Dark Horizon 4th Edition

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A crazy-high ABV imperial stout brewed by Kjetil "the bearded giant" Jikiun at Nøgne Ø in Norway? Fine, I'll take a flyer on that. Oh, who am I kidding? This was packaged in a triangular prism! With, like, Viking markings and shit! How could I not?

Inspired by Avery Mephistopheles's Stout, this is "a pain in the neck" for Nøgne Ø to brew, owing to the lengthy and unpredictable fermentation needed to reach that high target ABV. They change up the recipe every year and they brew some variants, including Red Horizon, which uses a variety of sake yeasts (Nøgne Ø apparently loves them some sake and makes their own as well). This particular edition of Dark Horizon (their fourth) uses Muscovado sugar and some sort of wacky green coffee beans treated with alfa-amylase (basically an enzyme that helps bread down the coffee). It's clocking in at a healthy 16% ABV, but they've packaged it in an adorable little 8.5 ounce bottle, so let's take on some null sets:

Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon 4th Edition

Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon 4th Edition - Pours a deep black color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of roasted malt, a little of that coffee, maybe a hint of smoke, lots of vanilla, some chocolate and caramel too. Taste features lots of that roasted malt, plenty of booze right up front, with tons of vanilla and a little caramel too. That booze returns in the finish, which also has a slight bitterness to balance all those malts. As it warms, some fruity, almost port-like notes emerge. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and reasonably well carbonated. Lots of heat from the booze, and a little stickiness too. A nice sipper though. Overall, this is pretty damn good. Perhaps not the best evar or anything that hyperbolic, but certainly a worthy beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 16% ABV bottled (8.5 ounce capped). Drank out of a snifter on 9/6/13.

I've definitely seen earlier editions around, even somewhat recently, so maybe I'll have to check that out sometime...

Voodoo Laird's Apple Brandy Gran Met

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When it comes to spirits, I'm a Scotch and Bourbon man. But I'm also a big tent guy, so I'm pretty open to trying something like Brandy... but Apple Brandy? That's not something I see myself seeking out. As such, when Voodoo's Barrel Room Collection came out, I was a little skeptical of the Apple Brandy variants. I've had a couple of Calvados barrel aged beers (basically Apple Brandy originating from a specific region in France), with mixed results (and nothing approaching actual apple flavor). Fortunately, it seems the Voodoo Apple Brandy variants are much better, and my first taste has essentially erased all doubts... this stuff is like sooper boozy apple pie, in liquid form (though this sort of mimicry isn't quite as perfect as Apple Pie Moonshine, it's still close enough in my book).

The base for this one is a tripel style beer made with Belgian yeast and Beet sugar. Supposedly, they add the sugar gradually throughout the fermentation, so as to extend the process in a way that won't overload the yeast. Or something. I've actually never had the base beer, but by all accounts, aging in these Laird's Apple Brandy barrels has done a world of good. Let's find out, shall we?

Voodoo Lairds Apple Brandy Barrel Gran Met

Voodoo Laird's Apple Brandy Barrel Gran Met - Pours a light brownish orange color with a cap of big bubbled, short lived head. Smell is straight up apple brandy and booze, bready with an almost nutty component, kinda like apple pie. I'm actually really liking the nose here. The taste follows along, tons of apple brandy and booze, it's drinking a lot hotter than 9.5% ABV, and it's not like that's a slacker of an ABV. Very sweet, but the booze sorta keeps that in check, which makes no sense, but I'm going with it. Apple is prominent, but not an off-flavor type of apple, and it's really good. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, a little sticky, lots of alcohol heat, good carbonation. It's not quaffable or anything, but for this booze level, it's actually quite approachable. Overall, this feels a bit like someone poured some brandy into an apple pie, then threw the whole thing into a blender and made a smoothie. Or something. It's not perfect, but it's an interesting and unique beer. I've never had anything like this, and it's really working for me. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz green waxed cap bomber). Drank out of a goblet on 8/31/13. Bottled 02-01-13. Bottle #321.

Well, now I'm quite excited that I've got those Laird's Apple Brandy variants of Black Magick and Big Black Voodoo Daddy. I'm curious to see how different the treatment works on a big imperial stout. Jury is still out on the next Voodoo release. There doesn't appear to be a satellite release in Philly this time around, and driving 5 hours to the brewery seems like a stretch. We'll see, I guess.

Very Angry Beast

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Maybe this beast would not be so very angry if we didn't dress it up in clown shoes? Alright, so this is a 50/50 blend of Blaecorn Unidragon and Vampire Slayer that is then aged in bourbon barrels. I can't say as though I've been truly blown away by any of Clown Shoes' imperial stouts, but I've enjoyed them all, and I'm always down for the bourbon barrel treatment. In this case, it seems much better integrated than the Porcine Unidragon...

Clown Shoes Very Angry Beast

Clown Shoes Very Angry Beast - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with half a finger of tan head. Smells strongly of vanilla, oak, and bourbon, with plenty of caramel and not much in the way of roast. Taste is very sweet, filled with rich caramel, vanilla, oak, and bourbon, with a hint of chocolate, roast and the tiniest inkling of smoke peeking through towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, but not as heavy or chewy as some other BA stouts. Balance is spot on, maybe a bit on the sweet side, but still better off than, say, Porcine Unidragon. Overall, this is a very solid BA stout, maybe my favorite offering from Clown Shoes. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 8/30/13. Bottled on 7/18/13.

Somehow, this marks the fourth imperial stout I've had from Clown Shoes, and it's my favorite yet. I've never been a big fan of theirs, but this one did raise an eyebrow or two, so I'll be keeping an eye out for that Cognac barrel aged barleywine they're apparently working on...

Switchback Ale

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Another random impulse buy from the Warren Store during Operation Cheddar. I'd never heard of this before, but when I brought it up to the counter with my bottles of Double Sunshine, I received a knowing nod from another patron who commented on my purchase of "the usual suspects". I asked about this one, but I had trouble getting a read on what he thought on this. After having the beer, I have to admit that I kinda get that. The label sez that "Switchback Ale was developed as a flavor concept, not adhering to any style guidelines", and it sorta drinks like that. Sorta. I found it strongly reminiscent of a pumpkin beer... but without pumpkins or pie spice. Whatever that means.

It's one of those beers that makes me wonder why I even bother posting a rating. As noted in the comments recently, my ratings tend to be relatively high, especially lately. This is partly because, well, who wants to write about mediocre beer? Also, as Rich speculated, there are enough resources out there and I obsessively read enough blogs/twitter feeds to have some intuitive sense of what's going on. This beer kinda threw me for a loop though. I liked it well enough, and it is clearly a very well crafted and interesting beer. I couldn't see it being something I reached for often (if it was regularly available to me)... but writing this post a week later, well, I could see myself cracking one of these every once in a while. I rated it relatively "low" on my scale though. Of course, a B is nothing to sneeze at, and that's not objectively low at all. So take that.

Switchback Ale

Switchback Ale - Pours a dark amber orange color with a finger of white head. Smells of bready malts, maybe buscuit malt, with some earthy hop notes for good measure. That breadiness may be coming from the yeast too... Taste is also very malt forward, mildly sweet breadiness and biscuit flavors (again, perhaps accentuated by the yeast), just a bit in the way of earthy, herbal hops. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, crisp, and relatively dry. Goes down very easy. BA calls this a Pale Ale, but this sorta feels like the base for a pumpkin ale (i.e. no pumpkin or pie spice or anything, but with the malt/hop/yeast bill along those lines). Overall, well crafted and balanced but very subtle. It's making a very nice accompaniment to dinner and it's something I could see trying again, but it's not among those face melting VT beers worth making the trip for (though it's probably worth trying if you're already there, and why wouldn't you be)... It actually seems like it could be a really great alternative to those who want to celebrate the fall weather, but don't like the heavy handed use of pumpkin and spice in so many beers. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a willybecher glass on 8/30/13.

Apparently Switchback only started bottling last year (after a decade of keg only brewing), and they seem to be doing well. I'd be curious to try some of their other stuff some day...

Cantillon Saint Lamvinus

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Earlier this year, I got fed up with coming up empty on Cantillon hunts, and in a moment of weakness (or strength, if you prefer) I broke down and ordered several bottles straight from the source. I got some of the "normal" varieties, but was also quite pleased to have snagged a Saint Lamvinus and decided to save the best for last. Along the way, I unexpectedly stumbled onto a bottle of Fou' Foune, and I'm really glad I had these two beers in relatively close proximity because they share a lot of character, while still being distinct. Now, for whatever reason, Fou' Foune is hyped to high heaven (even for a Loon), while Saint Lamvinus is merely a prized masterpiece.

If the opinions of a bunch of strangers on the internet are to be believed, these two beers are either of identical quality (both being rated 3.98), or the Fou' Foune is slightly better than its saintly brother (4.62 vs 4.51, which are both obscenely high). They both seem to be pretty rare, though maybe Fou' Foune is moreso. They are both exceptional beers and are very reminiscent of each other. Maybe people like apricots more than grapes, eh? Or, you know, who cares? It's great beer, I'm just going to drink it.

So this is made with merlot and cabernet-franc grapes which are soaked in Bordeaux barrels containing two to three years old lambic. Typical lambics are blended with "young" lambic to ensure the bottle conditioning generates enough carbonation, but the Saint Lamvinous is unblended. In place of young lambic, Cantillon sez they ensure carbonation in the bottle through the "addition of a liquor which starts the fermentation". I suppose we could get into a whole wine versus beer thing at this point, but ultimately, Cantillon is doing its own thing, and they're doing it very well:

 Cantillon Saint Lamvinus

Cantillon Saint Lamvinus - Pours a deep ruby color with a finger or two of lightly pink, dense head. Smells of musty funk, oak, cherry, and grapes. Taste is sweet, with the grapes coming through, but not quite reaching Welches levels, if you know what I mean. The funk and light oak presence give it a nice kick that prevents it from being too fruity or too vinous. A nice tart sourness pervades the taste, escalating at the start, peaking in the middle and fading through the finish. Vinegar, cherries, grapes, tart sourness, funk, oak, this is very complex but well integrated. Mouthfeel is lightly bodied, crisp, and dry in the finish. Compulsively drinkable, a little lighter than expected, but still very nice. Overall, this is amazing stuff, easily the equal of Fou' Foune and again, it was a very similar experience, with the major difference being the fruit used... A

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/24/13. Bottled 21 November 2012. Best before November 2022.

I've stashed away a bottle or two of duplicates, but have otherwise run out of new Loons. I will, of course, be scouring the earth to get my hands on more (including a potential Iris sighting), so I'm sure you'll see more Cantillon soon.

Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale

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While Operation Cheddar was predicated on acquiring beer from the Holy Triumvirate of Vermont Brewers (Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, and Lawson's Finest Liquids), I was also pleased to pick up a few random bottles from Vermont breweries that I'd never heard of. This one is from Foley Brothers, a small family business consisting of an Inn, a winery, and most recently, a brewery. The brewery is less than a year old, but they seem to be churning out some solid stuff. Not Hill Farmstead level hyped stuff, but this brown ale brewed with VT grown hops and maple syrup sounded pretty tasty, so I took a flyer on a bottle at the Warren Store:

Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale

Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale - Pours a clear brown color with a solid three fingers of fluffy tan head and plenty of lacing. Smells of your typical toasty brown malts, with a sweet, almost fruity kick, presumably from the maple syrup. The taste has that same sweet maple syrup kick to it, which sorta puts the brakes on your typical brown malts, though they still peek out for some toasty fun in the middle and finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, with some richness up front yielding to dryness in the middle and finish. Overall, this is a very good Brown Ale, a style I'm not normally really big on, but this gives it a nice twist. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of an Alchemist pint glass on 8/25/13.

I'd certainly be curious to try more from these fellas. Their Redbeards Ale, while not garnering much the way of ratings, certainly sounds interesting (a hoppy strong red ale)...

Of the holy triumvirate of Vermont brewers, Lawson's Finest Liquids seems to be the smallest and most obscure. The Alchemist puts out a ton of Heady every week (that it sells out every week is another matter, but they're still at least a couple orders of magnitude bigger than Lawson's), and Hill Farmstead manages to distribute the occasional keg to Philly, meaning that they seem to have something to spare every now and again. The same cannot be said for Lawson's. When I made my trek to Vermont the other day, the Warren Store had received 19 cases of Double Sunshine IPA, 16 of which had sold by the time I arrived at about 10:30 am. As near as I can tell, this is a weekly occurrence. As of a few years ago, Lawson's capacity was two 1 bbl batches a week, which is absolutely minuscule by industry standards (even craft standards), almost like a slightly scaled up homebrewing operation. I suspect that Sean Lawson has increased capacity since then, but it's still tiny.

All of which is to say that I'm pretty fortunate to have snagged a few bottles of this gem, a Double IPA that is prized like few others. It holds the #12 slot on Beer Advocate's top beers list with sky high ratings and plenty of ISOs. It's so popular that Lawson's has declared August "Double Sunshine Month" and is distributing nothing but Double Sunshine all month. Details on the brew are a bit sparse, but I'm guessing a significant presence of Citra hops, that most hallowed of trendy hops. Let's see how it fares:

Lawsons Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA

Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA - Pours a mostly clear golden orange color with a finger or two of white, fluffy head that fades quickly but leaves plenty of lacing. Smell is filled with herbal, floral, grassy, and citrus hop aromas, quite nice and complex. Taste follows the nose, very sweet with tons of hop character, plenty of those grassy, floral notes along with pleasant citrus, followed by a light, balancing bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, medium bodied, tight carbonation, refreshing, almost quaffable (well, I'm drinking it pretty damn quickly). No real evidence of booze here at all. Would be great to drink out in the sun (or, uh, double sun). Overall, yep, it's fantastic beer. A complex array of aromas and flavors that are mostly due to just the hops, which is awesome. Top tier stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of an Only Void snifter on 8/23/13.

With my first taste, Lawson's Finest Liquids lives up to their name (which I love) and proves themselves worthy of the excessive detour. I will gladly go far out of my way to get some more of their stuff, and you'll definitely be hearing more about these folks in the future. Hopefully the near future, but damn, Vermont is far away!

Tired Hands Anthology

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It's been a few months since I recapped some Tired Hands brews, and these notes have just been piling up, so I figure it's time to pull that trigger and share the wealth with you all... Of course, most of this stuff will probably never see the light of day again, but some of the big ones will probably be brewed again...

Tortoise - 6.7% ABV Brett Amber Ale - Dark amber brown, funky nose. Funk is reminiscent of the Darwin Solera series, some earthiness and even a touch of salinity. Stronger malt backbone makes this a little more complex than the Darwin series, which is nice. Good stuff! B+

Perfect Hole in One - 6.5% ABV IPA - Counter programming because the PGA tour was in town... A typically great IPA, huge citrus & pine notes, very Simcoe, really nice. A-

Guillemot - 8.5% ABV Dense & Dark Oak Aged Saison - This is sorta the base beer for Guillemot Nebula (and Prunus). Dark, slightly sour, nice balance with a creamy malt backbone. Really smooth and creamy, with a slight acidic kick in the finish. Strong beer, maybe not quite as great as Nebula was, but still a worthy A-

Cassie - 6% ABV Motueka Farmhouse IPA - A delicious mash up of the saison and IPA styles, really well matched hop to saison ratio, better than their singel hop saison Motueka (and most of the others in the singel hop series)... Delicious and quaffable. I really loved this beer. A

Tired Hands 5 out of 5

5 out of 5 - 10% ABV Imperial Stout brewed with cacao, peanut butter, marshmallow, PA maple syrup, vanilla beans, and One Village Coffee espresso beans. They gave a concise tasting note at the brewpub: "Notes of everything in the description" Big roasted malt notes in the nose, with all that wacky stuff showing up more in the taste. Definitely a stout, but lots of other stuff going on... Super complex, really weird, but really well done. Not even a hint of booze. Not quaffable or anything, but not a monster either. Some folks don't like Tired Hands' stouts, but I actually really enjoyed this. A-

Sunbather IPA - 5.8% ABV honey Meyer lemon hibiscus IPA - Wow, very pretty orange amber color, not your typical tired hands pale (which is cloudy straw yellow). Lots of floral hop notes (or maybe that's the hibiscus?) and lots of citrus (again, both from hops and other ingredients). Tasty stuff, really nice. A-

Due to an equipment malfunction TH lost a batch of DIPA and to fill the taps, they dipped into their cellars supply of aged, Brett dosed saisons:

Tavna - 6.6% ABV blended Brett saison - Solid beer with Tired Hands' trademark Brett character, salty, spicy. Great nose. Solid taste, not super quaffable, but good stuff. B+

Whalagos - 7.5% ABV Well aged blended saison - Similar to Tavna, but with more of a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, really nice. Mouthfeel definitely puts this one ahead of Tavna... A-

Singel Hop Saison Pacifica - 5% ABV - Usual cloudy straw yellow, bubbly white head. Nose hits with a sorta green hop character, reminiscent of the Pacific Jade version, and the taste bears that out. Grassy, a little earth, and typical peppery saison goodness. B+

Sleep - 7.6% ABV chamomile saison - Cloudy golden orange color with a finger of creamy head. Seems to have that trademark Tired Hands salty funk going on, but it works well. B+

We Are 138 - 7.6% ABV India Black Ale, brewed with pineapple - Black color, tan head, very nice nose, that pineapple coming through and matching well with those citrus & pine hops. No roast in the nose, but it comes out a bit in the taste, which is still very hop forward. Nice balance though, and very tasty. Overall, really great, delicious beer. A-

We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating At The Same Frequency

We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating At The Same Frequency - 6.2% IPA - Mostly clear golden color, amazing juicy citrus hop nose, tastes fantastic. Top tier IPA! A

Mr.Alien - 4% ABV Berliner Weiss - Nice refreshing beer, just a bit on the tart side, really easy drinking, decent stuff... B+

Tired Hands Ellipses

... (Ellipsis) - 7.6% ABV red hued Brett dubbel - Nice amberish color, that Tired Hands Brett in the nose, but hot damn does it match well with the base beer. Nice spicy Belgian yeast, with those dark fruit flavors, and that almost salty funk character tying it all together. I originally pegged this as an A-, but had another glass on a subsequent visit and it totally warrants an upgrade. Really superb stuff. A

Tired Hands Phantom With Three Different Colored Eyes

Phantom With Three Different Colored Eyes - 8% ABV citrus IPA - Whoa! Nice citrusy pine hop nose, but the taste and mouthfeel are absurdly great. It's got an almost creamy texture, with a great balance of sweetness from the malt and bitterness from the hops, and that juicy citrus holding it all together. Just superb! A

Penelope - 6.4% Farmhouse IPA - Typical cloudy light yellow color, nice Tired Hands funk in the nose along with some citrus hop aromas. Taste has that Tired Hands funk too, a little Belgian yeast spice, and some hops. Crisp, smoove, very easy drinking. B+

Kickphone iFlip - 5.5% ABV Citra & Amarillo IPA - A great light IPA, typical Tired Hands profile, beautiful citrus hop character, off the charts drinkable. A-

Pleasant - 5.8% ABV hoppy black ale, Simcoe single hopped - Nice looking beer, black with light brown head, but I'm not getting as much Simcoe out of this as I was hoping for. Still a nice beer, and if I didn't just have some superb TH stuff, this might get rated better. B

HappyHands - 5.2% ABV heirloom tomato Berliner Weiss - Well, yeah, that tomato actually comes through. Nice sharp acidic bite to this one. I'm not a big tomato person, so this isn't my favorite, but it's obviously well crafted. B

The Rest of Your Life - 6.4% ABV classic modern saison - A really nice saison, not quite funky, though its got that farmhouse feel. Typical Tired Hands stuff here, which is to say that it's great, if a bit straightforward. B+

Safe & Sound - 4.5% ABV crushable IPA - Pours a surprisingly dark color, murky brown (maybe some amber highlights), nice malt and hop combo, maybe some rye or oats going on here, surprisingly full bodied for such a small beer... I don't know that I would have ever pegged this as an IPA, but it's still pretty good for whatever style it is... B+

Singel Hop Saison Citra - 5% ABV - I'm surprised that Citra is not quite as potent as some of the others in this singel hop series, but this is still pretty damn good! A-

And that takes us up to stuff that was just tapped yesterday. See you in a few months with more Tired Hands goodness. Or maybe sooner if they have another quick bottle release...

Hill Farmstead Growlering

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Here at Kaedrin, we pine after Hill Farmstead like Wolverine, and I just got done explaining how I took a day out of my vacation to drive to Vermont and pick up some of their beers. Some of those beers were only available in growlers, which are not vessels to age in your cellar. Fortunately, it's not like we're going to slack off when it comes to Hill Farmstead beers, which don't last long in this household. So let's get this party started:

Hill Farmstead Susan

Hill Farmstead Susan - Another in HF's ancestral series, this is one I hadn't heard of, so I jumped on it. It's an IPA brewed with Citra, Simcoe (par for the course, everyone loves these suckers), and Riwaka (I'd never heard of this, apparently a New Zealand varietal) hops. Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head and lacing out the yin yang. Holy mango nose, Batman! Huge, juicy citrus hops in the nose, grapefruit and mango, just a fantastic aroma here. Taste follows the nose, lots of that juicy citrus hop flavor up front, with a pleasant, well-matched bitterness doing its thing towards the middle to finish, but ultimately the fruity citrus returns in the finish. I'm actually guessing that the Riwaka hops are what's giving this that unique mango twist that isn't quite like your typical trendily-hopped beers. Mouthfeel is light bodied, smooth, and almost creamy, well carbonated with tight little bubbles that give it that smooth/creamy texture. Utterly quaffable, my first glass was gone before I finished the first draft of this paragraph. Overall, superb. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/17/13. Growler filled on 8/15/13.

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude #7

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #7 - The latest in HF's philosophy series of beers inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was apparently quite the hophead (the Society & Solitude series is all about experimenting with hops). This one is made with Simcoe and Amarillo, music to my tastebuds. Pours a slightly darker golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head and lots of lacing. The nose here is much more grapefruit-like, with some floral notes for good measure. Taste is sugary sweet, with those hops balancing it all out and plenty of those floral and grapefruit notes to keep things interesting and tasty. Mouthfeel is a bit heavier, medium bodied, same carbonation profile, ultimately still pretty quaffable for an 8% beer (not quite Heady Topper territory, but close). Overall, this is a delicious hop bomb, though perhaps not quite as spectacular as Susan. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of an Alchemist stemless glass on 8/18/13. Growler filled on 8/15/13.

Hill Farmstead Amarillo

Hill Farmstead Amarillo Single Hop Pale Ale - Another in HF's series of single hop beers, always an enlightening exercise, though it's more fun to try them side by side (I was limited to three growlers, otherwise, I would have also picked up the Nelson Sauvin single hop pale ale that was also available). That being said, I pretty much know what I'm in for with Amarillo, which is one of my favorite hops. Pours a yellower golden color with a finger of white head and again with the lacing. Smells of juicy citrus hops, and lots of them. Taste follows suit, lots of bright citrus notes from that Amarillo hop, with a sharp, astringent bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light, and crisp. Not quite as quaffable as Susan, but perhaps moreso than S&S #7. This reminds me a lot of some of Tired Hands' Amarillo-based brews, which, uh, is a compliment to both breweries! Overall, yep, it's awesome. Duh. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/19/13. Growler filled on 8/15/13.

The growlers held up pretty darn well, I think. The only one that might have really been impacted was the Amarillo, and it was still superb, so whatever. I'm already looking forward to my next irresponsible trip to Vermont to fill up on more HF growlers.

Operation Cheddar

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As mentioned recently, I was on vacation last week. I joined family and friends in the Adirondacks (upstate New York, for the uninitiated) for general fun and merriment. Upon noticing that Vermont was, like, closer to upstate New York than it is to Philly, I made preparations for a detour on my way home. Thus began what would become known (to, uh, just me and my 5 twitter followers, really) as Operation Cheddar, an incursion into Vermont to secure beer from three hallowed breweries: Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, and Lawson's Finest Liquids. I'm going to spend some time wanking about the planning process, but if you're not interested in that, there's plenty of pretty pictures below (just click for bigger pictures).

The original plan was to get up early on Saturday (the end of our stay in the Adirondacks) and make a detour into Vermont before returning to Philly. Truth be told, Vermont isn't that much closer, and with the stops I was planning on making, it would still be an all day affair, but totally worth it. However, as I started looking into each brewery's availability, I realized that Saturday might not be the best day for the trip.

I monitored Hill Farmstead's Retail page (which seems to be frequently updated and the best source on availability) and it looked like Saturday would probably be crowded, but fine. However, in looking at The Alchemist's Facebook page, I observed that Heady Topper was selling out most Fridays, especially during the summer months. Lawson's distributes out of a Farmer's Market that is held on Saturdays... but usually only one Saturday a month (and not the Saturday I was going). I emailed Sean Lawson, and he said that my best bet to buy bottles was to go to one of three places listed on their site. He also mentioned to go on the day of delivery, as they tend to sell out quickly.

Basically, if I went on Saturday, there was a pretty good chance of being shut out of Heady and Lawson's. That would suck, so I pushed Operation Cheddar up to Thursday, where unseasonably cool weather lead to a lull in our activity schedule anyway. I'm happy to say, this was most certainly the right decision.

First stop: The Warren Store for some of Lawson's Finest Liquids.

The Warren Store

The stream behind The Warren Store
(Click for larger version)

This was a cool little store, with all sorts of artisanal foodstuffs, a bakery, a deli, wine, and, of course, a small selection of beer. It was actually a gorgeous day in Vermont, and they had an outdoor eating area right by a small stream. It was around 10:30 am, so after securing my allocation of Lawson's Double Sunshine (!!) and some other random Vermont beer that looked good, I picked up what was quite possibly the best breakfast sandwich I've ever had in my life. A great way to start the trip, and I was quite happy with the haul:

Warren Store haul

That's Lawson's Double Sunshine IPA, Switchback Ale, and Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale. The guy at the store said he had received 19 cases of Double Sunshine that morning, and that all but 3 cases had sold already. So basically, really glad I made this my first stop.

Next up, just a hop and a skip away, was The Alchemist.

The Alchemist Cannery sign

Heady Topper Thingamagig

The whole place smelled like fresh hops and malt (clearly a brew day) and they were naturally doing a brisk business. In fact, I later intercepted communications from The Alchemist that they sold out their supply of cans on Thursday afternoon (and no more would be available to the following Monday), so Thursday was definitely the right day for this trip. I bought as much Heady as I could, and picked up some glasswales while I was at it:

The Alchemist Haul

The Alchemist Glassware

Finally, Hill Farmstead, which was a bit of a hike from The Alchemist... but it was a pleasant enough drive, and the resulting haul was quite worth the stretch!

Hill Farmstead Sign

Hill Farmstead Building

There was actually quite a line for growler fills, even with the (apparently recent) limitation of only 3 growlers per person. Bottles were limited as well, but I was pretty ecstatic with my haul:

Hill Farmstead Haul

The growlers were filled with Amarillo Single Hop Pale Ale, Susan, and Society & Solitude #7. Bottles of Vera Mae and Grassroots Arctic Saison (Grassroots is basically the collaborative arm of Hill Farmstead, where they go out and brew at other breweries), and while I was at it, I grabbed a bottle of The Bruery Sans Pagaie (HF always has a selection or two from their brewer friends, so this was a pleasant surprise, as I've never seen this one in the Philly area).

Overall, I was pretty damn happy with the trip. It took up most of the day, but I got everything I was after and more (and if I stuck to the original plan, it would have been quite discouraging). The drive was actually pretty easy and scenic (Vermont is truly beautiful, and in case you doubt that small-town America exists, you should head over to Vermont), I didn't even lose GPS coverage on my phone (but I was still glad to have backup printouts). I even got back right in time for dinner, and was enjoying the spoils of Operation Cheddar before the sun set:

Spoils of Operation Cheddar

I suspect a day-trip from Philly would be a bit much (looking at at least 14 hours in the car for a round trip, and when you add in time spent at each venue and other stops, you're up to 18+ hours), but an overnight would work nicely. I actually had a lot of fun on this trip, so I will almost certainly be doing that overnight trip sometime. So that's Operation Cheddar. Stay tuned for a closer look at those HF growlers... and more Vermont beer reviews!

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

Recent Comments

  • Mark: I think the intensity was less to do with the read more
  • beerbecue: Nice finds. The only strawberry sour I've have is Hanssens read more
  • Mark: Well then, I'll have to keep my eye open for read more
  • Mark: Ahh, good to know about the caffeine, I just did read more
  • phagan55: Yeah, white and green usually have about half the caffeine read more
  • phagan55: Free tastings are the way to go, you can try read more
  • Mark: I need to try some of these with milk/sugar additions read more
  • Mark: I should try that next time. But again, I find read more
  • Mark: Yeah, I just don't drink Scotch often enough to really read more
  • Mark: For a while, I had both the Ardbeg 10 and read more