Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer

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At some point, I resolved to get my hands on more Cigar City beers, and they do distribute to this area... but their offerings have been scarce of late. I have no idea why, but when I saw this one about a month ago, I quickly bought it, not realizing that it was from last year! It's a big, dark beer, so it should be able to hold up to the time, but it's also got a big hop component which I'm assuming I lost out on a bit. In any case, this beer officially kicks off the Christmas beer season. Here at Kaedrin, we take these things seriously, so expect to see a boatload of other wintery themed beers in the near future. This particular offering falls into the "make it stronger" school of holiday beer thought (with maybe a bit of "do whatever the hell you want", just for good measure.) The label sez it's a mashup of barleywines and old ale winter-warmer styles, but with a big citrusy American hop presence. They call it a Floridian Winter Ale:

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer - Pours a very deep, dark amber brown color with a solid 3 fingers of fluffy head, good retention, and plenty of lacing. Smells full of caramel and citrusy, piney hops. Taste is very sweet, dominated by rich caramel, brown sugar, and toffee tones. Big citrus and pine hop flavors lighten things up a bit, but those sugary caramel/toffee flavors rule the day. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, but very well carbonated, which really helps cut all the rich flavors a bit. That being said, there's a lot of mouth coating here, and a finish that lingers. Fortunately, these flavors are all right up my alley, so it works well enough in the end. The booze is well hidden in the taste, but you get that warming alcohol feeling in the belly soon enough. Overall, this is an interesting beer, along the lines of a barleywine or old ale, but kinda doing its own thing. A whole 750 gets to be a bit much, but I really enjoyed it. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/23/12. Bottled November 2011 for consumption in 2011/2012.

I still haven't tried a lot of Cigar City's brews, but I'll be sure to snag a few the next time they make their way up here... Anywho, lots of Christmas, holiday, and otherwise wintery offerings coming up in the near future, even including a few deliberately aged brews. Stay tuned!

Double Double Barrel Ale

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Let's see here: Limited Release, selectively fermented in one of the only oak union systems in the world, aged in bourbon and new oak barrels for 10 months, fancy-pants packaging in a box, and oh, it's Firestone Walker. If my calculations are correct, my saving throw against purchasing this is a 21. And this die only has 20 sides, people.

Firestone Walker Double DBA

Firestone Walker Double Double Barrel Ale - Pours a deep brown amber color with half a finger of quickly disappearing head. Smells fantastic, plenty of bourbon, vanilla and oak, but not overwhelmingly so. In fact, I'm getting a nice noble hop character out of this, which is quite nice. Taste is filled with sweet, rich caramel, vanilla, toffee, a nice noble hop kick in the middle, and that bourbon oak aging really asserting itself towards the end and into the finish and aftertaste. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and smooth, not exactly dry, but not very sticky either. It's a rich sipping beer, but it's not heavy. A little booze pops in to say hello and warm my belly, but you know, in a pleasant way. Overall, this is a supremely well balanced beer, as I've come to expect from Firestone Walker, and it's got a very nice depth of flavor, enhanced significantly by well blended barrel aging. Superb, but not quite as impeccable as Sucaba, Parabola (which I appear to have underrated), or XV Anniversary... I feel like I'm grading on a curve here, but let's give it a strong A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip on 11/17/12. Bottled on: 6/14/12.

It looks like this is actually a concentrated version of Firestone's "flagship" Double Barrel Ale (a sessionable English Pale ale), which I've oddly never seen before. If I didn't know better, I'd have pegged Union Jack as their flagship. Anyways, I've been chomping at the bit to get me some Firestone XVI Anniversary ale (saving throw: 30 on a 4 sided die), but it does not appear to have shown up here yet. Local beermonger seems to think they're coming soon though. Firestone Walker is a force to reckon with. Really looking forward to trying some Velvet Merkin next year too.

Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait

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So now that I've climbed aboard the Gueuze train to sour town, I'm picking up whatever examples I can get my hands on. So far, no Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen to be found, but this one popped on my radar during my latest trip to Pinocchio's. Boon's regular Oude Geuze often seems to be referred to as a beginner's sour, and consists of 90% lambic aged for 18 months, 5% lambic aged for 3 years, and 5% "young" lambic. This Mariage Parfait version differs in that it consists of 95% lambic aged for 3 years, and 5% "young" lambic. A "perfect wedding" of new and old? Let's find out:

Boon Mariage Parfait

Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait - Pours an orange color with a finger or two of bubbly white head that quickly recedes. Smells of funky oak and ripe fruits. Taste is sweet, with plenty of funky earth in the middle and some sour fruitiness emerging towards the finish, along with earthy oak. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but crisp and refreshing. Overall, a solid Gueuze that I very much enjoyed, but not quite to the levels of Tilquin. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (375 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/17/12.

My renewed interest in Gueuze and lambics in general will continue, abated only by lack of availability. Alas, I'm not able to make it to Zwanze day on Saturday, so I may have to wait a bit longer for my first Cantillon... But don't worry, Loons will be slayed. It's only a matter of time.

Tired Hands Flavor Aroma

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These Tired Hands guys continue to turn heads in the area. They've only been around since June, but I'll be damned if they don't seem to be getting better every month. Here's the rather lamely named Flavor Aroma, a big IPA made with Motueka, Nelson, Zythos, Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe hops. They put this stuff on tap on November 11 and sold through 4.5 kegs that night alone (which is an awful lot considering that they only make 12 keg batches). I'm glad I managed to get my hands on this stuff.

Tired Hands Flavor Aroma

Tired Hands Flavor Aroma - Pours a cloudy golden orangish color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, tons of lacing and great retention. Smells utterly amazing, boatloads of resinous pine, with citrus and floral aromas taking over. Taste is also dominated by those hops, same profile of resinous pine, citrus and floral notes, with a perfectly matched bitterness in the finish. Speaking of perfection, the mouthfeel is superb. Just the right amount of tightly bubbled carbonation, crisp, refreshing, amazingly quaffable. This thing went down dangerously quick. Overall, fantastic beer, perhaps my favorite tired hands brew yet! A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a pint glass on 11/13/12.

I will not be able to keep up with reviewing all of the Tired Hands brews that I consume. They're just a hop and skip away, so I will most likely be visiting often. I recently partook in some Westy 13, their monster "dark saison" clocking in at 13% ABV (rumors of bottles of this are abound, am hoping to snag some). It felt like a Belgian Old Ale kinda thing, sorta like Bruery's Anniversary beers without the barrel aging. Yum.

Nøgne Ø #100

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Since I've already pedantically delved into why Nøgne Ø seems to favor the use of null set symbols in their name (apparently an artifact of old Danish language), I'll instead observe that brewery founder Kjetil Jikiun is a straight-up viking:

Dude's also known as "the bearded giant," and what a mighty beard it is. So very viking. Anywho, these guys are among the ranks of Scandanavian craft brewers that draw a lot of attention from American beer dorks (though local adoption of "craft" styles have decreased their amount of export). One of the interesting tidbits from the above mentioned video is that Kjetil Jikiun was an airline pilot who, inspired by American craft beer, managed to bring home some American ingredients and use it in his homebrew. He entered it into competitions, which were more strictly hewing to traditional English or German styles and gave him feedback that his brews were too powerful or too hoppy and unbalanced. Well, nuts to that, so he opened his own brewery, and along with a handful of other Scandanavian brewers, has been spreading the word of good beer to all who will listen. Which also includes a lot of American beer nerds (like myself) who pay handsomely to sample these brews.

This particular beer was originally made as their 100th batch and only distributed to their employees, but it was so popular, they had to release it commercially.

Nogne O #100

Nøgne Ø #100 - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights when held up to the light and a half finger of light tan head. Smells strongly of piney, resiny, hops and lots of crystal malt. It feels like this isn't quite as fresh as it could be, but I guess we'll find out. Taste has more of that crystal malt character, perhaps of the darker variety, along with some other more chocolate or toasted type malts. Faded hops come out to play in the middle and finish, which isn't quite bitter, but there's just barely enough to balance out the big malt character. Mouthfeel is surprisingly well carbonated with tight, smooth bubbles. Definitely a big beer, plenty of booze, a little stickiness in the finish. Overall, a solid American style barleywine, I kinda wish I got a fresher bottle, but them's the breaks. B though I suspect a fresh bottle would garner a higher rating... It's clearly very well made, but I can really feel that faded hop character.

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 11/16/12. IBU: 80. Hops: Columbus, Chinook, and Centennial.

Nøgne Ø continues to be interesting to me, and I really can't fault them for this old bottle as it sat in my (unrefrigerated) cellar for quite a while, which probably accounts for the faded hops. I'll probably try some more stuff from them at some point, provided I can scrape together enough shekels to buy them. In the meantime, I just had another beer from a different Norwegian brewery that I thought was really fantastic. Look for a review, er, next week? When I get to it, okay?

Tripel Karmeliet

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So I've been strangely neglectful of this style of late. Unless you count beer clubs or near-abominations, I haven't done a proper tripel review since... January (and while it had fantastic fancy packaging, the product was rather lackluster). So let's take a break from the realm of trendy limited-edition, imperialized, barrel-aged, face melting dark beers and hit up a readily-available classic that I've never had before.

Brouwerij Bosteels claims this is "still brewed to an authentic beer recipe from 1679" and they call it a tripel more because this monastic recipe uses three kinds of grain: wheat, oats, and barley (though it fits the more general guidelines of the style as well). Well sure, I believe that beer made before anyone knew what yeast was would taste exactly like what I'm drinking today. Why not? In seriousness, this is one of the best reviewed tripels in the world, right behind the style codifiers like Westmalle and St. Bernardus (and those upstart Canadians with their La Fin Du Monde). It's kinda inexplicable that I've waited so long to try this, so here goes:

Tripel Karmeliet

Tripel Karmeliet - Pours a bright, slightly hazy yellow color with a massive, 4 finger head and lots of retention. Smells of spicy, musty Belgian yeast, some clove and plenty of light fruit character, like banana and pears. Taste has a huge spice component, again with the clove, but also a softening blow of musty Belgian yeast and that fruit character brightening things up in the finish. Mouthfeel is hugely carbonated, effervescent, but also crisp and refreshing, with a very dry finish that keeps the booziness down. Overall, this is some seriously great beer. Easy to drink, but packed with flavor and extremely well balanced. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (11.2 oz brown bottle!) Drank out of a goblet on 11/16/12.

I'm kinda shocked at how well this hit the spot. Maybe I should slow down with all this barrel aged nonsense. Haha, like that will ever happen. Also happy that I didn't have to drink this out of a green bottle that'd been sitting in the window for months on end. Seriously guize, I know there's not much in the way of hops in this, but green bottled beers do seriously deteriorate quickly. Give us a break. Fortunately, the smaller bottles are brown. This makes no sense, but I'm not going to question it.

To a certain type of beer dork, saying that these were bottle releases is probably overselling their significance. Near as I can tell, Dock Street doesn't actually distribute their bottles, and Victory is doing a limited distribution in the general region, but in practice, these releases consisted of my walking up to a counter and asking for a few bottles. No waiting in line for hours (in the rain!) like some bottle releases, just good beer and friendly conversation.

Things kicked off with Dock Street Brewing's annual holiday release of limited brews last night. They claimed that only around 2-6 cases were available for each variety, so I was a little wary, but I got there early enough to get everything I wanted:

Dock Street bottles
(Click for bigger image)

Lots of barrel aged rarities there, some aged for 3+ years. As luck would have it, frequent commenter and newfound beverage compatriot Rich on Beer was also in attendance, along with some other beer geeks, so we engaged in much beer dorkery. I had a good time and it was great to meet up with Rich.

I had a Rye IPA, which was quite a solid, juicy American hopped ale with well matched spicy rye notes, and also a non-barrel aged Prince Myshkin's Russian Imperial Stout, which managed to exceed expectations. Big beer, light roast, lots of chocolate and caramel, not overly sweet, very well balanced stuff. I'm now really looking forward to the Hungarian Red Wine Barrel Aged bottle I got. I don't have any pictures or detailed notes, but look for some more detailed reviews in the coming weeks. Dock Street seems like a pretty small operation, but one that I think should probably garner a better reputation... at least, based on my limited exposure, which is admittedly small.

I've already mentioned this morning's bottle release, Victory's Red Thunder. This day-before-Thanksgiving release slot was occupied by Dark Intrigue last year, one of them wait in line, braving the elements kinda releases. This year was significantly more subdued. Victory opened early with a special breakfast menu, and the place was indeed as crowded as I'd ever seen it, but it seems most folks were more interested in breakfast than the bottle release (though I think you could order a few bottles from your table). I arrived a little over an hour after opening and there were only two people in line in front of me. I don't know if anyone lined up before opening, but on the other hand, red wine aged baltic porters aren't exactly the most hyped styles.

I've had the base beer, Baltic Thunder, a few times now, and I've always enjoyed it. I'm not a huge fan of porters, but this one is a little bigger and richer, hence the Baltic appellation. I'm hoping the barrel aging will tone down some of those elements as well as add some complexity. Let's find out, shall we:

Victory Red Thunder

Victory Red Thunder - Pours a dark brown color with pretty amber highlights and minimal, light tan head. Taste has those typical roasted malt and chocolate aromas, but I feel like the fruitiness is much more pronounced than the base beer, presumably from the wine. Even getting a hint of oak in the nose. Taste leans heavier on chocolate, vanilla, and caramel than roasted malt flavors, and that oak is definitely contributing a richness to the whole affair. I'm not picking up much in the way of red wine in terms of fruity flavors, but there's a pleasantly dry astringency that comes out in the finish that works quite well. Tannins and all that (probably just as much an oak thing as a wine thing). Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, a little mouth-coaty with a long finish. It's no quaffable session beer, but it's not quite a sipper either. The alcohol is reasonably well hidden, and it's all rather well integrated and balanced (unlike the recently reviewed Mikkeller Black Hole beer, though I think that had its charms as well). Overall, I really like this beer a lot. I can see porter fanatics being disappointed by the toned down... porterness... of this beer, but it worked well for me. Admittedly, I'm not a huge porter fan, so take this with a grain of salt, but I consider this an improvement over the base beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/21/12.

Good stuff. Probably not going to inflame the passions of your typical beer nerd, but it hit the right notes for me. All told, I've had a pretty cool couple of days here. And when combined with my yearly holiday beer purchases and a couple upcoming trades, my cellar is reaching capacity. Well, not really, but I should tone things down for a bit while my liver catches up to my acquisitions. This will, of course, be chronicled right here, so stay tuned. Gonna be an interesting few months...

Update: Dropped Red Thunder to a B+. Still very good, but I was perhaps too enthusiastic upon first taste...

Duck-Rabbit Rabid Duck

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Slaying ducks. It's not quite like slaying Loons or whales (and certainly not .rar walez), but it'll do in a pinch:

Duck-Rabbit Rabid Duck

Duck-Rabbit Rabid Duck - Pours a deep black color with a couple fingers of fluffy dark tan head. Smells faintly of roasted malt, but oddly enough, a fair amount of fruit coming through in the nose as well as chocolate and caramel, really quite nice. That roast hits first and much more prominently in the taste, but a sweet sorta chocolate covered fruit flavor emerges in the middle leading back into some dark, toasted malt character and dry bitterness in the finish. The fruity character was unexpected, and there's some additional flavors floating in here and there, like maybe licorice or something (rabies-infested ducks? Needs more duck.) Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium to full bodied but with a brightness from the fruity character that makes this seem lighter than it is. Overall, this is quite an unusual duck. Not like anything I've had before and though it's not really lighting my world on fire, I'm really happy I tried it. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz) Drank out of a snifter on 11/10/12.

I think I was expecting more out of a RIS from self-billed "dark beer experts" than what I got here, but it was fine. Still, it sorta pales in comparison to some recent tastings. Stay tuned for a tale of two bottle releases, coming tomorrow...

The Bruery Oude Tart

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The Bruery's Coton recently became just the fourth beer to earn the coveted Kaedrin A+ rating. Next up in my Bruery-fueled, liver-destroying, wallet-lightening, amazing-beer-filled winter is Oude Tart, a Flemish Red Ale aged in oak barrels. This is a descendant of Bruery brewer Tyler King's first homebrewed sour beer (which he attempted at the ripe age of 17 or 18), though obviously that recipe has been tweaked and honed through the years (I'm guessing they didn't age their original batch in giant oak barrels for a year), to the point where this was also the Bruery's first major award-winning beer.

So I'm continuing my orbit around sour beers, though at this point, I should probably just land this crazy spaceship and partake in all the sour beer I can find. But enough babbling, let's drink this stuff:

The Bruery Oude Tart

The Bruery Oude Tart - Pours a dark brown color with half a finger of bubbly off-white head that quickly subsides to a ring that shows pretty good retention. Smells of slightly twangy funk, some earthiness, a nice oak character, and plenty of fruity aromas, maybe cherry. Taste starts with a slap of sourness, with sweet, bright sour cherry notes quickly emerging along with some subtle oak notes, a little earthiness, with that sourness reasserting itself in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, lightly carbonated and smooth, a little acidic. A little mouth coating goodness here, but nothing overwhelming. Overall, a top tier sour beer! A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/10/12. Label sez: 060712 LOT39 (presumably bottling date)

This winter is shaping up to be pretty awesome. I've got a couple more Bruery beers lined up, including one absolute monster that just arrived in the mail, not to mention a couple of upcoming bottle releases by local breweries and, uh, some other trades (no jinxing, but some other whales will be had in the next few months).

Novembeer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together once a month to share good beer, a good meal, and good company! We typically congregate at a local BYOB to share all our brews and wines and whatnot. As per usual, much merriment was had by all, lots of beer and wine and good food. It ended up being a rather small gathering by our normal standards, but still plenty of fantastic beer shared by all.

Novembeer Club
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For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers about the fact that I wasn't in a sensory deprivation chamber whilst tasting these, and in a lot of cases, I was only sampling rather small pours, but whatevers. Take these descriptions with a grain of salt if you're really concerned, but you really shouldn't be, because I'm pretty awesome. Or not. Whatever. Here's what I had (in order of drinking, not necessarily in order of the picture above):

  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel - My homebrewed abbey dubbel style beer seems to still be conditioning, though it's getting better every week. Right now, it's quite tasty, if a bit boozy, and the carbonation doesn't seem to have fully taken hold of the brew. This is actually somewhat expected, given that the brew came in much stronger than I had originally intended. I suspect this will be drinking fabulously in a few weeks or so... I wll refrain from rating right now, just cause I want to give it some more time to mature...
  • Turkey Drool Homebrew - A friend of a friend of a friend contributed this homebrew, which actually seemed to fall a little flat, especially when compared with other brews we had tonight. There didn't seem to be any off flavors, per say, but on the other hand, what was there was very subtle if not non-existent. From the ingredient list, I was expecting much more out of this. Again, not the worst thing evar and certainly drinkable, but also completely forgetable. C+
  • New Belgium Snow Day - A strange, but mostly enjoyable brew. BeerAdvocate classifies it as an American Black Ale, but I would say that it's more of hoppy red ale than that implies. Maybe some winter warmer base here, but quite a nice hop character to it. Overall, very drinkable stuff, a nice hop presence, but it's not going to light the world on fire either. B
  • Great Lakes Christmas Ale (2011) - Kaedrin friend Dana procured this last year, and has held on to it since then. Apparently a highly sought after beer, this is a very light colored winter warmer style offering, reminiscent of a deeper English pale ale that doesn't quite contain any of that diacetyl character I associate with it. Sweet, a very light spiciness, flavorful, but not quite blowing me away either. I can see why this is a prized holiday brew, but it's not something I go out of my way for... B
  • Westmalle Trappist Tripel - A classic, which I have already reviewed in detail. For the most part, it's as good as evar. On a personal level, I've cooled somewhat on the tripel style, though I still quite enjoy one every once in a while... A
  • Kona Pipeline Porter - Holy coffee, Batman! This is apparently a porter, but it's heavily influenced by coffel flavors all throughout, sorta light a lighter Founders Breakfast Sout. I'm not really a fan of coffee or porters in general, so it's pretty amazing that I didn't tink of this as the worst thing I've ever tasted. It's actually pretty solid and goes down easily. That being said, I don't think I'd ever really seek to try this again... B-
  • Weyerbacher Winter Ale - Another beer I've had and reviewed before. For the most part, my feelings remain unchanged. It's a fine beer, a pretty standard winter warmer, but I'd like to see more complexity and flavor out of this one. B
  • Monk's Café Flemish Sour Red Ale - One of my contributions for the night, this is one of those beers often recommended to sour newbies, and it actually did seem to go over really well with the beer club folks, even those who don't go in for normal beertastic stuff. A nice malt backbone and sweet fruit character followed by a very slight sourness that nevertheless cut through and made this one of the more flavorful brews of the night. Overall, definitely a nice beginners sour beer, something I'll probably try again at some point as well... B+
  • Nebraska Hop God - Reserve Series Aged In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels - Yet another of my contributions for the night, this one turned out to be interesting, if not quite what I expected from a beer called "Hop God". Hops certainly play a role in the flavor profile, but it's mostly defined by that oak Chardonnay character, with some booze peeking through as well. It's really quite nice, though I wish I had a better palate for white wine. B or B+
  • Victory Storm King Stout - Once again, we get a beer I've had before. It's a beer I've come to appreciate more and more over the years, but I still wouldn't rate it among the highest imperial stouts. Still a solid stout with a big hop presence. B+
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout - My last contribution for the night, this is just as good as it was the last time I had it. Beer club peeps seemed to enjoy, though there were a couple that don't particularly enjoy those bourbon flavors, and thus didn't care for this. Me, I'll leave it at an A.
And there you have it. Another successful outing, as per usual. Alas, we didn't get to all the beers we brought (I was particularly interested in Lancaster's Winter Warmer, but I'm sure I'll catch up with it sometime). Already looking forward to next month and some more holiday brews...

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

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