Firestone Walker Double Jack

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Firestone Walker has one of my favorite logos, mostly because it features a standing bear holding up its paws like an old-timey boxer. This is across from a more typical rearing lion figure that nevertheless seems like it's relying on wimpy slaps (though, granted, it looks like it has some pretty vicious claws) in the implied fight to the death depicted on most labels.

Firestone Walker logo

Oh, and I guess the brewery is somewhat known for their beer too. While it's far from my first of their beers, this is the first time I've actually reviewed one... a situation that will reverse itself in a few weeks, I suspect, as a few others are in the pipeline. There are many interesting things about the brewery, especially their philosophy on barrel fermentation, but since this particular beer is fermented on stainless steel like most other beers, I'll save the barrel discussion for later:

Firestone Walker Double Jack

Firestone Walker Double Jack - Pours a gorgeous clear golden color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells strongly of bright citrus with some resiny pine aromas peeking through as well. As it warms, maybe some more floral notes come out to play. Taste also has a nice citrus and pine character to it, with a robust bitterness emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth, medium bodied, and goes down pretty easy. Overall, fantastic double IPA. I feel like I should have more to say about a beer that is this good, but the only thing that comes to mind is that... I want more! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/7/12. Label sez: 02/29/12 (presumably bottling date).

I've had some of their standard Union Jack IPA before, and I really enjoyed that. I actually mentioned Walker's Reserve Porter in my Oscars post, though I never got around to doing a full review. I wasn't a huge fan, but it's a solid take on a style I don't usually love. Coming up, we've got Firestone Walker XV, their blended anniversary monster beer that everyone's been raving about (as will I, when I get to the review, probably next week!) and Sucaba, another barrel aged barley wine that I'm very much looking forward to... Basically, they're a brewery to look out for...

Another Note on Commenting

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One of the really annoying things about running your own site and blog software is that spammers are a constant pain in the arse. As such, hosts often implement new and fun (and by "fun" I mean invasive and disruptive) security measures... which can sometimes wreak havoc on blogging software, particularly the commenting. Those who've tried to comment in the past week or two may have had a great deal of difficulty, as certain authentication methods (particularly Wordpress.com) were throwing nasty little 403 Forbidden errors. Other methods had sporadic problems. It looked like it was fixed earlier in the week, but apparently something else changed.

Well, that should all be corrected now. A thousand pardons for the inconvenience. I've got some ideas for future enhancements to the site, but progress is slow, and I'd rather spend my time writing posts than figuring out a way to optimize the way the site rebuilds after a comment. So commenting is going to remain a bit funky, but it should work. Now if you'll excuse me, this beer ain't gonna drink itself.

Lavery Imperial Red Ale

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So I've heard a lot about these Erie, PA brewers from the guys over at Aleheads, who did a great interview with the founder, Jason Lavery. As such, when I noticed a few bottles popping up here in Eastern PA, I jumped at the chance to try some of this stuff. Selection is still limited and I'm holding out hope for their summer seasonal, apparently a huge saison-style beer. In the meantime, I figured I'd check out this Imperial Red Ale.

This can be a bit of a strange style. A lot of times, it comes out like a reddish IPA or DIPA (think Gordon/G'Knight or Yule Smith Winter), but in this case, it was much more recognizable as a souped up Irish Red Ale. Knowing more about the brewery now, this is unsurprising, as these brewers are Irish, and you can see that influence all throughout their catalog.

Apparently the recipe for this has changed significantly. They originally used all Amarillo hops, one of the most popular and trendy varieties out there, but apparently small breweries can experience supply problems... From the Aleheads interview: "It's a really sad story. The Imperial Red Ale was originally all Amarillo. From the hops in the kettle to the dry hops, but our hop contractor told us that since we're so small, we won't be getting any more Amarillo until 2013." Well, crap. I love me some Amarillo hops. They've got this bright, juicy citrus flavor and aroma that's just very difficult to replicate, hence Lavery's woes. The beer I had was apparently a blend of Centennial, Cascade, and Nugget, but I'd love to get my hands on some of that Amarillo version someday (perhaps next year!), assuming the great hop contractor conspiracy deems it acceptable.

Anyway, I cracked this open to celebrate the return of Game of Thrones. It's not a very... Irish... show or anything, but something about this beer seemed to fit with the atmosphere of that series quite well. Go figure.

Lavery Imperial Red Ale

Lavery Imperial Red Ale - Pours a deep, dark red color with two fingers of small bubbled head. Smells are interesting... definitely some sugary sweetness and plenty of hop character, but when put together it's hard to place. Is it... is it like a fruit rollup, but with earthy, piney hops instead of fruit? Geeze, I hate it when reviewers say stuff like that, but that's what I'm getting out of this. The taste features a well balanced sweetness and bitterness, with neither overpowering the other - a relatively mild seeming beer. The malt backbone is similar to that of an Irish Red (amber and caramel malt, probably a hint of roasted malts for color), but unlike most in the style, strong hop flavors hit in the middle with a burst of citrus and pine (but not a lot of that resin character that I usually expect), leading in to a very dry finish. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light to medium bodied, and again, the finish is extremely dry. Overall, it's more like a hopped up Irish Red Ale than anything else, but I like that concept and would gladly try this again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/1/12.

Well, there you have it. An interesting first taste, but I'm intrigued by a lot of Jason's experimental talk in the Aleheads interview... though I have to wonder how much of that stuff will make it over to us Easter PA folk. As previously mentioned, I'm really hoping to get my hands on some of their Imperial French Ale, apparently a summer seasonal...

For the most part, I drink all sorts of different beer styles at all different times of the year. But there is a certain seasonality that also comes into play too. Darker, stronger beers in winter, lighter, crisper, more refreshing beers for summer. Fall and Spring are a little more odd though. Fall has a big seasonal component with harvest ales and standard pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers, but Spring seems more open. For whatever reason, I tend to think of Spring (maybe late-winter) as Barleywine time. I have no idea why, it just feels... right.

But yeah, who am I kidding? Barleywines are always good!

I've heard a lot about Schlafly brewing (from St Louis, MO), but this is actually my first beer from them. Despite the 2008 vintage, I had only purchased this recently, so I was really curious to see if it held up (this may be the oldest beer I've ever had)... Then again, I would have also liked to compare it to a fresher variety.

Also, I didn't realize when I bought this that it didn't have any bourbon at all. I just saw oak aged and assumed bourbon was involved... until I cracked the bottle open and tasted it. I was looking for that bourbon flavor, but I couldn't find it. Then I looked at the description on the box a little closer and realized my mistake. Interestingly, reviewers on Beer Advocate frequently mention bourbon. Perhaps something resembles that in fresher vintages, but I didn't get anything like that here. Fortunately, the beer has a ton of flavor already, and that oak does add its own complexity, all by itself:

Schlafly Oak Aged Barlywine Style Ale

Schlafly Reserve Barleywine Style Ale 2008 - Pours a very nice, thick, dark copper color with minimal head. Smells strongly of caramel and vanilla, maybe a little oak notes too. Some fruity hops are present too, but they're subtle. As it warms, that fruitiness intensifies, throwing out raisiny notes. The taste prominently features that strong caramel malt flavor along with some fruitiness and vanilla/oak notes, especially in the finish. The age has definitely contributed to a certain complexity of flavor here, and as it warms, the fruity raisin flavors become even more prominent. Unfortunately, I don't know how well that age has treated the mouthfeel, which I find to be just a bit undercarbonated. This isn't really a flaw and it's still got enough carbonation to make this an excellent beer, but I find myself wishing for just a hint more carbonation. Again, I suspect this is more due to the age of the beer than anything else, and I do wonder what a 2010 or 2011 vintage would be like right now. Then again, this seems like less of an issue as the beer warms up a bit. Overall, this is still a wonderful beer, and I'm really glad I got to try some, even of this older vintage. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 3/29/12.

A very nice first impression for Schlafly, and I've got a bottle of 2008 Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout burning a whole in my fridge right now (perhaps I may open it later tonight!)

Wilco Tango Foxtrot

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Wilco Tango Foxtrot? Ah, I see what they did there:

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot - Pours a very nice looking clear dark brown color with beautiful amber highlights and a finger of light head. Smells sweet, with some fruity hop character and some malty notes, maybe even a hint of roastiness. The taste is more malt than the nose would lead you to believe, very much like a brown ale (Beer Advocate calls it an American Strong Ale though), light caramel and some minor roastiness, but the hops are clearly there too. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with ample carbonation. Overall, very solid beer, well worth trying. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.83% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/7/12.

Despite not being a huge brown ale kinda guy, Lagunitas continues to impress, and thus I continue to explore their catalog.

PS - In other news, my commenting system was torpedoed by my host's new security measures, but has since been restored. Sorry for any inconvenience, and thanks to those who alerted me to the issue. I assure you the person or persons responsible will be sacked. Good day.

PPS - My readers (all 4 of you) are an astute bunch, so I'm sure you've noticed that my Wednesday entries tend to be rather sparse. This is generally because I spend time writing for my other blog on Wednesdays, so time is limited. I don't know how long I'll keep up this 4-5 entries a week schedule here, but while I don't see any end in sight, I also assume things will slow down a bit at some point. Thems the breaks, I guess.

Troegenator Double Bock

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One would assume that a Doppelbock grew out of the single Bock style, but apparently not. Doppelbocks have their roots in monastic brewing, and it was after the beer became secularized that goat-loving drinkers1 began to notice similarities between these beers and regular Bocks. Apparently, a bunch of drunken Italian monks2 found their way to Munich and began brewing this extra strong beer to sustain themselves during the fasting periods of Advent and Lent3. Full bodied with a rich, chewy malt character, these beers became known as "liquid bread".

Their beer was called Salvator (translates to "the Savior") and the Monks kept it to themselves for over a century. Once they began selling it to the public, that's when the whole Doppelbock moniker came up, though interestingly enough, other breweries who copied the beer called the style "Salvator" too. Eventually trademark protection forced those other breweries to come up with new names for their beer, though many try to keep it traditional by using words that end in "-ator", including new takes on the style like today's example:

Troegs Troegenator

Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock - Pours a deep, dark amber color with hints of ruby and a small amount of light colored head. Smells of caramel malt with a yeasty note, maybe a hint of fruitiness as well. The taste tends towards those caramel malt flavors, though it's a bit muted. Clearly there and very sweet, but not overpowering either, and while there's no real hop character to the beer, it's balanced enough not to be cloying either. Mouthfeel is smooth with just a bit of richness filling out the body, making this easier to drink than a sipper, but not quite at the level of a super-quaffable beer either. Overall, this is a solid beer. Not a ton of complexity, but quite nice for what it is. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of one of them fancy Sam Adams glasses on 3/30/12.

Tröegs continues to be an interesting semi-local brewery. I enjoy trying their beers, but I've rarely been blown away... though I will admit that Nugget Nectar has grown on me quite a bit and I'm always on the lookout for new beers in their Scratch series....

1 - For the uninitiated, "Bock" means "Goat" in German. Like a lot of beer origin stories, there are a few interpretations of where that comes from. One is that it was a shortened, mispronounced version of Einbeck, a city famous for its beer. Another is that the beer was often brewed in the Capricorn (symbolized by a goat) timeframe. Regardless, that's why you see a lot of goats on labels for Bocks and Doppelbocks.

2 - These monks were from Paula, Italy, and became known as Paulaners... a name that exists to this day, though the brewery seems to have been secularized.

3 - Yeah, I probably should have posted this on (or before) Easter, eh?

A Happy, Hoppy, Zoe

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Hippies! Hippies everywhere! Oh God, save us from the hippies!

So I've already mentioned that these crazy eco-hippies from Maine were getting a lot of attention in the beer dorkosphere (despite their tiny, nano-sized operation) and was quite pleased with their Peeper Ale (a well crafted take on the typical Pale Ale style)... but the beer that really seems to be making waves is this "Happy, Hoppy Amber Ale" called Zoe:

Maine Beer Co. Zoe

Maine Beer Co. Zoe - Pours a very deep, dark amber color, almost brown color with a finger of tan head. Smell is sugary sweet with citrus and lots of pine. Tastes very sweet, plenty of citrus and pine hops, with an interesting malt character too - maybe some biscuit malt, a small amount of dark crystal, chocolate, or even roasted/black malts. The finish has a fair amount of bitterness, but it's well matched and goes well with that dark malt character. Mouthfeel is... medium. Medium bodied, medium carbonated, medium smoothness, a medium amount of dryness in the finish. Overall, a very well crafted beer, something I'd love to try again sometime... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip on 3/24/12. Bottle sez 020912 (presumably bottling date) and 14 (batch number?) (date is actually very hard to read)

Definitely interested in trying more of their stuff. With beers like this, I think they'll be able to grow quickly, to the point where maybe they could be described as a "micro" brewery or maybe even (someday) a regular ol' craft brewery...

Telegraph Reserve Wheat Ale

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One of the great and yet simultaneously frustrating parts of reading a lot of beer blogs is when people go on and on about fantastic beers that are only available locally (I'm as guilty of this as anyone, of course). It's great because everyone loves their local breweries and it makes for a nice communal experience with other folks in the area. But sucks when you're on the outside looking in because you'll have these situations where seemingly everywhere you look, people are raving about this or that small brewery... and they don't distribute anywhere near you.

As I've become more of a beer dork, my beer hunting prowess has certainly increased, but there are always things that are uber-local. Think Surly or The Alchemist, both of whom don't distribute outside their state, and yet it feels like everyone's drank some of that stuff. I've not yet tipped my toes into the illicit realm of beer trading, but that's certainly one way to get a hold of the stuff. Or you can just patiently wait for the beer to be distributed to your area, which has somewhat recently happened with California's own Telegraph Brewing.

Of course, I've been hearing raves about these beers from everyone. For instance, The Beer Rover has covered tons of their beer. Jay also loves them, and I found out about their plans to distribute to PA from an interview he did with the founder and brewer. So when I saw a bottle on a recent beer run, I immediately snapped it up without even really looking too closely at it... I immediately squirreled it away in my fridge, hoping to get to it quickly. Then I went and looked it up and... oh noes! Jay lists it as "unrateable". When I dug into his original review, it appears that this may have just been a reaction to the Berliner Weisse style... but then, my only real experience with that style was Dogfish Head's Festina Pêche, which is a beer I hated. Seriously, C- maybe even D range beer for me. Fortunately, my fears were mostly unfounded. I still wouldn't call this a style I prefer, but I can't imagine it being better executed:

Telegraph Reserve Wheat Ale

Telegraph Reserve Wheat Ale - Pours a clear, bright straw yellow color with a finger of quickly disappearing white head. Smells of lemon and funk, with lots of wheat beer character too. Really nice nose, actually. Taste starts off a little sweet, with a pleasant lemony tart character emerging quickly, followed by a slightly more intense sourness in the finish. Not a lot of wheat in the taste, but it does have that sorta mouthfeel. Effervescent, well carbonated (but not overly so), and very lightly bodied. The sourness prevents gulping this down, but it's not a slow sipper either. Overall, this is well balanced, tart, but not overpowering. I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying this given how little I enjoyed the Dogfish Head take on the sytle. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 3/24/12.

So my first experience wasn't the bust I was dreading, and I will certainly be on the lookout for their more celebrated brews, like the California Ale or Gypsy Ale. I actually saw the California Ale recently, but it was in PA, so I would have needed to buy a full case of the stuff. I'm sure it's great and all, but I've got way too much beer sitting around here to justify that!

Victory Donnybrook Stout

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Another day, another Victory. This low gravity Dry Irish Stout is only really available on tap (and I'm pretty sure it's only locally available too), so it's not one that I've had often, but it's a solid beer (and though I didn't drink this on St. Patrick's Day, it makes a nice local alternative to the ever present Guinness, especially when it's on nitro tap).

In other news, I'm pretty sure this is the lowest alcohol beer I've ever reviewed (unless you count that non-alcoholic swill we had that one time at Beer Club). Let's do this:

Victory Donnybrook Stout

Victory Donnybrook Stout - Pours a very dark brown with a tiny amount of highlights and a finger of thick, light brown head. Smells strongly of roasted malts and a little coffee... Taste features that same roast and coffee character. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, very lightly carbonated with a nice light body. Almost quaffable. I'm pretty sure this one was on regular tap, but when it's on nitro, it's much smoother, though still light bodied. Overall, it's a nice stout that's as good as any I've had in the style and as previously mentioned, it makes a nice local alternative to the ever-present Guinness. B

Beer Nerd Details: 3.7% ABV on tap. Drank out of Victory's 0.3L glass on 3/24/12.

I'd like to say that this will probably be my last Victory review for a while, but I think we all know that's not going to happen.

Update: Nope, this is only the second lowest ABV beer I've reviewed. The lowest was Tetley's English Ale, clocking in at 3.6% ABV. However, this beer was a heck of a lot better, so foo on you.

Duchesse De Bourgogne

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I'm a backwards man. Instead of easing myself into sour beers, I started with the sourest of sours*, a Gueuze that was fine for what it was, but it almost soured** me on sour beers forever. Or for a few weeks, at least. I then moved on to some of Russian River's fabled sours (described on their website as "high" sourness), which I enjoyed quite a bit... and yet, I hadn't really caught the sour bug just yet. And despite some true sour revelations over the past year or so, I still wouldn't call myself a huge fan of sours. But then, I realized that I didn't really start off with the typical beers.

According to dontdrinkbeer, Duchesse De Bourgogne is "The Mistress that Starts Every Man's Sick Foray into Sours" (he also mentions Rodenbach, which has also been on my list at Padraic's urging for quite some time now - I'll get theres someday, I promise). As we've already established, I went backwards, so this was probably the dozenth or so sour I've had... but I'm glad I'm getting back to basics here. So once more unto the breach, dear friends:

Duchesse De Bourgogne

Duchesse De Bourgogne - Pours a dark amber with beautiful highlights when held up to light. Just a bit of light tan head. Smell is quite funky and earthy with a twang in the nose. Taste is very strange. Sweet with a fruity candy character, a little funk emerging in the middle and a light, vinegary sourness hitting in the finish. Well carbonated but but an incredibly smooth, almost creamy mouthfeel. Maybe a little vinegar acidity there, and lots of slickness in the finish. Overall, it's an interesting beer. Not being a big sour guy, it's a bit unusual, and it's not my favorite, but it's very well done. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a snifter on 3/23/12.

I suspect I'd had this beer earlier in my sick foray into sours, I'd have a higher opinion of it. But after having had some revelatory examples, I didn't quite find myself loving this, though it's clearly a good beer. Oh, and while I'm not a huge food and beer pairing guy, I've noticed that Flanders Sours (I've not tried it with others) go really well with both dark chocolate and cheddar cheese. Go figure.

* In case my lack of experience with sours is not apparent, I have no idea whether or not that Gueuze is actually the "sourest" of sours. It's just the one that sticks out in my head as being obscenely sour.

** Pun intended.

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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

  • Mark: I think the intensity was less to do with the read more
  • beerbecue: Nice finds. The only strawberry sour I've have is Hanssens read more
  • Mark: Well then, I'll have to keep my eye open for read more
  • Mark: Ahh, good to know about the caffeine, I just did read more
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  • phagan55: Free tastings are the way to go, you can try read more
  • Mark: I need to try some of these with milk/sugar additions read more
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