Exhibit 'A' The Cat's Meow

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It seems like I've been covering this sort of thing a lot lately. What do you know, a new Northeast brewery that I've never heard of making great IPAs, will wonders never cease? This is far from Exhibit 'A' in the ongoing trial of the People vs. Northeast IPA (both in timeframes and quality), but it's probably a worthwhile exhibit that is worth pursuing if you're in Massachusetts and feel doing some courtroom sketching or something.

Objection! Speculation. Overruled... but I better be going somewhere with this.

And I am: This appears to be a flagship IPA of sorts, a relatively straightforward NEIPA made with Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops. Your Honor, I present The Cat's Meow:

Listen, I inadvertently took a picture of the back of the can, which shows the cats ass and tail and I want to pretend like thats cool and everything and that I totally meant to do that but in reality I did not. I know you are not really reading this though, so it is probably not an issue. Or maybe it is. Oh no, what have I done.

Exhibit 'A' The Cat's Meow - Pours a hazy yellow orange color with a finger of head that has good retention and leaves some lacing. Smells nice, tropical citrus and dank pine hops. Taste is sweet, with that mango citrus hop character coming through in the middle, followed by some more dank flavors and a little bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed, medium bodied, pretty easy going. This was great when I first poured it, but seemed to lose a little steam as I drank. Overall, this is a good IPA. Not quite top tier, but if I lived in Framingham, MA, it'd be a solid go-to (perhaps at intervals with lagers from that other Framingham brewery, Jack's Abby). Worth checking in on if you're in the area. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a snifter glass on 7/16/17. Canned: 6/29/17 (I think? Hard to read...)

Pretty good for right now. Dammit, I should have said "right meow", what's wrong with me?

Burley Oak Quadruple Feature

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Every summer, I find myself vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland. I'm not one of those people who go to the beach every weekend (I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. /Vader), but I enjoy it every once in a while, and it's a way to get out of my Philly rut in many ways. Including beer! A couple of years ago I discovered Burley Oak Brewing, just a hop and a skip away in Berlin, MD, and it just so happened that this year's OCMD trip perfectly coincided with a can release of four different beers.

Such releases come in many flavors. There are infamous national attractions, like Dark Lord day, that are more like festivals, but the grand majority of releases at most breweries tend to be relatively mellow affairs. You maybe go a little early and wait in line, but often even that level of committment isn't needed. Then there is a kooky tier of relatively small breweries that nevertheless generate an insane demand. Local Kaedrin favorite Tired Hands falls into that category, and while their releases have calmed down somewhat on the whole, they still get insane for certain beers (notably Milkshake variant cans and Parageusia bottles). There are some other PA breweries that generate a lot of angst over releases (i.e. Voodoo, Bullfrog, etc...) but in general, these are the events that make the normals think that beer nerds are degenerates (and, well, they're not wrong).

All of which is to say, I was expecting something akin to a low-level Tired Hands release for this Burley Oak event (i.e. people in line, but nothing bonkers). A friend cautioned me to get there two hours early, which was certainly a surprise for me. I've had a bunch of Burley Oak beer in the past, but with all due respect, nothing that warranted this sort of crazy. Then again, a big release of popular beers on a holiday weekend is just asking for trouble. Fortunately, the timing of my independently planned departure from OCMD perfectly aligned with that recommendation, so that's what ended up happening. And I'm glad it did, because that line got all kinds of stupid as time went on (it basically encircled the entire brewery and parking lot). Let's dive in:

Burley Oak 100

Burley Oak 100 - Double IPA tripple dry-hopped with Mosaic and named after an emoticon? My kinda stupid. - Pours a murky golden yellow color with a finger of white, dense head. Smells nice, lots of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple, and the like. Taste follows the nose, lots of tropical fruit, juicy citrus stuff, mild finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well but tightly carbonated. Overall, this is the best Burley Oak IPA I've had, it compares favorably to the typical NEIPA purveyors, worth waiting in line. And I've had a couple more of these over the past couple of weeks and damn, it's only grown in my estimation. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/17. Canned: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)

Burley Oak Blueberry Strawberry J.R.E.A.M.

Burley Oak Blueberry Strawberry J.R.E.A.M. - Sour ale with lactose conditioned on blueberries and strawberries. Incidentally, the acronym stands for "Juice Rules Everything Around Me", just in case you were wondering. - Pours a cloudy but bright, almost luminous maroon color with a finger of bubbly head that doesn't last long. Smells of bright citrus and a little Berliner-like twang. Taste is very sweet, those strawberries an blueberries coming through in a sorta generic jammy way (not sure I'd pick them both blind, but I might get one), a nice lactic tartness pervades, especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, moderate to high acidity, but nothing untoward. Overall, a nice little tart ale here, though it kinda begs for oak. B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/1/17. Released: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)

Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M.

Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M. - Sour ale with lactose conditioned on apricots and raspberries. - Pours a cloudy but bright reddish orange color with a finger of quickly dissipating head. Smells more of raspberry than apricot, jammy, a little of that lactic funk. Taste hits that raspberry pretty hard (with hints of apricot, but again, I doubt I'd be able to place that blind), very sweet, jammy, with a little less sourness, though it's still pretty puckering. Mouthfeel is rich, medium to full bodied, well carbonated, less acid than the other variant, but still moderate to high. Overall, I like this better than the blueberry/strawberry, but it still sorta begs for some oak to leaven things a little. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/2/17. Released: 7/1/17.

Burley Oak Coffee N' Cream

Burley Oak Coffee N' Cream - Cream ale with Burley Oak's house made cold brew coffee. Hey look, this is apparently the first time I've written about a cream ale. Score? - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of white head. Smells strongly of roast coffee and not much else. Taste hits that coffee flavor pretty hard too, an underlying sweetness peeks out a bit too. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and easy to drink. Overall, this is not a beer for coffee-ambivalents like myself, but if you do like coffee, you may enjoy. For me, I'll give it a C+ because I'm the worst.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/17. Released on 7/1/17.

So there you have it. I probably won't be going to far out of my way for these releases, but there is that annual trip to OCMD, so there's always a chance!

Siren Maiden 2015

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England's Siren brewing started luring unsuspecting and wary travelers to their doom a few years ago, and the first beer they brewed was a big American-style barleywine - their "maiden" voyage, if you will. They promptly stashed the result away in various wine and spirits barrels and got a crew together to come up with a harmonious blend at the end of the next year. They never fully empty the barrels, though, leaving at least 10% left and refilling the remainder with fresh Maiden for the following year's batch. A sorta hybrid solera type system going on here, and I find myself reminded of a few big American efforts along similar lines. The solera-esque nature recalls the Bruery's Anniversary beers, the same-beer-in-different-expressions approach is like FiftyFifty's Grand Cru, and the whole Anniversary blend thing reminds me of Firestone Walker's Anniversary beers... Pretty good company, if you ask me.

This particular edition is the third in the series. About 50% is fresh American-style barleywine, the rest was the previous year's batch aged in a variety of barrels: 33% Auchentoshan (non-peated Scotch that has a reputation as a lighter whisky that makes a good component in blends), 21% Red Wine, 15% Jack Daniels, 9% Pedro Ximenez, 9% Madeira, 4.33% Tequila, 4.33% Glentauchers and 4.33% Banyuls. I've been somewhat lax at covering the whole British beer scene on this blog (hey, I've got a crapton of American breweries to keep up with here, give me a break), but this is the sort of thing that makes me want to succumb to that Siren song:

Siren Maiden

Siren Maiden 2015 - Pours a dark amber-hued brown color with a finger of off-white head. Smells of dark fruit, toffee, oak, with a little whisky and wine character coming through. Taste starts off rich and sweet, with some oak, fruit, and toffee kicking in, but dries up a little towards the finish, which has the remnants of a bitter hop bite. As it warms, more of that dank, aged hop character emerges. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied up front, but thins out a little in the finish, a little booze heat, but nothing untoward, medium to high carbonation, but on point. Overall, a damn fine, complex barleywine. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 7/7/17. Vintage: 2015.

I may have to dig a little deeper into Siren's catalog, as this was quite pleasant. Would love to try other vintages to see how much the differing blends and barrels contribute.

The Session #125: Mark SMaSH!

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session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Mark Lindner SMaSH! No, he's not the Hulk, he's talking about "single malt and single hop" beers. Frankly, this is not a topic I'm particularly well versed in, so I'll just vamp on some of his questions:

Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, ...) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?

This does appear to be trendy amongst a relatively small segement of homebrewers, but I wouldn't peg it as a more general beer trend. I've apparently had a couple of these without even realizing it, which says something. It feels like a trend requires people to be seeking out these beers because they are SMaSH, which isn't something I see much of...

What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally. Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?

There are four main ingredients of beer (water, barley, hops, yeast), so strictly controlling two of them reduces the variables, making it an interesting experiment, especially when part of a series. This can go multiple directions, highlighting a particular malt, hop, or even yeast or water, depending on what you vary from batch to batch. This does sorta depend on having a series of SMaSH beers to compare, but comparative drinking is something I enjoy and can be illuminating for novices or experienced lushes alike.

Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a "style," however you define that?

The great thing about niches is that you can never have too many, so even if I doubt that this will break out into the mainstream, this has a place (again, as mentioned above, doing a series of these could be illuminating). This isn't really a "style" unto itself though, as evidenced by the fact that you can find wildly divergent SMaSH profiles out there (then again, it's not like some established styles are particularly coherent - I'm looking at you, saison!)

Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.

I've only had a handful (that I know of) and they've been decent enough, though I can't think of anything that really melted my face. That being said, I'd be willing to bet I had a great one that I didn't even realize was SMaSH...

Do you brew them?

I have never brewed a SMaSH beer. I wouldn't rule out the possibility and I like the idea of working within restraints, but at the same time, I don't brew often enough to really get the most out of the idea.

Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)

Absolutely! You could achieve this sort of thing with various lager styles (maybe a Kolsh?) or Belgian styles. In fact, as mentioned above, I'm virtually certain that I have had SMaSH beers that would fall under those styles that simply don't advertise the simplicity of their recipes (or that weren't made with SMaSH in mind, but nonetheless qualify as SMaSH anyway).

Interboro Premiere IPA

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Interboro Spirits & Ales continues NYC's beer renaissance. Less than a year old and I feel like they've joined their neighbors like Other Half, SingleCut, and Grimm (amongst others) as brewers to keep an eye on. Not to shabby for a region that used to be a bit of a wasteland for good beer (if my last trip to NYC a few months ago is any indication, they are greatly improved on all fronts, though still not where you'd expect for a city that big).

Premiere IPA is a well executed, clean, straightforward take on the style, but hopping it with Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy certainly gives it a sheen that beer nerds can latch onto:

Interboro Premiere IPA

Interboro Spirits & Ales Premiere IPA - Pours a hazy pale yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a while. Great aroma of tropical citrus with some floral notes and a hint of pine in the background. Taste isn't quite as intense as the aroma, but it's got that same citrus and floral one/two punch, with a nice light but dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is perfectly carbed, light to medium bodied, moderately dry, quaffable. Overall, this is one damn fine IPA. Not a NEIPA, but not everything has to be, you know? A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/17.

NYC is killing it. Many thanks to fellow Beer Nerd Pete for gifting this can to me. Who knows if or when I'll get more, but I'll certainly be keeping my eyes open for moar of their wares.

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

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I was impressed by Florida's Barrel of Monks when I sampled their Three Fates Tripel last year and have finally managed to procure more of their wares. Their wheelhouse appears to be straightforward Belgian styles or Trappist ales that don't inspire as much beer nerd enthusiasm as freaky sours or barrel-aged pastry stouts and the like. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, but it is genuinely nice to take a step back and try a straightforward Belgian Tripel or Dubbel. So when these two bottles came my way, I was ready.

First up is actually something a little more trendy that might twixt beer dorks' nethers more than the straightforward stuff. Monk de Soleil (Monk of the Sun?) certainly starts off as a simple Belgian Pale Ale, but it then undergoes a secondary fermentation with added Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and then endures some dry-hopping. This collaboration with 7venth Sun Brewery certainly hits that funky sweet spot that beer geeks crave:

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with lots of head that sticks around for a bit. Smells fantastic, great earthy funk mixed with fruity esters and a little clove. Taste hits that funky Brett note pretty well, plenty of spicy phenols, a little bit of that fruit. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated and dry. Overall, this is a great little Brett beer. A

Beer nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/17. Released 4/29/17.

Next, we've got a humble Belgian Dubbel. Not much else to it, except that like their Tripel, this is a very well executed take on a style most American brewers don't even try, let alone do well...

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno - Pours a dark amber brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, that trademark dubbel raisins and fruity esters, spicy phenols, clove. Taste has a great sweet and spicy character, a little caramelized dark fruit, raisins, plums, maybe a hint of toast in the background. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated, relatively dry, making this dangerously quaffable. Overall, rich, c omplex, again one of the better American takes on a vaunted, traditional Belgian style. A-

Beer nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 6/27/17.

So these folks are 3 for 3. Not necessarily lighting the beer world on fire with trendy stuff, but I really appreciate the well executed Belgian styles.

Civil Society Double Feature

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It's a story as old as time. Or, like, 30 years. Something like that. Beer drinkers get fed up with expensive non-local beer, start homebrewing, get good at it, recognize the lack of a local brewing scene, and resolve to start up their own brewery.

Jupiter, Florida, probably most famous for housing a few baseball teams' spring training facilities, now has a growing hophead scene thanks to Civil Society brewing. When Kaedrin friend and beverage compatriot Steve moved to Florida, he was a little disappointed by the IPA scene (especially having been a fan of the vaunted Northeast IPA), but since these fellas have shown up, he's been having a better time of it. Let's dive into a couple of their common offerings, for a hoppy society is no doubt a civil society:

Civil Society Fresh

Civil Society Fresh - Pours a cloudy, pale yellow color with a finger or two of white, tight head. Smells great, lots of juicy citrus, a little pine. Taste is sweet, juicy, fruity, citrus hops, a little pine, just enough bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, one damn fine NEIPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/23/17. No date on can, but I am assured that it was 1-2 weeks old.

Civil Society Blondes Make Me Hoppy

Civil Society Blondes Make Me Hoppy (Citra) - Bonus points for not putting a buxom blonde woman on the label! Pours a cloudy pale yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head that leaves a bit of lacing. Smells great, lots of citrus and a more floral component than Fresh. Taste hits that citrus and floral hop note hard, finishes with a more bitter bite. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, crushable. Overall, a damn fine sessionable hop bomb. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/24/17. No date on can, but I am assured that it was 1-2 weeks old.

These are not the first Civil Society beers I've had, and they hopefully won't be the last. In the same league with the latest wave of NEIPA brewers, for sure.

Sapsquatch

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Southern Tier seems to have fallen from the vanguard of the beer nerd scene (you can only drink so much Pumking, you know), but offerings like this could certainly make some waves with jaded dorks on the prowl. It's an English style barleywine aged in a trio of barrels. A third of the blend was aged in bourbon barrels, another third in bourbon barrels that once held maple syrup, and the final third aged on charred oak staves used in Southern Tier's distilling program to create whiskey.

There's a large community dedicated to investigating the existence of the legendary sasquatch, but did you know that they refer to their investigations as "squatching". I'd call it kinda dumb, but then, I wait in lines for beer. Fortunately not this beer, though. Aged for 12 months and clocking in at a healthy 14.9% ABV, it's a beer worthy of Bigfoot. Or at least something to bring on your latest squatching excursion.

Southern Tier Sapsquatch

Southern Tier Barrel Works Series: Sapsquatch - Pours an almost clear, very dark amber brown color with a cap of short lived light tan head. Smells fantastic, booze soaked raisins, rich caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste hits similar notes, but is not quite as complex as the nose. Sweet, but not cloying at all. Mouthfeel is rich, medium-to-full bodied, perfect carbonation, some lingering but pleasant booze. Balance isn't a word you'd use for a beer like this, but maybe proportional works. Overall, this is really damn good. A high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 6/23/16. Bottled: April 2017.

I've never been particularly in love with Southern Tier, so this was a welcome treat. It seems pretty widely available too, which is nice (I would totally grab another of these for a rainy day). There's supposed to be another Barrel Works beer called Monstrous that looks like a straightforward bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, my kinda beer. It's nice to see these folks stepping up their game (and with a minimum of gimmicky adjuncts).

Black Project Reheat

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So there was this brewery in Denver called Former Future Brewing. They put out your standard brewery starter kit of beers, like IPAs and porters and whatnot, but they had this top-secret, backroom operation where they were experimenting with capturing native microflora and yeasts by using coolships. Soon enough, beers from this "Black Project" started to take off... so much so that at this point, Former Future is no more, and Black Project has become the heart of the operation.

This particular offering almost symbolically resembles the transition of the brewery. There's a barrel aged sour that is refermented on locally sourced wine grapes called Supercruise... but instead of rinsing and steaming the emptied barrels (as they'd normally do), they simply added freshly coolshipped wort to the Supercruise "dregs", and allow the whole thing to referment and mesh. The result? Pretty tasty stuff, so lets reheat some leftovers and pop the cork on this sucker:

Black Project Reheat

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales Reheat - Pours an almost pinkish hued golden color with a half finger of fizzy white head that is short for this world. Smells nice and musty, funky, vinous fruit, a little oak. Taste is sweet and sour, vinous fruit, oak, and moar sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, lowish carbonation, moderate to high acidity. Overall, it's a rock oak aged American wild... with more carbonation, this could rate higher than a B+ but that's where it's at for now...

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 6/17/17. Bottled on: ? 09 2017 (can't read that first number). Label also has "CF-CS" printed on the front too, not sure what that means.

I had acquired another of Black Project's beers along with this one, but I shared Rocket Sled with some friends so I didn't take detailed notes (it was more sour and better carbed, with a dry hopped kick to it...) and darn, I don't have any of these Black Project beers left... But I'll surely find ways to procure moar of this stuff, because these were good...

de Garde Anianish

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I love pretty much everything I've had from de Garde, but I must admit that I'm starting to get a sorta samey vibe from much of what I've managed to procure. Sure, those fruited Bu variants (especially the imperial ones) are making waves and are obviously diverse in terms of flavor, but there also seems to be an unending series of 5%ish tart saison/American wild hybrids that are delicious, but again, samey. This isn't the worst thing in the world, of course, and making consistent wild ales is an achievement in and of itself. Plus, as I continue to evolve as a beer dork, this sort of consistent, approachable, 5% offering is more appealing than ever. It's just a lot easier to write about something that blows your mind (or the reverse situation of a beer that is a disaster). Blogger problems, bro.

It's probably also worth noting that a low-level trading dilettante like myself doesn't really pull the truly face-melting offerings from these Tillamook ballers. Not that I'm bitter. Which is usually, like, an ironic statement, but I'm genuinely not bitter, because this is some really tasty stuff, and as these things go, it's still in the top tier. It's just that there's not much to say about this wild farmhouse ale aged in oak with unspecified fruit & spices. Except that I've now written a couple of paragraphs about how I don't have much to say, so, um, let's just get to the beer:

de Garde Anianish

de Garde Anianish - Pours a golden orange color with a finger of white head that sticks around for a while. Smells of saison spice and fruity esters, a little bit of oak and funk. Taste is sweet and spicy, with lots of tart, vinous fruit, not quite sour but enough of a bite. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and tasty. Overall, this is some great stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 6/3/17.

No more De Garde on hand at chez Kaedrin, but I expect more to come my way soon enough. I would like to actually review one of the many Bu variants (the last one I got, I foolishly shared with other people in a setting not conducive to reviewing) and what the hell, maybe someday I'll manage to snag one of those face-melters like Broken Truck...

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