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.

Prairie Pirate Noir

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Avast, ye bilge rats! Come witness mine grog tastin.... ok, I can't really keep that up. Speaking in what I'm sure are apocryphal and historical dialects is just not my strong suit, even if last Saturday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day (more appropriate for me would be something like "I don't feel like paying for Photoshop." anyway). Plus, I drank this on Friday night not even realizing that Saturday was that most hallowed of holidays. I'm the worst. No, wait, what I am I talking about? You're the worst. Why are you giving me crap about not drinking this beer on a ridiculous, made-up "International Observance"? You are totally the worst. Instead, I celebrated World Water Monitoring Day by drinking fermented sugar water aged in barrels previously used to store fermented Jamaican sugar water that was then distilled. I monitored the hell out of my water intake on Friday, rest assured.

Um, anyway, Prairie has a whole series of Noir beers, each a pretty standard imperial oatmeal stout tagged with different treatments. The standard is bourbon barrel aged, but there's also coffee, vanilla, and even apple brandy barrel aged variants. Pirate Noir is the Jamaican rum barrel aged version. Shiver some timbers, torrent some new releases, and get ready for Pirate Noir:

Prairie Pirate Noir

Prairie Pirate Noir - Pours pitch black, with just a cap of light brown head. Smells of brown sugar, vanilla, oak, molasses, booze, really nice. Taste is very sweet, rich caramel, molasses, rum, vanilla, oak, a little booze in the finish. As it warms, I'm getting coconut and something along the lines of anise or liquorish too. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, a little boozy, a sipper, sugary but not cloying, and the finish is surprisingly easy going. Not going to gulp it, but it doesn't feel as heavy in the finish as it does up front. Overall, this is a very nice rum barrel aged stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 9/18/15. Bottled 18815 (so that's 7/7/15, not sure which batch, but this is long after they stopped waxing the bottles).

So perhaps I should try more of these barrel aged Prairie beers, eh? I've got another one in the pipeline somewhere, so look out for that, but what I really need to find is a Prairie Pirate Bomb!

Modern Times Lomaland

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Lomaland sounds like some ill-fated Lego theme park utopia, but the real-life origins of the name aren't that far off. Founded in 1900 by a bunch of proto-hippies, Lomaland was a utopian Theosophical community located in Point Loma in San Diego. Apparently they were fans of weird architecture (Ivo Shandor? The timeline is actually just about right for that, though Shandor's work is famously in New York) and planting trees, orchards, and shrubs, much of which survives to this day. I mean, it's no Cloud Cuckoo Land, but it's probably about as close as the real world ever got to such a place. Or not. I've never been to San Diego and know nothing about anything, so we should probably just get to the beer, which is a pretty traditional rustic saison in the Dupont mold, maybe a little on the lighter, drier side. Let's catch a ride to Cloud Cuckoo Land and hang with Princess Unikitty whilst imbibing this:

Modern Times Lomaland

Modern Times Lomaland - Pours a clear straw yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head and decent retention. Smells very spicy, cloves all over the place, a little peppery note here or there, some fruity esters doing their thing. Taste is a little more subdued, but it's the same gist as the nose, a little spice, clove and pepper, some fruity flavors coming to the fore towards the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, crisp, and very dry, on the quaffable side too. Overall, rock standard saison material here, not going to blow you away, but a nice canned beverage. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/18/15. Canned on 7/13/15.

Many thanks to Jay of Beer Samizdat for sending this one along. Modern times as a pretty great line of beers. I'd love to get my hands on some Funky Lomaland (basically this beer dosed with Brett and aged in wine barrels) or the BA variants of Monsters' Park.

The wishful thinking approach to fall: start drinking fall beers in the hopes of precipitating a drop in temperatures. We're fast approaching my favorite time of year, so I'm breaking out some more fall-based beers. We're not really ready for pumpkins just yet, but an imperialized Oktoberfest beer brewed with blueberry honey and brown sugar that's then aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels and conditioned on blueberries? That's the ticket. It's also perhaps a bit much, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work:

Neshaminy Creek Bourbon Barrel Aged Creekfestbier

Neshaminy Creek Bourbon Barrel Aged Creekfestbier Lager - Pours a slightly cloudy, deep, dark amber brown color with a finger and a half of off-white head. Those blueberries certainly show up in the nose, actually meshing pretty well with bourbon, oak, and vanilla, giving it an almost blueberry/bourbon jam kinda aroma. Taste is sweet, rich bourbon and oak up front yielding quickly to those blueberries which take over from there, a slight fruit tartness lingers in the finish. The Märzen base is certainly there, but it's clearly taking a backseat to blueberries and bourbon. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, plenty of carbonation, a little fruity acidity in the finish to cut through the heaviness, but still a sipping beer. I don't generally think of an Oktoberfest (even an imperialized one) as having the body to carry a barrel aging treatment, but this is really well done. Maybe we should see more of this. Overall, this works better than expected, quite tasty! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (22 ounce blue waxed bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/11/15. Vintage: 2015.

I feel like this is a more successful barrel treatment than BBA Leon and I found it really enjoyable (I would like to try a non-blueberry version though, that tart note works fine here, but it might be even better without that...) Next, I need to get my hands on, well, pretty much all of their other barrel aged treatments... and I'm sure a Punkless Dunkel will make its way into my house this season as well (even if you're not a big pumpkin beer person, that one's worth trying).

Tired Hands Conspectus

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Now that the Fermentaria is open, it's getting difficult to keep up with the sheer variety of awesome emanating from the fine brewers at Tired Hands. I still hit up one location or another pretty often, but the small batch style simply yields a lot of new brews. Also, I'm getting more and more lazy about writing down any sort of notes on the beer I'm having, which means it's getting difficult to even remember what I've had. Still, I manage to squirrel away some notes every now and again, so I might as well append them to the more detailed tasting notes on two highly prized bottles.

First up is Parageusia5, a Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented Ale, aged for approximately 12 months. This is a prized line of sours, and this one takes a distinctly more Flandersy take than previous Parageusias, and while it doesn't quite live up to the hallowed realms of the first few iterations, it's pretty darned fantastic. This quote accompanies the beer:

"Trigeminal prisim on a sunny hillside. Will you engage indefinitely?" - Christian Zellersfield

I can kinda, sorta parse that, and my answer is yes. I will engage indefinitely. Or I would, but I only had this one bottle:

Tired Hands Para5

Tired Hands Parageusia5 - Pours a very dark, clear amber color, very pretty when held up to light, with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and acetic sourness, kinda Flandersy. Taste starts rich and sweet, cherries and oak followed by a bit of acetic sourness, vinegar, vinous fruit, finishing on that sour note. Mouthfeel is full and rich up front, but less so towards the finish, moderate sourness and acidity, reasonably well carbonated. Overall, doesn't quite compare to the initial Parageusia offerings, but is pretty impressive in its own right. Also: match with dark chocolate. Delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/6/15.

Next we have one of them swanky beer and music collaborations, in this case it's jazz musician Mike Lorenz, who released an album of Black Sabbath and Nirvana covers along with this beer (Jean provided the art for the album, git that vinyl while it's still around), Scentless And Senseless. Lorenz is a fixture at Tired Hands, playing a show once a week and sometimes humoring the beer nerd masses during bottle releases. This beer is an oak fermented Saison dry hopped with Equinox and Mosaic, right up my alley:

Tired Hands Scentless and Senseless

Tired Hands Scentless And Senseless - Pours a very pale, cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell definitely has that foudre thing going on, a little oak and vanilla, big citrus aromas too, partly from the funk, partly from hops. Taste hits again with that foudre character pretty hard, dry oak, vanilla, some citrusy fruit in the middle, just a bit of tartness, followed by some earthy funk in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light body, hints of sourness, some very dry character happening, right up front too. Overall, a step up from the previously released foudre bottle (Astral Plane), and pretty delicious in its own right. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/12/15.

Dudholio - 4.5% ABV maize saison with motueka and Brett - Great little saison, light Brett feel, moderate fruity hops, and well carbed, really enjoying this! A-

Milkshake IPA - 7.4% ABV blackberry and blueberry IPA brewed with lactose sugar and Mosaic and Citra hops - So a while back one of the "Bros." from BeerAdvocate published a review of a cloudy pour of HopHands and called it a mess (the Bros. have a bug up their arse about beer clarity, I guess), saying literally "Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with modern styles... No excuses." In response, Jean and crew have put together a series of "Milkshake" IPAs (that actually use lactose and are also generally cloudy beers); as usual, it's a fun way to respond to criticism. Anywho, this was a great Tired Hands style IPA, juicy fruit, fuller bodied than normal but velvety smooth, great! A

Hissing at Snakes - 7.5% ABV Rye IPA - Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin, typically great TH IPA with a spicy rye kick, really nice! A-

Neutral Impulse From The Visual Cortex - 6.2% ABV IPA - Nice citrus hops and a surprising honey note, almost creamy mouthfeel... B+

Expansive Vestibule - 6.1% ABV sturdy Porter - Nice nose, dark chocolate and vanilla, with a more roasty taste and a relatively light body... B+

Einsteinium - 5% ABV hoppy sour - Not a huge fan of hoppy sours in general, though this is working just fine... B

Rutilant - 5.9% ABV Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe IPA - Beautiful little IPA, typical Tired Hands stuff but with significantly more carbonation, really nice... (IIRC this is one of the first beers I had at the Fermentaria, which seems to have a different carbonation profile) A-

Temporary Shape of My Own Person - 5.2% ABV Grissette - Like a slightly tart version of a typical th saison, crisp and light, refreshing summer drinking... B+

Vaporizer - 6.8% ABV IPA - Ah, now this is a typical TH IPA , bright, juicy citrus hops, something a little more on the green, grassy, floral hop side as well. Nice! B+ or A-

I'm Sad - 8.5% ABV imperial honey coffee Porter - Interesting interplay between the honey and coffee, both are there, but the combo sorta works for me, despite not particularly liking either honey or coffee! B

Can't Keep Up 23 - 5% ABV blended sour saison - Whoa cucumbers, blend of HandFarm, Parageusia, and Saisonhands conditioned on lemon, cucumber and agave nectar, tasty! Have liked other Can't Keep Up beers better, but this is nice. B+

Slowly Rotating Mass With Bright Lights - 5.2% ABV crushable pineapple IPA - Solid IPA, delicious and juicy, very light and quaffable, A-

Rigel - 6.8% Rye India Black Ale - This is all I wrote about this beer, and yeah, I don't really remember anything about it, though I'm guessing that means it didn't melt my face (nor did it make me do a spit take in disgust).

Fripp - 4.5% ABV American Bitter - Very nice bitter base with sweeter, more citrusy hop character, quaffable in the extreme! B+

Honey, I Love You - 5.8% ABV Honey Saison - Beautiful little saison here, nice citrus and spice character, a little oak and tartness in the finish... Foudre beer starting to come into its own. Delicious! A-

Avoiding Purgatory #1 - 6.6% ABV India Black Ale - Hrm, surprisingly muted hops and roasted malt here, one of those IBAs that makes me wish I was drinking an IPA or Stout instead of this quasi hybrid. Lack of roast probably has to do with the use of debittered black malt, but the hops (lemon drop and centennial) aren't doing the trick... Not really bad, to be sure, but TH has done much better in this realm! B

Yup - 5.1% ABV hoppy blonde ale - Amazing citrus nose, lemons and tropical fruit, tasty stuff! B+

Nope - 4.2% ABV dry stout - Polar opposite of Yup, dark, roasty, earthy goodness. B+

Rob "Strawberry" Berliner - 6% ABV strawberry Berliner Weisse - Very nice, lots of ripe, tart strawberry goodness, very well balanced, delicious. A-

Wound - 7.3% oat IPA - Awesome, back to basics Tired Hands style IPA, citrusy and floral, delicious! A-

Calm - 4.2% crushable IPA - Nice light pale ale, quaffable and refreshing. B+

Tuff Leather - 1.5% table saison - Whoa, beer nerd lite beer, nice carbonation profile, grassy, bready, a little watery, but not in a bad way for what this is... Very impressive for such a low ABV beer. B+

It's Okay - 7.6% ABV IPA - Nice IPA, sweeter than normal, lots of citrus, hints of dank pine, more body than normal, but really good stuff here... B+

Yellow & Green - 5.6% ABV dry hopped Pilsner - Dry hopped with Ella and Helga, 2 hops I've never heard of before! Earthy, grassy, floral, with enough citrus to take it away from traditional pils profile, nice! B+

Perfectly Preserved Brain - 8.2% ABV English Smoked Barleywine - Moar earthy than expected, sweet, slightly burnt bread, interesting, but not amazing.. B

Lambos & Mansions - 4.8% ABV crushable Galaxy IPA - Nice citrus hop character, dry, quaffable stuff, very nice! B+

Fuzzy Yellow - 6.3% ABV local peach IPA - Typically solid th IPA, citrusy, balanced, tasty! B+

Petalite Songbird - 5.2% ABV gooseberry saison - Whoa, was not expecting the tart, fruity funk on this, really nice, looks like Emptiness culture stuff, which explains it. Great stuff... A-

Minnow - 8% ABV DIPA - Nelson Sauvin & Citra Very nice, sweet, delicious, juicy, almost vinous stuff. A-

Kuro - 5.5% lime leaf schwarzbier - Muted black malt, burnt sugar, something bright, very nice! B+

Pathway of Beauty - 6.8% ABV Citra IPA - Holy hell, this is amazing, juicy hops, compulsively quaffable, delicious IPA, a kinda successor to Psychic Facelift (one of my favorite TH IPAs of all time)... A

Tired Hands Freedom from the Known
Freedom from the Known

Freedom from The Known - 7.2% ABV Cherry saison - Whoa, this is the most cherry I've ever gotten out of a beer, ever. Sometimes cherry flavors in beer are overwhelmed by other elements, but not at all here. Cherries are the star. Kind of like a cherry version of Peche 'n Brett. Amazing, tart, delicious, a little oak mellows things out, dryish, great stuff. A

Mosaic MagoTago - 7% Mango IPA - An interesting twist on the standard Simcoe Mago, beautiful juicy citrus IPA. Hard to believe this was on at the same time as regular Mago, Pathway of Beauty and Freedom from the Known. An embarrassment of riches at the Fermentaria! A

FunnieDuddie - 6.5% ABV Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe IPA - Typically good th IPA, but damn, this suffers from the comparison to the rest of the tap list right now. B+?

Yellow Fog - 3.7% cucumber Berliner wieise - Really nice, cucumber comes through well, still a nice tart beer, tasty! B

Lychee Milkshake IPA - 7.2% IPA made with lactose sugar, lychee purée, vanilla, and citra/Mosaic hops - Sweet and juicy, lots of citrus, almost rich, full bodied mouthfeel... Great! A-

Phew, that covers about 6-8 months of visits to Tired Hands, and honestly, I probably missed a few things. Indeed! I forgot to mention that the latest couple batches of SaisonHands, Tired Hands' flagship saison (and one of two beers that is almost always available) that used to be a rock solid standard-approach saison, but now spends time in the foudre and wow! You can really tell, this beer has changed a ton since the Fermentaria opened, and it's pretty amazing that it's this regularly available. This is the sort of thing that keeps me coming back (also the potential for that one night they had MagoTago, Pathway to Beauty, and Freedom from the Known on tap, seriously astounding).

Lost Abbey Track #10 - Bat Out Of Hell

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Sometimes you have a beer and it's great, but you wonder what it would be like if they only stuck it in Bourbon barrels. If you're like me, you think that about most beers, but one beer that stuck out for me has always been Lost Abbey's Serpent's Stout. It's pretty fabulous on its own, but just imagine the majesty that would result from a Bourbon barrel treatment! So when I saw that they made another batch of Track #10 (after the initial Boxed Set, they rebrewed some of the more popular tracks), I jumped. High. For the uninitiated, Track #10 is basically Serpent's Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with real Meatloaf. No, wait, sorry, that's not Meatloaf, it's a much more harmonious Coffee and Chocolate combo. According to this video, the coffee is from Ryan Bros and was steeped in the beer using L'eggs Everyday Knee Highs purchased from a local CVS. TMI? Too bad, because despite my infamous disdain for beer made with coffee, this is some pretty spectacular stuff:

Lost Abbey Track 10

Lost Abbey Track #10 - Bat Out Of Hell - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a light brown head. Smells utterly fantastic, lots of rich chocolate, some coffee, caramel, oak, and vanilla. As these things go, the nose is quite well balanced, not betraying a dominating factor. Taste starts with some sweet, rich caramel, moves on to more roasty, coffee-like flavors, followed by chocolate and maybe even some hop bitterness in the finish. Really nice balance between roast, chocolate, and light on the coffee (my kinda coffee beer). Mouthfeel is full bodied but well carbonated, slightly astringent from the coffee and and a little boozy, some stickiness in the middle, but drying out a bit in the finish. Overall, a pretty fantastic little number, but I kinda wish they made a straight up BBA Serpent's Stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 9/6/15.

As of right now, I believe only Track #8 and Track #10 have been rebrewed, but who knows. Maybe we'll see more tracks from the box set someday... Or perhaps just a straight up BBA Serpent's Stout...

Things I Can't Get Worked Up About

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The beer nerd world gets worked up about things on a regular basis. Today, it's the whole Lagunitas sell-out thing, which, yes, has an ironic component given the deranged ramblings of their owner in the past. But I'm sorry, I just can't get worked up about it. I've got too much beer to drink, not to mention all the other stuff going on in my life. Here's a few other things I could care less about:

  • Pumpkin Beer in July! Every year with these people. Yeah, it's faintly ridiculous that a big, heavy, spicy fall beer shows up on shelves in July, and no, I don't want to drink one whilst embroiled in a humid heat wave. That's why I don't buy pumpkin beers in July! No one is forcing you to buy them and there's plenty of other stuff on the shelves. We're drowning in a glorious deluge of great, varied beer these days. I can't get worked up about pumpkin beer showing up a little early.
  • The definition of Craft! Dear lord, why? It's fermented sugar water, and it's delicious. That's pretty much all I need. Look, I enjoy pedantic labeling exercises as much as the next guy, and if you want to see me rant about what the hell constitutes a saison, I'll go on about it for hours. That is something I can get worked up about, for some reason. But "craft" is basically meaningless to me, no matter how you define it. I'm sure I've used the term on here before, but the thing is, you probably understood what I was talking about without needing to delve into how many barrels a given brewer puts out in a year. Language is sometimes ephemeral, and I have a hard time getting worked up about the definition of craft. In certain contexts (i.e. if I worked for a trade organization dedicated to a certain group of brewers), I'm sure it's super important, but I don't exist in such a context.
  • Malty and Hoppy are lazy descriptions! And yet, non-beer-nerds seem to get it right away when I use those words. When I say biscuity or bready, they turn their head at me the way a cat looks at their owner when the food bowl is empty. I'm not trying to dumb it down or condescend, but I also don't want to lecture someone on the minutiae of malt and hops unless they're genuinely interested. My brother could care less about this stuff, but if I tell him something is hoppy or an IPA or something, he gets the picture and runs in the other direction. That's all he wants, and I'm not going to force feed him information on hop terroir and the flavor wheel and my personal system for ranking how dank a beer's hops are. I generally don't use these broad words here when writing tasting notes, but occasionally one slips out, and I simply can't get worked up about it.

None of these things are ridiculous, of course, and obviously these are popular topics to write about, I just can't get worked up about them. This perhaps explains my modest traffic here, as I rarely come down hard on a given controversy. In fact, for a guy who sez he can't get worked up over this stuff, I just wrote a bunch about it, so um. Hey, look below, beer!

What do I get worked up about? Beer! Here's a few things I've had recently that I didn't take notes about because I was hanging out with friends, new and old, and didn't want to bury my nose in my phone because I'm not a total jerk.

BeerNERDS Bottle Share
(Click to Embiggen)

I went to a local beer collective's bottle share recently and met a whole slew of new beer friends. A good time was had by all, and the bottles were pretty impressive. I didn't take notes, but a few did stand out:

Alesmith Barrel Aged Vietnamese Speedway Stout

de Garde Yer Bu

That's Alesmith Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout, which was spectacular (despite my legendary indifference to coffee) and de Garde Yer Bu, a delicious little Berliner Weiss that clocks in at a measly 2.5% ABV. Also of note was Tuckahoe Marigolden, an obscure NJ brewery making a pretty darn solid American Wild Ale. Literally everything else that was at there share was great too, but those were the standouts.

101 North High Gravity IPA

Speaking of sharing, a friend was over recently and I decided to share some of the haul from my trade with Jay of the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog. This was a quite dank, powerful little DIPA, it felt like a light barleywine with a little age on it, quite nice.

Tilquin Squared

At a local beeratorium, I spied this Tilquin Gueuze Squared. Apparently created by accident when they inadvertently over-carbonated a bunch of bottles. They gave it some more time in barrels before rebottling, but that meant that the ABV had risen a bit higher than normal. Perhaps not better than your typical Tilquin Gueuze, but a happy accident nonetheless, and quite delicious!

Union Duckpin Pale Ale

I've sung this underrated beer's praises before, and while it's not going to blow your head off, it's a great little pale ale, citrusy and quaffable. Worth checking out, and if you see Double Duckpin, definitely go for it!

Almanac Saison Dolores

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We're big fans of Almanac Brewing's Farm to Barrel series of beers here at Kaedrin, but they also have a flagship line of fresh beers that are regularly available, like this dry-hopped, multi-grain saison named after landmarks (Dolores Park?) in the Mission District of San Francisco (not, as originally thought, that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry can't remember his girlfriend's name. Mental note: I should brew a beer called "Saison Mulva" sometime.)

The dry-hopped saison field is pretty crowded though, with stuff like Firestone Walker Opal, Off Color Apex Predator, and even the staid, old-school Belgian brewers getting into the game with Saison Dupont Cuvée Dry Hopping, all widely available (and all fantastic). That's before getting to micro-distroed (is that a thing? Is now!) wonders like Hill Farmstead Dorothy or Tired Hands Shambolic. This is some stiff competition, so let's shuffle on down Dolores Street to see how this one compares:

Almanac Saison Dolores

Almanac Saison Dolores - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head. Smell has a very nice grassy hop aroma mixed with some musty Belgian yeast spice and esters... Taste has a light spicy note, some fruity esters, and then those grassy hops kick in towards the finish. As it warms, it evolves into a more spicy, peppery character, rather tasty. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, quite dry, a great match for food. Overall, it's a rock solid, standard saison that will stand up to most in that particular arena. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/29/15.

Many thanks to Jay of of the right excellent Beer Samizdat for sending this to me (and if I recall, introducing me to Almanac in the first place, way back when). It's certainly on the same field as its competition and if these fellas were local, I could see cracking one of these every so often (just like I order up a glass of Shambolic every so often at Tired Hands), even if I find the Farm to Barrel series more eye-popping. Speaking of which, two of those in the pipeline, so keep an eye out (or, you know, protect them from the eye-popping awesomeness of those beers).

Telegraph Gypsy Ale

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Many moons ago, all the cool kids were talking about this rad wild ale brewed with Brett and plums and lo, I was jealous. In typical Kaedrin fashion, I'm about four years late to the party, but I have to say, it was totally worth the wait. Telegraph feels like an underrated gem. Everytime I have something from them, I come away happy, and they've only grown in my estimation over time. This Gypsy Ale is the best I've had yet. What is it, you ask? In an interview with our friends over at Beer Samizdat, Telegraph brewer Brian Thompson recounts this beer's origin story:

Our Gypsy Ale was born from a conversation at the brewery over some beers. Paul Rey, one of our brewers, has very eclectic musical tastes. He had some Roma Gypsy music playing one day and we got to talking about what a Gypsy beer would be like. Definitely wild, we thought, and rustic, with some less common grains, like rye. And we remembered a Serbian guy we know who, at parties, always pulls out these re-used plastic water bottles full of slivovitz plum brandy he brings back with him from visiting his mother. Since I have a big plum tree in my yard, it clicked. We would add plums to a barley- and rye-based strong ale, and age it with Brettanomyces.
Well, sign me up... Opa!

Telegraph Gypsy Ale

Telegraph Gypsy Ale - Pours a mostly clear golden orange color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells great, spicy, fruity, funky, earthy, very, very nice nose. Taste follows the nose, spicy up front, followed by lots of tart stonefruit, plums, cherries, and the like, leavened by some earthy funk, with an almost acetic sourness pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and bright, medium bodied, slightly but pleasingly acidic, easy to polish off the 750. Mouthfeel is always something Telegraph has excelled at for me, and this is no exception, it's wonderful. Overall, this is a complex, delicious beer, certainly an underrated beauty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 8/28/15. Vintage: 2014.

These guys distribute out here in PA, but they only show up sporadically. Well worth seeking out! Many thanks to Jay for parting with this one, and I'm very sad that another Telegraph ale didn't survive the cross country trek. I actually snagged a bottle of Reserve Wheat to share with some friends in a few weeks, hoping to blow some minds (it was certainly an eye opener for me!)

Headlands Hill 88

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What we've got here is a Double IPA from the bay area, clocking in at 88 IBU and 8.8 ABV, I think I sense a pattern. Looking at the can I see it is hopped with something called Omakase! I mean, I'm pretty nerdy about this stuff, but even I can't keep up with all the new hops these days. So let me google that for you and, huh, it's a term used in sushi dining? So, like, these nutty brewers put raw fish in the beer? Fortunately not. Omakase translates to "I'll leave it to you" and its frequent use in sushi restaurants basically amounts to letting the chef select a series of plates to comprise your meal (usually working from light fare to heavier, richer dishes). The application to hops isn't that hard to suss out. The brewers always brew with the same recipe, but they vary the hops as they see fit for each batch. Neat idea, though the lack of any identifying batch number on the can means it'll be tough to figure out what you're in store for. Still, small breweries are often shut out of long term hop contracts and thus have to deal with inconsistent supply. This seems like a playful way of dealing with that (or perhaps they just like the idea in general, why not?) So how did this particular batch turn out?

Headlands Hill 88

Headlands Hill 88 - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells very sweet, some candy-like aromas, lots of dank pine hops, maybe hints of citrus. Taste is also very sweet up front, with that dank, resinous pine really coming through in the middle, and a bracing hop bitterness in the finish, along with a little booze. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, smooth, medium bodied, a little sugary but not cloying. Overall, it's a solid DIPA, but it doesn't really separate itself from the pack at all. Unremarkable, but a nice pint nonetheless. I can't help but wondering how this compares to other batches, which is an interesting thought. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/28/15.

Many thanks to heroic bay area resident Jay of the most excellent Beer Samizdat for sending this one my way. I'll have a few other ungettables from him in the near future, so stay tuned.

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

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