Firestone Walker §ucaba

| 2 Comments

What can I say, I'm a sucker for fancy-pants packaging. If you're a brewer and you want to trick me into buying your beer, here are a few tips: Cork and cage your beer (whether 375 or 750 ml, doesn't matter) or, if you don't want to do that, cover the cap with something. I actually don't really like the foil stuff, but some sort of cover works - wax-dipped bottles are quite attractive. I will say, most of the time, this makes it hard to open the beer, but for some reason, it makes it more attractive. Another trick: number the bottle, or put other meta-info on the label. Even if it's not limited, it will at least make me take notice. Finally, if you really want me to buy your beer, stick it in a box.

None of this stuff really means anything. The really important part is what's in the bottle, but there's something Pavlovian about a well-packaged beer. Firestone Walker's §ucaba certainly has a lot going for it in this manner. It's in a box. It says it's a "Special Limited Release". The label design is quite attractive. It's got all these fields on it for things like original gravity and IBU and whatnot; it's clearly printed up, but it looks sorta like a hand labeled beer, as if one of Firestone Walker's minions were forced to sit down with a pen and fill out labels for 3000 cases of beer (the label actually sez that's how many cases of this were produced). It's got a black plasticky thing around the cap. It's much nicer than foil caps as they have a really easy way to remove the wrapping from the cap (perhaps not as nice looking as wax dipped bottles, but again, easier to open).

Oh, and the beer inside is pretty awesome too. This beer was originally called Abacus, but due to some wine company owning that name, they had to change it. They settled on reversing the name and using the wacky section symbol (§) for the S, thus §ucaba. The origins of this beer go back to Firestone Walker's anniversary brews. Their initial anniversary batch consisted of a blend of a bunch of barrel-aged strong ales, specifically made for the anniversary beer. Eventually, they started releasing these component brews by themselves, and even bottling them, which is how I came to this beer, a barleywine aged in a variety of barrels (bourbon, wine, and retired Firestone-union barrels):

Firestone Walker Sucaba

Firestone Walker §ucaba - Pours a clear dark rubyish brown color with half a finger of quickly disappearing light colored head. The nose is filled with rich caramel, vanilla, oak, bourbon, maybe even a hint of vinous character. The taste is filled with perfectly balanced rich malts, caramel, vanilla, oak, bourbon, vinous flavors (not quite wine-like), and booze. Amazingly complex stuff. I keep discovering new flavors as I drink, and it evolves as it warms. And yet nothing overpowers anything else, it's really nice. Mouthfeel is smooth, rich, a little sticky... almost creamy. The booze is certainly there and you get that warming factor in your belly, but this is a beer to be savored slowly. Overall, this is an amazing beer. A complex, intense, but still balanced beer. Highly recommended if you can find some. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber, boxed). Drank out of a snifter on 5/25/12.

Firestone Walker continues to impress. I will always be on the lookout for their beers, and especially their Proprietor's Reserve Series (of which this is a part). I think I've even got some of their Union Jack in my fridge at the moment, so perhaps another review soon.

This beer is named after Danny Glover. No, not the actor we know and love (he's too old for this shit), just an unfortunate soul who worked at Tröegs for a short time. Not to be a downer, but he died in a car crash at the age of 24. Tröegs decided to brew a beer in honor of Danny, who seemed like an all-around great guy:

Even if Danny's arrival time for work was less than predictable and his uncanny ability to forget everything about his job overnight drove us nuts, he was a hard worker who would do any job with enthusiasm. But more importantly Danny had an infectious smile, a heart of gold and the absolute ability to spread joy through a room - it was hard not to love the guy.
A portion of the proceeds from this beer are being donated to the Gift of Life Organ Donation program, so good on Tröegs.

The beer itself is apparently a variant of Nugget Nectar, taken in the direction of an American Black Ale (or Black IPA or whatever you call that stuff), and it makes a fitting tribute.

Troegs Scratch 63 (Dannys IPA)

Tröegs Scratch Beer 63 (Danny's IPA) - Pours a dark brown color with a finger or two of tan colored head and some lacing as I drink. Smells full of citrusy hops with a little pine thrown in for good measure. While I don't get any roasty aromas, there is plenty in the taste. Taste starts with roasted malts, maybe even a bit of chocolate, before giving way a bit to the citrus and pine character of the hops. Not a ton of bitterness, but enough to balance all the flavors, and the roasted malts come out again in the finish as well. Mouthfeel is very much like an IPA. Well carbonated, but small bubbled and almost velvety. Overall, a very nice, well balanced version of the style. It's a difficult line to walk, but Tröegs has managed to do so with this beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/26/12.

Back during Philly Beer Week, I chatted with a guy who lived near the new Tröegs brewery in Hershey and he mentioned that most of the best Scratch series beers aren't bottled (and sell out quickly), but he agreed that this one was pretty good. Whatever the case, I'm always on the lookout for Tröegs Scratch beers...

Despite the fact that the IPA style seems to be my most reviewed style on the blog, I do find that you need to strike a bit of a balance with drinking them. At the extremes - drinking only IPAs all the time or barely drinking any - the style seems to get a bit... samey. But if you find the right balance, they can be a revelation. One of things that I've found most interesting about IPAs is drinking two of them back to back (I find diminishing returns after two though). This gives you an opportunity to compare and contrast, and if you choose your beers right, you can discover a huge variation in the style. So here we have two Founders IPAs, one their basic, year round Centennial, and the other being their souped up Double IPA. In some ways, this isn't really fair, as DIPAs generally pack in a lot more flavor, but it's still an instructive exercise.

Of course the point of these posts is to pair beer with movies, and in this case I took in a Walter Matthau double feature: Charley Varrick and Hopscotch. Both are fun little 70s and early 80s flicks about things like crooks and spies. Neither really blew me away, but I had a blast with my IPAs and viewing material...

Founders Centennial IPA

Founders Centennial IPA - Pours a cloudy orangish color with a finger of whitish head and plenty of lacing. The smell is filled with floral hops, maybe some sweet citrus too. The taste starts sweet, with some of that citrus character giving way to more pungent, spicy, and floral hop flavors, followed by a nice bitter bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is great, medium bodied, a little bit of a bite to it, but well carbonated. Overall, a very well crafted IPA. Unfortunately, Centennial hops don't seem to jive that well with me, at least in this formulation. I like this beer, but it's not my preferred IPA... B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/11/12.

Founders Double Trouble

Founders Double Trouble IPA - Pours a golden yellow color, lighter and a little more clear than the Centennial, with a finger of white head and plenty of lacing. Smells strongly of sweet hops, a ton of grapefruit character. At this point, I'm guessing Simcoe hops. Taste starts off sweet with an immediate bitter balance, both of which intensify through the middle, finishing with a little bit of extra bitter dryness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with plenty of tight carbonation, and maybe just a hint of booziness. Overall, very nice, better than average double IPA, though not quite best in class. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.4% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/11/12.

As usual, Founders doesn't disappoint... and there's still quite a few of their beers that I haven't yet tried either. Nothing else in the immediate pipeline, but I'm sure we'll get our hands on some more of their beers at some point...

Rye Rebellion

| No Comments

Full Pint brewing, out of Pittsburgh, PA (or close enough), is only a couple years old at this point, but they seem to be making a name for themselves, at least here in the semi-local market. I'm sure starting a brewery incurs a massive cost at the start, but it looks like these fellas scavenged one John Harvard's abandoned brewpubs for their brewing system. Harvard's is apparently still around, but they appear to have retreated from the PA market. I've had many a Harvard's beer back in my fledgling beer nerd days (back towards the hazy college years), and have never been particularly impressed, so I'm guessing Full Pint is putting this equipment to much better use these days than it ever got when it was new... There should be a name for this type of brewery that's resurrected old brewing equipment. Zombie brewery, perhaps? (Apparently Full Pint is working on a new year-round dark beer called Night of the Living Stout, which is quite appropriate!)

Alright, let's see here, ah, Rye Rebellion is an "imperial stout brewed with four different types of rye and aged in rye whiskey barrels". You had me at "imperial" (then you really had me at "whisky"):

Full Pint Rye Rebellion

Full Pint Rye Rebellion - Pours a deep black color with minimal head and no real lacing. Smells strongly of roasted malts, with some of that sweet rye/bourbon character tickling at my nose... Starts off with a rich caramel chocolate malt character, followed by a bit of that roasted malt (maybe a little coffee) and finally, the rye/bourbon comes out to play towards the finish. The roasted coffee flavor seems to linger a bit in the aftertaste. But it's all pretty well balanced, actually, and there's a difference between this and a lot of other bourbon barrel stouts (perhaps because of the rye). Mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy and heavy, but still very smooth, with relatively low carbonation (but enough to make it drinkable). Very little booze character here, I'd have a hard time placing the ABV as high as it is... Overall, it's quite a nice beer, distinct from a lot of its competition and really hitting the spot right now. A-

Beer Nerd Details: It turns out, they did this part for me. From the bottle:

Full Pint Rye Rebellion Beer Nerd Details

Drank out of a snifter on 5/18/12.

Quite a first impression! I'll now have to seek out some of their other brews (Chinookie IPA seems to be a popular one, and I will of course be on the look out for that Night of the Living Stout)...

Deviant Dale's IPA

| 3 Comments

I don't know how excited I should be about a beer made by someone named "Deviant Dale". What kind of deviance are we really in for here? Am I going to pop open the can to find a toy snake springing out? Is the liquid inside actually beer (jeeze, I don't even want to joke about possible alternative liquids...)? Has Dale invented a Ghostbuster-like grid that can store evil spirits in beer cans? The suspense was killing me, but the only deviant thing about this beer is possibly the amount of hops used in its production (and even that isn't that bad). I don't know whether to be relieved or not. Perhaps the deviance is slow acting and will hit sometime next year, like an acid flashback.

In any case, you'll also note in the picture that this is a 16 ounce tallboy can, so I poured out a glass and kept the remainder cool with my fancy new Beerbecue beer cozy (get yours here). Thanks Scott!

Oskar Blues Deviant Dales IPA

Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA - Pours a golden orange color with a couple fingers of white head and plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of sugary sweetness and citrusy hops, with a little pine and resin poking through as well. Taste is very sweet with tons of that citrus and pine hop flavor and just enough bitterness in the finish to balance out the sweet start. Mouthfeel is really nice, smooth, almost creamy, light but well balanced carbonation. Overall, really wonderful beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (16 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/25/12.

Yeah, I'm still a month behind on reviews. After Philly Beer Week, consumption has slowed a bit though, so we'll catch up eventually, though I'll probably have some of my more recent reviews up soon too.

A Saison Darkly

| No Comments

Okay, I give up. We can discuss the merits and demerits of style definitions all day, we can even devise new ways to evaluate styles, but I defy anyone to make sense of the "Saison" style of beer. I do believe it's the least coherent style in the history of beer. Ostensibly a rustic, farmhouse beer, there are many classics of the style, starting with Saison Dupont, which I've come to think of as it's own subclass of saisons. Sweet and spicy, it's pretty much what I look for in a saison. But then you've got another class of saisons that are lighter and dryer, your Cellar Doors or Jack D'Ors. Then are the earthy, Brett dosed beers, a la Saison Rue. If that represented most beers that were labeled saison, I think we'd be in good shape, but then Fantôme has to explode the entire notion of the style by making super tart, even sour examples of the style. Sometimes you'll get a saison that's in the 3-4% ABV range, sometimes you get one around 10%, and anywhere inbetween.

But even after all that, there is at least one commonality between all these sub-styles: a pale color. Well fuck that. It turns out that there are a number of dark saisons too. Shit. Basically, if you pick up a beer labeled saison, you can look forward to something with anywhere from 3-10% ABV, pale to dark color, sweet and spicy to earthy and roasty or what the hell, maybe even (intentionally) sour.

On the other hand, I'm rarely disappointed by Saisons, even when they're not what I expected, and they're a pretty versatile beer, working in a great number of situations. Need something light and fluffy for summer drinkin? A saison will do ya. Need something to pair with food? Saisons, especially dry saisons, are actually a pretty good fit. Want to blow your mind? Pick up one of the higher ABV saisons. Need a sessionable lawnmower beer? Pick up one of the lower ABV varieties (these are relatively rare, but it seems to be a popular homebrew choice).

Anyways, here's my first dark saison, and like everything I've had from Stillwater, it's pretty darn good. It also marks a rash* of Phillip K. Dick inspired brews, also including the Grassroots/Tired Hands Do Saisons Dream Of Electric Yeast?** Fortunately, drinking this beer didn't inspire any paranoia... except about the saison style definition, I guess.

Stillwater A Saison Darkly

Stillwater A Saison Darkly - Pours a very dark brown color with tons of khaki coloed head and visible sediment at the bottom of the glass. When held up to the light, you can see beautiful ruby red highlights. Smells strongly of musty Belgian yeast, tons of spice and a little fruit too. Taste is sweet, with lots of spiciness and some very nicely balanced roasted malt notes. Mouthfeel is full bodied with a highly carbonated, spicy bite, and a somewhat dry finish. An interesting take on the saison style, this one grows on me the more I drink. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a goblet on 5/12/12.

I've always liked Stillwater, but they're emerging as a go-to brewery for me these days. And there are tons of brews I haven't sampled yet either... Nothing in the immediate pipeline, but you'll definitely be seeing more of their stuff on the blog.

* Two beers counts as a rash, right?

** But don't worry, there's plenty of PKD available for the taking. The Märzen in the High Castle, The Three Hop Rhizomes of Palmer Eldritch (oh, oh, The Tripel Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich!), Flow My Beers, the Policeman Said, The Fermentation of Timothy Archer, and probably tons of others.

Ballast Point Sculpin India Pale Ale

| No Comments

According to Beer Advocate's Top Beers list, Sculpin is the 46th best beer in the world. Whatever the virtues of automated lists based on aggregate ratings, one of the biases of such an exercise is that "extreme" beers tend to get a disproportionate amount of attention. But Sculpin is a "regular" IPA. Clocking in at 7% ABV, it's at the upper end of that spectrum, but it's a pretty standard beer. It's not seasonal or super rare or hard to find, and while Ballast Point has a generally good reputation in the beer nerd community, I don't think of them as anointed in the way of, say, Russian River or The Bruery. And in fact, there's only 4 regular ol' American IPAs on the list (and no English varieties either). Now, Double/Imperial IPAs? That's a different story. There are 4 DIPAs in the top 10 alone. So Sculpin must be something pretty special, eh?

Ballast Point Sculpin

Ballast Point Sculpin India Pale Ale - Pours a clearish golden color with a finger of head and decent retention. Smells strongly of sugary sweet malts with a big citrus hop component, very aromatic, I could just sniff this stuff all night. The taste hits with that sweetness up front, followed by a ton of citrusy hops, with perhaps a little more floral components coming out in the taste, and a well balanced, barely even bitter finish. In fact, that bitterness emerges earlier in the taste than I'm used to, but it's not nearly as strong or overwhelming as it normally is in an IPA. It's a 7% ABV beer, so I don't expect it to be small, but it drinks like a higher ABV beer - not in a boozy or bad way, but in a depth and balance of flavor way. Mouthfeel is smooth, carbonation is light and tight, very well balanced and easy to drink. But it's something you want to relish, not gulp down. Overall, a really nice IPA, and I can see why it's got such a reputation. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 5/19/12.

I may have to make myself better acquainted with Ballast Point. Incidentally, if you're looking for another example of a "normal" style making a surprising appearance in the top 100: Live Oak Hefeweizen. Of course, I don't think that one gets a particularly big distribution, but I'll be damned if it isn't a spectacular beer - something you don't hear much of when people talk of Hefeweizens...

It's pretty common for a brewery to have a series of sinister beer names, and Fegley's Brew Works have a few in their lineup, including this one, called Insidious. Apparently, this bourbon barrel aged version was inspired by Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill, quoted as saying "It puts the potion in the barrel" (with the unspoken implication that if it doesn't, it'll get the hose again). Was it worth kidnapping the regular old Insidious and holding it hostage in bourbon barrels for a year or so? Let's find out, shall we:

Fegleys Brew Works Bourbon Barrel Insidious

Fegley's Brew Works Insidious Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger of tan head. Smells of roasted malt, with a hint of sweetness, presumably from the bourbon. The taste starts roasty, followed by some nice caramel and vanilla oak notes in the middle, finishing with a small but distinct kick of sweet bourbon, leaving an aftertaste of bourbon mixed with roasted malt. Mouthfeel is rich, thick, and chewy. Plenty of carbonation, but well matched and smooth. Goes down surprisingly easy. Overall, this is a fantastic beer. Not a huge amount of bourbon, but enough to know it's there, very well balanced. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 5/5/12.

I'm trying to think if I've ever had a bad beer from these guys... and I don't think I have. Indeed, they even have a few monsters in their lineup, like Hop'solutely (which I would love to try fresh) and the regular Insidious.

Allagash Odyssey: A Screenplay

| 2 Comments

1. INT. BANK OFFICE

MARK sits at a desk across from a LOAN OFFICER. The desk is covered with large stacks of paper.

LOAN OFFICER: Greetings Mark! What can I do for you?

MARK: I'd like to take out a third mortgage.

LOAN OFFICER (suspiciously): Are you going to use the money to buy beer?

There is a pause before MARK answers.

MARK: No?

LOAN OFFICER: Okay Mark, that little pause you just did there suggests to me that you actually are going to use this money to buy more beer. Also, I could hear the question mark in your voice. You actually pronounced it that way.

MARK bows his head and looks EMBARRASSED.

LOAN OFFICER (sighing): What beer?

MARK: Huh?

LOAN OFFICER: What beer were you going to buy that was so expensive that it would require you to take out a third mortgage?

MARK: Allagash Odyssey.

LOAN OFFICER: Oh, I see. It is an exceptional beer that is worth the stretch. But I'm afraid we can't give you another line of credit to make this investment in a consumable commodity. A few years ago, maybe, but not now.

MARK: That's okay, I could afford it anyway, I just thought this would be a kinda funny way to illustrate how expensive this beer is on my blog.

LOAN OFFICER (looking confused): So this whole thing is just for yucks? We filled out all this paperwork just for shits and giggles?

MARK: Pretty much. In fact, I've already bought and drank this beer. Months ago, actually. I just wanted to spice up the review with something interesting before I got to the boring tasting notes. I don't even have the second mortgage that would necessitate a third, but I thought it would be funny to imply that I spent all my money on beer.

LOAN OFFICER: I don't think this is very funny.

MARK: Unfortunately, neither do I. This entry is not nearly as funny as it was when I envisioned it in my head.

LOAN OFFICER: You were drunk when you came up with this idea weren't you.

There is another pause before MARK answers.

MARK: No?

2. INT. COMPUTER DESK - 11:15 PM

MARK: So is this your way of admitting to yourself that you spend too much money on beer?

MARK: I don't think so.

MARK: But you are talking to yourself.

MARK: Yes, but that is probably indicative of other psychological problems completely unrelated to the purchasing or consumption of beer.

MARK: Probably?

MARK (ignoring self and addressing the actual audience of the blog): Seriously, though, I'm doing fine. No loans needed. But this beer is expensive. (Is it worth writing the above in an attempt to draw out a joke that could have literally been made in 5 words? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.) Fortunately, as the LOAN OFFICER mentioned, it's worth the stretch (though not a second mortgage - at best, this would be something you borrow money from the Mob for). This is apparently a wheat beer that also features roasted malts, not to mention the 10 months of aging in new oak barrels that a portion of the beer got. I think I can see why this stuff is expensive:

Allagash Odyssey

Allagash Odyssey - Pours a dark brown color with a beautiful amber hue and a finger or so of light tan head. Smells strongly of spicy Belgian yeast (lots of clove), and I'm getting some fruity notes out of it too. Taste starts out richly sweet, with plenty of spice and a hint of dark malt roastiness peeking through, very subtly at first, but more prominent as it warms. And I got some molasses mixed with that roastiness too, quite interesting. Not getting a ton of oak and vanilla (though it is there), but that might be for the best, and these flavors all work well together. Harmonious, if you will. Mouthfeel is full, highly carbonated and effervescent, with a very dry finish that makes this go down quite easy. As it warms, a slight booziness emerges, and you can get a warming alcohol feeling, but it's still quite pleasing. Overall, a complex, very well balanced beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 4/28/12. Bottling: December 2011. Cases Bottled: 1160.

I haven't always found that Allagash's expensive beers (of which they have many) are worth the extra money, but this one is, and their beers are usually quite interesting in any case. I don't have any of their other beers in the immediate pipeline, but I always look forward to their Fluxus beers...

The End of Weyerbacher Hops Infusion

| No Comments

I bought a bottle of the stuff, and then Weyerbacher discontinued it! In all seriousness, Weyerbacher has been talking about a new IPA for a while now, and they recently launched their new Last Chance IPA (for which they'll donate a portion of the sales to local animal shelters). Well, I don't have any of that stuff (yet!), but I tried some of the retired brew recently:

Weyerbacher Hops Infusion

Weyerbacher Hops Infusion - Pours a clearish dark orange color (copper?) with a finger of head and some decent retention. Smells of earthy hops, with a little citrus and maybe some sugary malt. There's a bit of a tinny twang here that I detected at first... not overpowering or anything, but perhaps I got a bad bottle. Taste also has a light caramel malt flavor, with a fair amount of earthy, floral hops and maybe just a hint of citrus. Not getting a ton of bitterness, but it's there in the finish, along with that same tinniness from the nose. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and it goes down easy. Overall, I may have gotten a bad bottle, but I have a feeling that this would be a rather straightforward IPA in any case... C

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/25/12.

Well, I can't say as though I'll be upset that this is no longer available... Even if I didn't get a bad bottle, I suspect it would have been somewhat underwhelming. But I do love me some Double Simcoe, and Weyerbacher is releasing their anniversary beer soon too, which is always worth checking out...

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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 figured it had something to do with that, but read more
  • rymould: Apparently a brewery from Texas holds the trademark for "Punkel" read more
  • rich.on.beer: Pretty sure Neshaminy Creek got a cease and desist letter read more
  • Mark: It is pretty darn sweet and quite good, though not read more
  • beerbecue: This blows my mind. Why have we never seen this read more
  • beerbecue: They ran out of BA Everett right before the mule read more
  • Mark: I'm certainly pleased with it! I'm pretty sure I was read more
  • beerbecue: A nice haul indeed. It seems you and my mule read more
  • Mark: That's what I figured after the last release (which was read more
  • rich.on.beer: Also, freaking Lansdale is only kind of sort of a read more