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.

Lost Abbey Saint's Devotion

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The Lost Abbey: Inspired Beer for Sinners and Saints Alike... and also for: the Antichrist! Tomme Arthur's middle name? Damien! Does he have the number of the beast birthmark? Of course he does! Number of days since the last freak accident at the brewery? Two. Somehow a lose pane of glass was launched horizontally through the brewery, hitting a mild mannered bottling line worker right in the neck, popping his head off like a cork (well, a cork in a well carbonated beer, so, like, not a Lost Abbey cork). The disembodied head tumbled through the air, carromed off a couple of bottles of Cable Car and landed directly in the trash can. The tragedy was mostly averted, though, because the bottles of Cable Car were unharmed.

Well, Antichrist or not, Tomme "Damien" Arthur sure seems to know what he's doing on the beer front. This beer is a variant of one of their old standbys, a dry-hopped but relatively straightforward Belgian Pale Ale called Devotion. It's solid but not exactly lighting the world on fire. So they dosed it with Brettanomyces, which jacked the ABV up to (wait for it) 6.66%. Does the beginning of this post make sense now? No? Well fine then, here, look at the pretty picture:

The Lost Abbey Saints Devotion

The Lost Abbey Saint's Devotion - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a ton of fluffy head. Smells utterly fantastic, spicy Belgian yeast and a beautiful fruity Brett character not unlike Logsdon Seizoen Bretta or Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire iO (which is high praise). The taste starts with a sweet and spicy Belgian pale note, with that fruity, earthy Brett popping in towards the finish. Nice balance of flavor here, with no element getting too uppity. All cracks about poor carbonation aside, the mouthfeel for this one is highly carbonated, effervescent, and very dry. Crisp and refreshing, this could pull food pairing duty or perhaps a nice daydrinking deal, or just by itself. Overall, this is a fantastic brew! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 6/1/13. Vintage 2013 A (I think, date on the bottle kinda got smudged)

I will say, this was a bit pricey. I generally expect that from Lost Abbey, but I've heard it can be found for sub-$10 in some places, which would be a bargain. Not sure if it was just a bottle shop markup or what... Legit beer though, especially if you like those Bretty saisons/pales.

Some Notes From Philly Beer Week

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Now that it's officially ended, I think it's fair to say that I failed at Philly Beer Week. I went to a few things, but it seemed that all of the week's most interesting events were happening at inconvenient times for me (not complaining here, as it's a total pain to get into the city and I don't do it often enough). To be sure, I went to a few events and sampled a few beers, but nothing like last year's Hill Farmstead adventure, though I suppose the two Tired Hands events warrant excitement (technically not part of the official proceedings, I'm going to say they count anyway). You've already heard about their anniversary event, but they had an Only Void bottle release yesterday too, and I was fortunately able to get there early enough to snag some fancy glassware and bottles (sub-250 bottle release for each variant detailed below).

Tired Hands Only Void bottles and glassware

The black waxed one is straight up Only Void aged in stainless steel, which I got to sample at the Anniversary last week (it's spectacular). The light greenish waxed one in the middle is local rye whiskey barrel aged Only Void (I'll have to confirm this the next time I'm at Tired Hands, but I'm guessing that "local rye whiskey" is Dad's Hat Rye, which is a distillery I've been meaning to check out). I'm particularly excited for that one since, to my knowledge, it's the only non-sour whiskey barrel aged beer Tired Hands has ever made... Finally, we've got the red waxed variant, which was actually barrel fermented and then aged in local red wine barrels. They had some of this on tap at the release and I managed to snag a sample before it kicked (which happened within the first hour - there were still people waiting in line for bottles). Very nice fruity sour notes to this one. Special thanks to Rich on Beer for gifting his seat at the bar to me when he was leaving, much appreciated.

Other Philly Beer Week highlights included some Firestone Walker stuff (but nothing I haven't seen before, which was a slight disappointment), lots of Tröegs Scratch series beers, and a couple of relatively new local brewery Neshaminy Creek beers that I've been waiting on for a while now. I was a little disappointed by their Leon imperial stout (also known as the S'more beer, as it's brewed with graham crackers, marshmallow fluff, and chocolate), but I thought perhaps a 6 month stay in bourbon barrels would improve it. They had a lot of events last week, so it wasn't hard to track down the bourbon barrel stuff:

Neshaminy Creek Bourbon Barrel Aged Leon

I was a little worried about it when I first took a sip. Super boozy and bourbon forward, I think it may have even been worse than the base beer... but it turns out that it was just served way too cold. As it warmed up, there was a big transformation. Still bourbon forward and a little boozy, but it evened out quickly, and more stoutlike flavors joined the party. All in all, I think it was a nice improvement over the base beer, but it's no top tier face melter either. I think the base is just too well attenuated to really stand up to the bourbon. Or something. I still enjoyed it quite a bit and will give it a B+

They also had a firkin of their Coconut Mudbank Milk Stout with Samoas and Caramel Delights added into the firkin. Not sure if it was those Girl Scout cookies or what, but this thing had an overpowering coconut aroma/flavor that sorta dominated the taste. I like coconut, so I guess there are worse things out there, but it ultimately felt a little unbalanced. Still enjoyed it. B-

And that just about covers my Philly Beer Week exploits. The Tired Hands stuff was great, but I wished I could have gotten my arse into the city for the Lost Abbey event, where there were apparently pours of Cable Car and Duck Duck Gooze happening. Oh well, I guess there's always next year...

Caldera Mogli

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Another swanky packaging option for those brewers looking to trick me into buying their beer is the waxed bottle cap. Just cannot resist. It helps that they're usually great beers, a correlation that will no doubt lead me to disaster someday. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for shelfwalez like this oak-aged imperial porter brewed with chocolate. This beer is made using the cut-rate method of bourbon soaked oak chunks or something like that, but it turned out pretty damn well to me:

Caldera Mogli

Caldera Mogli - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head, minor lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic, bourbon, oak, chocolate, caramel, a hint of roast, and loads of vanilla. Taste starts with some rich chocolate and caramel, a little roast peeking through, followed by some hop bitterness. As it warms up, those hops come out a little more, perhaps even some piney resin entering the playing field. Chocolate seems to be the big star here, but it's all well integrated. Mouthfeel is smooth, rich, sugary, full bodied but at 8.5% it's not a monster at all (actually very approachable). Not dry, per say, but better attenuated that a lot of stouts. Normally I find that higher attenuated beers can't stand up to the bourbon/oak combo, but this one works very well. Overall, this is wonderfully complex stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/31/13. White Wax version.

There's supposedly a variation of this beer packaged with black wax that had a lot more chocolate and was even better, which sounds pretty awesome (but also apparently quite limited). This beer is no slouch, so I'd keep an eye out for both if you're the type who likes their stouts chocolaty.

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus

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Made in pretty much the same fashion as the Kriek, but with raspberries instead of cherries. Named Rosé because of the color, but dedicated to Gambrinus instead of Bacchus. Gambrinus is a legendary king of Flanders, and an unofficial patron saint of brewing (the official honor belongs to Saint Arnold). He's also apparently getting a lapdance on the label of this beer. Good for him.

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus - Pours a clear, bright red/amber color, so many robey tones, with a finger of fizzy pink head. Smells of raspberries and oak, with that lactic twang tweaking my nose for good measure. Taste hits with oak and sweet raspberries, with a fruity, tartness hitting in the middle and intensifying into a puckering, sour finish. The oak character is really well developed here, almost as prominent as the raspberries. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, medium bodied with a richness I associate with the oak, and pretty darn refreshing. Overall, another winner from Cantillon. I still might prefer the Kriek, but I think that's just because I like cherries better than raspberries! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a Cantillon Gueuze tumbler on 5/31/13. Bottled 12 October 2011.

And the hits from Cantillon just keep coming. A couple more in the pipeline, too. Very exciting.

June Beer Club

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You know the drill: a bunch of beer-minded colleagues and I get together at a local BYOB and drink our faces off. A low turnout this month due to scheduling, but still good times. I was negligent and forgot to take a picture of the beers on offer, so I made this fancy artist's rendering in MS Paint:

The middle one is a lambic, which is why its in a green bottle.

I think I may have missed my calling. For the sake of posterity, some half-remembered notes are recorded below. You're welcome.

  • The Captain's Invisible Moon - Which, if named after the style, would be "The Captain's Cream Ale", which just sounds gross. Unless you're a big Chris Evans fan. Like, a really big fan. Oh yeah, the beer. A homebrewed cream ale, it came out pretty well, kinda like a wheat beer, but with that smooth texture of a cream ale. Really easy drinking and a good way to start the night.
  • Brewer's Art Ozzy Ale - Nice Belgian yeast character, lots of spice (clove) and again, pretty easy drinking. It's a perfectly cromulent beer, but nothing to go nuts over. B
  • Boulevard Coffee Ale - This was one of those beers I got from the BIF trade, but since I wasn't a big coffee guy, I figured I'd share it with some people who might appreciate it a bit more. The coffee wasn't overwhelming at all, which is nice, especially since this isn't a stout either. Lots of malt character with that coffee taking a prominent place. It's not really my thing at all, but I was glad I got to share it (even though, uh, it seemed that a most beer club peeps were also not coffee people either). C+
  • Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale - I have actually had this before (and incorporated it into my Choose Your Own Adventure Beer Review epic), and in this setting, it stood out pretty darn well. I could probably be tempted to upgrade the rating, but I'll leave it at a B for now.
  • Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l'Ancienne - This is the green bottle in the artist's rendering above! One of my other contributions of the night, this one is every bit as good as I remember, and compares favorable with the big boys at Cantillon and 3F (at least, when it comes to their regular lineup). Still an A- in my book.
  • Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout - Another of my contributions, I actually bought a Dark Horse variety pack a while back, and since Dark Horse apparently loves to make stouts, they have a sorta numbered series of beers, this being the third. It's got a big blueberry aroma and even a little taste, but it doesn't feel artificial either, which actually kinda works. B
  • Boulevard Love Child No. 3 - Label sez it's aged in bourbon barrels, but I should have inspected more closely, because this sucker is actually a wild ale. A malt-forward base with some very tart, sour notes that hit quickly, but fade towards the finish, making this a pretty darn good drink. Decent funk, actually one of my favorites of the night. A-
  • John Henry West Indies Pale Ale - A pale ale aged on rum oak spirals... I would have expected that boozy rum to dominate, but it doesn't. Unfortunately, it doesn't really add much either. I feel like the rum and oak sorta fought the hops, sorta canceling each other out. What we're left with is fine, I guess, but not as flavorful as you might think. B-
  • Dark Horse Too Cream Stout - Another of Dark Horse's stout lineup, this one is a milk stout. Smooth, but big and burly, it's a bit of a bear, but it actually acquitted itself really well considering it was the last beer we opened. B
Well, there you have it. We'll return to normal review blogging for the next few days. It is actually Philly Beer Week, so I should probably hit up some other places this weekend and write about a few things I've already seen. Or something.

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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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