Perennial Abraxas

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Remember when Imperial Stouts were special? Just regular stouts that happened to be higher in alcohol than normal? Those things like Storm King, Kate the Great, Darkness, and so on? Then people started going nutso for barrel aged imperial stouts. I should note at this point that I'm not really waxing nostalgic or complaining here, I'm fully on board the barrel aged train to impy stout town, I just wanted to note a progression here. It's not a perfect progression, but in broad strokes it works. We start with big stouts, move on to barrel aging, and then people started losing their minds over imperial coffee stouts (and to a certain extent, they still do). As frequently opined here (I won't shut up about it and I am totally the worst), I'm pretty ambivalent towards coffee. I have gained a certain appreciation for coffee stouts, but I'm almost always wondering what the regular, non-coffeed version would be like.

Nowadays, the trend is towards adjuncts and a kitchen sink of ingredients. Stuff like Hunahpu's, Bomb!, Mexican Cake, and today's beer: Perennial's Abraxas. It's an Imperial Stout brewed with ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks. There are other versions with even more ingredients, but this is the regular one lowly mortals like myself can get my hands on. I've not been particularly on the ball with these adjunct stouts, having only had a couple, so let's see if this is a trend worth hunting:

Perennial Abraxas

Perennial Abraxas - Pours black and viscous looking with a cap of short lived light brown head. Smells of roasted malts that give it a coffee or dark chocolate feel, with notes of vanilla and spice, definitely getting cinnamon, a little less in the way of chili (though that comes out a bit more as it warms). Taste has a light roast to it, again with the dark chocolate (less in the way of coffee), hints of vanilla, with the chili pepper coming more to the fore here. It's got a bit of a kick to it and the flavor comes through, but it's not really hot either. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied (I mean, it's not watery, but I was expecting a more substantial body here, especially when considering that it looked pretty thick as I was pouring), very low carbonation, not still, but close, and a little bit of heat from the chili peppers. There's a fine line between a complex beer and an unbalanced mess, and I kinda went back and forth on this one, eventually settling on complex, but it also strikes me as the sort of thing that will be different every time I have it. Overall this is good, and it gets better as it warms, but it's not the mind-blowing stout of the future I was lead to believe it would be. Perhaps a matter of dashed expectations, but it's still a solid beer that I'd totally seek out and drink again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 1/22/16. Bottled: 11/2015.

I could see barrel aging pulling this beer together, but from the looks of the trading boards, I don't feel like the hoop jumping would be worth it. This is a fine beer, but even this was too hard to get ahold of...

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru

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While the concept of a "Grand Cru" is formally defined for wine, there's little to distinguish it from a marketing tactic in beer. Nothing particularly wrong with that, it's just good to know that beery Grand Crus are not quite as reliable. But most brewers do try to make their Grand Cru special in one way or another, and when a brewer of the stature of Almanac introduces a series of beers with the designation, it's enough to pay attention.

So far, there have been two released, one of which we have here. Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru is an imperial version of their sour blonde ale (and base for a whole series of fruited sours that we very much enjoy here) with California-grown Muscat Blanc grapes added and then aged in white wine French oak barrels for over a year. Finally, it's packaged in a gorgeous looking bottle. There's been this persistent myth that beer and wine people don't get along, but California brewers seem to be continually turning that notion on its ear, frequently collaborating with their neighbors in many ways. This sort of beer/wine hybrid isn't on every shelf, but it's not particularly uncommon either, and it's always fun to see what happens when boozy buddies take inspiration from one another. "As the old saying goes, in vino veritas, in cervesio felicitas - in wine there is truth, in beer there is happiness." With this, I think they've hit both nails on the head:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Grand Cru.

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru - Pours a light, hazy golden yellow color with a finger of white fluffy head that sticks around for a bit. Smells wonderful, lemon zest, vinous fruit, white wine, oak, very nice. Taste is more reserved than the nose might lead you to believe, but it's got tons of that vinous fruit, white wine barrel, some tart acidity lingering in the finish. Mouthfeel is moderately carbonated, medium bodied, light to medium acidity, a bit of boozy heat, and just a bit of stickiness in the finish. Despite the booze, this does not drink like a 10.2% sour, it's pretty light on its feet. Overall, this is really fantastic stuff, certainly worth seeking out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/23/16. Bottled: Autumn 2015.

The other release is Dogpatch Grand Cru, basically an imperialized version of their Dogpatch Sour made with a variety of red wine grapes (instead of the typical cherries), which I plan to share with a few friends soon. As usual, Almanac is a reliable source of excellent sours that are readily available in Philly these days (which is certainly a boon).

Bourbon Barrel Aged Siberian Night

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Having just endured Blizzard Jonas this past weekend, I figure it's time to dig through the svelt 25" of snow outside and then come back inside and review beer. In truth, being snowed in particularly suits my temperament, so long as I don't lose power or internets (and even then...) Anyway this beer seems particularly appropriate, as Siberia is famed for its short summers and long winters of punishingly cold climate. That's "punishingly" in an almost literal sense, actually. The Russian Empire had a system of penal labor called Katorga in which prisoners were sent to remote areas (where voluntary workers were never available in sufficient numbers) and forced to into mining or lumber production. The Soviets later incorporated and expanded on the concept with the Gulag system. If you've ever read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, you know that Siberia is not generally a place you want to be.

Of course, this is a brewery called Thirsty Dog we're talking about here, so I don't think they were channeling Alexander Solzhenitsyn with this beer. Instead, they were probably thinking of adorable Siberian Husky memes.

Siberian Husky questions your marathon

Certainly more pleasant than crippling forced labor. Also more pleasant: The beer itself is an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels for 11 months, which makes it good wintering beer, let's take a closer look:

Thirsty Dog BBA Siberian Night

Thirsty Dog Bourbon Barrel Aged Siberian Night - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, some roasted malt, lots of vanilla, some bourbon and oak too. Taste has a rich caramel character up front, a little chocolate, oak, and vanilla pitching in, hints of boozy bourbon, with a little bit of roast coming to the fore in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, well carbonated, lightly boozy. Overall, this is a pretty approachable BBA stout, well balanced, tasty, a step up from the beginner's stuff, but not quite top tier. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 1/17/16. Vintage: 2015.

The regular non-BA version is pretty solid as well, and it's companion beer, Wulver has become one of my favorites.

Frosty's Nightmare

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What is the snowman's weakness? There's probably a better way to ask that question, one which does not imply that snowmen are monsters we must defeat by exploiting some sort of weakness, but the answer is obvious: heat. One might think that this sort of thing would also populate a snowman's dreams... or nightmares, if you will. But then I remember that Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story called The Snowman in which a snowman falls in love with a stove. So maybe snowmen don't fear the heat. Then again, like most actual fairy tails, this one comes to a tragic end: the snowman melts and is forgotten by those who made him. It's speculated that Andersen was inspired by a short love affair with a "handsome young dancer" that resulted in "pining and discontent". Well this post went in a dark direction, so let's drink an Old Ale from Conshohocken Brewing Company, a newish (couple years old now) local brewery near my old stomping grounds. I've had a few things from them, but never really made the time to visit. This beer was made in 2014 and released near Christmas in 2015, truly an "old" ale.

Conshohocken Frostys Nightmare

Conshohocken Frosty's Nightmare - Pours a dark amber brown color with just a cap of off white head. Smells of dark fruits, figs, crystal malts, maybe some toffee. Taste starts with light caramel and dark fruit, a little booze, malts, finishing up with booze soaked fruit. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, chewy, tightly carbonated, a little boozy heat, feels a bit unbalanced. Overall, this is a nice old ale, not going to light the world on fire, but decent. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a charente glass on 1/16/16. Vintage: 2014.

Supposedly they had a tequila barrel aged version of this on tap at the brewery, which actually might represent a significant improvement on this. I could see the base being a good platform for barrels of many kinds, actually, but then, I would think that because I'm a barrel freak. I'm the worst.

McKenzie Hallowed Ground

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One of the things that emerged during the 1990s surge of microbreweries (and subsequent bubble burst) was an explosion of brewpubs. I mean, they weren't a new concept, but the infusion of capital that happened in the 90s lead to a particular style of brewpub that went through a rough patch before settling into a rythm. You know the type. John Harvard's (who used to be all over the place, but retreated back to their New England roots when times got rough), Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch, and countless local chains. They're not necessarily bad, per say, but they tend to be generic. Bright, spacious, competent, but bland and lacking personality. Newfangled brewpubs like Tired Hands, Forest & Main, and Vault are more idiosyncratic, warmer, more homey, and their beer is an order of magnitude better. Even their expansions seem more organic and less cookie-cutter. The oldshchool brewpubs that survived the 90s have generally done so by expanding their offerings into new and interesting territory than your standard brewpub lineup (i.e. light lager, pale ale, porter, wheat, etc...), but they often still feel generic. Around here, Iron Hill seems to do well with a nice atmosphere and decent taplist. They even opened one a block over from Tired Hands and seem to be holding their own. Not all of these brewpubs are doing that well.

Enter McKenzie Brew House. They've been around a while and there are 3 or 4 locations in the area, but I've always been underwhelmed by their offerings. I can certainly make due, but I've never had anything from them that blew me away. Until, that is, I got the chance to sample some of their limited bottled offerings like this one: a barrel-aged, dry-hopped saison, my kinda crazy. Stuff like this has actually been around for a while, but very limited and kinda under the radar. I'd always written them off because of their normally underwhelming taplist, but now I've seen the light. Hallowed Ground, indeed:

McKenzie Hallowed Ground

McKenzie Hallowed Ground - Pours a radiant golden yellow color, cloudy with a chance of a moderately dense finger of head and some lacing. Smells fantastic, some farmhouse yeast character, spicy and fruity, hints of lemon and lots of tropical citrus hops. Taste starts sweet and spicy with a light tart fruit character that blooms into full blown lemony sourness towards the finish, which also brings out a little of that citrus hop character as well. Mouthfeel is fabulous, highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, light acidity. Overall, this is surprisingly fantastic! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 1/8/15. Batch: 2. Bottled: October, 2015.

Great, even when I think I have a local brewery pegged, they go and do something like this. I will most certainly be seeking out these special releases in the future.

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot

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Thanks to the ever generous Jay from Beer Samizdat, I've had the pleasure of drinking a few beers from Tahoe Mountain and found myself quite pleased with their offerings. Their Provisions saison is a pretty standard take on the style, but of course they've been doing more adventurous things with that most vague of styles (I kid because I love). Enter their Recolte Du Bois (translates to "harvest of the wood") series of Brett-dosed, barrel-aged saisons, music to my earballs. Some are fruited, some are aged in various wine casks, and one is even made with sage. What we have here is the Apricot Saison, which wound up being quite nice:

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot Saison

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot - Pours a mostly clear straw yellow color, gorgeous when held up to the light, with a finger of white head. Smells of apricot. I mean, there's other stuff going on here, a little farmhouse, funk, but nothing that overpowers the apricot. The taste starts out with more of that traditional farmhouse feel, slight funk, fruity esters, very light spicy phenols, and then that apricot kicks in towards the finish bringing a little tartness to the party, but there's a nice earthy note that balances it all out too. Mouthfeel is crisp and light, well carbonated, very approachable. Overall, this is quite nice, not quite a full-on apricot bomb (which is, uh, not a bad thing), but not a lactic bomb like, say, Cascade Apricot either. Well balanced and very tasty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/8/15. Bottled: 20150623.

So yes, I want more of these Recolte Du Bois variants, particularly interested in the Peach version, though they all sound great. Oh, and why not try some of their Dark Ages beers? Old Ale? Imperial Stout? Bourbon barrels? Yes please. Thanks again to Jay for introducing me to these fine purveyors of beer.

Marius Double Feature

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Forest & Main's Marius series of oak-aged, fruited saisons is pretty clearly their most anticipated release. While normally laid back affairs, Marius releases tend to sell out right away. As a result, I've missed out on the first few releases. I finally got my act together for the most recent release, which was three different variants: Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. I split the Cherry with some friends and loved it (but never wrote down any notes - I'm the worst) so I was quite excited to crack open the other two whilst embarking on the great 2015 movie catchup. The Big Short kinda came out of nowhere and has a pleasingly odd pedigree, and I loved it. It's actually kinda the best explanation for the 2008 economic crisis I've seen (save the source material, of course) and the humor is mildly effective at toning down just how insane the whole situation was (and kinda still is). Kung Fu Killer is, erm, less successful, though it has some nice martial arts action sequences that'd make it worthwhile for fans of that sort of thing. Fortunately, this beer made up for any of that film's shortcomings:

Forest and Main Marius (Peach)

Forest & Main Marius (Peach) - Pours a striking, clear yellow color with a finger of fluffy head that has great retention that leaves a little lacing (for what it's worth, the second pour was more cloudy). Smells nice, some musty funk, but lots of fruit too, those peaches coming through well. Taste has a very nice earthy, musty funk to it with a fruity peach kicker, some tartness and oak pitching in towards the middle and lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and dry, lightly acidic, almost quaffable. Overall, this is a winner, rivaling the Cherry though probably not exceeding it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

Forest and Main Marius (Plum)

Forest & Main Marius (Plum) - Pours a much more cloudy, darker yellow color with more head, at least two fingers, great retention, some lacing. Definitely has a distinctly different smell here, still some musty funk, but moreso than the Peach, and the plums certainly lend a different fruit character. Taste has more of a yeasty character to it, some of that earthy, musty funk, but also some more traditional estery feel along with the plum fruit, not as sour as the peach either, though there is a bit of tartness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and very dry, less acidic, though there is still something there. Overall, this too, is a winner, though not quite up to the level of Cherry or Peach. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

More great efforts from Forest & Main. They've got an expansion underway, so I'm expecting to see great things from them in the nearish future.

Stout Rullquin

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New Year's Eve has emerged as a time to drink lambic. At least, for me it has. So we cracked a couple bottles, and I found this to be the more interesting of the two. It's a very strange beer. It's a collaboration between Gueuzerie Tilquin and Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles wherein Tilquin blended 7/8 of La Rullés Brune with 1/8 of 1 year old lambics from Tilquin's stores (Tilquin does not brew their beer, but they do age and blend it) and then aged the result in barrels for 8 months. Truth be told, I almost didn't notice it sitting on the shelf because the (rather nifty) label blends the two collaborators' artistic styles (though not proportional to the blend of beer, but if they did that, Tilquin would get almost none of the label!) Tilquin used to be reliably available, but has been getting more scarce lately, so my eyes always perk up with I see their distinctive labels. We did it, you guys! We made another great beer hard to find!

This actually marks the second time I've had this beer, but the first time was at a share and I only had a small taste. At that time, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much the lambic came through. I mean, it was clearly a toned down character, but it was prominent and quite tasty. I had already procured this bottle and became quite excited at the prospect of getting a full pour. Then a curious thing happened. This bottle tasted different. Still good, but perhaps not as well balanced as the first pour. That or my palate was just way off that night. Regardless, it's still quite an interesting beer, and I wouldn't mind snagging a bottle and putting a little age on it to see how it fares. Until then, we're left with this:

Stout Rullquin

Tilquin/Rulles Stout Rullquin - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head. Smells musty, maybe some toasty malt character, definitely some straight Belgian yeast going on here, but you get hints of twangy funk in there too. Taste starts off like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, spicy, bready Belgian yeast, hints of toasty malt brightened by that funky lambic addition. It's not as big of an influence in this bottle as the last one I had, but it's there. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, pretty easy going. Overall, it's an interesting beer, and both times I've had it, it wasn't what I expected... but it was good nonetheless! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/15. Best Before: 31/03/2025. Released: September 2015.

Tilquin's Gueuze was the beer that made me see the light when it comes to sour beer, so I'm always on the lookout for their stuff. Would really love to try the blackberry lambic they recently made, but who knows when that will show up (and when it does, I'm sure it'll go quick).

Christmas Beer Recap

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My favorite time of the year is the Halloween through Christmas corridor, and part of that is the seasonal beer we get. It's not fashionable to be into Christmas beers, winter warmers and the like, but I love them and always make room for some of them during the holidays. I know I just got done mentioning that I don't feel the need to write about every beer I drink, but now that the holidays are over, I need some way to occupy my time that doesn't involve poopsocking it through Fallout 4, so here's a sampling of two beers I drank for last minute Christmas wrapping fuel, and two that were gifts.

Ballantine Burton Ale

Ballantine Burton Ale - So Pabst revived the Ballantine name with a decent IPA, and for Christmas, they put together this little barleywine number. According to a bunch of strangers on the internets, this is the single best beer Pabst has ever made. Let's see, shall we? Pours a clear amber orange color with a finger of head and some lacing. Smells sweet, lots of dank, piney hops and a little dark fruit. Taste is also quite sweet, more of the dark fruit here, but the hops balance things out without feeling too bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tight carbonation, hints of booze, a sipper for sure. Overall, it's a solid little barleywine, tasty, and I haven't had something like this in a long time... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2015.

Samichlaus Classic 2010

Samichlaus Classic 2010 - It's become something of a Kaedrin tradition to do last minute Christmas wrapping whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies and imbibing a Samichlaus of some kind (or maybe, um, two of them). This year was no exception, and in the spirit of dipping into the cellar to drink some of my aged stock, I grabbed a 5 year old bottle. Pours a deep dark amber orange color with a half finger of head that quickly disappears. Smells intensely of clean, dark fruits, very sweet, a little booze. Tastes very sweet, sticky, sugary sweet, with muted dark fruit, and did I mention it was sweet? Not cloying though, age has treated this well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated. Overall, it's very good with some age on it, among the better I've had. I'm going with a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2010.

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo - My brother isn't a big beer guy, but usually manages to get some decent stuff. For instance, this year's selections included a Sierra Nevada Celebration, a La Fin Du Monde, and a few other beers I genuinely love yet rarely revisit. Then there's this one, which sounds like the most interesting of the lot on paper... English Strong Ale aged in oak barrels for over a year? Well sign me up! Alas, this runs into that Belgian pale ale character that I always find distressing and the oak aging doesn't feel harmonious at all. Something odd going on here. Pours a murky amber color with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smell has a lot of fruity character to it, some toffee and maybe some butterscotch, possibly diacetyl. Taste has more of that dark fruit, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, and a hint of tart astringency. Not, like, infected, but I think it's the result of that barrel aging. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but medium to full bodied. Overall, this seems well crafted, but it's just not really my thing. C

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Ridgeway Lump of Coal - A gift from a coworker, I knew I was in for trouble because I've never had a Ridgeway that I've ever liked, despite the fact that they put out, like, ten Christmas beers. Pours a clear dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of off white head. Does not smell like a stout at all, getting that toffee and butterscotch and diacetyl here. Taste is along the same lines, diacetyl and maybe even some skunking, this is terrible! Notes of death and decay. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, appropriate for the style I guess, but the problem lies not here. Overall, this is terrible! It doesn't even warrant taking the time to upload the image I took. I don't hand these out often, but this one earned it: F

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

A decidedly mixed bag this year. I shall have to endeavor to do better next year. In the meantime, New Years Eve drinking was more palatable, so I'll cover that one tomorrow.

2015 Year End Musings

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Now comes the time of year when we attempt to divine information about the time past and times to come, all based on the relative positions of celestial objects. In other words, we all become astrologists around the new year! I'm making light of this, but it's a good thing to take stock of where we are and where we're going from time to time, and completing another orbit around the sun is as good a time as any. This isn't really the place for personal reflections, but it is a place for beer! So let's get down to the year in beer that was, and perhaps look forward to what the future holds.

It was a good year! I drank lots of great beer, made lots of new friends, and even got interviewed. 2016 has a lot to live up to, but also plenty of opportunity.

Looking at the past few year end musings (jeeze, has it been 5 years? Yikes.) I tend to get repetitive on my reflections, so I'll try to limit these observations to relatively new stuff rather than just repeating that yes, I've aged some beer, and while I've had a couple of revalations, most of it was just as good fresh (see how I squeezed that one in there? I may not be so successful at this.)

  • Beer Festivals - I've never been a huge fan of beer festivals for reasons I have already belabored in my recap of Operation Chowder, a trip in which I attended the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston. I only went to one session (Friday night), and had a great time, but felt no regret that the other sessions were sold out. Likewise, I had a fine time at the more local Kennet Brewfest, but I only went to it because someone had an extra ticket. I mean, it's fine, but 95% of the beer flowing there was generally available in the area anyway. I think I enjoyed ACBF more because there were so many New England breweries that I'd never had before that were there. As such, I may loosen my disdain for festivals... when traveling. GABF, here I come? Let's not get carried away.
  • Bottle Shares - I have often posted about Beer Club, but that's generally a low key affair. This year, I connected with a more formal local group that has very cool bottle shares, ones that I haven't really posted much about (though I have mentioned them). I would expect this to continue, because I enjoy not documenting every beer I drink, and honestly, writing a full review based on a 2 ounce sample after having sampled 10 other beers really isn't the best way to do it. Plus, you know, it's rude. Look for a tweet here or there, but otherwise, these shares will remain just plain old fun. Alright, fine, based on this and my beer festivals, I might add a supplementary list of beers I loved, but only had small samples of below.
  • Taking a Break - For two years in a row, I've basically given up beer for Lent. I find it to be a very good chance to reset and recalibrate, not to mention the benefit to my waistline. Plus, I get a chance to focus on other things like Bourbon, Scotch, Wine, and Tea. It's now something I actually look forward to every year. This starts in early February this year, so look for a shift in blogging material in a month or so...
  • Wales, bro - I've often talked about slaying personal white whale beers, things that aren't particularly rare, but which I'd never managed to snag before. This year was the first year I actually slayed true beer nerd walez, that ridiculous list of absurdly rare beers. In each case, it wasn't something I realized until after I drank the beer in question (usually lucking into it by accident), and to me, that's the way to do it. I feel like intentionally hunting down beers on that list would be quite annoying. Then again, I guess that's why they call them wales, bro. Regardless, I'm happy I got to try those beers, and one of them was my favorite beer of the year (see below!) so maybe the list isn't complete bullshit.
  • Style Parity - Alright, this is not really true at all, but after last year's American Wild Ale dominated top 40, this year's list is at least a little more diverse. A lot of this is just the natural ebbs and flows of availability and the degrees to which I'm willing to hunt stuff down. Part of it is also more of a willingness to branch out. Heck, I even listed a Pilsner on this year's top 40. A Pilsner! Will wonders ever cease?
  • Blogging Plateau - I'm still blogging at a pretty good clip, but I feel like I've reached a nice 2-3 posts a week cadence that I don't really want to exceed much anymore. There was a time when 4-6 posts a week were common, but those days have past, and I'd expect things to continue on the slower pace. After all, it's nice to drink something without having to write about it, and I've long since gotten over the compulsion to post about literally every beer I've tried.
  • Other Stuff - Of the normal topics, I have little to say. I had a terrible year in homebrewing, so I'm going to try and turn that around in 2016. Ratings inflation continues unabated. I keep meaning to inaugurate a new class of A+ beers, and I guess 2016 is the year for that. I've actually been drinking a bunch of aged beers recently, and plan on posting about them in more detail in the nearish future.

A pretty interesting year, and it's fun to see how my beer nerdery is progressing. So here's my list of top 40 beers I've tried this year. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you don't see your favorites on the list, don't get all wound up about it. I've either had it in a previous year or just didn't catch up with it. Or, I had it and hated it, because you're the worst. How could you like such a horrid thing? But I digress. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with lists. Lists are American. What are you? A communist? There I go digressing again. I tried to limit breweries to a handful of entries, but whatever, it's my list and I'll do what I want. Speaking of which, let's do this:

  1. Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) (Lambic)
  2. Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) (American Wild Ale)
  3. Tired Hands Pathway of Beauty (IPA)
  4. Allagash Cuvée D'Industrial (American Wild Ale)
  5. Alchemist Focal Banger (IPA)
  6. Firestone Walker XIX - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  7. Midnight Sun Arctic Devil (Barleywine)
  8. Tired Hands Freedom From the Known (Saison)
  9. Logsdon Peche 'n Brett (Saison)
  10. Pizza Boy Golden Sour (American Wild Ale)
  11. Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev's Cobra (Imperial Stout)
  12. The Bruery Cuir (Old Ale)
  13. Firestone Walker XVIII - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  14. Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Rye (Imperial Stout)
  15. Allagash Farm To Face (American Wild Ale)
  16. Trillium Congress Street IPA (IPA)
  17. Jack's Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer (Baltic Porter)
  18. Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout (Imperial Stout)
  19. Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip Of Sunshine (Double IPA)
  20. Forest & Main Moeder Seizoen (Saison)
  21. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 (Double IPA)
  22. Lost Abbey Cuvée De Tomme (American Wild Ale)
  23. Almanac Dogpatch Sour (American Wild Ale)
  24. BFM XV (√225 Saison) (Saison)
  25. Alpine Nelson (IPA)
  26. Stone Southern Charred (2014) (American Strong Ale)
  27. Midnight Sun Berserker (Imperial Stout)
  28. Crux Tough Love [Banished] (Imperial Stout)
  29. Prairie Pirate Noir (Imperial Stout)
  30. Victory Java Cask (Imperial Stout)
  31. Forest & Main Rum Barrel-Aged Gmork (Imperial Stout)
  32. Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta (Saison)
  33. Telegraph Gypsy Ale (American Wild Ale)
  34. Sante Adairius Jose Pimiento (American Wild Ale)
  35. Modern Times Monsters' Park (Imperial Stout)
  36. Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka (Czech pilsener)
  37. AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout (Imperial Stout)
  38. Grassroots Brother Soigné (Saison)
  39. Lost Nation The Wind (Gose)
  40. Kern River Just Outstanding IPA (IPA)

The Unreviewed 5
Beers that where I had small samples, never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

I need to find a way to get more of each of these. Yum

So it's been a great year, and hopefully 2016 has even more in store for me. Cheers!

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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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