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Victory V-Twelve

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So I haven't actually reviewed my homebrewed tripel yet, but it's definitely good enough that I might want to give it a name. Unfortunately, I kinda suck at that. I always end up with informative, but ultimately bland names. Witness the name of this blog: Kaedrin Beer Blog. Boy, I really pushed the envelope on that one. This is mildly depressing. Lots of beers have fantastic names and crazy backstories and I'm going to end up with, what? "Mark's Tripel" won't cut it. "Tripel Play"? Yeah, no one's come up with that before. I just don't have a knack for it. I wish that I could come up with something like Johno's Trogdor The Burninator "Consummate V" Belgian Strongbad Ale, but even funny referential naming escapes me when I try to think of a name for my beer.

So when I see something like Victory V-Twelve, I'm somewhat relieved. It's such a pragmatic name. It's the sort of thing I would name a beer. I like to picture Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet sitting in a boardroom brainstorming names while drinking the beer, but because it's fucking 12% ABV, they quickly get shitfaced and say "Fuck it, we're Victory and it's 12% alcohol, we'll just call it V-Twelve!", then do the Go Team Venture symbol and pop the cork on another bottle. Incidentally, this was sitting in my fridge for a while. Not only is it 12%, but it only comes in 750ml bottles, so you either need to share it with someone or you need to be in the right mood.

On Victory's website (and the bottle itself), they say that it's a "vintage-dated, Belgian-style specialty ale". Alas, my bottle had no date on it (or perhaps it just got rubbed off or something). I know I bought it before the new year, so I'm guessing it's at least half a year old, and given the high alcohol and flavors involved, I'm sure it could stand up to some long-term aging.

Victory V-Twelve

Pours a relatively clear dark amber/orange color with a minimal white head. Smell is full of dark fruits (plum?) and spices, with just a hint of Belgian yeast. Sticky dark fruit in the taste as well. Very sweet, I worried that it might get a bit cloying after a while, but that annoyance thankfully never developed. Some warming alcohol character is present as well. It's got a full body but a smooth texture. Beer Advocate calls it a Quadrupel, but it seems more like a Barleywine than a Quad. Of course, Victory doesn't really call it a Quad either - they call it a Belgian Specialty Ale (or an Amber Ale), which is probably more accurate.

Whatever the designation, this is quite good. Again, I was a little worried that the sweetness would get cloying, but I never actually got there, and as it warms, it evens out a bit. There's no real bitterness at all, but its texture and alcohol keep it from getting too overwhelming. And speaking of that alcohol, it's clearly present, but not in a bad or overly boozy way. It's very well balanced with the rest of the brew. This is one of those beers whose quality has grown in my head as time goes on, making me want to get a few more bottles so that I have one on hand if the mood strikes. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked) Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/30/11.

Victory continues to be my local hero. Even when I'm disappointed by one of their beers, I'm glad I tried it (and they're usually still worth drinking anyway). I'm most definitely going to pick up a few more of these and age them, just to see what happens.

Ommegang Tripel Perfection

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I love Ommegang, but even I have to pause at their presumption of "perfection" on the label of this beer. They even mention on the label that tripels are brewed "with simple ingredients and fierce attention to detail, there is little room for error - but lots of opportunity." Indeed. Belgian tripels are among my favorite styles, and Ommegang is among my favorite breweries, so I had high expectations here. Indeed, this was a hard one to find, raising expectations further. The only place I saw it was in a holiday package that also had a couple other Ommegang beers and some nice glassware (which, unfortunately, didn't show up particularly well in the image below).

Ommegang Tripel Perfection

Ommegang Tripel Perfection - Pours a cloudy orange/brown color with a couple fingers of head. Smell is full of fruity and spicy belgian yeast. The taste starts off sweet (some fruity character here), hits a spicy note (coriander?) in the middle and finishes dry. That dry finish may be partially because I waited so long to open the bottle - tripels tend to get more dry the longer they age. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it's not out of place at all here. The bottle I have is marked as having been packaged on 6/29/10, so it isn't that old, but still. In any case, the beer is extremely well balanced, which is something I've come to expect from Ommegang. Mouthfeel is high in carbonation and a bit harsh, but those are welcome for the style. Just a hint of stickyness and some warming alcohol notes. Very complex for a tripel. Perhaps not the best in style, but certainly in the top tier. In general, I feel that Ommegang's seasonals and special releases aren't as good as their regular stable of beers, but in this case, I think they really have a winner. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 5/6/11.

There's an anonymous quotation on the bottle that says "One can not adequately explain perfection. One can only enjoy it." Indeed. I don't think the beer quite lives up to Perfection, but it's close!

Russian River Redemption

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I've written about Trappist style beers before, mentioning their naming convention of dubbels, tripels and quadrupels. The styles are notoriously vague, but the idea is each numerical step up the ladder represents an increase in the strength of the beer. Furthermore, at many breweries, there is often what's called a House beer or a "Single" (aka "Enkel"). In a lot of cases, this terminology has yielded to the term "Blonde". In any case, it's generally the lightest and least alcoholic of the styles (again, with each successive step up getting stronger). So apparently the monks at Westmalle aren't constantly getting sloshed on their excellent tripel (9.5% ABV), instead preferring to pop open a single to enjoy with their meals. In some cases, these beers are not released to the public, earning the name Patersbier (which translates to "father's beer", meaning that it is reserved for use within the abbey). For instance, Westmalle's single, called Westmalle Extra, apparently has very limited availability.

Inspired by the tradition of "singles", Russian River brewer Vinnie Cilurzo created this beer, called Redemption. Apparently, like many of RR's other beers, Brettanomyces was added to the initial bottling to add a wild flavor to the beer. However, it appears that the Brett additions were not included in subsequent batches, and the alcohol content seems to be shrinking as well. Initial batches were in the area of 6-6.5% ABV, but the bottle I got (batch #8) is marked as 5.15% ABV (strangely, their website says 5.0%)

Russian River Redemption

Pours a very light, hazy straw yellow color with about a finger of head. Smells strongly of fruity belgian yeast. Taste has an almost wheat beer character to it... Very sweet and crisp, with just a hint of lingering dryness in the finish. There's maybe some citrus in there, perhaps lemon, but it's not particularly tart, though there is a bit of a sharpness to it. This isn't a beer that will blow you away, but it's light and refreshing and would make a fantastic summer beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.15% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet. Batch #8, bottled on 9/1/2010 and drank on 4/30/2011.

And on an ironic note, after all my blathing about singles and patersbiers, BeerAdvocate lists this as being a simple Belgian Pale Ale, which probably makes sense. Anyway, according to the bottle, this is the sister beer to Russian River's stronger pale ale, Damnation. I just happen to have a bottle of that sitting around here somewhere, so expect a review at some point (I've had it a few times before, and it's great).

Beer Club: May the 4th Be With You

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Today is Star Wars day! And Beer Club! Due to schedules and various other factors, this month's beer club was a rather small gathering, but there were still some great beers to be had, as well as some wine and even homemade hard cider.

May Beer Club

The theme this month was local brews, but as you can see from the picture, there were really only 4 beers on the docket this month (again, this was due to the fact that less people came and not because of any difficulty finding local beers). For reference, here's what we had:

  • Dogfish Head ApriHop - A fellow beer clubber had visited Dogfish Head's brewpub earlier in the week and got themselves a growler of ApriHop. It survived the trip reasonably well, though the brew was a bit light on the carbonation. It was still quite good though. It was quite a pleasant IPA, with a ton of fruity citrus character (apparently from Apricots added during the brewing process). B+
  • Dogfish Head Hellhound On My Ale - A play on famed blues guitarist Robert Johnson (who, legend has it, sold his soul to the Devil to create the amazing music he did), this was actually the first beer of the evening, and I don't know if it was because I'd had a particularly long day, but this was amazing. It tasted like a very refreshing pale ale, along the lines of, say, Dale's Pale Ale. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out that it was a 10% ABV double IPA with 100 IBUs. Astounding! The alcohol was incredibly well hidden, and despite the high IBUs, it wasn't overwhelmingly bitter (again, I thought of it more as a regular pale ale rather than an IPA and would never have guessed that it was a DIPA). Very sweet with lots of citrusy hop character and a nice bitter kick. There's something else here that I can't quite place, but in the end, it's a very complex and yet well balanced beer. As it warmed, the alcohol seemed to become a bit more prominent, but it was still a triumph of a beer. A-
  • Sly Fox Saison Vos - My contribution for the evening was a pretty well crafted saison from local Sly Fox brewery. Nice clear pour with lots of head, a spicy Belgian yeast aroma, and that sweet and spicy taste with a harsh mouthfeel that I've come to love about saisons. There's a bit of a bite to this beer that isn't particularly pronounced, but which adds a welcome bit of complexity. If my upcoming saison homebrew turns out this well, I'd be over the moon. B+
  • Yards Brawler - Labeled as a "Pugelist Style Ale", this one is probably more accurately described by the Beer Advocate style of English Dark Mild Ale. I've actually had this a few times before, and I've always thought of it as a solid if unremarkable beer. Tasting it after the above was a bit of a letdown though. It's a bit thin and subtle, but it would make a good session beer and would probably stand out better if it didn't have to compete with the likes of Dogfish Head or Sly Fox. A tentative B-
And that just about covers it for the beer. I had a couple of the wines (including a Chaddsford Spiced Apple Wine that sounded and smelled great, but the taste was quite off for me - would have wanted some sort of carbonation there) and the hard cider, but none of those really stood out as much as the beers.

Despite the small session, good times were had by all that managed to attend, and I'd count it as yet another success. As usual, I'm already looking forward to the next meeting!

Lost Abbey Avant Garde

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Given my shameless love of Belgian-style beer, I'm surprised that this is the first Lost Abbey beer I've ever had. They're a West Coast brewery, but their stuff is still somewhat available out here, I've just never picked up anything from them. Until now! I didn't actually know much about the brewery, but I know I like the Bière de Garde style of beer (despite not having really drank many examples), so I picked this up. The style name basically means "beer worth keeping" and such beers were historically brewed in farmhouses during the winter and spring for consumption in the summertime (i.e. they "kept" it until summertime because the yeast used for these beers didn't work well in the heat of summer). I find these to be very similar to saisons in a lot of ways (though, as always, the boundaries between styles are somewhat fuzzy).

Of course, the Lost Abbey claims that this beer demonstrates their commitment to "brewing beers to no particular style", but I don't really know who they're kidding with that. Styles are vague enough as it is, and this is pretty clearly a Bière de Garde.

Lost Abbey Avant Guarde

Lost Abbey Avant Garde - Pours a very pretty, hazy yellow/orange color with an ample head and some lacing as I drink. The head seemed to have larger than normal bubbles. Smells fruity and spicy, with that distinctive Belgian yeast coming through clearly. Taste is sweet and spicy with some fruity citrus notes to start, but a dry bitterness slowly establishes itself in the finish. Well carbonated and reasonably refreshing, it's an easy drink. Not particularly a world-beater, but a quality brew and a nice first impression for me. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/9/11.

Again, a nice first impression of Lost Abbey for me. Looking forward to trying some more of their beers at some point, though I'm not really sure where to go next. Any recommendations?

Double Feature: Saisons

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So I've had these two beers for a while and I've been saving them for this weekend. I mean, how many Easter-themed beers are really out there? Of course, I had to pick probably the two least appropriate movies to watch whilst drinking.

First up was James Gunn's comic book spoof Super, which is basically a continuation of the filmic deconstruction of superheroes started a few years ago. As such, it has a lot of semi-derivative elements, but it sticks to its guns (or I should say, Gunns!) and never flinches at its target. It's extremely graphic and violent, and some of it is played for laughs, but there's at least one unforgivable moment in the film. One thing I will say is that there's going to be a lot of teenage nerds falling in love with Ellen Page because of her enthusiastic performance in this movie. The critical reception seems mixed, but I think I enjoyed it more than most. I wouldn't call it one of the year's best, but it's worth watching for superhero fans who can stomach gore.

The second film in my double feature was Hobo with a Shotgun. If Super represents a bit of a depraved outlook on life, Hobo makes it look like the Muppets. A few years ago, when Grindhouse was coming out, there was a contest for folks to create fake grindhouse-style trailers, and one of the winners was this fantastically titled Hobo With a Shotgun. Unfortunately what works in the short form of a trailer doesn't really extend well to a full-length feature. There are some interesting things about the film. Rutger Hauer is great as the hobo (look for an awesome monologue about a bear), the atmosphere is genuinely retro, it actually feels like a grindhouse movie (as opposed to Tarantino and Rodriguez's efforts), and the armored villains known as the Plague are entertaining, if a bit out of place. Ultimately the film doesn't really earn its bullshit. Like last year's Machete (another film built off of the popularity of a "fake" trailer), I'm not convinced that this film really should have been made. Again, devotees to the weird and disgusting might enjoy this, but it's a hard film to recommend.

In terms of beer, I was drinking some saisons. As a style, they're known for being spicy, crisp and refreshing - Spring or Summer beers. You could say that such beer would be inappropriate given the movies I was watching, and that's true, but perhaps a nicer way to put it was that I was contrasting the refreshing beer style with the depravity on screen. Yeah. That's the ticket.

The Bruery Saison de Lente

The Bruery Saison De Lente - I've only had two Bruery beers before, but both have been damn near perfect in execution. As such, I had high hopes for this, their Spring seasonal saison brewed with Brettanomyces to give it a wild kick. Pours a clear golden color with ample head that subsides quickly, leaving lots of lacing. Smell is dominated by Belgian yeast and a little of that Brett character. Taste starts sweet, gets a bit of a wild and zesty feeling in the middle that makes itself more prominent in the finish, which is a little dry as well. That zestiness is probably the Brett shining through, and it became more powerful as I reached the end of the bottle. High carbonation and a mildly harsh mouthfeel, typical of saisons. I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's a refreshing change of pace and extremely well crafted. Just what I was looking for... and I'm greatly looking forward to exploring some more Bruery beers in the near future... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Victory Helios Ale

Victory Helios Ale - Helios was the Greek god of the sun - an appropriate name for a summer beer, eh? Another clear golden colored beer here, very little head in my pour. Smells very spicy, lots of pepper, with a hint of citrus and some typical Belgian yeast. Taste starts sweet, with some zingy bitterness coming out in the middle and finish (I wouldn't call it super hoppy, but it does have a distinctly bitter feel). The finish also has an interesting spicy character that lingers a bit. Mouthfeel is full of carbonation and a little harsh, about on par with the Bruery's effort. This one has a bit of that zestiness, but nowhere near as much as the Bruery beer. While it made a good first impression, I have to admit that I was less enamored with it as I reached the end of the bottle. The other thing I found a bit strange about this was that I'm pretty sure I had this on tap once, and that it had a much stronger lemony zest to it than I'm getting out of this bottle. It's been sitting in my fridge for a while, so perhaps its undergone some sort of change. I guess, then, I'll give it a provisional B-, but it's something I think i should revisit sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass.

While my last update covered some fantastic beers, I was a little disappointed by the variety of good beers available to me in Vegas. I'm sure that if I actually sought out some beer bars, I would find something new and interesting, but it seemed that most places stocked the standard Macros and maybe one or two interesting beers. Fortunately, I did managed to have a few other beers, even some that I'd never had before:

  • Moretti La Rossa - At some point we ended up at an Italian restaurant for a sponsored junket/open bar and they actually managed to have a few Italian beers available. I picked one that I hadn't heard of (because most of what I have heard of from Italy is not so good, like Peroni) and it turned out to be pretty good. It's technically a Doppelbock, a style I'm not terribly familiar with, but which I should probably check out more often. It was a darkish red/brown color with a finger or two of head, and the smell was much fruitier than I was expecting. It's also got some roastiness and maybe caramel sweetness in the nose. The taste went along with that. Medium bodied with high carbonation, it was quite drinkable and the alcohol was well hidden (I had no idea it was as strong as it was). As doppelbocks go, I understand this one is a bit thin, but it worked well enough for me, and was a welcome diversion from the typical macro selections. I have no idea if Moretti is part of the burgeoning Italian Craft beer scene, but my gut says it isn't, even though I enjoyed this. More research needed... B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a plastic cup (yeah, no good beer geek glasses to be had - hard to complain about then when I'm getting free beer though))
  • Sin City Stout - Walking around the maze that is the Venetian shops, I spied this little hole in the wall:

    Sin City Brewing Logo

    In talking with the bartender, I learned that this is an uber-local brewery, only distributing to Las Vegas. Their lineup seemed rather standard (though I should note that their "seasonal", apparently some sort of IPA, was out when I was there), but I wanted to try something new and different, so I ordered up a stout:

    Sin City Stout

    It was on a nitro tap, so I got one of them gorgeous pours, even if it had to be in a plastic cup. Indeed, it took forever for the nitro foam to subside, which wasn't really a problem for me, as I do enjoy a good nitro pour every now and again. The beer itself was actually a pretty solid stout. Nothing particularly special about it, save for the nitro pour, but it holds its own against the other nitro stouts I've had, including Guinness. Dark, roasty, and tasty, I would probably order this before a Guiness, actually. Not a huge flavor-bomb or anything, but a really solid standard entry in the style. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on nitro tap. Drank from a plastic cup.)

  • Sin City Weiss - I stopped back into the bar to try this one out, and what I got was another solid example of a rather standard style. When I ordered it, the bartender told me that it had a "banana clove" taste to it, as if it was a bad thing (apparently lots of people order it without realizing what wheat beers taste like), but that's music to my ears. Again, very good beer, but not really exceptional or the best of its kind. Still, I really enjoyed it and if my upcoming homebrewed attempt at a wheat beer turns out this good, I'll be quite happy. B (Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV on nitro tap. Drank from a plastic cup.)
  • Chimay Grand Reserve (Blue): Chimay seems to the be the Fancy restaurant's go to beer in Vegas, as it was available in a lot of the nice restaurants. So ordered one of these, probably my favorite Chimay variety, to go along with a really good steak I was having. As usual, it's fantastic. Deep, dark brown color, sweet and fruity in the nose, and a taste to go along with the aromas. Fruity sweet, full bodied, and complex, it's a classic. A

Of course, I had quite a few other beers during the course of the week, but nothing particularly interesting or that I could do a good review of... As noted in the comments to my previous post, Vegas isn't quite a real place. Somehow the laws of the universe don't seem to function properly there. It's a good time, but after a few days, it wears on you pretty quickly. Still, from an alcohol-scared state like PA, it's nice to be able to walk around outside with a drink. But that's not really enough. I'm glad I'm back.

Update: Removed La Rossa picture. Because it's a bad picture, that's why.

Vegas Beer Update

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I'm in Las Vegas this week for a work conference and so far I haven't really run into an awesome beer selection, though Bouchon in the Venetian has a pretty decent selection of beer for a fancy restaurant. There may be some other opportunities for great beer later in the week, but for now, this is what I'm making do with:

  • New Belgium Fat Tire - A pretty straightforward amber ale, this reminds me of a sorta west-coast Yuengling lager. It seems to be ubiquitous around here and while it won't blow you away, it makes a good session beer. It might be a little better than the Lager, but that also may be the novelty of it speaking, as New Belgium does not distribute anything near me... Hopefully I'll be able to find some of New Belgium's more adventurous beers at some point.
  • Chimay Cinq Cents (aka White) - Chimay's version of a tripel is fantastic, as always. I've had these many times before and may even have a half finished blog entry about it somewhere. I still wouldn't call it my favorite tripel or anything, but it's very good and retains a certain distinct Chimay character. I had it on tap at Bouchon, and it went well with my meal.
  • Delirium Tremens - Another beer I've had several times before, but which is, as always fantastic. In fact, I enjoyed it much better while having it during a meal. It's a very sweet beer, so having it all by itself can get a bit cloying after a while. Mixing it with rich, meaty flavors of my dinner worked really well. Also on tap at Bouchon.
  • Shiner Bock - There's a bar attached to Treasure Island called Gilles. It's a Country/Western bar (strike 1) and their beer selection featured mostly macros (strike 2), but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the Shiner Bock and was glad to have a few of these. The bar is pretty funny though. It's got a mechanical bull, and the waitress' uniform was... interesting (I suppose these two features mitigate the two aforementioned strikes). Oh yeah, the beer. It's good. As Bock's go, I have to say it's easily better than the recently reviewed Yuengling Bock, and made for a nice session beer last night. I can see why this beer is so popular (though I don't know why the beer nerds and BA are so hard on it).

I've had a few other beers and will hopefully have something more interesting before the week ends. More to come...

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

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