Fantôme Magic Ghost

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Just when you think you've got your head wrapped around the saison style, Dany Prignon drops a bomb like this on your face. No stupid memes necessary, just look at the damn stuff. Brewed with Green Tea (and Prignon's usual secret spices), it looks like friggin' Ecto Cooler, so strap on your proton packs. We've got some ghosts to drink:

Fantome Magic Ghost

Fantôme Magic Ghost - Sweet merciful crap, look at that stuff. It looks like straight up ecto cooler. A vivid green color with a finger of, yep, very light green head. Calls to mind crappy St. Patricks day stunts, but this is anything but. Listen! Do you smell something? It actually smells utterly fantastic, great tangy funk (none of that smokey stuff that you see in recent regular Fantômes), some spice, and green tea - a surprisingly harmonious combination. Fortunately, the taste bears that out. The funky Brett character is perfect right now, slight fruity tartness, well balanced with traditional saison spice and sweetness, with that tea taking a bit of a back seat, but still present and harmonious. Lots of complexity, tea coming out a little more as it warms up. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, crisp, and a little on the dry side. Really pleasant to drink. Overall, this works shockingly well. Matching this sort of complexity with this sort of balance is difficult. I cannot believe this sucker, probably my favorite Fantôme since my first taste. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/5/13. Lot no: b. Best before: February 2014.

I've heard that the color can vary on these, that some pour out an almost neon green, and some are darker or more of an olive green. I found mine to be more on the brighter side, not quite neon, but dark enough that I found it difficult to photograph (I took some pictures that were barely green at all). Anywho, Fantôme continues to blow my mind. Even when I don't particularly love something, it's always an interesting experience, and while some may poo-poo the inconsistency between batches, I find that to be part of their charm. Stay tuned, more Ghost reviews in the coming weeks.

Welcome To You're "Doom"

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I'll be honest, the real reason I tried this beer was so that I could make this obscure reference:

Welcome to you are doom

Killface: Why does it say "Welcome to you are 'Doom!'"? What does that even mean, and why, for God's sakes, is "Doom!" in quotes?
Valerie: I don't know.
Killface: Is this some sort of ironic doom? Is the wink implied?
Valerie: No, I don't know.
Killface: No, it isn't. So please tell me how and why I'm suddenly a laughingstock!
Valerie: Uh...'cause you signed off on the proofs?
[Killface just taps the postcard on his thigh]

If you know what the hell I'm talking about, then we're already friends.

Doom is basically a bourbon barrel aged version of Founders Double Trouble, their regular Double IPA. This... is an odd combination. Hops are volatile and fade with time, so aging a pale ale in general just seems like a bad idea. I suppose the idea is that the bourbon will add a malt flavor element that will make up for the faded hops, which might work if you can really time everything just right. There are a few other breweries out there that have tried this sort of thing, but I can't think of any that are really popular, and the one example of a barrel aged pale ale that comes immediately to mind is Brewdog Storm, a total clusterfuck. But Founders knows their shit, so maybe they'll fare better:

Founders Doom

Founders Doom - Pours a golden orange color witha finger of white head. Smells of caramel and maybe some piney hops. Taste hits those piney, sticky, resinous hops pretty hard, with the boozy bourbon coming out a little in the finish. As it warms up, the bourbon asserts itself more, but still only just the barest hint of oak. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, sticky, tightly carbonated, and boozy. Overall, better than expected and even a little interesting, I'm glad I tried it, but I'd probably be just as happy with regular Double Trouble. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/6/13.

Founders continues to be a rock solid brewery, though I have to admit, they very rarely melt my face. I'll still keep an eye out for new releases, and maybe someday I'll truly get my world rocked.

The Bruery Bois

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The Bruery's Anniversary beers have become an annual tradition around here at Kaedrin (see Coton, the second anniversary beer, for more on why this is so). Each beer is based off an old ale recipe that is blended with previous batches using the Solera method. Initial offerings were blends of barrel aged and young beer, but the last couple have been 100% barrel aged.

The names of the beers follow along with the French translation of traditional wedding anniversary gifts. Bois is French for "Wood" and I believe it's pronounced *Inception Horns*. Hard to believe it's only been 5 years since The Bruery popped up and started melting faces.

So I buy one of these every year, but clocking in at 15% ABV and packaged only in 750 ml bottles, it's a big beer and not exactly an everyday thing. Let's make this a week of stupid memes and continue my lame Inception joke at the same time:

Leo Likes Titanic Beer

We need to go deeper. It's funny, but the dream within a dream structure sorta matches the beer within a beer Solera method thing going on with these Anniversary beers. Or I'm full of shit (or a piece of shit, full of shit?) Alrighty then, let's get incepted by some monster beer:

The Bruery Bois

The Bruery Bois - Pours a viscous, deep, murky brown color with just a cap of light tan head. Smells strongly of Bourbon, vanilla, and oak, lots of booze, with some sugary fruit notes creeping around too. Taste is full of rich caramel, sticky toffee, and dark fruits (raisins, plums, and so forth), with a big wallop of boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Very complex, evolving as it warms. Mouthfeel is thick and syrupy, very rich, with enough carbonation to cut the sweetness, but still very smooth. A heaping helping of booze burn and a nice warming as you drink too (even if you drink slowly). It would be difficult to call this balanced, but it's my kinda unbalanced (others will certainly find it too rich), and the barrel aging is very well done. Overall, it's spectacular and I love it. A

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of a Only Void snifter on 6/29/13. Bottled 4/10/13.

This was the standard Bourbon barrel offering, but to mark their 5th year, The Bruery did some next level aging in other kinds of barrels like Brandy, Rye, and new American and French Oak. Alas, those variants aren't getting distributed beyond the brewery and some are only available to their society members. We'll just have to make due with Bourbon, I guess.

I was a little surprised that there weren't any Hill Farmstead events during Philly Beer Week in June and perhaps because I've gotten a taste of this stuff before, I've spent the past few months acting like Wolverine here:

Wolverine pines for Hill Farmstead

The Philly area is still lucky enough to see the occasional keg of Hill Farmstead though, so when I spied the July 4th event at a local drinkery, I was all in. Tons of great stuff on tap, but how could I resist the siren song of Hill Farmstead? 5 were on tap, 3 of which I'd never had before. Let's get to it:

Hill Farmstead Edward

Hill Farmstead Edward - A 5.2% American Pale Ale, this seems to be one of their mainstay "Ancestral Series" beers. Hazy orange with a finger of white head... pretty stuff. Beautiful citrus nose, oranges and mangoes, some floral notes. Taste has a crystal malt component that provides a good platform for the bright, citrusy, floral hops, and a substantial bitterness follows you all throughout the taste. Surprisingly towards the upper end of medium bodied, but that doesn't make it hard to drink or anything (dude sitting next to me put down 5 in less than an hour.) Overall, well, excellent. Duh. A-

Hill Farmstead Clara Grisette

Hill Farmstead Clara Grisette - Saisons were brewed for farm workers, but Grisettes were made for miners (Grisette being French for Grey, a reflection of the uniforms and the stone being mined). The styles are very similar, though Grisettes usually incorporated wheat and were typically a little lighter. In this case, we've got a 4.2% beer, another in the Ancestral Series. Straw yellow color, finger of bubbly head. Smells peppery and lemony, maybe a little Brett funk for good measure. Taste has a nice, bright, lemony tartness to it (wasn't expecting that, but it works well), a little funk, and some spicy yeast notes to round it all out... Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and refreshing, highly quaffable. Tart, but not acidic. Overall, this is right up there with the funky saison standard bearers. Reminds me of the old-label Fantôme (none of the smokey, super earthy funk that hits the newer Fantômes). Great stuff. A-

Hill Farmstead and Alchemist Walden

Hill Farmstead/Alchemist Walden - This collaboration with The Alchemist (of Heady Topper fame; my first taste from them, though I've got a line on some Heady too) was called a sessionable American Blonde Ale, but it basically drinks like a really light pale ale. At 4% ABV, it's certainly sessionable, and I could have drank this stuff all day... if the keg didn't kick within an hour of opening ('twas the first to go). Open your Thoreau up to page 1 and get started: Straw yellow, pillowy head. Smells utterly fantastic, bright citrus, big citrusy Amarillo hop character (update: I was right about that, but there's also Simcoe and even some swanky New Zealand Motueka hops too), really great nose that just makes me want to sit a while and sniff my beer. Taste is even better, great, perfectly matched citrus hop notes, nice dry bitterness emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is very light bodied, crisp, refreshing, and the most quaffable beer of the day. Just scarily drinkable. Overall, utterly fantastic, superb beer. A

Hill Farmstead Abner

Hill Farmstead Abner - Hot damn, so happy to be able to try this one again. This 8.2% DIPA is one of my favorite beers. Golden orange, cap of white head. Amazing sugary citrus & pine nose, lots of complexity. Taste has that perfect balance of crystal malt, sweetness, citrusy, piney hops, maybe some floral notes too, and a well matched bitterness in finish. Intense and complex, but not overpowering or sloppy at all. Mouthfeel is fantastic, velvety smooth, medium to full bodied, no hint of booze at all, well carbonated, just a joy to drink. Overall, as spectacular as I remember it. A (Hrm, potential A+ material here)

Hill Farmstead Everett

Hill Farmstead Everett Robust Porter - I generally find myself befuddled by how highly some porters are rated, but if they were all like this thing, I could get with that program. I've heard people say that Edmund Fitzgerald is just as good, but I don't think there's any contest here - Everette is clearly far superior. Nice roasted malt character tempered by big chocolate notes, especially as it warms up. There's a richness here that I just never get out of other porters. I had clearly underrated this last time (only a B+?), but I'll correct that to an A- right now.

So there you have it. Basically starting July 4 off with fireworks, if you know what I mean. One might think that being able to get this stuff occasionally would satisfy me, but no, I still want to get my but up to Vermont and visit. Seems worthwhile. In the meantime, I'll just stare at my photos of the HF logo with Wolverine. Anywho, stay tuned for some more Vermonsters in the next week or so.

After two weeks in primary fermentation, the 5 gallon batch of saison has been split into two. About 2 gallons has been bottled (yielding a little less than a case), with the other three being racked to secondary and dosed with Brettanomyces Claussenii (WLP645 for the enquiring).

Vial of Brettanomyces

Crossing the Rubicon of funk wasn't particularly difficult just yet - it basically just consisted of opening the vial of yeast and dumping it in the secondary fermenter. The real test will come in a few months time, when the yeast has had proper time to work its way through the remaining sugars. Or maybe I inadvertently infected my entire house with Brett and will have trouble with all my future batches. The die has been cast, to continue the Rubicon metaphor.

Saison - before conditioning

Final Gravity: 6.9 Bx, around 1.007. As usual, my hydrometer gives a slightly lower reading, but we're still looking at somewhere around 6.8% - 7.2% ABV, which is a little higher than expected, but still on point. This puts attenuation in the high 80% range, somewhere around 88%. Hopefully, this mean there's enough residual sugar for the Brett, but not so much that the Brett version will be dominated by that character.

In the meantime, I'll have some non-funky saison to keep me busy (though I'll clearly want to save enough to do a side-by-side comparison once the Kaedrôme rises). I'm debating what to do with my next batch. Being the dead of summer limits options a bit. Saisons are great because they can ferment out at 70+ degrees with no real ill effects. But, you know, I just made one. I really want to make a hoppy red ale of some kind, and an imperial stout too. In both cases, I'd like a somewhat lower ambient temperature than will be possible during summer (and the bathtub trick is out because I'm redoing my bathrooms, though perhaps I could do something in a smaller container). And I'm going to want to do this split batch trick as well, dry hopping (for the red) and oak aging (for the stout) half the batches. Perhaps I'll just make it a busy fall.

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Jack's Abby Smoked Maple Lager

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Not content with serving the underappreciated market for lagers, Jack's Abby also apparently likes them some smoked beers... another underappreciated style. This time they teamed up with the almost homebrew-sized Vermont operation Lawson's Finest Liquids, who are also fans of smoked malt. I've heard great things about Lawson's, and one of these days I'll plan out a trek to Vermont to hit them up, along with the other usual suspects (Hill Farmstead, Alchemist).

I'm not a huge lager person, and while I can appreciate a nice smoked beer from time to time, I do sometimes find myself wondering who put their cigar out in my beer... That being said, this sucker also has a helping of maple syrup, which I am quite a big fan of, so let's see how this one works:

Jacks Abby Smoked Maple Lager

Jack's Abby & Lawson's Finest Liquids Smoked Maple Lager - Pours a deep, dark chestnut color with a couple fingers of bubbly white head. Smells lightly of campfire, definite smoked malts here but not overpowering, and a sweetness in the nose as well. Taste is very sweet, creamy malt character, with that smoked malt playing nicely with the rest of the flavors, none of which is particularly pronounced. Mouthfeel is velvety smooth, creamy, almost like a milk stout (sans roasted malt), medium bodied and very easy going (update: apparently this was made with lactose, which explains that character). Overall, a solid smoked beer. It doesn't have that "Who put their cigar out in my beer" character, and it is complex and balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a mug on 6/28/13. Bottled 05/13/2013.

Another solid brew from Jack's Abby. Nothing that's blown me away, but really good stuff. I got a couple others to get through, and will certainly keep an eye out for more of their stuff if I ever find myself up that way...

Cantillon Cuvée St-Gilloise

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In 2004, head Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy was supes excited that his hometown football (that's soccer to us Yanks) team won a championship, so he cracked some barrels of 2 year old lambic, dry hopped it for good measure, then bottled his Cuvée des Champions! Sadly, it seems that Brussels' soccer club Union St. Gilles has since fallen on hard times, to the point where a disgusted1 Jean Van Roy decided that "he could not in good conscience dedicate the beer to 'Champions.'" As such, the beer is now named a less celebratory Cuvée St-Gilloise2.

It's labeled a Gueuze, but it's not really a blend of younger and older beers, just that swanky 2 year old stuff. This makes me wonder why the "Cuvée" moniker, though I suppose there's still blending of different barrels going on here. As for the dry-hopping, RateBeer sez they used Styrian Goldings, but this guy sez they changed to Hallertau. It's an interesting and uncommon tweak for lambics, but I don't think either hop variety would tweak American hopheads all that much and this bottle is pretty old, so I'm sure the aroma has faded considerably. Not that I'm complaining, as this was still rather awesome.

Cantillon Cuvee St-Gilloise

Cantillon Cuvée St-Gilloise (AKA Cuvée Des Champions) - Pours a bright golden yellow color with a couple fingers of bubbly white head. Smells of funky, lightly earthy Brett, with lots of fruity notes, lemony, almost more like a funky saison than guezue. Taste is bright and fruity, lemony, nice subtle oak character (which opens up a little more as it warms), with a well matched sourness emerging quickly, bringing that guezue character big time. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and refreshing, a little thinner than some other gueuzes, but not in a bad way, and it's highly drinkable too. Overall, this is great, why do I need to rate these? They're all so damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a Tired Hands glass on 6/28/13. Bottled 12 November 2012. Best before November 2022.

Danger: lambic reserves have reached critical levels. Only one or two left. Fortunately, I've got a line on some (probably not Cantillon though) that I might be able to grab next week. Fingers crossed. Also worth noting that I've saved the supposed best for last, but you'll just have to wait a couple weeks to read about that sucker.

1 - As a Philadelphia sports fan, my notions of sport fandom are probably much different than Jean Van Roy's, to the point where he would probably describe "disgusted" as an exaggeration. In Philly, such a description would be much more vivid and colorful, involving expletives and threats of violence, so I find "disgusted" to be a decent compromise.

2 - But on the other hand, he's still dedicating a beer to his hometown team - so he's no bandwagon fan either.

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.

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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: That's what I figured after the last release (which was read more
  • rich.on.beer: Also, freaking Lansdale is only kind of sort of a read more
  • rich.on.beer: I wouldn't expect a Philly release of bottles this time. read more
  • Mark: Yeah, that's a big leap in ABV, but it's still read more
  • beerbecue: Nice. I was shocked when I saw the ABV. It's read more
  • Mark: I shouldn't complain, as I suspect my homebrewed barleywine will read more
  • rich.on.beer: Carbonation issues are pretty common with Hair of the Dog. read more
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