Forest & Main Oubliant

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Forest & Main is one of those newish (class of 2012) local places I keep meaning to check out, a tiny little brewpub settled into a restored 1880s-era house. It's up in Ambler, PA, which really isn't that far, but I just haven't made the effort. Fortunately for me, one of my employees gave me one of their ultra-limited bottles for Christmas (a most unexpected and pleasant treat - she has good taste!) A 10% wild tripel aged in wine barrels, this thing has some serious legs. Oubliant comes from the French for "to forget", and if you had a few bottle of these, you'd be pretty forgetful. I only drank one, though, so I was able to record some notes for posterity:

Forest and Main Oubliant

Forest & Main Oubliant - Pours a deep, cloudy golden color with a finger of white head and decent retention. Smell featurs a big white wine component, that twang that indicates sourness, along with a light funk and Belgian yeast aroma. Taste is very sweet, a big fruity vinous character with a nice lactic sourness pervading the taste. A huge oak component emerges towards the finish and into the aftertaste. Maybe some yeasty spiciness too. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium to full bodied (that oak character really hits hard), a little acidic. It's a little sharp and harsh, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Overall, this is really interesting stuff, certainly better than the last white wine barrel aged tripel I sampled. I think that big oak character might turn some people off, but I'm apparently a sucker for oak, so I'm going with an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/5/13. Bottle no. 164 of 204.

Well, I suppose I should make that trek up to Ambler sooner rather than later. Look for a report soon. Well, soonish.

Fantôme Saison

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I think I've mentioned before that my craft beer revelation occurred sometime around the turn of the century: a bottle of Hennepin, picked randomly off a well appointed beer menu at the now defunct Moody Monkey restaurant of Norristown, PA. Given that I'd spent the previous four years celebrating the entire catalog of Natty beers (you know, Light and Ice), Hennepin was a mind blowing eye opener. Of course, I still had no idea what good beer was, and given PA's draconian liquor laws, my beer wonkery grew slowly (one case at a time). The only thing I knew about Hennepin was that it was made by Ommegang and that it was a "Saison". Exploring Ommegang's other offerings was rewarding. Exploring every saison I could get my hands on was... confusing.

It was around that time that I began to suspect that Saison is the least coherent beer style in the history of beer. Here's a quick glance at a typical saisons run back in the day:

Saisons

I drank those three beers one weekend and was floored. I actually liked all three, but they're absurdly, comically different. The one that really threw me for a loop was Fantôme. That's the one that popped up at the top of the Beer Advocate best saisons lists, so I pounced on it when I finally found a bottle somewhere. Then I drank it and my eyes popped out of my skull. What the hell is this stuff? Nothing at all like Hennepin or Dupont, this thing was weird. It was all lemony and tart and earthy and I had no idea what to make of it. And the damn label wasn't even in English, so I had no idea what I was drinking. It was super complex though, and even as a nascent beer nerd, I was picking up on that. I'm now a full-on Brett and sour fan, so this is no longer a problem.

Ghost hunting has thus proceeded over the past few years, even as these beers have become harder and harder to find. I've partook in a couple other tastings of Fantôme's "regular" saison (as well as some variants), and I've noticed something curious. Let's call this the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Fantôme: sometimes the beer is sour and spicy and funky, and sometimes it's just plain funky. And sometimes it's inbetween. My most recent experience leaned heavily towards the funk without the corresponding sour. I have to say, I don't like that as much, but then, it's still pretty great:

Fantome Saison

Fantôme Saison - Pours a hazy golden orange color, almost fruit juice looking, with a couple fingers of ghostly (sorry, couldn't help myself) head. Nose is filled with earthy, musty, funky Brett, along with some unidentified spice character. Taste is sweet and spicy, peppery, maybe coriander too, lots of that earthy funk makes an appearance as well (along with all those weird Brett descriptions like horse blankets and damp cellars), and a hint of lemony zest too. Not nearly as "bright" as I remember, and only a faint hint of tartness. In fact, I even sometimes got a little smoke out of that Brett character. Not nearly as much as La Dalmatienne, but it's there. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, but still smooth and generally easy-going. No trace of booze at all. Overall, funky, complex, unique, and fascinating, as always... though I wish there was a little more of that tart sourness, which I know from experience takes this to another level. As such, tough to actually rate: B+ or maybe an A-?

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and coked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/30/13.

Fantôme is infamous for being inconsistent. This is normally a fatal flaw in a brewery, but given the nature of wild yeasts and bacterial beasties, most beer nerds give Fantôme a pass on this, as when it works, it's a face melting experience. When it doesn't, it's actually still pretty good. I'll just have to break out that PKE Meter and hunt down another bottle. Speaking of which, I actually have acquired some other Fantôme offerings (and some other wild Belgian offerings), so be on the lookout for those soon.

Tired Hands Omnibus Post

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Another Tired Hands bottle release today! However, the bottles being released had all made appearances on tap earlier in the year (or late last year), with no barrel aged components or anything, so while there was still a line, it was not anywhere near as crowded as it was for the last couple releases. The bottle was for ArtiSnale, a beer I already covered a while back. But I also have two months or so of notes on Tired Hands beers that I'm sure will interest everyone, since most of these will never see the light of day again. So I figured it was time for another omnibus collection of notes. Check it:

Tired Hands Mrs. Pigman

Mrs. Pigman - This beer came out right around when Pliny the Younger was making the rounds in Philly, like Jean was sorta counter-programming his beer nerd calendar. It's a huge, hoppy monster of a beer (really glad I got a growler of this 11% ABV sucker, rather than sampling 4 ounce pours). Big citrusy floral hop component, very little in the way of malt character. Overall, not as overwhelming as you'd expect from something clocking in at 11.5% ABV. A delicious "triple" IPA, a worthy competitor to Pliny (though I may still prefer the Younger to this). I tried the growler over the course of a couple days, and it was significantly better on the first night (the night I got it filled), while the second night had become more sticky sweet and less hoppy. Not surprising, but still. That first night was a solid A-...

Perfect Touchdown - More counter-programming here, this one was released right before the Super Bowl... and it's a superb 9% ABV DIPA! Big juicy hop character, lots of citrus, perfect proportions, nice solid malt backbone, more so than most tired hands beers. Really fantastic brew! A

StrangeOwl - A very pleasant hoppy red ale, very drinkable, not going to blow the world away or anything, but I really enjoyed this one. B+

Liddle Fiddle - Reminiscent of the singel hop saison Amarillo, gorgeous juicy hop aroma and flavor, with a distinct farmhouse saison yeast character. Well balanced, really well balanced carbonation, compulsively drinkable. A-

Ancient Knovvledge - A very trangely spiced saison, it's got some peppery notes, but also some aroma/flavors I can't really place... (thanks to the internets, I've got a full list here: "hemp seeds, nori, black & white sesame seeds, tangerine juice & zest, schezuan peppercorns, and long red hot peppers.") An interesting brew, glad I tried it, but not something to go nuts over. B+

Heaven Dream - A straightforward, perhaps above average pale ale, very light and quaffable, solid. B+

Entropic - The first in Tired Hands' Darwin Solera Series, this is a Brett fermented pale ale (using yeast from Crooked Stave). Pours a very cloudy yellowish color witha couple fingers of white, fluffy head. Smells slightly funky, with an odd salinity? Yep, that saltiness shows up in the taste too, kinda like a shellfish salinity, really interesting... Light funk, maybe some lemon lime action... Mouthfeel is nice, medium body, easy drinking stuff. Overall, I don't really know what to make of this, except to say that I like it! B+

Galapagos - The second in the Darwin Solera series, this is a new Brett fermented pale all that was blended with Entropic. Cloudy yellow orange, smells of funk and saline, very similar. Taste seems to be evening out a bit, more subtle but still complex. This really isn't that old, but it seems a bit more mellow, less brackish and salty. I actually like this better than entropic, but they're both pretty darn good! B+

Dinner of Champions: Tired Hands AromaFlavor and Candied Bacon
Dinner of Champions: Tired Hands AromaFlavor and Candied Bacon

AromaFlavor - FlavorAroma was one of my favorite Tired Hands beers, so I was super excited for this one. It's a similar recipe, but the hops are different. Pours a deep golden color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells delicious, tons of citrus and pine, and plenty of floral notes too. Taste has that same hop component, but also an earthy, floral, almost spicy hop flavor that is well integrated with the traditional citrus/pine/floral notes... I'm betting significant Centennial involvement here. Mouthfeel is smooth, lightly carbonated, quaffable. Overall, really fantastic stuff, but I think I preferred FlavorAroma a bit more... A-

A Cold Freezing Night - A pretty straightforward 6.2% stout. Black color, nice roasted malt aroma, some light coffee notes, a relatively straightforward, normal beer. Probably grading on a curve, but this is a B sorta effort. Solid, competent, but not mind blowing... (but then, I like my stouts huge and chewy, so I'm sure others would love this.)

Liverpool - A "magical" dark mild ale, this pours a brown color with a couple fingers of off white head. Smells... British! Light caramel and toffee notes. Also tastes British! That caramel and toffe from the nose, but some nice biscuity character too, maybe a faint hint of subtle toast. Mouthfeel is pretty big for such a small beer (only 4%). Low end of medium bodied, with ample carbonation (more so than most Tored Hands stuff). Overall, a fantastic sessionable beer, if not one that really rocks my world (not that it's trying to...) B

HeavenDream - Yet another in a long line of solid pale ales from TH. Light yellow color, couple fingers of white head. Surprisingly muted aroma, lightly hopped taste, citrus and pine. Mouthfeel is nice and light, quaffable... Overall, solid... B

Stare At Yourself in the Mirror Until You Feel a Burning Sensation - Quite possibly the best named beer ever. Pours a super cloudy orange color with a couple fingers of white head. Smells of bright, juicy hops along with a sorta yeasty character. Taste is lightly sweet, delicate hop flavor, a little citrus but also almost spicy too. Mouthfeel is surprisingly big considering the abv, medium bodied, but smooth and almost creamy. Not entirely sure what to make of this, but it's good! B+

???
Honestly not sure which beer this is a pic of - one of the pales that's around this point in the post, I think!

Say It Muy Fabs - A 4% pale ale that I found to be supremely good for such a slight beer. Weird that it does not seem to exist on RateBeer or BeerAdvocate, but I love it anyway. Cloudy yellow, tons of lacing, huge citrus and fruit nose, perfect balance of flavors, utterly quaffable, light, refreshing body, really amazing depth for such a small beer. Maybe I just really needed a drink at that point, but I was very impressed with this one. A-

MagoTago - An IPA made with mangos, this pours a cloudy light yellow color with a finger of head. Huge citrus nose, mango coming through strong, but plenty of citrusy floral hops too. Flavor follows the nose, sweet, floral citrus hops, and that mango coming through loud and clear in the middle and finish. Nice light mouthfeel, quaffable, just really nice. Overall, this is right up there! A-

Bokonon - A hoppy brown ale, as the style goes this is nice, though its hard to compete with some of the other stuff (see previous two beers)! B+

Tabel, Printemps - A saison made with lime and cilantro, this is light and refreshing, really nice little beer, that lime/cilantro combo is prominent but not overpowering... B+

Singel Hop Saison, Pacific Jade - Wow, super "green" hoppy character, like Saaz or Golding, but a little brighter and more intense. Feels super fresh. Mixes well with the spicy saison yeast. An interesting entry in the series, though not my favorite... B+

Tired Hands Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone - Pours a super murky, cloudy, almost chocolate milk looking brown color with a couple fingers of tan head. Smell has that chocolate milk character, but also the lighter saison fruit and spice... Ditto for the taste, which has a very yeasty character that overrides the dark malts... Overall, a nice, yeasty dark saison, but nothing to write home about. B

Phew, that's a lot of great beer! I usually end up over there every week or two, so I think you can expect to see more posts about these guys...

Ramstein Eisbock

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Hailing from the gleaming craft beer mecca of... Butler, New Jersey? Yeah, NJ is actually something of a brewery wasteland, but these High Point/Ramstein fellas have been around since the early 1990s. So why haven't I heard of them? Well, they only brew traditional German style wheat beers (though they seem to occasionally put out a small batch of various lager styles), which might have something to do with it. Oh, and they're located in New Jersey.

I'd never even heard of these guys until I spied this option at a local establishment. Being in the mood for something different and never actually having had an Eisbock before, I took a flier on this sucker. Eisbocks are made by taking a base beer (in this case, Ramstein's Winter Wheat), freezing off a portion of the water, then removing it from the beer, thus concentrating the remaining liquid, increasing body, flavor, and ABV (this is one of the techniques used to make some of those strongest beer in the world title holders).

In this case, we're left with a relatively svelt 11.50% ABV that is actually much better regarded than I'd have expected. It currently holds the #3 spot for Eisbocks on Beer Advocate and #5 on Rate Beer, and the ratings would probably even stand up reasonably well overall. This isn't a particularly common style, but I thought it pretty interesting given the way I stumbled on this sucker. So how did I like it?

Ramstein Eisbock

High Point/Ramstein Winter Wheat Eisbock - Pours a black color with half a finger of short lived, lively, bubbly head. This isn't going to make sense, but somehow, it doesn't look like a stout. Perhaps my mind is playing tricks on me. Smells of booze, noble hops, fruity malt, maybe some wheat, but the aroma dissipates as quickly as the head. Taste has a lot of different flavors, but none are all that pronounced. It's sweet, but not at all cloying. Wheat makes itself known, but is not dominant. There's something here I want to call treacle, except its not like I know treacle that well. At times, it almost feels like a boozy cola... and actually, as it warms up, it feels more and more like soda. Lots of breadth of flavor, but perhaps not a ton of depth. There are some hops too, but also something I can't quite place... Mouthfeel is very smoothly carbonated, medium bodied, doesn't feel like such a big beer, and I could see the alcohol sneaking up on you. Not a sipper, but not something to gulp either. Overall, this feel like a souped up soda, and it's really good. I can't say as though it will cause me to go on an Eisbock kick or anything, and it probably wouldn't stand up to my favorite beers, but I'm glad I took a chance on it. Let's call it a provisional B+.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/26/13.

Certainly an interesting, uncommon beer. I may have to seek out more from these guys. And heck, while I'm at it, maybe I should throw New Jersey a bone and give Flying Fish a fair shake (I've actually had a few of their beers that are really good, but for whatever reason, have not posted about them).

Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout

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Because you don't know the power of the dark side until you try it:

Lost Abbey Serpents Stout

The Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout - Pours a pitch black color (darker than a politician's heart, you know, while we're talking about serpents and good vs. evil and all) with a gorgeous two finger light brown head. Seriously dark head here, and it leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Smells of rich, dark malts, a nice roast, chocolate, maybe some coffee. Taste starts with those rich dark malts (a richness I usually associate with barrel aged stuff, though I don't think this is barrel aged), then the roast hits hard, black coffee and bitter dark chocolate asserting themselves, and a well matched finish too. Not really bitter, per say, but there's plenty here that balances out the sweetness. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, lots of rich malts, but there's plenty of carbonation to balance things out too, making this a pleasant sipper (impressive for such a big, heavy beer). Overall, this is a fantastic imperial stout, near top tier (and certainly one of the best that's readily available in the area). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/29/13. 2013 Vintage.

Every time I have a Lost Abbey beer, I'm tempted to take out a second mortgage and go all in to acquire some of their .rar sours or whatnot. Stupid serpent with it's forked tongue. In the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye out for that Brett dosed Devotion that sounds rather yummy. Also got another bottle of Red Poppy, which is just superb.

High Water Old And In The Way

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I thought these saucy High Water brewing fellas were trying to tell me something, but then a friend kindly informed me that the name of this beer, Old & In The Way, was probably a reference to the album. It turns out that Old And In The Way was one of them bluegrass supergroups, including the likes of Jerry Garcia and, heck, I know nothing about bluegrass, so why don't you just go look it up on Wikipedia. I put two and two together, realized that the brewery was named High Water, and thought Like, right on, man! Ok, so I do a poor impression of a stoner. Sue me.

What we've got here, courtesy of Jay from Beer Samizdat (thanks again, buddy!), is a vintage, oak-aged barleywine dating back to 2011. My kinda beer:

High Water Old And In The Way

High Water Old And In The Way - Pours a murky brown color with a finger of off white head that leaves some nice lacing as I drink. Smells of rich caramel, dark fruity malt, vanilla, and oak, with some light resinous pine hop notes peeking through too. Taste follows the nose, lots of caramel and fruity malt character, with some oak and vanilla, plus just a touch of citrus and pine hops. As it warms, that caramel opens up, yielding some toffee and brown sugar which works well with the rest of the flavors and lends a welcome complexity. Mouthfeel is smooth and rich, almost creamy, carbonated, but very tight, which keeps it from being too big. It's not dry, but there's no real overly sticky character either, and it's not at all cloying. More on the English Barleywine side of things than the American, though it comes down somewhere in between. Overall, a very fine, complex sipper! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/29/13. 2011 Vintage.

Another mighty fine brew from a small, otherwise inaccessible, bay-area brewer... It turns out that the reason I found this to be somewhere between an English and American barleywine is that they brewed two different batches, one more English and the other more American, then blended them together. I'm a little unclear on whether bourbon was involved, but if it was, it was very subtle. I got some medium oak and vanilla character, which always goes really well with the caramel and brown sugar base this beer has, but no real bourbon... Not that it really matters, as it's a really good beer. Perhaps it was more bourbon forward when super fresh...

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black

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This pair of part-time Kiwi contract brewers greatly impressed me last time around with a peat smoked beer that had no business being as good as it turned out. Perhaps not a mainstream sort of beer, it nevertheless appealed to my penchant for Scotch and made this jaded beer nerd's heart grow three times larger. As such, I picked up the only other beer of theirs I've run across, their flagship beer, Pot Kettle Black. They call it a porter, but you would probably know it better as a Black IPA (or American Black Ale or whatever the heck you call that style) So let's find out why the eponymous Pot is such a goddamn racist hypocrite, shall we?

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black - Pours a very dark brown color with colossal amounts of head. I swears, I didn't pour this thing like an asshole, it's just very well carbonated! Aroma has hints of roast, but is mostly herbal, spicy, floral hops. Taste has a surprising richness to it, lots of crystal malt character, again just a hint of that roast, and the herbal, floral hops are subtle, but prominent. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, but not overcarbonated. Full bodied, rich, but finishing drier than expected (and perhaps the carbonation has something to do with that). Overall, this doesn't really fit with a typical American Black Ale (or Black IPA, or whatever you call it), but it's not really a porter/stout either. Unique, complex, interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/23/13.

Well, that marks two really weird, but really good entries from this obscure NZ brewery. I'm going to have to find more stuff from them, as I appear to have exhausted my local bottle shop's supply of different beers (which, at 2, wasn't exactly overflowing, but still). (I suppose I should note: despite the date and corresponding obscurity of the brewer, I do legitimately like this brewer/beer, which totally does exist and is well worth trying out. Ok, so reading that sentence back makes it seem like I'm trying to throw you off the scent of my delightful April Fools prank, but I swears, this is totally, completely serious. Well, not completely serious, as I did make that crack about the pot being a racist hypocrite because he called the kettle black, but you get my point. Right? So to recap, this is a legitimate post. For reals. Ok, dammit, is there a way to say that that doesn't come off as ironic or sarcastic? No? I should just stop? Well too bad, because now I'm worried that I'm overselling this beer/brewery. I mean, I really enjoyed it when I drank it, but the A- was probably a bit generous. Or maybe not. Maybe I should try another. Are you still reading this? I sure hope not. Then why am I still writing it? Don't try and change the subject. The real question is: why on earth are you still reading this? I think I've written more in this pointless parenthetical than I have in the whole rest of the post, so I guess I should actually stop now. It's been real. Thanks for reading, I guess. Have a good one!)

I don't really know what constitutes colonial speak, but let's just pretend I'm wearing some 18th century garb and lecturing on the merits of this most excellent barrel aged brew, sent my way by Dave, the Drunken Polack, in our recent trade (many thanks to Dave!) It comes from Williamsburg AleWerks (sometimes referred to as just AleWerks), a brewery I'm not particularly familiar with, but which sounds like it's been doing good work over the past few years. Take this sucker:

Williamsburg AleWerks Bourbon Barrel Porter

Williamsburg AleWerks Bourbon Barrel Porter - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of toasted, roasted malts along with a sweet bourbon aroma, oak and vanilla too. Taste starts sweet, with rich dark malts, a light roasty character, and that bourbon, oak, and vanilla coming through strong in the finish. Very sweet, but never approaching cloying, which is good. Mouthfeel is full bodied but it's got a nice, crisp carbonation that keeps it manageable. Overall, really well done bourbon barrel treatment here, delicious, complex, and balanced. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/23/13.

Quite a showing for these fellas, I've got another bottle of their stuff in the fridge, their Coffeehouse Stout (also courtesy of my trade with Dave) that sounds promising. I just missed out on the release of Bitter Valentine, which is another brew I'd love to try sometime... There's always next year!

Smarch Beer Club

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Due to a calendar misprint, the Smarch edition of beer club came later than normals, but we had it all the same. For the uninitiated, beer club is where a bunch of booze-minded folks from my work get together and sample beers and usually other beverages of choice. We always hit up a local BYOB and tonight, we didn't even get banned! Good times had by all, and we got to drink some pretty good beer too:

Smarch Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

In accordance with tradition, I will henceforth record some disgruntled, freakish opinions on each beer below. You know, for posterity. Of course none of these notes are reliable because I wasn't in a sensory deprivation chamber and didn't chemically cleanse my palate after every sip, so read them at your own risk. In order of drinking (not in order of picture, and due to some tardy attendees, some are not even pictured):

  • Kaedrin Fat Weekend IPA - My homebrewed IPA, one of the last bottles at this point, seemed to go over pretty well. Again, I hope to do a more detailed review at some point, but in short, it came out super dank, very piney and resinous hop character dominates the flavor. A little overcarbonated, but I should be able to correct that in future batches. I'll refrain from rating right now, but aside from the carbonation issues, I really like this.
  • Wagner Valley IPA - I've used this description before, but it's perfect for a beer like this: It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over most macro lagers, but not particularly accomplished either. C+
  • DuClaw Naked Fish - A beer we've had before (at beer club, even), and my thoughts haven't changed much at all. It's got a really nice raspberry and chocolate character mixed with a really low-octane stout base. Easy enough to drink, but it's not going to blow you away. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Oktoberfest - New homebrewer Ken brought one of his first batches, an Octoberfest beer that probably still needs some conditioning time, but was drinkable as it was. It had some apple-like off flavors, but it was actually sorta pleasant anyway...
  • Magic Hat Pistil - Super light, flowery, herbal, crisp and refreshing, would make a great summer beer. Not something that will blow away jaded beer nerds or anything, but it was actually a nice palate cleanser and certainly a lot more pleasant than macro stuff. B
  • Flying Dog Lucky S.O.B. - A pretty straightforward Irish Red Ale. Not bad or anything, but not particularly distinguished either. Nice malt backbone, easy drinking stuff. B-
  • Kaedrin Stout - Another of my homebrews, this thing is about a year and a half old, and it's actually drinking really well! Complex malt character, caramel, roast, dark chocolate, still packs a whallop of flavor and hasn't really lost anything over the year and a half in my cellar. On the other hand, this has always been a beer that's worked well in small pours. Still, I think I may revisit the recipe next year, perhaps amp it up a bit more, give it some more hops, get a higher attenuating yeast. It's pretty good right now, but it could be great.
  • Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheatwine - It's like a hefeweizen, only moreso. In my limited experience with big wheat beers, I've always gotten cloying, sticky sweet notes that just made it unpalatable. But this drinks like a slightly boozy hefeweizen. Huge banana and clove weizen yeast character in the nose, and you really don't get that big boozy flavor until the finish, and even then, it doesn't quite feel like a 9.1% monster. Still not my favorite style, but this was among the best I've had. B+
  • DuClaw Bourbon Barrel Aged Devil's Milk - The regular Devil's Milk is a wonderful little barleywine, this bourbon-barrel aged version makes a nice complementary offering. It's a huge, bourbon forward beer, lots of caramel and vanila, much less in the way of hops than the base, but still an eminently drinkable brew. Would like to try again sometime, but I'll give it an tentative A-
  • Weyerbacher Riserva (2012) - Picked this up at the release at the brewery this past weekend (will have a more detailed post later, stay tuned), even briefly crossed paths with Rich on Beer and fam on my way to pick up some Riserva and the last NATO beer (Zulu, which, again, will be covered in a separate post at some point). Anyways, Riserva is an oak aged beer made with raspberries. It's going to be distributed, but as American Wild Ales go, it's pretty solid stuff. It's not a top tier Russian River killer or anything, but it's got a place at the table, and I'm continually surprised at how well sour beers go over with the beer club crowd. Even non-beer drinkers gave this a shot and really enjoyed it. For my part, I found it to be a bit hot, but otherwise a pretty solid beer. Funky, intensely sour, but with a nice oak character balancing things out. A little astringent and boozy, but still really enjoyable. Not sure about knocking back an entire 750 ml of this, but I'm sure it will happen someday. B+
And that about covers it. Good times had by all, and already planning next month's meetup, since this month happened so late.

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

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After sampling this tiny Scandanavian brewery's wares a few months ago, I immediately made plans to get my haands on some more of their stuff. Norwegian Wood was possibly the best straight-up smoked beer I've ever had, and this one, well this one is unique. They call this thing a "Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout", a style I can't imagine is very common. I'm sure some cuckoo-nutso homebrewer is out there right now doing the same thing, but then again, these HaandBryggeriet guys are basically homebrewers. They brew in their spare time on "an absurdly small scale", which allows them to embrace whatever quirky ideas they may have. In this case, the wheat malt and yeast mixes surprisingly well with the more traditional roasted malt character, and I got some really well balanced smoke out of it too. Truly, the force is with this one (even if it is the dark side):

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with half a finger of light brown head. Smells very sweet, caramel, toffee, some wheat, some roast, and maybe even some smoke. Actually, as it warms, that smoked character develops even more, giving off a sorta meaty character. This isn't one of those overpoweringly smoked beers, it's subtle, but distinct, and while I usually don't get meaty character out of smoked beers, I'm getting it here. Taste has some light, rich caramel tones, that touch of smoke is more prominent here too, and some wheat and roasted malt too. Again, smoked bacon character is emerging as it warms, and it's actually really well matched with the rest of the beer. This is not one of those unbalanced "who put their cigar out in my beer" affairs, it actually fits with the rest of the beer. Subtle and complex flavors. Mouthfeel has plenty of carbonation, a welcome depth and richness. It's not dry, but for such a big beer, it's not very sticky icky either. Overall, this is an excellent and well crafted stout. Delicious and complex, well worth seeking out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 3/22/13. (No bottling/batch info on label, for some reason)

This pretty much exhausts my current supply of HaandBryggeriet treats, but I'm sure I'll revisit them soon enough. They're clearly in the upper tier of my Euro-brewer experience.

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

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Recent Comments

  • Mark: Well then, I'll have to keep my eye open for read more
  • Mark: Ahh, good to know about the caffeine, I just did read more
  • phagan55: Yeah, white and green usually have about half the caffeine read more
  • phagan55: Free tastings are the way to go, you can try read more
  • Mark: I need to try some of these with milk/sugar additions read more
  • Mark: I should try that next time. But again, I find read more
  • Mark: Yeah, I just don't drink Scotch often enough to really read more
  • Mark: For a while, I had both the Ardbeg 10 and read more
  • Mark: I can see this being a great cold weather tea. read more
  • phagan55: I love this stuff in cold weather. It smells like read more