale Ale style, though this time around, there's enough flavor around to make it feel balanced and actually decent. I enjoyed this beer, despite not being very blown away by it. B-
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale - A very nice IPA style beer, though BA lists it as an American Pale Wheat Ale. Not sure what that means, but it turns out that it's a lot like a regular old (well, a very good, actually) IPA. Lots of American Hop Character, quite nice. I'd like to try it again sometime... B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another beer I've had before and enjoyed. Reminds me very much of Lancaster's Milk Stout - very roasty, some coffee flavors, and overall a decent roasty stout. Solid, but not one of my favorites. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Cocoa Mole - A most unusual beer. I get lots of caramel malt and chocolate out of this, but the chipotle spice is what really gives this beer an extra kick. It was pretty good in the context of beer club, though I'm not sure I'd love to drink an entire bottle of the stuff. B
  • AleSmith Old Numbskull - My other contribution for the night, this was the biggest beer of the night, and boy does it have an intense aroma/flavor profile. Lots of caramel and citrusy, resinous hops. Really nice and I liked it a lot, but I was glad to have shared it with a bunch of other folks. Overall, might be the second best beer of the night behind the Nugget Nectar. B+
A great time was had by all, so it was another successful beer club, and as always, I'm already looking forward to next month!

Stone Old Guardian 2010

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I didn't realize this, but apparently Stone tweaks the recipe for their barleywine every year. This partly explains why I was so surprised by this beer. The difference between American and English barleywines tends to come down to hops. American varieties have a ton of them (and we tend to favor the high alpha-acid, citrusy, piney varieties), whilst the English go for a more rounded approach. Knowing what I know of Stone, I would expect this thing to be bursting with hops... what I got was unexpected, but not unpleasantly so.

The first thing worth noting is that this bottle is apparently from early 2010 (I only bought it recently, so I'm not that patient) and so I assume those hops would have mellowed out a bit since it was fresh. The second thing to note is that apparently in 2010 and 2011, Stone went in a more English direction with this beer. According to their blog, there were two big recipe changes in 2010. First, they began using a new crystal malt that was derived from English Maris Otter malts. This change would retain the caramel flavors of other crystal malts, but apparently also contributes a distinct nutty character. Second, rather than using huge US hops for dry hopping, they went with East Kent Golding hops. A smooth, pleasant English aroma hop that has a slight citrus and big floral component (it's apparently the go-to English hop, and it's used extensively in Belgian beers too). Stone also contends that it smells like unicorn tears, but that stuff is rarer than Pliny the Younger, so I haven't had a chance to compare yet*. Now, it's still Stone, so there's 90 IBUs, which is still higher than most English barleywines, but I have to say that I still found this to be more on the English side of things:

Stone Old Guardian 2010

Stone Old Guardian Barleywine 2010 - Pours a deep amberish brown color with a finger of quickly disappearing, light colored head. Intense smells of caramel with some floral hops, fruitiness and lots of booze. Taste starts sweet, with just a bit of that caramel and fruit character emerging in the middle, only to be snuffed out by a heaping helping of booze and balancing hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth, well carbonated, and a little sticky. Not quite full bodied, but let's say, high-medium bodied. Overall, a solid, if a bit simplistic, barleywine. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 3/10/12. Bottle sez: "Limited Early 2010 Release". 90 IBUs.

On thing I've just realized is that most of the barleywines I've had have been barrel aged in some way, which perhaps explains why I felt this one was a little simplistic (also why I didn't call it full bodied). I'm kinda curious to try out some of the newer varieties, which have apparently veered back to American hops like Chinook, Calypso and Cascade (so tons of citrus, pine, and resin, as opposed to the floral, unicorn tears of East Kent Hops). And it should go without saying, there are barrel aged versions of this brew that I'd love to get my hands on... As craft brewers go, Stone is so ubiquitous that it's (ironically) easy to forget about them, but I'm always happy to try another of their brews.

* I've recently made the acquaintance of a mythical/endangered species poacher, so I may be able to pick up a growler of unicorn tears next week. Fingers crossed!

Garde Dog

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Maryland's Flying Dog brewery has never really wowed me with a beer. On the other hand, they've rarely disappointed. Looking through my ratings, almost everything is in the B- to B range, even for well respected stuff like Raging Bitch IPA and their Gonzo Porter. They seem to make well crafted beers, so it's not like I dislike them or anything and I have to admit that their distinctive Ralph Steadman artwork always catches my eye... Also, they've been doing some interesting seasonal stuff of late, like this new Spring offering, a relatively lightweight Bière de Garde that still manages to pack a nice punch:

Flying Dog Garde Dog

Flying Dog Garde Dog - Pours a clear golden color with lots of fluffy white head. Smells of musty Belgian yeast with some spiciness. Taste is sweet and spicy, finishing quite dry. Mouthfeel is very highly carbonated and packs a bit of a wallop, medium bodied, and dry. Not something you'll gulp down, but it's an easy drinking beer and at 5.5%, you could certainly knock a few of these back at a barbecue or something without getting too sloshed. Overall, this is a solid beer and it's very well executed. It strikes me as a great gateway beer for those folks looking to expand their horizons without getting too crazy. Also a nice beer to transition from the dark, heavy beers of winter into the lighter fare of summer (i.e. a good choice for a spring seasonal). B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/17/12.

So it's not a revelation, but it's towards the top of what I've had from Flying Dog. Of course, I'd love to get my hands on some of the Bourbon Barrel Aged Gonzo, and maybe some of their other limited edition stuff too...

Pliny the Younger

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Yeah, so remember how I said that I wouldn't go out of my way for Pliny the Younger, Russian River's fabled "triple" IPA? Well, I'm a weak, weak man. My favorite local bar had a rare kegs and eggs event this morning featuring, among other things, Pliny the Younger. They're just down the road, so how could I really turn this down? I got there about 45 minutes before they tapped the keg, got myself a ticket, and partook in some excellent brunch eatings and a neutral Allagash White whilst I waited.

The hype surrounding the ultra-rare but highly rated IPA (as of right now, #1 on Beer Advocate's top beers in the world list) was a bit of a turnoff, but since the hoop-jumping was at a minimum, I couldn't really complain. The Philadelphia area is one of the lucky few to receive some of this stuff, but from reading about past events (mostly in center-city), I can't say I would have been too enthused to participate. The idea of trekking into the city, paying for parking, then waiting in long lines for a couple ounces of the prized brew was not appealing. But this was right down the street, relatively uncrowded, and mostly pleasant. No waiting for 4 hours in the snow, and I didn't have to pay 10 bucks to get a few drips of the beer applied with an eyedropper. I got a whole glass!

The bar got crowded, but never really approached madness. Oh, sure, there were lots of beer dorks in attendance, including some of the more annoying variety (one porn-mustachioed fellow walked up to the bar and proclaimed "You know why I'm here" in this sniveling, condescending tone and accompanying glare that was so annoying I'm surprised the bartender didn't respond with a punch to the face), but for the most part, beer nerds are amiable folk, and a good time was had by all. I even saw one guy sharing his bounty with less prepared strangers who had arrived too late to get their own, which is just plain nice.

For my part, it was a fun experience, and I'm happy to check another white whale beer off the list. But is it the best beer in the world? Did I hear celestial choirs as the angels descended from heaven aboard boats of transcendent light, penetrating through the dank windows of the bar? Let's take a look, shall we:

Russian River Pliny the Younger

Russian River Pliny the Younger - Pours a shiny gold color with minimal head. Wonderful nose full of citrus & pine. Really fantastic aromas. I just sat there sniffing the stuff for a while, and tried to make the beer last... Taste is full of that same citrus & pine, but it's got a very well matched sweetness & bitterness. It's a hop bomb, to be sure, but it's perfectly balanced with sweet malts. Mouthfeel is very smooth, very drinkable, and again, extremely well balanced. As it warms, a pleasant boozy note emerges, but that doesn't upset the balance at all... Overall, I can see what the hype is all about and I'm really glad I got the chance to try some of this. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap, drank out of a 6 oz mini-snifter.

So is it the best beer in the world? No. But there may have been a hint of those celestial choirs and angels there too. It's a great beer, to be sure, and I loved drinking it, but quite frankly, there are tons of excellent IPAs and DIPAs out there there are close enough, and plenty that are just as good or maybe even better. I had a few glasses of Hopslam on tap this year that were just as good if not better than Pliny the Younger. It's certainly worth the stretch for a glass of the stuff, especially if you're a hophead, but I have a feeling that if I went really far out of my way, I'd be disappointed. Fortunately, that was not necessary. I mean no disrespect, and if Russian River distributed the stuff far and wide, I'd greedily partake in as much as I could, but I think this beer's astronomical ratings are at least partly due to how rare it is. My expectations were mitigated, of course, but they were met by the beer, which is often not the case. I love this beer and I'm really happy I got to try it without having to resort to any diabolical schemes involving the sacrifice of my left shoe and firstborn son...

World Wide Stout

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When do you drink an 18% ABV beer? Special occasions? Every other Flag Day? Leap Day? For breakfast? On the second Friday of March in the year of our Lord 2012? Ah, yes, that last one will do the trick, but it was a fortuitous turn of events that got me there, and I'm still at a loss as to when to open some of my other massive face-melters. It's a delicious mystery wrapped in an alcohol soaked enigma, with a chaser of dehydration and hangover.

Fortunately, Dogfish Head packaged this one in a 12 ounce bottle, so it's at least mildly approachable (I will leave the rant about big beers in big bottles for a later date). Apparently created on a whim at the Dogfish Head brewpub during the winter off-season months (which, I imagine, is how most Dogfish Head beers are created), this beer held the strongest beer in the world title for a short time. In this day and age where crazy Scottish brewers are making 55% ABV abominations and packaging it in taxidermied squirrels, it's easy for beers like this to get lost in the shuffle, but credit where credit is due: Dogfish Head was making this beer in 1999, well before extreme beers were trendy or popular. And I do think this still stands up well today.

Anyways, events conspired to keep me sober for a while after work last Friday, which left me in need of a stiff drink (and just the right amount of time for a single serving). This would normally be a job for Scotch or Bourbon, but I thought this 18% ABV face-melter would do the job, and boy was I right:

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a syrupy appearance and about half a finger of tan head. Wonderful aroma filled with caramel and vanilla notes, maybe even some fruity character poking through along with a little booze. Smells more like a really big barleywine than a stout. Taste has lots of sweetness to it, that caramel malt being quite prominent, with some chocolate and maybe even some vanilla, but the big surprise is the sorta fruity booze that emerges in the middle and dominates the finish. Very little roastiness here, but tons of intricate flavors emerging as it warms up. Maybe just a touch of balancing bitterness in the sticky finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, and hot. Carbonation isn't high, but it's not at a bad level either. The finish has just a little stickiness to it. Surprisingly well balanced and approachable for an 18% ABV monster. Tons of warming alcohol character going on in my belly after just a few small sips. This is certainly not a beer to drink quickly. Overall, I'm very impressed by this beer, a complex sipper, something that will probably age well, and quite interesting. Dogfish Head says it has a depth "in line with a fine port" which just makes me want to go to the liquor store and get me some of that stuff, as I've never had any before and I'd like to know if that's an accurate description or just Sam making stuff up. For my purposes, this makes an excellent dessert beer. Not your typical stout, and definitely worth a try. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 3/9/11. Bottled in 2010 (bottle has a "D" after the year, which I assume is some sort of batch indicator).

Man, this thing kicked my ass. As noted above, the bottle was apparently from 2010, which was something I bought inadvertently... but I'm glad I did so because I've heard the alcohol character overwhelms "younger" bottles. I've got another one of these in the cellar, which I can perhaps crack open the next time an 18% ABV opportunity comes along (and who knows when that will be). Incidentally, I also have some 120 minute IPA in the fridge (and in my cellar) that's definitely still young, and I have no idea when I'll get to that one... not to mention the bottles of Cuir and Coton I've been sitting on (those aren't quite as strong, but they're up there and they're in 750 ml bottles too)...

Update: Tee Hee.

Ommegang Seduction

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Ready for some hot Liefmans on Ommegang action? This is a Belgian style porter brewed with chocolate and, like Ommegang's most excellent Three Philosophers, blended with a Liefmans Cuvee Brut Kriek. It's an appealing idea, though I'm not sure I was entirely seduced by the end result:

Ommegang Seduction

Ommegang Seduction - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger or two of tan head that leaves lots of lacing on the glass. Smells of roasted malts and Belgian yeast, with a hint of something else lurking in the background (perhaps those cherries?) Taste features lots of muted roasted malts (not nearly as strong or overpowering as most stouts or porters) with a hint of chocolate, but the beer sorta shifts midway through the taste, finishing with a lighter touch which calls to mind those cherries... while I'm sure I'd be able to pick out the distinct flavor blind, I don't know that I would have attributed it to cherries. As the beer warms, that flavor becomes a little more prominent. The mouthfeel is full bodied and chewy, with ample carbonation and just a bit of stickiness in the finish. Not exactly an easy drinking beer, but it's not difficult or anything. All in all, it's an interesting beer with lots of complexity and I really enjoyed it, but it feels like all the various flavors are competing for attention, rather than harmonizing into something new and great. An interesting experiment and better than most beers that I'd classify as such, but I expect more from Ommegang and it doesn't quite reach the heights it perhaps could... but it's still a lot better than their Chocolate Indulgence and again, I really had a good time with it. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 3/4/12. Bottled 12/5/11.

Ommegang was my introduction into the world of good (and Belgian style) beers, so I'm always willing to give them a shot, even on expensive gambles like this. I've actually had some old Cup O Kyndness sitting around for a while that I need get to at some point (I talked about it briefly in a beer club post a while back, but I'd like to do a full review), and I'm really looking forward to their forthcoming Belgian Strong Dark, called Art of Darkness...

Sly Fox Ichor

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The term "Ichor" has two meanings. The more recent usage is that of "a foul-smelling watery discharge from a wound or ulcer." Thankfully, I suspect that Sly Fox was going for the more classical definition when naming this beer: "an ethereal fluid flowing in the veins of the [Greek] gods." Yes, I think we've stumbled upon Sly Fox's nefarious plan to harvest the blood of long-dormant immortals and turn us all into unsuspecting vampires. Or something like that. Also of note: Apparently Greek gods had a Belgian style quadrupel for blood:

Sly Fox Ichor

Sly Fox Ichor - Pours a deep chestnut brown color with amber highlights and a finger or so of white head. Smells very spicy, tons of clove in the nose, bready Belgian yeast, and a bit of fruitiness peeking through. Maybe even a slight roasted malt aroma. Taste is also very spicy, with that clove showing up again (usually clove aromas and flavor comes from the yeast, but in this case, I suspect Sly Fox actually spiced the beer with clove in addition to using a Belgian strain of yeast...) Lots of sweetness, some brown sugar/molasses character, and some of that dark fruit peeking through too. Mouthfeel is full bodied and well carbonated, with a well balanced dry finish. You get some heat from the alcohol, but it's otherwise hidden pretty well. Overall, a very well done, complex beer. Not top tier in the style, but it's an interesting take. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 2/25/12.

Sly Fox is yet another interesting semi-local brewery that I still have not visited. I'm going to have to rectify that at some point. Apparently this beer was featured in the Rare Beer of the Month club, though obviously I have no problem getting a hold of the stuff - my guess is that Sly Fox doesn't distribute very far at this point, as they're still a tiny brewpub operation. That being said, I'm always interested in trying their beers, even if I haven't had one that's really blown me away (every one I've had has been in the "B" range)...

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

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