Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13

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Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve series is a different beer every year, usually a "big" one. That, my friends, is what she said. (Well, this post devolved quickly.) This year, it's an 11% Belgian style Quadrupel. From what I can tell, it's got a pretty limited release and people line up to buy the stuff, so big thanks to my BIF partner for getting a hold of some of a bottle for me. Let's not waste any more time:

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13 - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a little less than a finger of light tan head. Smells of Belgian yeast, lots of fruity esters and a little less in the way of spice. Maybe some brown sugar or molasses going on too, and a hint of darker malts (but not quite roast). Taste is nice and sweet up front, not quite as fruity as the nose would have you believe, more of a bready character, actually kinda like toast. Maybe even a sorta nutty flavor too. Hints of booze in the finish. As it warms, dark fruits come out more, plums and raisins. Lots of complexity, that's for sure. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but very smooth. A little boozy warming in the belly going on here, but it doesn't feel like a monster either. Not really dry, but attenuated enough. Overall, this is a very nice, complex, flavorful beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/22/13. Bottled 022713.

Another solid offering from Saint Arnold, a brewery I'll have to keep an eye out for next time I'm in Texas...

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void

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So far, Tired Hands has made quite a few barrel-aged beers, but as far as I know, they've all been sours. Excellent sours! And while I've certainly caught that sour bug over the past year or so, I have to admit that I still have an inordinate fondness for straight up whiskey barrel aged stouts. So it was with great anticipation that I chiseled my way through the waxed cap of Tired Hands imperial stout, Only Void, aged in local Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey barrels.

I had the "regular" stainless steel aged Only Void at the Anniversary Party, and I had the Red Wine barrel aged variant on Only Void day. Both were excellent, so I was really looking forward to this bottle - one of only 144 available at the release (adding in Believer's Club members puts the full allocation at somewhere around 220 or so - mental note: find out how to get in on that). So enough blabbing, let's drink this sucker. Oh and check out this fancy glassware too:

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void - Pours a deep dark, almost black color with a couple of fingers of tan, khaki head. Fantastic retention, the head never really goes away. Smells of chalky roasted malts, some caramel, maybe a hint of whiskey (but it's not very pronounced in the nose). Taste is sweet, full of rich caramel, very little whiskey and oak, but lots of vanilla. Chocolate flavors also present, and it evolves as it warms up too. Minuscule roasted malt character. Mouthfeel is super smooth, rich, creamy, full bodied, but surprisingly drinkable. Well carbonated, and no evidence of the booze whatsoever - impressive for a 12% beer. Overall, this is great, delicious stuff. Not quite best in class and no where near as whiskey forward as I'd expect, but right up there with the cool kids and face melters anyway. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of an Only Void snifter on 6/21/13.

Another winner from Tired Hands, well worth waiting in line for. These guys are absolutely killing it right now. And of course ther'll be more jealousy inducing posts about Tired Hands going forward!

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union

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Beer dorks don't seem to get very worked up by lagers, but then Jack's Abby shows up in Framingham, Massachusetts, and everyone starts losing their minds. It shouldn't be a surprise, because there's lots of flavorful lagers out there, but perhaps neophytes still associate lagers with the Macro crowd. Or maybe they're just so overawed by massive facemelting ales that the more subtle, cleaner lagers get lost in the shuffle. Whatever the case, there's a lot of room in the market for breweries that take the road less traveled. From what I can see, Jack's Abby is doing very well for themselves. They're a small operation and only distribute in MA, but a very generous friend kindly picked up a few of their beers during a trip up there last week (Thanks Danur!). I was most excited to get my grubby hands on these suckers, and immediately made preparations to drink this one first:

Jacks Abby Hoponius Union

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union - Pours a slightly hazy yellow golden color with a finge ror two of dense white head. Smell is full of hugely floral hops, some grapefruit, and maybe a subtle bubblegum yeast character too. Taste is full of those floral hops, herbal even, a bit spicy, some grapefruit, with a well matched bitterness towards the finish. Not as much citrus as I'd expect from something made with Citra and Amarillo (Centennial, on the other hand, seems to be dominant here), but that's not a bad thing at all. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, clean, crisp, and easy going. Overall, this is really good, easy drinking stuff. Not quite exactly what I was expecting, but damn good nonetheless. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/21/13. Bottled 05/06/2013.

A promising start, and I've got three more lined up. You will no doubt be seeing them over the next couple weeks.

My fourth batch, brewed almost 2 years ago to the day, was a saison that turned out fantastic when it was fresh, but degraded over time (and become super carbonated). I've been wanting to make another batch of saison recently, so I took the recipe for the initial batch, toned down in terms of malt, and threw in some fancy Nelson Sauvin hops for yucks.

The real adventure this time around will be splitting the batch into two after primary fermentation: half will be bottled at that point, with the other half going into a secondary fermenter and dosed with Brettanomyces. I've long ago established that saisons are the least coherent style in the history of beer... which is actually one of the reasons I love them so much. My initial batch (and half of this current batch) was patterned after Saison Dupont, a classic of the style. The Brett dosed half of this batch will (hopefully!) be closer to Fantôme's saisons, which is where the name of this beer (Kaedrôme, get it?) is coming from (big thanks to Scott of Beerbecue for suggesting that perfect name).

Allllrighty then, lets get this party started:

Brew #11 - Saison
June 22, 2013

0.5 lb. Belgian CaraVienne (specialty grain)
3.15 lb. Northern Brewer Pilsen LME
3 lb. Briess Pilsen DME
1 lb. Light Belgian Candi Sugar (liquid)
1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (bittering @ 5.8% AA)
0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (bittering @ 10.9% AA)
0.5 oz. Saaz hops (flavor)
0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Saaz hops (aroma)
0.5 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (aroma)
0.5 oz. Bitter Orange Peel
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 3711 French Saison Yeast (Primary)
White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii (Secondary)

Ingredients for Kaedrome Saison

I'll spare you the play by play, as that's mostly the same for every batch. The only thing I'll say about that is that my new kitchen kicks ass, and has removed 30-60 minutes from the process. It turns out that the "Power Boil" element actually lives up to its name (it still takes a little while, but much faster than my old stovetop). And the bigger, deeper sink makes cooling in an ice bath much quicker too. It only took a little less than 3 hours, including all the cleaning.

I hope the Nelson Sauvin hops work out with this one. I basically chose them on a whim, thinking they would go pretty well with the saison. I hedged a bit and used some Saaz that I had laying around too, so I hope it's a solid combo. Hop Additions at 60, 15, and 5 minutes remaining in the boil. Irish moss at 15 minutes. Orange Peel at 5 minutes. Pitched the 3711 yeast at 70 degrees.

Original gravity: 1.060 (14.6 Brix), pretty much right on target. My little homebrew app says I should be getting 80%+ attenuation out of this (maybe even as high as 85%).

Now I just need to figure out the process for the Brett dosing, but I've got a couple weeks for that. Again, general idea is to fill up my 3 gallon secondary fermenter, pitch the Brett in there, and bottle the rest of it right away.

I know very little about the different varieties of Brettanomyces, but in looking around, this seems like the one that fits me best. For the uninitiated, Brett is a wild yeast strain. It usually contributes funky, earthy characteristics to beers. Some people use descriptors like "horse blanket", "barnyard", or "band-aids" (among lots of other stuff, even smoky and spicy flavors), but that... doesn't sound good, does it? Indeed, Brett is generally viewed as a contaminant and thus something to be avoided, but if done properly, it can match really well with beer, especially sour beers. This saison isn't meant to be sour, though apparently the Claussenii strain that I'm using is more subtle than some of the others and contributes a "fruity, pineapple like aroma". I'm going for something along the lines of older Fantômes (which tended towards sour) or Logsdon Seizoen Bretta, but everything I read about Brett is that it's a little on the unpredictable side. So fingers are going to be crossed.

Since the primary fermentation yeast is going to yield a pretty dry beer to start with, I'm guessing that the Brett won't be a massive contribution, but that sounds good for my first attempt at this sort of thing. Unlike regular brewer's yeast, Brett will eat up pretty much any sugars left in the beer, so I need to give it a lengthy period to do its thing, at least a couple months. Luckily, it's a hardy organism and thrives in warmer temperatures (so summer was a good time to experiment with this sucker). On the other hand, my understanding is that Brett is difficult to clean, etc... and a lot of homebrewers advise keeping the equipment that touches it separate from your regular brewing materials. This should be fine, as I've basically been using the same stuff for two years and some of it could probably be refreshed anyway.

So this is going to be one of the more interesting batches I've ever made... if it goes well. Wish me luck!

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Arcadia Brewing Company is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, also home to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg... Yes, the guy who invented breakfast cereal. Battle Creek has thus become known by the name Cereal City, USA, complete with a massive "breakfast food funhouse" (whatever that means). Arcadia either hates the moniker, or they just really love puns and couldn't resist naming their English Barleywine "Cereal Killer". There's a lot of text on the label, so I guess you wouldn't call it minimalist, but I really like the one tiny graphical element they have: a hand gripping a spoon like it's the psycho knife (and for added verisimilitude, they've included some dripping milk which... also calls to mind Psycho.)

This particular bottle was aged in Bourbon Barrels (part of the same release as that Imperial Stout I enjoyed a while back). Like the Stout, this one features the same industrial strength waxed cap and rumor has it that this was aged in those mythical Pappy Van Winkle barrels that magically transform mediocre beers into spectacular face melters. Not having ever had the regular Cereal Killer, I can't really say, but I did find that this treatment worked better for the barleywine than it did for the stout. This is some pretty fantastic stuff.

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer Barleywine - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a cap of off white head that resolves into just a ring of head pretty quickly. Smell is pure bourbon and caramel, some toffee, oak, and vanilla playing too. Taste hits the same notes, lots of caramel and toffee mixed with that bourbon, oak and vanilla character. Mild booziness is apparent too, and that bourbon character becomes more prominent as it warms up. Textbook bourbon barrel barleywine stuff here. Wouldn't call it balanced, but it's unbalanced in, like, a good way! Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, a little boozy, decent carbonation but smooth too. Overall, a really nice BA barleywine, textbook stuff... but like, a really good textbook. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz. waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 6/15/13. Bottled on 12/18/12.

I've got another one of these in the cellar, and I'm glad for that. I'm guessing that aging in barrels for 22 months is not something they're set up to do on a rolling basis, but who knows. Maybe we'll see some of this every year. Definitely worth seeking out.

Prairie Gold

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Handling those pans, looking for liquid Gold:

Prairie Gold

Prairie Gold - Pours an almost neon gold color, a little straw yellow in there too, lots of head that quickly dissapates. Smell has some light funk, lots of musty, spicy, peppery Belgian yeast, and a bright lemon note to lighten things up. Taste features a typical Belgian yeast character, but that quickly takes a back seat to the tart, lemony sourness. As it warms, that lemony character morphs into a broader fruit profile, maybe some pear, a little vinous even. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, a pleasant enough acidity, crisp and bright stuff. Overall, it's really good. Not earth shattering, but few are. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/15/13.

Another solid showing from Prairie, though I don't seem to be quite as bullish on them as some others (then again, we haven't had the same beers either). Definitely good enough to seek out more from them though, so keep an eye out. I'm sure we'll get to it sometime.

Manneken-Penn

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A recent tradition of Philly Beer Week is for one local brewer to travel to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This Belgo-Philly connection is mostly due to Tom Peters of the most excellent Monks Café bar. He generally hooks Philly up with great Belgian beers all year round and has the connections to line up special collaborations every year. Last year, we had an Iron Hill and Dupont saison, and the year before that, Sly Fox worked with De Proef to make a funky saison. This year, Chris Wilson of Weyerbacher was chosen to collaborate with Brasserie de la Senne, and they took the enterprise in a decidedly different direction.

They call this sucker a Belgo-American Dubbel. It's got the trappings of the dubbel style (spicy Belgian yeast, dark sugars) mixed with a more American hop bill (notably including Calypso, which is not common, but which should impart fruity citrus hop notes). The label is actually pretty funny, a mashup of the William Penn statue that sits atop City Hall and the infamous Belgian landmark Manneken Pis (which, yes, is a statue of a peeing child). Yeah, so it's an interesting combo, one I don't think I've had before, so let's see how it turned out:

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken Penn

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken-Penn - Pours a deep light brown color with a finger of fluffy head and good retention. Smells feature that typical Belgian yeast profile, spicy and fruity, some brown sugar, but also something else lurking in the background. Maybe hops? Yes, American hops, a little citrus and pine. And whoa, those hops take a front seat in the taste, lots of citrus and pine with the Belgian yeast characteristics still making themselves known before the bitter hop finish. Yep, this is like a dubbel/IPA hybrid, a combo I don't think I've ever experienced... and it works well enough. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and a little dry bitterness in the finish. Overall, this is quite an interesting, novel beer. Doesn't quite blow my socks off, but it's pretty damn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 6/15/13.

Interesting stuff, and I'm already looking forward to next year's collaboration. I may also have to check out some of Brasserie de la Senne's other wares in the meantime.

Drie Fonteinen Golden Blend

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Drie Fonteinen has been around since 1887, and they've been making geuze style beers since then. Well, technically, they purchased new and old lambics from other breweries and blended them together (as befits the style). Since they opened, they've gradually been expanding the operation over the generations, to the point where they now have their own production brewery. But seeing as though geuzes are always comprised of a blend, they've kept that skillset up to date as well. Indeed, the guy they put in charge over there, Armand Debelder, is called a Master Blender, and if you get your jollies by obsessing over top lambic lists, you'll see that he's well deserving of that title.

Your typical geuze is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics. What we have here incorporates 4 year old lambic as well, clocking in at about 25% of the blend. The rest of the blend is comprised of a "secret" allocation of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics, because, you know, Master Blenders gotta put food on the table. Given the expense of aging beer, the thirst of angels, and the extra year needed to produce this, the cost of entry is a bit on the high side here (hence the "golden" blend). Is it worth it?

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend - Pours a very pretty golden orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that seems to fade into a more dense head with decent retention. Smells of musty funk with a big oak element. Taste starts off sweet, with that oak hitting pretty quickly, but then yielding to tart, fruity flavors that escalate into full blown puckering sourness towards the finish. As it warms up, that sourness intensifies even further. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, crisp, with an extremely dry finish. Overall, this is a great beer, certainly a step up from their regular Oude Geuze, and among the best that I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/14/13. Bottled 02/17/2011. Good until 02/2021.

I've seen people saying that this bottle is sitting on shelves with absurd price tags upwards of $40. But then, it's also on Etre Gourmet for 11 Euros, so do the math on that, and even with absurd shipping costs it's cheaper to order it direct from Belgium. On the other hand, more reasonable prices in the $20-$25 range might be worth it if you're a huge fan of the style... Certainly not a beginner beer though.

Dock Street Flemish Red

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Finally ticking the last of five beers I bought at the Dock Street bottle release way back when. A flanders red aged for 2.5 years in old Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, then (unintentionally) further aged in the bottle for another year and a half or so. Color me interested:

Dock Street Flemish Red

Dock Street Flemish Red Sour Ale - Pours a dark amber brown color with minimal, slow forming, big bubbled, white head. Smells of oak and cherries, with a very sharp twang that indicates sourness, quite nice. Taste is very sweet and extremely sour, with that sourness hitting almost immediately, lots of fruitiness, sour cherries, vinegar, jolly ranchers, and some oak making itself known in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel is a little low on carbonation, but nothing excessively low (like some of Dock Street's other barrel aged brews). It works well enough at the start, but it feels a little flat towards the end of the bottle. Medium bodied, an acidic vinegary feel, very slight slickness. Overall, this is a good example of the style, but not quite world beater status. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.75% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands glass on 6/8/13. Bottled November 2011.

It seems like every one of Dock Street's barrel aged brews has just one minor flaw that holds in back from true greatness. They've all been pretty good as they are, but tended to be a little low on carbonation, or in this case, a little high on the acidity. Part of it could always be the age of the bottle, but then, they claimed the low carbonation was intentional, so there is that. I'll probably continue to check out their annual barrel aged brew, and some of the staple beers are pretty great too. One of these days they'll really knock one out of the park...

Television show pitch: A police procedural about a tiny, 3 inch tall (you might even call him "petite") French-Canadian detective named Mort. He uses his diminutive size to spy on unsuspecting criminals and has an amazing success rate. His partner is a talking Chihuahua named Nacho who is only slightly taller than Mort and in the pilot episode, he's only three days away from retirement. Of course, that means that... Woops, as I was typing this, the NSA was analyzing it on behalf of CBS, who has just offered to buy the rights for the "La Petite Mort" show for $3 million. Those guys sure love their police procedurals. So you're going to have to wait and see what happens to Nacho in the pilot episode.

So I'm rich now. I'll see you later, suckers. In the meantime, check out the tie-in beer (eat your heart out, Ommegang), already made by Wisconsin's own Central Waters (in collaboration with the awesome sounding Chicago bar Local Option). It's a bourbon-barrel-aged, Belgian-inspired Weissenbock. And I thought my stupid pitch was weird:

Central Waters La Petite Mort - Bourbon Barrel Aged

Central Waters Local Option Bourbon Barrel Aged La Petite Mort - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a finger of off white had. Not getting a lot out of the nose. Hints of bready yeast, fruit, and bourbon. As it warms, the nose opens up a bit. Taste has lots of caramelized sugars, maybe even some bready toastiness, an almost nutty flavor too, hints of fruit, with that bourbon and oak coming through towards the finish. Mouthfeeel is well carbonated, medium to full bodied, but only a hint of richness from the bourbon barrel. Relatively dry, which doesn't usually work well with bourbon, but the balance is on point here, so nothing is overpowering. Overall, this is good, really good, and a really nice change of pace too. It grew on my as I drank, too, which is always nice. Solid B+ material.

Beer Nerd Details: 9.05% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/7/13. Vintage 2013.

Central Waters is a brewery I should probably check out more often. Nothing in the immediate pipeline, but their stuff seems available enough around here that I'll certainly pick some up at some point.

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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.

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