The Dammit Meme

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So I've been tagged in one of those godawful memes that are supposed to spread throughout the internet like wildfire, except that dorks like me... actually, I generally participate in memes. I like answering interesting questions, and beerbecue has some decent ones, so I figured I'd play along. At least until the time comes when I have to follow the rules. I don't play by anyone's rules. Especially not my own. That's my rule.

Since I'm not following anyone's rules but my own (which I don't actually follow), I won't post the original rules. Basically, beerbecue has listed out 7 questions, and I have to answer them. I think the original thing had something about creating new questions and tagging other folks to participate, but I'm not going to do those things because I'm uncreative, lazy, and don't want to cause any ruckus in the beer blogging world. Enjoy:

Your first beer: That's an excellent question. I have no idea. Well, I have ideas, but I'm not positive about anything. This is partly because my first was undoubtedly macro crap and thus not very memorable. I may have had a sip of MGD when I was a wee nerd, but when I think about it, I think it may have been a Busch beer. Certainly my first big drinking session was from a case of Busch pounders. Again, not very memorable.

Your first good beer: Also a tough one to pinpoint. I remember drinking Honey Brown, but that's not exactly a "good" beer. Yuengling lager? Perhaps. But the standout craft beer revelation of my life was most definitely Ommegang Hennepin, stumbled on completely by accident (I wrote about the full story before).

Your favorite BBQ joint? How's this for good memory: I don't remember. But I do remember that I was in Texas, which does a slightly better job than PA when it comes to BBQ. And by slightly better, I mean ridiculous to even compare. On the other hand, I'm no expert, and I'm sure there's something here, I just haven't really sought it out. I hope beerbecue doesn't lynch me.

Which childhood star most influenced you? Um... I don't know. Ron Howard?

Would you rather listen to Exile on Main St. or Sgt. Pepper's? Exile on Main St. I will say that I like both though, and quite frankly, I've never really gotten the whole Stones vs Beatles argument. Then again, I've always been more of a movies guy. I love music and all, but I just don't understand it the way I do movies. Or beer for that matter:p

Which is better: kimjongillookingatthings.com or kimjongunlookingatthings.com? I, too, prefer the original - kingjongillookingatthings. Sequels are rarely as good as the original.

To the extent divulging it would not reveal top-secret, upcoming reviews...what beers are in your fridge right now? My upcoming reviews are probably no secret to anyone who follows me on Untappd, but I will share with you the results of my most recent beer run, because I'm super excited by all of these:

DH 75 Minute IPA, RR Sanctification, Founders KBS, and Firestone Walker Sucaba
(Click for larger version)

And there you have it. Of course, I probably won't get to these anytime soon, but you'll probably start seeing reviews in a few weeks. Though I may not be able to hold out on the KBS. Can't believe I score two bottles of the stuff.

And that just about covers it. I'm supposed to tag 11 other bloggers, but I'll just leave an invitation open to anyone reading. Heck, start your own blog and answer some questions. Otherwise, like beerbecue, I'll just take the opportunity to pimp the bloggers on my blogroll over there on the right. They're all awesome, and you should read them.

Peeper Ale

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It seems that everywhere I turn, people I respect are drinking and writing about these crazy hippies from Maine. This is odd, given that Maine Beer Company is tiny - a "nano-brewery", which is, like, a few orders of magnitude smaller than a "micro" brewery. So when I hear that this hit Jay's radar and piqued his beer dork instincts enough to orchestrate a trade with some east-coast folks to get his hands on some of their beer, well, it made me want to get some of this stuff too. On a recent trip to the bottle shop, I noticed two varieties of Maine's beer, which I greedily snapped up.

Now, I'm not normally a fan of hippies, but this is my kind of activism. Make a delicious product, sell it to me based on that, then donate a small but fun portion of the proceeds to various charities. Good on these Maine folks. I'm glad I bought a few bottles of this stuff because it's damn good and as an added bonus, it goes towards a good cause.

Anyways, first up is Peeper Ale, an American pale ale whose name offers unlimited opportunities for double entendres that I will refrain from, because I have dignity. Or something like that. Anyway, let's take a voyeuristic look at this stuff:

Maine Peeper Ale

Main Beer Co. Peeper Ale - Pours a straw yellow goldish color with a finger of bright white head. It's a nice enough appearance, but not something that's gorgeous to peep at, if you know what I mean. Smells of citrusy, grassy, floral hops along with a little sugary sweet character too. The taste starts sweet, but then you get that floral and grassy character from the hops in the middle (maybe, MAYBE, a little lemony zest here, though it's not at all tart) and a surprisingly strong, but still pleasant hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated but light to medium bodied. As it warms, the carbonation tones down a bit, making the beer a little more quaffable, but it's still got a bite to it. Overall, a very nice pale ale that focuses on grassy, floral hops. A nice change of pace and a very well crafted beer. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/23/12. Bottle sez 120611 (presumably bottling date) and 25 (batch number?)

I've already had me some Zoe (a hoppy red ale) as well, which I do think is the superior beer, but which will have to wait for next week. But even with this Peeper stuff, which didn't really connect wholly with my palate, it's apparent that these Maine Beer Company folks know exactly what their doing. It's an expertly crafted beer, and judging from the ratings on BA and RB, it hits other folks square in the face. I'm glad I got my hands on some and will be looking out for other varieties as well.

Founders Porter

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Just who is that lovely lady on the label of this beer? Looks like a Victorian era painting... According to Founders, she's Dark, Rich, and Sexy. Or maybe that's the beer they're talking about...

Founders Porter

Founders Porter - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells strongly of roasted malts, with some coffee and maybe even chocolate thrown in for good measure. Really nice nose. Taste starts sweet, maybe with some of that chocolate, but it gets drowned out by a heaping helping of roasted malts and coffee flavors starting in the middle and intensifying through the finish. A bitterness (which seems to come from more than hops, perhaps from those dark malts, with all their coffee and dark chocolate character) emerges in the finish as well. This ain't an imperial stout or anything, but it packs a ton of flavor in a relatively small package. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and reasonably full, and it finishes dry. Overall, while porter is not one of my favorite styles, this is exceptionally well executed and one of my favorite examples of the style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 3/24/12.

Several months ago, I had bought a Founders variety pack, so I had a few of these floating around. At first, I didn't care for it, but it quickly grew on me, and now I feel like it could be a go-to beer in some instances. Another thing I've found is that this beer goes really well with a good cigar. I'm no cigar expert and don't smoke them very often, but those roasted malt flavors match quite nicely with, uh, smokey flavors from the cigar.

Anyways, I'm thinking that Founders is one of the all-around best breweries in the country, and while I've had my fair share of their standard beers, I should really seek out some of the more obscure stuff and seasonal releases.

Mikkel's Black Tie

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Continuing to make my way through the cellar, I finally cracked this beauty open. An imperial stout brewed with honey and smoked barley, then aged in Scotch barrels for 4 months, I don't know what the hell I was waiting for, but I'm glad I finally got to this:

Mikkeller Black Tie

Mikkeller Black Tie - Pours a thick, syrupy black color with a finger of brown head. That's a really deep black color, no real brown detectable. Smell is filled with sweet Scotch aromas, a little roasted malt, and some vanilla oak character too. The taste hits with a ton of roasted malt character (perhaps some of this comes from the smoked barley or maybe even the scotch), and that's maintained throughout the entire taste. A pleasant and well balanced sweetness keeps things interesting and the Scotch, vanilla, and oak flavors are highlighted in the finish and aftertaste. As it warms, these flavors intensify and melt together. Mouthfeel is very thick and chewy, coating your mouth, and yet this is surprisingly approachable. Dangerously drinkable stuff for such a high ABV beer. I don't think I would have guessed at how strong this beer is, except that there's a bit of that alcohol warming factor (which comes up especially since you can drink this pretty quickly). Overall, this is a well balanced, complex stout. Another winner from Mikkeller. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 3/16/12. Brewed at Nøgne Ø. (Label has a slot for Batch #, but it's blank - I bought it sometime in mid-2011 though.)

That Mikkel guy sure knows his stuff. If you're willing to pay the premium, it's often worth the stretch. I've got a barrel of his barleywine in my cellar which I plan to get to in the next couple weeks as well.

Victory Uncle Teddy's Bitter

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One of the things I love about Victory Brewing Company is that they do everything. Huge Belgian style specialties, hop bombs, imperial stouts, bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts, wild ales, and all the other trendy stuff are well represented in their portfolio, but the thing that really sets them apart is that they embrace things that aren't that trendy. Smoked beers (there seems to always be one of these available in the brewpub, even if bottled distribution is rare), pilseners, heck, lagers in general. Do I love every one of these beers? Well, no, Victory has earned their fair share of B- ratings here, but I do really appreciate the depth and breadth of their lineup (and it's worth noting that I can't think of a beer they make that I hate).

Another thing I've been appreciating lately is that Victory also makes some low gravity beers, like this English style Bitter that's only available on cask (and probably only locally, sorry west coasters!) I've had a few of these recently and finally remembered to take some notes whilst drinking. Apparently Uncle Teddy was not a bitter man at all, but he was Victory co-founder Ron Barchet's Godfather and he passed on when Ron was in the UK, so he brewed this beer in memory of his uncle...

Victory Uncle Teddy Bitter

Victory Uncle Teddy's Bitter - Pours a deep golden color with a couple fingers of white head and tons of lacing. Smells of earthy, floral, spicy hops. Taste is soft malts and that light, earthy hop character. Mouthfeel is smooth & creamy, minimum carbonation, very light bodied, all as you'd expect from a cask ale. Highly quaffable stuff. Overall, very nice, soft but flavorful... a fitting tribute. B

Beer Nerd Details: 3.9% ABV on cask. Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 3/24/12. Hops: Styrian and Kent Golding.

I enjoy this beer, but I think it would be interesting to contrast it with my homebrewed bitter, which will have additional citrus notes from the Earl Grey tea and orange peel (and possibly my use of US Fuggle bittering hops). Anyways, look for another review of a low-gravity Victory beer soon...

Charles, 2nd Earl Grey was prime minister of the UK for four years, backing significant reform of the British government (in particular, he architected a redistribution of seats in the House of Commons and an expansion of the right to vote). How he came to lend his name to the famous bergamot-flavored tea is mildly mysterious. Like a lot of historical beer origins, there appear to be a lot of apocryphal tales surrounding Earl Grey tea, usually involving a recipe made by a Chinese mandarin. In some accounts, the mandarin is grateful to Lord Grey because one of his men saved the mandarin's son from drowning. The story that seems more likely to me is that the recipe was specifically formulated to suit the water at Grey's estate. The bergamot apparently offset the lime present in the water there and when Lady Grey used it to entertain guests in London as a political hostess, it became popular enough that Twinings sought to make it a brand. Or something. But enough about stuffy British politicians, let's get to the beer!

Bottling of my Earl Grey bitter commenced after two weeks in the fermenter. From observation of the airlock, fermentation seemed to go well for the first two days, but then it dropped off considerably. Given the low original gravity, this was not too surprising, but I gave it the full two weeks anyway.

Post-Fermentation, Pre-Conditioning Earl Grey Bitter

The beer turned out to be a little lighter in color than I was expecting (which is not a big deal or anything), but the aroma was quite nice. A lot of citrus in the nose, which is exactly what I was going after. However, I'm not entirely sure how much of that came from the bergamot tea I used in the recipe. I had also used a small amount of orange peel, which certainly contributed something to the flavor, and it's also worth noting that Fuggle hops (even when used in bittering applications like I did) can contribute a soft, fruity aroma/flavor to the beer. I suppose one could call this more of a variant on Earl Grey than anything else - something more like Lady Grey tea, which also has orange (among a few other ingredients). Well, whatever the case, it seems like it will be quite an interesting beer.

Final Gravity came in at around 1.010, and according to my calculations, this works out to around 4% ABV (maybe a little more), which was pretty much the target (a little over 75% attenuation, which is pretty good). I had a bit of a worry when I first took my refractometer reading, as it came in at around 5.4°Bx, but it seems that Final Brix is a bit misleading because the alcohol distorts the readings a bit. With the help of the internets, I was able to correct for that distortion, and all seemed well. I also took a hydrometer reading, which came out a little lower than reported above, thus the beer might be slightly stronger than expected (but still around 4.5% ABV).

Another point of interest is that I primed the beer with around 2.5 oz. corn sugar, about half the normal dose. The style is typically not very highly carbonated, so I didn't want to overdo the priming sugar. Hopefully this will work out to create something with enough carbonation, but still smooth and quaffable. The beer actually tasted ok right now, even in its relatively flat form, so I think a minimum of carbonation would suit this nicely.

That about covers this beer. It's been an interesting exercise and I can't wait to taste the final product in a couple weeks. Next up will be a Belgian-style dubbel, though I'm not entirely sure when I'll get to that and we're starting to get to the warmer months of the year, where fermentation temperature will get more difficult to control...

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Weblog and Tempest in a Teacup)

Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

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Great moments in trademark history: When Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing realized they both had a beer in their lineups called "Salvation" they considered several options. They could have pursued lawsuits, but that's boring and costly. They could have taken their dispute to Thunderdome, but they couldn't book the venue in time (also: it's a fictional venue). Instead, they simply decided to blend the two beers together, neatly defusing the crisis. Apparently over a drunken night at Russian River's brewpub (well, probably not, but I like to think of my brewing heroes as being constantly drunk), they mixed together the two beers in varying degrees and figured out the right proportions, eventually scaling the process up to commercial levels and releasing the result as "Collaboration Not Litigation Ale". It's pretty much the poster child of craft brewer solidarity and it's one of the reasons beer nerds love this whole craft beer thing (though there are obviously some folks who just don't get it...)

I've seen bottles of this around in rare instances, but never pulled the trigger. After my Pliny the Younger adventure on Sunday, I noticed this was also available and thus made the best of the situation:

Avery and Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation

Russian River and Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale - Pours deep brown color with a little amber peeking through and a solid finger of light tan head... Tons of lacing, industrial strength stuff, you could barely see through the glass even after I was finished. Smell is very spicy and peppery with a little bready Beligian character too. Taste is also quite spicy, with a nice sweet flavor, perhaps dark candi, and a little fruit. Mouthfeel very smooth, lightly carbonated, but still enough to cut through the malt and alcohol... As it warms, the texture becomes almost creamy... Overall, quite good and I'm really glad I got to try one of these! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.72% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 3/18/12.

Russian River's Salvation has actually been on my to-drink list for a while, I just haven't gone out and gotten a bottle. For that matter, I've not had Avery's Salvation either. I think it'd actually be very interesting to try one of each, then the collaboration, just to see how the flavors have blended. Avery is certainly a brewery I haven't had a ton of exposure to, but I've had almost uniformly good experiences with them (and Russian River too)...

Beer Club: The End is Beer

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. We had a good turnout this month, with quite a few interesting beers to try. As usual, we hit up a local BYOB, this time a Thai place. Good times were had by all.

Beer Club March 2012
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so the below probably isn't completely representative of reality. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Elysian NIBIRU Yerba Mate Tripel - I arrived a bit late to the gathering, so I didn't get to have a lot of this, but it was a nice Tripel style beer with a twist. Apparently part of a twelve beer series celebrating the Mayan apocalypse of 2012... (also the source of the "End is Beer" pun). I wouldn't call it a top tier beer, but it was nice. B
  • Lakefront New Grist Sorghum Beer - Wow, is this a light colored beer. Incredibly light beer in every way. Not bad, per say, but there's not a ton of flavor here either. It reminded me a lot of a less tasty but better balanced Coors Light, if that makes any sense (which it probably doesn't). Certainly not a great beer, but it has it's place. C+
  • Tröegs Nugget Nectar - I've actually reviewed this before, but I've revisited it a couple times since then and I have to admit that it gets better every time I try it. Nice hoppy citrus and pine resin character, with some earthy/herbal notes as well. An excellent beer, I'd upgrade this to a B+, maybe even higher (this was generally considered the best beer of the night by beer club homies)
  • My Homebrewed Simcoe IPA - Seemed to go over very well with the beer club folks, even the people who don't normally love IPAs. Not to toot my own horn, but this did turn out really well. Tons of citrus and a little pine from the hops in both the nose and taste. The bitterness is well matched and pleasant. Really solid beer. B+
  • Atwater Dirty Blonde Ale - A very nice, sessionable wheat ale that sorta suffered from being tasted after a few stronger, fuller flavored brews. A very nice beer, to be sure, but it was hard to really pronounce it a great beer compared to other beers in the tasting. B-
  • Stillwater Of Love & Regret - Another of my contributions to the night, I bought this last week without realizing that I'd actually had it before, so I figured I'd share the wealth. The bottle did sorta explode when I popped the cap, instantly foaming over. Luckily, we did not lose much of it, and the beer still tasted wonderful. It's got a saison style feel to it, but a little fruitiness and lots of spice too. Very nice beer and one of my favorites of the night, though some others didn't care as much for this one... B+
  • Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale - This Irish Red Ale seems to share something with the typical English Pale Ale style, though this time around, there's enough flavor around to make it feel balanced and actually decent. I enjoyed this beer, despite not being very blown away by it. B-
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale - A very nice IPA style beer, though BA lists it as an American Pale Wheat Ale. Not sure what that means, but it turns out that it's a lot like a regular old (well, a very good, actually) IPA. Lots of American Hop Character, quite nice. I'd like to try it again sometime... B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another beer I've had before and enjoyed. Reminds me very much of Lancaster's Milk Stout - very roasty, some coffee flavors, and overall a decent roasty stout. Solid, but not one of my favorites. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Cocoa Mole - A most unusual beer. I get lots of caramel malt and chocolate out of this, but the chipotle spice is what really gives this beer an extra kick. It was pretty good in the context of beer club, though I'm not sure I'd love to drink an entire bottle of the stuff. B
  • AleSmith Old Numbskull - My other contribution for the night, this was the biggest beer of the night, and boy does it have an intense aroma/flavor profile. Lots of caramel and citrusy, resinous hops. Really nice and I liked it a lot, but I was glad to have shared it with a bunch of other folks. Overall, might be the second best beer of the night behind the Nugget Nectar. B+
A great time was had by all, so it was another successful beer club, and as always, I'm already looking forward to next month!

Stone Old Guardian 2010

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I didn't realize this, but apparently Stone tweaks the recipe for their barleywine every year. This partly explains why I was so surprised by this beer. The difference between American and English barleywines tends to come down to hops. American varieties have a ton of them (and we tend to favor the high alpha-acid, citrusy, piney varieties), whilst the English go for a more rounded approach. Knowing what I know of Stone, I would expect this thing to be bursting with hops... what I got was unexpected, but not unpleasantly so.

The first thing worth noting is that this bottle is apparently from early 2010 (I only bought it recently, so I'm not that patient) and so I assume those hops would have mellowed out a bit since it was fresh. The second thing to note is that apparently in 2010 and 2011, Stone went in a more English direction with this beer. According to their blog, there were two big recipe changes in 2010. First, they began using a new crystal malt that was derived from English Maris Otter malts. This change would retain the caramel flavors of other crystal malts, but apparently also contributes a distinct nutty character. Second, rather than using huge US hops for dry hopping, they went with East Kent Golding hops. A smooth, pleasant English aroma hop that has a slight citrus and big floral component (it's apparently the go-to English hop, and it's used extensively in Belgian beers too). Stone also contends that it smells like unicorn tears, but that stuff is rarer than Pliny the Younger, so I haven't had a chance to compare yet*. Now, it's still Stone, so there's 90 IBUs, which is still higher than most English barleywines, but I have to say that I still found this to be more on the English side of things:

Stone Old Guardian 2010

Stone Old Guardian Barleywine 2010 - Pours a deep amberish brown color with a finger of quickly disappearing, light colored head. Intense smells of caramel with some floral hops, fruitiness and lots of booze. Taste starts sweet, with just a bit of that caramel and fruit character emerging in the middle, only to be snuffed out by a heaping helping of booze and balancing hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth, well carbonated, and a little sticky. Not quite full bodied, but let's say, high-medium bodied. Overall, a solid, if a bit simplistic, barleywine. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 3/10/12. Bottle sez: "Limited Early 2010 Release". 90 IBUs.

On thing I've just realized is that most of the barleywines I've had have been barrel aged in some way, which perhaps explains why I felt this one was a little simplistic (also why I didn't call it full bodied). I'm kinda curious to try out some of the newer varieties, which have apparently veered back to American hops like Chinook, Calypso and Cascade (so tons of citrus, pine, and resin, as opposed to the floral, unicorn tears of East Kent Hops). And it should go without saying, there are barrel aged versions of this brew that I'd love to get my hands on... As craft brewers go, Stone is so ubiquitous that it's (ironically) easy to forget about them, but I'm always happy to try another of their brews.

* I've recently made the acquaintance of a mythical/endangered species poacher, so I may be able to pick up a growler of unicorn tears next week. Fingers crossed!

Garde Dog

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Maryland's Flying Dog brewery has never really wowed me with a beer. On the other hand, they've rarely disappointed. Looking through my ratings, almost everything is in the B- to B range, even for well respected stuff like Raging Bitch IPA and their Gonzo Porter. They seem to make well crafted beers, so it's not like I dislike them or anything and I have to admit that their distinctive Ralph Steadman artwork always catches my eye... Also, they've been doing some interesting seasonal stuff of late, like this new Spring offering, a relatively lightweight Bière de Garde that still manages to pack a nice punch:

Flying Dog Garde Dog

Flying Dog Garde Dog - Pours a clear golden color with lots of fluffy white head. Smells of musty Belgian yeast with some spiciness. Taste is sweet and spicy, finishing quite dry. Mouthfeel is very highly carbonated and packs a bit of a wallop, medium bodied, and dry. Not something you'll gulp down, but it's an easy drinking beer and at 5.5%, you could certainly knock a few of these back at a barbecue or something without getting too sloshed. Overall, this is a solid beer and it's very well executed. It strikes me as a great gateway beer for those folks looking to expand their horizons without getting too crazy. Also a nice beer to transition from the dark, heavy beers of winter into the lighter fare of summer (i.e. a good choice for a spring seasonal). B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/17/12.

So it's not a revelation, but it's towards the top of what I've had from Flying Dog. Of course, I'd love to get my hands on some of the Bourbon Barrel Aged Gonzo, and maybe some of their other limited edition stuff too...

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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: 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
  • phagan55: Yeah, white and green usually have about half the caffeine read more
  • 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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  • Mark: I can see this being a great cold weather tea. read more
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