Pizza and beer is one of my favorite pairings, but what to do when you've gone on a temporary beer hiatus? Obviously you need to go with an Italian wine, but that doesn't narrow things down much... I ran into this video (you guys, I watch Playboy for the food pairing advice) which suggested a specific wine and, for once, I was actually able to find that wine around here.

This wine hails from Vittoria, Sicily and is made by one of the rising stars of the wine world, Arianna Occhipinti. She fell in love with the process while working with her uncle, also a famous winemaker, when she was just 16 years old. She followed up by studying agriculture and oenology at university and started making her own wine right after she graduated. Starting on a tiny plot (1 hectare), she's slowly grown her winery, focusing on all natural, organic winemaking.

It's funny, in looking up this wine I keep running into the weirdly specific statistic that Arianna Occhipinti has had 27 articles about her wines featured in the New York Times. Well, I guess she can add "and one random beer blog" to her growing list of plaudits.

This particular wine is a blend of two indigenous grapes, Nero d'Avola and Frappato. As a beer dork, you'll have to excuse the fact that I'm not familiar with either, but from looking around, Frappato is known for light-bodied, low-tannin wines with a distinct, I shit you not, "grapey" aroma. Alright, so other, probably more reliable sources go beyond describing these grapes as "grapey" and go with descriptions of red fruits (raspberries, cherries, etc...) and floral notes. Nero d'Avola seems to be associated with bigger, bolder wines, dark fruits (plums and the like), and tannins. The blend goes 70% Frappato and 30% Nero d'Avola, so I'm guessing a medium bodied wine with a nice acidity to pair with the pizza.

SP68 apparently refers to the name of a highway near Vittoria, so let's hop on board, drink some wine and eat some pizza:

Occhipinti SP68 Nero dAvola e Frappato

2015 Arianna Occhipinti Sicilia SP68 Nero d'Avola e Frappato - Pours a light, bright ruby red color. Smells nice, lots of fruit and berries, some floral notes, all leavened by hints of earthy funk in the background. Maybe it's because I love me some ultra-funky beer, but this does not seem as funky as many reviews seem to call out, though it is there. Taste again has a lot of fruit, berries, acidity, a bit of funky earth (though again, not that dramatic from my perspective). Mouthfeel is medium bodied and bright but still rich and robust, mild acidity, tingly tongue feeling but again, from the beery perspective this acid is nothing. Light on the dry tannins, making for an easy drinking wine. Overall, I'm really enjoying this wine, and it does indeed pair well with pizza... In fact, this is one of the more memorable wines I've sampled this year.

Wine Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 4/7/17. Vintage: 2015.

Food Pairing: A pretty straightforward pizza with red sauce, asiago and mozzarella cheese, garlic, and fresh basil, and yes, the wine did indeed pair very well. Did it pair better than beer (or even my old favorite, Coca-Cola)? That is indeed the question. I think I might still prefer beer, but I will say that my experience with wine and pizza in the past (not a lot of experience here, but still) wouldn't have even been close, and this wine made for a really pleasant pairing...

Beer Nerd Musings: I don't know of any beers that have made use of these Sicilian grape varietals (or aged in wine barrels from these grapes), but I suspect Frappato would be a nice adjunct in a lambic or American wild ale. As I understand it, the beer scene in Italy is exploding (just like here), but that a lot of operations are tiny. I hear some are even connected to wineries, so this seems like a fruitful combination... that will probably never make it to the U.S. Still, a man can hope. As for pairing with pizza, lots of beers will work, but I usually end up with some form of IPA or Saison, thogh a nice, crisp pilsner or helles can work too. Even a stout or Belgian dark could do the trick...

While I have triumphantly emerged from this year's Beer Recession, I do still have a few non-beer things to cover this week before we get back to the beer. Next up: beer adjacent hot sauce!

Pappy Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

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Various expressions of Pappy Van Winkle are widely considered to be the best Bourbon in the world. They are also widely derided as overrated and overhyped, which naturally has the effect of making Pappy even more prized in an unintential, reverse-psychology sort of way. We're kinda trapped in Pappy dominance with no real way out, is what I'm saying.

The cachet of Van Winkle has, of course, spread. Spent Pappy barrels are a prized commodity and are used to age everything from beer to, yes, maple syrup. What we have here is a collaboration between Pappy & Co and Ohio's Bissel Maple Farm. It's made with sap harvested in the Spring of 2016 and aged 6 months in Van Winkle 10 and 12 year old barrels (a previous batch was aged in Pappy 23 barrels - I'm guessing that's the one that shows up on ridiculous Maple Syrup Walez lists that I'm sure actually exist because lol, this is the internets). It's pricey, but is it worth the stretch?

Pure Maple Syrup Aged in Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels

Bourbon Barrel Aged Pure Maple Syrup Aged in Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels - Pours a very dark amber color. Smell has a very distinct bourbon note, moreso than any other Bourbon Barrel Aged syrup I've had (and, um, I've actually had a few different kinds), really interesting mix with the more typical maple syrup character. That bourbon note follows to the taste, again creating a distinct character from typical maple syrup and even other bourbon barrel-aged syrups. Bourbon flavor, but no real booze, which is, uh, a good thing. Overall, it's pricey af, but really tasty!

Beer Nerd Musings: So obviously Pappy Van Winkle barrel aged beer is almost as ridiculously hyped as the bourbon itself. Sometimes with reason. Pappy Black Magick might vie for the title of best beer I've ever had. Other beers aged in Pappy barrels weren't as successful, which speaks to the importance of other factors, I think (in that case, I don't think the base beer was a good choice for barrel aging). Obviously maple syrup and beer also go together pretty well, and some of the most prized beers have been aged in maple syrup barrels that previously held bourbon (though not these Pappy syrup barrels, I don't think). Bissel Maple Farm has specifically shown up as an element of Goose Island's Proprietor's Reserve Bourbon County line as well. I've actually not had the beers I'm referencing, but I'm most certainly on the lookout. My guess is that we'll see more of these over time...

So yes, quite pricey, but I think it's worth a shot at least once. Treat yo self. Pappy & Co. also make a bourbon infused hot sauce which we'll hopefully cover next week, along with another beer/bourbon adjacent hot sauce, so stay tuned.

Hophead Vodka

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The origins of the modern craft beer movement are usually traced back to 1965, when Frederick Louis "Fritz" Maytag III purchased Anchor Brewing Company, saving it from closure and keeping it strictly independent even during the dark days of consolidation and dominance of the big 3. A few decades later, in 1993, the company opened Anchor Distilling, a microdistillery in the same location as the brewery (surely not the first "craft" distillery, but probably ahead of the curve).

They're most famous for Old Potrero, a rye whiskey, but they also make gin and a few other oddities, like this relatively new offering, a vodka made with macerated hops. There have been various attempts to meld beer and spirits over the years, usually coming in the form of distilled commercial beer, like Charbay R5 (which is made from distilled Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA). Hopehead Vodka takes a slightly different approach. It uses hops which are macerated in neutral grain spirits before being distilled, apparently similar to the process used for Gin. Details are a little sparse, and while it's mentioned that they use 2 different hops, they don't mention which two. To my mind, the result is more gin-like than hoppy, but it feels like the mutant offspring of two different worlds:

Hophead Vodka

Hophead Vodka - Pours clear, no color at all. Smell is... not what I expected. These aren't your typical hops, but they do display related notes, mostly floral with a little citrus, maybe some spice. Taste is a little less distinctive, again floral notes, a little bit of citrus in the finish, hints of spice, ethanol. Mouthfeel is crisp with a bit of a bite from the booze. It feels like gin, which isn't particularly surprising, but while there's a certain distinct flavor, it doesn't feel entirely like the hops we all know and love, even if it shares some DNA or something. Seems like a nice change of pace for the gin fan, might make an interesting coctail with tonic or something (which I should probably try). That being said, it never really cohered for me, even if I think it's a pretty interesting dram. Certainly worth a look if you can snag a sample, but not really worth a purchase.

Vodka Nerd Details: 90 proof, 45% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass.

Beer Nerd Musings: Obviously hops are a key component in beer, and to my mind, the various attempts to incorporate hop character in spirits or whiskey are fascinating, but wholly inferior to what can be done with beer. I would say that, of course, but something about the distilling process transforms the hops in ways that might be interesting, but also lossy. I'm no master homebrewer, but I've huffed enough fresh hops to know what unadulterated hops smell and taste like, and beer can really capture that in ways something like this vodka just isn't. I'm still curious what a sorta dry-hopping approach to vodka or whiskey would produce, but I'm not entirely sure that will work as well as it does with beer.

Well that was interesting, and I'll certainly continue to explore the various convergences between beer and liquor, even if they don't always work out. In the meantime, we'll return to non-alcohol land with tomorrow's review of... maple syrup? With a twist!

Single Estate Assam

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During my annual beer recession, I usually spend some time exploring things that aren't alcohol. I know, I'm so kooky. I've made my coffee ambivalence well known on the blog due to its prevalence in the beer world, but I do enjoy the odd cup of tea here or there. I am far, so very far, from being an expert in tea, but that's one of the joys of this annual semi-hiatus from beer.

One thing I've never done is add milk to my tea. Yes, I'm the worst, I know that too. Oddly, as soon as I resolve to try this out, I find that adding milk to tea might destroy it's healthy antioxidants. Well, nuts. It does help round out some of the more bitter aspects of tea, but come on guys. A beer dork and certified hophead, bitterness doesn't exactly bother me. So imma keep drinking my tea straight up.

What we have here are two Single Estate Assams. Think Single Malt Scotch or single hop beer, only completely different. Or something. I've already decoded the whole GTGFOP1 acronym gobbledegook and yes, found out about some, um, disturbing terroir in Assam, so let's dive into these suckers:

Single Estate Assam: Dikom Estate Tea GTGFOP1 - Brews up an orange amber color. Smells malty with some herbal notes (I don't get mint as the description suggests, but maybe if I really reach for it...). Taste has a nice sweetness to it, malt coming through but also a very light fruit character that's nice, but not enough to really assert itself. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, strong, good breakfast fodder. Overall, it's nice, but I don't really get the notes from the description except in a very vague sense.

Tea Nerd Details: 1+ tsp for 8 ounce cup, infused at 212° for 4-5 minutes.

Single Estate Assam: Zaloni Estate STGFOP - Pours a light brown color with a hint of amber. Smells of sweet malt, a little bready, hints of something vegetal. Taste has an intense malt character, sweet, with that bready note too and a bit of a bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and finishes kinda dry. Overall, a decent cup of black tea, nothing particularly spectacular, but I like.

Tea Nerd Details: 1+ tsp for 8 ounce cup, infused at 212° for 4-5 minutes.

Beer Nerd Musings: Adding actual milk to beer is probably unwise and vaguely revolting, but we do use lactose. It increases body, adds a type of sweetness, and yes, evens out some of that bitterness that comes from hops. Indeed, while most of us don't mind a little bitterness (or even a lot), one of the big trends right now is less bitter IPAs and even what's called Milkshake IPAs, which are made with lactose and have a pretty chewy mouthfeel (and a rather opaque appearance). Go figure. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's only a matter of time before local favorite Tired Hands brewing makes a Milkshake beer that uses tea. Keep an eye out folks.

Next up in the non-alcoholic jamboree: Maple Syrup. With a twist you won't believe!

Stagg Jr.

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As its name would imply, Stagg Jr. is a younger version of Buffalo Trace's prized barrel-proof monster, George T. Stagg. It has no official age statement, but is rumored to be around 8 or 9 years old (while Stagg senior is more in the 16-17 year timeframe). It's also barrel proof in that same hazmat range of 60-70% ABV.

When it was first released in 2013, it ran aground amidst huge anticipation and hype. Perhaps nothing could live up to the expectations, but all accounts of that initial batch indicate a rough, overly-hot mess (as one review put it, it's "like drinking warm pepper spray"). Naming it Stagg Jr. probably didn't help. George T. Stagg is second only to Pappy in terms of bourbon obsession and hype, so that alone raised expectations to unrealistic levels.

Perhaps as a result of this lackluster reception, the next few batches seemed to linger on shelves longer than you'd expect. Around batch 3, its reputation started to turn around. Reviews started to wonder if Buffalo Trace had righted the ship and dialed in their newest product, but even I was able to snag a bottle of Batch 4 juice way back when, and I'm not exactly an expert whiskey hunter. I gather that subsequent releases have started to disappear more quickly, so I don't think people are sleeping on this anymore, but it'll still be a lot easier to get than Stagg senior.

I originally bought this bottle because I thought I'd never get the chance to try George T. Stagg... only to unexpectedly win the PLCB lottery a few weeks later. That Stagg is among the top 2 or 3 whiskeys I've ever had in my life, so Stagg Jr. did have a lot to live up to, but I tried to temper expectations. It helps that I'm still making my way through a lot of the more standard, boring offerings out there, so this still feels special to novice whiskey dorks like myself. It was nice to try this right next to Booker's to get a feel for how different these two bourbons can be:

Stagg Jr.

Stagg Jr. - Pours a dark amber orange color, long legs. Smells nice, typial oak, caramel, vanilla notes, some spice, cinnamon, molasses, brown sugar, booze not as nose-singing as Booker's despite the higher proof. Taste again hits those oaky notes pretty hard, some vanilla and caramel, plenty of spicebox, and ah, there's that booze. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, and yes, very boozy. Again, somehow not as harsh as Booker's, but still pretty hot (as per usual, take my baby beer palate into consideration here). Overall, this is quite nice, maybe a step up from Booker's but comparable. B+

Whiskey Nerd Details: 132.2 Proof, 66.1% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 4/8/17. Batch #4. Vintage 2015.

Beer Nerd Musings: I'm not aware of any beers specifically aged in Stagg Jr. barrels, but then, as I understand it, Stagg Jr. is just barrel proof Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare, both of which are frequently cited barrel provenances. As you might expect, I think these barrels would do quite well with beer, and indeed, Buffalo Trace won the FiftyFifty Eclipse horizontal tasting I held a few years back. The concept of a sorta baby version of a more prized beer is something that does happen from time to time, though the differentiator is more about the amount of alcohol rather than the age. Some examples might include Great Divide Velvet Yeti (a lower alcohol version of their Yeti Imperial Stout that's designed for nitro pours) or The Bruery So Happens It's Tuesday, a slightly lower alcohol (and thus "more affable") version of the monstrous Black Tuesday. There are probably tons of other examples.

Fellow Travelers: Obviously lots of other folks have tried various batches of this out:

So this was a pretty decent bourbon. I enjoyed it a little more than Booker's, but I'm told it falls a little short of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (a bourbon I've never managed to get my hands on). Alas, this will probably be the last whiskey I review during this year's Beer Recession. That being said, I've got another beer-adjacent bottle of booze that could use some reviewing, and even some things that don't involve alcohol at all. The horror!

Session #122: Views on Imported Beer

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On the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This time around, Christopher Barnes wants to know:

What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market?
An interesting question! When I was getting into "good" beer, imported stuff, particularly Belgian beer, was my inspiration. We're talking turn of the century timeframe here, so even the American craft beer that was knocking my socks off was inspired by Belgian beers. Ommegang Hennepin was my entree into great beer, and saisons in particular. Chimay was something that was pretty regularly available, but after some time, I eventually made my way to things like Orval (my first Brett dosed beer) and Fantôme.

All of that was before I ever got the notion to start a beer blog, but even after that, I was enamored with Belgian beer. I went through the Trappist rituals, ticked obscure breweries, played a little game I called Belgian Beer Roulette. It was great fun.

As the American craft beer scene exploded, I went through a period of import contraction. It's tough to keep up with all the new local breweries, let lone American breweries in general. Since the import market is relatively stable, the number of new beers crossing my path there was relatively limited. The one big exception is lambics. They were what made me see the light when it came to sour beers in general, and while the best lambics tend to be a little more difficult to obtain, they are indeed among the best beer's I've ever had. This will most likely continue.

There were, of course, more than Belgian imports out there. I've enjoyed beers from all over. There are definitely some beer regions I want to explore more thoroughly. Germany has some interesting beer cultures, and I have some friends in Dusseldorf who really want me to try their best Altbiers (which don't get imported with any sort of regularity, though I have seen some). Italy's beer scene has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years, but I get the impression that a lot of the best stuff doesn't make its way over here, which is probably the same for a lot of foreign beer.

I suspect this is similar to what a lot of European drinkers see of American beer. Yes, they get some of the U.S. craft beer explosion, but it tends to be the larger regional powerhouses like Stone, Victory, Lagunitas, and the like. Nothing wrong with those beers, for sure, but the most interesting American beer is happening at the tiny scale breweries that can barely supply their local environs. Again, I suspect a lot of great European beer falls into the same category: fabulous beer that doesn't (and probably shouldn't!) expand beyond its native land. Fortunately, there are plenty of great beers that do get over here. And it's worth noting that much of what drives American beer is descended from imported beer traditions. It's probably not an accident that my initial exposure to Belgian beer styles was from an American brewery...

So I do expect imported beers will continue to play a role in my beer diet. Perhaps a little diminished than in years past, but still present! That being said, I don't think imported beers are going away or anything, nor do I think that American beers are supplanting their imported brethren. I may drink more American beer, but that's probably more a function of where I am than anything else. New things rarely supplant the old things. I shall leave you with a quote from Neal Stephenson's The System of the World, where the character Daniel Waterhouse ponders how new systems supplant older systems:

"It has been my view for some years that a new System of the World is being created around us. I used to suppose that it would drive out and annihilate any older Systems. But things I have seen recently ... have convinced me that new Systems never replace old ones, but only surround and encapsulate them, even as, under a microscope, we may see that living within our bodies are animalcules, smaller and simpler than us, and yet thriving even as we thrive. ... And so I say that Alchemy shall not vanish, as I always hoped. Rather, it shall be encapsulated within the new System of the World, and become a familiar and even comforting presence there, though its name may change and its practitioners speak no more about the Philosopher's Stone." (page 639)
Surround and encapsulate, but not destroy. Seems apt.

Booker's Bourbon

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Booker's is one of Jim Beam's four small batch products (the others being Knob Creek, Baker's, and Basil Hayden) and it has a reputation of being the best thing Beam makes. That being said, it doesn't seem to be the topic of much conversation (except for an ill-advised price increase that was walked back recently), perhaps because it's been around for a while, perhaps because it's actually available and you can find it on the shelf. We all know that rarity makes things taste better, so this is a truly black mark on Booker's.

In the 1980s, the first bottles were hand-made Christmas Gifts from Beam master distiller Booker Noe and were so popular that it was made an official, publicly available brand in 1992. Upon his retirement, he left instructions with his son to not let anyone "mess with my Booker's." Indeed, little seems to have changed with his namesake Bourbon - it's still 6-8 years old, unfiltered, and cask strength (usually pretty high-test stuff too).

This particular bottle clocks in at 128 proof, which is a nice flammability factor for sure. Each batch gets its own little pet name these days too. This one is named "Bluegill Creek Batch" because the bottling day was particularly hot and humid and Fred Noe (Booker's son and successor to the master distiller role) was reminded of days spent fishing a creek for bluegill with his father. Sounds nice, so let's dive in:

Bookers Bourbon

Booker's Bourbon - Pours a clear golden orange color, nice legs. Smells intensely of oak with some caramel and vanilla pitching in, some earthy tobacco type notes too. With water, some cinnamon spice emerges. Taste is rich and sweet, lots of caramel, toffee, oak, and vanilla, some spice kicking in too, maybe cinnamon? And booze, tons of booze. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and yes, boozy af. I mean, yeah, I have a baby beer palate, but this is pretty tough. But tasty, and not the worst heat I've experienced. A little dry in the finish as well. Overall, a little hot, but it's a really good bourbon. Worth the current pricetag, but maybe not if they pump it up to $100... B+

Whiskey Nerd Details: 128 Proof, 64% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 4/1/17. Batch #2016-04 "Bluegill Creek Batch". Age: 6 Yrs 5 Mo 28 Days.

Beer Nerd Musings: I haven't had anything specifically marked as a Booker's Bourbon barrel aged beer and I don't see many out there either. Allagash apparently made a Booker's aged variant of their Curieux, but I must admit, the tripel style is not my favorite way to showcase a bourbon barrel treatment. Still, I'd assume this would make for a pretty good barrel for beer aging... but then, what wouldn't?

Fellow Travelers: Some other folks who've grappled with Bookers:

Another cask strength monster bourbon review coming tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Laird's 12 Year Old Apple Brandy

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It's not all Bourbon and Wine here in this time of Beer Recession. We also like to tackle the weird, off-the-beaten path offerings, like distilled beer... (Yeah, yeah, "beer" is used in a more general sense in this distilling literature, but look where you are! I'm referring to commercial beer offerings like Racer 5 or Duvel. Get with the program, people.)

During last year's 6 Weeks of Halloween (an annual horror movie marathon centered around that bestest of holidays), I wanted to get something seasonal and an alternative to pumpkin-spiced everything. Looking at various available options, I settled on Laird's 12 Year Old Apple Brandy.

Established in 1780, Laird's bills itself as "America's oldest native distillery" and is based in New Jersey and Virginia. They make 6 expressions, one a standard Applejack (a blend of Apple Brandy and neutral grain spirits), a bonded Apple Brandy, an Unbonded Apple Brandy (still at 100 proof), an unaged edition, a 7.5 year old Apple Brandy, and the 12 Year Old that I'll be reviewing today. Apparently the Bonded Apple Brandy is the Van Winkle of the category, fueled by ravenous bartenders and their cocktail-swilling patrons. Alas, the 12 year old, while a fine pour, didn't quite scratch the itch I was looking for, feeling more like a light bourbon or maybe a generic brandy:

Lairds 12 Year Old Apple Brandy

Laird's 12 Year Old Apple Brandy - Pours a clear golden orange color. Smells oaky, sweet, and fruity, though I don't know that I'd peg this as apple brandy were I trying it blind. Maybe because I know this is apple brandy, if I do the olfactory equivalent of squinting, I can kinda see it as being apple-based. The taste is pretty well dominated by oak, maybe a faint hint of generic fruit, some spice, but really just dry oak all the way through and especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is light (perhaps owing to the lowish proof) and a little dry. Overall, this feels more like a standard bourbon than apple brandy, though it does have more fruity notes than bourbon. Frankly, I was hoping for a more clear apple character. C+

Brandy Nerd Details: 88 Proof, 44% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 3/26/17.

Beer Nerd Musings: I've had two beers that were aged in Laird's Apple Brandy barrels, both from Voodoo (whose barrel program is small but quite impressive). Gran Met uses a tripel base and took on a huge amount of Apple Brandy character, almost like a boozy apple pie in liquid form. The Apple Brandy Black Magick has a bigger, bolder stout base, but the Apple Brandy still comes through. As such, I think I'll need to track down some of the bonded/unbonded hooch to get that seasonal character I was missing in the 12 year old.

Fellow Travelers: I probably wouldn't even have thought of this if Sku's Recent Eats hadn't been tearing through various Apple Brandy products in October of last year (i.e. prime 6 Weeks of Halloween territory). Alas, I procured my bottle of Laird's just before he reviewed it, with similar results. Had I waited a little and saw his review, I probably would have tried to track down one of the "younger" products that seem to display more apple character...

A nice enough detour; up next comes more bourbon and maybe some tea. Also some syrup and hot sauce that... are more relevant than you might think. I know, I know, those last few aren't alcoholic. Whatever shall we do? I think we'll just have to get over it. Further out, we might have another unusual non-whiskey, beer-adjacent spirit on its way, so stay tuned.

Get your fainting pillow ready: I haven't drank much French wine. I'd say I'm the worst but you guys know this is a beer blog, right?

This bottle hails from the hills of the Rhone valley and thus sports a Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation, specifically the northwest facing slopes in the south of the area and oh geeze, I'm getting into that micro-climate terroir territory here, aren't I? I'm sure this is important, but this doesn't mean enough to me just yet, so let's move on to the varietal, which is 100% Syrah. Aged for 14 months in oak barrels too. Looking around, I see that these wines are "great for aging" and indeed, many reviews seem to indicate that it could use some time in the bottle before drinking. Fortunately, I'm drinking this about a year after those reviews were written, so let's get to it:

2014 Domaine Fond Croze Côtes du Rhône Villages Les Roches

2014 Domaine Fond Croze Côtes du Rhône Villages les Roches - Pours a dark maroon, purplish red color. Smells fantastic, lots of fruit, almost tart fruit, maybe a floral note or earthy note too. Taste is rich, dark fruit and berries up front with a helping of mineral earthiness and leather or tobacco or something, but then it lightens up a bit and brings out an almost (but not quite) tart note towards the finish, which only displays moderate tannins. Some oak is present too, but so much that it overpowers anything. Mouthfeel is rich and coating, medium to full bodied, only moderately dry. Seems to pair well, but also drinks well on its own. Overall, this is quite nice!

Wine Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 3/25/17. Vintage: 2014.

Food Pairing: Fronch fries. Fronch dressing. Fronch bread. And to drink... Peru. Or just the standard red wine pairing of grilled steak, sauteed mushrooms, and some steamed string beans. The wine was able to stand up to the hearty meal, but was also quite good on its own.

Beer Nerd Musings: I don't appear to have had a beer aged in old Syrah barrels, but the treatment isn't that unusual either (usually sours). I'm almost certain that BFM's Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien series uses Syrah barrels in some vintages, but that's a blend from a bunch of different barrels, so not exactly a pure expression. And look here, BFM does make a version of their XV (√225 Saison) that is aged on actual Syrah grapes, so there is that. Also Jester King's Biere De Syrah, which I wouldn't mind trying. Hint, hint. Cause I assume one of my five readers is from Austin or something. What was I talking about?

I quite enjoyed this. Since it supposedly ages well, I may have to snag another while it's still at the PA Chairman's Selection pricing... though its still a bit pricey (on the other hand, it's nowhere near the infamously expensive French wines...) And the great 2017 Beer Recession continues unabated. Stay tuned for some Apple Brandy later this week, followed by a couple of Bourbons next week...

Bissell Brothers LUX Rye Ale

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Portland, Maine's Bissell Brothers opened their doors in December of 2013 and almost immediately garnered attention from the Northeast IPA devoted. These days, the faithful making the pilgrimage to Vermont are tempted to detour even further north to check out the likes of Bissell Brothers, along with contemporaries like Foundation and stalwarts like Allagash. By this statement, I mean that I have certainly been tempted to make such a trek, and I'm sure the inevitable Operation Lobster (to keep in like with Operation Cheddar or Operation Chowder) will be forthcoming sometime in the nearish future.

One of the distinctive things about Northeast IPAs is their usage of adjuncts like wheat, oats, or rye (amongst others) in addition to barley. That being said, these IPAs don't always display the characteristics you might expect from these additions. Case in point: Bissell Brothers' Lux bills itself as a Rye Ale, but in nearly every other respect, it comes off as a pale ale or light IPA. All the standard attributes (appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc...) indicate such and there's almost none of that characteristic spicy, sour-like rye flavor, but that's the rub. Not your father's roggenbier:

Bissell Brothers Lux

Bissell Brothers LUX Rye Ale - Pours a pale golden orange color with a finger of white, tight bubbled head that leaves a little lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic, huge tropical fruit hops (Mosaic here for sure), NEIPA juicy aromas, but some more floral notes too (dat Centennial). Taste has that citrus and floral character, but rye spice comes through just a tiny a bit here too, making it a little more complex (or maybe I'm just looking for it? Not sure if I'd pick it up blind...), finishing with just a hint of bitter dryness. Mouthfeel is perfect, light bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry, utterly quaffable but it also doesn't feel too light, if you know what I mean. Overall, this is rather fantastic. It feels a lot more like an IPA than a "rye beer" but who cares, it's great. A-

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

That's certainly a nice first impression. Many thanks to fellow BeerNERD Pete for trading the can my way. Will obviously be on the lookout for moar Bissell in the future.

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

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