Tired Hands Parageusia4

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Parageusia is the medical term for a bad taste in the mouth (though there are some definitions that are more charitable and call it it "an abnormal or hallucinatory sense of taste" which is perhaps more fitting in this context), but that doesn't stop beer geeks for going bananas about this stuff. After the initial and bizarrely theatrical first taste of Para1 and Para2 at last year's Anniversary, the two subsequent bottle releases were the most crowded I'd been too (even if I still managed to secure my allocation). Parageusia3, having built on its younger siblings' reputation, had an absolutely cuckoo nutso release. I got there 3 hours early and was almost certainly a couple hours too late (I did not stay to find out, but I've heard that my position in line was far from viable). And this wasn't one of those gorgeous weather days or anything, it was the day after a snowstorm, so everything was slushy and icy. It appears Tired Hands were successful at breeding that new, cold-resistant strain of beer nerd. Something about these sour ales aged in barrels seems to really strike a chord with the local coterie of beer dorks.

Given my (sad lack of) experience with Para3, I was overjoyed that my Believer's Club membership started taking effect with the release of Parageusia4. No waiting in line for me, just a leisurely stop in at the brewery a couple days after the general release. Alas, only a 1 bottle limit, making this a fair rarity and totally worth waiting in line, even if I didn't have to. It is a 12 month old Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented sour ale, so let's see what kind of abnormal or hallucinatory tastes pop out:

Tired Hands Parageusia4

Tired Hands Parageusia4 - Liquid gold in appearance, with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells nice and funky, musky earth and vinous fruit all over the nose. Taste definitely goes more vinous than previous iterations, lots of grape here, a little oak, and a well balanced lactic sourness in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel has decent carbonation, but a little light compared to previous iterations (perhaps more time in bottle would have solved that), light bodied, crisp and refreshing, only a very mild sense of sour acidity here. Overall, it's another winner, though it doesn't quite compare to Para1 level awesomeness (but few do!) A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15.

Will be so happy once the barrel aged wonders they're making at the new Fermentaria start to come of age in the next several months/year. In the meantime, I'll just have to cry into regular old top-tier IPAs and saisons. Woe is me.

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron

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Fiddlehead was the first stop of Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder and while we struck out on Second Fiddle cans (which we later got to consume in Boston, oddly enough), we did manage to get our hands on some cans of Tejas Marron, a hoppy brown ale brewed with unrefined dark brown sugar, which sounds awfully nice. Not sure what makes it a Texas brown ale (as the name implies) or why the can has Spanish for "The Devil's Right Hand" included, but who cares - it sounds great:

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron - Pours a hazy brown color with a finger of light tan head that sticks around a while. Smells of citrus and pine, maybe hints of brown sugar. Taste is surprisingly tame given the color, some citrus and pine hops again, especially up front, with the brown sugar emerging towards the finish, which seems well balanced between sweet malts and bitter hops. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lower end of medium bodied, not thin at all, but not quite what it appears to be either. It feels a lot like an IPA that has some darker elements incorporated... without getting into stout/black IPA territory. Overall, it's a rock solid brew, not my favorite thing ever, but I'll have no hesitation in polishing off the 4 pack! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a Charente glass on 6/5/15. Canned: 05/22/15. Can also has a note that says "T for Timbuktu" (or something like that - batch designation?)

I like this a lot, and I shared a Hodad with a friend a while back which was nice, but it's still pretty clear that Second Fiddle is the best thing I've had from these fellas. That being said, I will certainly be on the lookout for more from them on subsequent Operation Cheddars!

Alchemist Focal Banger

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In the dark days of the aughts, The Alchemist was basically an obscure little brewpub that made a name for itself by perfecting IPAs and DIPAs. In 2011, they expanded their operation to a production brewery and cannery... right before Tropical Storm Irene laid waste to the pub. Having just opened the cannery, they opted to just sell cans of Heady Topper for a few years while they recouped their losses. They only made that one beer for a couple years, but I guess you can get away with that when it's the single highest rated beer on the planet. Nevertheless, The Alchemist certainly had a growing stable of recipes that were languishing in obscurity, and starting last year, they started doing limited runs of some other beers and dialing in the recipes to be scaled up and brewed on their new system.

One such beer was Focal Banger, a 7% ABV American IPA made with copious amounts of Citra and Mosaic hops, yielding a beer that is distinct enough from Heady Topper while retaining the DNA that serves that flagship so well (presumably that Conan yeast in action). The canned runs of this were severely limited last year, and they didn't even have approval to send them out via traditional distribution channels (they sold them at little pop up events). Well, they recently got their new artwork approved, and started producing proper cans, though distribution is still severely limited. We managed to snag some cans at the Blackback Pub during Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder a couple weeks back (and we were lucky enough to grab another at The Reservoir the next night). According to the bartender, once The Alchemist's new brewery and retail space opens (presumably next Spring, fingers crossed), production will increase dramatically, and Focal Banger will have similar availability to Heady Topper (and here's to hoping some other stuff makes its way into the mix as well!) Enough preamble, let's get to it:

Alchemist Focal Banger

Alchemist Focal Banger - It doesn't pour because you DRINK IT FROM THE CAN, as ordered (the artwork on the can is beautiful though). Beautiful citrus nose, maybe more tropical than Heady, I keep sticking my nose into the can like a dope (or, come to think of it, like the guy on the can). Taste is hugely citrus, tropical fruits, light bitterness in the finish. The Mosaic hops seem to be dominant here. Citra is no slouch, but it has some more subtle components that tend to fall by the wayside when Mosaic is in play, but then, Mosaic really plays well with that Conan yeast, yielding a really juicy, citrusy feel. Mouthfeel shines, well carbonated, silky smooth, almost creamy, compulsively quaffable. Overall, hot damn, another beautiful Alchemist beer, distinct enough from heady, but in a similar vein... A!

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can, like a man, on 5/26/15.

Totally worth trying to track down if you find yourself in Waterbury, but it sounds like we won't have to wait too long until production ramps up either. Can't wait to be able to actually bring some of this stuff home. Also hoping that the expansion will also include some of their other brews... would love to try one of their imperial stouts, just to see how they handle that sort of contrast. In the meantime, I've got plenty of other Vermont beer to get through, so stay tuned.

Avery Tectum Et Elix

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The last year has seen many breweries upgrading their facilities and increasing production, often dramatically. Colorado's Avery brewing is among those ranks, with a new facility, increased production, and a greatly expanded barrel aging program. 2 years ago, they had 250 barrels aging a variety of beers in their warehouse and they're now at around 2000 barrels. This a welcome development and probably explains how I could get my grubby hands on several of their barrel aged beers over this past year. I'm pretty enamored with those beers, so when this beer, part of a recent trend that's been dubbed Sour Spring, showed up in my local bottle shop, I took the plunge despite never having had any of their sours before (unless you count the infected Black Tot, I guess).

Tectum Et Elix translates to "roof and grains", a reference to their new brewing facility. The new building also seems to be the inspiration for the cryptic little description for this beer, number 26 in their barrel aged series: "Conceived in the alley. Born under a roof on Nautilus. Where 'drain' isn't just a noun but finally, once again, a verb as well. FINALLY!" The new brewery is located on Nautilus Court in Boulder, Colorado, so that line is easy to figure out. Presumably there's an alley next to the building where people hang out and come up with beers or something. And the notion of drain being a verb rather than just a noun is perhaps a reference to draining barrels after a long wait? This beer spent 9 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels along with a mix of yeasts and bacterial beasties (apparently straying from their normal Brett strain to experiment with others). Worth the wait? Let's take a closer look:

Avery Tectum Et Elix

Avery Tectum Et Elix - Pours a clear, golden orange color, radiant with a finger of white head. Smells intensely earthy, lots of funk, hints of fruit, sour cherries, but really earthy, horsey, barnhouse stuff (supposedly due to the use of different Brett strains than normal Avery sours). Taste is more on the fruity side, sour cherries, some earthy funk, sweet fruit, and a little vinegary sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, moderately acidic, light bodied. Given that the normal barrel aged Avery beer is somewhere north of 14% ABV, this sucker feels downright approachable at 5.5%... Overall, it's a nice little sour number, nothing ecstatic, but really very nice and quite tasty and it grew on me as I drank. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15. Bottled: Apr 16 2015. Production: 908 cases.

On deck is Insula Multos Collibus, a sour aged in bourbon barrels with cherries. After that, who knows. The production on these things is way, way up, so I'm sure we'll see more Avery barrel aged wonders as time goes on. In the meantime, I've got my hands full with VT and Boston beer, so it may be a while...

Operation Chowder

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"That's 'chowdah'! Chowdah! I'll kill you! I'll kill all of you, especially those of you in the jury!"

The encore to Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder was a trip to Boston for more beery fun, with the centerpiece being the American Craft Beer Festival, though due to my late addition to this trip, I only went to the Friday evening session (the Saturday sessions were sold out). This was no big loss to me, for reasons I'll get into later, but I'm getting ahead of myself. After Thursday morning's sorties on the Warren Store, Burlington, and Worthy Burger, we high tailed it to Boston (or, to be more accurate, Cambridge). First stop while we were there, was the most excellent bar, Lord Hobo:

Lord Hobo
(Click to embiggen)

What a fantastic place. It was a little more crowded than we were used to (it turns out that the weekday crowd in Waterbury doesn't quite compare to happy hour during the weekend in Cambridge, go figure), but what do we have here:

Fiddlehead Second Fiddle.jpg

Yes, after flinging ourselves all over Vermont for a few days, we had to go to Boston to get us some Second Fiddle cans. And it was fantastic! No formal tasting notes, but it's got a great juicy citrus thing going on, a little more dank and resinous than your Heady Topper or Hill Farmstead stuff, certainly holds its own with the greats and represents a cool alternative if you can find it (perhaps not as under-the-radar as you might think, if the folks in the bar are any indication). The other highlight of Lord Hobo was the relatively local Wormtown Be Hoppy, though I can't really remember anything about it other than it being a really fabulous IPA. We also had a duck-based charcuterie plate (I'm not normally a pate guy, but I'll be damned if the duck pate wasn't delicious) and the cheese plate, one of the better dining decisions we made (remember, we loaded up on Worthy Burgers not that long before this time, so these plates were perfect). Super duper.

Friday morning, we hop on the T and head into Boston proper for a trip to Trillium Brewing, a tiny little operation that only does growler fills and bottle releases at this point. There was a short line, so we popped in and bought us some bottles:

Trillium Haul
(Click to embiggen)

So the haul includes: Trillium, Congress Street IPA, Sunshower Super Saison, and Vicinity Double IPA. Pretty darn good.

From there, we hopped over to a restaurant called Row 34, which from all appearances is an amazing seafood place with a pretty solid beer selection. It was right during the lunch rush though, so we didn't get any food here, instead standing at some of the pillars (which had little ledges for your beer, etc...) and drinking a pre-fest beer just to get the system primed (we're still 4-5ish hours away from the start of the fest though).

Pivovar Kout 12

The standout on the menu, surprising to me, but I'm super glad I made the stretch, was Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka, a glorious Czech pilsener that I grabbed because I recognized the name from Evan Rail's short little book The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest (apparently a refurbished brewery in the middle of nowhere, the recipes come from a book discovered in the old brewery, or something like that). Pilseners aren't really my jam, but this hit the spot, grainy, earthy, almost spicy hops, but still light, crisp, and refreshing on a warm day after a long walk, and I'm really glad I gave it a shot. Would be really interested in checking out some more of Kout's brews if they ever become available over here!

From there, we had a sorta lazy afternoon, grabbed a Lobster sandwich from Alive and Kicking Lobsters (it's not a Lobster roll, it's a sandwich!) hit Whole Foods for some Massachusetts beer (the source of those Night Shift Morph cans in my previous post) and generally relaxed until we hopped on the train for the ACBF.

Longtime readers (all 3 of you) might recognize that I'm not much of a beer fest kinda guy given that I've covered approximately zero of them in the five-ish years of this blog. Large crowds, drunk people, tiny samples, and did I mention the large crowds? I'm not anti-social or anything, but I hate crowds and as a massive introvert, I just get exhausted by these types of events. Also, whatever you may think about the amount of beer I drink, I don't generally enjoy getting smashed. I've been to festivals in the past, and after the first several tastes, I start to get a little woozy, but my novelty instinct is still engaged full force, so I feel like I need to keep sampling at top speed or else I'll miss out. By the end, I have no idea what I'm tasting, not just because I'm drunk, but because I've been obliterating my palate. The other thing about beer festivals, at least the local ones around here, is that they tend to be comprised mostly of local breweries... most of which I've already had a lot of before (or could easily get anytime). It's not that there's nothing special being poured, but they're few and far between, and again, after your first rush of tastes, your palate gets wonky and perceptions get weird.

That being said, the ACBF was actually great! There were lots of crowds, but the space was huge, so that wasn't too annoying. The crowds also meant lines, especially at the more prominent breweries, but that had the benefit of keeping me going at a sustainable pace rather than rushing through everything. I ended the fest with a nice buzz on, but not shitfaced at all. And because the fest was in Boston, there were a ton of Northeast Breweries that don't often make their way down here, and even the ones that do, don't often send the special stuff. I didn't really take many pictures during this leg of the trip because I'm the worst, but here are some highlights from the fest:

And there were a ton of other great beers, but those were definitely the standouts and I don't want to sit here and list out the other 20 beers I liked (or the handful that I didn't). Lawson's definitely had the longest line (it moved well enough, and we were able to get through 3 times pretty easily - I heard things were considerably more difficult on Saturday), though Fiddlehead was also doing pretty well for itself (indeed, there was even a staffer who had to provide traffic control because of the location of their booth). Definitely a worthwhile pursuit that I'd do again, but I was also perfectly fine with the one session. I got pretty much everything I could have wanted and a bunch of stuff I didn't even know I wanted (about half the highlights above were completely unexpected). I was told that the Saturday afternoon session was way more crowded and the lines were a lot longer, which I probably wouldn't have liked. We hit up brunch at a place called Cafe Luna, and got this beautiful Lobster Eggs Benedict plate:

Lobster Eggs Benedict

Delicious! And my friend got the Steak and Lobster BLT Benedict, which was the same thing, with added slice of steak, some bacon, and a big slice of tomato. He had trouble finishing. I was more than pleased with my "regular" dish. While my friends went to the early ACBF session, I met up with a local friend and we tooled around Boston for a while. We hit up the MIT museum (totally worth checking out for the Arthur Ganson Gestural Engineering exhibit alone), had a couple drinks at Meadhall, which has a huge taplist, but also seemingly less in the way of local stuff, and ate dinner at Regina Pizzaria in the North End ("The Original"). It's a tiny little place, and you actually need to wait in line to get in, but we got there early enough that the line was short, so we got in pretty quickly, and hot damn, that is some fantastic pizza. Best I've had in a while, crispy crust, chewy interior, well proportioned sauce, cheese, and toppings, and totally worth looking up if you find yourself in Boston. (As we exited, we seemed to run into a bizarre ritual of two dudebros having a pushup contest on the street... quite amusing!)

Phew! That about covers the festivities, and what a lovely week it was! That being said, I think perhaps Operation Cheddar and Operation Chowder would do better with some time between them for recovery and emptying of trunk space, rather than crammed together like this. I was pretty worn out in the end, though I regret nothing! Time will tell if we go through this again next year. Right now, it's a distinct possibility! And believe it or not, I may end up in Vermont again sooner rather than later, stay tuned! In the meantime, there will be a crapton of reviews headed your way...

Not long ago, in a watering hold not far away, a few friends mentioned that they might be taking a trip to Vermont to visit a few breweries and squirrel away some bottles for rainy day (or just regular day) fun. As a veteran of two invasion campaigns (Operation Cheddar and Operation Cheddar II: Sharp Cheddar), I was fully on board. As it turns out, there was a secondary operation to this trip which took us to Boston for the American Craft Beer Festival and other wanderings. I shall dub this portion of the trip Operation Chowder and cover it in more detail tomorrow1.

Unlike the surgical strikes of Operation Cheddars I and II (single day affairs, with only a few tactical maneuvers), part III was a more extended campaign, stretching out across three days (with some travel time embedded in the first and last day) and reaching a more varied list of targets. It turns out that Vermont Beer is more than Hill Farmstead, Lawson's Finest Liquids, and Heady Topper. Not that we didn't partake in that holy trinity as much as possible, just that we hit up other places as well:

Fiddlehead sign
(Click to embiggen)

First stop was Fiddlehead brewery, before we even arrived at our hotel. It's a pretty small little tasting room for filling growlers and selling cans, but alas, no cans of the fabled Second Fiddle were available. We partook in some small samples and snagged a 4 pack of something else (covered below). There is also an attached pizza place, which a friend in Boston mentioned was better than the grand majority of pizza available in Boston (he also mentioned that this was not a particularly high bar - moar on Boston pizza tomorrow), though we did not partake as we wanted to get to our hotel, which was the Best Western just north of Waterbury.

The Waterbury Triangle

When I mentioned my trip to Vermont on twitter, VT beer peeps came out of the woodwork to provide recommendations and planning for our attacks. The Vermont Beer Bros mentioned that we were near the fabled Waterbury triangle, a series of bars in "downtown" Waterbury arranged as the picture above shows. It was a bit of a lengthy walk, but totally doable (and honestly, I find walking a bit before and after drinking to be a good thing and enjoyed the walks, though my friends were a little less excited, especially at the big hill near the hotel). The first place we went was the place I'd heard the most about:

Prohibition Pig
(Click to embiggen)

The Prohibition Pig is a bar that has a little brewery attached in the back. They serve their own beer, but also a pretty fantastic selection of local VT beer. It turns out that there was a Waterbury-wide Hill Farmstead tap takeover the previous weekend, so while we missed out on some of the more limited brews (we shall meet someday, Flora), there were a bunch of things we hadn't had on tap. Not to mention some Lawson's (Sip of Sunshine and Super Session IPA), amongst others. I sampled some of Pro Pig's brews too, and would recommend Bantam, a DIPA that holds its own against the other stuff I was drinking (the other stuff I had was not as successful, but still nice). Also of note, Pro Pig has a rather fantastic Bourbon selection:

Pro Pigs Bourbon Selection Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15
(Click to embiggen)

BTAC, Pappy, and lots of other stuff you don't see too often (at least, around here!) I was on the fence, but when the bartender mentioned that Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 was on its last pour and didn't quite have a full 2 ounces left so he'd charge half price, I was on board. It was fantastic, rich and spicy, silky smooth and didn't drink at all like a highish proof bourbon... but I don't think it's really worth the $48 pour (and while I'm glad I tried it, $24 was still a bit much for the 1.5ish ounces I got, though obviously much more manageable). I can see why the hype is there, but that doesn't make it any less overhyped. This basically represented my only non-beer drink during the trip, and I was pretty glad I chose it.

Of the other bars in the Waterbury Triangle, the other one that really stood out was the Blackback Pub (the one in the center of the triangle). The taplist was great (if similar to Pro Pig and the Reservoir), but we made immediate friends with the bartender and scored some beer that wasn't available at Pro Pig either (more on this in a later post!) Also of note is that the Blackback has some pretty good food, and as a Philly native, I was very tickled to see their emphasis on using Amaroso rolls (Italian rolls that they somehow get delivered up to them). It's a great bar, a little smaller, but seemingly more lively, perhaps because we were chatting with the bartender for a while. The Reservoir was also pretty great, comparable beer selection, though we never ate there (but they seemed like they had a decent menu). The Blue Stone was the only one we didn't really get much out of... we were actually planning on grabbing some pizza there, but by the time we got there (around 9 or 9:30), their kitchen was closed (!?) so we didn't really stick around (and headed over to the Blackback for some snacks). Next time, Blue Stone!

Ultimately, staying in Waterbury was a fabulous idea, and as there's plenty to do and it's a pretty central location when you start to visit breweries, etc... Recommended!

Day 2 started off at a little supermarket and a rather fantastic bottle shop called Craft Beer Cellar (right across from Pro Pig), where we picked up some cans of Heady and Sip (more on that later), amongst other miscellaneous beers:

Miscellaneous Haul
(Click to embiggen)

What we have here are some Jack's Abby Framinghammer Baltic Porter, Barrel Aged Framinghammer, Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer, and Saxonator. Also some Switchback Citra-Pils and Foley Brothers Fair Maiden. Super excited for pretty much all of this! Next stop, that old chestnut:

Hill Farmstead Sign
(Click to embiggen)

Hill Farmstead Haul
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Not much to say about Hill Farmstead. The beer is excellent as ever, and seemed more plentiful than the last times I made the trip (though it appears we missed out on more limited stuff like Flora the previous week... and dammit, this week too - poor timing, I guess). As for the haul, I got some Dorothy, Arthur, and Grassroots Brother Soigné bottles, and growler fills of Susan, Harlan, and Double Citra. Quite a successful sortie. Next up, Lost Nation:

Lost Nation
(Click to embiggen)

It was starting to rain at this point and we were hungry, so we decided to get some lunch here and holy crap, that was the best decision ever. They have some fantastic food here. I had a smoked lamb flatbread thing (with some sort of garlic feta aioli) that was out of this world good. Definitely a recommended stop! I was driving, so only had a couple sips of beer, but it seemed good enough to snag some bottles/cans.

Not far away from that is Rock Art, which had a little tasting room and lots of other bottles and general stuff for sale. Once again, I was driving, so I didn't really drink much beer, but snagged a few bottles:

Lost Nation and Rock Art Haul
(Click to embiggen)

So the haul from those two breweries begat us a few bottles (cans covered somewhere below), including: Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta and The Wind and Rock Art Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout (Smugglers Notch Barrels) and Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale. Another successful sortie, and thus day 2 closed with another trip around the Waterbury triangle (already covered above).

The Warren Store. Again!
(Click to embiggen)

Day 3 began with a trip to one of my favorite little VT stores, The Warren Store. Got some nice cans and the requisite breakfast sandwich (fantastic, as always, eaten outside on the deck by the creek).

We also managed to pop over to the Burlington to hit up a couple of breweries, Zero Gravity and the Vermont Pub & Brewery. Alas, we ran out of time and had to begin the trek to Boston before I got a chance to stop at some of the other Burlington targets, particularly Four Quarters Brewing. Ah well, next time.

All in all, a pretty successful trip, and here are some more of the beer we picked up:

Nice Cans
(Click to embiggen)

What we have here is some Lawson's Sip of Sunshine, Alchemist Heady Topper, Fiddlehead Tejas Marron, and some cans of Lost Nation Lost Galaxy and Gose. On the end there, two lonely cans of Night Shift Morph that are actually from Operation Chowder, but included here as a bonus or something.

Glassware
(Click to embiggen)

The glassware haul turned out well too, with Pro Pig, Lawson's, and Blackback Pub glasses, which I guess you'd call snifters, though they're also kinda tulip-ish. Whatever they are, the VT breweries seem to love them, because everyone had one like that, and most restaurants had them in several sizes...

Syrup, Hot Sauce, and Jelly, Oh My!
(Click to embiggen)

I also bought some things that were not beer. Astounding, I know. What we have here is some VT Maple Syrup aged in Bourbon Barrels (hnng), some VT Habanero hot sauce, and some sort of weird beer jelly stuff (from Rock Art). I also snagged a couple of tshirts, not pictured here because come on, this post is long enough and we still have to cover our final Vermont stop:

Worthy Burger beer menu
(Click to embiggen)

Per a recommendation from our bartender friend Eric from the Blackback Pub, we stopped at Worthy Burger on our way to Boston for some lunch. As you can see, it's another fabulous tap list, and they have this great wood burning grill where they cook their burgers, which are rather fabulous:

An actual Worthy Burger
(Click to embiggen)

Quite tasty! Once again, I was driving, so I partook in some local root beer, which was also rather nice. Oh, and we shared a strip of heavenly deep fried bacon as well (let's just say it was good). While a bit out of the way of most other VT beer stops, if you can make it work, it's worth a trip...

Well, this trip was quite a bit more eventful than previous Operations Cheddar, but totally a good time. Stay tuned for the slightly more tame Operation Chowder, wherein we actually managed to snag some of the VT beer we missed out on in our travails above!

1 - I named this Operation Chowder despite the fact that no Chowder was actually consumed at any point in our Boston wanderings (not exactly Chowder weather). We did, however, get a fair amount of Lobster, but I'm saving Operation Lobster for the inevitable Maine invasion, should that ever happen.

Alpine Nelson

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Inspired by a 2003 trip to New Zealand (the image on the label is a bay from the Nelson region of NZ) where the owner of Alpine stumbled upon NZ hops (then not used very much in the US) and decided to make a Kiwi inspired beer. The hop bill is comprised of all NZ hops with Nelson Sauvin being a specific focus, though others are clearly in use.

This video mentions that the first hop addition is extra double super secret, the second is Nelson Sauvin, the third is Southern Cross, and the fourth is a combo of Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross. There is a dry hopping period as well, but the hops used are unspecified (my not particularly insightful swag: Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross). My impression is that Nelson Sauvin is an intense citrus, grapefruit, almost wine-like hop, while Southern Cross is a more mild, floral affair that would match really well with the rye in the recipe. I was very much impressed with Duet, so let's see how Nelson stacks up:

Alpine Nelson

Alpine Nelson - Pours a clear, very pale, golden yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells of citrusy, vinous fruit, grapefruit and the like, maybe something more floral and earthy lurking in the background. Taste has a beautiful grapefruit and vinous fruit character to it up front, followed by some rye spice in the middle, and a well balanced, light, dry bitterness in the finish. Great hop character without overpowering anything, and perhaps the first time I really get Nelson Sauvin. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, and crisp, absolutely and dangerously quaffable. Overall, another spectacular IPA from Alpine. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/22/15.

I also managed to score some Hoppy Birthday whilst out and about because Alpine distributes here now, and it was quite nice (I didn't take notes because I'm the worst, but it was very light and quaffable, great hop character, though not quite as potent as Nelson or Duet). I'll also be checking out some Captain Stout at some point in the near future as well, and who knows, if they keep distributing out here, I'll almost certainly be drinking more of their goodness.

A couple years ago, I acquired a bottle of Great Divide's Barrel Aged Hibernation in a LIF. It was quite nice, but the barrel component wasn't quite as integrated as I expected. This could be because the bottle was nearly 2 years old or it could be that the Stranahan's barrels they used don't really live up to the more common bourbon barrel approach. The former could be addressed by snagging a fresh bottle of BA Hibernation (which I see are circulating in the area right now), but the latter will be more of a challenge since Stranahan's is relatively small, there aren't that many breweries that use their barrels, and then there's the fact that they have asked brewers not to disclose their name on labels anymore. Also, the nature of a small distillery like Stranahan's can lead to inconsistency, which could also translate to their barrels... I'm not an inconsistency hater and can even find it charming in some instances, but that doesn't make a true miss any less annoying!

All that being said, it's my understanding that Great Divide does still use Stranahan's for their barrel program, and when I saw this barrel aged barleywine (for 12 months, no less), I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm happy to report that this worked out better than the old ale (though it appears some folks have gotten infected bottles - mine was not, so I don't know how prevalent any of those issues was):

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian - Pours a dark, murky amber brown color with a finger of off white had that sticks around for a bit. Smells of dark fruits, raisins, plums, with some caramel and toffee and hints of whiskey in the background. Taste goes to a similar place, rum soaked raisins and plums, hints of slightly boozy oak and whiskey, and a malt backbone of caramel and toffee, finishing with that touch of whiskey and vanilla. As it warms, it gets a bit deeper and the whiskey comes out a bit more. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tightly carbonated, with a moderate amount of richness from the barrel aging, silky smooth, with enough alcohol heat in the finish to keep it a sipper. Overall, very well executed bourbon barrel barleywine, quite a treat. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/16/15. Bottled on: March 26, 2015.

This was very nice and makes me want to go out and grab another BA Hibernation, though I really shouldn't, as I'm drowning in good beer over here. I know, woe is me, but I've got to drink down my cellar a bit and oh, it looks like I've got a trip to Vermont on the near horizon, so this is going to be rough. For certain values of "rough".

AleWerks Lover's Greed

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How do you do, dear reader? I am your most obedient servant and I am right heartily glad to see you. Forsooth, I have a most curious beer to discuss with you. Hailing from the honorable brewery known as Aleworks, situated close to the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia, this elixir began its life in a traditional brick wrapped brewhouse with open flame (as opposed to the modern heathens who useth more gentle steam systems), then slumbered for nearly 18 months in French oak barrels formerly used to age red wine. Truly a testament to the fleeting virtue of patience, that most humble of qualities. Hold ye onto thine britches, for these suds pack a sour punch:

AleWerks Lovers Greed

AleWerks Lover's Greed - Pours a pale, hazy reddish orange color with a finger of fizzy head that quickly resolves into a cap of head that sticks around for a while. Smells of vinous fruit, sour cherries, and tart vinegar. Taste is surprisingly mellow, definitely lots of tart fruit, cherries and grapes, vinegar tones, a little in the way of oak and vanilla, sour but not overpoweringly so. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated but smooth, slightly acidic but not a monster. Overall, a nice American wild ale; it's quite approachable and goes down rather easy, comporting itself well in a crowded and competitive style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/16/15. Vintage: 2014.

Many thanks to Danur for the bottle! Also, I beg your pardon for my horrid attempts at colonial speech. It's funny, AleWerks has even dropped Williamsburg from their name, so I'm guessing they're trying to distance themselves from that connotation. Regardless, I've enjoyed most everything I've had from this small operation, and have been on the lookout for Bitter Valentine for a while now... There's always next year.

Midnight Sun Berserker

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Alaska is a cold place, so I guess it makes sense that brewers situated in that bleak environment would resort to big, heavy malts and lots of booze. And thank God that they do, because I love those beers. Midnight Sun exemplifies this approach, with a line of impressive imperial stouts, one of the best barleywines I've ever had, and now this barrel aged monstrosity.

In Old Norse literature, Berserkers were warriors who dressed in bear pelts and fought with an uncontrollable, trance-like rage. It's speculated that they entered this state of wild fury through the use of drugs, though probably not a depressant like alcohol. These days, it's mostly a cheesy reference or way to describe comic book characters like Wolverine. And also this beer, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout brewed with maple syrup and molasses. I sure do enjoy me, well, all of those things, so let's get to it. My love for you is like a truck, Berserker!

Midnight Sun Berserker

Midnight Sun Berserker - Pours a deep black color with a beautiful cap of dark brown head (maybe even a sorta amber tint to the head, very pretty, but short-lived). Smells of dark, roasty malts, vanilla, sweet brown sugar, dark chocolate, and a touch of bourbon. Taste starts with a nice, rich caramel that quickly yields to brown sugar, syrupy molasses, almost fruity, vinous flavors, a little oak and vanilla, boozy bourbon, then dark chocolate and more traditional roasted malts emerge towards and into the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little boozy heat. The closest thing I can compare this to is The Abyss, but with a little more barrel character. Overall, this is a rock solid Bourbon barrel aged stout, right up my alley. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.7% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/15/15. Vintage 2015. 30 IBUs.

There is a beer called Son of Berserker that is made from the second runnings of Berserker's no doubt large malt bill, and honestly, at this point, I'm down for just about anything from this brewery, the bigger and burleyer, the better.

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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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