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Ommegang Aphrodite

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Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love. I swear I didn't plan it this way, but I drank this on the weekend before Valentine's day, which seems mildly appropriate I guess (though Cupid is usually the one associated with the holiday - Cupid is the Roman equivalent of Aphrodite's son Eros, but I digress...) Anywho, Ommegang was my first love in the world of beer, so I always try to catch up with their specialty brews. This one is a Belgian fruit beer made with raspberry and pear, fermented with Ommegang's house strain and Brettanomyces. Not exactly my thing, but again, I like to give Ommegang the benefit of the doubt:

Ommegang Aphrodite

Ommegang Aphrodite - Pours a bright red color with a very light pink head. Smell is difficult to describe. I want to say it's like a fruity syrup, not quite cough syrup, but syrup is the word that most comes to mind. I also get a bit of funk and yeast here, but not quite as strong as the fruitiness. The taste has that same sort of fruity syrupy flavor, maybe a little more into the cough syrup realm here, but also a little on the vinous side. The finish isn't quite tart, but there's a bit here. Perhaps a bit on the spicy side too, though I feel like that hits more in the mouthfeel, which is a bit harsh and sticky. It's very sweet, but it finishes dry. As such, it doesn't quite reach cloying, but drinking a full 750 ml bottle of the stuff is a bit much. A most unusual beer. Not something that is blowing me away, but interesting nonetheless. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/10/12.

To be honest, I'm more intrigued in Ommegang's latest release, Seduction, brewed with chocolate and Liefmans Cuvee Brut Kriek. I've been spending the past month and a half or so trying to drink down my cellar a bit, but I may have to peek my head out for a bottle of that stuff. And their forthcoming Art of Darkness is definitely right in my wheelhouse, so definitely look for a review of that one at some point.

Founders Red's Rye PA

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Founders, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, seems to be one of those bedrock breweries. They make a ton of styles, and they knock them all out of the park, including this rye beer. I'm pretty sure this is the first of that style I ever had. I don't know who "Red" was, but I presume he's the guy on the label and that he loves him some rye. And hops.

Founders Reds Rye

Founders Red's Rye PA - Pours a brownish amber color with a finger of light head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smell is all hopped up (citrusy and floral), with some caramel malt and maybe some of that rye as well... Taste has some caramel malt along with a heaping helping of citrus and earthy, floral hops and a well matched bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and easy to drink for a beer with this much flavor. Overall, a damn fine beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/5/12.

I wouldn't say that my palate is particularly attuned to rye, though I seem to be able to pick it out in the aroma better than the taste. The same went for the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye I had earlier this week... But I'm interested to try more rye beer. And at this point, I'm always willing to sample something new from Founders.

Febrewary Beer Club

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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. An interesting turnout this month, as a few stalwarts were absent, but new attendees picked up the slack. This time around, we visited a Mexican BYOB with quite the ostentatious decor:

February Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

Phew, that place has some brightly colored furniture. But amazing salsa and good food too. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so you can and should be skeptical of my notes. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale - Wow, very rich malt flavors here, like a Scotch ale, but with something more. I got a distinct barrel aged character out of it, though this not one of those versions (apparently there are bourbon, port or brandy barrel aged versions, which I'd love to try). Fantastic beer, got the night going in style, though it may have set the bar unreasonably high for the following beers. I'd love to get me some more of this. A candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Appalachian Jolly Scot Scottish Ale - A somewhat local PA beer, this is another malt-forward ale that, unfortunately, didn't stand up too well to the Hairy Eyeball. It was fine, to be sure, and I'd probably really enjoy one of these by itself, but it came off as being a biton the thin side after the rich flavors of the Hairy Eyeball. B
  • Blue Moon Belgian White - I know, it's brewed by Coors, but hey, it actually worked really well at this point in the night. After two malt forward beers, it was a really refreshing change of pace, and I honestly have no problem with this beer anyway. Obviously not something I would ever go out of my way for, but a lot of places that only stock macros will have this on tap, and it's actually a nice beer. No, it won't melt your face, but it's a good gateway beer. Lots of wheat and citrus, it's refreshing and made for a nice palate cleanser tonight. B
  • Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale - Big brown ale brewed with Maple Syrup, you do get that character coming through pretty strongly here. A big, rich ale, no real hop presence, but lots of malts and that maple syrup adds a nice richness to the proceedings. Very well done, and another candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA - Well hopped (citrus and a little pine), plenty of balancing malts, and some of that distinctive rye character (though I never got the full-on rye bread character people seem to talk about). It didn't blow my mind, but a very solid beer that I could probably drink often. B+
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8 - Not pictured (late arrival), but it's a classic. Already reviewed here.
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) - Another beer I reviewed a while back, this is one of the more interesting beers of the night. Massive aroma, intense flavors of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, maybe even some coffee. I could just sniff this stuff all night. Great stuff, maybe even a little better than I remember (though I think my chief complaint last time was that it's a bit too sweet to drink a whole bottle). A strange beer because I wouldn't call it one of my favorites, but it's so distinctive and interesting that I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone. A great dessert beer.
  • Dominion Ale - Any beer that follows the intense flavors and aroma of Creme Brulee was probably doomed to failure, and this turned out to be a rather standard English Pale Ale, a style I'm coming to dislike quite a bit these days. I always feel like there are buttery off flavors in these beers, and this one is no exception. I even threw in a small slice of orange, which helped mellow it out a bit, but blegh. Not a fan of this beer. D
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale - My homebrewed winter warmer style beer (a kinda spiced red ale), this thing has to be my best beer yet. Very nice spicy aroma, picking up lots of that cinnamon and clove, tastes quite nice, almost creamy mouthfeel. I really hope this wasn't some sort of fluke. I should really do a recap of all my homebrews at some point on the blog, so no rating for now, but I would seriously put this up against any of the winter warmer style beers I've had over the past couple years.
  • Boxcar Brewing A Long Winter's Night - This is probably as local as I can get. The (tiny) brewery was literally a few blocks away from where we were tonight (and this limited edition brew doesn't even warrant a page on BA, apparently). This winter ale was very interesting. I didn't get a lot of spice or anything out of it, but it was a very nice cloudy brown color with... it's hard to describe. Roasted chocolate? But not at all like a stout. More like a brown ale, but with no coffee and some chocolatey overtones (to be honest, it's very much like their regular brown ale, but perhaps less nutty). Very solid beer. B
All in all, a pretty great night! We didn't manage to get to all the beers in the picture, though I ended up taking a can of pale ale home with me, so perhaps a review of that in the coming weeks... That's all for now.

Lagunitas Sucks

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Well, no, but that's what they named their beer. Years ago, in a failed attempt to make a barleywine, Lagunitas attempted to save the batch by throwing in a bunch of brown sugar. The result... wasn't a barleywine, but it was apparently pretty great in its own right. It was called Brown Sugga, and it became their regular winter seasonal beer. Unfortunately, it apparently takes a long time to brew and it ties up brewery resources, so this year, when resources were at a premium and their brewery upgrade wasn't ready yet, Lagunitas decided to cancel the popular brew this year (they're installing extra capacity right now, so there should be no problems next year.)

Knowing that folks would want their Brown Sugga fix, Lagunitas took the self-deprecating route, made this beer and called it Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale: Brown Sugga Substitute:

Lagunitas Sucks

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale - Pours a nice clear golden orange color with about half a finger of quickly disappearing head. Tons of lacing though. Smell is sugary sweet, with lots of citrus (grapefruit), a little pine, and some sort of earthy floral aromas as well. Taste is very sweet, with that floral pine taste hitting immediately, followed by a well balanced bitterness in the middle and finish. Mouthfeel is light to medium, really easy to drink. Maybe a hint of booze is detectable, but the dry finish does a good job hiding it. Overall, a wonderful beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.85% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/3/12.

I'm not an expert on Lagunitas, but they sure seem to know what they're doing with these hoppy beers (i.e. they don't suck!) As much as I enjoyed this one, I'm kinda looking forward to Brown Sugga next year...

Clown Shoes Lubrication

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My brother gave me three beers for Christmas, all of which were picked out by my nieces (9 and 7 years old). I've already mentioned the other two on the blog a while back, but this one looked familiar. I couldn't quite place why I recognized it, but I finally figured it out. Apparently this beer's label art caused quite a weird stir last summer when the Beer Advocate Events Director, Candice Alström, who found the label offensive. I don't want to get into the details (check the linked article above for that), but I find that claim for this particular label to be absurd (other Clown Shoes beers may be another matter, but there are many labels out there that are horribly sexist, so perhaps a more comprehensive tact would be more appropriate).

In any case, my nieces thought the robot on the label was goofy, which reminded them of me (I'm apparently known in my brother's household as "Crazy Uncle Marky"). I was touched and honored by their choice:

Clown Shoes Lubrication

Clown Shoes Lubrication - Pours a deep black color with a ton of tan head. Aroma is filled with roasted malts and bready yeast, with maybe a hint of hop character (I was expecting more, though with all that head, who knows?) The first thing that hits in the taste is that roasted malt with maybe a little coffee. The flavor intensifies through the middle and finishes bitter and dry. There's hop bitterness here, but very little hop flavor. It's well carbonated but surprisingly light bodied (maybe into medium bodied). Overall, I feel like it's unbalanced and a little disappointing, though to be fair, that tends to be my feeling on the style in general (the only American Black Ale/Black IPA that I've thought was a real success was Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. Otherwise, I'm usually left wanting a good stout or a good IPA.) Certainly not a bad beer and I'd rather have this than, say, a macro beer, but I was hoping for a bit more... B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/3/12.

I don't really see myself racing out to explore more from Clown Shoes, but I did appreciate the gift.

Hopslam

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I don't know why, but last year, I underestimated how hard it would be to find some of this beer and ended up missing out on its hoppy goodness. Well, not so this year. I've been keeping my eye out, and last week, I spied some at a local establishment and finally made my acquaintance with this beloved beer. I would love to get my hands on some bottles of the stuff, but things are a little rough in PA, where you mostly have to buy beer by the case and thus this stuff sells out pretty quickly. Guy at the bar mentioned that he's been on the waiting list at his local distributor for two years... and he still wasn't sure if he'd get the case this year. But I hear rumors of more stuff coming later in February, so maybe I'll snag a few bottles then... But for now, I'll just have to deal with it on tap:

Bells Hopslam

(Apologies for the craptacular picture. It was dark!)

Bell's Hopslam Ale - Nice clear golden color with about a finger of head. This might sound obvious, but it's quite hoppy. Tons of juicy citrus, a little pine, maybe some floral aromas too. Tastes fantastic - very sweet, nice citrus and pine hop flavors, with a well matched bitterness emerging in the middle, hitting full force in finsh. It's a sweet beer, but the finish is dry and bitter enough that it never feels cloying. It's apparently brewed with honey, which would help explain some of that dryness... Extremely well balanced. Mouthfeel is smooth, maybe a little heavy, but still very easy to drink. The alcohol is well hidden too, though maybe just a hint of warming if you drink quickly (unsurprising given the ). Overall, fantastic beer. I can see what all the fuss is about... and I want more! A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap (10 ounces). Drank out of a goblet on 2/1/12.

I do hope I can get me a few bottles of the stuff, but I have to admit, the stories about people stalking this beer are a bit much. If I can find some, great, but I ain't going crazy trying to get my hands on the stuff. Ditto for Pliny the Younger, which

Older Viscosity

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As I've made abundantly clear last week, I'm at a point in my beer obsession where I don't mind paying a little extra money to try something new and interesting. As a fledgling beer nerd, I had some initial hesitation on that front and I'm still a little suspicious whenever I see a single bottle going for more than $20. But for the most part, I've found those expensive beers worth the stretch. When I first pulled the trigger on a highly priced beer (The Bruery's Coton), the excuse I gave myself was that I was still relatively new to this whole good beer thing and that I was willing to spend a little extra to experiment with new and interesting beers. I suspected that I would grow out of that phase as I became a more seasoned beer nerd, but a couple years later, I'm not sure about that. I think I'm more willing to pull that trigger now than I ever have been before. It helps when the beer is as good as Coton was (I even went back and bought another bottle to age), though there have been times when I've paid through the nose for a beer I didn't particularly care for.

Now, beer pricing is apparently somewhat controversial. Some think that beer is too cheap, some think it too expensive, some think it's cheap because it's "just beer", others note how much effort goes into creating the beer, and yet others want to know more about why they have to pay a premium to get the latest super-duper beer. In the linked post, brewer Tomme Arthur (of The Lost Abby and Port Brewing) left a comment where he mentions:

It's true,our beers have become more expensive, and over the years, we have developed a reputation for beers outside the boundaries. These are what I refer to as flavor driven beers.

Are they expensive? Depends upon what value you place on them. Stephen is obviously a fan and feels compelled to say so. For me, they are not expensive, they are merely priced at a higher point than conventional beer. And I don't believe we make conventional beer.

He mentions a lot of things in his comment, including the cost of materials and ingredients and how barrel aging is a long and expensive process... but none of that really matters.

Look, we're not communists here. We don't determine value by the amount of effort that went into creating the beer. We pay what we're willing to pay to get a beer that tastes good. It's our decision. Some of us might take into account how the beer was brewed (or supporting their local brewer, etc...), but most of us are more interested in the experience of drinking the beer and not the process of brewing it. Now, doing a high gravity, barrel-aged beer represents a significant investment on the part of a brewer, and thus we're going to have to pay more to get our hands on a bottle. I'm not saying that a brewer should take a loss on selling that kind of beer. But the true value of the beer is ultimately determined by the paying customer, not by the brewery. If that value is less than it costs to brew the beer, well I'm betting that particular beer wouldn't likely be brewed again (unless the brewer's got money to burn). The market sorts these things out, and so far, I don't think we've really seen anything too excessive (with the possible exception of retailer gouging, which the brewery has little control over).

Personally, I love that world class beer is generally available to everyone. Even people on a severely limited budget can save up and buy an amazing beer for a small fraction of the cost it would take to explore the world of, say, fine wine or Scotch. And I don't want to lose that either, but if I have to pay a premium to get my bourbon-barrel beer fix, so be it. Speaking of which:

Port Brewing Older Viscosity

Port Brewing Older Viscosity - I actually reviewed the regular Old Viscosity a while back. I liked it, but was certainly not blown away. As it turns out, the regular version is a blend of 80% "young" beer with 20% bourbon barrel aged beer. That mixture clearly imparted some character to the beer, but I had noted that it seemed more about texture and body than flavor, and even then, it wasn't as full bodied as I would have liked. Well, Older Viscosity is 100% bourbon barrel aged goodness, and I'm happy to report that it was well worth the wait...

Pours a deep black color. Seriously black. Like a black hole, no light can escape it. Also, practically no head at all. Smell is full of bourbon and wood, with some caramel and chocolate aromas making an appearance. Taste is seriously boozy, lots of rich bourbon and oak flavors along with that caramel and vanilla character. Maybe just a hint of bitter roasted malts in the finish. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, a little low on carbonation, but it works well with this. Overall, I'm enjoying this much more than I enjoyed the plain Old Viscosity... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/21/12. Vintage 2011.

So there you have it. For me, definitely worth the premium, and I've got another bottle of the stuff in my cellar which I plan to check out sometime later this year. Or maybe next year. I also have a few Lost Abbey beers down there, at least one of which I plan to get to in the near future. And there's always the Mongo IPA and Shark Attack Red and probably a dozen other Lost Abbey beers I'd like to try.

Marrón Acidifié

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Collaboration beers are among the most weirdest things about the craft beer world. Rarely do you see competitors actively collaborate like this, but then I guess the fact that craft beer only really represents around 5% of the market generally means that they're not really competitors - their growth comes at the expense of the macros. Or something like that, I guess.

This one is a collaboration between The Bruery and Cigar City. If I'm not mistaken, both come from the craft beer class of 2008 and both enjoy a pretty solid reputation* amongst beer nerds. I've already sung the praises of The Bruery before, but Cigar City is new to me, and in a recent interview over at Beer Samizdat, I learn that their brewer has the awesomest name ever: Wayne Wambles. Amazing.

On The Bruery's website, they have a page for this beer that lists a lot of what I usually call the Beer Nerd Details in my reviews. Things like ABV, IBU, and SRM. But this one has an additional metric that I don't believe I've seen before. Apparently this beer has not 4, but 6 whole shizzles**.

The Bruery and Cigar City Marron Acidifie

The Bruery and Cigar City Collaboration: Marrón Acidifié - Pours a very dark red color with minimal head. Smell is filled with sour aromas, some sweet fruitiness, and funk. Packed with rich flavors with a beautifully matched tart finish. Very sweet and fruity (cherries are most prominent to me, but other tropical fruits also seem present), and extremely well balanced. Mouthfeel is nice and rich, almost chewy. Low on the carbonation, but it actually works well with this style. Overall, a fantastic beer, among my favorite sours (maybe even the best I've had). Indeed, I think it might be one of the most approachable sours I've had, which is saying something because this thing is a bit of a monster. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/14/12. IBU: 15, SRM: 20, Schizzles: 6.

This was released in the Spring, not making it's way to the East Coast until early Summer, though I didn't pick up my bottle until this past holiday season. It's bottle conditioned though, and the bottle sez it's suitable for aging up to 5 years. I guess what I'm saying is that I need to buy some more of these for my burgeoning beer cellar program. Also on my to-do list: get my hands on some more Cigar City beer.

* And by "pretty solid" I man astronomical.

** Apparently besting a previous beer called "Four Shizzles", though records on that one are a bit sparse.

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

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