Deschutes Jubel 2015

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We're big fans of Christmas here at Kaedrin. We love the whole season, even some of the crass things that everyone hates, like creeping start dates for decorations, horrifying music, and terrible Hallmark movies. Christmas in July isn't a real holiday and most folks see it for what it really is: a blatant marketing appeal and opportunity to clear out last year's Christmas inventory in preparation for the upcoming season. Historically, there's some obscure references to the idea, but it didn't really catch on until the greeting card industrial complex got behind it. If this sounds cynical, well, I work for a big online retailer and trust me, there's never a time when we're not planning some sort of Christmas event (last weekend was the kickoff of this year's Christmas season for us, after which things will only intensify. Fingers crossed that I don't pull guaranteed delivery duty this year.)

But it doesn't have to be that way. No reason we can't break out some wintery heavy hitters in July, you know? Even better, I've been practically bathing in saisons and IPAs of late, so despite the hot weather, it's worth taking a dip into some darker brews. Enter Jubel, an imperialized version of Jubelale, Deschutes traditional winter warmer. Also referred to as Super Jubel, Deschutes employed their customary partial barrel aging strategy, with a 50% aged in Pinot and Oregon Oak barrels (I assume this to mean Pinot Noir and new oak barrels). The label sez this was conceived of as a once-a-decade beer, but they didn't want to wait another five years, so here we are with a pretty good way to start Christmas in July festivities:

Deschutes Jubel 2015

Deschutes Jubel 2015 - Pours a deep, dark, cloudy amber color with a finger of tan head that lingers for a bit but quickly subsides. Smell is rich caramel and fruity malt, hints of mulling spices in the background, a little oak. This was quite intense up front, but as I made my way through the bottle, it started to dissipate a bit. Taste is not quite as intense as the nose would have you believe, not as rich or fruity, but it's got some caramel and fruit in the game, and the spice actually comes through a little more here too. Mouthfeel is high medium bodied, dryer than I'd expect (relatively speaking), maybe a faint hint of booze, and as it warms, the booze comes out a bit more. It feels perhaps a bit too attenuated, but then, I think that's what they're going for. Overall, this is a decent beer, but it's not quite as impressive as it could have been. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.4% ABV bottled (22 ounce waxed bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/18/15. Best After: 1/23/16.

Someday I'll remember to save one of these Deschutes beers until the best after date. Someday. In other news, big Christmas in July blowout on Saturday. Lots of imperial stouts, right in time for a big heatwave around here. Perfect. Check out Kaedrin Beer's Twitter to follow along on Saturday night... and expect a full recap next week.

Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar

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Hot on the heels of Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder, only about a month later, I embarked upon the more familiar, single-day incursion into Vermont. This being the case, I'm not going to cover the trip in as much detail, considering that you can go back and read recaps of my previous sorties into Vermont. Instead, I'll recap a few beers I've had, and let you know about a few new places I visited this time around.

First up is a brewery that's not even in Vermont. I know, I'm the worst, but it was literally walking distance from the place I was staying and it had just opened less than a week before I visited. How could I not check it out? Enquiring minds want to know about all these new breweries popping up all over the place, and someone has to take up the slack. And until they do, you'll have to deal with my silly notes. It's called Fulton Chain Brewing (named after the chain of lakes that winds its way through the Adirondacks), and it's got a promising start. They only had 4 beers on tap, but plan on having more (things were still coming up to speed for them, they were still waiting on glassware for flights and even empty growlers). Between three friends and myself, we tried all of them, and they're decent. The clear highlight for me was Lake Hopper IPA, an 8.5% ABV DIPA made with 8 hops to represent the 8 lakes in the Fulton Chain. Nice juicy DIPA, super cloudy stuff, a little raw, but very promising. Not exactly a Heady killer or anything, but pretty darn good for a place down the road.

Fulton Chain Lake Hopper DIPA

I also tried a beer called Stealth Buddha, a Scotch ale made with small amounts of smoked malt, quite approachable. Not going to inspire road trips or anything, but nice enough. Really happy this place opened up, and I'm looking forward to visiting again once they're more established. They appear to be quite small, but they've got a gorgeous tasting room (including an amazing single piece countertop that snakes its way throughout the space), a nice location, and they show promise.

As for Vermont, I made a few of the typical stops, including the Warren Store, a couple places in Waterbury, Lost Nation (got a great pulled pork thing that wasn't quite as good as the smoked lamb pita sandwich I had last time, but was still fantastic), and Hill Farmstead.

Hill Farmstead

Some spoils of war:

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - bottles

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - Cans

(click to embiggen)

I didn't snap a pic of everything because I bought a bunch of stuff at Lost Nation and Hill Farmstead that I had snagged last time. Some new stuff includes my most prized acquisition, Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience 14 (barrel aged blend of Anna and Florence), some of this year's batch of Florence (I still have some of last year's batch, so I'm hoping to do a comparison). Also some Sip of Sunshine (it comes in bottles and cans!) and a bottle of Rock Art's Bourbon Barrel Aged Vermonster. Lots of Lost Nation Cans, including some Mosaic and Vermont Pilsner (both of which are very nice), and of course, some Gose. Moar Sip of Sunshine cans, and I took a flier on 14 Star Tribute DIPA... Finally, I made my way to Four Quarters brewing to fill up some crowlers.

Four Quarters Brewing - Barrels
Four Quarters Barrel Room (click to embiggen)

Another pretty small operation, they impressed me during the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston last month and I was really hoping to snag some bottles. Alas, it was not to be, but I did get some crowlers. Here's Chrysalis, a smoked hoppy amber ale:

Four Quarters Crysalis

Four Quarters Chrysalis - Pours a very nice, mostly clear dark amber color with a finger of bubbly light tan head that sticks around for a while. Smells of citrusy hops initially, but then you get that malty, smoky background that actually sets the hops off rather nicely. Taste starts off on the sweeter side, typical amber and crystal malts, and the smoke is somewhat muted, but it's there and playing along reasonably well. Hints of piney, bitter hops come in towards the finish as well. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and silky smooth, pretty easy going stuff. The smokey character is not dominant at all, and just adds a bit of complexity to a pretty typical hopped red ale. Overall, it's a very nice beer, not mind blowing, but interesting enough... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV canned (32 ounce crowler). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/12/15. Crowler filled on 7/9/15.

I also got a crowler of Opus Dei (a very nice, quaffable little Belgian Pale Ale) and shared it with some friends when I got back. Sorry, no detailed notes there. Another thing I shared with some Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #1, a great little DIPA (what else would you expect from them), not quite as juicy or citrusy as I've come to expect, but there's nothing wrong with that, and it actually matched very well with some smoked chicken we were having. It went over quite well. I managed to squirrel away my last growler though:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 4

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 - Pours a cloudy, bright golden color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells amazing, huge citrus aromas, pure mango juice or something like that. Taste is very sweet, again with a massive blast of mango juice, well balanced finish, not bitter, but just perfectly balanced. Feels kinda like and amped up Susan, but even more fruity. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, smooth, medium bodied, and almost quaffable. Overall, what a surprise, HF hits it out of the park. Again. With a citrusy wonder. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/12/15. Growler filled on 7/9/15.

Finally, this last one is a spoil from Operation Cheddar III, but I think you still want to know about it, right?

Rock Art Smugglers Notch Barrel Aged RIS

Rock Art Smuggler's Notch Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout - Smuggler's Notch is a Vermont micro-distillery, so I took a flier on this one rather than going with the more traditional straight bourbon barrel approach. Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, and lots of vanilla, hints of roast and dark chocolate. Taste is surprisingly muted, some of that bourbon and oak, but not much, vanilla, and a big hit of hop bitterness towards the finish. As it warms, some roast comes out to play, and it becomes more expressive. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, and while not dry, per say, it's more attenuated than I'd expect. Overall, this isn't top tier stuff, but it's an interesting take on the style. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/3/15.

Well, that was more involved than I thought it would be! Another successful incursion into Vermont, and there will be more. Oh yes.

The Bruery Cuivre

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The Bruery's Anniversary beers hold a certain sentimental value for me, and as such, they've become a much anticipated annual tradition. As with the past few years, we've got a massive Old Ale base aged in Bourbon Barrels along with some of last year's batch (meaning that every batch of Anniversary beer contains a small amount of every previous batch, a process called the Solera method). Fortunately, after last year's substantial bump up to 16.9% ABV (from 15%), this one sees a slight decrease, though it still tips the scales at a hefty 16.2% ABV. It's their seventh anniversary, so it was named Cuivre, translating to Copper, after the traditional gift for such an anniversary. Alas, they appear to have given up on waxing these bottles, and we're left with one of those imitation wax foil things. Decent as they come, but not quite as sexy as a waxed bottle.

The ultra-high ABV game gets tiring pretty quickly, but there are some things that make it significantly more palatable. One is that the beer needs to be really good, something The Bruery is generally able to achieve. Another thing that The Bruery is not particularly good at is bottle size. I get it, they're a small brewery and would rather invest their money in more barrels and beer than upgrading their bottling line to accommodate smaller bottles. It's hard to argue with that. On the other hand, Black Tuesday is somewhere in the range of 18-20% ABV every year and it's a bit of a project to get through a bottle. A wonderful, delicious project, to be sure, but still. Sometimes, even sharing that much beer, at that high of an ABV, can be a challenge. I like to have people over from time to time, but I don't want them to leave completely sloshed, you know? In short, I think Patrick Rue is trying to kill us. All of us. No pity, no remorse, just large bottle formats. At least the other high-ABV culprits, like Avery or even Dogfish Head, will package their heavy hitters in 12 ounce bottles. The Bruery? Well, I guess I'll just have to live with making a night out of some of these things. And, to be sure, they're usually pretty fantastic nights:

The Bruery Cuivre

The Bruery Cuivre - Pours a cloudy, dense, brown color with a finger of light tan head that has decent retention but dies down to a ring around the edges and eventually disappears. Smells great, huge bourbon, oak, and vanilla character, with lots of rich caramel, toffee, werther's original, some of that almost fruity, raisiny malt character in the background, maybe even some spicy phenols like cinnamon in the mix. Taste is very sweet, lots of rich caramel up front, toffee, werther's, hints of fruity, raisiny malt, boozy in the finish, with just a hint of the spice box. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, heavy stuff with lots of hot booze, a little sticky, and did I mention booze? A sipping beer for sure. Overall, a slight rebound from last year's overly boozy, one-note (but that one note was so good) affair, but it still feels like some of the earlier vintages were better. This series is still one of my favorites though, and hopefully always will be. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.2% ABV (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/2/15. Vintage: 2015.

This is a little on the expensive side, but it's also pretty widely available, and you don't see beers of this quality that often, so it might be worth the expense if you're into this sort of ultra-rich, high-ABV, bourbon barrel aged stuff. I'm a sucker for this series though, so take that with a grain of salt. Interestingly, I still have a bottle of Cuir, the second anniversary brew, sitting in my cellar, that for some reason (*ahem* the high ABV and large bottle format *ahem*) I've never opened. Maybe I'll get to that this year...

Lost Nation The Wind

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So we know how much I enjoyed Lost Nation's flagship Gose, a perfect summer beer. What happens when you take that, dry hop it with Citra, and add some grapefruit to the mix? You get The Wind, once a limited draft-only brew that they have recently started bottling. Tilt those windmills, we've got to deal with The Wind:

Lost Nation The Wind

Lost Nation The Wind - Pours a cloudy straw yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head that resolves down to a small cap of head that has pretty good retention. Smells wonderful, that dry hopping coming through strong with citrus and floral notes, but the underlying brackish and spicy Gose character is still there and plays well with the hops. Taste starts off more Gose-like than the nose, sweet, salty, spicy, with a zesty, lemony, tartness emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, tart, and relatively dry, making for a very quaffable glass. Definitely more intense and layered than the base Gose. Overall, I'm rating this higher but it's hard to call this "better" than the base beer because it's quite different, but it is more complex and intense while still being very well balanced. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/27/15.

Lost Nation has quickly emerged into a must-visit stop during Operation Cheddars. This represents that last of my Operation Cheddar III cache, but fear not, I stopped in again last week and restocked with a couple new ones. You will be seeing more from these guys in the near future.

Crux Tough Love [Banished]

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The first time I heard of Crux Brewing was a couple of years ago when Jay from the on-again, off-again, and freshly back-in-action Beer Samizdat took a trip on the Bend, Oregon Brew Bus. He mentioned a couple of their hoppy brews, but the first one I managed to snatch up was this imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels. Brewed with black strap molasses, unspecified spices, rye, smoked wheat, and who knows what else, it sorta reminded me of a more barrel-forward version of The Abyss, which makes sense when I learned that Crux was started by Larry Sidor, the former brewer for Deschutes (and presumably the originator of the Abyss). Well, it appears that Sidor's still got it, as this was quite good. Nice distinctive label (that I'm sure is a huge pain in the arse to apply), waxed cap, and a cork. Someone wanted to keep this genie secured in the bottle, but I managed to pry it loose. Eventually.

Crux Banished Tough Love

Crux Tough Love [Banished] - Pours a deep, very dark amberish color, almost black really, with half a finger of light brown head. Smells of caramel, molasses, vanilla, dark chocolate, oak, and hints of bourbon. Taste starts off with some rich caramel and toffee with oak, then that molasses kicks in, brown sugar, vanilla, hints of candied fruit, maybe a little chocolate, cinnamon?, plenty of boozy character in the finish. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, but well carbonated, which helps with the viscous and thick body. A little boozy, but nothing excessive or unpleasant and would probably calm down after a few months in the cellar. The closest I can think of for this would be something like Berserker or Abyss... Overall, it's a rock solid barrel aged RIS that has just enough personality to set it apart from the crowd, though it doesn't quite take top honors. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed, capped, and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/26/15. Vintage: 2014 [Banished] series.

Certainly a brewery to keep my eyes on. In the meantime, I'll have to make do with this all this piddling Vermont beer from the just recently completed Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar (look for a recap, um, soonish - I'm a little backed up in the reviews department). The horror!

Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta

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Look at any crowd-sourced list of top beers in the world, and you'll basically find an accounting of the best Double IPAs and Russian Imperial Stouts in the world. On Beer Advocate, you have to get to Fou' Foune at #15 before you reach something that's not a DIPA or RIS. Ratebeer isn't quite as bad, with only 7 imperial stouts in the top 10. The commonality here is high alcohol, which generally means intensity, which generally makes more of an impression than a delicate, nuanced pilsener or something. Heck, I'm as guilty as anyone, and the A level archives of this blog are littered with high alcohol brews (though I do seem to have at least a little more variation in terms of style, even if there are plenty of DIPAs and Imperial Stouts). This is a drastic simplification for effect, of course, but the point is that beer nerds love them some high alcohol brews.

Which is why it's kinda funny that Lost Nation doesn't really make any of those. They're from Vermont, so they do have some hoppy beers, but they tend to be lower alcohol IPAs like Lost Galaxy (which I'd probably term a straight up Americal Pale Ale, but still), clocking in at 4.8% ABV. Their flagship Gose hits the same ABV. Indeed, their highest ABV beer is the one we're reviewing today, Lamoille Bretta, with a whopping 6% ABV. And yet, it's a beautiful, flavorful beer, and while it might seem like Lost Nation is bucking a trend, it's also something of a beer nerd trend. Session IPAs are all over the place these days (again, they're kinda just APAs, but still) and Gose's soaring popularity partly due to it's easy drinking nature. Once Americans realized how much they could annoy their British friends by claiming that a 4.6% ABV beer was a session beer, it just took off even further. But seriously, it turns out that not every beer has to melt your face, and more and more people have been coming around to that notion. Revolutionary, I know.

Anywho, this is Lost Nation's straight up Saison Lamoille that has been dosed with Brettanomyces and it's a pretty damn good attempt:

Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta

Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta - Cork nearly took off my hand, I hadn't even finished undoing the cage when it exploded out of the bottle. Was worried about a gusher, but no, thankfully all was fine. Pours a nice yellow gold color with several fingers of fluffy, large bubbled head that sticks around for quite a while (I could see this coming and poured extra slow, so as to prevent a glass consisting mostly of head). Smells beautiful, starts off with dusty, musty farmhouse funk, with some more traditional spicy Belgian yeast, followed by a nice fruity kick. Taste hits that musty farmhouse funk early on, some earthiness, Belgian yeast spice, followed by some more fruity esters coming out to play, lightly tart fruit. Not hugely funky, but a well balanced amount. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, crisp, and very dry. Light to medium bodied, just enough to offset the massive amounts of carbonation. Overall, this is pretty special stuff, an improvement over the base, and something I need to try again. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/26/15. Bottle: 441 - B5.

This has been my favorite Lost Nation beer yet, and there's sadly only one remaining (and even more sad, I already drank it! I will get to it soon enough). I'm excited to return there and purchase more of their gloriously low ABV beer (also, apparently some proper glassware, as they keep informing me on twitter).

Foley Brothers Fair Maiden

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Most of the attention of the Vermont beer scene is laser focused on Heady Topper, Lawson's, and Hill Farmstead. For the most part, this attention is well deserved, but it also means that a lot of other Vermont beers fly under the radar. The goal of Vermont Beer Roulette, wherein I purchase beers I've never heard of, is to unearth some of these hidden gems. It's happened before, and I'm sure it will happen again. Foley Brothers is a brewery discovered in the original Operation Cheddar, and I really enjoyed their Native Brown Ale. Their Native IPA, not quite as much, but I still had high hopes for Fair Maiden, their new(ish?) Double IPA.

Alas, despite being generally well received, it's not a beer that I connected with, though it's certainly possible that I got an older bottle (the bottle had no freshness dates on it that I could find). It wasn't terrible or anything, just disappointing. I do think that at least part of the reason some of the other VT IPAs are so well regarded is that they are almost always consumed fresh, usually absurdly so. Given that I saw this on multiple shelves all over the state, I have to wonder how long it sat there... Well, let's take a closer look.

Foley Brothers Fair Maiden

Foley Brothers Fair Maiden Double IPA - Pours a golden color, almost orange, with a finger of white head. Smells sugary sweet, with some citrus and pine hops in play, some biscuity malt too. It's a nice nose at first, but it doesn't last. Taste is also pretty sweet, lots of crystal malt character, citrus and pine hops, a little smack of bitterness in the finish. As it warms, the sweetness rises and the hop character falls off. I suspect this is showing some age (not a ton, but enough to impact the beer). Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and a little sticky, getting stickier as it warms (a 12 ounce bottle may have fared better in this review). Overall, it's a straightforward DIPA, but it doesn't compare to the VT competition (and it's probably similar to a gazillion other things). It's a decent enough pour, but not something worth going nuts over. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/27/15.

I guess they can't all be winners. I may be induced to take another flyer on Foley Bros stuff in the future, but at this point, I may look to further explore some other breweries...

Trillium Vicinity

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The one brewery visit during Operation Chowder was Trillium, in downtown Boston, after which we stopped next door at a neat little oyster bar and beer purveyor called Row34. They have a pretty solid tap list, so obviously they cozied up to their neighbors for some exclusive suds. It turns out that, as Trillium describes it, their "walk-the-kegs-across-the-alley proximity" is quite convenient. To celebrate Row34's one year anniversary last fall, Trillium brewed a hopped up Double IPA called Vicinity (get it?) I have it on good authority that it's hopped primarily with Galaxy, though Citra and Columbus play a supporting role. It proved popular enough that they made it again and bottled it. Near as I can tell, this bottle is actually from the third batch, so it must be really popular. After tasting it, I believe I have found some support for this hypothesis, but I'll say further observations are required (i.e. I want moar!)

Trillium Vicinity

Trillium Vicinity Double IPA - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells amazing, huge citrus aromas, mangoes and tropical fruit galore, sweet, almost candied fruit, just a fabulous nose. Taste is a little more dank than the nose would have you believe, lots of fruity citrus and resinous pine, some crystal malt providing a nice background and caramel interplay with the piney hops, nice dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and a little dry. Overall, this is a fantastic little number with a breathtaking nose (seeing a theme here with Trillium and aroma) and a rockin body. Er, that sounded hotter than intended, but then, well, yeah. It's pretty hot (in a metaphorical sense, not in a boozy or spicy sense, jeeze, what's wrong with me, how am I still writing here, do people even read these tasting notes, I don't think they do, I'm using a lot of commas here when they should really be periods but I'm pretty sure no one's reading so why should I care, the beer's really good, you should try it if you get the chance. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/19/15. Bottled: 5/19/15.

So basically, if you find yourself in Boston, head over to Congress street, wait in line to get some growlers of Trillium beer, then stop in at Row34 for some refreshments. You will be a happy camper.

Jack's Abby Framinghammer(s)

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One of the unexpected treasures secured during Operation Cheddar III was a trio of Jack's Abby beers I never thought I'd see just sitting on a shelf. We're fans of Jack's Abby here at Kaedrin, if only because they force us to reconsider our prejudice against lagers (something I've been working on of late). Oh yeah, and their beer is actually quite good, and often not just in a It's good... for a lager way. They actually just started sending some beer down Philly way, gauging interest for a full blown distribution push once additional capacity comes on line at their brewery (fingers crossed that we met whatever swanky criteria they were expecting), but this line of Baltic Porters were scarce (if they shewed up here at all, I don't really remember) and I never got a taste.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the base beer and several barrel aged variants sitting on a shelf in VT. What makes these suckers special? Well, Baltic Porters are an interesting style, something of a hybrid between a Russian Imperial Stout and Porter, these were quite popular along the ports of the Baltic Sea. According to Jack's Abby, while the original British brews were ales, the Baltic breweries tended to make lagers. Yeast wasn't particularly well understood at the time, so they just used their familiar lager yeast to make a big, bold porter, and that's what Jack's Abby (primarily lager brewers) is doing here. Come to think of it, I don't know of any other commercial brewery doing such sorcery, so good on them. I've had a few Baltic Porters in my day, but they always seem to suffer in comparison to RIS in my mind.

That being said, my interest was piqued when I spied the barrel aged versions, one straight up, and the other including an addition of vanilla. There was also a coffee BA version, but I left that for those enterprising VT beer nerds with more of a taste for coffee than I. Rumor has it that the original batch of these suckers were aged in Weller Antique barrels (a fine bourbon on the endangered species list because everyone calls them Pappy substitutes - stop doing that guys!), though who knows if this most recent batch carries the same provenance? I decided to make a night of it and drink all three back to back, perhaps not my wisest decision ever, but given that I've practically been drowning in IPAs and saisons of late, I thought this would be a welcome respite from hops and farmhouse funk (Not that I don't appreciate those amazing beers, just that it's good to change things up from time to time). So how good are Baltic Porters brewed with lager yeast? Pretty damn good, if you ask me:

Jacks Abby Framinghammer

Jack's Abby Framinghammer - Pours a very deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head that sticks around a while. Smells of roasted malts, cocoa, molasses, vanilla, and a bit of caramel. Taste starts off very sweet, bits of caramel and vanilla up front, molasses and lots of cocoa in the middle, and hints of hoppy, bitter roast towards the finish. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, but smooth and a little rich, a full bodied sipper, to be sure, but well attenuated, even if it remains heavy (as it should be). Overall, my kind of Baltic porter, sweet with hints of roast, complex but approachable, very well done. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/20/15. Bottled: 2.3.15

Jacks Abby Barrel Aged Framinghammer

Jack's Abby Barrel Aged Framinghammer - Looks pretty much the same as the others, very dark brown, almost black, much less head and retention. Smell is more focused on carmamel and boozy bourbon, some of the cocoa and roast in the background. Taste is all rich caramel and bourbon, with some cocoa and roast for good measure. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, less than the base but more than the vanilla. Full bodied sipper, slightly boozy. Overall, a rock solid barrel aged beer, nice improvement over the base, complex and delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 6/20/15. Bottled: 3.23.15 (I think, it got a wee bit smudged)

Jacks Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer

Jack's Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer - Looks just about the same as the base, very dark brown, almost black, slightly less head and less retention too. Smell is more focused on the caramel and vanilla than the regular or BA, and some bourbon makes an appearance as well, with the underlying cocoa and roast taking a back seat. The taste hits that rich caramel pretty hard and there's an explosion of vanilla soon after the start, very sweet, hints of roast and cocoa, but they're definitely overwhelmed by bourbon, oak, and heaping helpings of vanilla in the finish. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, still silky smooth, less carbonated (but still appropriate) and a little sticky, boozy feel as well. Overall, a nice improvement over the base, and my kinda BA porter. I'm actually finding it difficult to gauge this against the regular BA version though A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 6/20/15. Bottled: 3.26.15 (I think, it got a wee bit smudged)

Also worth noting that I did get a chance to try both the Cocoa-Nut Barrel Aged Framinghammer and Peanut Butter & Jelly Barrel Aged Framinghammer at ACBF during Operation Chowder. Tiny little samples, for sure, so it's hard to compare, but they were also excellent (and one of the highlights of the fest for me). I also snagged a bottle of Saxonator, their dopplebock and another style I'm not terribly up to speed on, so we'll probably get to that at some point this summer as well.

Switchback Citra-Pils

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I won't lie. Lagers have never really been my thing. Maybe it's because I drank entirely too much fizzy yellow stuff in my misbegotten youth and mass-produced adjunct lagers just ruined the flavor profile for me. However, we're capricious and whimsical here at Kaedrin, and as a result, I've had a couple of great experiences with lagers in the past month or so. Experience the first: At a local beeratorium, I tasked some friends with purchasing me a beer and not telling me anything about it. I made a pitstop, and when I came back, they gave me a glass filled with pale liquid. I sniffed it and immediately pegged it as a lager... but it turned out to be Captain's Kolsch (not technically a lager, but it certainly shares a flavor profile) and I genuinely enjoyed it (may review it sometime, but don't hold your breath). Experience the second was a glorious pint of Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka from Operation Chowder. I mean, I'm not completely abandoning my typical rotation of Saison/IPA/Stout in favor of lagers and Kolsches, but it's nice to change things up every once in a while and get out of your comfort zone.

To that end, when in Vermont for Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder, I took a flier on this Pilsener (or is it a Keller Bier? The label sez both!? Gah!) from Vermont stalwarts Switchback brewing. It starts off as a pretty typical Pilsener; lots of pale malt and Saaz hops. The curve ball here is that after the traditional 6 week lagering period (i.e. cold conditioning after fermentation), Switchback dry hopped with Citra and more Saaz. The result is a nice little compromise between an IPA and Pilsener, well worth checking out if you get the chance, even if it won't make you fall down and see God.

Switchback Citra-Pils

Switchback Citra-Pils - Pours a gorgeous, clear, almost radiant yellow gold color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of clean, grassy, hay-like hops with plenty of citrus making itself known. As it warms, more of the typical Saaz herbal and spicy hop notes come through too. Taste starts off very clean, with just a hint of hops that intensifies through the finish, where you get some more traditional lager-like character and some hop bitterness. Taste is more Saaz than Citra, lots of spicy and herbal notes, but there's enough Citra to make it feel like I'm not drinking anything close to a typical adjunct lager. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied up front and thinning out in the backend, certainly quaffable stuff. Overall, I really enjouyed this beer and am glad I made the stretch. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a teku glass on 6/19/15. No date on bottle, but it was first sold in May 2015, so this was reasonably fresh.

I enjoyed this more than their normal flagship Switchback Ale, and would love to check out more from these folks. Perhaps we'll snag something during the imminent Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar.


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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.

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