Dead Eye Double Feature

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Today we feature two off-shelf imperial stouts from the dead-eye twins, Mikkel and Jeppe:

Dead Eye Twins

Those eyes, man. They look like sociopaths, but they can brew some good beer. To be sure, they both have a large catalog filled with a wide range of styles and experimental series, so they both have their fare share of hits and misses. Since both are highfalutin "gypsy" brewers, those misses tend to be expensive misses, but I've had pretty good luck with both, especially when it comes to their imperial stouts, the details of which are covered below, along with my amazing tasting notes. Up first, Vanilla Shake:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake - Yet another variation on the Beer Geek Breakfast (stout with coffee) theme that Mikkel has been riding for a few years now, this one made at a higher ABV with both coffee and vanilla. You should know by now that I'm not a big coffee guy, but I do really love me some vanilla, so I had big hopes for this. It pours a pitch black color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of coffee, dark malts, and lots of vanilla, in roughly equal measures. Taste has lots of that coffee character tempered by rich caramel and lots of vanilla, with that roasty coffee reasserting itself in the finish, along with a hint of bitterness. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium/low carbonation, not at all boozy. Overall, it's a rock solid coffee based stout. I enjoyed it, but you know, coffee. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/27/14.

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout - So this is basically another variant on Jeppe's famous Even More Jesus recipe. What's the difference? As the story goes, it was "brewed at a different brewery in bigger scale. Since we had to adjust the recipe to the new system, we gave the beer a new name as it is not the same, though it will be similar." Ironically, I had the coffee version of Even More Jesus, and actually quite enjoyed it (actually moreso than Vanilla Shake), but I really found myself wishing I got to try the non coffee version. Well, I basically got my wish with this beer. Pours a black color with a very pretty brown head. Smells of dark, roasty malt, rich caramel, maybe even some vanilla. The taste starts sweet, but that's tempered by some roasty dark malt, rich caramel in the middle, and a little bitter dark chocolate and hop bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium carbonation, no real booze here either. Overall, we have another rock solid stout here, and because I'm not a big coffee person, I like this better than the vanilla shake. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/28/14. Bottled 04/16/14.

So there you have it. Jeppe wins this round, but only really because coffee, and if other beer geeks are any indication, the coffee stuff would probably be treated more fairly. I know, I'm the worst. I actually think the Evil Twin one will age really well, so I may try to snag some more of that.

Boulevard Saison-Brett

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There are beers that I pine after (like any good beer nerd) that would rightly be called a White Wale. In the past, I've mentioned the sort of arbitrary, moving goalpost nature of White Whale beers, which leads neckbearded tickers to call stuff like Black Tuesday a Khaki Wale (unless you snag the 2009 vintage, in which case you're totally slayin walez, bro), but a beer like this wouldn't really even qualify for that dubious honor. It's mildly limited and PA is not in Boulevard's distribution, so there is that, but it's not a beer that lights fires, except in that certain corner of beer dorkery occupied by saison addicts. But this does happen to be my corner of dorkery, so why has it taken so long for me to procure a bottle of this stuff? I don't have a good answer, but I did finally manage to drink a bottle, so let's get to it, shall we. This is Boulevard's Tank 7 saison that's been conditioned on Brettanomyces for 3 months, and it's one of the better examples of Brett Saisons out there:

Boulevard Saison-Brett

Boulevard Saison-Brett - Pours a slightly hazy, light yellow color with massive amounts of whispy head. The smell is pure funk, musty, earthy, spicy, floral, and even a little fruity. The taste has a nice Belgian yeast character, fruity esters and spicy phenols, banana and clove, but then that funk shows up and starts trashing the place with it's earthy, musty, barnyardy, flowery goodness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and efferevescent, dry, light body but still substantial enough that it carries its weight and can stand up to food. Sometimes dry beers with high carbonation tend to be dominated by the mouthfeel, but in this case, those characteristics seem to pull out the flavor rather than mask it. It's complex enough to keep the jaded beer dorks interested, but approachable enough that anyone who likes Belgian pales will probably get a kick out of it. Overall, this is indeed a very good funky beer and probably my favorite Boulevard offering to date. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 6/27/14. 2014 vintage. Batch Number: SB14058-1. Best By Date: 02-2016.

It's always nice to tick that long unticked box, and it's nice to see what all the fuss is about.

The Bruery Sucré

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The Bruery's Anniversary beers hold a certain sentimental value for us Kaedrinians, and as such, they've become a much anticipated annual tradition. We're just bananas for this stuff. Like the previous couple batches, this is a massive Old Ale style beer, aged in Bourbon barrels and blended using the Solera method. The names of each anniversary brew correspond to the French translation of the traditional wedding anniversary gifts. Last year's was Bois, and it was fantastic. This year's is Sucré, which means Sugar (or probably more likely, Candy).

Those who are familiar with The Bruery's low attenuation, high ABV barrel aged brews will know that Sucré is particularly apt for this brew, as it's is indeed quite sweet and sugary. Not to mention boozy. The previous iterations have all been in the 14.5% to 15% ABV, but this one clocks in at a whopping 16.9% ABV. I'm not sure what they did differently this year, but that's quite a bump from last year, and you can really tell, even if it's still a fabulous brew that I really enjoyed.

The Bruery Sucre

The Bruery Sucré - Pours a murky brown color with a finger of off white head. Smells fantastic, sugary, lots of boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla, a little bit of dark fruits. The taste is rich and sugary, with the typical Bruery barrel treatment taking over quickly, lots of bourbon, oak, and vanilla, very boozy but not super hot. The dark fruits are there, but take a back seat to the booze and bourbon. As it warms, it seems to even itself out a bit. That or I was just getting shitfaced. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, with a big boozy bite that's almost spicy. Overall, this is another fantastic brew in the series, more intense than previous versions, though perhaps not quite as harmonious right now. I'm betting the aging potential is high though. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/21/14. Bottled 2/25/14.

If you've had any of The Bruery's Bourbon barrel aged stuff, you sorta know what you're in for here. I plan on grabbing another of these bottles for my cellar, just because I have one for every year since Cuir (3rd Anniversary). Speaking of which, I never drank that Cuir, which I should totally get around to at some point. Of course, I only have the normal, 25% BBA version, but we can't all be Bruery Hoarder ballers, can we?

Like any good craft brewery, the fine folks at Tired Hands like to collaborate. These often show up at the brewpub (and presumably at the collaborator's brewery), but a couple of recent instances involved Jean traveling to Europe and working with various kindred spirits to produce some stuff that would be bottled and then imported. I've totally been slacking on these, so I figured it was time to catch up with them.

Crushable Saison

Brasserie de la Senne and Tired Hands Crushable Saison - This was basically a hoppy saison. Pours a cloudy but bright straw yellow color (very typical of Tired Hands) with huge amounts of fluffy, bubbly head that sticks around for a while and leaves lots of lacing (perhaps not as common for Tired Hands - they tend to be lighter in carbonation than this appears). Smells of grassy citrus hops (I get some standard Euro hop feel here, but also some straightforward American hops, like Cascade or Simcoe or something like that), some light peppery yeast, clove, and a little fruity kick too. The taste features a similar quality, lots of Belgian yeast character, very light spicy notes (pepper and clove), hints of fruity esters, and some grassy citrus hops (maybe a bit of hop bitterness in the finish). Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, very light body on this, and it is super dry. Given the name, I think they've achieved their goal though: it's super quaffable and yes, emminently crushable. Overall, this is a nice, delicate, quaffable saison. It's not going to light the world on fire, but I could drink a couple gallons of this stuff, which, seems to be what they were going for. It's not a glamorous face melter, but it's the sort of thing you could probably expect to be pouring at the brewpub on most visits. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a flute on 6/20/14. Bottled 10/10/13. Best By 10/10/14

Lost and Found

De Molen and Tired Hands Lost & Found - Check out these pics of Jean and Menno grooving at the De Molen brewery. This is a hoppy black ale fermented with 100% Brett. I can't tell if oak was involved, but I didn't really get much oak out of the taste. Pours a turbid brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of Brett funk, a little fruity, citrus and pine hops (maybe a little faded, yielding more piney notes), with some dark malt presence and a hint of tartness. The taste has more of that tart fruitiness, and that dark malt character comes on much stronger. Some earthy funk too. The hops seem a little lost in the taste, or at least not as harmonious as in the nose. Mouthfeel is really strange, grainy, a little astringency from that tartness, medium carbonation, medium body. Overall, there's some nice elements here, but the balance is a little off, and the disparate elements don't really come together as well as I'd hoped. It's not unpleasant or anything, but it was a little disappointing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/20/14. Bottled 27 Nov 2013 (I think that's the bottling date).

Both are imported by Shelton Brothers, so they should be out and about. Of the two, I'd recommend Crushable Saison much more, as it's more representative of their style... and cheaper too! That being said, if you are ever in the Philly area, it's worth making the detour out to Ardmore to visit the brewpub (but given my general enthusiasm for Tired Hands on this here blog, I probably don't need to tell you that).

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot

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If you've been following along, and you should be, you'd know that the tiny San Francisco brewery Almanac has been doing this local Farm to Barrel thing for quite some time now, incorporating uber-fresh locally sourced fruits and produce into their barrel aged sours. They've steadily been picking up steam and many an admirer - including me, even though I'm about 3000 miles away.

This one is made with Pluots, that unholy crossbreed of plums and apricots. Chuck several varieties of that mutant fruit (each of which has a fantastic, evocative name: Dapple Dandy, Honey Punch, Flavor Queen, Black Kat & Dapple Jack) into some old wine barrels along with Almanac's house "Dogpatch" sour culture (a mix of American and Belgian yeasts, along with some other critters, like a San Francisco sourdough starter). The result is quite a fine sour ale, if I may say so:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Pluot

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot - Pours a cloudy but bright, luminous straw yellow color with a finger of white head and good retention. The smell is very funky, some oak, lots of fruit, and something I can't quite place. The taste is beautiful, lots of tart fruit character, peaches, plums and the like. Some oak in the middle, finishing up with a fruit juice spritz. The sourness is there, especially in the finish, but it's far from overpowering. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, juicy, light and crisp, with a small acidic note from the sourness. Overall, this is a fantastic little sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a flute on 6/14/14. Batch FR-P. Bottled 031414.

This is my favorite Almanac beer yet, not that I've managed to wrangle that many of them. I am, however, fortunate enough to have another waiting in the wings, so you'll be hearing more about Almanac soon enough. Indeed, I've been on something of a sour jag of late, a consequence more of availability than anything else, but I ain't complaining.

BFM Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien 2012

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Bon-Chien is French for "Good Dog". Naturally, it refers to... a cat? It turns out that Bon-Chien was Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) first cat, and to honor its passing, they attributed three miracles to her, conferred saintly status, and brewed this beer. Rather oddly, they claim primary fermentation is achieved via wine yeast. Then they aged it in a variety of barrels, where the juice picks up the various souring bugs and funky yeasts. Over the years, these barrels have ranged from Grappa, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Bourbon, and Scotch, to Champagne or obscure barrels previously used for stuff that even the internets don't seem to know about (anyone know what Kumasamasansa is?) The standard Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien is a blend of all the barrels used in a given year (usually only a few different types), but the individual barrel beers are also released with the Grand Cru designation (remember: Grand Cru means almost nothing in the world of beer).

The 2012 vintage, which is what I had, seems to be comprised of beer aged in Champagne, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the mysterious Kumasamasansa barrels. I feel like these beers have become more widely distributed in the US over the past few years, and what's more, you can often buy older vintages (if you're willing to pay, and these suckers aren't cheap, though apparently this ages very well). As monster 11% ABV sours go, this is actually a pretty approachable beer, effortlessly complex, rich, and only moderately sour. Let's take a closer look:

BFM Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien

BFM Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien 2012 - Pours a dark amber brown color with a finger of off white head that fades but leaves a bit of lacing too. Smells very nice, with tart, vinous fruit, cherries, tannins, oak, vanilla, and vinegar. Taste is very sweet, maybe even sugary. Fruity, berries, sour cherries and the like, some oak and vanilla, with a well matched, almost mellow sourness (two words that don't normally go together). Mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, not nearly as much carbonation as expected, but still enough. Medium to full bodied, which is rare for a sour. I get the impression that the attenuation is low here, which perhaps offsets the sourness a bit, and it coats your mouth considerably, leaving a long finish. It's a little boozy, but not at all unapproachable and it handles the ABV much better than a lot of other high octane sours. Overall, this is a really nice, heavy duty sour beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml) Drank out of a goblet on 6/13/14. Vintage 2012. Blend 5.

The label sez "Recommended with fine food!" so I paired this with a pepperoni pocket pie. Not my brightest move, but hey, it actually kinda worked. Though I will say that, like a lot of darker sours like this, it actually matches very well with good dark chocolate. Also, if I can afford another bottle of this, I may actually try it with their recommended pairing of pan seared duck breast deglazed with Modena balsamic vinegar. But then, that sounds like a lot of work (for both me and my wallet).

Hair of the Dog Fred

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There's an old saying in the wine world: "There are no great wines, only great bottles of wine." Once a wine is put into a bottle, there are any number of things that could influence the taste when the bottle is opened. How old is the bottle? Where was it stored? What was the temperature? Did you have it shipped during the summer? What kind of light exposure is there? Even if you assume all that was fine, there are also cases of cork taint and other such unlikely occurrences. There's natural variation in bottles, and no one even pretends that different vintages are supposed to produce the same result. There's a million things that could lead to a bottle being great or a total bust, and that's before you start talking about subjective matters of taste and context.

If this sounds a little naive, that's because I don't know that much about wine. But I do know beer, and I know that the same thing applies here (as well as with other tipples, like whiskey). Many of the same caveats apply, some even moreso than in wine (for instance, because of compounds in hops, beer tends to be more susceptible to light than wine). Bottle conditioned beers can change significantly over time. Funky beers with Brettanomyces and other critters are wildly unpredictable (we could get into the whole consistency debate, but I'll have to save that for my next Fantôme review...) Highly hopped beers can taste differently from week to week, even if they're stored properly. Read about hops, and you can see that crops change significantly from year to year (and I'm not just talking about yield here, things like Alpha Acids and oils that drive aroma can vary from year to year).

This sort of pedantry can manifest in annoying, stupid ways, such as the continual insistence that this year's batch of Pliny the Younger/Hopslam/Black Tuesday/whatever is not as good as last year. They often aren't identical, to be sure, but such utterances seem driven more by hype or rarity or ego than anything more reliable. Likewise, I often see some folks who finally land that white whale beer, only to find that they don't care that much for it and wonder Did I get a bad bottle? Because surely a bunch of strangers on the internet couldn't be wrong, right?

But every once in a while, you will run across a genuine bad bottle. A "sick" bottle of Fantôme, an old IPA that was sitting in sunlight, or maybe a beer that has some off flavors (metallic or tinny beer, soy sauce stouts, overwhelming diacetyl, etc...) Some of this may be poor QA on the brewery's part, others might be a problem with shipping or storage. It's tempting to hold a grudge against a brewery or a particular beer if you've had one bad experience with them, and it doesn't help that we are so awash in great beer from all over right now because why try a beer you didn't like before again when you can just grab something new?

All of which is to say that I had an issue with this Hair of the Dog beer. I was wary from the moment I opened the beer to a practically nonexistent puff of carbon dioxide. When the pour produced absolutely no head whatsoever, I knew I was going to have a problem. I'm perhaps more sensitive to carbonation issues than most folks, and to be honest, I've been wrong about low carb levels before. However, in looking at other reviews of this, it seems that most reviews mention "ample" or "above average" carbonation levels. I got what I felt was a flat beer. So... bad bottle?

Hair of the Dog Fred

Hair of the Dog Fred - Pours a pale orange, light brown color with no head whatsoever. Almost no pop when I opened it either, which does not strike me as a good sign. Smells very interesting though, sweet, boozy, biscuity malt, maybe rye, some fruity hops, almost like a pastry with booze. Taste has a sticky sweetness to it, lots of hop character built on top of a biscuity, bready malt and well integrated. Alas, the Achilles heel is the carbonation, which is practically nonexistent... It feels medium to full bodied, a little syrupy and sticky, definitely boozy but not overwhelmingly so. If it were even a little carbonated, this would be a much better beer. Oddly, from looking around, it seems that this does normally have a medium to high carbonation factor, so I don't know what's up with this bottle! Aside from the carbonation, it's obviously a well crafted, interesting beer, and I can drink it, but this is ultimately disappointing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/13/14. Batch 93.

Looking at the reviews a little more carefully, it seems like there is some variation between the batches. A couple of other people have gotten practically "still" bottles like mine, but most seem to indicate a higher degree of carbonation. So not a great first impression, but I'll have to give Hair of the Dog another chance someday...

June Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to an Indian/Thai restaurant and despite a medium turnout, had much in the way of fun.

June Beer Club Lineup

For the sake of posterity, I'm documenting my nearly incoherent thoughts on each beer below, which is my way of saying that you should not trust any of these ratings because as we've established recently, I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Red Star Zingerbuch Kombucha - So the first beer of the night... was not beer! This is some sort of bizarre fermented tea concoction with ginger and hibiscus. It was very aromatic, flowery, and ginger aley. It was not exactly my bag, but this is the perfect setting for weird crap like this. No rating because I don't even really know what this is.
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale - Basically a palate cleanser, and a beer I've already covered before. B+
  • Founders All Day IPA - So the new trend is to call pale ales a "session IPA" or something like that? Ok, whatever, this is a pretty solid example, and I could probably drink a bunch of these with no complaints. Nice hop presence, but light and quaffable. B+
  • Surly Furious - Ah, now this is an IPA! Surly does not distribute to PA... except during Philly Beer Week. One of our attendees tonight was fortunate enough to attend a Surly event and snag a few cans, and generous enough to share with the rest of us. I've heard so many great things about Surly that I was afraid they wouldn't live up to the hype, but this is indeed a really fantastic IPA. Citrus and lots of pine and resinous hops, but exceedingly well balanced stuff, lots of hops and enough crystal malts that it didn't feel super bitter despite being 99 IBU. Probably the best beer of the night. I'll leave it at A- territory for now, but I definitely want to get some more of this (it could warrant an upgrade).
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Dammit, this still has not carbonated as much as I'd like, but it is still a tasty beer, light on the funk, but still a nice peppery saison flavor. I'm guessing that if it hasn't carbonated much by now, it's not going to get much better... which is fine, since I probably only have 6-12 bottles of the stuff left. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Chile Beer - Made with chile peppers and smoked malt, this sucker was spicy but flavorful. Not really my thing, but it's an interesting beer, and certainly not the abomination that Cave Creek Chili Beer was...
  • Lost Abbey Carnevale - A Brett does saison? Sign me up, this was one of my favorites of the night. Nice fruity, earthy funk pervading the whole thing, a pleasure to drink. It's no Logsdon or anything, but it's really nice. A high B+
  • Southern Tier Compass - Perhaps it was just because we opened it towards the end of the night, but this felt exceedingly bland to me, with the only real dominant note being the flowery aromas and flavors. Not really my thing. C
  • Brooklyn Wild Streak - A belgian strong pale aged in Bourbon barrels with Brett? Well ok then. The Brett has a minimal, but still detectable presence. But the taste is more dominated by that pale ale aged in bourbon barrel character that never really works as well for me as it does for stouts or barleywines. It's fine for what it is, but it's not really my thing. B-
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Blend) - The imperial stout is doing quite well. This blend has faint hints of the bourbon and oak, but nothing like a BBA stout. That being said, it's delicious and only getting better over time. I'll still leave it at a B+
And that is all for now. We will probably return to regular blogging next week, so stay tuned.

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

Round Guys Fear Of A Brett Planet

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I've noted before that I'm not particularly good at coming up with names for beers. Thanks to Tired Hands' freewheeling attitude towards naming beers, I'm getting better at it and have a few names saved up for upcoming homebrews, but I only need to spy a name like Round Guys' Fear of a Brett Planet to feel woefully inadequate in this department. I don't know how much to read into that name (are the Round Guys saying that Brettanomyces is a minority and that brewers are afraid of organization and empowerment in the yeast community? I don't think I really want to go there (but you just did - ed.)), but it is a spectacularly awesome name for a beer.

So this is a local can of 100% Brett fermented pale ale. Kinda, sorta like what Stillwater originally wanted to do with Premium/Classique, except the base recipe is more like an APA, what with the hops and all that. So let's fight the power and see how this turned out:

Round Guys Fear Of A Brett Planet

Round Guys Fear Of A Brett Planet - Pours a golden yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy, eggshell white head that sticks around a while. Smells beautiful, Belgian yeast spiciness, clove and the like, a little fruity funk with a hint of earthiness, and maybe some American C hop goodness (but it's not super powerful). The taste has a nice bready base to it, with the yeast not quite as prominent as the nose would have you believe, but it's there with its spicy notes. Some hoppy citrus and pine come to the party, but they're not throwing their weight around much, just adding to the complexity. More earthiness and plenty of hop bitterness appears towards the finish and lingering into the aftertaste. The funky Brett notes are there, but they're a light touch. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and dry, well carbonated, quaffable stuff. Overall, this is a very nice, well executed, easy drinking pale ale with well incorporated Brett. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/6/14.

I'm pretty sure I've had Round Guys' Berliner once, but I've otherwise been neglectful of this local(ish) brewery. I should really check out more of their stuff.

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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.

Recent Comments

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