Brooklyn Black Ops

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This is one of those beers that I never thought I'd actually get to try, but whilst perusing the beer menu at a local establishment, it jumped out at me. Now, from what I've heard, this is an obscenely expensive beer in almost any case, and buying it from a bar... well, let's just say that it's probably not something I'll do again. That being said, I'm really glad I got to try some and I can cross another beer off the white whale list.

I'd always thought that the base for this bourbon barrel aged beer was Brooklyn's excellent Black Chocolate Stout, but apparently they tweak a different imperial stout recipe each year and, of course, barrel aging adds an additional variable to the process. The brewery sez it's "aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented in the bottle with Champagne yeast" which is at least a little strange. I get the impression that most bourbon barrel aged beers are not bottle conditioned, but I could be wrong about that. The selection of Champagne yeast is more unusual, though you do see it in very high ABV beers (regular brewers yeast can't really tolerate high ABV, whilst Champagne yeast can). In theory, the bottle conditioning would make the beer more suitable for aging, though I greedily drank this one up less than a week from purchase... Anyway, enough nerding out about how the beer was produced, let's drink this stuff:

Brooklyn Black Ops

Brooklyn Black Ops 2011 - Pours black color with a couple fingers of light brown head. Smell is filled with chalky, roasted malt and bourbon. Taste prominently features that roasted malt along with just a bit of chocolate and tons of boozy bourbon emerging in the finish. The mouthfeel is a little light on the carbonation and smooth, but still very nice. Not quite as rich or full bodied as I'd expect, it still packs a big amount of flavor in a high medium body. Overall, an excellent bourbon barrel aged beer, but not quite reaching the heights of others I've had. Indeed, I might even like the regular Black Chocolate Stout better, but then, I've only had one of these and would gladly try more (though I don't think I'd quite pay this much for one again). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 2/17/12. Label sez 2981 (bottled on 298th day of 2011)

I never have gotten around to trying out Brooklyn's Local 2, which is something I've been wanting to drink for a while (and it's readily available in this area too), and while I remember being disappointed by Sorachi Ace, I think it's probably worth giving it another try (I drank it a few years ago and it didn't do much for me)...

Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager

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Victory celebrated their 15th Anniversary last year, and to mark the occasion, they created a new flagship beer: Headwaters Pale Ale. It was a beer that goes against most "Anniversary Beer" conventions. Namely, it wasn't a high-ABV face-melter that incorporated all sorts of weird ingredients. Instead, it's focus was on highlighting the most unassuming of beer's ingredients: the water. Few would call a 5.1% ABV Pale Ale a very adventurous anniversary beer, but then, this is a beer that has developed into Victory's flagship. It's became so popular and so ubiquitous in this area that Victory actually ran out and had to rearrange their brewing schedule to make up for the demand (so no Old Horizontal this year *sniff*).

But this year, things are a little different. In honor of their 16th year, Victory is making a limited batch of beer in collaboration with famous local chocolatier Éclat. I wouldn't call this a typical anniversary beer, but it's not quite the old standard that Headwaters was either. It's actually quite an unusual beer. Heck, it's a lager. One way to divide the beer world is to separate them into ales and lagers. Lager yeasts ferment at lower temperatures and typically feature cleaner, smoother, more stable flavor profiles. There tends to be less in the way of fruity esters or spicy phenols (which can be very prevalent in ales). There seems to be much less of a focus on lagers in the beer nerd community for some reason, though around this time of year, everyone seems to start cracking open doppelbocks.

In any case Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager is a Euro Dark Lager brewed with Peruvian Pure Nacional cacao beans (apparently quite rare) and is served on nitro tap:

Victory Eclat Cocoa Lager

Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager - Dark brown color, beautiful amber highlights, creamy tan head. Smells like chocolate with a hint of roasted barley. Taste has some light chocolate with just a hint of well balanced roastiness emerging in the finish. Lots of flavor, but very well matched and not overpowering at all. Mouthfeel is a dream. Nitro pour makes it incredibly smooth, but this is the perfect mouthfeel for the flavor profile. Medium bodied, clean and smooth, very easy to put down. The muted flavor profile of the lager matches perfectly with the nitro pour. A really fantastic beer... A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV on tap (nitro pour). Drank out of Victory's .3L Bar Glass.

I really hope I can get me some more of this before it's gone. Or that it becomes a regular brewpub/local tap akin to their (also pretty good) Donnybrook Stout. Given how well the nitro pour accentuates the beer's flavors, I'm not sure a bottling would work so well (and I doubt the expense of those nitrogen cans would be attractive to Victory at this point).


Oscars Beer Drinking

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So I promise I won't promote my other blog all the time, but here at Kaedrin, we have a yearly tradition of watching the Oscars, mocking celebrities, and drinking beer. So stop on by my generalist blog for predictions (which are up now, around noon EST) and frequently updated commentary/mockery (starting with the ceremony, around 8:30 pm EST or so). (To get an idea, see previous liveblogging posts are here: [2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004])

I'll be cracking open a bottle of Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter and maybe a few others throughout the night. It's obviously not the focus of the night - it's more about me accusing celebrities of being drunk rather than getting drunk myself - but I'm a nerd, so I'll be commenting on beer too.

Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

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Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout is a hugely popular beer, but it's one that never really connected with me (I gave it a B). I wouldn't call it bad, but perhaps a bit overrated. Well, Great Divide has taken this beer and used it as a chance to experiment. There's a version with Brett, a version with Belgian yeast, and several oak aged varieties - including this one, aged on oak chips with cocoa nibs (apparently there's a "hint of cayenne" as well, though I certainly didn't pick up on that). The regular Yeti sorta emphasizes the things I don't particularly love about stouts, but this treatment - less of the bitter hops and roasted coffee flavors, more in the way of chocolate and vanilla character - is right up my alley:

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti - Pours a thick black color with a finger or so of brown head. Aroma is full of roasted malts and, yes, chocolate. Taste is very sweet, with less of the roastiness than I was expecting (though it's still there), a little bitter dark chocolate, and a very nice vanilla oak character, along with a heaping helping of booze. The finish is relatively dry and bitter, with that bitterness lingering into the aftertaste. I remember the regular Yeti being very bitter too, but this version seems to have a more pleasing bitterness. Mouthfeel is full bodied and boozy, a little bit of alcohol burn, but it works quite well. Overall, I'm much happier with this than I was with the regular yeti. I actually kinda love it, which was surprising... A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/11/12.

Great Divide has a bunch of these oak aged Yetis, and I'd like to try some of the other ones... The Bourbon Barrel aged version sounds particularly enticing, though the Espresso Oak Aged one might not be my thing...

Adventures in Brewing - Beer #7: Bottling

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After two weeks in the fermenter, I bottled the single-hopped Simcoe IPA this past weekend. Fermentation started quickly and lasted most of the first week, despite the small batch. About a week into the process, when fermentation had slowed considerably, I cracked the lid and dropped in another ounce of Simcoe hops. I've never done dry hopping before, but it's supposed to impart additional aromas to the beer...

And judging from the smell in my kitchen during bottling day, I'd say that extra step was worth the stretch! Amazing citrus aromas (grapefruit!), not quite as much in the way of pine, but still a great smell.

Final Gravity was 1.012, which is a little lower than expected, but it could also be that low because the Original Gravity wasn't as high as I estimated. That being said, I'd say I'm in for something around 7-7.3% ABV, right at the high end of a single IPA (or the low end of the Double IPA). I gave it a taste, and hoo boy, that citrus is huge. Very nice bitterness in the finish too, though I'm guessing that will mellow out as the beer conditions in the bottle. I'm so very looking forward to this beer! There's nothing quite like a super-fresh IPA, and this is probably as fresh as I'll ever get to taste...

My IPA, straight from the fermenter

I'm planning on cracking one open this weekend, though who knows if it will be carbonated enough. I only got around 1 case of beer out of this batch, but then hugely hopped beers fade with time, so having a case should last just long enough.

Up next is what I'm calling an Earl Grey beer. The base beer will be a sessionable English Bitter (which is a style that has always confused me, since they're not actually that bitter), and I'll be adding some Bergamot oil towards the end of the boil (and maybe even some Earl Grey tea). Should be interesting! After that, I'm going to start working on my Belgian Dubbel for this summer...

Ommegang Aphrodite

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Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love. I swear I didn't plan it this way, but I drank this on the weekend before Valentine's day, which seems mildly appropriate I guess (though Cupid is usually the one associated with the holiday - Cupid is the Roman equivalent of Aphrodite's son Eros, but I digress...) Anywho, Ommegang was my first love in the world of beer, so I always try to catch up with their specialty brews. This one is a Belgian fruit beer made with raspberry and pear, fermented with Ommegang's house strain and Brettanomyces. Not exactly my thing, but again, I like to give Ommegang the benefit of the doubt:

Ommegang Aphrodite

Ommegang Aphrodite - Pours a bright red color with a very light pink head. Smell is difficult to describe. I want to say it's like a fruity syrup, not quite cough syrup, but syrup is the word that most comes to mind. I also get a bit of funk and yeast here, but not quite as strong as the fruitiness. The taste has that same sort of fruity syrupy flavor, maybe a little more into the cough syrup realm here, but also a little on the vinous side. The finish isn't quite tart, but there's a bit here. Perhaps a bit on the spicy side too, though I feel like that hits more in the mouthfeel, which is a bit harsh and sticky. It's very sweet, but it finishes dry. As such, it doesn't quite reach cloying, but drinking a full 750 ml bottle of the stuff is a bit much. A most unusual beer. Not something that is blowing me away, but interesting nonetheless. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/10/12.

To be honest, I'm more intrigued in Ommegang's latest release, Seduction, brewed with chocolate and Liefmans Cuvee Brut Kriek. I've been spending the past month and a half or so trying to drink down my cellar a bit, but I may have to peek my head out for a bottle of that stuff. And their forthcoming Art of Darkness is definitely right in my wheelhouse, so definitely look for a review of that one at some point.

La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged)

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I don't typically think of the Trappists as being trendy, but here they are, barrel aging their beer. Of course, barrel aging beer isn't a new thing at all, and the Trappists over at Koningshoeven were using barrels back in the late 19th century. Well, they recently decided to restore that tradition and since I'm a total sucker for this sort of treatment, here we are.

The base beer they used was their most excellent Quadrupel, and they've used a variety of different barrels throughout several batches. The bottle I got my hands on was from Batch 3, which featured a blend of beer aged in 3 different barrels:

  • New Oak Medium Toast - 18% of the beer in this batch
  • Port Medium Toast (French Oak) - 55%
  • La Trappe Q. Medium Toast (French Oak) - 27%
At their website, they even list out the common flavors attributed to each type of barrel (at the bottom of the linked page). Ok, so let's get this party started:

La Trappe Quadrupel Oak Aged Batch 3

La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged) - Batch 3 - Pours a cloudy (visible sediment), deep brown color with a finger of puffy head. The aroma is full of sweet, dark fruit (raisins are clear), bready Belgian yeast, and a sorta red wine-like character (which I suspect is from the port barrels). The taste starts sweet and spicy, complexity emerging in the middle with more pronounced fruit and some of that oak aged quality (vanilla and leather), and a boozy finish (again, wine-like flavors here, probably from the port). Mouthfeel is a little lighter on the carbonation than the regular Quad (less effervescent), but still rich and full bodied. Overall, a wonderful and complex take on an already great beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked mini-mag). Drank out of a goblet on 2/10/12.

These early batches seemed to favor port barrels and new barrels, but they apparently went through a phase of aging in white wine barrels and have since moved on to old scotch barrels with their latest batches. I'd love to catch up with some of those varieties as well. In fact, it seems like each batch is unique, so if I ever see these again, I'll probably pick up another bottle...

Moar Kaedrin

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Did you know I had another weblog? In actuality, I've been blogging there for almost a dozen years now, and I write about lots of stuff, even sometimes touching on beer, like a few weeks ago when I talked about genres and beer styles, including this quote about beer styles:

In one of the many stories he likes to tell about German, English and Belgian brewers, Michael Jackson first asks a German how beer is made. "Pils malt, Czech hops," the brewer replies. Then Jackson asks the German brewer down the road the same question. "It's the same as Fritz said. That's how you make a Pilsener, that's what we learn in school."

After getting a different answer from a British brewer, Jackson turns to a Belgian brewer. "First of all, you take one ton of bat's droppings. Then you add a black witch," the Belgian answers. "The brewer down the road uses a white witch." Jackson concludes with the lesson: "Belgium is a nation of tremendous individualists."

If style guidelines for Bat Dropping Ale stated that color shouldn't be less than 25 SRM, do you think that would have stopped the brewer down the road from using a white witch? Of course not. Style guidelines don't limit creativity, lack of imagination does.
And of course, more on the subject in that post.

Do you like movies? Cause I love them. I recently posted my top 10 movies of 2011. And we have an annual tradition here at Kaedrin about liveblogging the Oscars. Check it out next week! (Previous editions here: [2011 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004])

Basically, I have another blog and you might enjoy it. Check it out! I'm also on twitter and Untappd. The Kaedrin empire is wide ranging and powerful. Follow it!

Founders Red's Rye PA

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Founders, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, seems to be one of those bedrock breweries. They make a ton of styles, and they knock them all out of the park, including this rye beer. I'm pretty sure this is the first of that style I ever had. I don't know who "Red" was, but I presume he's the guy on the label and that he loves him some rye. And hops.

Founders Reds Rye

Founders Red's Rye PA - Pours a brownish amber color with a finger of light head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smell is all hopped up (citrusy and floral), with some caramel malt and maybe some of that rye as well... Taste has some caramel malt along with a heaping helping of citrus and earthy, floral hops and a well matched bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and easy to drink for a beer with this much flavor. Overall, a damn fine beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/5/12.

I wouldn't say that my palate is particularly attuned to rye, though I seem to be able to pick it out in the aroma better than the taste. The same went for the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye I had earlier this week... But I'm interested to try more rye beer. And at this point, I'm always willing to sample something new from Founders.

The Oak Melchior

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Just what is a Melchior? Every time I see that name, I have to pronounce it like I assume Robert Loggia would. The Oak Melcheoooorrrrrrr!

As it turns out, Melchior is not a reference to a beloved character actor, but rather one of the Three Wise Men. Melchior, Caspar (aka Gaspar), and Balthazar were the three kings bearing gifts to the newly born Jesus. While not explicitly named by Mathew in his gospel, as near as I can tell, most of the details come from various Greek transcripts dating to the latter half of the first millennium. Basically, Biblical fan fiction.

Well, the relatively new brewers over at the Picobrouwerij Alvinne decided to make a series of beers celebrating our favorite Magi, then age them in a variety of barrels. This particular beer was brewed with mustard seeds and aged for 6 months in Calvados brandy barrels. Actually, the barrels apparently contained Cognac for 10 years and Calvados for 8 years. The label says that "We found these barrels at a local farmer in the French Contentin." I get the impression that the Belgian brewers just got drunk, crossed the border and mounted an attack on France, who promptly surrendered, yielding old brandy barrels as spoils of war.

Beer Advocate lists this as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, which makes sense, because my exhaustive research has revealed that Melchior was likely the king carrying Gold:

Alvinne Oak Melchior

Picobrouwerij Alvinne The Oak Melchior - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with minimal head, actually quite a pretty looking beer. The smell has a twang to it that I associate with sour beers, and that seems to overwhelm any other aromas (upon further pours into the glass, I do get a sorta bready aroma too). I was naturally expecting the sourness to appear in the taste, but there's not much there. Instead, I get typical rich oak flavors and maybe a bit of booze (presumably from the cognac and brandy) with a thick but smooth malt backbone. Maybe just a hint of a sour twang there, but you really have to look for it (and possibly imagine it). I'm not detecting the mustard seeds at all, but that's as it should be. The flavors are complex enough that I'm sure the mustard played a role somewhere. The mouthfeel is chewy and heavy with just enough light carbonation to make the rich flavors palatable. The booze contributes a big warming feeling as well. An extremely unusual beer, but one I'm glad I got to try. If it weren't for the disconnect with the aroma, this would be in the A range, but I'll still give it a solid B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/4/12. Cap sez: Melchior Calv342, Jan 2013 Lot 469.

Has anyone ever made myrrh beer? How about frankincense beer? I smell a homebrew batch coming on. Or something.

I'd be really curious to see how this Calvados barrel treatment would work on a darker beer style... and apparently Picobrouwerij Alvinne has done just that. For a "pico" brewery (i.e. a really small brewery), they sure do seem to put out a huge variety of beers, from typical Belgian styles to Imperial Stouts. Beer Advocate lists 54 different beers. And they've seemingly barrel aged all of their normal beers at some point. In several different types of barrels, no less. The Melchior itself has 5 different barrel-aged versions.

I bought this bottle on a whim because it sounded interesting and it was from Belgium (let's call this another successful round of Belgian Beer Roulette). Now I'm going to have to head back to State Line Liquors and stock up on some more Alvinne treats.

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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
  • Mark: I should try that next time. But again, I find read more
  • Mark: Yeah, I just don't drink Scotch often enough to really read more
  • Mark: For a while, I had both the Ardbeg 10 and read more
  • Mark: I can see this being a great cold weather tea. read more
  • phagan55: I love this stuff in cold weather. It smells like read more