session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This time around, I'm hosting a discussion on Double Features:

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that's fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I'm a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point. The possibilities are endless!
Endless indeed, hence I'm going to post at least two double features this week in anticipation of the big event on Friday.

First up, a double feature of convenience. Longtime readers know I'm a big fan of San Francisco's Almanac Beer Co. and while I've been able to snag a bottle here or there through means, they've just recently started distributing to the Philadelphia area in earnest. As such, every time I go to the store, I find myself drawn to purchase another of their delicious beers I've not had before. A hearty welcome to Pennsylvania from all of us (i.e. me) here at Kaedrin:

Welcome to PA

Anywho, here are two beers I cracked open this weekend whilst viewing a bunch of horror movies in honor of Halloween (notably Trick 'r Treat and Ghostbusters, neither of which are particularly well suited to the beers I'm drinking except that, well, they're all quite good!) First up is Citra Sour, the first of a new series of single hopped sour beers (up next is Simcoe Sour), an interesting fusion of styles that has never quite caught on, but which might if efforts like this keep things going. Truth be told, I think I prefer the straight up fruited sours moreso than hopped sours, but variety is a good thing, and this is pretty tasty.

Citra Sour

Almanac Citra Sour - Pours a cloudy straw yellow with a finger of white head that sticks around for a while. Smells... interesting, that Citra hop character is prominent, floral citrus notes, but an underlying sour twang is there as well. Taste is a good deal more vinous than the nose would suggest, clearly those wine barrels kicking in, and the oak features prominently as well. The Citra hops do kick in about halfway through and persist through the sour finish. Quite puckering, actually, I think the hops only serve to intensify the sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light, bright, and quite acidic. Overall, I'm still not convinced that high amounts of hops are a great match with sour, but this is still rather nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/30/15. Bottled July 2015.

After letting the palate cool off for a bit, I cracked open Farmer's Reserve Citrus, which I believe is the same base Sour Blond Ale aged in wine barrels, but instead of hops, we've got a melange of citrus fruits, including Buddha's Hand Citron, Blood Orange, and Yuzu. The Farmer's Reserve stuff have been my favorite offerings from Almanac, and this one did not disappoint:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Citrus

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Citrus - Pours a mostly clear golden yellow color with a finger of short lived white head. Smells more funky, some citrus and sour twang, but some earthy Brett character pitching in here too. Taste again hits with that earthy, musty funk, lots of tart citrus fruit, a little wine barrel, oak and vanilla, and finishing with a nice sour bite. Mouthfeel is slightly less carbonated, still light and bright, the acidity feeling a bit less intense too. Overall, this is not quite as intense, but it is much more balanced than the Citra Sour. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/30/15. Bottled June 2015.

So there you have it. Next up in the Double Feature realm will be a much more harmonious beer and filmic pairing centered around Wes Craven. Stay tuned! And if you've got a blog, feel free to play along. More details on The Session and how to participate can be read here!

Prairie Okie

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Okie is the shortened form of Okie Dokie, which is itself an alternate way to say Okay, which can be abbreviated OK, which is the two letter state code for Oklahoma, which is where Prairie Artisan Ales is based, which is why this beer is named Okie. Though clearly it should be called Oakie, since this is a whiskey barrel aged imperial brown ale. We will give them the benefit of the doubt and guess that these Prairie guys don't enjoy puns as much as most brewers. You stay classy Prairie. In the meantime, I will drink your beer:

Prairie Okie

Prairie Okie - Pours a clear, deep brown color with some amber highlights and half a finger of white head. Smells of dark malts, toasty, nutty, toffee, not a lot of barrel character, but some vanilla comes through. Taste is very sweet, some of that typical brown ale toast character, a little nutty, maybe hints of molasses, again very little bourbon barrel, but it's there, and it contributes to the sweetness factor. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, very sweet, almost creamy. Full bodied, but not super heavy, and it feels mellower than you'd expect from a BA imperial brown. Overall, this is quite nice, though one could wish for a little more barrel character. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 10/24/15. Bottled July 11, 2015 (I think).

I think I've generally enjoyed everything I've ever had from Prairie, but few things have blown me away. This one is on the upper end, and I have generally been impressed with their barrel aged stuff. Nothing on the immediate horizon, but I will clearly be seeking out more from these fine gentlemen.

The Bruery Cuir

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The Kaedrin beer cellaring program, also known as that shelf in my basement, is getting out of hand. As such, I think it behooves us to dip into some of these well aged bottles and see how they're doing. Tonight we tackle a bottle that we've intentionally aged for a while, The Bruery's third anniversary ale, Cuir (French for "leather", corresponding to traditional wedding gifts). This series holds a certain sentimental value for me, so the Kaedrin cellarman always ensures I have a bottle to age each year. We know from experience that these age reasonably well, though at 4ish years old, this represents the oldest Bruery Anniversary beer I've had yet.

2011 was also the last year where only a portion of the standard release was aged in bourbon barrels (25% of this bottle was BBA, though there was a 100% BBA version that the cool kids got to drink), so I expect the fruity aspects to come out more than the recent, more Bourbon forward entries. I won't rehash the pedantic Solera discussion yet again, but it is one of the more interesting long-term projects going on in the beer world these days. Clocking in at 14.5% ABV, this is a bit of a project to take down, but it's a delicious project and certainly more manageable than the recent 16+% ABV entries. I actually wonder if it might be beneficial to do another blending year in order to keep the ABV in check, and allow for some additional complexity. Anywho, enough preamble, let's get down with some swanky leather sugar water:

The Bruery Cuir

The Bruery Cuir - Pours a deep, murky brown color, maybe some robey tones if you look at it right, and just a cap of slowly-forming, off-white head. Smells deeply of dark fruit, plums, raisins, caramel, toffee with just enough oak and vanilla to offset the fruit and malt. Taste starts off sweet, with rich caramel, toffee, vanilla, and oak, but those dark fruit notes come through strong too, maybe some chocolate covered fruit caramels or something like that (do such glorious things exist?), hints of unidentifiable spice (cinnamon?), finishing with a bit of booze and that fruit. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, low to medium but perfectly calibrated carbonation, some sticky sugary qualities, a bit of boozy heat but it doesn't quite feel as strong as it is. Overall, this is a beauty, rich, intense, and complex, but it's right up my alley. It's definitely showing its age, but hasn't started a decline just yet. A

Beer Nerd Details: 14.5% ABV bottled (750 ml black waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 10/23/15. Vintage: 2011. Bottle Number: 06677.

A delicious trip into the cellar. More are sure to be coming in the near(ish) future, so stay tuned...

Fiddlehead Understable

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Is it surprising that people in Vermont like to play Disc Golf? Is it surprising that world champions Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins actually play Disc Golf for a living? Is it surprising that Vermonters like Nate and Valarie really like beer and are homebrewers? Is it surprising that a visitor from Vermont very generously gifted this beer to me? To answer those questions: No. Yes. No. Yes!

It's always funny when you meet people you know from the internet out here in real life. This has happened to me a few times, most recently this past weekend when @LipstickNLager visited the Philly area (we met up with some other beer Twitter peeps). Much fun was had by all, and she generously offered a couple of us cans of this exclusive Fiddlehead Session IPA that were brewed for the Green Mountain Disc Golf Championship (and only really available there). Fiddlehead is one of the new crop of Vermont brewers tearing up the scene and I've quite enjoyed most of what I've had from them, so this was a most welcome development. I know squat about Disc Golf, but near as I can tell "Understable" is a reference to disc stability (i.e. it's tendency to bank laterally). I can't find any details on hops used, but my SWAG is that this is some Nelson Sauvin juice right here, very nice:

Fiddlehead Understable

Fiddlehead Understable - Pours a slightly hazy, very pale yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head, retention, and lacing. Fabulous nose on this, lots of juicy citrus hops, but also some grassy, floral notes. Taste starts off with those floral characteristics, moves on to the citrus towards the finish, which has a nice, bitter bite to it. Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and refreshing, very dry, crushable. Overall, this is a rock solid session IPA, the sort of thing you'd love to have on a hot afternoon in the sun (while disc golfing, I guess). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/18/15. Caned 09/16/15.

Fiddlehead continues to be a winner in my book, and I will always be keeping an eye out for Second Fiddle and whatever else they have available. Many thanks to LipstickNLager again for sharing this beauty with us!

Logsdon Far West Vlaming

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Everyone loses their mind when a brewery sells out, but the business of brewing is one of those topics I just can't seem to get too worked up about. That being said, I can get on board with the anxiety of a sell out if it's one of your favorite breweries. There's a natural worry that your favorite beer will be reformulated or go away completely because the new regime is unenlightened or something. So when I heard news of David Logsdon's sell out of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales along with a simultaneous announcement that Brett Porter was leaving (one of the best brewer names ever, right up their with Wayne Wambles) I was a little worried. Seizoen Bretta is one of my favorite beers and a go-to way to blow less-beer-focused minds, Oak Aged Bretta is spectacular, and Peche 'n Brett is delicious. I don't want to lose these brews!

Fortunately, there are a few bright spots in this whole transaction. Firstly, this wasn't a sellout to a giant multi-national conglomerate, but to another relatively small beer-focused local business. Second, Logsdon will still be involved: "I am not stepping away from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. I am stepping away from the day to day operations of running this farmhouse brewery. I will still be overseeing the brewing and recipe development and quality control with no plans to remove myself from that." Finally, this might even involve more availability, which would be a great thing for this beer. So it appears all my old favorites aren't going away and will still be under the watchful eye of David Logsdon. That's a relief! To celebrate, lets crack one of their specialties...

Far West Vlaming is a reference to the West-Flanders style of beer historically brewed by the Flemish people (a Germanic ethnic group who speak dutch, and to bring it all together, Flemish translates to Vlaming in Dutch). I'm not an expert on brewing this style, but there are some distinct practices here. It's a mixed fermentation, meaning standard saccharomyces yeast in primary, followed by a wild secondary fermentation (Brett and souring bacterias) and a long stint in oak. The resulting juice is then blended with young beer to balance out the sourness. Logsdon's take differs from most Flanders Reds that I've had in two ways: 1. It's highly carbonated and effervescent (the style is usually lower to medium) and 2. It's mostly a lactic sourness as opposed to an acetic sourness (i.e. no real vinegar type flavors here). Of course, there's nothing wrong with either of those things, and the resulting beer is delicious, but it doesn't really feel anything like other Flanders Reds that I've had... Let's take a closer look:

Logsdon Far West Vlaming

Logsdon Far West Vlaming - Pours a very pretty, deep orange amber color with a finger or two of fluffy white head that actually sticks around for a change. Smell has that characteristic Logsdon funk, musty with a little earth and lots of fruity esters. Hints of oak and vanilla as it warms. Taste starts off sweet, hits some vinous fruit notes, a little lactic tartness but not super sour, circling back to earthy funk in the finish. Again, as it warms, maybe a little oak comes out, but it's not a big influence. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, only a hint of acidity kicking around. Overall, this ain't no Flanders anything, but it's pretty darned good in its own right and maybe you could just think of it as a different take on a classic style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml waxed). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/16/15.

I usually try to have some Logsdon bottles around the house in case I get an opportunity to share, and it usually goes over like gangbusters. Well worth seeking out.

Four Seasons Of Mother Earth - Autumn

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According to my record-keeping gnomes, I have reviewed beers from 318 breweries (check them out over there on the right of the page), which sounds like a lot and also like I should seek professional, medical help, but given that the good ol' USA has surpassed 4000 craft breweries (not to mention non-craft and imports), I've barely scratched the surface. To the procurement department! These folks are always busy here at Kaedrin, such that we often collect too much beer, but they also keep their eye out for breweries that are new to me and that are putting out interesting stuff.

Enter Mother Earth Brew Co., a San Diego area brewery that friends have nice things to say about, but which I know almost nothing about. Everyone seems charmed by their IPAs, but we thought we'd check out their barrel program, because we're like that. Four Seasons of Mother Earth is a quarterly release roughly aligned with the various equinoxes and solstices, and every release is different. Last year's Autumn release was a BA stout, this year it's a Bourbon Barrel Aged Quadrupel. There's some florid description about "Johnny Law" on the back of the bottle, but barrel aged quad? Procurement department done good:

Four Seasons Of Mother Earth - Autumn 2015: Johnny Law

Mother Earth Four Seasons Of Mother Earth - Autumn: Johnny Law - Pours a murky amber brown color with a cap of head that is short for this world. Smells utterly fantastic, boozy bourbon and oak, rich caramel, toffee, dark fruit, vanilla. Taste feels a bit muted compared to the nose, but the flavor profile is similar. Caramel and toffee, but not nearly as rich or sweet as you'd expect from the nose. Not as much dark fruit either, but it's there. Bourbon, oak, and vanilla, but surprisingly balanced, maybe more booze emerges as it warms up. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and surprisingly dry, only a hint of stickiness in the finish along with a little boozy heat. Overall, quite an interesting brew, I usually think of dry belgian ales as not working so well with bourbon barrels, but this one bucks the trend, even if it's not necessarily top tier. A high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/9/15. Vintage: Autumn 2015.

Certainly a good first impression, and clearly I need to try out more of their stuff. Also of note, a NC based brewery of basically the same name. I smell epic legal showdown in the future.

Jean van Roy at Monk's Cafe

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In what appeared to be a last minute decision, Cantillon brewer Jean van Roy stopped in at Philly institution Monk's Cafe, and with his arrival came a goodly amount of his prized lambic. In a fortuitous turn, Monk's owner, Tom Peters, also dipped into his cellar for a couple of really special beers. Jean Hummler of Brussels' famous Moeder lambic bars was also visiting and helping decant bottles with the staff. Because of the hasty announcement, the crowds were not completely insane (though the place was still pretty stuffed) and most of us got a taste of even the rarest stuff that was pouring. Everything except the Kriek was being decanted from bottles in 4-6 ounce pours, and as per usual, the staff was professional and courteous.

Naturally, I got some stuff I'd had before, like the Classic Gueuze (excellent as always), Vigneronne (even better than I remembered!), Iris (not as spectacular as the last one I had), and Kriek (on tap, and much more jammy and fruity than I remember from the bottle). New to me was the Cantillon Mamouche, a lambic with elderflowers added (it was originally Zwanze 2009, but they liked it so much they made it a recurring specialty), it was naturally quite nice. I liked it better than most of the above, though I didn't take detailed notes.

Jean van Roy and moi
(Click to embiggen)

Jean was hanging out with the crowd, answering questions, posing for photographs, and being generally personable. I don't normally go in for this sort of thing, but I grabbed a picture with the guy too. He was a good sport. I didn't get a chance to talk with him that much, but I was listening in to a few conversations. Stuff I remember had to do with his use of an abnormally long brewday (starting at 7 or 8 in the morning, ending at 5-6) and that he has a lot of respect for what some of the American breweries are doing. He spoke a lot about Allagash and their coolship program, saying that their first batch was ok, but that each successive batch was getting better and better because spontaneous fermentation relies a lot more on the environment than just regular innoculation. He also mentioned Jester King and Hill Farmstead as brewers who knew their stuff, as if we didn't already know. I was going to ask him about how the Cantillon expansion is going, but didn't get a chance because he was called over to the bar to open those special bottles.

2000 Cantillon Fou Foune
2000 vintage Fou Foune

First up was Fou Foune, a pretty special beer in any scenario, but then add in the fact that these bottles were from the year 2000 and jaws were dropping all over the room (even Tom Peters didn't realize how old they were until he opened the bottle and saw the date on the cork). Pours of this were slightly smaller since there were only 5 bottles available, but a pretty large proportion of folks got a glass (and those that didn't generally got to take a sip of someone else, as everyone was being generous). It was supremely funky, wonderful nose, lots of earth and almost cheese rind character, a little fruit. Taste wasn't quite as funky, but had a very Gueuze-like feel to it, but with hints of oak and tart fruit (not identifiable as peach, for sure). Nothing at all like the nimble, light, and airy fresh Fou Foune, but pretty spectacular in its own right. It's nice to take down a teenager, and it feels well worth the experiment of aging a lambic for absurd amounts of time like this.

Cantillon LH12
Cantillon LH12

Finally, another true rarity, Cantillon LH12, an unblended lambic aged in a Cognac barrel. Yes, singular, they only made one barrel of this stuff, meaning that there were fewer than 400 bottles in existence back in 2010 when they bottled this. Who knows how many are left right now?! As an unblended lambic, this pours almost still. Given my extreme sensitivity to carbonation issues, I was a little worried, but it turned out to be pretty fantastic. As van Roy noted when he introduced it, "This beer is very, very fine, you have to compare it more to a wine than a beer." And he's dead on, this felt very vinous, a little funk and oak, but that vinous fruit carries the day. Supposedly Cantillon 50°N-4°E incorporates something similar (cognac barrel aged lambic) into its blend, though that's another rarity I've never glimpsed.

This was a pretty fabulous night of drinking and proves that you would do well to monitor Monk's Cafe's events page (actually, Framboise For a Cure is coming up in a week or so, I may need to head back there!) Tick another two off the infamous White Whale list. A few more and I'll be completely insufferable.

Whiskey Grab Bag

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For the past couple of years, I've given up beer for Lent and substituted other beverages to make up the shortfall. One of the joys of this, aside from a shrunken waistline, is that I've got whole swaths of new territory to explore, including Bourbon and Rye. While I'm certainly not going to turn down the latest and greatest hyped stuff and have already tackled some of those, I'm also content to work my way through some of the more standard expressions that don't generate a lot of buzz on blogs or social media. This is good, as Pennsylvania is something of a booze wasteland. I mean, sure, I'd love to be reviewing Elijah Craig Barrel Strength instead of the standard 12, but the entire state's allocation sold out in, like 10 minutes (ditto just about every other special release I've ever seen). They're instituting a lottery system this year, but I'm not really counting on that (I'm pretty sure I've already lost my first lottery a few days ago!) and I've got plenty of old standards to work through anyway. Someday, I definitely want to take down more Pappy and BTAC, but for now, let's drink some stuff that I can actually manage to get my hands on (though I should note, half of these were procured in Maryland rather than PA).

Anywho, sometimes it's nice to take a break from obsessing over beer to take a look at other realms of boozy glory, so today we have four reviews compiled over the past few months. I'm a beer nerd with a baby palate, so take the reviews with a grain of salt. I've gotten pretty good at describing beer, but whiskey is still something of an enigma, but I do think I'm getting better.

First up is a Rye Whiskey named after PA Age of Enlightenment man David Rittenhouse, a noted astronomer and clockmaker who went on to become the first director of the United States Mint. Originally distilled in PA, it's now made in Kentucky as a result of the seemingly endless parade of acquisitions and consolidation that happens in the whiskey world. Rittenhouse Rye is part of Heaven Hill's portfolio, but as it turns out, I'm reviewing what is now a highly sought after bottle.

Every distillery has a registered Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) number, and for whatever reason, Rittenhouse Rye lists the DSP number on their bottles. Back in the 1990s, Rittenhouse was made at Heaven Hill's DSP-KY-31 distillery. Alas, that distillery burned down in a tragic 1996 fire. To make up for the loss in capacity, Heaven Hill contracted with Brown Forman to make Rittenhouse at the DSP-KY-354 distillery. This happens to be the bottle that I'm reviewing today. Just recently, Heaven Hill retook responsibility for distilling this rye at DSP-KY-1 and it looks like they've also done a rebranding. As a result, the old DSP 354 bottles are now highly sought after, especially since the new DSP 1 juice doesn't seem to be as well regarded (though some like it fine, especially considering the price point). Finally, the fact that it takes me 2 years to get through a bottle of whiskey pays off.

One of the reasons I think this took me so long to get through is that, well, it feels a lot like bourbon. I always thought this was just my inexperienced palate talking, but this is apparently one of the "barely legal" ryes, meaning that the mashbill has the minimum required 51% rye (with the rest presumably comprised of corn and a small amount of barley). I've got the Bottled in Bond expression, which is a legal classification meaning it was aged in a federally bonded warehouse and bottled at 100 proof (among other niggling requirements). It's also labeled as Straight, meaning it's at least 4 years old. Let's dive in:

Rittenhouse Rye

Rittenhouse Rye - D.S.P. KY 354 - Pours a light golden color with moderate legs. Smell has a nice spicebox component to it, a little oak and vanilla kicking in as well, but feels very bourbony (as opposed to distinct rye). Certainly get that rye spice in the taste as well, almost peppery, with some caramel too. Again, though, it has a very bourbony feel. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a little on the oily side, a little harsh and moderately boozy. Overall, it feels like a pretty standard whiskey, very nice for what it is, works fine neat and it makes good cocktails, but there's nothing here that melts my face either. I'm no rye expert, but this feels more like an extra high rye bourbon than full rye, but maybe that's just my lack of experience coming through. Still, as an all purpose whiskey, it's good, and cheap too. A high B-

Whiskey Nerd Details: 100 Proof, 50% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass. Distilled at D.S.P. KY 354.

Beer Nerd Musings: The Rittenhouse Rye barrel aged Eclipse stout was my favorite entry from the 2012 vintage, though it did not fare quite as well in the 2014 vintage horizontal tasting. I don't know of any other beers specifically aged in these barrels, but I always wonder if younger barrels make for better beer aging than older ones. As a homerbewer, I see potential for a rye oaked beer here, though I tend to prefer using bourbon (not that I'm that much of an expert in such things).

Next up, we have Sazerac Rye. Named after the cocktail of the same name, this is distilled by Buffalo Trace. They make are two expressions, a 6 year old and an 18 year old (a venerated rye that's part of the fabled Buffalo Trace Antique Collection). What I have here is the younger of the two, affectionately nicknamed "Baby Saz" by those in the know, and like a lot of ryes these days, it's apparently also in shortish supply. I did miss out on it when PA sold their allocation recently (another online flash sale that went in less than an hour), but Kaedrin favorite State Line Liquors in Maryland had some for the taking. This appears to be another "barely legal" rye, but oddly, I found it to be much more distinct from Bourbon, perhaps less spicy, but more subtle. Let's take a closer look:

Sazerac Rye

Sazerac Rye - Pours a yellowish orange color with thin legs. Unlike Rittenhouse, this doesn't smell much like bourbon. Definitely a little spice, but an almost fruity note to it (I notice this in high rye beers too), certainly not "new make" but the oak does not tamp down the rye at all, some nice vanilla though. Taste has a lot more of that spicy rye character, not as harsh or boozy as Rittenhouse, though I guess the lower proof will do that to my baby beer palate, a little oaky character pitches in too, but like the nose, it's not overwhelming and what you really get is the rye. Mouthfeel is lighter than the Rittenhouse, more subtle, less oily, with an approachable booziness. Overall, this reminds me of a more mature Dad's Hat Rye in that you really get that rye character coming through, but it's got less of a new make feel to it. I'm sure this is great for cocktails, though I haven't used it for such just yet. B

Whiskey Nerd Details: 90 Proof, 45% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass.

Beer Nerd Musings: Rye has a reputation for contributing spicy elements to both beer and whiskey, but as mentioned above, I find that some higher rye beers tend to also exhibit a distinct, almost fruity note that I got out of Sazerac too (and not at all from Rittenhouse). Funnily enough, one of the examples I've had of a rye wine that exhibited this fruity twang was a beer aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels. Go figure. I've never had anything specifically aged in a Sazerac Rye barrel, though there are apparently a few examples out there. To be honest, I don't know how well it would work, as it seems a little too subtle to really impart that great, rich character that a good barrel aged beer displays. If you think I'm full of it, I will gladly submit to your Sazerac Barrel Aged brew to test it out.

Now we transition to Bourbon, but we'll stick with Buffalo Trace and check out their flagship product. It uses their lower rye recipe (also used for Eagle Rare 10, a bourbon I never really took a fancy to, as well as some of the more prized BT products like Stagg) and while it carries no age statement, consensus seems to indicate it's around 8 years old. Pretty basic stuff, but I actually really enjoyed this more than I thought (though clearly not as much as the high rye Elmer T. Lee, which is fantastic).

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace - Pours a golden orange color with adorable little legs (i.e. not much). Smells sweet, caramel, toffee, vanilla, leavened with hints of spice. Love the nose on this. Not intense, but it hits the right notes for me. Taste hits the spice a little harder, but the underlying sweetness is still there, a little caramel and vanilla goes a long way. Mouthfeel is soft and approachable, light on the booze (keep in mind by beer palate is unused to this sort of assault, so this is saying something). Overall, this is another all purpose bourbon, great neat and I'm sure it would do fine in cocktails. Would be perfect for bourbon-oaked homebrew. It's not intense or mind-blowing, but it gets the job done. B+

Whiskey Nerd Details: 90 Proof, 45% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass.

Beer Nerd Musings: The Buffalo Trace Eclipse variant won the blind horizontal tasting I held recently, narrowly beating out Four Roses and Elijah Craig 12 (each of which had a single outlier that dragged them down). Local brewery Neshaminy Creek got in a whole boatload of Buffalo Trace barrels last year and aged a few beers that I've had in them, to varying degrees of success (I think any issues I have with them come down to the base beer). Not so local, but close enough Voodoo brewery made a few imperial stouts aged in BT barrels, one of which was fantastic and the other of which didn't work quite as well. Again, not sure if that's the fault of the barrels so much as the base beer, but make of that what you will. I'd still consider using this for bourbon oaked homebrew, and might actually use the remainder of this bottle for a Scotch ale I've been dreaming up (though, uh, perhaps I should use a Scotch for that, eh?)

Finally, the oldest and probably most well regarded whiskey in this post, we've got Elijah Craig 12. Named after the Rev. Elijah Craig, one of a few historical figures that are dubiously credited with inventing Bourbon, we're back with Heaven Hill now, and this one's pretty darned good. Apparently, they recently changed the label to omit the 12 year old age statement. Though the age statement still appears on the back label, many believe this is a precursor to a reduced or genuine NAS release in the nearish future, so stock up I guess. As you can see from my bottle, I rather enjoyed this and finished the whole thing within a year of purchasing.

Elijah Craig 12

Elijah Craig 12 - Pours a dark orange color, almost brown, medium legs. Smells very spicy and oaky, big spicebox component here, hints of caramel, vanilla, maybe some maple character. Taste follows the nose, big spice component, cinnamon, red pepper, cocoa, tons of toasted oak, caramel, maple sugar. Mouthfeel is almost full bodied, spicy, kinda dry, not super boozy. It kinda reminds me of a better Orphan Barrel bourbon (at about a third of the price), oaky, but not overly so, such that it doesn't overpower other flavors. Overall, this is fantastic, great oak and spice character with a sweet maple backbone, a solid choice for an everyday Bourbon. This would also be perfect for a bourbon oaked homebrew, if I didn't just finish the bottle. A high B+

Whiskey Nerd Details: 94 Proof, 47% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass.

Beer Nerd Musings: EC12 is a highly prized barrel for brewers. It's well known that Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout (and some variants) uses these (though their barrel program is so huge today that I wouldn't be surprised if they used barrels from every major producer). As mentioned above, the EC12 variant of Eclipse fared very well in the horizontal tasting and is generally one of the more prized variants (the 18 year variant they did a few years ago also has a spectacular reputation). This, too, would be great fodder for homebrew. It's rich and intense character at a relatively low proof should impart a lot of flavor (I'd go stout with this one).

Phew, that was a lot. This is obviously a beer blog, so it may be a while, but I've got some interesting stuff coming my way (or sitting in my cabinet waiting to be opened), so I will try to check in with a Bourbon review every now and again, just to break things up. I've got a couple of Private Selections, including a Four Roses barrel selected by a bunch of beer nerds, and another State Line Liquors private selection of Wild Turkey. I'd say stay tuned, but it might be a while, but hang in there.

Half Acre Pony Pilsner

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I have been surprisingly consistent in my newfound but still mild acceptance (an upgrade from moderate disdain) of lagers this summer, averaging about two or three new lagers a month. I still can't say as though I've got the thrills for the pils (not really a pilsner man, Teddy), but I've gained a modicum of respect for the style and will probably continue to explore as time and liver capacity permits. To be honest, I'm still at the, "yep it's a pilsner" stage, which is pretty sad considering how long I've been at this, but I am getting better, I swears.

This German style pilsner is one of Half Acre's staple beers. Would have been nice if this was packaged in those adorable little pony bottles, it is available in handsomely designed pounder cans. Despite the cute little pony in the artwork, I prefer to believe this beer was named after the venerable Hyundai Pony, the South Korean answer to the AMC Gremlin and Ford Pinto (um, legends in their own right). Maybe it was one of the owners/brewers first cars or something. Of course, I have absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever, but this is the internet so it must be true. I... should probably stop now before the libel lawsuits start rolling in. Let's take a ride on this pony:

Half Acre Pony Pilsner

Half Acre Pony Pilsner - Pours a very pale straw yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head and decent retention. Smells biscuity, some of those earthy hops doing their thing, maybe some faint hints of citrus. Taste has that bready quality to it, biscuits and crackers, some earthy, spicy hops kick in towards the middle and proceed through the finish, those faint citrus hints emerge a little more in the taste too. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and clean, goes down quick and hits that lawnmower beer spot. Overall, a very light (but quenching) take on the style, but enjoyable. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/15.

Decent stuff, as per usual from Half Acre. I'm sure we'll see more of them on the blog in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled. Or not, I'm not your mother.

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Update: The Session has come and gone, and the roundup of participants has been posted!

After last month's brief existential crisis, I volunteered to host a Session. It appears I was not alone, and perhaps this little setback was just what we needed to put a swift end to any doubts about the endurance of the Session. We've got at least 9 months of sessions scheduled out, and I'm sure more will carry the torch when the time comes.

For this installment, I'd like to revisit that glorious time of beer drinking when I was just starting to realize what I was getting into. One of my favorite ways to learn about beer was to do comparative tastings. Drink two beers (usually of the same style) with a critical eye, compare and contrast. Because I'm also a movie nerd, this would often be accompanied by a film pairing. It was fun, and I still enjoy doing such things to this day!

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that's fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I'm a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point. The possibilities are endless!

  • Drink two beers of the same style, pair with a double feature of horror movies (it being October and all - it's what I'll be doing!)
  • Drink two vintages of the same beer, pair with a famous double album (The White Album, The Wall, Exile on Main Street, etc...)
  • Throw caution to the wind and do a triple feature!
  • Drink a base beer and its barrel aged variant, pair with two episodes of your favorite TV show.
  • Actually, lots of other types of variants out there too: base beer and it's Brett-dosed counterpart, base and a fruited variant, base and spiced variant, base and a dry hopped variant, many possibilities here... Pair with video games.
  • Play master blender by taking two beers, tasting both, then blending them together in the perfect proportion for the ultimate whatever. Then say nuts to pairing it with non-beer stuff, because you're just that cool.
  • Test your endurance by taking down two bottles of Black Tuesday solo, then documenting the resultant trip to the emergency room*.
  • Recount a previous comparative tasting experience that proved formative.
  • Drink a fresh IPA and a six-month old IPA and discuss where you fall on the "Freshness Fetish" scale.
  • Drink a beer and compare with wine or bourbon or coke or whatever strikes your fancy. One should probably be beer though. I said "big tent" not "no tent"...
  • "These two beers are in my fridge, I should probably drink them or something." (Pair with leftovers.)
  • Drink a beer and a homebrewed clone of that beer (an obscure one that requires you to have both readily available, but this is part of the fun!)
  • Hold a March Madness style beer tournament, pitting beer versus beer in a series of brackets in order to determine the supreme winner.
  • Devise a two course beer dinner, pairing two beers with various foodstuffs.
  • If any of you people live near an Alamo Drafthouse, I think you know what you need to do. Do it for me; I don't have the awesomeness that is Alamo anywhere near me and wish to live vicariously through your sublime double feature.
  • Collect an insane amount of barleywines and drink them with your friends, making sure to do the appropriate statistical analysis of everyone's ratings.
  • Go to a bar, have your friends choose two beers for you, but make sure they don't tell you what the beers are. Compare, contrast, guess what they are, and bask in the glory of blind tasting.
  • Lecture me on the evils of comparative tasting and let me have it with both barrels. We'll love you for it, but you're probably wrong.

Truly, there are a plethora of ways to take this, so hop to it!

To participate, simply write up a recap of your double feature, post it on or around November 6, and send it to me at mciocco at gmail dot com. You can try to leave a comment on this post, but my commenting system is borked pretty hardcore at this point (you fancy schmancy Wordpress bloggers should be fine, but Google/Blogger dropped support for my current platform). I will try to fix it in time for the session, but to be safe, just email me or drop me a line on twitter @KaedrinBeer. My plan is to post the recap on Sunday, November 8, so don't feel bad about posting on Saturday or Sunday if Friday is too busy for ya! Have fun, and be safe!

* Kaedrin does not endorse this suggestion, which was only included as a satirical aside and not meant to be taken seriously. If, on the other hand, you'd like to pit Black Tuesday versus Pugachev's Cobra, that would be awesome**.

** Awesome, but also not endorsed. This was only included as a satirical aside to make the previous asterisked point more palatable and because I enjoy footnotes within footnotes, don't you?

Update: The Session has come and gone, and the roundup of participants has been posted!


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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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