2013 Year End Musings

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Another orbital period has passed, which I guess means I need to reflect on the year that was or some such thing. Since I'm terrible at choosing favorites and because it's a totally arbitrary exercise, I'll be posting my top 40 beers of the year. That might seem like a lot, but then, I could probably do a top 40 Tired Hands beer list and still have 60 of their brews that didn't make the cut (I'm pretty sure this is not an exaggeration; they put up at least 1-2 new beers a week on average and I've kept up pretty well). I drink too much is what I'm saying.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Various musings on my year in beer:

  • Trading - It continues, and a fair amount of beers on the list below came from trades, LIFs, and BIFs, but not nearly as much as you might think. It turns out that Philly is a pretty great beer town, asinine PLCB rules notwithstanding, and even the suburbs are getting in on the action these days. I doubt I'll ever reach the crazy 5 trades per month tempo that some beer dorks engage in, but I'm pretty happy with the 5-6 trades I engage in per year, and I got to try some great stuff this year because of that.
  • Wales, bro - White Whale beers are a sorta moving target. When you start to dip your toes into beer nerdery, anything popular that is rare and/or isn't distributed near you is a whale. Stuff like KBS. Then you start ticking those top 100 beers that are hard to find, but the goalposts move to obscure vintages of absurdly limited beers (I've had approximately 1 beer on that list) and people start creatively misspelling whales as walez or wales and at that point, who cares? The hunt can be fun, but some of that stuff seems like a fool's errand. I'll probably stick with local wales and trade for some khaki wales if the mood strikes me. With stuff like Operation Cheddar an finally procuring some Cantillon, I've gotten pretty good at scoring some great stuff, and that's all I can really ask for.
  • The year the ratings died, sorta - I've been doing this for three years now, and I'm experiencing some serious ratings shifting here. Stuff I'd have rated an A a few years ago might be a B level beer nowadays. Is this changing tastes? Or was I just plain wrong? Or maybe I'm just drinking such a higher caliber of beer now that it puts that older stuff in a different perspective? Probably all of the above. So take my ratings with a grain of salt. I'm a moron.
  • Snobby Palate - I'll never claim to have a great palate, but I'm starting to get super snobby about fresh IPAs in particular. And bars that don't clean their tap lines are starting to annoy me. And I'm pretty sensitive to carbonation issues. I don't know how great this development really is, but I try not to annoy other people with my snobby palate and pedantry.
  • Sessionable Beer and Redrinking Beer - I used to basically never drink the same beer twice. And I used to review nearly every beer I drank. But that's lame. I've definitely drank a bunch of beers I've already sampled this year. Some are massive face melters that have a limited annual release (oh, hello there Parabola!), but I've also found a desire for "regular" beer or even a session beer. Sure, I still drink an unhealthy amount of high ABV stuff and the list below certainly contains ample Imperial Stouts and Barleywines, but sometimes I want to sit down with something normal, like a 4% pale ale. Not everything has to melt my face, all the time.
  • Home Brewing - A slow start to the year, but I've been on a tear of late. I've also been tackling "slow" beers, stuff that takes a while to actually finish off (like, for example, the Brett dosed saison or bourbon oak aged imperial stout), but in about a month, I should have about 3 batches hitting their prime. Poor timing, perhaps, but still. I've also finally procured a kegerator and have kegged my first beer (Red Heady), so we'll see what that does (I'm actually planning to keep a relatively sessionable beer on at all times, but we'll see). As per usual, I've got lots of plans and ideas, so it should be a fun year.
  • Aging/Cellaring Beer - I spent a pretty big portion of the year trying to drink down my cellar rather than going out and procuring the next big thing. Of course, I still buy way too much beer, but most of it is not really for aging, even if, uh, it takes me a while to get to it. There are definitely some beers that have really worked for me after a couple years in the cellar, but most are better fresh. This tends to be the general accepted wisdom in the beer nerd world, but it's interesting to discover it for yourself.

So it's been a great year in beer. As previously mentioned, I'm posting my top 40 beers, mostly because I feel like it. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year. Stuff I've had before but loved is also not eligible (so no Parabola or Supplication, etc...) so don't get too cuckoo nutso if your favorite beer isn't on the list. Or whatever, yell at me in the comments, what do I care? Everything on the list has been rated at least an A- on my grading scale and the ordering is generally from best to worst. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with lists, so whatevers. One other rule: I tried to limit some breweries to a handful of entries, because otherwise this would be a list of my favorite Tired Hands, Cantillon, and Hill Farmstead beers, and while that's probably accurate, it's also probably very boring. Alright, enough whining about disclaimers, let's demonstrate how crappy my taste is:

  1. Tired Hands Romulon (Saison)
  2. The Bruery Black Tuesday (Imperial Stout)
  3. Hill Farmstead Susan (IPA)
  4. The Alchemist Heady Topper (Double IPA)
  5. Cantillon Kriek (Lambic)
  6. Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine (Barleywine)
  7. Russian River Framboise For A Cure (American Wild Ale)
  8. Voodoo Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick (Imperial Stout)
  9. The Bruery Bois (Old Ale)
  10. Cigar City Nielsbohrium (Imperial Stout)
  11. Fantôme Magic Ghost (Saison)
  12. Cantillon Fou' Foune (Lambic)
  13. Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist Walden (American Pale Ale)
  14. Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA (Double IPA)
  15. FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Rittenhouse Rye (Imperial Stout)
  16. Oude Quetsche Tilquin (Lambic)
  17. Sante Adairius Love's Armor (American Wild Ale)
  18. Firestone Walker PNC (Imperial Stout)
  19. Half Acre Beer Hates Astronauts (IPA)
  20. Tired Hands Phantom With Three Different Colored Eyes (Double IPA)
  21. Tröegs Scratch Beer 83 - 2012 (¿Impending Descent?) (Imperial Stout)
  22. Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer (Barleywine)
  23. Cantillon Saint Lamvinus (Lambic)
  24. Tired Hands Only Void (Imperial Stout)
  25. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout (Imperial Stout)
  26. Cisco Brewers Lady Of The Woods (American Wild Ale)
  27. La Cabra Brettophile (American Wild Ale)
  28. Crooked Stave St. Bretta Summer (Wit/Wheat Beer)
  29. Three Floyds & Mikkeller Risgoop (Barleywine)
  30. Cascade Kriek Ale (American Wild Ale)
  31. FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Elijah Craig (12 Year) (Imperial Stout)
  32. Divine Teufelweizen (2011) (Weizenbock)
  33. Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude (Smoked Beer)
  34. Clown Shoes & Three Heads Brewing Third Party Candidate (Imperial Red Ale)
  35. Forest & Main Oubliant (Tripel)
  36. Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot (Barleywine)
  37. Voodoo Laird's Apple Brandy Gran Met (Tripel)
  38. Firestone Walker XVI - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  39. Caldera Mogli (Imperial Stout)
  40. Logsdon Seizoen (Saison)

Damn, that was more difficult than I thought. There are at least, like, 5 other Tired Hands IPAs that could easily replace the one I put in there, not to mention stuff like Guillemot Nebula or even the Rye Barrel Only void. I had a great year in beer. Here's to a great 2014!

Backyard Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout

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Yet another Bourbon County variant, this one is new this year, though it appears to share a certain kinship with variants of years past (for example, last year's Cherry Rye). It looks to be the same base stout, but instead of Bourbon barrels, they use Templeton Rye barrels, and then they add in a 50 pound dose of puréed mulberries, marionberries, and boysenberries to each barrel. According to the Chicago Reader, 200 barrels were filled (which, while still a lot of beer, is significantly less than the 1400+ barrels used for regular BCBS). So what I'm saying here is that this should not only have berry notes, but it will also taste more rare than regular BCBS (and maybe slightly more rare than BCBCS). And we all know how good "rare" tastes, right?

To be honest, I've never had a mulberry, marionberry, or boysenberry (though I get the impression that there is some relation to blackberries and raspberries for some of these, which I have certainly had), but while I do like me some berries, I can't say as though I really love them in my stouts. Sour beers? Sign me up. Fruited stouts? I can't say as though I've had many, but they haven't exactly inspired me either. However, if one beer could turn me around on this, I suspect it would be this one. After a long Christmas Day, I plopped down on the couch and cracked this sucker open (berries are holidayee, right?) to find out:

Backyard Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout

Goose Island Backyard Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color, with a thin cap of bubbly light brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich caramel, vanilla, whisky, with a very prominent syrupy fruit aroma. Taste is very sweet up front, some rich caramel, whisky, vanilla, and oak, but nowhere near as much as regular BCBS, and that syrupy berry character comes on strong late in the taste and lasts though the finish and aftertaste. That syrupy fruit is kinda hard to describe. It's not quite cough syrup (something I've seen in other fruited stouts) and it's not bad, per say, but I'm not sure I'm entirely on board with it either. Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, with some boozy heat. Not quite the monster of regular BCBS (or even BCBBW or BCBCS), and while it has a nice richness to it, it's decidedly less substantial than other variants. None of which is inherently bad, but these tend to be my favorite aspects of a barrel aged stout. Overall, what we have here is a fantastic fruited stout, probably the best I've ever had. That being said, I still greatly prefer straight up BCBS. In truth this is my least favorite variant. That doesn't make it bad, it's just that BCBS is so spectacular that this isn't really working for me. This is probably a personal preference thing though, as everyone else seems to love it. Go figure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 12/25/13. Bottled 20NOV13 0757.

So my favorite Bourbon County beer remains the original, straight up BCBS. Of the variants, my favorite was the Barleywine, but only because I'm not a big coffee guy - if I were, that explosive coffee character in this year's fresh BCBCS would knock my socks off. Backyard Rye is certainly a fine beer and I'd never in a million years turn it down, but expectations were perhaps too high here. There are some other variants floating around this year, but they're Chicago-only brews that I'm unlikely to try (which is a shame, as Coconut Rye sounds like it could be up my alley, and it seems to be pretty popular). So I've got a nice stash of Bourbon County beers that will hopefully last me the rest of the year, though at this point, I believe I've reviewed them all.

Posting will continue to be light this week, again for obvious reasons. Have a great (and safe) New Years everyone!

'tis the season for beer gifts. I arrived at work the other day to literally, like, 5 bottles of beer on my desk. Gotta love my coworkers (and of course I reciprocated said gifts)! Later in the day, I participated in the office White Elephant and ended up with another six pack (I didn't steal it and swear I didn't pick it thinking it was beer). Incidentally, my contribution to the white elephant was a 40 of Olde English (with a gift card tucked into the bag). It got stolen once, and the guy who stole it didn't even know about the gift card. Score.

Anywho, this here was one of said gifts, and it certainly has a very nice presentation. Waxed cap, bomber sized with a classy and beautiful label that nevertheless retains Terrapin's branding feel (which is tough, because I generally hate their labels), but as per usual, it's what's inside that packaging that counts, right? In this case, we've got a variant of Terrapin's normal winter seasonal, a milk stout called Moo-Hoo. Like the base, this one has fancy schmancy cocoa nibs and shells and is dosed with lactose. This variant also incorporates white chocolate into the mix in some way. Color me interested:

Terrapin White Chocolate Moo-Hoo

Terrapin White Chocolate Moo-Hoo Milk Stout - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of quickly dissipating light brown head. Smells great, lots of sweet, rich milk chocolate (maybe white chocolate, though I probably wouldn't guess that blind), some caramel, hint of vanilla, light roast. Taste definitely has that lactose sweetness, very light roast, not quite as complex as the nose implied, but still tasty. Mouthfeel is a little too thin for what it is, but its very smooth and velvety. Overall, its a fine beer, not quite as thick as it should be, but very tasty. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.1% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 12/21/13.

I've actually not had the base beer, so I can't say how it compares, but some seem to think it's basically the same. Terrapin has never particularly floated my boat, but I can't say as though I've had a really terrible experience either...

Posting will probably be light this week, for obvious reasons. Merry Christmas to those of you who are celebrating this week!

Evil Twin Aún Más Café Jesús

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Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the Evil Twin of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (of Mikkeller fame)... I don't know if they're actually twins, but I'm going to go one step further and say that they're identical twins, because they both seem to have this beer brewing thing down pat. I haven't delved that deeply into Evil Twin's (rather sizeable) catalog, but I'm beginning to think that might be a good idea. If I can afford it, that is.

This beer began as something called Even More Jesus, a big, chewy imperial stout brewed in Denmark. But like his brother, Jeppe is one of them new-fangled "gypsy" brewers who walks the earth, soaking up excess brewing capacity wherever he can. So he took his recipe on the road, ended up at Cervesera del Montseny in Spain of all places, and rebrewed the beer. This time around, he also made a variant with coffee, which is what I have right here. As befitting its origins, he translated the name to Spanish, leaving us with this rather great beer:

Evil Twin Even More Coffee Jesus, but translated into Spanish with a bunch of accents and whatnot.

Evil Twin Aún Más Café Jesús - Pours a thick, gloopy, very dark brown color, almost black, with a beautiful finger of brown head. Smells deeply of coffee, some roast and plenty of dark chocolate. Taste starts off sweet, rich caramel and fudgy chocolate, with the roast and coffee peeking out later in the taste, though less prominently than in the nose. Mouthfeel is thick, full bodied, rich, and chewy. Medium carbonation, but tight enough to retain a creamy, fudgy feeling, well suited to the style. Overall, this is an excellent stout, and coffee lovers would go crazy over it. Even I'm having an excellent time here, and I'm not a big coffee guy... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a snifter on 12/14/13.

This stuff seems just as good as Evil Twin's much more famous Imperial Biscotti Break, though perhaps this warrants further, uh, "research" if you know what I mean. And actually, given my lack of interest in coffee, maybe the regular ol' Aún Más Jesús (sans the Café) would be something to try. If I can find/afford it. Anywho, I bought this because I thought it kinda/sorta might be a Christmas beer (it sez Jesús on the bottle), but apparently that's not the case. Well I'll just have to see if I can get a little more festive this weekend.

Oude Quetsche Tilquin

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Once upon a time, Gueuzerie Tilquin made a believer out of me when it came to sour beers. Before Tilquin Oude Gueuze, I was like those scared apes at the beginning of 2001, cautiously approaching the sour beer monolith and giving it a tap every now and again. Throw a bottle in the air, smash cut to the space age, and now I'm rubbing vinegar on my gums in between sour beers just to keep things interesting.

Given the near impossibility of finding Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen on the shelf these days, it's amazing to me that Tilquin is out there for the taking. I almost don't want to speak so highly of them for fear that these wonderful beers will disappear forever. The thrill of the hunt is all well and good, but it can get old after a while. It's nice to pop over to State Line Liquors every now and again and see a "new" (I believe this came out last year) Tilquin beer like this one and just pick it up. But this is legit lambic, and I'd actually hold the Gueuze up above the standard Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen offerings (the non-standard ones, on the other hand, are another story, but that's still saying a lot). I originally graded the Gueuze an A-, but I've had it a couple times since then and I'd give it a firm upgrade to straight A territory.

This particular expression is a blend of 1 and 2 year old oak aged lambics that are then put in a stainless steel tank with "destoned fresh purple plums" for an additional 4 months (the sugars from the plums are fermented and mixed with the standard lambic). Color me intrigued:

Oude Quetsche Tilquin

Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L'Ancienne - Pours a golden orange color with a sorta pinkish hue and a finger of white head. Smells deeply of funk and oak, earthy, fruity, with the sour twang tickling in the nose. Taste starts out sweet with tart fruit, some earthy character picking up in the middle along with a dollop of oak, followed by an intense sourness that charges through the finish. I don't know that I'd pick out plums here, but it's clearly fruited, and it's a very well balanced melding of the standard Tilquin with a more fruity character. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and crisp, with some tannic oak, plenty of acidity and some puckering, especially towards the finish. Overall, this is fantastic. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/14/13. Best before: 29/01/2023.

So very good. The only Tilquin I've not yet had is the draft version, which is a slightly younger lambic with a lower ABV. I'll have to jump on that the next time I see it...

Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine

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Back before Goose Island sold out to the great satan, AB Inbev, they took their already wonderful Bourbon County Brand Stout and started making some variants. Some, like the one incorporating coffee, appear every year. Others were one-offs that will probably never happen again. One such one-off was Bourbon County Rare, which used the same base as plain old BCBS, but aged it in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels (which are indeed quite rare) for 2 years. It seems that Pappy mania has extended from the bourbon world to also infect the beer world, as this beer initially sat on shelves (due to a high price tag) but is now a highly sought after rarity in the secondary market or trading boards.

After BCBS Rare, Goose Island took those barrels and deployed them for a third use, this time with a rather large barleywine. The result, dubbed King Henry, was also quite a hit amongst beer dorks. So much of a hit, that a couple years later, Goose Island has revisited the general concept of a barleywine aged in third use barrels (first use was bourbon, second use the straight up BCBS) and rebranded the package as Bourbon County Brand Barleywine. It's only been a few weeks and it's always wise to give people some time to work through the hype, but the general consensus seems to be that it's pretty great. DDB sez it's not as good as King Henry was, but it's better than King Henry is now. I've not had King Henry (either fresh or aged), but this seems like an intuitive result. So let's take a drip down Bourbon County way, shall we?

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine - Pours a very dark brown color, maybe a hint of dark amber or crimson here, with just a cap of light head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells heavily of bourbon and vanilla, oak, fruity malt and booze, maybe even something like brown sugar. Taste hits up front with a wallop of rich caramel, turning to fruity malts in the middle, along with a heaping helping of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. The finish has a pleasant note of booze to it, along with the return of that fruity malt. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, rich, and chewy. Some booze, but nothing hot or unapproachable. Overall, this is exceptional. My face melted. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz. capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/7/13. Bottled on: 17SEP13 0934.

I'm very happy that I have a fair amount of BCBS and variants left, as this stuff is truly spectacular. I even managed to get ahold of this year's Backyard Rye variant (aged in Rye Barrels with a bunch of berries), so be on the lookout for that at some point in the near future.

Anchor Christmas Triple Feature

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Every year, I buy a six pack of Anchor's Our Special Ale, their Christmas beer, but I never drink all of them. I always reserve 3 or 4 bottles to try in the following years. This year marks the first time I managed to wrangle bottles from three separate vintages in one tasting. And if I keep the tradition going, I might be able to swing four varieties one year. Oh sure, the recipe changes each year (along with the label and the tree depicted on such), so it's not a true "vertical", but it's an interesting and fun experience anyway, amirite? Of course I am. I'm awesome. So let's get this party started:

Anchor Christmas Vertical
(Click for larger version)

Anchor Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a deep, dark brown color, maybe the faintest of hints of amber when held to the light, and about a finger of off white head. Smells full of those standard mulling spices, cinnamon and clove seem very prominent, but some other usual suspects seem to be hanging around as well. Taste follows the nose, lots of spice up front, with the sweet malt backbone filling in the middle, and the spices return for the finish, which also has a light, almost dry bitterness (nothing like an IPA or anything, but this isn't super sweet either). Mouthfeel is smooth with a spicy snap, well carbonated, and a relatively dry finish. Overall, it's another rock solid entry in the longstanding series... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a very dark brown color, almost no amber even when held to light, with a finger of dense, creamy looking head. Smells oddly muted, typical spices are there, but not as prominent as it was fresh (or as the other vintages). Taste is similarly faded when it comes to the spices, but the malt picks up a little slack, keeping it interesting enough. As it warms, I'm getting a little more of the uncommon spices (anise?) Mouthfeel is smooth, well carbonated, a little thinner than 2013, but still medium bodied. Overall, it's decent, but not as good as it was fresh last year, nor as good as the other vintages I had tonight... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas) - Moar dark brown beer here, finger of off white head. This nose seems to have held up better than the 2012, lots of spice, and maybe even a nice sugary component. Indeed, I think this nose is just as good if not better than the fresh 2013 juice. Taste also held up well, plenty of spices, and they're more harmonious here than in 2012 or probably even 2013. Mouthfeel is smooth and crisp, medium bodied, highly drinkable. Overall, this has held up remarkably well. It's not a religious experience or anything, but it's still really good, and definitely my favorite of the night. Go figure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.

So there you have it. You see? I don't drink barrel aged face melters every day... Though, um, I did have one later this night, which we'll get to next week. See you then.

December Beer Club

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In 2009, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men and women promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the West Chester underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as drinkers of craft beer. If you have a problem... if no one else can help... and if you can find them a local BYOB in which to meet... maybe you can hire... The Beer Club Team.

Well, that didn't work as well as it did in my head, but I'm going to leave it there as a reminder to myself that my stupid references aren't as funny as I think. Take that, self! What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folks from my work. We meet up once a month at a local BYOB and sample all sorts of beers. Decent turnout tonight, and some great beers too:

Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

Half remembered thoughts on each beer are below. For posterity, you understand. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order depicted above:

  • Harpoon UFO White - I could have sworn we've had this at beer club before, but I can't find any reference to it... Holy coriander, Batman! Very powerfully spiced for a simple wheat beer, but it made for a nice, bland start to the evening. B
  • Kaedrin Saison - Man, this thing is drinking perfect right now! Huge carbonation, spicy, crisp, and dry. Great with food, and I'm really disappointed that I only have a couple bottles of this left. This may end up being one of my better beers of all time. B+ or A- material here.
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Alas, this has not quite carbonated itself so well just yet. Disappointing. I had one last week, and it seemed like it was doing well, but nope, tonight's was lower carbonated than the last one I had. Weird. I'll give it a few more weeks before opening another (it seems that the regular saison is peaking right now, after several months) and leave it at that for now...
  • Ken's Homebrewed Winter Warmer - Very solid example of the style, very well spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, it came out really smooth and almost creamy, with that spicy kick. I really enjoyed this, even more than the other Winter Warmer/Holiday beers of the night. B+
  • Sly Fox Christmas Ale - Another winter warmer, and one I look forward to every year. Alas, they change up the recipe every year, and I have to admit, I'm not in love with this year's version. It's fine, to be sure, but not as good as previous years (or Ken's homebrew!) B-
  • Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale - It's amazing how little repetition there is in beer club. I can probably count on one hand the number of times that someone has brought a beer that's been at beer club before... This one was just at beer club back in September, which wouldn't be that bad except that no one really likes this beer! It's so thin and the bourbon barrel treatment doesn't really come through in any meaningful way (it's got some of that bourbon flavor, but it feels watered down and just flat). It's not a hideous abomination, but it's not particularly good either. C
  • Trappistes Rochefort 6 - A classic that I've already reviewed, and a welcome relief from the previous beer!
  • Affligem Noël - This was one of my favorite beers when I started the blog... but I didn't respond quite so well this time around. Not sure if it's just the context of beer club and a beleaguered palate, or if this really isn't as good as I remember. The balance is certainly off here, a little boozy, not enough malt and spice to counteract that. It's certainly not bad at all, and I do still really enjoy it, but perhaps not as much as I originally did... Let's call it a B or B+ now.
  • Southern Tier Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale - A late arrival, this perhaps should have been opened earlier in the night... but even then, I suspect this would underwhelm. C+
  • Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad - Dana and I shop at the same beer store. She shared hers, I greedily drank mine by myself. As I rated on Monday, B+
  • Stone Suede Imperial Porter - It's a fine porter, light roast, some complexity from those weird flower and jasmine adjuncts, but ultimately this is a beer that doesn't really float my boat. It's fine, I could probably take one down on my own, but I'm glad I was trying it in a tasting setting... B
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout - Another Dana special, I'm really glad she brought this... mostly because it's just awesome beer (that I've reviewed before). Still an A
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout - And this one was my contribution for the night. I had this last year and loved it, but it had aged for a few months before I cracked it open. This year, I had one fresh and thought I absolutely had to share this. I don't particularly love coffee, and this thing is a huge coffee bomb. It's amazing how much the coffee fades in the beer after a few months (I know the coffee is different every year, so maybe that's a factor this year too, but it's still dominated by coffee, to the point where I can barely get the bourbon barrel out of this, though it is there). Since some members of beer club are big coffee fans, I thought I should share it while it's fresh. It did not disappoint.
  • Fort Collins 1900 Amber Lager - I will refrain from talking much about this because after the Bourbon County, this was basically like water. A simple palate cleanser. That being said, it does not seem like my kinda thing...
And that wraps up yet another successful beer club. Already looking forward to ringing in the new year with beer club...

In the swishy world of beer trading, there are many ways to play. There's the obvious 1 on 1 trades, I've already covered the BIF (kinda like Secret Santa, but with beer and without the holidays), and now we come to the LIF, which stands for Lottery It Forward. The idea is that someone who has had some good fortune will pay it forward by giving away a beer or six from their cellar. Most LIFs consist of a simple challenge (the first person to answer my obscure question wins!) or straightforward lottery, but lately, there's been a lot of charity LIFs where someone will keep track of donations, then enter you into a lottery drawing based on how much you donate (usually 1 entry for every $10 donated).

Believe it or not, I've actually won two of these. The first was for a charity, and my prize was... a Tired Hands growler! Because I visit the brewery practically every week, the organizer was supremely apologetic and since all the other winners had been notified, I just asked him to pick a new name (gotta share that Tired Hands love). It seems karma saw fit to make me a winner in another LIF, so here I am with a box of 6 pretty great beers. Lucky (and grateful), I am.

This one comes from Colorado, which has quite the booze scene. Not just craft beery type stuff either. For this beer, Great Divide took one of their stable beers (perhaps amped up a bit), an old ale style, and aged it in Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels. Near as I can tell, Stranahan's is a unique little "microdistillery". Their mash bill is comprised of four different types of barley, so it's not Bourbon. Indeed, the mash bill seems kinda like Scotch, but it's all aged in new American oak and it's obviously not a single malt either. So yeah, unique. And apparently fun. Their labels all have a personal note from the person bottling it, usually a song or quote or something like that - this guy got a bottle that says "Listening to Xmas Carols". That's a nice touch. So let's see how these barrels treated this beer, eh?

Great Divide Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale

Great Divide Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of quickly fading off white head. Smells strongly of rich, fruity booze, lots of caramel with a strong malt backbone, and a little bit of that whisky barrel character. Taste has plenty of caramel and some of that fruity malt and booze, with the whisky barrel character making itself known, but not super assertively, towards the finish. Mouthfeel is surprisingly thin for such a big beer. Medium bodied, light carbonation (but nothing inappropriate), with a leading richness that quickly thins out (it's not watery or anything, but it's a lot thinner than you'd expect a 12.4% ABV monster to be). Overall, this is a really solid beer, but lacking in the richness and whiskey character that I was expecting. Is this a function of its age? Excellent question, I have no idea! I'm really happy I got to try this though, and despite my expectations of a richer brew, it is damn good... so I'll give it a B+ and that will be that.

Beer Nerd Details: 12.4% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/6/13. Vintage: 2011. Bottle Number: 0356.

Quite a nice one, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of my box, which includes some obscure Bruery stuff and a couple of those .rar Crooked Stave releases. Score. And this beer makes me want to seek out some more Great Divide, a brewery I haven't had much of lately, though I guess I've had a couple Yeti variants over the past year or so... but can you really have enough Yeti? I think not.

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad

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Boulevard recently made headlines by combining with European brewing giant Duvel Moortgat. This has caused much hand wringing amongst a certain set of beer nerds, but I have a feeling they're going to need to get used to such things, as I can only see brewery combinations or sellouts becoming more and more common. At least in the case of Duvel Moortgat, we've got a company with a proven track record of stewardship, being the parent to such breweries as Achouffe and Kaedrin favorite Brewery Ommegang. I guess not all large breweries are evil, eh? Of course, Duvel is dwarfed by the likes of the great satan, AB Inbev (who are several orders of magnitude larger), but still.

For my part, Boulevard has made some really interesting beers, though I've never been entirely in love with them. One of the few that really connected with me was The Sixth Glass, a solid quadrupel that provides the base for this Bourbon Barrel treatment. In addition to the barrels, we've got a tiny proportion of young beer (16%) and also a small addition of cherries (so small that they don't really register beyond the typical fruity esters present in Belgian strong darks). Sounds like a pretty refined beer to me, so let's get to it:

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad - Pours a cloudy brownish orange color with a finger of fluffy white head that quickly subsides into a cap that manages to stick around for a bit. The nose is very quad-like, lots of spice, a little dark fruit that is kinda hard to place, Belgian yeast. Not getting much barrel out of the nose at all, but maybe a bit of boozy bourbon is there when it warms up. The taste shows more of that barrel character, which has imparted a richness not normally present in quads, along with the usual Belgian notes of yeasty spice and dark fruit. The mouthfeel shows plenty of carbonation, keeping this squarely in the quad realm, but also that richness from the barrel aging. Full bodied and very well balanced. Overall, this is about as good as I could expect out of a Barrel Aged quad, even if it's not completely melting my face. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/29/13. Vintage: 2013. Batch Number: BB1324U-1. Best By Date: 08-2015.

Certainly a good showing, and their other "Limited Release" Smokestack Series beers certainly hold a lot of interest here at Kaedrin, notably the Saison Brett (which seems right up my alley) and maybe even the Imperial Stout. Stay tuned, as I'm positive that I'll snag one of those sooner or later.

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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 most certainly did. Thank you again for muling, you read more
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