Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot

| No Comments

Thanks to the ever generous Jay from Beer Samizdat, I've had the pleasure of drinking a few beers from Tahoe Mountain and found myself quite pleased with their offerings. Their Provisions saison is a pretty standard take on the style, but of course they've been doing more adventurous things with that most vague of styles (I kid because I love). Enter their Recolte Du Bois (translates to "harvest of the wood") series of Brett-dosed, barrel-aged saisons, music to my earballs. Some are fruited, some are aged in various wine casks, and one is even made with sage. What we have here is the Apricot Saison, which wound up being quite nice:

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot Saison

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot - Pours a mostly clear straw yellow color, gorgeous when held up to the light, with a finger of white head. Smells of apricot. I mean, there's other stuff going on here, a little farmhouse, funk, but nothing that overpowers the apricot. The taste starts out with more of that traditional farmhouse feel, slight funk, fruity esters, very light spicy phenols, and then that apricot kicks in towards the finish bringing a little tartness to the party, but there's a nice earthy note that balances it all out too. Mouthfeel is crisp and light, well carbonated, very approachable. Overall, this is quite nice, not quite a full-on apricot bomb (which is, uh, not a bad thing), but not a lactic bomb like, say, Cascade Apricot either. Well balanced and very tasty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/8/15. Bottled: 20150623.

So yes, I want more of these Recolte Du Bois variants, particularly interested in the Peach version, though they all sound great. Oh, and why not try some of their Dark Ages beers? Old Ale? Imperial Stout? Bourbon barrels? Yes please. Thanks again to Jay for introducing me to these fine purveyors of beer.

Marius Double Feature

| No Comments

Forest & Main's Marius series of oak-aged, fruited saisons is pretty clearly their most anticipated release. While normally laid back affairs, Marius releases tend to sell out right away. As a result, I've missed out on the first few releases. I finally got my act together for the most recent release, which was three different variants: Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. I split the Cherry with some friends and loved it (but never wrote down any notes - I'm the worst) so I was quite excited to crack open the other two whilst embarking on the great 2015 movie catchup. The Big Short kinda came out of nowhere and has a pleasingly odd pedigree, and I loved it. It's actually kinda the best explanation for the 2008 economic crisis I've seen (save the source material, of course) and the humor is mildly effective at toning down just how insane the whole situation was (and kinda still is). Kung Fu Killer is, erm, less successful, though it has some nice martial arts action sequences that'd make it worthwhile for fans of that sort of thing. Fortunately, this beer made up for any of that film's shortcomings:

Forest and Main Marius (Peach)

Forest & Main Marius (Peach) - Pours a striking, clear yellow color with a finger of fluffy head that has great retention that leaves a little lacing (for what it's worth, the second pour was more cloudy). Smells nice, some musty funk, but lots of fruit too, those peaches coming through well. Taste has a very nice earthy, musty funk to it with a fruity peach kicker, some tartness and oak pitching in towards the middle and lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and dry, lightly acidic, almost quaffable. Overall, this is a winner, rivaling the Cherry though probably not exceeding it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

Forest and Main Marius (Plum)

Forest & Main Marius (Plum) - Pours a much more cloudy, darker yellow color with more head, at least two fingers, great retention, some lacing. Definitely has a distinctly different smell here, still some musty funk, but moreso than the Peach, and the plums certainly lend a different fruit character. Taste has more of a yeasty character to it, some of that earthy, musty funk, but also some more traditional estery feel along with the plum fruit, not as sour as the peach either, though there is a bit of tartness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and very dry, less acidic, though there is still something there. Overall, this too, is a winner, though not quite up to the level of Cherry or Peach. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

More great efforts from Forest & Main. They've got an expansion underway, so I'm expecting to see great things from them in the nearish future.

Stout Rullquin

| No Comments

New Year's Eve has emerged as a time to drink lambic. At least, for me it has. So we cracked a couple bottles, and I found this to be the more interesting of the two. It's a very strange beer. It's a collaboration between Gueuzerie Tilquin and Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles wherein Tilquin blended 7/8 of La Rullés Brune with 1/8 of 1 year old lambics from Tilquin's stores (Tilquin does not brew their beer, but they do age and blend it) and then aged the result in barrels for 8 months. Truth be told, I almost didn't notice it sitting on the shelf because the (rather nifty) label blends the two collaborators' artistic styles (though not proportional to the blend of beer, but if they did that, Tilquin would get almost none of the label!) Tilquin used to be reliably available, but has been getting more scarce lately, so my eyes always perk up with I see their distinctive labels. We did it, you guys! We made another great beer hard to find!

This actually marks the second time I've had this beer, but the first time was at a share and I only had a small taste. At that time, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much the lambic came through. I mean, it was clearly a toned down character, but it was prominent and quite tasty. I had already procured this bottle and became quite excited at the prospect of getting a full pour. Then a curious thing happened. This bottle tasted different. Still good, but perhaps not as well balanced as the first pour. That or my palate was just way off that night. Regardless, it's still quite an interesting beer, and I wouldn't mind snagging a bottle and putting a little age on it to see how it fares. Until then, we're left with this:

Stout Rullquin

Tilquin/Rulles Stout Rullquin - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head. Smells musty, maybe some toasty malt character, definitely some straight Belgian yeast going on here, but you get hints of twangy funk in there too. Taste starts off like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, spicy, bready Belgian yeast, hints of toasty malt brightened by that funky lambic addition. It's not as big of an influence in this bottle as the last one I had, but it's there. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, pretty easy going. Overall, it's an interesting beer, and both times I've had it, it wasn't what I expected... but it was good nonetheless! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/15. Best Before: 31/03/2025. Released: September 2015.

Tilquin's Gueuze was the beer that made me see the light when it comes to sour beer, so I'm always on the lookout for their stuff. Would really love to try the blackberry lambic they recently made, but who knows when that will show up (and when it does, I'm sure it'll go quick).

Christmas Beer Recap

| No Comments

My favorite time of the year is the Halloween through Christmas corridor, and part of that is the seasonal beer we get. It's not fashionable to be into Christmas beers, winter warmers and the like, but I love them and always make room for some of them during the holidays. I know I just got done mentioning that I don't feel the need to write about every beer I drink, but now that the holidays are over, I need some way to occupy my time that doesn't involve poopsocking it through Fallout 4, so here's a sampling of two beers I drank for last minute Christmas wrapping fuel, and two that were gifts.

Ballantine Burton Ale

Ballantine Burton Ale - So Pabst revived the Ballantine name with a decent IPA, and for Christmas, they put together this little barleywine number. According to a bunch of strangers on the internets, this is the single best beer Pabst has ever made. Let's see, shall we? Pours a clear amber orange color with a finger of head and some lacing. Smells sweet, lots of dank, piney hops and a little dark fruit. Taste is also quite sweet, more of the dark fruit here, but the hops balance things out without feeling too bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tight carbonation, hints of booze, a sipper for sure. Overall, it's a solid little barleywine, tasty, and I haven't had something like this in a long time... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2015.

Samichlaus Classic 2010

Samichlaus Classic 2010 - It's become something of a Kaedrin tradition to do last minute Christmas wrapping whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies and imbibing a Samichlaus of some kind (or maybe, um, two of them). This year was no exception, and in the spirit of dipping into the cellar to drink some of my aged stock, I grabbed a 5 year old bottle. Pours a deep dark amber orange color with a half finger of head that quickly disappears. Smells intensely of clean, dark fruits, very sweet, a little booze. Tastes very sweet, sticky, sugary sweet, with muted dark fruit, and did I mention it was sweet? Not cloying though, age has treated this well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated. Overall, it's very good with some age on it, among the better I've had. I'm going with a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2010.

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo - My brother isn't a big beer guy, but usually manages to get some decent stuff. For instance, this year's selections included a Sierra Nevada Celebration, a La Fin Du Monde, and a few other beers I genuinely love yet rarely revisit. Then there's this one, which sounds like the most interesting of the lot on paper... English Strong Ale aged in oak barrels for over a year? Well sign me up! Alas, this runs into that Belgian pale ale character that I always find distressing and the oak aging doesn't feel harmonious at all. Something odd going on here. Pours a murky amber color with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smell has a lot of fruity character to it, some toffee and maybe some butterscotch, possibly diacetyl. Taste has more of that dark fruit, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, and a hint of tart astringency. Not, like, infected, but I think it's the result of that barrel aging. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but medium to full bodied. Overall, this seems well crafted, but it's just not really my thing. C

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Ridgeway Lump of Coal - A gift from a coworker, I knew I was in for trouble because I've never had a Ridgeway that I've ever liked, despite the fact that they put out, like, ten Christmas beers. Pours a clear dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of off white head. Does not smell like a stout at all, getting that toffee and butterscotch and diacetyl here. Taste is along the same lines, diacetyl and maybe even some skunking, this is terrible! Notes of death and decay. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, appropriate for the style I guess, but the problem lies not here. Overall, this is terrible! It doesn't even warrant taking the time to upload the image I took. I don't hand these out often, but this one earned it: F

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

A decidedly mixed bag this year. I shall have to endeavor to do better next year. In the meantime, New Years Eve drinking was more palatable, so I'll cover that one tomorrow.

2015 Year End Musings

| No Comments

Now comes the time of year when we attempt to divine information about the time past and times to come, all based on the relative positions of celestial objects. In other words, we all become astrologists around the new year! I'm making light of this, but it's a good thing to take stock of where we are and where we're going from time to time, and completing another orbit around the sun is as good a time as any. This isn't really the place for personal reflections, but it is a place for beer! So let's get down to the year in beer that was, and perhaps look forward to what the future holds.

It was a good year! I drank lots of great beer, made lots of new friends, and even got interviewed. 2016 has a lot to live up to, but also plenty of opportunity.

Looking at the past few year end musings (jeeze, has it been 5 years? Yikes.) I tend to get repetitive on my reflections, so I'll try to limit these observations to relatively new stuff rather than just repeating that yes, I've aged some beer, and while I've had a couple of revalations, most of it was just as good fresh (see how I squeezed that one in there? I may not be so successful at this.)

  • Beer Festivals - I've never been a huge fan of beer festivals for reasons I have already belabored in my recap of Operation Chowder, a trip in which I attended the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston. I only went to one session (Friday night), and had a great time, but felt no regret that the other sessions were sold out. Likewise, I had a fine time at the more local Kennet Brewfest, but I only went to it because someone had an extra ticket. I mean, it's fine, but 95% of the beer flowing there was generally available in the area anyway. I think I enjoyed ACBF more because there were so many New England breweries that I'd never had before that were there. As such, I may loosen my disdain for festivals... when traveling. GABF, here I come? Let's not get carried away.
  • Bottle Shares - I have often posted about Beer Club, but that's generally a low key affair. This year, I connected with a more formal local group that has very cool bottle shares, ones that I haven't really posted much about (though I have mentioned them). I would expect this to continue, because I enjoy not documenting every beer I drink, and honestly, writing a full review based on a 2 ounce sample after having sampled 10 other beers really isn't the best way to do it. Plus, you know, it's rude. Look for a tweet here or there, but otherwise, these shares will remain just plain old fun. Alright, fine, based on this and my beer festivals, I might add a supplementary list of beers I loved, but only had small samples of below.
  • Taking a Break - For two years in a row, I've basically given up beer for Lent. I find it to be a very good chance to reset and recalibrate, not to mention the benefit to my waistline. Plus, I get a chance to focus on other things like Bourbon, Scotch, Wine, and Tea. It's now something I actually look forward to every year. This starts in early February this year, so look for a shift in blogging material in a month or so...
  • Wales, bro - I've often talked about slaying personal white whale beers, things that aren't particularly rare, but which I'd never managed to snag before. This year was the first year I actually slayed true beer nerd walez, that ridiculous list of absurdly rare beers. In each case, it wasn't something I realized until after I drank the beer in question (usually lucking into it by accident), and to me, that's the way to do it. I feel like intentionally hunting down beers on that list would be quite annoying. Then again, I guess that's why they call them wales, bro. Regardless, I'm happy I got to try those beers, and one of them was my favorite beer of the year (see below!) so maybe the list isn't complete bullshit.
  • Style Parity - Alright, this is not really true at all, but after last year's American Wild Ale dominated top 40, this year's list is at least a little more diverse. A lot of this is just the natural ebbs and flows of availability and the degrees to which I'm willing to hunt stuff down. Part of it is also more of a willingness to branch out. Heck, I even listed a Pilsner on this year's top 40. A Pilsner! Will wonders ever cease?
  • Blogging Plateau - I'm still blogging at a pretty good clip, but I feel like I've reached a nice 2-3 posts a week cadence that I don't really want to exceed much anymore. There was a time when 4-6 posts a week were common, but those days have past, and I'd expect things to continue on the slower pace. After all, it's nice to drink something without having to write about it, and I've long since gotten over the compulsion to post about literally every beer I've tried.
  • Other Stuff - Of the normal topics, I have little to say. I had a terrible year in homebrewing, so I'm going to try and turn that around in 2016. Ratings inflation continues unabated. I keep meaning to inaugurate a new class of A+ beers, and I guess 2016 is the year for that. I've actually been drinking a bunch of aged beers recently, and plan on posting about them in more detail in the nearish future.

A pretty interesting year, and it's fun to see how my beer nerdery is progressing. So here's my list of top 40 beers I've tried this year. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you don't see your favorites on the list, don't get all wound up about it. I've either had it in a previous year or just didn't catch up with it. Or, I had it and hated it, because you're the worst. How could you like such a horrid thing? But I digress. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with lists. Lists are American. What are you? A communist? There I go digressing again. I tried to limit breweries to a handful of entries, but whatever, it's my list and I'll do what I want. Speaking of which, let's do this:

  1. Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) (Lambic)
  2. Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) (American Wild Ale)
  3. Tired Hands Pathway of Beauty (IPA)
  4. Allagash Cuvée D'Industrial (American Wild Ale)
  5. Alchemist Focal Banger (IPA)
  6. Firestone Walker XIX - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  7. Midnight Sun Arctic Devil (Barleywine)
  8. Tired Hands Freedom From the Known (Saison)
  9. Logsdon Peche 'n Brett (Saison)
  10. Pizza Boy Golden Sour (American Wild Ale)
  11. Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev's Cobra (Imperial Stout)
  12. The Bruery Cuir (Old Ale)
  13. Firestone Walker XVIII - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  14. Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Rye (Imperial Stout)
  15. Allagash Farm To Face (American Wild Ale)
  16. Trillium Congress Street IPA (IPA)
  17. Jack's Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer (Baltic Porter)
  18. Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout (Imperial Stout)
  19. Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip Of Sunshine (Double IPA)
  20. Forest & Main Moeder Seizoen (Saison)
  21. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 (Double IPA)
  22. Lost Abbey Cuvée De Tomme (American Wild Ale)
  23. Almanac Dogpatch Sour (American Wild Ale)
  24. BFM XV (√225 Saison) (Saison)
  25. Alpine Nelson (IPA)
  26. Stone Southern Charred (2014) (American Strong Ale)
  27. Midnight Sun Berserker (Imperial Stout)
  28. Crux Tough Love [Banished] (Imperial Stout)
  29. Prairie Pirate Noir (Imperial Stout)
  30. Victory Java Cask (Imperial Stout)
  31. Forest & Main Rum Barrel-Aged Gmork (Imperial Stout)
  32. Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta (Saison)
  33. Telegraph Gypsy Ale (American Wild Ale)
  34. Sante Adairius Jose Pimiento (American Wild Ale)
  35. Modern Times Monsters' Park (Imperial Stout)
  36. Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka (Czech pilsener)
  37. AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout (Imperial Stout)
  38. Grassroots Brother Soigné (Saison)
  39. Lost Nation The Wind (Gose)
  40. Kern River Just Outstanding IPA (IPA)

The Unreviewed 5
Beers that where I had small samples, never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

I need to find a way to get more of each of these. Yum

So it's been a great year, and hopefully 2016 has even more in store for me. Cheers!

A Few Trips to Levante Brewing

| No Comments

It's hard to keep up with the throng of newly christened breweries in the area, but when the brewery in question is only a mile or two away, how can I not stop in? Of course, proximity isn't the only factor in play here, otherwise I'd be chatting up uber-local Boxcar's generally mediocre offerings (to be fair, they have opened a new brewpub, and it's a fantastic space, even if their beer still seems to be subpar). But being close helps, and Levante has more to offer than Boxcar ever did. (Full disclosure, one of the brewers there is a former coworker.)

They formally opened about six months ago, but had been open on a provisionary basis for a month or two before that. I've actually been there several times over the past few months, but I've only just recently gotten around to taking some formal tasting notes. The tasting room is just part of the little warehouse where they've set up their brewery, but they've done a good job making it a welcoming area, and they have a great little nook for food trucks to sidle up to the building. They're only open a few days a week, but they've gradually been expanding that, and their distribution footprint is getting larger as well.

Their standard lineup is comprised of your common opening break of styles (IPA, Pale, Rye, Wit, Kolsh, etc...), but their rotating limited releases have only gotten better over time. Out of the standard lineup, I've enjoyed Pallido Pale Ale and Ranger Rye the most (and the blended, bourbon barrel aged version of Ranger Rye? Excellent!). I've also quite enjoyed the Glen Mills Mild (now dubbed Mild Porter because no one understood what a mild was (I don't think I have any British readers, but I'm guessing some facepalms are in order)), a perfect little 3.2% session ale. They've been somewhat less successful with Belgian styles, though their most recent attempts have been improving.

But where they've really nailed it is with stouts. Longtime readers know I've been pining for a local brewery to really embrace stouts, and I appear to have found my savior. Darkness is Spreading was a superb little milk stout with well balanced chocolate and vanilla additions. And then we come to Bullit Train, an excellent imperial stout made with bourbon vanilla. Both stouts were delicious, so when my brewer buddy informed me that they'd be releasing a bourbon barrel aged blend of Bullit Train on the day after Christmas, I was all over it. Merry Boxing Day! Some notes on that and a double IPA are below:

Levante Bullitt Train Bourbon Vanilla Stout

Bullitt Train Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Stout - A blend of three batches, one of which was aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, then it was put on the nitro tap. Pours a deep black color with a finger or two of gorgeous, dense light brown nitro head. Smells nice, big wafts of vanilla, caramel, hints of roast and chocolate. Taste follows the nose, lots of vanilla, some more roast than the nose, hints of the caramel and chocolate. The bourbon is there, but it's a light touch (I don't know the details, but I'm guessing only half or so of the blend was BBA). Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, as befits a nitro pour. High medium to full bodied, very approachable at 10.5%, no real boozy notes at all. Overall, Levante has proven quite adept at stouts, and this is no exception! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (nitro pour). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/26/15.

Levante Panic Room

Panic Room - I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Levante's single IPA, The Chief. However, their double IPAs are a different beast altogether. This pours a pale golden orange color with a finger or two of fluffy white head. Smells great, big citrus and pine hops. Taste hits the hops hard, again citrus and pine, with a substantial but well balanced bitter bite to it that lasts through the finish. This isn't one of them newfangled northeast "juicy" IPAs, but it's well crafted and delicious. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, no discernable booze, very nice. Overall, rock solid DIPA! B+ maybe an A- if I'm generous...

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/26/15.

A promising start from an uber-local brewery! I am greatly looking forward to where Levante goes next. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about them in the near future, so stay tuned!

A Trip to Selin's Grove

| No Comments

Back in the time of antiquity (i.e. the aughts), you could troll beer rating sites by state and when you got to Pennsylvania, the listings were dominated by this tiny little brewpup located in the middle of nowhere called Selin's Grove. The IPA even graced Beer Advocate's top 100 back when that was still a thing people cared about, and people 3,000 miles away would trade for it. They've since faded a bit in the popular consciousness due to the rise of other big PA names, but they seem happy toiling away in relative obscurity (then again, the IPA is still #7 on BA's PA list, so there is that).

Selins Grove sign

Selin's Grove is about 2 hours away from Kaedrin HQ, which depending on your fortitude is not too big of a deal (these days, there are a few other places you can stop along the way, which might make for a nice full-day trip). I've always meant to make a trip up there sometime, and finally pulled the trigger last week when they were celebrating their anniversary. It's a bit of a haul, but it's not a bad drive at all. I had a couple of samples when I was there, grabbed a decent sandwich, and of course some growlers. It's a neat little place, great atmosphere, very warm and inviting. Let's see if their beer lives up to their reputation:

Selins Grove IPA

Selin's Grove IPA - Pours a pale orange color with half a finger of quickly disappearing head. Smells sweet, citrus and lots of dank, resinous pine. I want to call this an expertly crafted old school IPA, and I'm guessing lots of C hops here. Taste is sweet, with some citrus and again, lots of dank, resinous pine, finishing with a nice bitter bite. Mouthfeel has lowish carbonation (probably a result of the growler), medium body, and it's quite approachable. Overall, it's a rock solid IPA, I can see why it had the reputation, but I can see why it's fallen off the radar as well. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV from a growler (1L Boston style). Drank out of a snifter on 12/22/15.

Selins Grove Framboise

Selin's Grove Framboise - Pours a murky purple color with a finger of pinkish head. Smells of pure, unadulterated raspberry puree, sweet and a little tart. That sounds simplistic, but it's really quite striking. The taste has a little more complexity to it, though it's still a raspberry bomb. It's got a richness to it that fits well with the sweet, lightly tart rasberry. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, surprisingly full bodied, rich, and chewy, viscous but the carbonation helps break it up. No matter what the ABV, it's not really a session beer because of its intensity, but it's not like it's hard to drink or something. Still, I was very glad I was sharing this, as taking down a growler on your own is maybe possible, but not recommended. Overall, reminiscent of those New Glarius fruited bangers, this is fuller and more rich, and delicious. Really begs for some sort of Brett addition or barrel aging, but it's pretty great as it is. B+ or maybe an A- if I'm feeling generous, which I guess I'm not.

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV from a growler (1L Boston style). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/22/15.

It was worth the trip, but it is just a tad bit too far to make it up there regularly. Still, I could see it happening a couple times a year, as there are several other beers of theirs I'd love to try.

8 Maids-A-Milking

| No Comments

Another year, another verse in The Bruery's 12 Days (beers) of Christmas. I always enjoy these, even when they're not spectacular, because I'm just a sucker for the concept of a 12 year vertical series centered around a Christmas carol. Some of these have been great, most have been middle ground. Most are a take on a Belgian dark ale, and some even incorporate ingredients inspired by the verse. For instance, 3 French Hens was partially aged in French Oak, 5 Golden Rings was the only "golden" colored beer in the series, gooseberries were added to 6 Geese-A-Laying and now we come to 8 Maids-A-Milking, which is obviously a milk stout. A Belgian-style Imperial Milk Stout, to be exact. This is actually a somewhat interesting combination. Belgian yeast typically ferments through at a higher attenuation, leaving a beer lighter bodied and more carbonated than the same recipe with a different yeast. But if you add in some lactose, you offset that, which is a nice concept. Also, I've found that this type of beer ages pretty darn well, so now that we're on the downslope of the 12 Days of Christmas (zoinks! Has it really been that long?), this one should most certainly be drinking well in a few years.

The Bruery 8 Maids-A-Milking

The Bruery 8 Maids-A-Milking - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger or two of khaki head that sticks around for a while and leaves some lacing as I drink. Smell has a nice estery component that comes out before the more roasty stout-like aromas emerge. Taste is very sweet, with that fruity ester character coming through strong in the taste along with some more spicy phenolic elements from the Belgian yeast, clove and the like, finally some roasty notes are pitching in. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated but smooth and full bodied, the lactose cutting any dryness from the yeast without getting sticky, and a little booze too. Overall, this is a solid Belgian style stout, nothing to go crazy over but a nice holiday pour. B+

Beer nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/19/15.

This was good, but I think it could really benefit from some barrel aging. I keep waiting for a return to the BA Christmas beer from the Bruery, but alas, it has not happened yet. I remain ever hopeful. See you again when those Dancing Ladies appear!

Firestone XIX Anniversary Ale

| No Comments

Another year, another blend. You know the deal, every year Firestone Walker invites neighboring winemakers to get sloshed and blend a series of barrel aged component beers into a Voltron-esque super beer which becomes their Anniversary Ale. It's a process I've already covered in tedious detail, so I won't belabor that point.

Each blend varies considerably. XV was barleywine-heavy and fabulous. XVI was more evenly matched between stouts and barleywines, and while great, it's probably still my least favorite vintage. XVII returned to a barleywine focus and XVIII went to the dark side. Also of note with XVIII, it had a breakdown of 9 components ranging from 38% of the blend (the highest I've seen) to 2% (the lowest). This year, Firestone Walker ratcheted back the variety, making fewer component beers available for the blend (and removing the hoppy, stainless steel finished beers off the roster completely). As a result, we get a sorta back to basics look:

  • 33.33% Parabola (13% ABV) Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Aged in Bourbon Barrels.
  • 33.33% Stickee Monkee (12.3% ABV) English Barley Wine. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels.
  • 16.66% Bravo (12.9% ABV) Imperial Brown Ale. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels.
  • 16.66% Velvet Merkin (8.5% ABV) Traditional Oatmeal Stout. Aged in Bourbon barrels.

We're again trafficking the dark side here, with about 2/3 of the blend hitting the brown ale/stout territory (I guess it depends on how you categorize Bravo, but I've always put it in dark/stout territory). It probably helps that Parabola is the anchor here, any blend where that features so prominently is bound to turn out great I think. But what do I know? I'm just a dork on the internet. Let's take a closer look:

Firestone Walker XIX

Firestone Walker XIX Anniversary Ale - Pours a deep, dark brown color, almost black, with a finger of short lived light tan head. Smells nice, roasty, almost nutty, with that typically fantastically balanced barrel character, vanilla, oak, booze. Taste is all rich caramel, dark fruits, hints of roast, maybe even that nutty note, and plenty of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. As it warms, the fruity brandy notes come out too. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated but thick, a little pleasant boozy heat, but not sticky at all. Overall, another knockout from Firestone's Anniversary program. A

Beer Nerd Details: 13.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 12/18/15. Vintage: 2015.

Drinking a new Anniversary Ale is always a pleasure, and this one stacks up favorably with all the others that I've had. Already looking forward to next year's batch, and fingers crossed that Bravo sees bottles this year...

New Holland Double Feature

| No Comments

One of the more interesting crossovers between beer and bourbon is New Holland's Beer Barrel Bourbon. First, they get old bourbon barrels to age their imperial stout in, resulting in Dragon's Milk (that accessible beginners BBA beer that is a reliable standby). Next, they went out and sourced some bourbon (presumably from MGP, because who else?) at 110-115 proof, then dumped that into the old Dragon's Milk barrels (i.e. this is a third use barrel). The result is a beer barrel finished bourbon that lots of people seem to enjoy and that I thought I'd never find. However, during a recent jaunt to the Garden State, I spied a bottle of this very juice and immediately snatched it up, knowing in my heart that I would also snag a Dragon's Milk to complete the double feature. So let's get it on with some hot bourbon on beer action:

Beer and Beer Barrel Finished Bourbon
(Click to Embiggen)

New Holland Dragon's Milk - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light tan head. Smells sweet, lots of vanilla, a little caramel, hints of roast. Taste has a nice caramel and vanilla character to it, roast in the background. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, smooth and creamy, no real evidence of booze. Overall, it's not quite the revelation it once was, but it's a rock solid BBA stout and you have to admire the price point and availability. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 12/12/15. Vintage: 2015.

New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon - Pours a light golden color. Smells kinda new makish, but with a nice kick, vanilla and caramel and toffee. The vanilla seems most prominent. Taste again has some new make rawness to it, a little more prominent in the taste than the nose, but there is some hints of vanilla in the background. Mouthfeel is light and smooth, hardly even boozy (ah, it's 80 proof, that explains it). Overall, its a little disappointing, but it's also interesting enough that I tried it. Was it worth the flier on the whole bottle? I'd have to drink more to find out for sure. Who knows, maybe it will grow on me. For now: B-

Whiskey Nerd Details: 40% ABV bottle (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 12/12/15.

Beer Nerd Musings: The beer barrel almost certainly lent some of those vanilla, caramel, and toffee notes to the bourbon, but my guess is that cutting it down to 80 proof did this a disservice. I'm not looking for barrel proof here, but maybe give us a little more heft, let those beery notes shine, you know? I'm betting this would be fine cocktail material though, and I should really try that. There are apparently some other beer barrel finished whiskeys out there. Sku has tried Abraham Bowman Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon (which used barrels from Hardywood's BBA Gingerbread Stout) and found it interesting, but perhaps not whole bottle interesting. Berkshire Mountain Distillers has a whole series of beer cask finished bourbons, using barrels from the likes of Troegs, Sam Adams, and Terrapin. I'm sure there are others, but the all appear to be small micro-distilleries, and thus it feels like they'd all be a little young. I'd gladly try more though!

This was fun, and something I will clearly need to try again soon. It appears that New Holland has even started putting out some variants of Dragon's Milk, though none of them sound particularly exciting to me. If I see one, I might take a flier on it, because I'm the worst.

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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: Definitely worth the trip, it's great pizza. Get there early read more
  • msd10: Sounds like a really good pizza place. I'm gonna have read more
  • Mark: Hey Mike, yeah, everything I've had from Trillium has been read more
  • msd10: hey Mark, it's Mike. Used to post as mdanberg, but read more
  • Mark: In fairness, the times I wait in line for beer read more
  • phagan55: With greatest respect to your beer nerd status, I just read more
  • Mark: Last year, when I reviewed the regular Single Barrel Four read more
  • phagan55: Test, test. Hadn't had much luck with Four Roses myself read more
  • mciocco: Glad to see that comments are working for people other read more
  • danadillon: I LIKED IT. Hey, look! a Comment! read more