Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel

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Remember the days when anything Belgian, even American imitations of such, was noteworthy? Alright, maybe you don't, but I spent a goodly portion of my youth pining for generally unavailable Belgian abbey ales and so on. Even earlier in the days of this blog, you could see wildly inflated ratings for well made dubbels and tripels. These days I'm so addled by juicy milkshake IPAs, tropical fruit hops, funky brett saisons, tooth-enamel-stripping sours, and bourbon barrel aged wonders that taking a step back and pondering a simple Belgian style tripel actually feels novel and refreshing.

Simple, but I should add: not easy. Most American takes on the Tripel style are a little too sticky sweet, not dry enough, and/or not carbonated enough. These styles are flavorful, but not in a way that is easily masked by adding craptons of hops or coffee or whatever the adjunct of the week is... Belgian beers really get their character through fermentation and yeast, and that's not as easy as it sounds. There's a delicate balance that those Trappist Monks over in Belgium seem to have mastered. The occasional American take works well, and of course we like to explode the style with Apple Brandy Barrel treatments and souring bugs and whatnot, but those things don't really count, do they?

Enter Florida's Barrel of Monks, a year-ish old brewery in Boca Raton that specializes in the regular-ol' Belgian pantheon, including a whole series of Abbey styles and the occasional special release. No IPAs, no Goses, just straight up Belgian standards, and if this tripel is any indication, the 8 years they spent developing these recipes were well worth it. Three Fates is an allusion to three sister deities in Greek Mythology who controlled life and destiny. So let's make like Atropos, cut the thread of this introduction, and get to the review:

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel - Pours a slightly cloudy pale with a finger and a half of head, lots of visible carbonation. Smells nice, light on the fruity esters, heavier on spicy phenols, clove and the like. Taste hits the same Belgian yeast notes, fruity and spicy, cloves, etc... Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, almost effervescent, relatively dry. Overall, this is an exceptional take on the style from an American brewer. Maybe it's just because I haven't had a great one in a long while, but I'm feeling generous so let's go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 6/25/16.

Thanks again must be given to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Steve for slinging this my way. I may need to acquire some more of these fellas wares.

Funky Buddha Wide Awake It's Morning

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Gimmicky beers with kooky ingredients can get old really fast. The problem is that it's really difficult to incorporate some of this stuff into a beer without either A) overpowering the base beer, B) disappearing into the base beer, or C) making you feel like it was constructed in a chemical lab. But when done right, such schemes will make you wonder what sorcery the brewers hath engaged in to make the beer taste like that. Funky Buddha doesn't always manage this feat, but they are amongst the best in the business when it comes to incorporating disparate and sometimes bizarre flavors into their beer. Last Snow, a coconut coffee porter, is astoundingly well balanced and delicious (only my general aversion to coffee holds it back, and honestly, even then I've grown to love this on subsequent tastings).

Now we come to Wide Awake It's Morning, an imperialized version of their Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, a combo that seemingly requires genuine witchcraft to make work. Maple syrup is often used in beers, but its influence ranges from barely noticeable to a sorta transmuted version of maple. Coffee is coffee, of course, and can go sublimely with beer. But bacon? Usually when bacon is referred to in beer, it's got some obscene dose of smoked malt that basically just ruins the rest of the beer. Somehow, though, Funky Buddha pulls all these flavors together, whips them into recognizable shape, and perfectly balances them in this beer. Clearly witchcraft, so let's see what they got out that bubbling cauldron they call a brewery:

Funky Buddha Wide Awake Its Morning

Funky Buddha Wide Awake It's Morning - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head, and yep, it's a porter. Smells like, whoa, yep, coffee, maple syrup, and bacon, maybe a little of caramel and vanilla in the background. Very impressive nose, adjuncty, but not quite artificial feeling even though it feels like it almost obviously has to be artificial. Gah. Taste has more coffee than the nose, roasty malts, chocolate, but the maple syrup and even bacon are there too. I have no idea how they got that bacon to work in here. I mean, maybe it's a bit smokey, but it genuinely has that rich, meaty feeling you get from bacon somehow. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, moderate to low but appropriate carbonation. Overall, this is intense and complex, and asoundingly enough, the proportions are right. A little gimmicky perhaps, but a delicious gimmick, to be sure. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 6/24/16. Bottled on: 4/21/16.

Many thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Steve for hooking be up with some Southern Florida goodies. You will be seeing more from Funky Buddha on here in the nearish future.

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

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Man, what's going on in NYC these days? This is the third brewery we've covered in just the past few months (granted, these breweries have been around for a while and it's not like I'm discovering them or anything, but still) and they seem up to par with their brethren at Other Half and Grimm. I've been a little lazy on the uptake with these things, but I think that's come to an end.

SingleCut is a reference to a body style of guitar, and most of their beer names appear to be music references of some kind. This particular beer is named after an 18-Watt amplifier and while I'm not positive what Billy refers to, Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top fame and bearded glory) seems to favor the 18-Watt in his setup. SingleCut makes a series of "Billy" beers though, including Half-Stack and Full-Stack (also amplifiers), so who knows? What is this, a music blog? Let's get back to the beer, which looks to be one of them newfangled Northeast IPAs, though this is the low-wattage version clocking in at 5% ABV, so you could probably take down a few of these no problem:

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA - Pours a very cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing, very Northeast Milkshake IPA appearance. Smells that way too, tons of green hops, floral aromas, huge, juicy citrus, tropical fruits, mangoes and tangerines and the like, really nice. Taste follows the nose, lots of juicy citrus, some floral and herbal notes, and a nice, tight bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed, crisp, and relatively dry, light body, quaffable stuff. Overall, yup, this is some fantastic stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/16. Bottled: 6/10/16 (I think that's what the label sez).

Yeah, so I think we'll be seeing more from these folks in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Barrel-Aged Tröegs Double Feature

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Semi-local Tröegs has been steadily expanding of late, and one beneficiary of their success has been their barrel-aging program, which they call their "Splinter" series. They've been doing them for a while, but the initial offerings were very rare and dare I say, walezish. Recent expansions have allowed them to step up their game and the availability of these beers has been getting better (though nothing seems to approach those original sour offerings just yet), even for those of us who hesitate to drive out to Hershey on a whim. The two I have here were relatively recent releases, basically just barrel aged versions of standard-lineup offerings. Oddly, their names have changed from "Bourbon Barrel-Aged" to just "Barrel-Aged", though I'm not sure if that means anything. In at least one case, the newer vintage has not lived up to the reputation of its predecessor, but it's still pretty nice. Let's dive in:

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator - Pours a dark amber brown color with half a finger of off white head that is short for this world. Smells nice, lots of fruity malt character, raisins, light on the barrel-aged character, but oak and vanilla are definitely there and it's an improvement on the base. Taste hits the barrel aging notes more than the nose, adding rich sweetness, caramel, oak, vanilla, and booze notes to the base fruity malt character, which is lessened here in the taste. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated but smooth, with a warming alcohol note. Overall, this is really nice, certainly an improvement on the base. A strong B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/18/16. Bottled: 02/23/16.

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan - Pours a deeper, darker amber brown color with a finger of off white head. Smells good, less in the way of fruity malt but the slack is picked up with hops, again the barrel character is light in the nose, but it's there, imparting some of that booze, oak, and vanilla. Taste again plays up those hops, a little dankness here before the booze, oak, and vanilla kicks in... Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, perhaps a bit less smooth, but still with the warming alcohol. Overall, this is very nice, but far from a top tier BA barleywine, and honestly, I think I might prefer BA Troegenator... I could still give it a weak B+ though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/19/16. Bottled: 03/17/16.

Now they just need to put Impending Descent into barrels (and maybe amp up that ABV to original Scratch offering levels before that) and I'll be a happy camper. Regardless, I'm excited to see what comes out of the Splinter series in the coming months and years.

Gose Before Hoes

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Burley Oak Brewing Company is located in Berlin, Maryland. As such, they seem to really enjoy their Lacto beers (i.e. Berliner Weisse) and what do you know, I got my hands on a recent can release of Gose Before Hoes, a kettle soured beer made with sea salt harvested from the nearby Atlantic Ocean (erm, ocean salt?) Priorities, bro:

Burley Oak Gose Before Hoes

Burley Oak Gose Before Hoes - Pours a hazy yellow color with half a finger of short lived white head. Smell has a nice tart fruit element to it, a little wheat, spice (coriander), hints of a sorta earthy yeast note (not Brett level funk, but something). Taste has that tart fruit note, sweet with hints of wheat and spice, lots of salty goodness, and a higher than average sourness. Mouthfeel is crisp, light bodied, well carbonated, with higher than average sourness (not really in a bad way or anything). Overall, rock solid Gose, one of the better examples of the style that I've had. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 6/17/16. Can released: 5/28/16.

Many thanks to fellow beer nerd Gary for procuring a couple cans for me. As luck would have it, I will be passing right by Burley Oak in the nearish future, so you'll probably be hearing more about them soon enough...

One of the most famous white whales in the beer nerd world is Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout. Released in 2010, this sucker took the base Bourbon County beer and aged it in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels for two years. At the time, neither bourbon nor beer were as crazy as they are now, so these expensive bottles were actually on shelves for a bit before their reputation caught up with them. It is arguably considered the best stout ever made. Despite being called "Rare", there were quite a few of these bottles (the name is more about the aging process than the bottle count), so they became one of the most valuable commodities on trading boards. I have, alas, never gotten a taste of that original bottling of Rare, but Goose Island has gigantic balls and went ahead and slapped that label on another beer last year.

Now, living up to that reputation has to be excruciating, but Goose came up with an interesting successor at the least. Heaven Hill found a group of bourbon barrels in their warehouse that had been aging for 35 years*. For the uninitiated, bourbon is never aged that long. I won't get into details, but apparently it's possible for bourbon to get over-oaked and nearly undrinkable because of that. It didn't make sense to me either, but then I drank some over-oaked 20 year old bourbon this one time and now I get it. I'd also guess that 35 years of the Angel's Share would really knock down what's left in that barrel (for reference, the 16 year old Stagg lost 84% of its volume to evaporation, so imagine what happens over 35 years). As a result, the bourbon was never released (at least, not to the public), but Goose Island thought it might make for a nice heir to Rare. So they got their hands on these 35 year old barrels and filled them with Bourbon County base beer, aging them for two years (regular Bourbon county is aged for around 8-12 months). Then they went all out on the packaging (you guys, even the oak box this thing comes in smells fantastic) and sold these things for $60 a pop during last year's November release. Once again, there were a fair amount of these guys out there, but spread out across Goose's now very large distribution footprint. Also, beer dorks are a few orders of magnitude more obsessive these days, so the one place I knew was getting some in the Philly area had people lining up early on Thanksgiving night for the Black Friday release.

It was something I didn't expect to get ahold of easily, and indeed, it's trading pretty well these days and the secondary market is pretty bullish too. Enter local chain of beer establishments, The Pour House. For their third anniversary last Thursday, they broke out a case of Rare and would sell them for $85. It was unannounced too, so the crowds were bearable. This is indeed quite pricey, but we got a free glass out of the deal, it's a fair and typical bar-level increase on the $60 sticker price, far below the secondary market value, and when you split it across 5 people, it's pretty reasonable. And oh my, was it worth it.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare 2015
(Click to Embiggen)

Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2015) - Yep, it looks like any of the other Bourbon Counties, black as night, minimal head, but if you swirl it around you can rustle some up. Smells amazing, huge wafts of caramel, vanilla, oak, and boozy bourbon. Only had a few ounces, so I made it last and just kept sniffing for a long time. Taste is like Bourbon County, only moreso. Sweet with caramel and vanilla, leavened by tons of oak and boozy bourbon. It's certainly hot and boozy, but I'm told it has mellowed a bit since the release (in November). Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, almost velvety, but very intense. Lots of boozy heat, might turn off some baby palates, but I'm totally into it and the base clearly stands up to the bourbon creating a harmonious middle ground. Obviously a sipping beer, but a glorious sipper. Overall, I hate to buy into the hype, but this was phenomenal. A

Beer Nerd Details: 14.8% ABV bottled (500 ml capped and boxed, 3-4 ounce pour). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/9/16.

It was a great event, and I didn't even mention the best part. Everyone who came got entered into a free raffle, and guess who won? Yep, I'm a lucky SOB and now the proud owner of a bottle of my own. I will, naturally, have to share this with some friends at some point, but I'm quite happy to be in such a position!

* The marketing line here is that they "discovered" these "lost" barrels, which is just the latest in a long line of bourbons that have used this excuse to jack up prices lately. Either these distilleries are just blowing smoke or they have completely incompetent inventory management practices. In this case, at least, the bourbon wasn't released, indicating that maybe they really were lost, but still.

RAR Marylan

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One of the laziest things a brewer can do is make a blonde style beer (ok, not that part, that is kinda interesting as it's an underappreciated style) and then slap a label on it that features a (usually tastelessly buxom) blonde woman. It's been done a billion times before and even if it was the first time anyone had done it, it's still on the nose and not very clever (and that's before we get into how classy the artwork is). And yet... this beer manages to swing it. First, the design is great, a well composed silhouette in black. So how do we know it's a blonde? Well, Realerevival (a sorta play on Real Ale Revival, abbreviated RAR) is located in Maryland and if you remove the "d" you get Marylan, which sounds like Marilyn and I knew that face looked familiar! Gentlemen prefer blondes. It's on the borderline, but I'll allow it. What? Because my opinion matters, that's why? No? Well, you're right, so let's just fire up WinRAR to compress some files, shall we?

RAR Marylan

RAR Marylan American Blonde - Pours a hazy golden yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head and great retention. Smells very nice, light citrusy hops with a candied sweetness. Taste starts sweet, again with a sorta candied malt feel, and moves into a nice, mellow hoppiness without a real bitter bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, tight, crisp, quaffable. Overall, this is a very nice, aromatic, crushable can, perfect lawnmower or summer beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 6/10/16.

Many thanks to fellow beer nerd Gary for throwing a can my way. Am now much more curious to try me some more RAR beers...

Sante Adairius Farmhouse Noir


Take a peek out of the venetian blinds, grab yourself a trench coat and a fedora, cuz it looks like a femme fatale's on her way to your office with tales of a dead body in a farmhouse where they just happen to make beer. Alright, so "noir" is just French for "black" and this is a dark saison, but come on, noir movies are fun. And hey, isn't that a maltese falcon on the label? Probably not, but give me this. It turns out that this beer, a funky saison made with dark malts and oats and fermented in oak, is actually a component in the blended Love's Armour, which just happens to be my first Sante Adairius beer ever, so let's dig into this mystery.

Sante Adairius Farmhouse Noir

Sante Adairius Farmhouse Noir - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head, almost like a porter or stout. Does not smell like a porter or stout though, lots of funk, tart fruit, maybe a little chocolate. Taste even incorporates faint hints of spice up front until that funky earth and tart, chocolate covered fruit kicks in, lemons, cherries, sour finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, moderate to high sourness that still goes down easy. Overall, as dark saisons go, this is a pretty fabulous example and I might be inclined to like the style more if they made them like this. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 6/4/16. Batch 3 (I think?)

Sante Adairius remains on the list of top brewers of farmhouse glory in the country, so I'm sure this won't be the last we hear from them on this blog. Alas, current reserves are dry, so it may be a while...

Avery Callipygian

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Venus Callipyge is an ancient Roman statue depicting a partially draped woman with her head looking back and down, as if to evaluate her bare buttocks. Little is known of its origins or the original artist. Indeed, it is thought to be a copy of an even older ancient Greek statue, also of unknown origins. Let's just call the original sculptor Sir Mix-a-Lot, to recall a more modern appreciator of posteriors.

What does this have to do with beer? Well, Avery seems to think this 17.4% ABV monster is "well-rounded", which is a bit of a stretch. Full bodied and bodacious? Certainly! This is along the lines of something like Uncle Jacob's Stout, but with the ever-so-popular kitchen sink approach to ingredients. A big, bourbon barrel aged stout with coffee, cocoa, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans added. I would make some sort of additional Baby Got Back reference, perhaps adapting it to beer, but I will not sully such a lyrical masterpiece and instead, will just get to it:

Avery Callipygian

Avery Callipygian - Pours a deep black color with half a finger of short lived tan head. Smells of rich caramel, oak, bourbon, and vanilla, a little of that coffee is apparent and gets more prominent as it warms, but this is no coffee bomb (nowhere near something like Tweak). Taste hits similar notes, rich carmel, oak, vanilla, coffee, and lots of boozy bourbon. Again, the coffee is there, but far from dominant. Still, there's enough to raise my coffee indifference meter a bit. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, lots of boozy heat. To some people a 17% ABV beer will never be balanced, but this one seems a little more out of whack than similar efforts, though it gets more unified as it warms. Overall, a nice tweak (pun intended? Sure, why not.) on the bourbon barrel stout, kinda like a more complex, even less balanced version of Uncle Jacob's... B or, what the hey, I'm feeling generous: B+

Beer Nerd Details: 17.4% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 6/3/16. Bottled: Apr 25 2016. Production: 1174 Cases.

I'm liking that these barrel aged efforts are becoming more widely available around here, even if my favorites tend to be the simpler versions. Still, looking forward to trying more of these in the near future...

Rodenbach Alexander

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Pop culture is awash with fan attempts to keep their favorite media alive. From Trekkies keeping their beloved three seasons in syndication for years and finally convincing Paramount to bring the crew back on the big screen to more modern (and sometimes failed) attempts to save Chuck or Firefly, fans tend to live up to the linguistic origin of that term: fanatics. Depending on your point of view, these campaigns can range from inspirational and noble to whiny and entitled (and everywhere inbetween). However you judge such advocacy, you can't deny that it is sometimes effective. And sometimes it happens in the beer world.

Rodenbach Alexander is a cherry-dosed Flanders Red that went defunct somewhere around the turn of the century. The beer scene wasn't quite as hot then, and was actually contracting due to a minor bubble burst of speculation before the craft movement fully got its legs under it. So Rodenbach made due with their Classic and Grand Cru beers, truly world-class stuff, until they couldn't ignore the demand for Alexander to return. I'm sure the success of Caractère Rouge (a similar fruited Flanders Red) helped too. I don't know of a pop-culture-like campaigns to bring it back, but when the few remaining bottles of Alexander start going for 4-digits on the black market, you've got to think that a brewery would notice that there's a market to be tapped there... so 2016 sees the first batch of Alexander in 17 years. Actually, it's just in time for the 30th anniversary of the first time they brewed this beer in 1986 in order to commemorate the 200th birthday of Alexander Rodenbach (obviously one of the founders of the brewery). All of which is good news indeed:

Rodenbach Alexander

Rodenbach Alexander (2016) - Pours a striking, almost clear ruby red color with a finger of fizzy off white (maybe some pinkish hues). Smells of sour cherries, vinous fruit, with a little oak and vanilla pitching in. Taste hits that sour cherry and vinous fruit character pretty hard, but there's just enough of the background acetic flanders red character anchoring it, moderate sourness, vinegar, a little oak and vanilla providing depth. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderate acidity, medium to high (but appropriate) carbonation. Overall, this is along the lines of Caractère Rouge, but not quite as fizzy fruity tooty. That... means something, right? Whatever, this is great right now, but I suspect it could age fabulously. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/28/16. Best before: 01-02-2019.

Rodenbach delivers, as always. I might have to track down another bottle of Caractère Rouge, you know, for reasearch, to see how it compares.


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