Cantillon Gueuze

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What a good way to start the weekend. After a long week at work, coming home to a bottle of Cantillon makes me want to pump my fist triumphantly like Judd Nelson. Don't you forget about me.

What? Oh yeah, beer. So this is Cantillon's straight up organic Gueuze. You know the drill: a blend of various ages of oak barrel conditioned lambic (usually involving 1, 2, and 3 year old spontaneously fermented beer). Cantillon sez this beer represents half of the production of the brewery and that when cellared properly (i.e. not how I do it!) it will still have "an exceptional taste and flavour after 20 years." Hard to believe that anyone can hold on to a bottle for that long, as this is classic stuff:

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic-Bio

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a finger of tight white head and good retention. Smells of musty funk, yeast, a little oak, that twang that indicates sourness. Taste starts sweet, with some yeasty funk and spice hitting in the middle, followed by oak and a nice tart sourness intensifying through the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, smooth, some pleasant acidity that intensifies through the finish. Plenty of carbonation, a little more than 3F, but not as much as Tilquin. Overall, a fantastic, well balanced beer, not quite the revelation that the kriek was, but definitely on par with the best Gueuzes I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped and corked). Drank out of an entirely too big Tired Hands glass on 5/10/13. Label sez: Bottled 3 December 2012.

I have a 750 of this in my cellar, but I can guarantee it won't last 20 years. Probably not even within an order of magnitude. Glad I'm starting with the simple stuff though. Not sure how much of a difference there is between this "Bio" stuff and the regular Classic Gueuze, but it's still damn good. Anywho, I get the feeling minds will be blown as I start to branch out into their fancier offerings. Stay tuned.

Cigar City Nielsbohrium

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The name "Nielsbohrium" was suggested not once, but twice for newly discovered elements. Both times: rejected! The name comes from theoretical physicist Niels Bohr, and one of the rejected elements did end up being named after him (just Bohrium, sans the Niels). Well, 14 years later, the name Nielsbohrium finally found a home in, quite frankly, a much awesomer substance.

This beer is the third collaboration between Mikkeller and Cigar City, though technically it's a blend of their two previous creations: Dirac and Bohr, both imperial sweet stouts brewed with raisins and spices (apparently cinnamon). The blend was then aged in rum barrels and dubbed Nielsbohrium. I can't help but think that Paul Dirac (a theoretical physicist who actually collaborated with Bohr) is getting the short end of the stick in the naming department, but then the beer is awesome and I'm betting that Dirac and Bohr high-fived each other up in heaven when this beer was released in 2011. Huge thanks go to Dave for slinging this bottle my way, as it's a spectacular beer, even after 2 years:

Cigar City Nielsbohrium

Cigar City and Mikkeller Nielsbohrium - Pours a deep, dark, pitch black color with the faintest cap of brown head that quickly resolves into just a ring at the edge of the glass. Smells utterly fantastic, lots of oak and vanilla, some caramel, and a little of that boozy rum. Taste starts with rich caramel, very sweet, but then you get a hint of bitter roast, some spiciness, oak and vanilla, maybe some port-like notes (or dark fruit, presumably from the raisins), and that boozy rum hitting towards the finish. That rum barrel character is distinct, but still very close to a good bourbon barrel treatment, making for an interesting experience. Extremely complex, evolves well as it warms. Mouthfeel is very thick and heavy, viscous, full bodied, and chewy, with that richness that comes with proper barrel aging. An intense beer, I took my time with this one, and loved every second of it. Overall, this is a superb barrel aged beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Voodoo snifter on 5/4/13.

Well, that certainly went a lot better than my last Rum Barrel Aged beer! Cigar City continues to impress. I was a little worried about how old this one was, but I suspect it has held up remarkably well (I never had it fresh, but in my experience, sweet stouts age well).

Quick Hits

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When I started this blog, I was generally looking to write about every new beer I tried. I learned a lot, which was the point, but I'm also sure it was boring. Being the 3583756th blog to review Sierra Nevada Pale Ale isn't particularly constructive or, frankly, all that interesting. I don't want to read that, let alone write it and inflict it upon you. So what I'm getting at here is that I might not review every beer I try anymore, and I might do more posts like this, with just a few quick hits on mildly interesting beers I've had lately. In fact, this has been happening for a while now, and it's part of the reason I feel like everything I review is really good - I'm not putting much energy into those bad beers. Anyways, I'm sure you're devastated by all this, but I'll try to make up for it by drinking and reviewing interesting beer and maybe even writing things that aren't just reviews. So for now, let's just look at a few beers I've had over the past couple months, but which haven't inspired posts of their own:

Marooned On Hog Island - 21st Amendment

21st Amendment Marooned On Hog Island - Jay loved this and I always fall in love with 21st Amendment's artwork, but then, I'm not a particularly big fan of oyster stouts either. Something about the salinity that most of them have just doesn't work that great for me, though it can make for an interesting change of pace. This one pours a black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of sweet roasted malts along with something I can't quite place (brininess? Presumably the oysters...) Taste is straight on stout, sweet with plenty of roasted malt and that briny oyster character coming through towards the finish, which retains a bitter roast too. Mouthfeel is very nice, well carbonated, lighter bodied than I'd expect, but still substantial. Overall, it's a solid beer, but it didn't hit me in the gut like I wanted. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Duck-Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale - Man, Duck-Rabbit sounds like it'd be right up my alley - a brewery specializing in dark ales? Sign me up! And yet I'm almost invariably disappointed by their wares. Granted, I haven't had anything other than their regular lineup, but still. I like Scotch ales, but this one doesn't feel like the style at all. It pours a deep, dark brown, maybe copper color with a finger or two of fluffy light tan head. Smells rather odd, kinda like a soda. Caramel and fruit are there, but perhaps a uncommon yeast character is showing up as well. Taste is similar, plenty of caramel, some fruit, and that soda-like character from the nose. Mouthfeel is more carbonated than expected, and I'm guessing this has a higher attenuation than your typical scotch ale. I mean, it's not dry, but it's nowhere near what a Scotch ale is supposed to be either. Feels a little unbalanced, sloppy, though it's not at all unpleasant. Overall, I guess I'm just not feeling this one. Certainly not a bad beer, but a little disappointing and not really on-style. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Milwaukee Brewing Louies Resurrection

Milwaukee Brewing Louie's Resurrection - I got a pair of these beers in that trade that brought me a bunch of Three Floyds, and I had one right away that was pretty darn good. Not mind-blowing, but a really nice bourbon character mixed with a typical malty red ale. Solid stuff, but then I think I let the other one sit around for a bit too long. It pours a brownish amber color with a finger of off white head. Smells of toffee, caramel, light bourbon. Taste hits with that toffee and caramel right away, very sweet start, rich flavors, mild bourbon character, some euro hop flavor. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, very easy drinking. Overall, a very nice beer. Not going to expand consciousness or anything, but good. B+ (fresh) or B (not so fresh)

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Green Flash West Coast IPA - This one would probably qualify as a boring review of a regular beer, but it happens to be my first Green Flash beer ever, which is surprising given their wide availability in the area. Will have to seek out more from them. This one pours a deep orange color with a finger of white head, plenty of lacing. Smells like an IPA! Lots of citrus and pine hops. Taste follows the nose, a little more crystal malt character than I was expecting from a "West Coast" IPA, but as an east coaster, this does not bother me at all. Again with the citrus and pine, maybe some herbal spice too, nice bitter finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, crisp, easy drinking stuff. Overall, solid beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout - This one came to be via my first BIF trade (which is something I'll explain in a later post). Pours a very dark brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, light brown head. Smells like a sweet stout, caramel malts and some roast apparent, but also maybe some floral, citrusy hops. Taste starts sweet, with a light roastiness emerging quickly and lasting through the finish. Some floral and citrus hops make themselves know, but they're not aggressive, just adding a nice complexity and balancing bitterness to the brew. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, with a slightly yet pleasant astringent character, medium bodied. Overall, it's an above average stout, more along the lines of what I look for in a stout. It didn't blow my mind, but it's a worthy brew. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

So there you have it. Tomorrow, we return to the realm of amazing barrel aged monsters, so grab your broad sword and strap on a shield, things are going to get elemental up in here.

Fantôme Brise-BonBons!

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Last week, I got an email from some guy named Dany. Oh, it's the brewer from Fantôme, and he ran across my recent review of Fantôme Saison, a beer that has been inconsistent, but great (he said it's not always perfect, but he doesn't want to do the "same basic commercial work, like ... too much belgian brews"). We exchanged a few emails, and Dany recommended that I try out Brise-BonBons, which he said "USA amateurs" seemed to enjoy because it's more hoppy than your typical Belgian stuff. Fortunately, I just happened to get my hands on a bottle of this stuff, so I cracked one open this weekend, and yep, this one is competing for the very best Fantôme I've ever had. As the bottle sez:

With joy and a little bit of mischief, Fantôme brewer Dany Prignon dedicates this very bitter beer to all of the many varieties of brise-bonbons - literally, ball-breakers - in the world. Specifically, this beer is meant for wise-guys, braggarts, pains-in-the-ass, muck-rakers, troublemakers, know-it-alls, stuffed-shirts, blow-hards and bores, as well as nut-cracking, wind-bag, prattling-on, self-appointed experts on everything, and nose-in-the-air snobs, convinced they can do anything better than you. Dany intended to make a beer too bitter for a normal person to enjoy. The problem is, everyone loves it! Guess we're all just a bunch of brise-bonbons sometimes...
So I guess it's time to break some balls:

Fantôme Brise-BonBons!

Fantôme Brise-BonBons! - Pours a cloudy yellow gold color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells deeply of funky Brettanomyces, lots of earthy aromas, a little yeasty spice, but also a sorta brightness to it. A kinda lemony bubblegum aspect, but, uh, better than that probably sounds. Perhaps even some hops up in the mix. Really nice nose, actually. Taste starts off sweet and spicy, like a Dupont-style saison, but then that funky Brett moves in, bring that earthiness and maybe some bright lemony tartness too. It finishes with a really well matched dry bitterness, presumably from the hops. Mouthfeel is perfectly carbonated (effervescent might be an overstatement, but it's got a high carbonation), crisp on the palate, refreshing, and dry. Overall, this is right up there with my favorite Fantôme experiences, fantastic beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/3/13.

If I may name-drop Dany again, he also recommended I try some Magic Ghost, that saison brewed with green tea that looks like straight-up ecto-cooler. I just happen to have recently acquired a bottle of that stuff as well, so keep an eye out for a review in a few weeks.

Williamsburg Coffeehouse Stout

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I was mightily impressed by Williamsburg's bourbon forward barrel aged porter, and this Coffeehouse Stout, while perhaps not as storied, was a nice change of pace considering that I've been hitting up big, burly Imperial Stouts and Barleywines a little too consistently lately.

As I've mentioned many times before, I'm not a big coffee drinker, but I'm starting to get a taste for the stuff when it's included in beer. In this case, it's a milk stout brewed with coffee, and as Rich commented, it really does kinda lend the impression of coffee with sugar and cream (I mean, it's still clearly a beer, but this mixture of roasty beer, lactose, and coffee really seems to mix together well...) Thanks to Dave for hooking this one up for me... Check it:

Williamsburg Coffeehouse Stout

Williamsburg AleWerks Coffeehouse Stout - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of tan head. Smells of... yes, coffee. A little roast and a little sweetness too. Taste is full of roast, with coffee quickly showing up and doing its thing through to the finish. In fact, I feel like that coffee sorta softens the intensity of the roast, which is actually nice. There's also a character I associate with milk stouts (ah, yes, this actually is a milk stout, so that makes sense). Not a lot of bitterness here, but it's not cloying either - well balanced stuff. Mouthfeel is where this really shines - it's very smooth, velvety, creamy, again with the balance here. Overall, this is a really good coffee stout. Not being a big coffee guy, I can appreciate it, but if you're a coffee fan, you might think of this as being spectacular. Me, I'll give it a B+.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/13.

I'm now keeping an eye out for Café Royale, which is a souped up and barrel aged version of the Coffeehouse Stout, which I think would actually really work well.

Cigar City Jai Alai

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According to Wikipedia, the Basque Government promotes jai alai as "the fastest sport in the world because of the balls". Insert innuendo joke here. Good, glad we got that out of the way. I'm a little surprised that I haven't had this yet; I've had ample opportunities, just never pulled the trigger... which is weird, because Cigar City is one of those brewers I'm always keeping an eye out for. Well, I finally got me a can of this stuff, so lets chug a beer and ball really hard (if you're so inclined, feel free to insert whatever innuendo you want here).

Cigar City Jai Alai

Cigar City Jai Alai - Pours a deep, dark golden color with visible sediment and a finger of white head with decent retention. Smells fantastic, bright citrus, juicy pineapple, a little additional piney resin. Taste starts sweet, with some crystal malt, that citrus hop character quickly emerging and morphing into resin and pine. There's a balanced bite of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of medium bodied, tightly carbonated, almost creamy but also juicy. Overall, this is one really well crafted IPA, but I feel like the bar's been set pretty high on that front. As shelf beers go, it's great, but it can't quite compete with the likes of Tired Hands or Hill Farmstead. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/12/13. Canned on 15 JAN 2013.

I mentioned Tired Hands and Hill Farmstead, and I realized a while ago that part of the reason their hoppy beers are so spectacular is that I always have them when they are super fresh. The same goes for a bunch of other hop bombs, like Pliny the Younger or Hopslam. I'm not going to claim I have a great palate, but it's tough for a 3 month old can to compete with that sort of thing. I guess what I'm saying here is that I need to down a six pack of Jai Alai. You know, just to make sure. In the meantime, I've got an interesting looking Cigar City beer aged in rum barrels burning a whole in my fridge. Look for a review next week.

A few months ago, Michigan's Arcadia Ales put out a couple of big beers aged for 22 months in bourbon barrels. Rumor has it that they were Pappy Van Winkle barrels, which apparently imbues it with mystical healing powers. Or something. They had me at bourbon, but I'm easy. And to cement the deal, they waxed the bottle. Industrial grade stuff too. Had to break out the chisel and hammer, but I got there*:

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a cap of bubbly tan head that resolves into a ring that hangs around for a while. Smells strongly of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, oak. Given the nose, I'm surprised at how well the taste retains its roasty character, a little char, and don't get me wrong, lots of bourbon and booze here too. Mouthfeel has more carbonation than expected, not overcarbonated or anything, but its got a bite to it. Or maybe that's the booze, which is certainly present and potent. Overall, a very nice bourbon barrel stout. I may have rated this higher if I hadn't had that amazing barrel aged 2 Live Gran Cru beer earlier in the day. But B+ is nothing to sneeze at either, and that's where I landed on this.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz. waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/13.

So I've also got a bottle of Barrel Aged Cereal Killer, a barleywine that is supposedly even better than this sucker. Review is coming soon. I just have to, you know, drink it first.

* Note to self: Don't wear an orange t-shirt whilst taking pictures of beer. Jeeze, look at that reflection.

Dock Street Devil's Double IPA

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As I slowly explore the world of trading, I find myself in the need of interesting bottles of local beer from time to time. Dock Street doesn't have a trendy reputation, but they put out solid product, and their bottle releases are low stress affairs and their last release aligned perfectly with a trade I was setting up, so I took a trip to the brewpub and picked up a couple bottles of Prince Myshkin RIS (the regular version, not the near-flat Barrel Aged one). While there, the bartender upsold me on this newly released Double IPA (yes, I'm a weak man).

Now, I've got plenty of beer to drink over here, but I've also reached a point of my beer nerdery where IPAs have to be consumed fresh. For you hopheads out there, this one's made with Simcoe, Citra, and Sorachi Ace. So let's buckle up and hope we don't get so drunk the Devil asks us to double for him, like in that horrible movie.

Dock Street Devils Double IPA

Dock Street Devil's Double IPA - Pours a cloudy dark orange color with a couple fingers of off white head, lots of lacing. Smells of big citrus and pine hops, a little resinous, and an additional hop aroma I'd call "green" (this is definitely the Sorachi Ace making itself known). Taste leans towards the east coast IPA, lots of robust crystal malt character providing a backdrop for those big hop flavors. More resinous pine than citrus, but the unique thing here is that "green" herbal character, like cilantro or dill or something (again, this is clearly the Sorachi Ace hops throwing their muscle around, holding their own with the more popular Simcoe and Citra). Mouthfeel is medium bodied, ample carbonation but very smooth. Goes down easy. Overall, a well done DIPA, reminiscent of DFH 90 Minute, though those Sorachi Ace hops differentiate it big time. An interesting change of pace from your typical DIPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/26/13 and 4/27/13. Bottled 2/5/13 (may have been 3/5, label got cut off a bit).

So Dock Street continues a streak of solid brews that nevertheless feel a bit underachieving. That being said, I may have saved the best for last, their Flemish Red sounds pretty darn good. Will probably get to that in the coming months...

Cantillon Kriek

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There aren't many traditional lambic breweries, but Brasserie Cantillon appears to be the most well regarded of them all. Founded in 1900, very little has changed since then. There's been a few new generations of head brewers and a shift towards using certified organic ingredients, but otherwise, most of the brewery is the same as it ever was, right down to the cobwebs (which are not removed; spiders keep the area clear of flies and mosquitoes which can provoke bad infections... as opposed to the, uh, good infections they get with spontaneous fermentation).

The Kriek is an annual production. Every summer, local cherries are brought in, macerated, and placed in barrels which are then filled with aged lambic (they say it's about 1.5 years old at that point). The sugars in the cherries restarts fermentation. After another spell of aging in the barrels, the flavor (and color) of the cherries becomes integrated with the beer, which is then bottled and bottle conditioned for a few months.

This is my first Cantillon. I figured I'd start with something "basic" and work my way up from there, but damn, this stuff is amazing and totally met expectations, which were rather high. I have a feeling that hunting for Loonz will be a new favorite pastime. Now, I didn't have a coolship or Solo cup, but I think I did alright:

Cantillon Kriek

Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio - Pours a striking deep red color (robey tones, you know the drill) with a finger of pink head, decent retention too. Smells very funky, a little earthy, musty, lots of cherry, maybe even a little oak too. Taste starts sweet, with a well rounded fruity tartness emerging quickly, lots of cherry flavors mingled with a strong oak character. Absolutely delicious. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, crisp, and clean. Medium bodied, with some richness I'm going to associate with the oak. Not very acidic at all, though enough so that the sourness is felt. Overall, this is fantastic. Totally lives up to expectations, really beautiful beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/26/13. Bottled: 1 February 2013.

Well, I have a feeling that I'm going to have to start grading Cantillon on a curve. That or I'm guessing I'll need to bust out some A+ ratings sometime soon.

Voodoo Barrel Room Collection

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Voodoo has a tiny little barrel room and recently held two releases. One out at their brewery in Meadville, PA, and one in the Philly area. The Philly area one was held yesterday, and looky at what I found:

Voodoo Barrel Room Collection

Well hello, my pretties. Gotta love the look of waxed bottles. The three small bottles are Black Magick (big stout somewhere on the order of 15% ABV) variants (one aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, one in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, and one in Laird's Apple Brandy barrels), the next three bombers are Big Black Voodoo Daddy (one of Voodoo's staple beers, a still rather large 12.5% stout) aged in the same three barrel types. And lastly, another of Voodoo's staple beers, Gran Met, a Belgian style tripel aged in Laird's Apple Brandy barrels. Supposedly, these suckers stayed in the barrels a little longer than planned as Voodoo was opening a brewpub and availability of the packaging line was maxed out.

Anywho, the Philly area release was held at the Blue Dog Tavern in Chalfont, PA (i.e. north of the city). I got there a little over an hour before opening, but while there was a sizable crowd ahead of me, I was there in plenty of time to ensure that I got a bottle of each barrel room beer (some variants only had 72 bottles available at this release). About a half hour before the doors opened, the staff passed out wristbands so that they could do a "deli-style" release - they call your number, and you go to a table to pick up your allotment. Very orderly and convenient, and it allowed me to sit at the bar and try a couple Voodoo rarities, like this beauty:

Voodoo 2 Live Gran Cru Greatest Hits - Vol. 1

They call this stuff 2 Live Gran Cru Greatest Hits - Vol. 1, a blend of Big Black Voodoo Daddy and Black Magick aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 15 months. Don't mind if I do. Massive bourbon and oak in both the nose and taste, but plenty of malt to balance that out, leading to that great caramel, vanilla, and oak character I love so much. Clocking in at 13% ABV, it's got a pretty big boozy component too. Big, chewy stuff, smooth with a big boozy bite. Fantastic stuff, and hopefully an omen of what those bottles will taste like. It was a small sample, but I'll give it an A- for now...

My cellar is getting crowded again, and I've even got more stuff coming. It's going to be a fun summer.

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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.

Recent Comments

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