Yards Saison

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The summer saison is upon us, so I decided to revisit a beer that disappointed me many moons ago. I've mentioned before about how Ommegang Hennepin was my Craft Beer revelation, but being a fledgling beer nerd at the time, I had no idea what I was really doing. All I knew about the beer was that it was a saison style beer, so when I went to the beer distributor looking for saisons and saw this local offering, I bought me a case of the stuff (grumble, grumble, the PA case law is evil, grumble) and was a little crestfallen when it turned out that the beer wasn't as good as Hennepin. It was a fine beer, much better than the macro swill I was used to at the time, and I had no problem finishing the case (I had roommates at the time who helped with that task), but it was still a little disappointing. As it turns out, the saison has the least coherent style definition in the history of beer, so my strategy of trying other saisons was doomed to failure anyway. But all this was a long time ago (almost a decade? Yikes...), so I figured it was time to revisit the stuff:

Yards Saison

Yards Saison - Pours a slightly hazy yellow gold color with a finger of whitish head. Smells a little like a Belgian Wit - this is clearly a spiced beer, though some of that may be the result of yeast. Lots of spice on the nose, clove, orange peel, maybe some peppery notes, and just a hint of light fruitiness. The taste is lightly sweet with some spice character evolving throughout the taste and aftertaste. The mouthfeel is relatively light, well carbonated, a little spicy harshness, and some dryness that strangely gives way to a less dry finish (not bad, but it is different). Overall, this is certainly a nice, flavorful, non-funky take on the saison, but it's not really best in class either. I certainly enjoyed it, but my earlier impression of the beer (which was not bad, to be sure) hasn't changed very much. Solid beer, but not really lighting the world on fire. While not quite a session beer, it is hitting the spot after a warm day though... B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 5/18/12.

As summer approaches, I'm sure more saisons will be reviewed... indeed, there's one in the pipeline right now that will lend even more credence to the aforementioned notion that the saison style has the most incoherent definition in all of beer.

Sixpoint Resin

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Ah, the words we use to describe hops. Some of them don't sound very appetizing. Weirdly, this seems to be the case for my favorite hops. The big, American citrus and pine bombs that are so popular actually have some rather weird descriptions hurled at them. Cat urine? Um, what? Sounds rather gross. Apparently some hops really do give off that sort of aroma, but not having cats, I can't really say. In any case, I don't get that sort of description when it's being used as a positive (I mean, I love me the smell of something like Weyerbacher Double Simcoe - does that mean I like cat piss?) Dank? Yeah, that's not usually something I want to drink... and I'm not much of a weed guy either (dank being something that's apparently positive in that realm). Ditto for the word resin, which also has that pot connection, though at least its standard definition isn't super disgusting. It's got a more neutral connotation, so it's got that going for it...

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love beers that people describe as having dank, resiny, cat uriney hop flavors and aromas, I just don't tend to use those words to describe it, with the exception of resin. I actually love that piney, resiny flavor that comes from some hop varieties like Simcoe, Chinook, and Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus. So when I saw this beer's name, it sounded promising! Sixpoint is a brewery I've not had much experience with, and those energy drink looking cans never really inspired much confidence, though I don't know why. They're distinctive and well designed, so let's give them a shot:

Sixpoint Resin

Sixpoint Resin - Pours a hazy orange brown color with a finger or two of head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. The smell is full of sweetness and fruity hops, with just a hint of pine (with a moniker like "Resin", I was expecting more of that piney aroma). Ah, I see, the pine comes out much more in the flavor, which starts very sweet, with a big, resiny pine flavor, followed by some more citrusy hop character. Bitterness doesn't really emerge until the finish, and it intensifies through the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is light and bright, plenty of carbonation, but quite drinkable for such a big beer. Overall, a very nice DIPA, something I could certainly go for again! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.1% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 5/12/12.

A promising start for Sixpoint, and I'm sure I'll have some more of their stuff at some point, though who knows when?

Devine Double Feature

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I think the reason I have a high opinion of Brewdog stems wholly from this beer. It happens to be a collaboration with Gypsy brewer extraordinaire Mikkeller, which probably has a lot to do with it, but except for one curious case, I've had a very positive experience with Brewdog beers. This one was a revelation though, and might be my favorite from either brewer. I wasn't a big barleywine guy at the time, nor was I particularly well versed in barrel aged beers, so this one was a big turning point for me. Unfortunately, they've only made two batches of the stuff, one in 2009 and one in 2010. I managed to get my hands on one of each last year, and they've been aging in my cellar ever since. I do hope they get together again and make something like that 2009 version, because it truly is sublime.

Anyway, I cracked these beauties open recently whilst taking in a pair of documentaries about filmmaking. Waking Sleeping Beauty tells the story of the animation renaissance at Disney from 1984 until 1994. Reasonably interesting stuff, though the story isn't quite as compelling as the origins of Pixar (which, actually, is rather intertwined with the general Disney renaissance). The other documentary I watched covered a decidedly different type of film. Machete Maidens Unleashed! covers the "untold story" of exploitation filmmaking in the Philippines in the 60s and 70s. It was completely unintentional, but this documentary actually covers the making of the movies I watched whilst drinking Devine Rebel the first time... Speaking of which:

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2009

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel (2009) - To recap, this beer is fermented with both ale and champagne yeast, features a single hop (which I believe is that fabled Kiwi hop, Nelson Sauvin), and is partially aged in Speyside whisky barrels... It pours a deep, dark brownish amber color with minimal head. Smells strongly of fruity malts, with plenty of well matched Scotch aromas. Taste is sweet, lots of rich malt character, some fruitiness (maybe raisins), and a bit of that barrel aged vanilla and oak Scotchiness. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, very smooth, but with enough carbonation that it never gets cloying. There's a little booze character too this, and I feel like I can taste the age of the beer, but it's still damn good. Well balanced, complex, unique. Overall, a fantastic beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/12. Batch 243, bottled on 7/5/09 (same as the last one I had).

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010 - As it turns out, this beer is not quite the same recipe. I think the general idea and process was the same (ale and champagne yeast, Nelson Sauvin hops, and partially aged in old Scotch barrels), but they say: "More malt, more hops, more oak and more alcohol than last year's edition." And indeed, this one is a whopping 13.8% ABV! The appearance is a little more on the brown side, with just a hint of that amber color, and about a finger of head (though it disappeared quite quickly). The aroma is very similar. Sweet fruit aromas (raisins), Scotch, and booze. The taste is much more powerful. Lots of booze. There's a fruity malt character, but the Scotch and booze overwhelmed some of that character. Still lots of complex flavors, but perhaps not as well balanced as the original version. Mouthfeel is a little bigger and fuller. More carbonated, less smooth and creamy, more warming alcohol. Cleary shares DNA with the original Devine Rebel, but quite distinct. Still a good beer, but not quite as perfectly balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/12. Batch 406, bottled on 11/2/10.

It was an interesting (and intoxicating) night. I would love for them to make some of this stuff again, but who knows if that's on the horizon. In the meantime, I'm going to have to make do with another of their collaborations, called I Hardcore You, which is actually a blend of Mikkeller's I Beat yoU and Brewdog's Hardcore (which, incidentally, I reviewed in a double feature post of their own a while back!)

Hopwired

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The crazy growth of craft beer is certainly not limited to the U.S. Here we have a beer made with malt and hops grown exclusively in Mordor New Zealand. To give a misleading, overly broad, and probably deathly wrong summary of geographic hop characters, European hops tend to be earthy, herbal, spicy and pungent. American hops have a citrus and pine character that is quite different (even U.S. grown European hop varieties - like Fuggle - tend to have more citrus than their European counterparts). Well, the Kiwi hops used here are apparently also quite citrusy, but while American varieties tend towards grapefruit, NZ hops seem to be more tropical. On their website, they say: "Passion fruit, limes, oranges and Sauvignon Blanc grapes to name but a few. A local Marlborough winemaker even said it smelled like gooseberries... Gooseberries? When did you last actually smell a gooseberry??"

IPAs do tend to get a bit on the samey side sometimes, so it's really refreshing to try a beer like this that has distinct and unique flavors, while still conforming to the general idea of the style:

8 Wired Hopwired

8 Wired Hopwired IPA - Pours a clear, deep golden orange color with a finger or two of white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells strongly of fruity, bright and citrusy hops, with maybe a bit of a floral component as well (this becomes more prominent as it warms). The taste is quite sweet, plenty of light malts here, with a bracing hop bitterness emerging towards the finish. That fruity, floral hop flavor makes its way into the taste as well, and as mentioned above, it's distinct from that grapefruit and pine character of American hops - more tropical, I guess. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with tiny bubbled carbonation, and a relatively dry finish. Overall, this is quite a nice change of pace, and I'm really glad I got to try some of this stuff. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip on 5/5/12. IBUs: 70. Hops: Southern Cross, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin.

A good first showing from these hobbits brewers of NZ, and I'll almost certainly be checking out some of their other stuff. If I can find it!

Victory Otto In Oak

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Let's see here: Take a Belgian style Dubbel, add smoked malt (inspired by German Rauchbiers), and then age it in American Oak formerly used to age Bourbon. Also, and this is key, don't tell anyone that you're doing it. Seriously, if it weren't for the eternal vigilance of my local beermongers, I probably wouldn't have known this even existed (heck, even they had it tucked away in the back, rather than out on display).

To be sure, I've had the regular Otto before, and I have to admit that I found it underwhelming. Belgian style Dubbels are one of my favorite styles, but the smoked malt in Otto overwhelmed any of that great Belgian character, making it a sorta-one-dimensional smokey affair. Of course, that tasting was at a beer club, so conditions weren't entirely ideal, but my opinion doesn't seem to be all that unusual. Even the guy at Pinocchio's agreed with me on that count. I did buy a bottle of the stuff to lay down in my cellar for a while, hoping for the smoked flavors to mellow a bit and maybe harmonize with the Belgian characteristics.

Well, I've still got that bottle in my cellar, but when I found out that Otto in Oak existed, I knew I had to get my hands on some of the stuff. It's not exactly a secret that I love me some barrel aged beers, and I think this treatment could give Otto some much needed balance (not something normally associated with bourbon barrel aging, but still):

Victory Otto in Oak

Victory Otto In Oak - Pours a very dark chestnut brown color with beautiful amber highlights, clear when held up to light, with just a bit of light tan colored head. Lots of bourbon in the nose, but also a bit of smoke and maybe even a hint of that musty, spicy Belgian yeast. The rich malt backbone and bourbon hit first in the taste, followed by a light, mellow smokiness, then some of that Belgian dubbel character as the bourbon reasserts itself in the finish. I really like how the bourbon has mellowed out the smokiness here. Indeed, I can even pick out the dubbel-like flavors, something I had trouble with in the regular Otto. As it warms, the flavors evolve and coalesce even more, and some additional flavors come out to play. There's an almost nuttiness (definitely the wrong word for it, but along those lines) that I was getting towards the end of the bottle. Mouthfeel is well carbonated with a rich, full body. It's a much better balanced beer than the regular Otto, though it is quite an odd combination. Overall, a complex, unique beer with a mountain of flavor. A-

Beer Nerd Details: No ABV listed, but original Otto is 8.1% ABV, so I'm guessing this is a little higher than that. 750 ml caged and corked bottle. Drank out of a goblet on 5/19/12. Bottled on April 26, 2012. Batch #1.

From the release dates of Otto (October 15, 2011) and the bottling date on the Otto in Oak, I gather that this has been basking in the glow of Bourbon barrels for around 6 months. I don't know that it's quite as successful as Victory's Dark Intrigue (Bourbon barrel aged Storm King stout), but I do find that I really enjoyed this beer, and I'm really glad I thought to buy an extra one to keep around... And I'm actually heading over to the brewery tomorrow night to meet some friends, so maybe they'll have some of this stuff sitting around.

Well, folks, it's been a long week, and while I wasn't able to post anything due to technical difficulties, I was (of course) still partaking in some interesting beer. The most exciting thing that happened was a quick Philly Beer Week preview event in which I got to try Brasserie Dupont's first collaboration beer, made specially for Philly Beer Week 2012 in collaboration with Iron Hill's brewer. I won't belabor the story about how the collaboration came to pass, but while the beer was made specially for Philly Beer Week, I've also heard that it will be getting a wider distribution (according to the PBW website, it will be available "coast to coast" after its introduction in Philly).

For the uninitiated, Iron Hill is a local chain of brewpubs that's become quite popular and well respected around here. I like them a lot, and Dupont makes some of my favorite beers, so I was quite looking forward to this beer:

Dupont Speciale Belge

Iron Hill and Dupont Spéciale Belge - I should probably explain at this point that my notes here are sparse, so take this review with a grain of salt. The short story is that I really enjoyed the beer. It's a pale amberish color with tons of head, but it's brewed with Dupont's distinctive yeast, and that pleasant Belgian yeast spice and ester character is the driving force behind this beer. Lots of spice in the nose, and compared to Dupont's bigger saisons, it's got a lighter, fruitier felling to it (from the yeast, not the hops). According to the story, it's made using smoked malt, but I wasn't really picking up any smoke at all (a friend who was also in attendance didn't pick up on it either, but I've resolved to buy myself a bottle of the stuff and try it again anyway, so I'll have to look a little harder next time). Light to medium bodied, it's actually very refreshing, which was really nice because this event was outside and it was quite warm. Overall, a really nice beer. Does it rival the classic Saison Dupont? Well, maybe not, but that's a pretty high bar to clear. I'll give it a tentative B+ or maybe even A-, though again, I'd love to try this again.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.75% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute? Goblet? Whatever that glass in the picture is... on 5/16/12.

I'm trying to decide how active to be during Philly Beer Week. A lot of the events are in the city, which aren't really that convenient for this suburbanite, but who knows, maybe I'll hop on a train or two and attend some events. Definitely looking forward to the Hill Farmstead event at Teresa's, but as of right now, I haven't really planned out anything else for the week.

Flying Mouflan

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So just what is a Flying Mouflan? Apparently Siri has the answer:

Of course, when I ask Siri what it is, I get: "Would you like to search the web for 'Siri, what is Feynman fun'?" or "Would you like to search the web for 'Siri, what is flying mood flond'". At this point, Siri must've gotten pissed that I kept asking the same question, so she just went ahead and initiated the search for "What is flying the fun" (incidentally, apparently aviation circles are worried that flying for fun is on the decline - oh noes!) So basically, Siri has no idea what a Flying Mouflan is! I'm shocked, scandalized really, that the web would lie to me like this.

Fortunately, it's the beer that counts. In this case, the beer started out as part of Tröegs experimental Scratch Series, and it's the first of those beers to have been incorporated into their regular roster (though I think it's still a seasonal beer).

Troegs Flying Mouflan

Tröegs Flying Mouflan - Pours a dark reddish brown color with a finger of head. Smells very sweet, with plenty of citrus and pine hop character, along with some big caramel malt aromas. Taste is sweet, lots of caramel malt, plenty of that citrus and pine hop flavor, but not a ton of bitterness. That blending of flavors really works; it's almost like caramelized hops. A little bit of pleasant booze, but again, all of these flavors are very well balanced, which is impressive for a 100 IBU beer. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, smoothly carbonated, and just a bit of stickiness in the finish. Overall, I actually got a Nugget Nectar sorta vibe, but it's heavier and more powerful than that (in a good way!) A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.3% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/4/12.

By complete coincidence, Beerbecue is also reviewing Flying Mouflan today, and his take channels Lewis Carroll. Inspired. I don't have any more Tröegs lying around, but I'm always on the lookout for those scratch beers. Who knows, maybe I'll stumble on the next one that transitions to their regular lineup!

It all started with Mikkeller's Big Bad Barleywine. My keen powers of observation tell me that, in this context, the word "bad" is not actually an indication of poor quality, but rather, of strength! However, Mikkel perhaps thought the beer was not quite bad/strong enough, and thus comes the Big Worse Barleywine, which was then aged it in a bunch of barrels. Some got a barrel formerly used for Red Wine, and some got a former Bourbon barrel, which is what I have here:

Mikkeller Big Worse Bourbon Edition

Mikkeller Big Worse Bourbon Barrel Edition - Pours a very pretty, very deep, very cloudy brown color with a half a finger or so of quickly disappearing, large bubbled, light tan head. Smell is filled with bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, and maybe a slight fruitiness. As it warms, a little booziness emerges. Taste is very boozy, beyond just the bourbon character, which is plentiful in itself. There's a lot of caramel and some muted vanilla oak character. Maybe even some dark malts; not quite roasty flavors, but there is something in the finish and aftertaste that is reminiscent of that sort of thing. Mouthfeel is full bodied but smooth. It goes down easily, though you do get some of that warming alcohol feeling too. Overall, very complex, well balanced beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 4/21/12.

Still not satisfied with this beer, Mikkeller went on to brew Big Worst, which comes in at a hefty 18.5% ABV. There's also a version of that beer that was aged in Bourbon barrels that gets up to 19.2% ABV. I can't say as though I'm all that excited to try those, but I wouldn't mind getting my hands on the Red Wine Barrel Aged Worse someday.

The Beer Cellar Update

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Back in February, I posted the contents of my beer cellar. At the time, it was actually quite an impressive list of beers, but while I have been toying with the concept of aging beer, I have to admit that most of my cellar was more or less unintentionally curated.

What can I say? My eyes are bigger than my liver. In terms of beer quantity, I don't actually drink that much. Or at least, I shouldn't drink that much! So my cellar kept growing, and when you've got a whole lot of monster barleywines and imperial stouts, it's difficult to drink your way through them (this is not a complaint, in case you were wondering). The end result of this is that my beer runs have been much more limited in 2012, and I've slowed down my homebrewing activities as well. At a certain point, having too much beer in the house becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hmmm, I have 7 cases of beer laying around, I should really drink some of this stuff!

So I'm happy to report that I've made great strides in drinking down the cellar, to the point where I only have a few massive face-melters waiting in the wings for immediate consumption (while the rest are meant for aging). For the most part, you've seen reviews of the beers I drank, though there are 4 or 5 reviews still in the pipeline.

Because I know you're all dying to know what's left (and what's been added since last time), here's a list of the current cellar:

Um, ok, so that's still a lot of beer, but I checked 18 beers off the list since last time (and, um, only added 6 new ones), which I consider to be a big win. And the majority of the above are beers I actually intend to age, instead of beers I'm accidentally aging. Of course, I'm not listing some of the stuff I have laying around, such as all that homebrew or some of the Founders standbys hanging out in my fridge for regular consumption. Things will probably slow down over the summer. I don't find it likely that I'll be cracking open bourbon barrel stouts that frequently during the summer, but I guess you never know!

Sanctification

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One of the great things that Russian River does is make their bottle logs public. The batch number is clearly labeled on each bottle, and you can then look it up in the log and see all the details from the brew date to the strains of yeast used. Interestingly, a lot of their beers have evolved over time, using similar, but distinct formulas.

This particular beer is interesting and distinct from the rest of Russian River's offerings in that it is completely, 100% fermented with Brettanomyces. Brett is a wild yeast strain that is apparently the bane of winemakers' existence, but when used properly in beer, it can impart an earthy, funky character that many find pleasant. Most wild beers are primarily fermented with typical ale yeast strains, then dosed with Brett (and usually additional bacteria) later, but in this case, it was Brett all the way. Indeed, looking at the bottle logs, it appears that the particular strain they use is called "Dr. Dre Brettanomyces"... I have no idea what they're referring to there - perhaps it's a house strain they've stumbled upon? - but I'm pretty sure it's not available commercially!

Russian River Sanctification

Russian River Sanctification - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell is very sweet, almost like... bubble gum? It's actually quite nice, whatever that aroma is... The taste is very sugary sweet, with a funky tart lemon character coming out in the middle and drying out in the finish. It's sour, but not overpoweringly so, certainly a lot less than Russian River's barrel aged sours. Mouthfeel is heavily carbonated but light, crisp and refreshing, and finishes dry. The tartness restrains drinkability a bit, but it's still quite an easy going beer. It would actually make a great introduction to the world of sours. Overall, very well balanced and approachable, but still complex and interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.75% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum). Drank out of a tulip on 4/28/12.

Russian River continues to impress, and I'm always on the lookout for something new from them. Here's to hoping that bottles of Beatification make their way over here someday soon...

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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.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

Recent Comments

  • Mark: Well then, I'll have to keep my eye open for read more
  • Mark: Ahh, good to know about the caffeine, I just did read more
  • phagan55: Yeah, white and green usually have about half the caffeine read more
  • phagan55: Free tastings are the way to go, you can try read more
  • Mark: I need to try some of these with milk/sugar additions read more
  • Mark: I should try that next time. But again, I find read more
  • Mark: Yeah, I just don't drink Scotch often enough to really read more
  • Mark: For a while, I had both the Ardbeg 10 and read more
  • Mark: I can see this being a great cold weather tea. read more
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