Whiskey Grab Bag

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For the past couple of years, I've given up beer for Lent and substituted other beverages to make up the shortfall. One of the joys of this, aside from a shrunken waistline, is that I've got whole swaths of new territory to explore, including Bourbon and Rye. While I'm certainly not going to turn down the latest and greatest hyped stuff and have already tackled some of those, I'm also content to work my way through some of the more standard expressions that don't generate a lot of buzz on blogs or social media. This is good, as Pennsylvania is something of a booze wasteland. I mean, sure, I'd love to be reviewing Elijah Craig Barrel Strength instead of the standard 12, but the entire state's allocation sold out in, like 10 minutes (ditto just about every other special release I've ever seen). They're instituting a lottery system this year, but I'm not really counting on that (I'm pretty sure I've already lost my first lottery a few days ago!) and I've got plenty of old standards to work through anyway. Someday, I definitely want to take down more Pappy and BTAC, but for now, let's drink some stuff that I can actually manage to get my hands on (though I should note, half of these were procured in Maryland rather than PA).

Anywho, sometimes it's nice to take a break from obsessing over beer to take a look at other realms of boozy glory, so today we have four reviews compiled over the past few months. I'm a beer nerd with a baby palate, so take the reviews with a grain of salt. I've gotten pretty good at describing beer, but whiskey is still something of an enigma, but I do think I'm getting better.

First up is a Rye Whiskey named after PA Age of Enlightenment man David Rittenhouse, a noted astronomer and clockmaker who went on to become the first director of the United States Mint. Originally distilled in PA, it's now made in Kentucky as a result of the seemingly endless parade of acquisitions and consolidation that happens in the whiskey world. Rittenhouse Rye is part of Heaven Hill's portfolio, but as it turns out, I'm reviewing what is now a highly sought after bottle.

Every distillery has a registered Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) number, and for whatever reason, Rittenhouse Rye lists the DSP number on their bottles. Back in the 1990s, Rittenhouse was made at Heaven Hill's DSP-KY-31 distillery. Alas, that distillery burned down in a tragic 1996 fire. To make up for the loss in capacity, Heaven Hill contracted with Brown Forman to make Rittenhouse at the DSP-KY-354 distillery. This happens to be the bottle that I'm reviewing today. Just recently, Heaven Hill retook responsibility for distilling this rye at DSP-KY-1 and it looks like they've also done a rebranding. As a result, the old DSP 354 bottles are now highly sought after, especially since the new DSP 1 juice doesn't seem to be as well regarded (though some like it fine, especially considering the price point). Finally, the fact that it takes me 2 years to get through a bottle of whiskey pays off.

One of the reasons I think this took me so long to get through is that, well, it feels a lot like bourbon. I always thought this was just my inexperienced palate talking, but this is apparently one of the "barely legal" ryes, meaning that the mashbill has the minimum required 51% rye (with the rest presumably comprised of corn and a small amount of barley). I've got the Bottled in Bond expression, which is a legal classification meaning it was aged in a federally bonded warehouse and bottled at 100 proof (among other niggling requirements). It's also labeled as Straight, meaning it's at least 4 years old. Let's dive in:

Rittenhouse Rye

Rittenhouse Rye - D.S.P. KY 354 - Pours a light golden color with moderate legs. Smell has a nice spicebox component to it, a little oak and vanilla kicking in as well, but feels very bourbony (as opposed to distinct rye). Certainly get that rye spice in the taste as well, almost peppery, with some caramel too. Again, though, it has a very bourbony feel. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a little on the oily side, a little harsh and moderately boozy. Overall, it feels like a pretty standard whiskey, very nice for what it is, works fine neat and it makes good cocktails, but there's nothing here that melts my face either. I'm no rye expert, but this feels more like an extra high rye bourbon than full rye, but maybe that's just my lack of experience coming through. Still, as an all purpose whiskey, it's good, and cheap too. A high B-

Whiskey Nerd Details: 100 Proof, 50% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass. Distilled at D.S.P. KY 354.

Beer Nerd Musings: The Rittenhouse Rye barrel aged Eclipse stout was my favorite entry from the 2012 vintage, though it did not fare quite as well in the 2014 vintage horizontal tasting. I don't know of any other beers specifically aged in these barrels, but I always wonder if younger barrels make for better beer aging than older ones. As a homerbewer, I see potential for a rye oaked beer here, though I tend to prefer using bourbon (not that I'm that much of an expert in such things).

Next up, we have Sazerac Rye. Named after the cocktail of the same name, this is distilled by Buffalo Trace. They make are two expressions, a 6 year old and an 18 year old (a venerated rye that's part of the fabled Buffalo Trace Antique Collection). What I have here is the younger of the two, affectionately nicknamed "Baby Saz" by those in the know, and like a lot of ryes these days, it's apparently also in shortish supply. I did miss out on it when PA sold their allocation recently (another online flash sale that went in less than an hour), but Kaedrin favorite State Line Liquors in Maryland had some for the taking. This appears to be another "barely legal" rye, but oddly, I found it to be much more distinct from Bourbon, perhaps less spicy, but more subtle. Let's take a closer look:

Sazerac Rye

Sazerac Rye - Pours a yellowish orange color with thin legs. Unlike Rittenhouse, this doesn't smell much like bourbon. Definitely a little spice, but an almost fruity note to it (I notice this in high rye beers too), certainly not "new make" but the oak does not tamp down the rye at all, some nice vanilla though. Taste has a lot more of that spicy rye character, not as harsh or boozy as Rittenhouse, though I guess the lower proof will do that to my baby beer palate, a little oaky character pitches in too, but like the nose, it's not overwhelming and what you really get is the rye. Mouthfeel is lighter than the Rittenhouse, more subtle, less oily, with an approachable booziness. Overall, this reminds me of a more mature Dad's Hat Rye in that you really get that rye character coming through, but it's got less of a new make feel to it. I'm sure this is great for cocktails, though I haven't used it for such just yet. B

Whiskey Nerd Details: 90 Proof, 45% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass.

Beer Nerd Musings: Rye has a reputation for contributing spicy elements to both beer and whiskey, but as mentioned above, I find that some higher rye beers tend to also exhibit a distinct, almost fruity note that I got out of Sazerac too (and not at all from Rittenhouse). Funnily enough, one of the examples I've had of a rye wine that exhibited this fruity twang was a beer aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels. Go figure. I've never had anything specifically aged in a Sazerac Rye barrel, though there are apparently a few examples out there. To be honest, I don't know how well it would work, as it seems a little too subtle to really impart that great, rich character that a good barrel aged beer displays. If you think I'm full of it, I will gladly submit to your Sazerac Barrel Aged brew to test it out.

Now we transition to Bourbon, but we'll stick with Buffalo Trace and check out their flagship product. It uses their lower rye recipe (also used for Eagle Rare 10, a bourbon I never really took a fancy to, as well as some of the more prized BT products like Stagg) and while it carries no age statement, consensus seems to indicate it's around 8 years old. Pretty basic stuff, but I actually really enjoyed this more than I thought (though clearly not as much as the high rye Elmer T. Lee, which is fantastic).

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace - Pours a golden orange color with adorable little legs (i.e. not much). Smells sweet, caramel, toffee, vanilla, leavened with hints of spice. Love the nose on this. Not intense, but it hits the right notes for me. Taste hits the spice a little harder, but the underlying sweetness is still there, a little caramel and vanilla goes a long way. Mouthfeel is soft and approachable, light on the booze (keep in mind by beer palate is unused to this sort of assault, so this is saying something). Overall, this is another all purpose bourbon, great neat and I'm sure it would do fine in cocktails. Would be perfect for bourbon-oaked homebrew. It's not intense or mind-blowing, but it gets the job done. B+

Whiskey Nerd Details: 90 Proof, 45% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass.

Beer Nerd Musings: The Buffalo Trace Eclipse variant won the blind horizontal tasting I held recently, narrowly beating out Four Roses and Elijah Craig 12 (each of which had a single outlier that dragged them down). Local brewery Neshaminy Creek got in a whole boatload of Buffalo Trace barrels last year and aged a few beers that I've had in them, to varying degrees of success (I think any issues I have with them come down to the base beer). Not so local, but close enough Voodoo brewery made a few imperial stouts aged in BT barrels, one of which was fantastic and the other of which didn't work quite as well. Again, not sure if that's the fault of the barrels so much as the base beer, but make of that what you will. I'd still consider using this for bourbon oaked homebrew, and might actually use the remainder of this bottle for a Scotch ale I've been dreaming up (though, uh, perhaps I should use a Scotch for that, eh?)

Finally, the oldest and probably most well regarded whiskey in this post, we've got Elijah Craig 12. Named after the Rev. Elijah Craig, one of a few historical figures that are dubiously credited with inventing Bourbon, we're back with Heaven Hill now, and this one's pretty darned good. Apparently, they recently changed the label to omit the 12 year old age statement. Though the age statement still appears on the back label, many believe this is a precursor to a reduced or genuine NAS release in the nearish future, so stock up I guess. As you can see from my bottle, I rather enjoyed this and finished the whole thing within a year of purchasing.

Elijah Craig 12

Elijah Craig 12 - Pours a dark orange color, almost brown, medium legs. Smells very spicy and oaky, big spicebox component here, hints of caramel, vanilla, maybe some maple character. Taste follows the nose, big spice component, cinnamon, red pepper, cocoa, tons of toasted oak, caramel, maple sugar. Mouthfeel is almost full bodied, spicy, kinda dry, not super boozy. It kinda reminds me of a better Orphan Barrel bourbon (at about a third of the price), oaky, but not overly so, such that it doesn't overpower other flavors. Overall, this is fantastic, great oak and spice character with a sweet maple backbone, a solid choice for an everyday Bourbon. This would also be perfect for a bourbon oaked homebrew, if I didn't just finish the bottle. A high B+

Whiskey Nerd Details: 94 Proof, 47% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass.

Beer Nerd Musings: EC12 is a highly prized barrel for brewers. It's well known that Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout (and some variants) uses these (though their barrel program is so huge today that I wouldn't be surprised if they used barrels from every major producer). As mentioned above, the EC12 variant of Eclipse fared very well in the horizontal tasting and is generally one of the more prized variants (the 18 year variant they did a few years ago also has a spectacular reputation). This, too, would be great fodder for homebrew. It's rich and intense character at a relatively low proof should impart a lot of flavor (I'd go stout with this one).

Phew, that was a lot. This is obviously a beer blog, so it may be a while, but I've got some interesting stuff coming my way (or sitting in my cabinet waiting to be opened), so I will try to check in with a Bourbon review every now and again, just to break things up. I've got a couple of Private Selections, including a Four Roses barrel selected by a bunch of beer nerds, and another State Line Liquors private selection of Wild Turkey. I'd say stay tuned, but it might be a while, but hang in there.

Half Acre Pony Pilsner

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I have been surprisingly consistent in my newfound but still mild acceptance (an upgrade from moderate disdain) of lagers this summer, averaging about two or three new lagers a month. I still can't say as though I've got the thrills for the pils (not really a pilsner man, Teddy), but I've gained a modicum of respect for the style and will probably continue to explore as time and liver capacity permits. To be honest, I'm still at the, "yep it's a pilsner" stage, which is pretty sad considering how long I've been at this, but I am getting better, I swears.

This German style pilsner is one of Half Acre's staple beers. Would have been nice if this was packaged in those adorable little pony bottles, it is available in handsomely designed pounder cans. Despite the cute little pony in the artwork, I prefer to believe this beer was named after the venerable Hyundai Pony, the South Korean answer to the AMC Gremlin and Ford Pinto (um, legends in their own right). Maybe it was one of the owners/brewers first cars or something. Of course, I have absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever, but this is the internet so it must be true. I... should probably stop now before the libel lawsuits start rolling in. Let's take a ride on this pony:

Half Acre Pony Pilsner

Half Acre Pony Pilsner - Pours a very pale straw yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head and decent retention. Smells biscuity, some of those earthy hops doing their thing, maybe some faint hints of citrus. Taste has that bready quality to it, biscuits and crackers, some earthy, spicy hops kick in towards the middle and proceed through the finish, those faint citrus hints emerge a little more in the taste too. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and clean, goes down quick and hits that lawnmower beer spot. Overall, a very light (but quenching) take on the style, but enjoyable. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/15.

Decent stuff, as per usual from Half Acre. I'm sure we'll see more of them on the blog in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled. Or not, I'm not your mother.

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Update: The Session has come and gone, and the roundup of participants has been posted!

After last month's brief existential crisis, I volunteered to host a Session. It appears I was not alone, and perhaps this little setback was just what we needed to put a swift end to any doubts about the endurance of the Session. We've got at least 9 months of sessions scheduled out, and I'm sure more will carry the torch when the time comes.

For this installment, I'd like to revisit that glorious time of beer drinking when I was just starting to realize what I was getting into. One of my favorite ways to learn about beer was to do comparative tastings. Drink two beers (usually of the same style) with a critical eye, compare and contrast. Because I'm also a movie nerd, this would often be accompanied by a film pairing. It was fun, and I still enjoy doing such things to this day!

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that's fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I'm a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point. The possibilities are endless!

  • Drink two beers of the same style, pair with a double feature of horror movies (it being October and all - it's what I'll be doing!)
  • Drink two vintages of the same beer, pair with a famous double album (The White Album, The Wall, Exile on Main Street, etc...)
  • Throw caution to the wind and do a triple feature!
  • Drink a base beer and its barrel aged variant, pair with two episodes of your favorite TV show.
  • Actually, lots of other types of variants out there too: base beer and it's Brett-dosed counterpart, base and a fruited variant, base and spiced variant, base and a dry hopped variant, many possibilities here... Pair with video games.
  • Play master blender by taking two beers, tasting both, then blending them together in the perfect proportion for the ultimate whatever. Then say nuts to pairing it with non-beer stuff, because you're just that cool.
  • Test your endurance by taking down two bottles of Black Tuesday solo, then documenting the resultant trip to the emergency room*.
  • Recount a previous comparative tasting experience that proved formative.
  • Drink a fresh IPA and a six-month old IPA and discuss where you fall on the "Freshness Fetish" scale.
  • Drink a beer and compare with wine or bourbon or coke or whatever strikes your fancy. One should probably be beer though. I said "big tent" not "no tent"...
  • "These two beers are in my fridge, I should probably drink them or something." (Pair with leftovers.)
  • Drink a beer and a homebrewed clone of that beer (an obscure one that requires you to have both readily available, but this is part of the fun!)
  • Hold a March Madness style beer tournament, pitting beer versus beer in a series of brackets in order to determine the supreme winner.
  • Devise a two course beer dinner, pairing two beers with various foodstuffs.
  • If any of you people live near an Alamo Drafthouse, I think you know what you need to do. Do it for me; I don't have the awesomeness that is Alamo anywhere near me and wish to live vicariously through your sublime double feature.
  • Collect an insane amount of barleywines and drink them with your friends, making sure to do the appropriate statistical analysis of everyone's ratings.
  • Go to a bar, have your friends choose two beers for you, but make sure they don't tell you what the beers are. Compare, contrast, guess what they are, and bask in the glory of blind tasting.
  • Lecture me on the evils of comparative tasting and let me have it with both barrels. We'll love you for it, but you're probably wrong.

Truly, there are a plethora of ways to take this, so hop to it!

To participate, simply write up a recap of your double feature, post it on or around November 6, and send it to me at mciocco at gmail dot com. You can try to leave a comment on this post, but my commenting system is borked pretty hardcore at this point (you fancy schmancy Wordpress bloggers should be fine, but Google/Blogger dropped support for my current platform). I will try to fix it in time for the session, but to be safe, just email me or drop me a line on twitter @KaedrinBeer. My plan is to post the recap on Sunday, November 8, so don't feel bad about posting on Saturday or Sunday if Friday is too busy for ya! Have fun, and be safe!

* Kaedrin does not endorse this suggestion, which was only included as a satirical aside and not meant to be taken seriously. If, on the other hand, you'd like to pit Black Tuesday versus Pugachev's Cobra, that would be awesome**.

** Awesome, but also not endorsed. This was only included as a satirical aside to make the previous asterisked point more palatable and because I enjoy footnotes within footnotes, don't you?

Update: The Session has come and gone, and the roundup of participants has been posted!

Half Acre Gone Away

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While Half Acre Beer Co is located in Chicago, IL, the eponymous half an acre is actually located near Philadelphia. As a result, we've always been lucky to receive the occasional shipment of Half Acre beer. This despite Half Acre's seeming difficulty keeping up with demand in Chicagoland. I'm guessing the supply/demand ratio has changed a little as of late, as I've been seeing more and more Half Acre around here, and it is surely a welcome sight to many. Plus, while previous shipments have been mostly their flagship Pale Ale, Daisy Cutter, this time around, we're seeing more variety. Bonus!

They refer to this as their "cold weather IPA", whatever that means. It's apparently had quite the journey in being named, as another brewery brought legal action concerning their initial name "Senita", despite the other beer having "different words, with different spellings, meanings and visual identities". The joys of trademark law. So this got a new name, Gone Away IPA, and fancy new can whose artwork evokes old Nintendo-era games for some reason (this may just be me being a moron though). Anywho, let's go away with this beer:

Half Acre Gone Away

Half Acre Gone Away - Pours a hazy golden yellow color with a finger or two of dense head that has great retention and leaves lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic, bright citrus, some floral notes, and a helping of pine. Taste has a nice sweetness to it, citrus and pine hops kick in, and the bitterness emerges towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, light bodied, dry but velvety smooth, almost creamy. Overall, a rock solid if standard American Ale IPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/3/15.

This is nice, but that one off I had a while back, Beer Hates Astronauts, was considerably better. Alas, I don't think they've made that one again... In the meantime, I've got a few other staple Half Acre beers to work through, so stay tuned.

Avery Insula Multos Collibus

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During this, my most favoritest of seasons, I like to tie one on whilst watching horror movies. I try to select appropriate beers to match what I'm watching (for instance, last week's Pumpkin beer jamboree was paired with a trio of cheesy Larry Cohen films, making for a nice sorta gimmicky match), but this week was a Frank Henenlotter marathon and, well, there's no matching beers with that (and if there were, I don't think anyone would want to drink such things). So I just snagged this Avery beer with the Latin name, thinking perhaps I might inadvertently summon a demon or something.

Alas, that was not in the cards, but what I got was pretty good nonetheless! Insula Multos Collibus is Latin for "Island of many hills", but if you translate to Dutch, it basically means "Manhattan". It turns out that this is something of an ode to the cocktail. Aged in bourbon barrels with cherries and Avery's house souring cultures, which I guess gets you close enough to a Manhattan without getting too kooky (though wouldn't you use Rye barrels for this? Eh, better not overthink it.) So get your grimoire out and turn to the evocation passages, it's time to summon a cocktail in beer form:

Avery Insula Multos Collibus

Avery Insula Multos Collibus - Pours a murky amber color with a finger or two of short lived, tan head. Smells of a sorta bourbon cherry pie, rich and sweet, oaky, fruity. I'm no Manhattan expert, but I guess this is close enough while still hewing to (sour) beer. Taste starts off on the sweet side, fruity, boozy, but then it sorta dries out and a bracing fruit sourness kicks in towards the finish. Not as pie-like as the nose would have you believe, but admirable nonetheless. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, rich up front but it dries out by the finish, a little heat from the booze, and a bracing acidity. Overall, this is quite an interesting beer, better than your typical one note American Wild Ale, perhaps a bit too strong, but given the goal to emulate a pretty strong cocktail, we'll let it slide. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.7% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/2/15. Bottled: APR 16 2015. Production: 1308 Cases. No 27 in Avery's Barrel Aged Series.

This was certainly an interesting one, really quite happy I grabbed a bottle when I could. No more Avery reviews in the pipeline, though I did have a Rumpkin (which clocks in at 18% ABV this year, so lookout!) and might snag a Pump[KY]n if it shows up again... And any of these Barrel-Aged series beers generally interest me, so it probably won't be too long until we see another on here.

Almanac Pumpkin Sour

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Every year, Almanac attempts to put their spin on the Pumpkin beer. This is my first, but they've done an Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine and a Dark Pumpkin Sour, which both sound interesting, but they change it up every year. Perhaps someday, they'll land on the perfect iteration, but for now, I'm enjoying their attempts. This is a spiced brown ale blend of beer aged in wine and Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels with hand-roasted California heirloom pumpkins and their house souring bugs. Not too shabby:

Almanac Pumpkin Sour

Almanac Pumpkin Sour - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with just a cap of fizzy, tan head that is not long for this world. Smells a little like a sour stout, some dark malts, some spices, and a slight sour twang. Taste starts off very sweet, some dark malts and spice, just a little in the way of oak, maybe a hint of bourbon, vinous fruit, and a nice puckering sourness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is a little light on the carbonation, but there's plenty to keep it going, medium bodied, moderate acidity, hints of booze. Overall, this is an interesting beer, quite complex, though I'm not sure how much the pumpkin character sines through. The spices are there, but I'm not sure I'd identify this as pumpkin spice alone. Of course, this has no real bearing on anything, as the beer is pretty darn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/26/15. Bottled: 072315.

As always, an interesting beer from Almanac, if not quite their best. I look forward to their next iteration on Pumpkin though. I'm sure I'll managed another Farm to Barrel beer in the near future though, so stay tuned.

September Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and general revelry. This time, we stopped in at a local Pizza place for some deep fried dough, strombolis, and yes, pizza. It's not a big place and the pizza isn't as spectacular as the last beer club gathering, but we always manage to make due. Good attendance tonight too, and plenty of beer.

September Beer Club Selections
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some half-addled thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, this was a social gathering, so I wasn't paying too close of attention to what I was drinking and you should totes ignore what I'm writing and make up your own mind because I'm totally the worst and this post is definitely an ill-advised idea that I'm only doing out of tradition because I've done it for all previous iterations of beer club and are you even reading this? Why? The beer notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured (and some later attendees brought some stuff that is not pictured):

  • Platform Speed Merchant White IPA - Not expecting much out of this Ohio beer brought back by a visitor, fantastic citrusy nose, more typical IPA-like taste. Quite solid though, and worth a look on its own. B+
  • Pizza Boy Hop Test #1 (Cascade Single Hop) - Yep, it's a pale ale. The very definition of cromulence, this does nothing particularly special, but it's an enjoyable little pale ale. B
  • New Belgium Pumpkick - Whoa there, this is quite perfumey, moar ginger than anything else, but that perfumey character really overpowers everything else with this beer. Not horrendous, but not a particularly good pumpkin beer either. C+
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack - Back in the early days of this blog, this would have been an A worthy beer, but grade inflation is a bitch. It's still an accomplished and emminently accomplished IPA, well worth checking out. Delicious citrus/pine/malt balance. B+
  • Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau - Very nice little tart beer, tart, crisp, refreshing, very light bodied and easy going, sorta beginner sour stuff but quite nice on its own. B+
  • Overshores Tripel Brun - Bottle a bit of a gusher, and thus carbonation levels a bit off, but this is basically a very raisiny Belgian strong dark. B
  • Brasserie De Blaugies / Hill Farmstead La Vermontoise - I know I've had this before, but apparently I never reviewed it. It's not quite up to speed with the best of Hill Farmstead, but it's a rock solid saison, earthy and spicy, quite delicious. B+
  • Fantôme Coffee Ruby - One of my contributions, this came off as surprisingly muted. There's some coffee character that is definitely present, but it's not overpowering at all, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be a ton of other stuff going on with this beer. It's got a very, very mild funk to it, and the combination of the base with coffee doesn't entirely blesh, but it's certainly an interesting beer. A little weird, but could more interesting with more funk. Keeping in mind my legendary indifference to coffee, I'll give it a B
  • Cascade Figaro - This is typical Cascade sour here, which is to say, it's a fantastic little sour. I don't get a lot of fig or lemon peel out of it, but it's got that trademark Cascade lactic sour and oak character that just work so damn well. Generally agreed to be one of the best of the night. A-
  • White Birch Indulgence Ale (2014) - Not sure which version of this beer I tried (I think it's this retired 2014 version), but it was labeled as a Belgian Imperial Stout, and it definitely had a sorta brighter take on the imperial stout style that worked really well. Lots of rich malt, light roast, some hints of Belgian character, but with the style's inherent dark malt sweetness (i.e. not a dry or highly carbonated beer). Actually quite nice and among the better of the night. B+
  • Brewmaster Jack Barrel Aged Prinsipia Quad - Sounds great, but came out kinda limp, very boozy, a little raisiny Belgian character, but not at all balanced. Not terrible, but not quite getting the job done either. B-

And that just about covers it. We just got this one in under the wire, last day of the month. Will need to try and plan the next beer club soon. Great time, as always.

Midnight Sun TREAT

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Welcome to autumn, fuckheads! I'm not going to say that I'm a huge pumpkin beer fan, but I don't really get the disdain for them either. Of course there's no accounting for taste, and some people genuinely don't like it, which is fine. My answer to that is the same as my answer to pumpkin beers showing up on shelves in August: if you don't like it, don't buy it. It's pretty simple, really, and I find it hard to get worked up about pumpkin beers either way. Every year, I attempt to go out and try something new. What has aided this in recent years has been a diversification of base styles. It used to be that the grand majority of pumpkin beers were a simple amber base with lots of spices and pumpkin added in. Nothing wrong with that, and there are some great examples out there. But nowadays, we've got stouts, weizenbocks, barrel-aged wonders, heck, Tired Hands even made a sorta pumpkin spiced Seasonal IPA (It was decent!)

What we have here is our Alaskan friends' entry into the fray, a chocolate pumpkin porter brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Seems like a pretty hearty take on the pumpkin beer, so let's dive in:

Midnight Sun TREAT

Midnight Sun TREAT - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smell sweet with lots of those pumpkin spices, cinnamon standing out more than anything else, but if you really look for it, you can get some chocolate too. Taste starts off sweet, but drops off a bit as the spices take over, notes of chocolate in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, thinner than expected actually, well attenuated but not quite dry. Overall, a solid pumpkin porter, if a bit one-note and I have to admit, I thought I'd enjoy this a little more than I did. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/26/15.

As always, I have to wonder if the oak aged version would tweak my fancy a little more. We may yet find the answer to that conundrum, though no current plans. Up next in this decorative gourd season jamboree will be a pumpkin sour beer? You betcha.

Tahoe Mountain Double Feature

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Tahoe Mountain is a new brewery to me, introduced by our mutual friend Jay from Beer Samizdat in a recent cross-country trade. They appear to hail from Truckee, CA, on the Eastern side of the state near, you guessed it, Lake Tahoe. In fact, it appears they're just a few miles down the road from Kaedrin favorite FiftyFifty, which makes Truckee a pretty impressive little brewing town considering its location. They seem to be big on experimentation and barrel-aging, which is music to my earballs, so let's take a closer look at the two beers Jay flung my way, drunk whilst engaging in a mini-Larry Cohen horror movie marathon.

First up is their "full-bodied, yet sessionable rustic multi-grain Farmhouse Ale", a description bound to annoy English readers since it clocks in at 6.2% ABV. Perhaps these guys graduated from the Adam Avery "They're all session beers" school of thought, though this is admittedly a pretty easy going beer. Strap in folks, it's going to be a relatively smooth ride, but you can never be too careful:

Tahoe Mountain Provisions

Tahoe Mountain Provisions - Pours a hazy golden yellow color with several fingers of fluffy white head that sticks around and leaves lacing all over the place. Smells spicy, bready belgian yeast, with an almost grapelike fruit aroma kicking in too. Taste crackles with that spicy character, a little bit of a bite there, with only hints of yeasty esters lingering towards the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, very dry, but with enough firepower to keep it from feeling slight. Overall, what we have here is yet another rock solid but traditional style saison. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a Teku glass on 9/25/15.

Next up, we have a wild ale "aged two years in oak cabernet barrels with fresh cherries and blueberries", which sounds a mighty bit more experimental than the previous beer. Let's see what's up:

Tahoe Mountain Viejo Rojo

Tahoe Mountain Viejo Rojo - Pours a dark amber color, deep robey tones, nice looking when held up to light, with a finger of off white head. Smells Flandersy, acetic sour cherries, a little oak and vanilla rounding things out. Taste has a nice rich sweetness to it, some of those sour cherries pitching in, dark vinous fruit, clearly some dark (but not roasty) malts contributing, vinegar and a nice, well matched sourness puckering things up in the finish. As it warms, the tartness creeps up earlier into the taste, but regardless, it's more sweet than sour. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated, some vinegary acidity cuts through it all, but is not overpowering. Overall, this is a really nice sour, along the lines of a Flanders red, and makes me want to check out more Tahoe Mountain stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 9/25/15.

Certainly a promising start for a brewery I've never heard of before. Here's to hoping Jay slings more of these my way in future trades!

Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007)

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A couple weekends ago, I celebrated my birthday, and with it, uncorked a few prized possessions including this hallowed lambic from Drie Fonteinen, a blend of lambics aged on mostly whole raspberries from the fabled Pajottenland, but also includes some cherries and probably some other twists and turns. They don't call Drie Fonteinen's Armand DeBelder a master blender for nothing, and this beer was made in honor of his late father, Gaston DeBelder, so you know Armand went all out with this one. They've only made this twice, once in 2007 and once in 2013. I figured 8 years was enough aging for this one and dug into that first. It did not disappoint.

I don't put much credence to the pretty ridiculous White Whale list, but on a hunch I just looked it up and yes, this marks the first time I've had a beer from that ridiculous list (note that the 2013 vintage didn't make the cut). As you all know, rarity makes beer taste better, so let's fire up those three big fountains and get a load of this amazing beer:

Drie Fonteinen Hommage

Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) - Pours a very pretty pink hued amber, robey tones, finger of fizzy off white head that nonetheless sticks around for a bit. Nose is beautiful, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, berries galore, along with a deep, earthy funk and a little oak too. Taste goes in hard on that jammy berry front, again with the berry cornacopia, predominanty raspberry, but some other berries for good measure. Things get a little acetic and sour in the middle, followed by some of that deep, earthy funk, a unique character actually, but quite tasty. Finishes off with a nice oak and vanilla component that yields to a lingering sour note. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied and rich, jammy, slightly acidic, moderate to high carbonation cuts through nicely, certainly not a gulper, but very well balanced and a great sipping experience. Overall, this is intense, complex, funky, and balanced, leaning more to the rich and oaky side of fruited lambics (like Cantillon Kriek) than the light an airy (like, say, Fou Foune or St. Lamvinous), a wondrous beer, absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/13/15. Bottled: 14/02/2007.

Bottling date for the doubters

Wales, bro. Well that was impressive. After this one, I cracked a 2012 BCBS, which was holding up exceptionally well. Let's just say it was a good night. I actually have a 2013 vintage Hommage that I may have to hold onto a little longer, but I'm betting it will be opened sooner rather than later. I love these lambics, but they're a bear to get ahold of these days. Even Kaedrin secret Tilquin is starting to disappear from shelves these days. I have a couple Drie Fonteinen Gueuze in the cellar as well, and hope someday to try some of their other stuff. Cantillon has the reputation for better fruited lambics, but if this beer is any indication, they're basically on the same hallowed field.

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

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