January Beer Club

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I've more or less run out of beer puns for beer clubs, so you'll just have to deal with it. I know, you all love puns, so you're all broken up about it, but you'll just have to deal. Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As per usual, this gathering is anchored by a core group of stalwarts, along with assorted return guest stars. So it was a solid turnout, lots of beer, good BBQ and just an all around good time.

January Beer Club 2013
(Click for bigger image)

In accordance with tradition, my thoughts on each beer we sampled are recorded below for posterity. Standard disclaimers regarding non-ideal tasting isolation conditions apply, so all you pedants better stay frosty, as nearly all of this will be untrustworthy/awesome. Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer - Things started off on a bizarre note. It's basically alcoholic ginger ale, which is fine for what it is, I guess, and definitely attracts the non-beer folk due to it's high sweetness and ginger spicing, but I found it kinda poopy. It's actually good that we had it in this sort of setting where I only had to try a tiny sample, but I'll give it a D, because fuck ginger beer. Seriously guiz.
  • Belhaven Scottish Ale - Belhaven is supposed to be one of the top Scottish ale styles out there, but man, we must have gotten a bad bottle. It has that gross diacetyl buttery flavor that I get out of a lot of British pale ales and have grown to hate. I'm not sure if that's just the beer, or if it's the clear bottle, or what, but it felt kinda skunky too. Not totally undrinkable, but I was again glad that I only took a very small sample of the stuff. D
  • Abita Jockamo IPA - While a big improvement over my first two tastes of the night, this strikes me as being a fairly unremarkable IPA. It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over BMC (or, since we're talking about my college years, Natty/Beast), but nothing special at all. A nice hop aroma, but a taste that fell a little flat and bland. B-
  • Old Forge Overbite IPA - Ahhh, now that's more like it. A really nice semi-local IPA, lots of that citrusy, floral hop goodness, maybe a little pine too, was a real breath of fresh air after the first three beers of the evening. It's not a world beater, to be sure, but these guys are totally making a name for themselves in the Philly area, and this makes for a pleasant enough IPA. B+
  • Birrificio Del Ducato Nuova Mattina - Guest star Steve contributed this very nice Italian beer to the proceedings, a Belgian style pale with lots of sharp carbonation, sweet and spicy (lots of spices used in making this, and they contribute, but not overwhelmingly so), bready, with a touch of light fruit. Overall, it's got a really nice rustic quality, an almost quaffable beer, really enjoyable. B+
  • Widmer Brrr - A totally solid winter warmer, pretty light on the spices actually, though it works well enough. It's not the sort of thing that stands out in a tasting like this, but it's totally serviceable and would probably get the job done if needed. B
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale (2011) - A vintage bottle of my very own homebrew? It's still doing pretty well, actually, though I do believe it has peaked and is now on a bit of a downward swing. It's still retained that sorta creamy vanilla caramel base, and the spices are still there, particularly clove with a hint of cinnamon, though those are diminished from last year. It's held up about as well as I could have hoped, though it's not quite as fantastic as it once was. B+
  • Allagash Fluxus 2012 - Another of my contributions for the night, it's a totally solid Belgian pale ale, actually quite similar to that Nuova Mattina beer, though with less carbonation. Still, a very nice Belgian yeast character, spicy and biscuity. Not especially a standout, especially amongst Allagash's lineup, but a solid beer nonetheless. This could be tasting fatigue setting in, but I'll go with min instinctual rating of a B
  • Traquair House Jacobite - Ah, now this is a Scottish brewery I can get behind. Of course, this is a slightly stronger style, but I like me some Wee Heavy/Scotch Ales, and this is a pretty superb example of the style. Big rich malt character, brown sugar, some fruitiness, a light booziness, and all of this is very well balanced against each other. Truly a solid beer, and widely available too, well worth checking out for the Scotch Ale fan and a contender for best of the night. A-
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale - Once again, this might be tasting fatigue setting in, but I was expecting more out of this. Don't get me wrong, it's a totally good beer. Not very red in appearance, but it certainly smells/tastes like an imperial red, big, well integrated citrus and pine hops mixed with those crystal and red malts. Very nice, would like to try again in better conditions. For now, we'll give it a provisional B+
  • DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus - Perhaps the strangest beer of the night, but it worked surprisingly well. You could say it's gimmicky, it being a "Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter", but this is quite possibly the perfect beer for a tasting like this. Exclamations of "Whoa" and "It smells like peanut butter" all around the table. It tasted like peanut butter brownies that were perhaps a bit overcookied so that you got that roastiness. Kinda like the edge/corner piece (which, you know, I love). It worked surprisingly well in this setting. I have no idea how I'd react if I were to drink an entire bottle, but I'm feeling generous enough to hand it a B+ (though it's probably more of a B)
  • Victory Oak Horizontal - Another of my contributions for the night, it's just as good as I remembered it. The bourbon, while prominent, was not overpowering at all, which endeared it to some folks who don't tend to like bourbon. Still an A- and a fitting end to the evening.
So there you have it. After a shaky start, things livened up quickly, and this sort of ratings distribution is actually quite nice. I mean, this isn't the most exclusive of beer clubs, after all, and only a few of us a really huge beer nerds, but it's a lot of fun and I always look forward to beer club. February's meeting will come soon enough!

Ommegang XV

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Another Belgian Strong Dark from Ommegang, I wasn't sure if I'd go for this "extremely limited" release, but dammit, they put it in a tin canister thingy and I'm powerless against fancy packaging. So here we are. I'm not sure exactly what makes this worthy of their 15th anniversary, aside from the fact that it's big and dark and strong. They claim it's unlike any other ale they've brewed, but I can think of two obviously similar beers in their lineup. How does this stack up to the solid but straightforward seasonal Art of Darkness? Or, for that matter, the admittedly unique and most excellent staple beer that is nonetheless big and strong and dark, Three Philosophers? Only one way to find out:

Ommegang XV Anniversary Ale

Ommegang XV - 15th Anniversary Ale - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and half a finger of bubbly tan head. Smells faintly of Belgian yeast, a little spicy with biscuit and maybe a hint of fruit. Taste is sweet, lots of spice from that Belgian yeast, some caramel, a non-roasty chocolate character that's really nice and perhaps unique (definitely sets it apart from Ommegang's other Belgian Strong Dark styled beers). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, almost but not quite effervescent, medium bodied, relatively dry for such a big beer, though there's a bit of stickiness in the finish. It's all rather well balanced though, and that's a good indicator that Ommegang is hitting on all cylinders. They're at their best when they're doing stuff like this. Overall, an easy drinking, very well balanced, complex brew, worthy of a look, though it's a pretty steep price tag. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 12/31/12.

Ommegang has recently gained some notoriety for partnering with HBO to create a series of Game of Thrones beers. The first beer looks to be a relatively ho-hum affair, a 6.5% blonde ale. Certainly will be approachable for the non-beer-nerd fans of the series, but I'd be more excited if they did something really wacky. I can't say as though I'm excited by this. I like Game of Thrones fine, and Ommegang was the brewery that got me into beer, but somehow this combination isn't doing it for me. I suppose it will prove beneficial to both companies though, and as corporate tie-ins go, this is much better than most. I do wish success on Ommegang though - maybe if they can make enough money, they'll start an actual sour program or something (they've made overtures in that direction in the past, but nothing regular).

Tired Hands HandFarm

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Tired Hands held a bottle release today, which, as far as I know, is their first official such event (I've heard tell of mythic one-off bottles, and even seen a few empties floating around as decorations, but I'm pretty sure this is the first real release). Approximately 500 bottles of wine barrel aged FarmHands (a saison, one of their two mainstay house beers) was available, and it sold out in less than an hour. Here at Kaedrin, we're big fans of Tired Hands, so we made sure we were there. Not a particularly nice day to wait in line outside, but I'd guesstimate that around a hundred folks were in line ahead of me, and it looked like the supply was dwindling mightily by the time I got my share. As per usual, all the beer dorks on line were amiable folk, so it was a good enough time, and I'm glad that I didn't arrive too late to get my greedy paws on some of this stuff.

Alrighty, that's enough preamble, let's get this party started:

Tired Hands HandFarm

Tired Hands HandFarm - Pours a bright but hazy straw yellow color with half a finger of white head. Smells funky, lots of vinous aromas from the wine barrel, some musty, spicy farmhouse yeast character too. Taste is sweet, again lots of vinous white wine flavor here, but the more traditional FarmHands flavors (musty yeast, some grainy malt complexity, a little spice) come through in the middle. A nice sharp sourness also hits pretty quickly, and a pleasant tartness continues through the finish. Not a ton of oak, but it's there too, blended well with everything else. Mouthfeel is lightly but appropriately carbonated, a little pleasant acidity that delivers the sourness, but it's crisp and bright, and it's an easy drinker. It's not super dry, but it makes overtures in that direction. Overall, this is a well crafted, balanced, complex beer and I'm happy I got my hands on some. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (500 ml wax dipped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/13/12.

So this is some pretty great stuff. For any Tired Hands experts out there, I'd put this a peg above Mysterious Mood, another barrel aged saison they did this past summer (which, actually, has a pretty good reputation). I guess this means I'll be hitting up Tired Hands bottle releases semi-regularly too. Fingers crossed for some Westy 13, which I really grew to love when it was on tap. I have, of course, got a bunch of other Tired Hands reviews in the pipeline somewhere, but I wanted to get this one out as soon as I drank it... I'll save those other ones for another speed round or something. Great stuff, as always. Indeed, their Domo, a black rye saison aged in a blend of Weyerbacher Insanity barrels and Chaddsford red wine barrels, is another fantastic sour beer, lots of sour cherry goodness. Ok, I'll stop now, as I could probably just ramble on and on about these guys. Here's to hoping they can keep this momentum up...

La Trappe Double Feature

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La Trappe always seems like a lesser Trappist due to the fact that they're the only one not located in Belgium. On the other hand, they seem to be the only Trappist that does much in the way of creative new beers. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Breweries like Chimay and Westmalle trace their recipes back to the 19th and early 20th century, originating and codifying some of the styles we know and love today, like dubbels and tripels. La Trappe, on the other hand, coined the nebulous style Quadrupel way back... in the 1990s. And they're still going. Both of today's beers were first released within the past couple years (though one is simply an old beer that was barrel aged).

Alas, since I have no pre-bankruptcy Hostess snacks to pair these with, I had to settle for my normal pairing of beers with movies. In this case, since we have two very different beers, one relatively light (but not super pale), one relatively big and dark, I went with the cinematic whiplash pairing of ParaNorman and A Separation. I can't say as though I recommend the pairing, but each movie was pretty good in its own right, especially A Separation, which I found a little languid at the start, but slowly and deceptively turned into a captivating movie. I felt sorta like the frog placed in cold water that was slowly heated to boiling, cooking me alive in the process. Or something. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, beer:

La Trappe Isidor

Koningshoeven La Trappe Isid'or - When I first saw this, I thought it was a Lord of the Rings tie-in (Yeah, yeah, not the same spelling, so sue me in nerd court. I'll totally go free because of the Irony defense.) But no, this was brewed to celebrate the 125th anniversary of La Trappe, and is named after their first brewer, Brother Isidorus. It pours a hazy light brownish orange amber color with tons of fluffy white head. Smells of fruity, spicy Belgian yeast, one of them bananas and clove affairs. Taste is sweet and spicy, again with the lighter fruits and lots of Belgian yeast spice, more malt character than you typically get out of a Belgian pale, but it's not a dubbel or anything. It's actually a hard beer to classify, which isn't to surprising whenever you're talking about Belgian beers, but it's very fruity and doesn't really fit in with the usual pales, nor is it particularly dark. Somewhere inbetween. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, spicy, relatively dry, all in good proportions. Overall, a very well crafted Belgian ale. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a goblet on 12/30/12.

La Trappe Quadrupel oak aged batch 7

Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged) - Batch #7 - I previously had batch #3 of the oak aged Quadrupel and really enjoyed it. That one was aged in a mixture of new oak, old Port wine barrels, and previously used quadrupel barrels, and it was all a pretty great match with the beer style. This time around, we've got a batch that was aged in old Scotch barrels. The distilleries in question (Bowmore, Tamdhu, Strathspey and Laphroaig) seem to be a mix of Speyside and Islay, which can be troubling. In particular, I've found that beers aged in old Islay Scotch barrels are a bit challenging in that the peaty, smoky flavors really tend to overpower the beer. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Islay Scotch (Ardbeg 10 is a standard at my house, and their Uigeadail is a recent acquisition that I'm sure will find a place in the rotation), but mixing those strong flavors with a beer that is as highly attenuated as this seems to be a lot trickier than, say, mixing stouts with bourbon. I thought perhaps the Speysides would calm things down a bit, and indeed, this isn't the worst attempt at an Islay barrel aged beer, but it's not particularly special either.

Pours a dark brown color with some orangey amber highlights and almost no head, just a ring of bubbly stuff around the edge of the glass. The smell is mostly Scotch, lots of peat, some smoke, and some of that base Quadrupel spiciness and fruitiness, though the Scotch character is clearly the star here. Taste is all Scotch, lots of peat, but that smokey, medicinal character comes out a lot more here and overpowers things. Mouthfeel is much less carbonated than the usual quad, making this feel a little gloopy. Overall, this is a lot less balanced than the regular Quadrupel or even Batch #3, and the flavors just aren't meshing well. As it warms up, things even out a bit, and like I said, I like me some Islay Scotch, but it's still not working that well. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 12/30/12.

It looks like Batch #7 is the odd man out, a misfire in a series of otherwise pretty well received oak aged beers. Batch #8 is supposed to also use Scotch barrels, but they blended that with new oak, which I think could really help tone down some of that peaty, smokey flavor (the reviews on RateBeer and Beer Advocate seem to bear that out). Batches 9 through 11 were aged in old Malbec barrels, and batch 12 used old Bourbon and Cognac barrels. So yeah, pretty much every batch of this sounds great, but avoid #7.

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA

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Another top 100 beer from Midwest ballers and abnormal label art masters, Three Floyds. Behind Zombie Dust and various barrel aged versions of Dark Lord that I'll probably never see, this DIPA is nevertheless well celebrated by beer nerds. Beer Advocate recently made some "controversial" changes to their ratings scheme, so I think this one fell down the ranks a bit, and we all know that the opinions of a bunch of strangers on the internet are usually dead on, so this is vexing. Still, being ranked 75th in the world is pretty sweet. Let's not waste any more time and get to it:

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA - Pours a clear golden color with a finger or two of white, fluffy head. Smells wonderful, sugary sweetness with tons of citrus and pine. Taste starts off sweet, very light crystal malt character, but then the mango and grapefruit emerge quickly and continue into the finish, along with some floral and pine notes. It finishes with a nice bracing bitterness, which is impressive considering the high ABV. As it warms, the floral notes open up and become more prominent in both the nose and taste. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, crisp and clean, maybe just the slightest hints of stickiness, but again, this is pretty good for such a big beer. Overall, this is a fantastic beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/12.

I would put this about on par with Double Jack and Gemeni. It's maybe slightly beefier in terms of malts than Double Jack, but perhaps not quite as much as Gemeni. I don't know the hop schedule of this one, but I suspect there's some of that cascade/simcoe and centennial going on, wither perhaps a few others, which I believe puts it right in the same playing field. But I'll tell you one thing, Dreadnaught tastes a whole lot harder to get than those two. That being said, I may need to start trading with more Midwesterners, just to keep up a supply of Three Floyds stuff, which has been uniformly impressive.

Rodenbach 2009 Vintage

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The two main Rodenbach beers are blends of oak-aged beer and "young" beer. The Grand Cru is mostly 2 year old oak aged beer, while the Classic leans more heavily on the young beer. Well, a few years ago, Rodenbach started putting out these Vintage beers, which are unblended and comprised solely of 2 year old oak aged beer from a single foeder (the giant oak vats they use to age their beer). This particular bottle was released back in 2011 and came into my possession by a fortuitous turn of events. By which I mean that it was sitting on the shelf and I happened to pick this over the 2010 edition... I'm a huge fan of the Grand Cru, so my hopes were high for this one:

Rodenbach Vintage 2009

Rodenbach 2009 Vintage Oak Aged Ale (Barrel No. 145) - Pours a relatively clear, dark amber brown color (robey tones, so much clarity) with half a finger of bubbly white head. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and vanilla, with that sour twang. Taste starts off very sweet and fruity, tons of sour cherry flavor, maybe some jolly rancher, all of which is more prominent than the Grand Cru. The sweet and sour vinegar character is more prominent than the Grand Cru, but then the oak and vanilla kicks in, tempering that sweetness a bit, evening out the brew. Sourness is present and assertive, but not overpowering. Mouthfeel is a little brighter and more acidic than the Grand Cru, but it's well carbonated, rich, and full bodied. The sourness keeps it from feeling heavy though, and it goes down pretty easy. Overall, this is fantastic stuff, a little more vinegar and less oak than the Grand Cru (odd, considering the unblended nature of this one), but certainly worthy. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/28/12.

Rodenbach Grand Cru is one of those beers that turned me into a lover of sour beer, so perhaps it's hard for these other vintages to stack up. They clearly share a similar character, and I'll probably continue to seek out any of Rodenbach's specialty batches, but the Grand Cru just hit my tastes perfectly.

Old Rasputin XIV

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I bought this beer a while ago, and then I saw on the interwebs that the next iteration (XV) was just released, so I figured it was finally time to raid the cellar and drink this sucker. I'm a big fan of the regular Old Rasputin, and that resilient video-game-boss-like historical figure is pretty interesting too, plus we all know my thoughts on barrel aging, so I was excited for this one (despite the rather high price tag):

North Coast Old Rasputin XIV

North Coast Old Rasputin XIV Anniversary - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head, great retention, tons of lacing. Smells of bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, and that citrus and pine hop character from the regular Old Rasputin... Taste features that rich bourbon and caramel flavor, some oak and vanilla, maybe a hint of that roasted malt character, and some light hop bitterness in the finish. Not like a Black IPA or anything, though this does retain a lot of hop flavor. The bitterness is appropriate for a big stout though. Mouthfeel starts rich and chewy, but it dries out a bit, finishing with seemingly less body. Sometimes I don't like that, but it works well here. Ample carbonation also helps cut the rich flavors while still allowing them to shine. Overall, a very good Bourbon Barrel aged stout, though I don't know that it really warrants the price tag. Still, if I ever run across a cheaper bottle of the stuff, I'll pick it up in a heartbeat. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/28/12.

This is a sneaky one. I thought it was a 22 oz bottle, and it certainly looks at least bomber sized, but it's only 500 ml (16.9 oz). You can get a 4 pack of BCBS for a couple bucks more (and if some BA nerds are to be believed, some places jack up the price of BA Rasputin to well above that, on the order of $26-$30 which is a little ridiculous), and that stuff will kick your arse. Not that this is bad, the A- is nothing to whine about and I'm glad I tried it, but still. North Coast has not endeared themselves to me with these prices (Old Stock Cellar Reserve is no slouch in that department either, though at least that bottle looks like 500 ml). I'm sure they're all broken up about it.

The Session #71: Brewers and Drinkers

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session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. John at Homebrew Manual wants to know about everyone's relationship with beer and how it's made. He poses a series of questions on the topic:

Do you brew? If so why? If not, why not?

I have dabbled with homebrewing for a few reasons. First, I'm a huge nerd and actually did want to know more about beer and how all of its various characteristics were achieved, etc... But from my perspective, it was more about making something out here in the physical world. I recognized at some point that while I have participated in a lot of creative activities, both personally and professionally, most of what I've produced is virtual (i.e. most of my creative endeavors have primarily been done on a computer). There's nothing wrong with that, per say, but I wanted to make something out here in meatspace. So homebrewing has helped me scratch that itch, and I love beer, so it's been a really fun process.

How does that affect your enjoyment of drinking beer?

It's given me more perspective in what I like about beer, and I feel like my palate has become more attuned as a result. It also helps me understand what brewers are talking about, separating actual process from marketing fluff, and so on. In general, I think of all of this as a positive development, and I think I enjoy beer more now than I did a few years ago. I do think there's a danger in becoming too well versed in this, though I'm not really all that sure either (some of the other questions get into this, so see more below).

Do you need to brew to appreciate beer?

Of course not. In my mind, appreciation and enjoyment are easy. You don't need to know how something was made in order to appreciate or enjoy it. Indeed, I would say that most people don't know how the majority of things they use on a day to day basis are made, but that doesn't stop anyone from appreciating that stuff. Now, perhaps those that brew beer have a greater appreciation... or perhaps not. It's all very subjective.

Do you enjoy beer more not knowing how it's made?

This is sorta the flip side of the previous question, and like I said, it's all very subjective. Life is what you make of it, and enjoyment comes in many flavors. I think knowledge of brewing can be a benefit, or a curse. I recently came across some quotes from Mark Twain's book Life on the Mississippi, wherein he discusses the details of how he became a steamboat pilot. He learned to read the river, looking for subtle signs on the surface of the water that indicated danger, or where currents were strongest:

The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book--a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.
Sounds pretty cool, right? But then, Twain felt he lost something too:

Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river!
I think this question of what was gained or lost because of learning a trade wasn't quite a simple as laid out in the quotes above. In terms of beer, I do think it's possible to get so wrapped up in the details of the brewing process that some of the majesty of drinking beer goes away, or is at least transmuted into something different than what most of us experience. Is that a good or bad thing? Again, I think it all depends on your perspective. If you're so inclined, you could feel the loss that Train felt. Or you could see the gain of something else entirely. Or maybe vacillate back and forth. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

If you brew, can you still drink a beer just for fun?

Well, I certainly have no problem doing so. Would someone who has achieved a Twain level of mastery be able to? I would assume so.

Can you brew without being an analytical drinker?

This is a tough one, because I was an analytical drinker even before I brewed anything. I'd like to think that my analysis is better now that I brew, but I think we again come back to the subjective nature of the process. Are there brewers out there who can't help themselves but to analyze the beer they're drinking to death, even whilst in a social engagement? Probably. But I suspect most brewers would be able to turn off such analysis in at least some situations, alcohol being a social lubricant and all that. I certainly don't seem to have any problem doing so.

Do brewers get to the point where they're more impressed by technical achievements than sensory delight?

I think that's certainly possible, though I don't think it's an inevitable occurrence. In particular, I think a lot of brewers have become obsessed with strange and weird ingredients (I'm looking at you, Dogfish Head!) There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but my favorite beers tend to have a pretty straightforward set of ingredients. Oh, and they taste good. That's ultimately the bar that needs to be set for a question like this, and I think there are some breweries out there that take the whole experimental angle perhaps a bit too far, I think they're ultimately doing so in the hopes of opening up new avenues of sensory delight, which I can hardly fault them for. You never know until you try.

Does more knowledge increase your awe in front of a truly excellent beer?

I think it does, and actually, I think more knowledge has expanded the scope of what I'd consider truly excellent beer. There are a number of beer styles or flavor profiles that I've found to be an acquired taste, and I think knowledge has helped unlock some of the secrets of such brews. Of course, knowledge comes in many different forms, one being knowledge of other beers, another being how a given beer was made.

Ultimately, I beer is what we want it to be. It can be enjoyed with or without context, and while knowledge may change the ways in which one appreciates beer, it need not prevent enjoyment.

Three Floyds Broo Doo

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Let's talk label artwork for a minute here. Three Floyds obviously employs talented artists for their labels and branding, but on the other hand, what the hell? Their main logo has a skull with batwings attached, kinda like an Ed Hardy dudebro logo. Then there's the label for Broo Doo, their fresh hop harvest ale. It features what appears to be a troll doll in a sailor's outfit, but instead of the typically furry hair, we've got a sorta hop/hair hybrid thing going on. Now, this is a little odd, but kinda par for the course in terms of beer labels. However, in the background, there's also a unicorn attempting to perform a Lucio Fulci-esque eye gouging maneuver on what appears to be a Disney princess (update: it may be Princess Peach, but the jury is still out on that one). And behind that, there's a fairy tale castle on fire with a rainbow flying over it. None of which mentions the outer portion of the label, which is all pastels, neon swishes, and stars, like something out of My Little Pony. In a bit of self-awareness, they have at least emblazoned the sides of the labels with the slogan: "It's not Normal" Well, they got that right.

I can't decide if it's the worst or most awesomest label ever, but in any case, it's what's inside the bottle that counts, so let's get to it:

Three Floyds Broo Doo

Three Floyds Broo Doo Harvest Ale - Pours a clear golden (they say "apricot") color with a finger of white head. Nose is all citrus and piney, with some floral and grassy, herbal, almost spicy hop notes coming through too. The taste has a crystal malt sweetness that provides a nice platform for the various hop flavors, which tend more towards that grassy, herbal, almost spicy side than the nose, though the citrus and pine are still quite prevalent. It could just be my imagination, but it does feel like the age has subdued some of that hop character, making this more sweet than I'm guessing it is when fresh. No info on exactly what hop varieties are used, but I'm guessing Simcoe/Cascade, Centennial, and maybe some CTZ, but who knows? Mouthfeel is crisp, well carbonated, medium bodied. Not quite something I'd call quaffable, but it's still very easy to drink. Overall, another strong offering from FFF, I really like it, though I don't think there's much to differentiate it from the throngs of similar beers and it's far from the best harvest ale I've had (but then, there is the freshness factor). A tentative B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/23/12.

I've got a few more FFF beers left in the pipeline, but hoo, I'm going to want to get me some more of their stuff at some point. They are seriously pretty awesome at this whole beer thing.

¿Impending Descent?

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Tröegs Scratch series of beers is always interesting, but every once in a while, they hit on something great. This beer, brewed in honor of (or perhaps to spite) the (now lapsed) Mayan apocalypse, is a big imperial stout. Their description sez: "If your tongue doesn't disintegrate as a result of the birthday party cheesecake jellybean BOOM, it most certainly will wreak major havoc on your taste buds." I don't know what the "birthday party cheesecake jellybean BOOM" thing means at all, but I stumbled onto this beer on tap, and it melted my face. Makes me wish I made the trip out to Hershey to pick up some bottles. But who knows, maybe they'll make this an addition to their regular lineup, a la Flying Mouflan. A man can hope.

Troegs Impending Descent

Tröegs Scratch Beer 83 - 2012 (¿Impending Descent?) - Pours a deep black color with a finger of brown head. Smells lightly of chocolate and a little roast - not a strong aroma, but that's more the bar/glass than the beer (this has happened before at this place). Taste is full of rich malt sweetness, light caramel and plenty of chocolate with just a hint of roastiness peeking through and lingering into the aftertaste. Nice, well balanced bitterness in the finish. It's a great imperial stout flavor profile. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, gooey, and a little chewy. Lightly carbonated but enough to be appropriate for the style. It's a big, heavy beer, a sipping beer, but I really don't detect much booze at all either, which is impressive. Overall, fantastic, absolutely delicious beer. I want moar. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 12/23/12.

This could easily have made my top 40 for 2012, but I had lazily let the notes linger in Evernote instead of reviewing it. Perhaps I'll make an exception for next year. If I remember. I doubt there are any bottles of this hanging around, but if I see any, I'm going to snatch them up.

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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.

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Recent Comments

  • Mark: I most certainly did. Thank you again for muling, you read more
  • danadillon: Glad you enjoyed. :D Heehaw. read more
  • Mark: I figured it had something to do with that, but read more
  • rymould: Apparently a brewery from Texas holds the trademark for "Punkel" read more
  • rich.on.beer: Pretty sure Neshaminy Creek got a cease and desist letter read more
  • Mark: It is pretty darn sweet and quite good, though not read more
  • beerbecue: This blows my mind. Why have we never seen this read more
  • beerbecue: They ran out of BA Everett right before the mule read more
  • Mark: I'm certainly pleased with it! I'm pretty sure I was read more
  • beerbecue: A nice haul indeed. It seems you and my mule read more