Various and Sundry

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Astute readers will note that the grand majority of reviews here are for beers that I drink at home. This is not to say that I don't visit any local drinking establishments, just that I'm usually with other people and I don't want to be that dork who ignores his friends to write obsessive tasting notes. However, I do take my fair share of pictures and maybe check in to Untappd or somesuch. So I do have a fair amount of beer porn in my picture repository that doesn't really see the light of day. Until now! Enjoy these pictures and muddled recounting of various and sundry beers I've had recently, including a rather epic Birthday lineup. In fact, let's start there. It all started, naturally, at Tired Hands:

Tired Hands Cant Keep Up 8

Tired Hands is a small but very popular operation, so every once in a while, especially on weekends, they sell through more beer than is ready. At that point, Jean dips into the cellar and blends up a stopgap, often using some proportion of barrel aged awesome. The resulting beers are called Can't Keep Up, and this was the 8th installment in the series, made with beer from one of Christian Zellersfield's barrels (if he really exists). And my oh my, it was spectacular. Perhaps not quite Parageusia levels awesome, but for a beer that was whipped together under duress, it was rather spectacular. Speaking of spectacular, the other highlight of Tired Hands that day was a Citra IPA called Psychic Facelift. It turns out that I'd already visited Tired Hands earlier in the week and loved this, indeed, I even housed a growler of the stuff.

Tired Hands Psychic Facelift

It seems like Tired Hands always has great IPAs on tap, but this wan was exceptional even for them. Huge, juicy citrus character, absolutely quaffable stuff. Just superb. It's rare that I drink the same beer more than twice in short succession these days, and I think I had about 2 liters in the course of a couple days (I totally should have filled the larger growler, but hindsight is 20/20). Anywho, after some time there, we headed over to Teresa's Cafe (a few miles down the road) for some more substantial food and, of course, great beer. I had a Pliny the Elder, because how can you ignore that when it's on tap? Then my friends proved adventurous and generous, and we went in on a bottle of Cantillon Iris:

Cantillon Iris

It was fantastic, great balance between funk, sourness, and oak, really beautiful beer. And you can't beat the full pomp and circumstance, what with the proper glassware and pouring basket thingy... I had a few other beers, and they were all good, but I had a great birthday.

Some more random beer porn:

Double Sunshine

I guess I could have put up some Double Sunshine for trade, but I just couldn't handle having these in my fridge. I had to drink them.

Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA Citra

It's no Double Sunshine, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA (Citra). I usually don't enjoy IPAs when they get into the 10% ABV range, but this was extremely well balanced between sweet and bitter, and it had that great Citra hop character, tropical fruits, floral notes, and even a bit of herbal goodness. I've always enjoyed Citra-based beers, but I think I'm starting to really crave the stuff, which is going to be dangerous.

Bulldog Top Banana

This was from a long time ago, but it was another surprise, ordered totally at random one night. It's Bullfrog Top Banana, and it was a really solid saison made with bananas. I know that sounds a bit gimmicky and it's not one of those crazy funkified saisons either, but the banana fit seamlessly into their standard saison yeast profile, and it was an absolutely refreshing and tasty brew. Worth checking out if you see it. I should checkout this PA brewery sometime, perhaps go to a bottle release or something. Time will tell.

And that just about covers it. I hope you've enjoyed this rather lame stroll down beer lane. Until next time!

Lemon Cello IPA

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Limoncello is a spirit of Italian origin that is made by steeping lemon peel in a neutral spirit long enough to extract the oils out of the lemon peel. The result is then mixed with some simple syrup and served as an after-dinner digestif. Clocking in at around 30% ABV, it's a sipping drink, but the bright lemony tartness gives it a more refreshing kick than your typical spirit. It's not my favorite thing, but it's definitely something worth trying after a hearty Italian meal.

The idea for this beer was to create a much more drinkable version of a Limoncello. It's kinda like a beer/Limoncello hybrid, with the tart and refreshing nature of the spirit mixed with the quaffability of beer. This is accomplished by doing a quick sour mash, adding lemon peel and juice to the mixture, and then adding lactose to sweeten things up*. Finally, they add a bunch of Sorachi Ace and Citra hops to the mixture, each of which contributes additional citrus notes. Despite the hop additions, I feel like calling this an IPA is a bit misleading. It's got some nice aromas and the balancing bitterness is there, but the beer is otherwise dominated by its tart, lemony character. This was the intention, of course, so I'm not saying its a failure or anything, but it feels more like a wild ale than an IPA.

This beer was a collaboration made at Siren brewing in the UK. I've never had any of Siren's beers before (they're a relatively new operation), but their collaborators are some of my favorites. Hill Farmstead is in the running for best brewery in the world, while Mikkeller certainly makes some of the best beer in the world, though occasionally he engages in flights of fancy and experimentation that don't always pan out. This beer seems like one of those flights of fancy, so how did they do? I don't really know.

Lemon Cello IPA

Siren / Mikkeller / Hill Farmstead Lemon Cello IPA - Pours a deep golden color with a finger of fluffy white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of big citrus hops, with an herbal component, and what is presumably that lemon peel peeking through, melding with the citrusy hops and providing its own interesting character. Taste is, whoa, tart and lemony, almost like, well, lemoncello. Nothing in the nose betrayed this sort of flavor, but it's fine for what it is. It's very sweet, and the hops are there along with some bitterness on the backend. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, well carbonated, a little acidic, medium bodied. Ah, yes, this is made with lactose, and that does come through in both the sweetness of the beer, and the mouthfeel. I don't normally go in for the hoppy sour beers, but this one is working well enough. Overall, it's a very interesting beer, if not something I'd really go out of my way for again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.1% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 9/26/14.

Vermont beer treasures are rapidly depleting at this point, though there's at least one remaining Hill Farmstead beer coming up, so stay tuned.

* Most of the time lactose is reserved for Milk Stouts (the sweetness balancing out some of the bitter roasty character), but this marks the second time in just a few weeks that I've had a pale beer with lactose. Go figure.

Three Floyds Gumballhead

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I've pretty much run out of things to talk about when it comes to Three Floyds. They're really good, especially at hoppy beers. If you're ever in their distribution zone (i.e. Illinois, Indiana, etc...), be sure to check out their stuff. This one is a pale wheat ale made with Amarillo hops, named in honor of a comic book character called Gumballhead the Cat. I have not read any of these, but there's one called "The Mystery Treasure Of The San Miguel Apartments", which is music to my earballs. Let's see how the beer itself stacks up:

Three Floyds Gumballhead

Three Floyds Gumballhead - Pours a pale golden color with a finger of dense white head that has good retention and leaves a little lacing as I drink. Smells of citrus hops that also feint towards floral or even herbal notes. Taste has maybe some faint hints of wheat, but is otherwise mostly defined by that floral, citrusy hop character. Mouthfeel is very light, crisp, and refreshing, a little on the thin side, but well carbonated and leaning a bit towards dry (though it's not bone dry). Overall, a rock solid pale ale (or pale wheat ale or whatever)... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/20/14. Bottled: 8/4/14

I'm willing to bet this would be even better when its super fresh. I've just had something of a glut of big IPAs to get through of late. I know, woe is me. Fortunately, that glut is dying down, so hopefully I can start to hit up some other stuff in the near future, including some non-hoppy Three Floyds stuff that I'm rather looking forward to...

Cascade Blueberry Ale

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There's a huge amount of amazing sour ale out there for the taking these days, which I think belies the difficulty of brewing sour beers. Wild yeasts and bacterial beasties can do unpredictable things, and sometimes those things don't happen until the beer's been in the bottle for a while. Is that what happened here? Is this a bad bottle situation? I got a distinct, but not very powerful smokey funk note (along the lines the recent Smoketôme epidemic, though perhaps not as overpowering). This can work in some beers, but the mixture of smoke with a fruited sour struck me as odd, even if the rest of the beer was rather spectacular... I guess they can't all be winners. I will most certainly be on the lookout for new and exciting Cascade beer, and if Blueberry makes another appearance next year, I'll give it a shot. In the meantime, lets take a closer look at this one:

Cascade Blueberry Ale

Cascade Blueberry Ale - Pours a very striking rose color with a finger of fizzy pink head. Smells of musky funk, tons of fruit, that sour twang, and plenty of oak. The taste has a nice sweetness to it, huge amounts of funk, moreso than usual with Cascade, a little tart fruit and general sourness before that funk comes back strong, with an almost smokey character to it. Not overpowering like the recent Fantomes and the rest of the beer is fine, but it's definitely there, and I'm not sure it works. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and a little acidic. Overall, this is good, but that slight smokey character is disappointing. Without that aspect, I could see this as being spectacular. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.75% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Charente glass on 9/19/14. 2013 Project.

This was a bit disappointing, as I was expecting something more along the lines of the Kriek or even Apricot entries. Still, as I mentioned above, I will always be on the lookout for some of the more interesting Cascade offerings, even if I don't really have a line on anything new at this point...

Carton 077XX

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Pennsylvanians like myself tend to give New Jersey a hard time in all things, and beer is no exception. Of course, this sort of attitude is kinda like high-school-style posturing and is probably not all that true. Still, while they've got some mainstay breweries like Flying Fish or longtime specialty breweries like Ramstein, it used to be an otherwise unexciting beer destination. But lately, there have been a few newer breweries making waves, like Kane and Carton.

I still have not sampled any of Kane's brews, but Carton has been showing up with regularity in the Philly area (on tap, at least), and they've been a welcome addition. In particular, I've enjoyed their Boat beer, one of them so called "session IPAs" (aka American Pale Ales or as Beerbecue suggests, Half IPA or HIPA). Based on reports from my beer mule, the brewery is a rather small operation, and they don't really distribute their cans much. Fortunately, beer mules gonna mule, so I got some Boat beer and this lovely Double IPA called 077XX. I initially thought the name was some sort of weird code number applied to experimental hops, but it's actually a reference to the local Monmouth County zip codes, most of which start with 077. And hot damn, this is one fantastic little number:

Carton 077XX

Carton 077XX - Pours a very pretty, almost clear yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. The nose is beautiful, juicy citrus hop aromas abound, tropical fruits, some pine and floral notes as well. Taste is very sweet, with that juicy hop character pervading the taste and the pine and floral notes hanging around as well. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, much lighter than expected, crisp and refreshing up front, a bit sticky towards the finish, and considering the non-trivial 7.8% ABV, dangerously drinkable. Overall, this is absolutely fantastic, and I will most certainly be seeking this out again. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV canned (16 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 9/19/14.

I'll have to get around to reviewing some of Carton's other stuff. I've had many a Boat beer, but never reviewed. I've also had Epitome, a decent and powerful black IPA that I'd like to try again at some point. And I've had a few others that don't seem as common (I had a sip of a friends coffee IPA the other day, not really my thing, but well made). And, of course, I really need to get out to Kane sometime. And I'll have to stop giving New Jersey a hard time about their beer. With beers like this, that'll be easy.

Foley Brothers Native IPA

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This will be the fourth, and sadly, final round of Vermont Beer Roulette that we'll be playing this year. For those not following along, this is when I pick up a random Vermont beer that I've never heard of and drink it to see what happens. So far, we've had decent luck, but I have to admit to cheating a bit with this one, since Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale was a beer I snagged last year, so this is not as "random" as the other roulette contestants. It's ok, go ahead and clutch your pearls in horror at my transgression, I deserve it.

Foley Brothers Native IPA

Foley Brothers Native IPA - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of fluffy white head. The smell is full of citrus and pine hops, maybe some floral notes poking around as well. The taste follows those lines, with lots of citrus and pine hop flavors, some floral, maybe even herbal notes picking up towards the bracing, bitter finish. Mouthfeel is very light, maybe even a bit on the thin side, but it's very crisp and clean and goes down quickly. Overall, a solid IPA, nothing earth-shattering, but worthy of a try. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/14.

My Vermont haul goodies are dwindling at this point, so you can expect the near relentless onslaught of hoppy beer reviews to slow a bit in the near future. It's one of the tragedies of beer acquisition that it seems like I always end up with, like, 10 amazing beers in the same or similar styles. I really do try to keep things varied in terms of what I review, but sometimes I end up reviewing 10 IPAs in just a few weeks. We will hopefully get away from that in the coming weeks...

September Beer Club

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Due to various scheduling mishaps and vacations and whatnot, the August beer club never happened, and September ended up being a little on the delayed side. But we finally made it, and a good time was had by all. For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of like minded coworkers who get together for food and optional libations at a local BYOB. Tonight we hit up a regular Mexican establishment and had a rather good time.

Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, tentative thoughts on each beer are below, though they should be taken with a grain of salt, since tastings like this are not exactly ideal conditions. So here we go, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured).

  • Kona Castaway IPA - A surprisingly decent IPA, lots of mango in the aroma and flavor, tropical fruit hops and so on. It's not a mind-blowing beer by any stretch, but it's actually pretty damn decent. B+
  • Devil's Backbone Catty Wompus - A Belgian IPA that kinda come off a little light on the Belgian and even IPA character, though it did have a pretty solid amount of bitterness towards the finish. That being said, it felt like the Belgian elements were canceling out the hop character, rather than combining with each other. Certainly not a disaster, but not really my thing either. B-
  • Victory Prima Pils - A beer I've obviously had on numerous occasions, and it's as good as it ever was. Pilsners are not really my style, but if I was asked what I would want to drink within the style, this would be a worthy candidate. B
  • Victory Headwaters Pale Ale - I always forget how good this beer is, even if it's still not my favorite pale ale evar or anything that silly. Still, it's a rock solid take on a standard style. More thoughts here. B+
  • Sly Fox Oktoberfest - A decent take on a standard style. Nice toasty malt character, and a very drinkable beer for this time of year. B
  • Round Guys The Berliner - This Berliner weis is almost like a sorta crazy lemonade/beer hybrid. It's got a nice tarness to it, and the color is crazy pale, almost white. It's an interesting beer, something I'd like to try someday on its own, though it seems ideally suited for hot weather, and we're sorta heading away from that these days. B+
  • Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black - Not quite as good as I remember from last time I had this, but it's still got a nice roast and coffee base with a bit of hoppiness to follow. The first one of these I had a while back seemed a little more balance and hop focused, so who knows what's going on here. That being said, it was still quite nice to revisit this beer. B
  • Kaedrin Trystero Barleywine - So I gave up on hoping that my barleywine bottles would carbonate, dumped everything I had into my keg, and attempted to force carbonate the stuff. The result is decent, though I need to figure out a better way to transport the stuff (carbonation is better from the tap, but loses some of its punch in traveling in a resealable bottle). On the other hand, this turned out rather well, with a really nice bourbon and oak character to it. B+
  • Element Extra Special Oak (ESO) - This is quite an interesting beer, even if it's not particularly fantastic. It's a sorta amped up English ESB, with a little more alcohol and some oak aging. For something oak aged, there wasn't a whole lot to salvage, but it does have that sorta rich barrel feel that often pervades these types of beers. B
  • Neshaminy Creek Punkless Dunkel - Basically the same thing as last year's Punkle Dunkle (no idea why the name had to change), with a slightly different label (that, so far, is the only meaningful difference we've found yet. Big pumpkin and spice (cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and the like) notes, fabulous carbonation and smooth, wheatey mouthfeel. Really fantastic brew, just as good as last year, and probably my favorite of the night. A-
  • Elysian Oddland Ginger Berry Brown Ale - Doesn't seem like much of a brown ale, it's very pale, like an IPA. But this is brewed with ginger and wheat, so it should work itself out. On the other hand, I don't care much for ginger, so I'm obviously not going to love this. Still, it was decent enough. C+
  • DuClaw Bourbon Barrel Aged Serum - I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of BBA pale ales, or pale beers in general (i.e saisons, etc...). It comes off as more of a barrel aged barleywine than a DIPA... It's got the richness imparted from the oak and bourbon, but the playfulness has disappeared. Decent enough, but nothing particularly famous. B+
And that's all for now. Already looking forward to the next meetup...

Three Floyds Man-O-Awe

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Most breweries will have an American Pale Ale in their portfolio. Three Floyds has ten. Alright, that's a bit disingenuous, as looking closer at a few, I see a couple things that may have only been made once or in extremely limited quantities for special events. On the other hand, two of their most popular beers, Alpha King and Zombie Dust, are featured amongst the ten along with several other popular offerings, and I'm not including the similar stuff like Gumballhead (a pale wheat ale). Plus, it's not like Three Floyds shies away from regular old IPAs and Double IPAs, which represent a similar proportion of their output.

They like hops, is what I'm trying to say. So all these pale ales have to have some differentiation, and in this case, we've got a beer made primarily with Michigan hops. This is not that far from Three Floyds, which is situated in the northwest corner of Indiana, and thus somewhat local. Alas, Michigan is not exactly known for their hops. As per usual, Three Floyds does not really mention what specific hop varieties are used, but I'm guessing it's along the lines of classic American C hops like Cascade, Centennial, or Chinook. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that, and it's probably a good idea to decentralize hop production in the US (which is currently centered on the Pacific Northwest), but it means that this beer probably won't be blowing the hats off of snobby beer nerds in the way that Three Floyds manages to do with many of their other beers, like the Citra-based Zombie Dust.

But I'm a big tent guy, and when you have ten pale ales, you have to differentiate them somehow, so let's drink some Michigan hopped beer, least that aggressive looking gentleman-o-awe on the label get angry.

Three Floyds Man-O-Awe

Three Floyds Man-O-Awe - Pours a bright orange/amber color with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells of straightforward citrus and pine hops, with some grassy notes and a little crystal malt hanging around to say "Hi". Taste goes along similar lines, decent malt backbone, with crystal malt doing its thing, and plenty of grassy citrus and pine from the hops hitting in the middle, with a slightly bitter, pretty standard pale ale finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of medium bodied, and it sorta thins out towards the finish, which has a slight drying aspect to it that makes it go down rather quickly. Overall, this is a pretty standard pale ale, which would be fine, except you know, Zombie Dust. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/12/14. Bottled: 06/17/14.

Damn, this was almost three months old by the time I got to it... but then, I still rather enjoyed it. I suspect it would be even better fresh. Speaking of which, I've nearly exhausted my Three Floyds beer supply. They were mostly hoppy, so I wanted to get through them pretty quickly... I feel like I've been really hitting the hops pretty hard over the past month, so bear with me. We'll have plenty of other interesting stuff in the near future...

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

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When my beer mule texted me from Three Floydia (that's where the brewery is, right?) and asked me if I wanted a bottle of Apocalypse Cow, I had several thoughts. First, I responded asking her to purchase as much as she could fit in her car, and that I'd reimburse her with Vermont beer (as you can tell from recent posting, she fully complied and is, in fact, the bestest evar). Second, I kinda assumed this would be a milk stout (what with that "Cow" in the name), something akin to Moloko. Then I looked it up and hmm, an 11% ABV IPA? Well ok. It turns out that I wasn't that far off the mark, as this is an IPA brewed with a lactose addition. An unusual choice, considering that most 11% ABV beers don't particularly need any additional unfermentable sugars in the mix, but on the other hand, the added sweetness and velvety mouthfeel allow for moar hops. This is actually the first time I'd even heard of lactose in anything other than a stout, so I guess we're in for an interesting experiment.

It works better than you might think. Now, why there's a very angry, cyclopic cow on the label is a bit of a mystery, but then, Three Floyds isn't exactly known for sensible label artwork. At least in this case, the artwork is very well done. Alrighty then, I think that's enough babbling. You can either surf, or you can fight! Or, um, drink. Colonel Kilgore seems like a guy who'd enjoy beer.

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow - Pours a deep, dark orange color with a finger of off white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells enormously dank, piney and resinous, with some citrus and almost spicy hop notes playing along as well. The taste is very sweet, with that dank pine and resin kicking in quickly, leaving the juicy citrus notes and spicey hops towards the finish, which has just enough bitterness to balance out the sweetness. Mouthfeel is almost full bodied, but smooth and creamy (that lactose in action), with enough carbonation to cut through it all, though it does feel a bit sticky in the finish. While it certainly feels like a strong beer, the alcohol is reasonably well hidden... The full 22 ounces is a bit much, so perhaps it's a good one to share. Overall, this is a very interesting beer, and I haven't really had anything quite like it. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 9/6/14.

My Three Floyds supply is slowly but surely dwindling. But don't worry your pretty ears (ears? What's wrong with me?), there's plenty more to come.

Jack's Abby Hopstitution

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While it's easy for a homebrewer to pop over to a shop and purchase all the ingredients needed to make a beer, things are a bit more complicated for larger scale brewers. Ingredients like malt and hops are often purchased under contracts that need to be signed years in advance. Small or new breweries are often squeezed out of the most popular hops because they're all contracted out for several years. That being said, sometimes small quantities of popular but supply constrained hops will often become available. If you're a tiny brewpub operation that is constantly churning through new brews (a la Tired Hands), you can probably swing that sort of inconsistent approach. But if you're a larger brewer (and believe it or not, most are), that small amount of hops might allow you to make one batch of beer, but not more.

Hopstitution is Jack's Abby's answer to this conundrum. They'll make the same recipe, a 5.5% ABV extra pale lager, with every batch, only varying the hops based on what's available. What I have here is batch four, made with Australian hops (the label sez Aussie Rulez). Specifically, this was made with Ella, Topax, and Galaxy hops. I've actually not even heard of Ella or Topax, but Galaxy is one of the trendiest and thus supply constrainediest of hops, so let's see how this little experiment pays off:

Jacks Abby Hopstitution 4 Aussie Rulez

Jack's Abby Hopstitution #4 Aussie Rulez - Pours a slightly hazy, golden yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Aroma is beautiful, tons of tropical fruit hops. Taste is somewhat less powerful than the nose implies, though there's plenty of hop flavor to go around, with less bitterness than expected. Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, light bodied, quaffable. Overall, this actually might be my favorite Jack's Abby beer yet. B+

Beer nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/6/14. Bottled: 7/31/14 (I think? The day is hard to read on my bottle).

I also had a Session Rye IPL from my little Vermont Trip that was pretty darned good. I suspect Jack's Abby would be a regular purchase if they were local, and I should really figure out a way to try some of the more sought after brews...

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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.

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Recent Comments

  • Mark: I didn't check the dates on Dark Penance or Wookey read more
  • beerbecue: We just had Dark Penance. I was wondering how would read more
  • Mark: I most certainly did. Thank you again for muling, you read more
  • danadillon: Glad you enjoyed. :D Heehaw. read more
  • Mark: I figured it had something to do with that, but read more
  • rymould: Apparently a brewery from Texas holds the trademark for "Punkel" read more
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  • Mark: It is pretty darn sweet and quite good, though not read more
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  • beerbecue: They ran out of BA Everett right before the mule read more