Samichlaus Helles 2007

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I discovered Samichlaus a few years ago and immediately sought out some bottles to lay down in my cellar. Breaking out a vintage bottle on Christmas eve whilst I belatedly wrap presents is quickly becoming one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Last year, I cracked open bottles of both 2009 and 2010 and was quite impressed with how well the age treated the 2009 edition.

Today's beer was actually bottled in 2007, but it's also the Helles version of the beer. Helles is German for "bright" and this beer is supposed to be a paler version of the traditional Samichlaus, but the trouble with this is that the beer has such a high original gravity that the end result looks more or less the same as the traditional variety. Back in the day, Michael Jackson noted that: "In recent years the brewery has accepted the traditional view that Christmas and winter beers should be dark." This translates to the fact that the brewery only puts out the Helles every four years. However, it appears that they haven't completely given up on the idea, as I've seen 2011 bottles around.

In truth, this may be the oldest beer I've ever had (aside from a miniscule sample of 2003 120 Minute IPA I snagged a while back, but I don't think that should count). Fortunately, I bought this just last year, so it's not like it was sitting in my cellar for 5 whole years. Let's see if age has treated this one well:

Samichlaus Helles 2007

Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier Helles 2007 - Pours a clear amber/orange color with visible sediment (my bad) and next to no head at all, just a thin film of white head fading quickly to a ring of head that eventually disappears completely. Smells strongly of dark fruits, cherries, sweet malts, and maybe some booze. Actually really nice, better than what I remember from other Samichlaus vintages. Taste is very sweet, intense flavors of caramel giving way to fruitiness, plums and cherries, and a sorta rummy booze liqueur character pervading throughout. Mouthfeel is sticky and syrupy, but carbonated enough that it doesn't get cloying, lots of alcohol heat, a sipping beer for sure, but it's got a very smooth, almost creamy texture that I'm going to credit to the age of this particular bottle. Though I've never actually had the Helles before, given my experience with the regular Samichlaus, I'm going to say the age has actually improved this beer considerably. I'm really enjoying this more than I expected. It feels more like an old English Barleywine than a doppelbock (or helles, for that matter), and I'm guessing that a bottle of this stuff would age really well for many years (even more than the 5 year old bottle I've got here). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/24/12. Bottled in 2007.

At this point, I regret not loading up on the 2007 when I could. But I still have a few bottles of the 2009, and each year thereafter. So let's just say, you'll be seeing this every year.

Victory Oak Horizontal

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Twas the night before my Christmas vacation, when what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a tweet from Victory and the promise of oak aged beer. I sprang from the cubicle, visions of caged and corked bottles dancing in my head, and dashed to the brewery in my horseless sled.

Uh, yeah, so a poet, I am not. And this isn't even technically a Christmas beer! For shame. I beg the forgiveness of Clement Clarke Moore. But Victory's Old Horizontal is a winter seasonal, a big, strong barleywine that's perfect for the season. Due to capacity issues, Victory actually hasn't brewed any of that base beer for the past couple years, much to my chagrin. This year, Victory "bribed" their brewers to put in extra hours and make up a batch, but instead of simply releasing it, they chucked it in Bourbon barrels for three months. This barrel aged version was dubbed Oak Horizontal, and it was released just two days ago.

Victory Oak Horizontal Boxes at the Brewery Store

Of Victory's planned barrel aged brews, this seemed to be the most exciting, perhaps just because I tend to love me some Bourbon barrel aged barleywines. This was a quasi-stealth release, so like Red Thunder, there was no Sturm und Drang normally associated with bottle releases. Pretty much everyone I saw walking out of the brewery had at least a bottle or two, if not a whole case, so I'm guessing it's all gone by now, though the clerks said it would be getting limited distribution in PA and NJ as well. They also said less of this was made than Red Thunder (presumably due to those capacity issues), so make of that what you will. Whatever the case, I've got my allocation, so let's see how Victory did:

Victory Oak Horizontal

Victory Oak Horizontal - Pour a very pretty, dark, clear amber color (ruby tones, so much clarity) with a finger of light tan head. Smells of caramel, oak, and vanilla, with just a bit of bourbon and maybe some fruitiness too. Taste is filled with rich caramel and that vanilla oak character, with a well matched bourbon flavor and just a bit of fruitiness. No booze apparent at all. Server at the brewery sez it's 14% ABV, but I cannot believe it's that strong. The base beer is 11%, so this is certainly no slouch, probably at least 12%, but who knows? Mouthfeel is full bodied, but not overly chewy or heavy. Well matched carbonation, certainly not a gulping beer, but it doesn't feel like a monster even if it is. Overall, this is a great beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV (probably somewhere in the 12-13% range) bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/21/12. Bottled on 12/20/12. Bottle also sez: B15 1552 (batch and bottle number?)

I would put this beer on par with Weyerbacher's most excellent Insanity, another barrel aged barleywine that's got quite a following. Will be curious to see how the beer nerd community responds to this one. In other news, my cellar is growing unwieldy again, so I may need to chill out for a bit and drink some of that down. Lots of exciting stuff down there, though, so you'll have some interesting reading/jealousy issues coming. But ohh, the BA Eclipse beers were just released. Dammit. And soon enough, Victory will be releasing White Monkey. Golden Monkey was one of those formative craft beers for me... it's a beer I'm almost scared to revisit at this point... but I am curious to see what the white wine barrel aging will do to it. Perhaps a double feature is in order. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter

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This year's Christmas beer consumption here at Kaedrin has been rather eclectic. I've had some old standards, like the Anchor and Sly Fox offerings, but most of the beers I've had have fit into the elusive "do whatever you want" category of Christmas beers. It doesn't really matter what's in the beer, so much as that it has a Christmassy label. A prime example is today's beer, Three Floyds Alpha Klaus, which is billed as a "Christmas Porter", whatever that means. From their description, it's basically a straightforward porter with a big addition of "strange American hops". No idea what's strange about them, but let's find out, shall we:

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head and reasonable retention. Smells of typical porter toast and roast, maybe some coffee, but also a big juicy hop component that's really quite nice. Taste follows the nose. Lots of toasty, roasty malt, but it's tempered considerably by prominent citrus and pine hop flavors. Has a well matched bitterness in the finish, with both the hops and the dark malts conspiring to offset whatever sweetness that remains. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and this is eminently drinkable stuff, goes down real easy. Not too sweet, not too bitter, not too dry, just well balanced. Overall, porters just ain't my style and they tend to feel kinda samey to me, but I'm enjoying this and it actually does something interesting with the style. I can see why it's highly regarded... even if it's not my favorite beer evar or anything. B+

Beer Nerd Stats: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/15/12.

Special thanks to my new pal Joe in Chicago who slung these Three Floyds beers my way. Look for more reviews in the near future, including some Top 100 heavy hitters.

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

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The 5th installment of The Bruery's 12 year long project matching beers with each verse of the 12 Days of Christmas. For the patient among us, the idea is to cellar each installment until 2019, when 12 Drummers Drumming is released and you can have an epic vertical tasting. Of course, the beers are ready for drinking at the time of their release too, and I was a big fan of both 3 French Hens and 4 Calling Birds (alas, I never got my hands on the first two installments), so I was really excited for this latest installment, 5 Golden Rings. It's the first light colored beer in the series, though I suppose it makes a bit of sense given the name of this verse. On the other hand, the verse doesn't quite mean what you might think. Courtesy of The Dogs of Beer:

Modern artwork associated with the song typically depicts five bands of gold, like rings you'd wear on your finger. And 5GR is no exception, it's not obvious at first, but the swirl of the label is made up of repetitive groups of interlocked five rings. But as I somewhat alluded to last year, the song is about preparing for a Christmas festival, with the first seven verses describing birds (game or otherwise) that were being brought to the festival as food. In this case the five golden rings referring to five male, ring neck pheasants.
Huh. Never knew that. Well, let's crack this thing open and see how it fares:

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings - Pours a sorta turgid, cloudy golden orange color, sorta brownish, with a finger of bubbly white head (surprised I got that much out of it). Smells full of clove, with other spices making an appearance as well as a bready, cakelike aroma that's quite pleasant. I get the impression that this is actually spiced, not just relying on Belgian yeast character to provide such aromas. Taste is very sweet, with that spiciness from the nose taking a back seat to sugary sweet malts and booze. It finishes on a surprisingly juicy, boozy note (upon closer inspection of the bottle, I'm guessing this is due to the pineapple juice used in brewing and yes, as I drink more, that pineapple is pronounced throughout the taste). As it warms, I get some more of that peppery, bready yeast, which actually helps temper the sweetness. Mouthfeel is heavy, a little sticky, could potentially get cloying, with low to moderate carbonation. Some light booze astringency and maybe some warming alcohol in the belly, but this isn't a gulping beer and as such, that warming factor doesn't play too much of a role. Overall, I don't feel like this came together as well as The Bruery hoped. It's not undrinkable or anything, it's a solid brew, but perhaps a bit too sweet and strong. I'm really curious to see how it ages. From what I'm having here, it could go either way... If the age dries it out (which sometimes happens with older strong Belgian pales, like Tripels) and the booze mellows a bit, that could perhaps work wonders with this beer. Or not. But in the here and now, it's not really lighting the world on fire. B

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 12/14/12.

So my Bruery-fueled, liver-destroying, wallet-lightening, amazing-beer-filled winter continues. If I can clear some time off my schedule to knock back one of their true monster beers, I'll have a review of that coming soon. And I'm sure I'll hit up that bottle of Cuir that's been in my cellar for a while too. Might as well just make this a full year of Bruery, instead of just a winter.

Olde School Barleywine

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Lately, it seems like all of Dogfish Head's beers have gone off the deep end. I know they're fond of "off-centered" stuff and strange ingredients, but a lot of that stuff doesn't seem to pique my interest. I guess it's interesting that someone is making beer with "an ancient form of wheat and loaves of hearth-baked bread, and it's flavored with chamomile, doum-palm fruit and Middle Eastern herbs", but I dunno, that's just not revving my engine. Maybe I'm just a man of simple tastes. I tend to prefer Dogfish Head's more normal takes on standard styles, like IPAs (made with far out ingredients like... hops!) and stouts. This barleywine offering straddles the line a bit, but it at least sounds like it's beer.

It starts off as a rather big 13% barlewine, which is then dosed with dates and figs, bringing the final result up to around 15% ABV. And apparently the date/fig addition actually has some sort of historical basis in that the cellarman in Ye Olde English pubs would attempt to revive a flat cask beer by adding crushed up dates and figs to the vessel. The addition of sugars would revive the yeast, add carbonation, and freshen up the beer a bit. I don't know how historically accurate this practice really is and I don't want Martyn Cornell to cross the pond and break my legs for promulgating beer myths, so I'll just say that I'm assuming some liberties were taken with the story. Still, a barleywine fermented with dates and figs fulfills Dogfish Head's "off-centered" mission whilst still being something that sounds like beer. In other words, I bought one and drank it:

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine - Pours a dark orange color with a finger of white head that fades quickly, but leaves a ring of head around the glass for quite a while. Aroma is filled with figs, sweetness, and maybe some piney, citrusy hops. Taste is quite complex. Lots of crystal malt up front, with some resinous hops coming out in the middle, and that figgy goodness hitting in the finish and asserting itself through the aftertaste. Booze hits in the finish too, but nothing overwhelming. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, and boozy, plenty of carbonation, but not something you want to gulp down. A real sipping beer. Overall, it's a solid, complex barleywine with some interesting and uncommon notes. I'm quite enjoying it and would be curious to see how it ages, despite its relatively light color. Regardless, if you like figs, you should really check this out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/8/12. Bottled in 2012B.

Label sez: "Directions: Open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. Or: Walk hand-in-neck into the middle of the woods. Use a shovel to dig a 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal the bottle in a plastic bag. Place in hole & pack with dirt. Memorize location & leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open & enjoy."

I suppose that's a romantic notion. I have another bottle of this stuff, but I think I'll just let it sit in my cellar for a while, along with some 120 Minute and World Wide Stout. Maybe I'll crack another one of those in a year or two.

Barrel Aged Santa's Little Helper

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Port Brewing's Santa's Little Helper is a solid, if unremarkable, imperial stout. I've had it a couple times, and it's fine, but I always feel like I'm missing something. Perhaps what I was missing... was bourbon!

Port Brewing Barrel Aged Santas Little Helper

Port Brewing Barrel Aged Santa's Little Helper - Pours an oily black color with very little carbonation, just a tiny ring of brown head forms at the edge of the glass. Smells strongly of bourbon, maybe a hint of the underlying roasted malts, but the bourbon (and too a lesser extent the corresponding oak and vanilla character) is clearly the focal point here. Taste is again dominated by bourbon, though there's also a pronounced malt sweetness that comes through, and some roast too. The beer opens up as it warms, with oak and vanilla asserting themselves and more of that caramel and roast malt character coming out to play too. Definitely more complex as it warms. Mouthfeel is almost completely flat, very little carbonation, sticky, some alcohol heat. Overall, it seems like the base beer didn't really stand up to the bourbon barrel treatment so well (perhaps the fact that I'm not a huge fan of the base beer also has something to do with it). It's better than some, and I'm enjoying it, but there are many better BBA beers. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a snifter on 12/8/12. Vintage 2012.

Port/Lost Abbey continue to put out interesting stuff, even if I'm not totally in love with all of it. But when they're on, they're really on, so I'll no doubt be trying more of their beer soon enough...

Tired Hands Speed Round

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In case it hasn't been clear from the frequent posts about Tired Hands, I've been spending a lot of time there. This was partly brought on by the fact that I'm redoing my kitchen and thus have had times when I had no way to cook anything, but it's also probably due to the fact that Tired Hands is pretty fantastic. As a brewpub, they basically have a constantly rotating list of offerings (with only two consistently available). As such, I can't really keep up with everything, even as often as I'm visiting, but that won't stop me from trying. Here's some thoughts on some recent visits. Many of these are 4 ounce pours, and I didn't take detailed tasting notes for a bunch of them, so pedants might want to take this with a grain of salt. Let's get to it, shall we?

  • Tired Hands Weedeater - This is a Double IPA made with Galaxy and Amarillo hops. Yum.

    Tired Hands Weedeater

    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.

    Tired Hands Westy13

    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.)
So there you have it. Always something interesting going on at Tired Hands. Up next for me is their Singel Hop Saison, Motueka (another New Zealand varietal), which just went on tap this week. Some other upcoming stuff sounds interesting, including Falco's Nerd Flight (IPA brewed with Galaxy, Amarillo, and Falconer's Flight hops), MotherAnimal (a barleywine conditioned on coffee beans), and Good Yule (a strong "holiday saison", whatever that means).

Bink Grand Cru

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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

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.

Three Floyds Zombie Dust

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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

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.

Decembeer Club II: Electric Boogaloo

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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.

Decembeer Club 2012
(Click for bigger image)

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-
So there you have it. Another successful beer club. Good company, good food, good beer. As always, already looking forward to the next installment.

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

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