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.

April Beer Club

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In the Beer Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The drinkers who investigate crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. They meet once a month at a local BYOB to sample beers. These are their stories:

beerclub-april13.jpg

The following notes, compiled by our resident stenographer, should be taken with a grain of salt as I'm pretty sure the stenographer was also drunk (as evidence, well, the stenographer was me). In order of drinking (not in order of picture, and sadly, we didn't get to all beers in the picture either):

  • Starr Hill The Love - A pretty straightforward but enjoyable hefeweizen. Super carbonated, overwhelming head, but a nice banana/clove weizen yeast character, highly drinkable stuff. B
  • The Captain's Brew House All American - This is actually a buddy's homebrew, and I arrived a bit late, so I only really got to try the yeasty dregs of the bottle, but it seemed pretty darn good - easily the equal of the previous beer. Would like to try it fresh sometime. Still, truly a beer worthy of Captain America (i.e. the namesake of my buddy's home brewery).
  • Ommegang Hennepin - You know, I've mentioned this beer numerous times on the blog, but I've never actually reviewed it. It's a really nice beer, one of my favorites, the beer that introduced me to the world of good beer. Nice Belgian yeast character, light, crisp, refreshing, quaffable stuff. I might be into chasing more funky varieties of saison these days, but it's always fun to revisit this beer and it holds a special place in my heart. A
  • Ommegang Rare Vos - The slightly maltier sibling of Hennepin, I also love this beer (which, yes, I've actually reviewed before), one of those beers that is also probably impacted by nostalgia for me, but it's just as good as ever. A
  • The Captain's Brew House Shameless IPA - Another homebrew, this one is actually a Northern Brewer Dead Ringer. It was very good, with a big malt backbone, but also a nice hop character. I'm not a huge fan of centennial single hopped IPAs, but this one was solid.
  • Kaedrin Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel continues to evolve, with an almost coffee-like character emerging right now (but not straight coffee, and not really a roast either, somewhere perhaps between those flavors). It's actually quite interesting. I'll be interested in trying this again in isolation, as beer club isn't exactly the best setting for my palate!
  • Trappistes Rochefort 8 - Truly a classic beer, one of my favorites of all time. Previously reviewed.
  • Boulevard Collaboration No. 3 - Stingo - A collaboration with Kaedrin favorite Pretty Things, this one goes a more English route, though it's souped up a bit more than that might lead you to believe. Nice subtle hints of breadiness and toffee with maybe a hint of dark chocolate. Didn't really strike a big chord with me, but it was certainly a well made beer. B
  • Starr Hill Double Platinum - A solid, if a bit boozy DIPA. Nice hop character, but the booze was more prominent than I expected for an 8.5% ABV beer. It was probably a little warmer than it should have been, but I'll leave it at a B for now.
  • Lost Abbey Red Poppy - Another of my contributions for the night, this is still a spectacular beer, and made a lot of waves with the attendees, even folks who don't normally go in for "beer". Previously reviewed, and still an A in my book.
  • Firestone Walker §ucaba - Very generously contributed by Kaedrin friend Dana (she's not a huge bourbon fan, but knows that some of us other beer club members are), this sucker is as good as ever. Previously rated and still an A in my book.
And that just about wraps up this episode of Law & Order & Beer. Fortunately, all As and Bs, so no District Attorneys needed. See you next month.

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon

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I give Clown Shoes guff for their lame marketing gimmickry and controversy, stuff like brewing a beer with Holy Water or mounting a half-hearted Presidential campaign (they chose "beer" as their running mate), but it's what's inside the bottle that counts. Unfortunately, the only beer they've made that really raised my eyebrows was Third Party Candidate... a collaboration with another brewery. Let's give them another chance, shall we?

Here we've got a big 12.5% ABV imperial stout. No gimmickry, no controversy, just a big beer with a quasi-portmanteau name coming from Black Unicorn mixed with Soul Dragon and a label that's actually respectable. Lets strap those clown shoes on and start this party:

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon - Pours a deep dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells like dessert; brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, chocolate, and a little roast. Really fantastic nose. Taste starts off with that roast character asserting itself right away, then softening into rich caramel and chocolate before the roast returns in the finish. Some hop character emerges in the finish too, a bitter balance to the big malts. Not quite as delicious as the nose had lead me to believe, but solid. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and a little chewy. Definitely a big beer, but it doesn't feel like a 12.5% monster either, not really much in the way of booziness at all. Perhaps because it's more of a sipper. Not exactly easy to drink, but for all the right reasons. Overall, a really solid RIS, and I liked it better than Vampire Slayer. It hasn't opened my third eye and brought about true enlightenment, but perhaps that is setting the bar too high. This is really nice anyway. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/20/13. Bottled 3/2012.

Again, this is a solid beer; consider my eyebrows mildly elevated, enough that I'd like to check out a couple more of their beers (that Porcine Unidragon sounds nice), but on the other hand, Clown Shoes doesn't really excite me too much either...

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze

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Ever since Oude Gueuze Tilquin made a believer out of me, I've been on the lookout for more lambics, with a keen eye to acquire some Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen (aka 3 Fonteinen, which I guess means 3 Fountains or somesuch). These are both classic lambic breweries that have experienced an explosion in demand while not really being able to increase production all that much. It doesn't help that something like an Oude Geuze takes at least 3 years to produce, not to mention other concerns (Cantillon, for instance, has pretty much maxed out capacity, and given the exigency of spontaneous fermenation, they can't just open a new brewery somewhere). Drie Fonteinen seems to be the easier to acquire of the two, but I still haven't seen any of it around in the past half a year or so. I finally broke down and ordered some direct from the source. This cost a pretty penny, but from what I understand, there've been issues with people charging outrageous prices for this stuff, so it was probably worth it (thanks to Rich for the link).

What we've got here is the "basic" Oude Geuze. Scare quotes because while 3 Fonteinen has their fair share of one-offs and rarities, this is still a blend of 3 year old, 2 year old, and 1 year old lambic, which is no joke to the tune of being a top 100 baller on BA. I've got fancier stuff stashed away for later, but let's not get too carried away. Here goes:

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze - Pours a deep golden color with half a finger of white, bubbly head. Smells of twangy funk and oak. Taste has lots of that funky Brett character, a pleasant sourness, and lots of oak too. Well balanced flavors here, with no component overpowering the other. It also evolves well as it warms. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, plenty of carbonation though it does seem a little light for the style. Has a more winelike character than I'm used to. Not that that's bad. Overall, I could get used to these Oud Geuze things. I don't like this as much as the aforementioned Tilquin, but I'll still plant a firm A- on this sucker.

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Cantillon Gueze tumbler on 4/19/13. Label sez: bottled on 21/12/2011. Good until 21/12/2021.

Up next in my summer of lambic will be some sort of Cantillon (probably the Kriek), but I've got a bottle of 3 Fonteinen Golden Blend that is just begging to be opened.

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter

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This one's going to live up to its name, so stay frosty folks: Dock Street describes this as a "Vatted porter blended with a small dose of Prince Myshkin Russian Imperial Stout. Aged in an Apple Brandy barrel for 3.5 years with brettanomyces and Cantillon wild yeasts!" So yes, this is certainly full of funk, both figuratively and literally. Lets see if all that funk translates to greatness:

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of big bubbled tan head that actually has decent retention. Nose is filled with funk and that twang that indicates sourness, quite nice, actually. Taste is less funky than the nose would have you believe, only a very light sourness, just a little oak, but enough that the roasty, toasty porter flavors don't really overpower the taste either. There's a slight vinous character that works well enough here, but isn't super prominent. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, with low carbonation, but nowhere near flat(definitely much more here than in the BA RIS or Barleywine, though it's still low overall). This has a sorta muted flavor profile, but it's also well balanced. Overall, a solid beer, not something that is going to weaken the knees, but really nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/13/13. Bottled 9/23/12.

Not quite the sour funk bomb that I was expecting, but really good, probably my favorite of their barrel aged treatments, but only because it had mildly appropriate carbonation (that BA Prince Myshkin would have been perfect if it wasn't almost completely still) and I still have one more to try (a Flemish Red, which actually has a pretty good reputation). Speaking of Dock Street, they're doing another bottle release on Saturday and I plan to pick up at least a couple bottles, so this Dock Street train will continue on.

Belgium In A Box

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In a moment of weakness (or strength, depending on your point of view), I finally broke down and ordered some Cantillon (amongst other rarities) direct from the source. I'd heard some good things about Belgium In A Box, and I'm happy to report that they're everything they're cracked up to be. As you might expect, shipping from Europe is an expensive proposition, but near as I can tell, Belgium in a Box is very fair about that sort of thing, and the packaging was great. Plus, I got an added bonus:

Cantillon Glassware

Yep, after unpackaging some great beer (and doing the requisite Gollum-like pose while chanting "My precious" for some), I noticed an extra little box, and inside was a very nice Cantillon Gueuze glass, free of charge. This was very generous of the proprietor, Kurt, so I was very grateful (and apparently I'm not alone in singing his praises). All of which is to say, expect things to get Loony (also ghostly and, uh, 3 Fonteineny) in the coming weeks as I work through this box.


Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot

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Sierra Nevada seems to have a weird reputation. On the one hand, most of us cut our teeth on the likes of their basic Pale Ale (and I suppose freshly minted beer dorks are digging into Torpedo these days), but these are mass produced beers that don't usually inflame beer nerd passions for very long. Don't get me wrong, that pale ale has long been a beacon of light in otherwise inhospitable beer wastelands like sports bars or wedding receptions, but we're creatures of novelty. Fortunately, Sierra Nevada groks that notion, and thus they manage to put out a lot of more experimental stuff alongside their standards. From what I gather, the really out-there stuff doesn't really go far and wide, but occasionally they make an appearance all the way out here on the east coast.

Bigfoot is one of their standards that is frequently recommended to nascent beer nerds. Want to try a rock solid American Barleywine? Get yourself a Bigfoot. Want to dip your feet into the realm of cellaring beer? Buy a 4 pack of Bigfoot and drink one per year. They've been putting this beer out every winter since the early 80s and it's widely available, so that's a big part of its reputation. Heck, one my local bottle shops is selling 4 year old bottles of the stuff.

Anyways, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada aged a batch of this stuff in old whiskey casks for over a year. The hops have mellowed and the oak adds that rich caramel and vanilla character, making this very different. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this sucker, though perhaps I shouldn't have been:

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - Whiskey Barrel-Aged - Pours a very striking clear amberish copper color with a finger of off white head. Smells strongly of citrusy, piney, resinous hops, with just a bit of the whiskey barrel character and some caramel too. As it warms up, the whiskey barrel becomes more prominent. Taste is filled with a rich caramel, vanilla, and oak character, with the hops emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish, which has a nice, balancing bitterness as well. Again, as it warms, the whiskey barrel aging components really open up and some booze makes itself know in the middle to finish as well. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, very smooth, with a full body and richness from the barrel aging. Overall, this is a superb BA barleywine. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.2% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 4/13/13. "2013 Expedition"

Definitely a worthwhile beer to seek out. It's not a Sucaba killer or anything, but it's damn good. I didn't have any trouble finding this on the shelf, but I gather that it went pretty quickly, so if you see one and it sounds like it might be up your alley, get it.

Logsdon Seizoen

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Logsdon absolutely blew me away with their Seizoen Bretta, a Brettanomyces doesed version of their base Seizoen (aka saison). I have perhaps drank these beers out of order, as what I drank last Friday was that base beer, a simple saison conditioned with pear juice and whatever awesome farmhouse yeast strains they're using (which seem closer to the Dupont strain than anything funky). That being said, I'm hard pressed to think of a non-funky saison that's this good, save for that style-defining Saison Dupont. Special thanks to Jay from Beer Samizdat for sending this one my way!

Logsdon Seizoen

Logsdon Seizoen - Pours a very pretty, very cloudy yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy head that has great retention and leaves plenty of lacing. Smells of classic Dupont yeast, very spicy, clove, light amount of pepper, some fruit. Taste follows the nose, huge Belgian/Dupont yeast character, sweet and spicy, perhaps more fruit character than Dupont, pears and banana. Mouthfeel is fantastic, highly carbonated and effervescent, but not overcarbonated, a little of that spiciness, and actually quite refreshing. Overall, a great example of classic saison in the Dupont style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of a goblet on 4/12/13. Bottle No. S16826. Best by: 11/2015.

This marks the last beer of my most recent trade with Jay, so I guess I better get on the ball and find my way towards some more interesting beers. Some interesting local stuff coming up, and maybe a trade with someone from Texas, so stay tuned. And I'll definitely be on the lookout for more Logsdon beers, in particular the Peche 'n Brett, which just sounds spectacular.

Southern Tier Oak-Aged Backburner

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I bought this bottle over a year ago and promptly cellared it, as I'd heard it wasn't particularly special and maybe laying it down for a while would improve things. It's been on the back burner (pun intended!) ever since, and I recently promoted it to the fridge, where I finally cracked it open. There are actually three versions of this beer, a regular one, this one, which is aged on oak somehow (I'm guessing just oak chips or cubes or somesuch), and a bourbon barrel one (which is, like, 4-5% more alcohol than this one). It's more of an American barleywine and age has certainly mellowed it out some, though it still wound up having a potent hop character (which I suspect was different but more prominent in a fresh bottle). Nothing to sneer at, but not a real eye opener either:

Southern Tier Oak-Aged Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale)

Southern Tier Oak-Aged Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale) - Pours a clear dark amber brown color with a finger of off white head. Robey tones. Smells of sugary, fruity malts, some crystal malt caramel, some piney, resinous hops, and maybe a hint of oak. Taste is very sweet, with a helping of fading, piney, resinous hops, and some light crystal malt character. Finish has some hop bitterness to it, and a faint hint of that oak too. Mouthfeel has a medium body and medium carbonation, a pretty medium all around feel. Slightly sticky feel, but nothing excessive. Overall, this is a pretty straghtforward, but pretty solid beer. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/6/13. 2012 vintage.

I don't have any Southern Tier in the immediate pipeline, but I definitely want to try out the bourbon barrel version of this, as well as Choklat, though I'm not exactly rushing for either of those.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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