- Tired Hands Weedeater - This is a Double IPA made with Galaxy and Amarillo hops. Yum.
Big citrus and floral aromas and flavors from the hops, very well balanced, light carbonation and creamy texture with a nice, clean finish. Great stuff, though I feel like I'm grading on a curve at this point. I think I may prefer FlavorAroma to this, but that's a tough bar to clear. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 9.3% ABV on tap. Drank out of 8 oz glass on 12/6/12.)
- Tired Hands Westy13 - Described as a dark saison, this is a beer that's really grown on me. I've had it 3 times now, each time a 4 ounce pour, but each time feeling like I could easily put down a couple 8 ounce glasses. Which, at 13% ABV, makes this a dangerously drinkable beer.
Big, bold, rich malt flavors with that saison yeast contributing an uncommon fruitiness and peppery character that's similar to, but distinct from most Belgian Strong Darks. Really nice caramelized dark fruit flavors too. The mouthfeel is rich and smooth, not as heavy as you'd expect, but not quite as dry as its namesake (tough to beat the mouthfeel on Westvleteren beers) Big, complex, delicious beer. The last keg kicked this week, but it will be coming in bottles soon enough. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass on multiple occasions.)
- Tired Hands Earthbound - A straightforward but very well done pale ale, nice citrus/pine hop character, went down real easy. I think this might have fared better if I hadn't just had FlavorAroma, which was just superb. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass.)
- Tired Hands Good Good Things - A rather weird combination: a sour IPA. Very juicy but also extremely acidic. It's like the sourness and the hop character teamed up and just started blowing things up. It's an interesting beer, but I think I can see why most sours aren't hopped up wlike this. An interesting experiment, but I'm ultimately glad I only had 4 ounces of it. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass.)
- Yes, Yes, Yes, Killing The Ego - Another uncommon take on a dark saison, this one incorporating maple syrup and cacao nibs. Alas, those components did not come on as strong in the finished product as I might have hoped. A fine beer, not quite what I'd expect from a saison, even a dark one, but it was certainly a pleasant drink. B (Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass.)
It's been a while since I've played Belgian beer roulette, so I figured I'd take a flier on this beer, cryptically designated a "Grand Cru". Just what is a Grand Cru, you ask? That's an excellent question; it doesn't mean anything.
In wine, the phrase is clearly organized and regulated. It refers to the highest level of vinyard classification. Something about terroir. I don't know, what is this, a wine blog? The point is that while it's formally defined for wine, it was basically adopted in the beer world as a marketing tactic. Most beers labeled as Grand Cru seem to be imply that it's a style, but that's not at all the case. You can get a Belgian Strong Pale, like the 9.5% ABV Southampton Grand Cru, or today's beer, Bink Grand Cru, which is a 13% ABV Belgian Strong Dark monster, or even Rodenbach Grand Cru, which is a sour Flanders Red weighing in at just 6.5% ABV. That's a pretty disparate range of flavors and styles right there.
I suppose you could say that it generally represents an improved or more elaborate offering than the brewer normally makes, perhaps their "grandest" beer. Or not. Like I said, there's no actual rules for what constitutes a grand cru in the beer world. So roulette it certainly is, with Brouwerij Kerkom's winter beer (aka Winterkoninkske!) in my glass:
Bink Grand Cru - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with minimal light tan head. Nose smells quite sweet, a little Belgian yeast character, maybe some molasses, a lot of chocolate. The taste is filled with rich, sweet, dark malts, a little spice, a hint of dark fruit, and again with that big chocolate character. Oh, and booze. Very boozy. Intense flavors all around, but not overwhelming. Mouthfeel is surprisingly well carbonated for such a big beer, making it seem perhaps a bit less heavy than it really is, which is actually nice. Spice and booze make themselves felt, but nothing too unweildly. The booze also warms things up a bit, maybe just a hint of burn in the mouth. Full bodied, but not super chewy or anything. It's a sipping beer, but it's not hard to drink. I wouldn't call it well balanced, but it's working pretty well. Overall, big, complex, uncommon flavor profile, I enjoyed it upon first taste, but it just got better as I drank, which is nice for such a big beer. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 12/7/12.
This actually reminded me a little of Tired Hands' Westy 13, though it's got a more chocolate and booze component than Tired Hands' brew. Ok, so maybe it's just that they're both 13% and dark and rich. Still, both are excellent. Another successful session of Belgian Beer Roulette, and I live to play again.
Crossed over the serpent and the rainbow to get ahold of some Zombie Dust, a single-hop American Pale ale from Three Floyds. Those Munster, Indiana brewers have quite the reputation these days, partly because of beers like this, currently sporting a 4.52 average rating (out of 5) on Beer Advocate and clocking in at number 13 on their Top Beers list. Brewed with Citra, the trendiest and thus supply constrainediest of hops these days, this was originally only available on draft, but a little over a year ago, they started bottling it. And thus it was that Indiana beer traders rejoiced at their ability to pawn off $2 bottles of beer for the veritable pick of the litter. And who can blame them? I recently acquired a few of these, along with a boatload of other Three Floyds brews (from someone who thankfully was very generous with their side of the bargain). Within hours of delivery, I was drinking Zombie Dust, and I didn't even have to take a powerful Haitian narcotic or fight sharks. Go me.
Apologies for the picture. The label is gorgeous but does not photograph well.
Three Floyds Zombie Dust - Pours a deep golden orange color with a couple fingers of tight white head, lacing out the yin yang, and nice retention. Aroma is intense grassy citrus hops, smelled it right away, as soon as I popped the cap. Really beautiful nose. The taste features a little more in the way of grassy and herbal hop notes, but that juicy citrus hop character, grapefruit and such, is the real driving force in the middle. Well balanced sweetness up front with a nice dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel starts with a very well carbonated but smooth dryness flowing into that juicy, sweet middle before returning to dryness in the finish. Low medium bodied but immensely refreshing and quaffable, this thing disappeared quickly. Overall, it's superb, especially for a "simple" pale ale. Is it 14th best beer in the world? Maybe not so much, but I'll be damned if the hype on this isn't well deserved. Definitely among the top pale ales, if not the king. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.
This beer made a pretty fantastic first impression for Three Floyds, and I'm really looking forward to some of the others I've acquired, including the likes of Dreadnaught (another top 100 tick) and Dark Lord.
Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As usual, a core group of stalwarts showed up, along with some new faces and other return guest stars. All told, a solid turnout, plenty of good beer, and a fun time had by all.
Apologies for the image quality. Brightness kinda got away from me there. Stupid flash. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. Standard disclaimers apply, though I think I've achieved a new level in beer nerdom in that I've already had (and probably reviewed) a lot of the beers presented here. Go figure. Roughly (yeah, yeah, gimme a break, it's a social gathering after all, you're lucky I can do this much) listed in order of drinking, not the order in the picture above:
- Hitachino Nest White Ale - This has actually been on my radar for a while, but it's not something I've ever tried before. It's a very solid Belgian wit beer, not super strong on the wheat (though it's there), more defined by the Belgian yeast character of fruit and dry spice. Sorta reminded me of St. Bernardus' Tokyo beer, which is not suspicious at all, as Hitachino is Japanese (I swears, I didn't realize it when I was drinking, except perhaps subconsciously because Hitachino does sound pretty Japanese). Really worth checking out, and it won't break the bank like St. Bernardus will. A-
- Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer - This must be the 4th or 5th time I've had this. I've always enjoyed it too, though I didn't have any sticky toffee dessert dish to pair it with (like I normally do). A solid contribution from a beer club newcomer. B+ Ommegang Scythe & Sickle - Malt-focused, Belgian-style harvest ale, recently reviewed! Well chosen and well placed in the tasting. This works well with food (which came out as I was drinking this)... B+
- Ballast Point Sculpin IPA - Yep, another that I've had several times before, but I do love this beer. It seems that some beer club members have been doing some research on Beer Advocate and this is a pretty good choice. Well played, Paul. A-
- Magic Hat Hi.P.A. - A decent enough IPA that I think just pales (pun intended!) in comparison with Sculpin. Flavors seemed muted and a little bland, but seemingly well crafted enough. Not something I'd seek out again, but I wouldn't turn it down if you handed me one. B-
- Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel Xmas - A variant on my homebrewed abbey dubbel beer, when I was bottling and I got to the bottom of the bucket I added a cinnamon stick and some clove to the remaining beer. Alas, I didn't get much additional spice out of this, at least in my small sample. However, I feel like the beer has finally conditioned into something solid. Still not quite what I was going for, I think perhaps too much in the Special B department, yielding a bit too much in the way of toasted malt character, but still, it's coming along well. I will refrain from rating this for now, as I don't think it's peaked yet, but perhaps a full review will be forthcoming.
- Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) - Just reviewed this one yesterday (along with the 2011 variety). This was one of my contributions, so of course it was good.
- Evolution Secret Spot Winter Ale - I've enjoyed most of Evolutions offerings that I've tried so far, and this one is no exception. But it's not really exceptional either. Another beer that may have suffered a bit by comparison to the previous beer. Technically an altbier, this drinks kinda like a winter warmer without the spice. I like. Want to try again in better context. B
- Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Yep, just reviewed this one too. Big flavors do well in beer club setting.
- Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2011 - One of my contributions... I've had the 2010 vintage, and though Mikkel claims to tweak the recipe every year, this seemed pretty similar to me. It's listed as a Belgian Strong Dark, but it reads more like an Imperial Stout. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts, smooth, well hidden booze. It's said that this is a spiced beer, but it's hard to detect in this. Definitely a complex beer, and I'm guessing the spices contribute to that without being overpowering. Overall, a very good beer, worthy of the holiday. A-
Every year, I buy a six pack of Anchor Christmas. And every year, I remember why I don't normally buy six packs. On the other hand, this yearly tradition, when combined with my packrat tendencies, yields the possibility of a vertical. Yeah, yeah, Anchor Christmas has a different recipe every year so it's not technically a "vertical", but it's close enough for me. Just to underline the inappropriateness of this non-vertical vertical practice, I sandwiched them around a filmic double feature of Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So there.
Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a dark brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy khaki head and plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of mulling spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the like, maybe even anise, but the malt and hops seem to peek out a bit, even if they're overshadowed by spice. The taste is also pretty well defined by all those spices, but the malt backbone also asserts itself, some caramel and toast going on (maybe even a hint of coffee? As it warms I seem to be picking this up more...), and I'm getting some bitterness in the finish too. It's no pale ale or anything, but well matched with the spice. There might be a faint amount of pine or spruce or something going on here, though I'm not sure if my mind is just playing tricks with me or what. Mouthfeel is a little on the thin side, though there's enough substance there to make this feel right for the style, an Overall, I like this, it's a solid entry in the winter warmer style, if not quite a transcendent experience. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/1/12.
Anchor Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a dark brown color with a very slight amber tint to it and a finger or two of tightly bubbled, tan head that leaves just a bit of lacing as I drink. The smell is actually quite similar to this year's entry, lots of mulling spices, some malt character. The taste is again quite similar, though that coffee flavor I was picking up in this year's edition is not here. Still, lots of bright, clear spice, maybe more than this year's... Nice range of malt flavors coming through here too. Mouthfeel is a little more robust than this year's, but comparable, relatively light. Overall, both these beers are pretty much on par with each other. I think I might like this one slightly more, but only by a sliver. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/1/12.
Anchor is apparently considering a bigger change for next year's batch: The 2013 Our Special Ale might no longer be a spiced beer. "I think we've taken this about as far as it can go. I'm leaning toward making a big change for next year." Color me curious. Early editions of the Christmas beer were pale ales, which isn't really very wintery, but why not? Or maybe they'll go more stoutlike. Perhaps even increase (or, heck, reduce) that ABV... Whatever the case, it seems that next year's vertical may display some more dramatic differences than this year's edition. Sounds exciting.
Last year, due to lack of fortitude and brewing capacity (mostly the brewing capacity), Lagunitas decided not to make their traditional winter beer, called Brown Shugga'. It's a big beer and it takes a long time to brew and their expansion was delayed last year, not to mention the issues with fortitude. So they placed their tongue firmly in cheek and released an American IPA called Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale: Brown Shugga Substitute. We loved Laginitas Sucks here at Kaedrin HQ, but were saddened that we never got to try Brown Shugga. Happily, it seems that Lagunitas has resolved their fortitude issues from last year (and, uh, installed additional brewing capacity), so I can finally get my first taste of this popular winter beer.
As the story goes, Lagunitas was attempting to make a barleywine and must have realized that the gravity was coming in too low. In an attempt to salvage the brew, they threw in copious amounts of brown sugar, hence the name of the beer. The result... wasn't the barleywine they wanted, but it turned out to be a tasty beast its own right and quickly developed a devoted following. In terms of style, this thing is shunted into that vague American Strong Ale designation... It's basically a dark reddish amber beer with a big hop bill and a robust, manly 9.9% ABV. Sounds pretty great to me, let's do this thing:
Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Pours a clear, bright amber color with a finger of whitish head and plenty of lacing as I drink. The smell has a big sugary sweet, piney hop character to it that matches together rather well. The taste seems strangely subdued, though certainly quite appealing. That brown sugar flavor definitely peeks it's head in the door, but doesn't really overwhelm. Ditto for the hops, who have shown up at the party too, but seem like a bunch of insecure little wallflowers. This might sound harsh or negative, but I really don't mean it that way, as it's surprisingly well balanced. There's booze hanging around too, though that's not particularly unwelcome at a party like this. Mouthfeel is quite nice, smooth, heavier than I was expecting, but easy enough to drink. A little boozy, definitely some warming factor. Overall, I'm enjoying this, but quite frankly, I think I might actually enjoy Lagunitas Sucks more. It's a party, but not one of those legendary events that will be enshrined for all eternity. Just a regular ol' Friday night at chez Kaedrin. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 9.9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 11/30/12.
So there you have it. Lagunitas Sucks is making a comeback earlier in the year. I think both these brews are worth your while, but I do think I prefer Sucks. In any case, I'm sure Lagunitas will be making more appearances on the blog in the future...
Sly Fox is one of the throngs of brewers that puts out a vintage dated Christmas beer with changing recipes every year. It's not quite as storied or classy as, say, Anchor's definitive Christmas beer series (stay tuned, as we'll be covering that one in the near future as well), but they're a good local alternative. I could be wrong, but I believe this is also the first year that Sly Fox has canned their Christmas Ale (usually only available in 750s or on tap), and the label features nifty to/from labels, which means my coworkers will probably be getting a can of this stuff on their desk just before Christmas. So let's fire this thing up:
Sly Fox 2012 Christmas Ale - Pours a deep, clear, dark amber color with a couple fingers of fluffy, light tan head. Smells almost exactly like a gingerbread cookie or gingersnap or something. Obviously that spicy component is expected, but there's a sorta cookie aroma, maybe some vanilla too, that differentiates this. Other spices are apparent, cinnamon, clove, the usual suspects, but ginger seems to be the defining spice. The taste isn't quite as cookie-like, but it's got a hint of creaminess in the middle and the spices are more prominent in the beginning and in the finish, particularly ginger. I don't normally love ginger in beer, but this is actually working well enough for me (still glad I didn't spring for the 750 though). Mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, those hints of creaminess apparent, a very slight harshness from the spice, and a light to medium body that allows you to gulp the stuff down quickly, if you so desire. Overall, very solid winter warmer, about on par with last year's offering, but also distinct. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/30/12.
I will continue to look forward to this beer every year, along with the stalwarts like Anchor. Speaking of which, stay tuned for another Anchor Double Feature (see last year's). Alas, no 2010 beer left, so I can't do a full 3 year vertical, but in a few years, I should be able to do a nice 4-5 year vertical of Anchor. Who knows, I might even start doing verticals for Sly Fox Christmas...
The tale of this beer begins back at Stillwater's first anniversary, when they made a Belgian Strong Dark in the mold of a foreign export stout. That beer was called 25 To One, and has since been tweaked a bit, renamed Folklore, and moved into Stillwater's regular lineup. In addition, this is one of the base beers for their barrel aging program, and several different versions have been made. What I have here is a beer aged in 20 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels. Only 1200 bottles made, a steep price tag, and a gorgeous minimalist label, but alas, I found myself a little disappointed by the contents of said bottle:
Stillwater Folklore - The Tale Of Van Winkle - Pours a very dark, almost black color with a skimpy, light brown head. Smell is all about bourbon and oak (maybe some coconut from the barrel aging too), with just the faintest hint of roasted malts. Similarly, the taste is comprised mostly of bourbon, with oak falling into the background and whatever roasty smoke character exists is almost completely muted. The bourbon doesn't feel like it'd be overpowering either, but it's really the flavor that is emphasized the most here. Mouthfeel is surprisingly thin for a barrel aged brew, well carbonated, some boozy burn from the bourbon. Overall, while certainly not a bad brew, it's a bit disappointing. Bourbon is the star here, with the base beer contributing little. I like me some bourbon, but this just isn't balanced very well and the base beer doesn't seem to stand up to the barrel aging process very well... B-
Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 11/24/12.
Opinions on BA and Ratebeer seem to be wildly divergent, but I'm definitely not the only one who thought the bourbon overpowered the base beer. I still like Stillwater quite a bit, and some of their other barrel aged beers seem to have a better reputation, so I'll be keeping my eye out for those.
Along with the recently mentioned Nøgne Ø, HaandBryggeriet is at the vanguard of the burgeoning Scandanavian craft brewing movement, bringing big, bold flavor to the land of trashy Euro-lagers, and turning quite a few heads in the process. Including beer dorks like myself, who have read the raves and eventually plunked down some hard earned dough to get my hands on some of their stuff. I don't know much about them and basically picked up this bottle solely on the general enthusiasm Jay has for their work, choosing their Norwegian Winter Ale because we are suckers for that sort of thing here at Kaedrin. Also, they only made 2160 bottles of this stuff, most of which was presumably hoarded by Norwegian beer nerds. How could I turn this down?
Bestefar is the Norwegian word for "grandfather", referring to the father of Father Christmas, who, if the label is any indication, possesses the magical power of beard growing. I guess this is not a surprise, as it's coming from the land of the vikings. And I'm happy to report that, in my limited Norwegian beer consumption, this is the "best by far" (as they say on the bottle):
HaandBryggeriet Bestefar - Pours a very dark brown color with 3-4 fingers of brown, fluffy head. Smells of roasted malt, chocolate, maybe even a little coffee (but nothing overpowering). Taste is deep roasted malts, with some chocolate and coffee and maybe just a bit of caramel. There's also a sorta elusive hop character that faintly chugs along in the background. Different flavors pop in and out of prominence as I'm drinking, though all those flavors are always there. But sometimes I'll take a sip, and I'll really feel the roast or the coffee. Next sip, I'll get more chocolate. And so on. Interesting. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, a little chewy, well carbonated but not quite effervescent (really hit the balance well here). Overall, this feels more along the lines of a Baltic Porter or Imperial Stout than a Winter Warmer, but who's complaining - it really does make a great cold-weather beer and it hit the spot perfectly. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/24/12. Batch: 384. Total bottles: 2160.
Let's just say that I can't wait to get my haands on some more of their stuff. Bryggeriet on, I say. Ok, enough puns, but I was quite impressed with these folks and will gladly seek out more of their beer.
At some point, I resolved to get my hands on more Cigar City beers, and they do distribute to this area... but their offerings have been scarce of late. I have no idea why, but when I saw this one about a month ago, I quickly bought it, not realizing that it was from last year! It's a big, dark beer, so it should be able to hold up to the time, but it's also got a big hop component which I'm assuming I lost out on a bit. In any case, this beer officially kicks off the Christmas beer season. Here at Kaedrin, we take these things seriously, so expect to see a boatload of other wintery themed beers in the near future. This particular offering falls into the "make it stronger" school of holiday beer thought (with maybe a bit of "do whatever the hell you want", just for good measure.) The label sez it's a mashup of barleywines and old ale winter-warmer styles, but with a big citrusy American hop presence. They call it a Floridian Winter Ale:
Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer - Pours a very deep, dark amber brown color with a solid 3 fingers of fluffy head, good retention, and plenty of lacing. Smells full of caramel and citrusy, piney hops. Taste is very sweet, dominated by rich caramel, brown sugar, and toffee tones. Big citrus and pine hop flavors lighten things up a bit, but those sugary caramel/toffee flavors rule the day. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, but very well carbonated, which really helps cut all the rich flavors a bit. That being said, there's a lot of mouth coating here, and a finish that lingers. Fortunately, these flavors are all right up my alley, so it works well enough in the end. The booze is well hidden in the taste, but you get that warming alcohol feeling in the belly soon enough. Overall, this is an interesting beer, along the lines of a barleywine or old ale, but kinda doing its own thing. A whole 750 gets to be a bit much, but I really enjoyed it. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/23/12. Bottled November 2011 for consumption in 2011/2012.
I still haven't tried a lot of Cigar City's brews, but I'll be sure to snag a few the next time they make their way up here... Anywho, lots of Christmas, holiday, and otherwise wintery offerings coming up in the near future, even including a few deliberately aged brews. Stay tuned!