Forest & Main Lunaire

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I've been hitting the local brews pretty hard this past week or so, and I don't see any reason to stop now. Here we have another two year old local brewpub specializing in English and Belgian styles, with a particular focus on saisons. As I've mentioned before, they share a fair amount of DNA with what makes Tired Hands a Kaedrin favorite, so you know I'm interested when they do a bottle release. They're a bit further away from me, so I don't always get up there for bottle releases, but on the other hand, they tend to be low stress affairs, much like the laid back atmosphere they cultivate.

Here we have the second release of Lunaire, a saison aged in Chardonnay barrels for about six months. So strap in, it's time we take Le Lunaire Voyage*

Forest and Main Lunaire

Forest & Main Lunaire - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a finger of tight white head that sticks around for a while as I drink. Beautiful nose, musty funk, bright citrus, wine, and lots of oak. The taste amps up that funk a bit, lots of earthiness, a little citrus tartness, vinous fruit, and tons of oak. I suspect there are some who'd say this is over oaked, but I'm not complaining at all. That being said, I'd be really curious to see what this does over time, perhaps that oak will mellow out some (fortunately, I have a few extra bottles to lay down). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, light bodied, tannic, with just a bit of acidity. Overall, this may be my favorite Forest & Main beer yet. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/2/14. Batch 2 (I think... definitely the second bottling), bottled May 21, 2014.

I seem to be drowning in excellent, funky, local saisons aged in wine barrels of late. I'm not really complaining about that, I love me some farmhouse and I've been trying to live off my cellar for the past few months instead of continually buying more than I could even drink, but I also try to write about more diverse stuff. I'll have to see what I can do in the near future about that. Incidentally, I've got a line on some midwest Gold, and even a potential trip to Vermont next week, so I'll most likely be stocking up again in the near future. Stay tuned!

* For the non film nerds amongst you, I was trying to evoke the early cinematic classic Le Voyage dans la Lune (aka A Trip to the Moon)with that quip, but the fact that I'm even writing this footnote is probably a bad sign, no? I'll just stop then.

I Am The Emptiness

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Another in an ongoing series of saisons aged in wine barrels with various local fruits sourced from rockstar farmer Tom Culton, this is what happens when you add strawberries and your cellar is full, so you just release it on tap because there's no space for any bottles. This sort of thing will be remedied shortly once their new facility is up and running, but for now, I'll just have to suffer through drinking this excellent beer on tap and in a growler:

Tired Hands I Am The Emptiness

I Am The Emptiness - Pours a deep, dark orange color with a finger of off white head. Smells fantastic, strawberries, fruity funk, musty, just a hint of earthiness, some yeasty spice, a little oak and vanilla, did I mention strawberries? Taste has a more prominent oak character, lots of fruitiness with those tart strawberries really coming through well, but not dominating. Sour, but not overpoweringly so, because there's that typical saison backbone, a little spice, and even a little citrus hops poking through, with perhaps more bitterness than expected from this Emptiness series. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, reasonably well carbonated (less than the last couple bottles, which were perfect), only a bit of acidity from that sourness. Overall, though I may prefer the persimmon variant, this is still another winning entry into the Emptiness series. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV from a growler (1L swingtop). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/26/14, growler filled earlier that day.

I had this on tap last week too (it kicked while I was sitting there finishing up a glass), and I found it slightly better than in the growler (but that's my general feeling with growlers). Up next in the Emptiness series are The Emptiness is Not Eternal bottles. Jean sez the bottle conditioned version is better than the one that was on tap during the Second Anniversary, which makes me wonder if I Am The Emptiness would similarly improve if bottled... Anyway, after that one comes You Are The Emptiness, which is made with peaches, and therefore represents some sort of beer nerd singularity that will draw quite a crowd when released.

Victory Wild Devil

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A few years ago, Victory siezed on the trend of the day and put out a Brettanomyces laced version of their flagship IPA. The result was Wild Devil, a beer I remember enjoying, but truth be told, I had no idea what Brett was or what it was contributing to the finished product. As I got up to speed with wild ales and sours, this beer mysteriously disappeared off shelves, victim of the same capacity issues that plagued Old Horizontal and a few other Victory rarities. Well, now that Victory's new production brewery in Parkesburg is up and running, we're starting to see the return off these excellent, but more time intensive beers . I was very curious to see how my more Brett attuned palate would react to this beer. I'm happy to report that is as good as ever. It's not going to fetch you any interesting brews on a trading board or anything, but it's an interesting and worthwhile take on an old classic:

Victory Wild Devil IPA

Victory Wild Devil - Pours a clear amber orange color with tons of billowy off white head that leaves lacing as I drink. The aroma has a very nice, well matched funk to it, lots of earthy aromas mix with the typical floral hop and bigger-than-typical malt character of Hop Devil. Taste follows the nose, very nice earthy, barnyard funk shows up right away and lasts pretty much throughout the taste, but there are plenty of dank citrus and pine hops in the mix along with some sweet crystal malt character, and your typical IPA bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and medium bodied, only a moderate Brett presence, but enough to add a twist. I find that Brett IPAs can sometimes feel a bit muddled, but Victory has found an excellent balance here. Overall, the Brett adds a welcome dimension of complexity to an old standard, and it's even better than I remember it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/26/14. 2014 vintage.

I am curious to see how this sort of thing would last over time, and it seems like a good sort of beer to have laying around, just in case. I meant to grab myself a regular HopDevil to compare, but it turns out that this was not necessary, as the Brett, while mild, was immediately noticeable. I'm long overdue for a trip to the brewery. It used to be a regular stop, but I've fallen out of the habit and have been patronizing some other locals in its place (which has its own benefits, to be sure!).

Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer minded individuals at a local BYOB for libations and fun. Tonight we returned to a mainstay of our beer club experience, a local sushi place that we have all grown to love. Reasonable turnout, and some rather fantastic beers:

Beer Club for July 2014

For the sake of posterity, some basic thoughts on each below. Usual disclaimers apply, this is clearly not an isolation chamber environment, so please take this with the requisite grain (or boulder) of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily in the order pictured):

  • Forest & Main Palomino - One of my contributions and a favorite of the night, this is just as good as it was when it was fresh, if not even better. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pilsner - Nice typical pilsner hop nose, incredibly light and quaffable, this is the sort of thing that would be a perfect hot day drinking beer. This was Ken's first all-grain brew, and it turned out really well, even if it's not my favorite style. B
  • Anthony's Homebrewed ESB - Another homebrew (we seem to attract those types at beer club, I don't know why), this one has all the hallmarks of a good ESB, nice muted hop character, some solid biscuity malt, but also an almost brown sugar component that works really well. Another beer that would make for a great session, even if it might be slightly too much ABV... B+
  • Crown Valley Big Bison Ale - A fairly malty, well carbonated take on the dubbel style, though it's a bit more raisiny than expected, with maybe even a hint of diacetyl, which we never really appreciate here at Kaedrin. Not at all terrible, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Anderson Valley Boont Barl Bourbon Barrel Amber Ale - Not as much bourbon barrel character as expected, and as such beers go, this is decidedly low cctane, but it actually drinks reasonably well. Decent balance, the bourbon is there, but it's very light. Not something I'd seek out, but it's a reasonably decent beer. B
  • Terrapin Pineapple Express - The bottle sez this is a smoked pineapple Helles, not something that seems like it would work out. In reality, it's not as bad as I feared, but it was cromulent enough. Very sweet, with only a light smoky character (it's not one of those beers where you'll wonder who put their cigar out in your beer!) I'm glad I tried it in this setting, as I don't know that I'd want to take down a full bottle of this. B-
  • Kaedrin Barleywine - I'm pretty sure I screwed up the carbonation factor of this beer. The flavor and aroma are there in spades, it just hasn't quite carbed up to the point where I thin it works well. And actually, this regular version is probably the best carbonated of them, which is not encouraging. The Bourbon one tastes a lot better, but it's also flatter... B-
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub Nitro - Much better than the standard Old Chub (which I always felt was too dry and too well carbonated to be a great Scotch ale), really smooth and creamy (typical of the nitro), malty, tasty stuff. B+
  • Green Flash Road Warrior Imperial Rye India Pale Ale - Tons of Moscaic hop character out of this, tropical fruits with that spicy rye character, this is a really solid beer worth checking out. B+
  • Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break - I've actually had this a few times before, and it's really nice, especially if you like coffee. As I'm pretty much ambivalent to coffee, I thought this was fine, if not the best evar, though it seemed to go over really well. This was another favorite of the night amongst the beer club peeps, but I'll go B+, but only because my coffee feelings are well documented (could easily be higher for most other folks).
  • Blue Point (Sour) Cherry Imperial Stout - I have to admit that I'm not the biggest sour stout fan out there, but this worked well enough, with that rich malt and sour twang, maybe even a hint of that cherry. A few of us tried blending this beer with the Imperial Biscotti Stout, just to see what would happen, but it didn't turn out particularly great. This beer by itself is better, but still around a B level beer for me.

So there you have it. August may be a weird month in terms of beer club, but I'm sure we'll work something out. In any case, stay tuned for some moar local awesomeness this week on Kaedrin.

Dock Street Prince Myshkin

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Dock Street has been around for forever and has had its ups and downs, but this is a beer that I've had a few times in the past few years, and it's one of my favorite local beers to revisit. Dock Street is tiny, so naturally these bottles don't come around that often, but it flows on tap throughout the winter months and is possibly the best local imperial stout that is regularly available (notwithstanding various one offs from the likes of Tired Hands or Tröegs - though both of those beers did return, you never know if you'll see them again). Are those fighting words? Maybe a bunch of Shackamaximum fans will come out of the woodwork and drown me in hateful scorn, but I'm doubting it.

The Barrel Aged version of Prince Myshkin suffered from an intentional lack of carbonation (generally a deal breaker for me), but aside from that, it would have been truly great. As it is, I'll settle for this base beer, a hefty but not overpowering Russian imperial stout. This particular bottle is getting a bit old, but it's still doing quite well:

Dock Street Prince Myshkin Imperial Stout

Dock Street Prince Myshkin Russian Imperial Stout - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of beautiful light brown head. Smells very sweet, with the roasted malts taking a back seat to the sweet, almost fruity aromas. Taste also goes the sweet route, though nothing cloying here, and there's ample bitterness on the back end to balance it out. Roasted malts come out to play a little more in the taste than the nose, and you get some of that almost fruity character too, along with hints of caramel and chocolate. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, smooth and creamy, not a trace of booze. It's a beer that could serve as a sipper if you so desired, but it's easy going enough to be dangerous too. Overall, this may be my favorite thing I've had from Dock Street (I've had it a couple times before, and my opinion has not changed), a rock solid imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/25/14. Bottled 1/30/13.

If you're ever in the Philly area in the winter, it's worth stopping in at Dock Street for a glass of this and some solid pizza (sorry, I've never had anything else there, but the pizza is good). Here's to hoping they age this in barrels again sometime soon (and that they let it carbonate this time).

Lost Abbey Agave Maria

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It used to be that you'd see the occasional Bourbon barrel aged beer. Everyone would lose their minds, and they'd fly off shelves, and it was all well and good. I, for one, welcomed our bourbon barrel overlords, but the past few years have seen brewers diversifying their barrel aged offerings. You've got rum barrels, apple brandy barrels, and wine barrels galore.

Enter the dreaded tequila barrel. Lost Abbey brewer Tomme Arthur even decided to double down on this offering, brewing the base beer with Agave syrup. The fine folks over at Lost Abbey run a pretty tight Keebler tree, so despite some rightfully dubious responses, I figured I'd drop some coin on a bottle of this stuff and see what the deal is. In short, while not "worse than undrinkable", that's also setting the bar too low. I'd rather drink this than most macro slop, and it is a unique, interesting beer, but it's not something I'd go out of my way for again.

Lost Abbey Agave Maria

Lost Abbey Agave Maria - Pours a murky dark brown color with a finger of khaki head. Smells very sweet, with an almost honey-like note, something kinda like char, and plenty of barrel character. The taste explodes with sweetness up front, very sugary sweet, something like honey (presumably that agave doing its thing), and less of that barrel character than I'd like. I suspect that a 750 of this would get cloying, but the 375 format just barely clears the bar. But then, I'm an odd duck, so your mileage may vary. The mouthfeel is full bodied and rich (so that part of the barrel treatment works), sugary, highly carbonated (way to go Lost Abbey!), with a bit of saccharine stickiness in the finish. Overall, this is an interesting, unique little beer. Not something that makes me want to try a lot of other tequila aged beers, but I'm glad I tried one. B

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/19/14. Vintage 2014A.

I'm all for barrel diversification, but you know what, you should probably also just throw some Serpent's Stout in Bourbon Barrels, because that would be killer. Yeah, Deliverance has BBA Serpent's Stout in the blend, but I'm sure the straight up juice would be even better. Ah well, I'll just stop pretending like I actually know better than people who do this for a living now. I'm a moron.

Buffalo Trace Black Magick

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It's been over a year, but I'm still mining some black gold out of Voodoo's Barrel Room Collection. It's been a generally successful venture, and I'm happy I waited in line for the privilege of buying these beers.

Sidebar! According to wikipedia, there are many things that "black gold" could be referring to. The obvious one, for all you hillbillies out there, is crude oil (Texas tea!). Along similar and unsurprising lines would be coal. A little more unexpected: black pepper. It turns out that at one time, this was prized, rare, and compact enough to be universally accepted as payment (a commodity money). More unexpected would be Marmite, that salty yeast extract that's used as a food spread in the Anglosphere. This one seems to be a relatively new coinage, linked to a recent shortage (dubbed the Marmageddon). Finally, we have coffee, which is a little dubious, but you all know my feelings on coffee at this point.

Well, I think Bourbon barrel imperial stouts should probably be added to the list of substances that qualify as black gold. And this one is certainly worthy of the label, if not quite as spectacular as its Pappy aged sibling. So prep your cauldrons and consult your Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook, it's time to drink some Black Magick potions:

Voodoo Brewing Buffalo Trace Black Magick

Buffalo Trace Black Magick - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a cap of light brown head. Smells fantastic, huge bourbon character, some caramel, lots of vanilla, and plenty of oak. Taste is full of rich caramel, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, tons of sugary sweetness, and some char and roasted malt notes emerging towards the finish. Maybe a bit of booze as it warms up as well. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, smooth, and chewy. Not oppressively huge, but there's a decently hot booze character. Overall, it's a fantastic barrel aged stout, certainly a worthy take on a crowded style, though clearly not the pinnacle. This might be the beer's age speaking, and next time, I shall have to drink these suckers with more haste. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (12 oz. Blue Wax). Drank out of a snifter on 7/18/14. Bottle #777. Bottled 1-18-13.

Alas, my Barrel Room Collection stash is dwindling, only a pair Lairds Apple Brandy barrel aged stouts left. Look for those reviews soon enough. It looks like their next barrel room collection release is TBD, but they posted a new picture on their site. Alas, the barrels are not labeled. And if the last couple batches were any indication, these things sit for quite a while in the barrel before being released. Still, we are coming up on about a year since the last release, so there is that... Here's to hoping they have another Philly release. Otherwise, a 5 hour drive might be a bit much to undertake.

Prairie Puncheon

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I remember when Prairie first started showing up in the Philly area, but for whatever reason, I didn't pounce on what I saw, and then they were gone and I haven't seen as much from that point on. Then everyone starts going crazy over these guys, and to be sure, stuff like Bomb! certainly sounds amazing (and it's not like that was on shelves here, at least not that I saw). I got my hands on a bunch of stuff from them through a BIF, and they were all fine to good, maybe even very good, but not quite the mind-blowers that I'd been lead to believe... but then, I wasn't drinking the same beers as everyone else. Major farmhouse envy over here, despite the fact that I'm pretty much drowning in great saisons these days. So when I saw a bottle of this Puncheon stuff at a local beeratorium, I immediately bought it and was rewarded with my favorite Prairie yet. Still not quite a revelation, but a rock solid funk machine (and really, what else do you want):

Prairie Puncheon

Prairie Puncheon - Pours a hazy straw yellow color with ample carbonation and a finger or two of fluffy white head. Smells fantastic, beautiful funky, musty aroma, fruity, almost vinous, spicy, maybe even hints of oak. The taste seems more substantial than the nose was indicating, sweet, but with enough earthy funk to counter that, and indeed, that earthy, mineral character is much more prominent here than in the nose. Lots of funky stuff going on in the middle and finish as well, with some of that fruitiness coming out, and a little spice too. Not sour, but could perhaps have gone that way (and would possibly be better for it, *hint*), though it's still tasty in its own right. As it warms, it gets closer to lemon territory, but again, not sour... Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a little spice, and just a bit of a kick on the back end from that funk. Overall, this is a rock solid Brett dosed saison. It's borderline, but I'm feeling generous, so an A- it is.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/18/14.

So I'm pretty well looking forward to trying more Prairie ales, though I don't really have any on deck right now either. Someday, I may get off my arse and start trading for the likes of Bomb!, but that's not going to be anytime soon.

Tired Hands So It Goes...

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If you're going to try and decode Tired Hands beer names, one place to start would be familiarizing yourself with Kurt Vonnegut. This reference, at least, is a straightforward one from Vonnegut's most famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. It's a refrain that occurs frequently throughout the novel (like, over 100 times), usually associated with death or mortality in some way.

The beer bills itself as a Pennsylvania Sour Red Ale, brewed with a plethora of specialty malts, then aged in a variety of barrels for ten months. This calls to mind Flanders Red ales, but is definitely asserting its own identity (thus falling into that nebulous American Wild Ale designation). The minimalist label is actually rather eye catching, and I waited in line a couple hours to get ahold of two bottles of the stuff. That's a long time, but so it goes...

Tired Hands So It Goes...

Tired Hands So It Goes... - Pours a really rather pretty dark orange amber color with half a finger of white head that sticks around a bit. It looks like a lighter, brighter Flanders Red. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and a nice acetic sour twang. The taste hits similar notes, vinous fruit and cherries are there, but not as strongly as in the nose. It's not as sweet as I typically expect from a beer like this, but it's not really bitter at all either. The oak is doing its thing throughout, and there's a nice puckering sourness that emerges in the middle and lasts through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, and on the lighter end of medium bodied (lighter than expected). Plenty of acidity to go along with that sourness, but it's not overwhelming or anything. Overall, it's becoming impossible to grade all these Tired Hands sours, because they've really been killing it with their recent sours (particularly the Emptiness series beers and those Parageusia beers). This is an A-, but on the lower end of their bottled sours.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute on 7/12/14.

Mark your calendars beer nerds, Parageusia1 release on Sunday. Totally worth the effort, and it looks like it'll be a nice day. See you there.

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amarosa

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The Lost Abbey always has fantastic events during Philly Beer Week, but due to a variety of factors (general listlessness, apathy, and the fact that I have a job), I can never seem to get there. So I missed out on coveted pours of Cuvee de Tomme and Duck Duck Gooze, but managed to snag a few interesting bottles, including this Framboise De Amarosa.

The base for this beer is Lost Abbey's standard Lost & Found ale, a dubbel brewed with raisins. Take that, add in an ample dose of raspberries, and age in oak (Tomme sez it's a blend of 9 and 12 month old beer), and you've got something that sounds rather spectacular. It's named after Amorosa, a biblical reference to a courtesan... which reminds me of Cantillon's rather risque label on Rosé De Gambrinus. Are raspberries associated with loose women, or is this just a cheeky coincidence?

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amorosa

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amarosa - Pours a dark red color with a finger of head that sticks around for a bit. The aroma is full of rasperberries, some oak and vanilla, but raspberiies rule the day. The taste follows the nose, a nice, intense raspberry sweetness with plenty of balancing oak and vanilla. Really delicious. Mouthfeel is also well balanced, well carbonated, nowhere near as acidic as a lot of intense sours, but it's there too. Overall, this is a fantastic raspberry beer, intense and complex, but not overpowering. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/11/14. Vintage 2014 A.

Another winner from Lost Abbey, and I've got a bottle of Agave Maria standing in the wings as well. Look for a review of that tequila barrel aged sucker soon enough...

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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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