So I finally decided to stop trying to cram my beer obsession down my personal twitter account's feed (which will still probably feature some beer anyway, and feel free to follow that as well) and created a new feed @KaedrinBeer for that purpose. What will be on this stream? I'm not really sure! It will certainly contain pictures of stuff that wouldn't necessarily make it to the blog, as well as links out to other articles, blogs, and the like. You should totally follow me and tweet things at me and do other things that could be interpreted with various innuendos.
Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folk from my work who get together every month at a local BYOB for drinkery and fun. A light turnout this week, so we didn't actually get through every beer pictured below, but we made a valiant effort and actually drank a few that aren't pictured. I know, I'm disappointed by my neglect to capture those additional beers in photographic form too, but we'll just have to live with this:
Standard tasting note disclaimers apply: these notes are not trustworthy in any way, shape, or form, because whatever, I had fun tonight. In approximate order of consumption, not necessarily how pictured.
- Fantôme Saison - One of my contributions, it seems that Fantôme hasn't quite emerged from their smoky, rubbery funk phase just yet, though this one wasn't quite as janky as the one I reviewed recently. It actually had more of a Saison Dupont feel, with just a bit of smoky, barnyard funk to make things interesting. I'll keep it at a B+ and pine for the lemony, sour Fantômes of yore.
- Dale's Pale Ale - Pretty standard fare, but excellent as such beers go. Always a good choice, and I'll hit it with a B+, just like before.
- Kaedôme Saison (regular version) - So my regular homebrewed saison is actually drinking quite well at this point, big spicy yeast notes, plenty of Saaz hops, not as much Nelson Sauvin hops as I was going for, but quite a pleasant brew nonetheless. About half the batch is still in secondary, dosed with Brettanomyces (like Fantôme, hence the name of this beer). Probably still a few months away from that sucker, but even this non-funky version is doing pretty well. Another B+
- Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale - Rock solid hoppy amber ale, not quite as mindblowing as some of those hoppy imperial reds, but a worthy, highly drinkable beer. Yet another B+. I swears, not everything in this post will be rated the same.
- Ken's English White Beer - My buddy's homebrew, this one was made with wheat, rose hips, and an English ale yeast. A rather odd combination, but it works out reasonably well in the end. Nice wheat character, not much in the way of rose hips, but some English yeast character (thankfully without the diacetyl note that I often get from such yeasts)> Not a mind-blower, but a nice summer beer. B-
- Ken's Roggenbier - Another of Ken's homebrews, and possibly my favorite of the homebrews tonight. Nice spicy rye character mixed with hefeweizen notes from the yeast. Really nice combination that works very well. B+
- Port City Essential Pale Ale - Terrible. Ok, not quite that bad, but not particularly good either. A sorta muddy mess of hops and malt, never quite coalescing into good.C+
- Dominion Oak Barrel Stout - Now this one is legitimately terrible. Ok, so some people like that British diacetyl note sometimes, but I cannot stand it, and it just overshadowed everything else about this beer for me. Not undrinkable, but definitely not good. D
- Stone / Farking / Wheaton W00tstout - Ah, now we come to my favorite beer of the night, the Wil Wheaton collaboration with Stone and Fark.com, a huge imperial stout made with pecans, wheat, and rye, partially aged in bourbon barrels. Great rich sweetness, a hint of that bourbon and oak, with a nice overall malt character. A bit heavy, but quite a nice beer, really glad I got to try some. A-
- Ken's Irish red Ale - Another homebrew, this time a pretty straightforward Irish Red that was made with potatoes, a pretty nice combo. Sweeter than your typical Irish Red, though it keeps that same flavor profile and works well enough. I'll go with a standard B for this one.
So what I want to know is: who is Jack and why doesn't he know how to spell "Abbey"? Dear reader, I'm so sorry I haven't tackled this conundrum yet. It turns out that Jack is one of the three brothers who founded the brewery. He must be the oldest one, since he clearly got to name the brewery. So far, so normal, but then why the blatant disregard for spelling? Is Abby some sort of Ye Olde European spelling? Nope! Abby is actually Jack's wife, and he named the brewery in honor of her, presumably scoring major brownie points. Well played, Jack.
This particular offering is another smoked beer, but like yesterday's beer, I'm not getting much of that fabled meatiness out of the smoke, just plain campfire... which has its charms anyway, but still. I like bacon, is what I'm trying to say, and if there was a non-disgusting way to impart such flavors in beer, that would be nice. But I digress, let's brandish our cloak and dagger and fight dishonorably, like a spy:
Jack's Abby Smoke & Dagger - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of bubbly tan head. Smells lightly of toast and maybe a bit of smoke. Taste is surprisingly tame, with some roast and that smoke playing around the edges. It's not a powerful smoke character, it's actually integrated rather well with the rest of the beer. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated. Overall, it's a solid beer. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/3/13. Bottled 5.17.2013.
This exhausts my current supply of Jack's Abby. While none really made me fall down and see God, they were all pretty respectable in their own right, and represent a nice change of pace from the onslaught of saisons, stouts, and IPAs I seem to always fall back on. I'll certainly be keeping my eyes open for more of their stuff in my travels.
The use of smoked malt in beer is often described as imparting a spicy, smoked meat character, almost like bacon. Most of the time, I end up wondering who put their cigar out in my beer, but in rare instances, that meaty bacon flavor actually seems like a real thing. In the case of Porcine Unidragon, those Clown Shoes guys have taken their rather burly Blaecorn Unidragon imperial stout, added a small dose of smoked malt, then aged the whole thing in bourbon barrels. Truth be told, they'd probably be better off calling this Bourbon Unidragon, as I don't really get much in the way of smoke out of this. Not that I'm complaining, because, you know, Bourbon! Lace up your Clown Shoes and get down:
Clown Shoes Porcine Unidragon - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of roasted malt with some chocolate, caramel, vanilla and just a hint of bourbon. Taste again features a heavy roasted malt element (perhaps that smoke too, but it's a light touch and I don't get any porcine notes) with a bourbon kicker in the middle, a little chocolate, caramel, vanilla and oak, and that roast returning in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, moderate carbonation, lots of boozy heat, and just a hint of richness. So it's retained the base beer's attributes whilst adding in a welcome dose of bourbon and oak. It's not quite perfectly integrated, but it's an improvement over the base. As it warms up, it starts to come together better. Or I'm just getting drunk here. Overall, a little unbalanced, but a really solid beer. I'll slap a B+ on it, but I do think I enjoy this more than the base (which got the same rating).
Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 8/2/13. Bottled 4/17/13.
It's a good beer, easy to find, and dirt cheap for what it is (where else can you find a sub-$10 bourbon barrel stout that clocks in at 12.5% ABV?) I still wouldn't call myself a Clown Shoes fan, but these imperial stouts I've been having from them have been pretty good...
Flying Fish is New Jersey's largest brewery and, for some reason, they are very proud to be located in the Garden State (I kid because I love). So when Hurricane (sorry, superstorm) Sandy produced severe damage throughout the great state, Flying Fish decided to do their part and brew up a special batch of beer whose proceeds (note: the entire proceeds, not just profit) would go entirely to charities that were rebuilding the damaged areas. They named it Forever Unloved Sandy, basically just so they could abbreviate it as F.U. Sandy. A sorta hybrid pale wheat ale, it was made with ADHA 483, an experimental hop never before used in a commercial beer. It was only available on tap at first, but it proved popular enough to warrant a bottling, which I happily snapped up:
Flying Fish Forever Unloved (FU) Sandy - Pours a pale golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head and great retention. Smells strongly of grassy citrus hops, but not quite the typical citrus, which is a nice change of pace. A little wheat shows up in the nose as well. Taste is full of that grassy citrus hop character, starting with a nice sweetness that quickly yields to hop bitterness. Again, wheat pokes out towards the finish, but is not a dominant flavor. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and somewhat dry in the bitter finish. Overall, a very solid, interesting brew. It's not quite playing in the big leagues of hoppy beer, but it's got that experimental hop uniqueness going for it and is certainly worth a shot. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a flute on 8/2/13.
Flying Fish remains a brewery I need to become better acquainted with, especially their Exit series (of the ones I've had, they're pretty darn good).
Back in college, I expended some of my few electives on Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. I did so exactly for monster beers like this, but my defensive techniques were no match for Voodoo brewery's most prized beer. Indeed, this sucker sits atop the Top New Beers list on Beer Advocate, with sky high ratings and ISOs all over the place.
I used to think this was Voodoo's standard Big Black Voodoo Daddy (a hearty 12.5% ABV imperial stout) aged in bourbon barrels, but it appears to be its own beast (Voodoo has barrel aged BBVD as well, and I'll get to those soon enough). Depending on who you believe, it clocks in at somewhere between 13.5% ABV and 15.5% ABV, and in this case, it was aged in old Pappy Van Winkle barrels. As it understand it, PVW barrels impart mystical healing powers, but being black magick, there is usually some corresponding damage being done elsewhere. This ain't no second year "tickling curse" dark arts here. So sharpen your wands and prepare your counter-jinxes and defensive charms, we're going in:
Voodoo Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick - Pours a thick, gloopy black color with a full finger of lightish brown head. Really pretty looking. Smells heavily of caramel, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, classic bourbon barrel aged stout stuff here. Taste is extremely sweet, lots of rich caramel notes, and that heavy bourbon, vanilla, and oak character pervading the whole thing. Some hints of chocolate and roast open up as it warms. Maybe a hint of booze too, but not nearly as much as you'd expect. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, rich and full bodied, even reasonably well carbonated for such a monster. Some booze heat as well, and it coats the mouth and lingers for a while too. Overall, this is spectacular stuff. I can see it being too sweet for some, but it hit the spot just right for me, so I'll say it just barely cleared the bar for an A
Beer Nerd Details: Somewhere around 13.5% - 15.5% ABV bottled (12 oz. red waxed cap). Drank out of Voodoo Barrel Room snifter on 7/26/13. Bottle #47, bottled 1/18/13.
There was a single bottle limit on this stuff at the Philly release, but the folks at the brewery release fared a little better. Still, by my count, only 667 or so bottles were made, so I'm pretty happy I got my grubby hands on it (as well as the two other variants). The release was in April, so I'm not sure what the hell I'm waiting for. Expect some more reviews of Voodoo's barrel room collection in the coming weeks. They only make Black Magick every other year (last release was 2011), but they've got plenty of goodies in their barrel room right now and I just saw that they're doing another release in September. No details on that release yet, but I've got my fingers crossed for some BA Barleywine and Wee Heavy.
I admit it, I buy too much beer. As a result of this, I have a sorta defacto aging program. There have definitely been beers I specifically wanted to lay down for a while, but many beers get aged in my cellar simply because I have a long list of beers I want to try. When all this became clear, I did a little research and laid out my plans in a post about a year and a half ago. So how's this aging program going? Some general observations:
- Dark, strong beers seem to work best. Think World Wide Stout, which I loved at 2 years (I have since sampled a fresh pour, and yes, age does good things to this beer). Even just plain dark beers seem to do well with some time on it. I found a year old bottle of Lancaster Milk Stout in my fridge last fall and hot damn, that stuff was absolutely fantastic - smooth and creamy, just perfect (presumably similar results with the likes of other Milk Stouts like Left Hand's or Coffeehouse Stout).
- Barrel Aged beers seem to be a mixed bag. One thing that tends to kill me on this is a distinct lack of carbonation that I'm not always sure I can blame on the age. For example, Dock Street's BA Prince Myshkin RIS and BA Barleywine both had utterly fantastic barrel aged qualities, but they were nearly flat, and that's a problem for me (some folks seem to be fine with still beer, so good on them). Hoppin Frog's Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S. suffered a similar low-carbonation fate. Another thing to consider is hoppy beers, even hoppy stouts. In particular, Victory Dark Intrigue and North Coast Old Rasputin XIV take on a big faded hop character after about a year (still good, but very different from when they were fresh). Speaking of Victory, Oak Horizontal was great when I drank it on the day of release... but got super boozy and unbalanced after just a few months. Not sure if that one will come around... Not all Barrel Aged beers suffered from age. Witness The Bruery's Coton (which, true, was only 25% bourbon barrel aged), one of the few beers to earn the coveted Kaedrin A+ rating (after a lenghty 2 year stay in my fridge). The difference, I suspect, is the 14.5% ABV.
- Pumpkin beers don't seem to work at all. To a lesser extent, spiced beers also seem to fade quickly after a certain point, though they have a good year in them (Anchor's Christmas Beers are always worth trying after a year). Pumpkin beers, though, do not. Even something like Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout, a 10% ABV stout, doesn't do so well after just one year. The Bruery's Autumn Maple, while superb when fresh, did not hold up so well to aging. To be fair, perhaps my aging conditions were not ideal for these brews, but I still say drink your Pumpkin beers fresh.
- Barleywines are a bit of a mixed bag for me. They're usually good, but extremely hoppy varieties tend to feature a strong faded hop component. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it works well enough most of the time. English style Barleywines (like this High Water Old And In The Way, which had a year or so on it when I tried it) tend to fare a little better than the American style barleywines, which can be good too, but again, they tend to have a big faded hop component. On the other hand, really high ABV could make up for that. I'd be curious about something like Bolt Cutter, for instance. But I'd drink something like Flying Mouflan (a relatively svelt 9% ABV, and very hoppy too) while fresh.
- The jury is still out on funky beers and sours for me. I've heard that these keep for a really long time, but from what little experience I've had, I'm guessing their character changes significantly. Baudelaire iO was fantastic fresh, and still really good with a year on it, but I think I prefer the fresh stuff. I really wish I got to try Broederlijke Liefde when it was fresh, because it felt a bit unruly, but who really knows?
The short story here is that most beers are probably best drunk fresh. Aging is a bit of a crapshoot except when you hit reallly big beers like World Wide Stout or Samichlaus. It's really cool when aging something does work out, so I feel like it's worth playing in this realm, but if you just bought a beer that you've never had before and are wondering if you should lay it down for a while, I'd probably just crack it open right now. If you like it, pick up another bottle and age that to see what happens. I know, that requires foresight, which is lame. I'm bad at it too.
I'll have to go through my cellar and catalog some of the stuff I'm intentionally aging (or, uh, unintentionally aging), but I'll save that for another post.
Made with real Dog™, just like Red Tick Beer:
Or not. But then again, things do get weird up in New Hampshire and they have to do something to keep up with their neighbors in Vermont. You never know.
In all seriousness, this is Smuttynose's take on that under-appreciated style, the Old Ale. Smuttynose has long had a straightforward brown ale they put out in honor of their mascot, which is naturally a brown dog. Upon the passing of said brown dog, they amped up the recipe to make Really Old Brown Dog. So it's an old ale made from a base of brown ale. Sound good? Let's give it a shot:
Smuttynose Really Old Brown Dog Ale - Pours a clear, light but deep brown color with amber highlights and a finger or so of white head. Big malt character in the nose, lots of dark fruit aromas, some toasted notes. Taste goes a similar route, dominated by malts, maybe some lighter crystal malt with enough darker malts (presumably that brown malt) to impart a light toasted character. Nice fruity malt flavors make an appearance as well, though not quite as powerfully as I'd expect. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, not quite as rich or heavy as you'd expect, though it makes overtures in that direction. It's drinking pretty good right now, but perhaps with some age on it, it would deepen and intensify. Surprisingly little in the way of booze, which is a neat trick considering the 10.4% ABV. Overall, a damn fine beer. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 10.4% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of an Only Void snifter on 7/27/13. Bottle conditioned in 2013.
Last year, I sent a bottle of this stuff over to Jay, and he seemed to really enjoy it. Me, I'd be really curious to see what age does to this, a topic I should really revisit sometime soon. Hey, maybe tomorrow. Stay tuned.
I'm not generally one for the pomp and circumstance of serving beer. Maybe it's just because the most elaborate process I've seen is the ridiculous 9 step ritual for serving Stella Artois. That's a lot of work for very little payoff, if you ask me. So anyway, whilst perusing the beer menu at a local establishment, I spied some of that prized Cantillon Fou' Foune and went in on a bottle with some friends. Now we all know Cantillon's stellar reputation, but the hype surrounding this particular loon (a lambic made with apricots) goes well beyond even that. It cost a pretty penny too, but that's softened somewhat by splitting the bottle (that being said, if you can find it, ordering direct from Belgium and paying the obscene shipping would probably work out to a similar price) and we were pretty happy to ritualize the tasting of this stuff.
Our original plan was to take it home and enjoy there, but the bar requires the bottle to be opened on the premises, as they've apparently run into douchebags who would buy bottles from them, then turn around and sell them online for a stiff markup. This is a topic I've bludgeoned to death before, so I'll leave it at that. But one advantage to having it at the bar was that pomp and circumstance. Check out the proper brewery glassware and that swanky lambic serving basket:
But as with the likes of Stella, ritual sez nothing about what's in the bottle, so let's find out if this khaki whale lives up to the hype:
Cantillon Fou' Foune - Pours a very pretty golden color. Nose is pure apricot and musty funk. Very nice. Taste has that beautiful oak aged character, with a big fruity, tart pop, moderate sourness. Intense and complex, but very well balanced. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, crisp, a little acidic, some vinegar, perfect proportions. Overall, superb, delicious, would drink again (for the sarcasm impaired, this means that I'll be scouring the earth to find more bottles). A
Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Served from a lambic basket to a Cantillon flute.
I would have taken better notes, but then, I was trying to be social and felt bad enough scribbling in shorthand into my phone for a minute. Anywho, it's been a pretty fantastic few weeks here at Kaedrin. Things will likely not remain so exciting, but stay tuned, there's lots of fantastic beer on deck here at Kaedrin HQ, and a potential Vermont trip in the near future may result in more fun.
I have a friend who has a really large head, but it pales in comparison to the fat head that represents the logo for Fat Head's Brewery. I have to admit, I initially find that bulbous looking thing a bit of a turn off, but they seem to have fun with the logo and you know, he seems happy. Even jolly! And as we all know, it's what's inside the bottle that really counts, so let's take a closer look at this Ohio brewery's wares. I was fortunate enough to procure a few Fat Head's beers thanks to a friend who was visiting the great state of Ohio (my army of mules is growing).
Legend has it, head brewer Matt Cole spent much of his youth living in a Yurt near Lake Constance in Austria, where he foraged for food and discovered some wild hops that he fell in love with. At the time, he just used it in his recipes, but when he served some "Hop-A-Noodle Soup" to wayward travelers who knew a thing or two about beer, they encouraged him to look into the beer brewing profession. Fast forward to 2009, when Cole was hired by Fat Head's. Already a well established craft beer bar, Fat Head's decided it was finally time to dip their toes into the fermented waters of brewing, and immediately made a splash, lead in part by this flagship brew, a well hopped West-Coast Style IPA. So how did it turn out? Pretty darn good:
Fat Head's Head Hunter IPA - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a finger or two of fluffy white head, great retention. Smells of sticky, resinous hops, lots of pine, and some citrus hanging around too. Taste follows the nose, sweet with lots of piney, resinous hops, some citrus, maybe even some floral notes too. Nice bitterness pervading the taste from about the middle. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little sticky. Overall, it's a nice little hop bomb they've got here. Perhaps my bottle isn't the freshest, but as it is, I'm going with a B+
Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/20/13. Bottled 6/05/13.
It probably doesn't help that I had this in close proximity to another can of Heady, but what are you going to do? This is some great stuff though, and well worth checking out if you ever find yourself stranded in Ohio. I've got a pilsener and some sort of blueberry thing from Fat Head's as well, but this IPA is the stuff I really crave...