Burlington Peach of Mind

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During the leadup to Halloween, I get in the mood by watching tons of horror movies. I usually snag some seasonal beer to pair with my spooky viewing habits, but there are multiple approaches to pairing beer. Pumpkin beers and Märzens are great complements, but you can also gain traction by contrasting gruesome visuals with bright and refreshing beer, which is where this peach dosed saison comes in. He says, as if pairing beer with movies is a real thing.

This is a saison brewed with Saccharomyces Bruxellensis Trois (formerly known as Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois, so changed due to some genetic sequencing research - all the gory details are available if you want to really nerd out), which lends "characteristics of mango and pineapple", which seem like a good complement to the peaches and plums added to this beer. Let's dive in:

Burlington Peach of Mind

Burlington Peach of Mind - Pours a cloudy orangish yellow with a finger or two of fluffy white head. Smells very nice, saison spice, a hint of musty funk, with a heaping helping of those peaches and other fruity esters. Taste hits the yeasty spice notes lightly up front with some earthy character and fruit (peach is there, but it's not overpowering) emerging quickly and lasting through the finish, which has a nice tart note to it (though not full-on sour, as is proper). Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, low acidity, bright and refreshing. Overall, a well executed, bright peach saison with hint of funk. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/7/16. Bottled: 8/4/16.

My supplies secured during Operation Cheddar V are rapidly dwindling. Only a couple things left, including one more Burlington sour that I can't believe I haven't drank yet. Look for a review of that in the nearish future. In the meantime, I've got a big cache of IPA reviews piling up that I think you'll be interested in next week.

Stone Oakmeal Bourbon Barrel Stout

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Hard to believe, but it's been twenty years since Stone declared that we weren't worthy to drink their beer. This turned out to be a successful reverse psychology gambit, as they've enjoyed quite a bit of popularity over the years. For their 20th Anniversary, they embarked upon a series of Anniversary Encore beers. Back in January, they released a rebrew of their 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, but they also reserved some for the Bourbon Barrel treatment, released in August and dubbed Oakmeal, which is what I have here.

For a brewery as big as Stone, it's always been surprising how small their barrel program was, but they started beefing it up a couple years ago. That initial batch of Fyodor's Classic was superb, but subsequent batches lacked that one's pop. I know, I don't like it when people proclaim that "Last year's batch was better" either, but in this case, there's actual cause for speculation. The great batch was aged 12 months, the not-as-great batch was only aged 7 months. Length of aging isn't the only variable, but it seems like an important one and the difference was palpable. Now, Oakmeal's base is a little less hearty than the Fyodor's base and it also incorporates healthy doses of bitter chocolate and oats (cerealously, oats!), but it also only got the 7 month aging period. How will that work out this time? Only one way to find out, which is to ask Wilford Brimley. Ok, two ways, we can drink it too:

Stone Oakmeal

Stone Bitter Chocolate Oakmeal Bourbon Barrel Stout - Pours black as a politician's soul with a finger of gorgeous brown head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, lots of roast malt, chocolate, coffee and little caramel, oak, and vanilla from those barrels too. Taste starts off sweet, rich caramel, vanilla, and then we move on to more prominent roasted malt, dark chocolate, finishing on a small amount of a boozy bourbon note. The barrel character is nice, but not exceptional, and again, I noticed that it's at 7 months, where the best Stone BA stuff I've had was at 12 months... Not sure if that is the culprit, but it seems likely. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, moderate carbonation, a little warming booze. Overall, a rock solid bourbon barrel stout, not going to open new vistas of the mind, but worthwhile in its own right. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.4% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 10/8/16. Brewed: December 5, 2015. Bottled: July, 2016.

Stone seems to have focused this year's barrel aging efforts on creating variants of their Xocoveza beer, which I'd gladly try... but I'm still jonesing for well-aged Fyodor's again. Fingers crossed.

Zwanze Day 2016

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Zwanze is a French word that roughly translates as "Humor typical of Brussels" and each year, Brussels-based Cantillon releases a beer of that name in a special worldwide event. As you might expect from the name, the beers tend to incorporate experimental ingredients or unconventional takes on their classical lambic style. In 2016, only 50 or so different bars throughout the world could hold a Zwanze Day celebration and as luck would have it, one was Monk's Cafe in Philly.

Monks Cafe Neon Sign
(Click to Embiggen)

Of course, the occasion also marks an excuse to tap lots of other rare and interesting beers, including four other Cantillon lambics. Monk's also held a truly astouding raffle and sells a limited amount of Cantillon bottles to-go. It's an all cash event and proceeds go to a good cause, this year being Fair Food. I wasn't sure if I'd be up to making the trek into the city and braving the crowds, but during dinner on the preceding night I cracked open a fortune cookie and saw this:

Fortune Cookies Never Lie

So I strapped my big boy pants on (ugh, I had to wear pants too, it was the worst), hopped on a train, and got in line a couple hours early. And if you think that's crazy, some people had been waiting in line since 8 pm the previous night (around the time I was elbow deep into some Chinese food).

The Loon
(Click to Embiggen)

It was a bit of a madhouse and crowds aren't really my thing, but I managed to stay sane with the help of some Cantillon Mamouche (a lambic made with elderflowers that originated as Zwanze 2009, but they liked it so much they kept making it), fresh Kriek (which is a super jammy cherry bomb and very different with some age on it - either way, it's awesome), Gueuze (always a delight), and what I believe was Iris Grand Cru (which is Iris sans the dry-hopping and unblended to keep carbonation minimal - interesting to try, but I'm not overly fond of still beer.)

Two for one - Cantillon Gueuze and Kriek
(Click to Embiggen)

The event started at noon, but they weren't tapping Zwanze until 3 pm, so I also got to dip into some other interesting beers, including a pair beers cellared since 2010. Russian River Supplication is one of my favorite beers and with 6 years on it, it still holds up pretty well. A little oxidation and perhaps a bit mellower than fresh, it also had a beautiful vinous fruit character that worked great. Lost Abbey Red Poppy from 2010 has also held up very well, retaining a surprising amount of cherry character.

Eventually, the crowd had swelled to bursting levels and Zwanze was poured. This year's edition is a throwback to Cantillon's old-school Framboise (i.e. pre-Rosé De Gambrinus, which is made with 100% Rasberries). As Jean van Roy explains: "When we used raspberries from Belgium, the taste was nice, but the color was not so beautiful. It was a bit old rose. To get a bit more color to the beer, we blended the raspberry beer with 25 percent of cherry Lambic and a bit of vanilla." For Zwanze, Jean switched things up a bit, producing a blend of 82% raspberry lambic with 18% blueberry lambic and .05% vanilla added.

Cantillon Zwanze 2016
(Click to Embiggen)

And it's delicious. Best nose of anything I had all day, complex fruit, hints of funk and oak. Taste follows the nose and the mouthfeel was a bit undercarbed (but nowhere near still, like the Iris was). It was great and with a little age and some extra carbonation, I feel like it could get even better (I don't think they sold any bottles to go anywhere, even at the brewery, but I would hope they kept some in reserve - would love to try some in a year's time to see how it held up). I wish I got a bigger pour, but I'm glad so many other people were able to get a taste.

All in all, a very exciting event. I'm really glad I went but truth be told, big crowds aren't really my thing so I'm not sure if I'd go again. I'm reliably informed that some other venues weren't nearly as crowded, so perhaps that's the ticket. Only time will tell! Until then, I'm sure I can occupy myself with lots of other great beer, perhaps with Monk's Cafe's help!

Union Chessie

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To celebrate their underrated brewery's anniversary, Union brewing makes a barleywine named after local legend Chessie, a sea monster said to live in the midst of the Chesapeake Bay. As with most local legends of this ilk, there are many sightings but no actual evidence of its existence. Funnily enough, speculation meant to explain the sightings sound even more far fetched than a legendary sea monster and include a "mutant eel" theory, large river otters, prehistoric Zeuglodons, and South American anacondas escaping from 18th- and 19th-century sailing ships.

Fortunately, there's plenty of evidence for the beer's existence: namely that I was able to purchase and drink a bottle. It's a little over a year old and I get the impression it would be better fresh, but as it is now, it occupies that same strange territory in the DIPA/TIPA/Barleywine triangle. Regardless, Chessie's come out to play and behold! Photographic evidence:

Union Chessie Barleywine

Union Chessie 3rd Anniversary Barleywine - Pours a dark amber brown color with a finger or two \ of fluffy off-white head that sticks around for quite a while. Smells of faded citrus and resinous pine hops with some crystal malts lurking in the background. Taste also hits the citrus and pine hops pretty hard, with a light crystal malt backbone and dry, bitter hop finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, and surprisingly dry for the style. Not red wine dry, but still much more attenuated than your typical barleywine. Overall, this is an interesting beer, somewhere in that DIPA, TIPA, Barleywine triangle, tasty too. Would like to try fresh (or aged in a barrel). B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/23/16. Released: August 2015. Bottle No. 336/800.

This was the third anniversary beer, but they also released the second anniversary Chessie that had been aged in Elijah Craig 12 barrels last year. Here's to hoping I can snag the BA version later this year...

2SP Chardonnay Barrel Aged Tripel

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Take a Belgian Style Tripel and pop it into Chardonnay barrels for 10 months. Sounds groovy, but to be honest, if it doesn't also include Brett and/or souring bugs, this sort of thing hasn't worked out spectacularly for me in the past. This is a matter of personal taste, not quality. Often well made beer, but not something that bowls me over. For instance, I wasn't a huge fan of Victory's White Monkey, but I know lots of folks who love it. I have a feeling my reaction to 2SP's take on the style will fall into the same bucket. Well crafted and I enjoyed drinking it, but it never really wowed me or got me revved up...

2SP Chardonnay Barrel Aged Tripel

2SP Chardonnay Barrel Aged Belgian Style Tripel - Pours a warm orange gold color with afinger of slowly forming white head. Smells quite nice, lots of that white wine character, vinous fruit, expressive Belgian yeast, hints of spice. Taste starts off very sweet, we get that Chardonnay barrel character right away, fruity yeast with just a hint of spice, finishing with a little booze. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, with a bit of boozy heat. Overall, it's a decent take on a non-funky barrel-aged tripel, not my favorite style in the world to be honest, but it's getting the job done. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/24/16. Batch Date: 8/16/15. Bottle No. 53.

I've generally enjoyed 2SP's offerings and will continue to explore them. Nothing in the immediate pipeline, but I'm looking forward to the return of The Russian, and its bourbon barrel treatment as well (perhaps the next bottle won't be overcarbed!)

Casita Cerveceria Del Árboles

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Casita Cerveceria is a contract brewery (funny and yet welcome that they don't go for the formerly trendy "Gypsy" designation) mostly based at Hill Farmstead. Let that sink in for a moment. It turns out that brewer Ryan Witter-Merithew has a long history with Sean Hill, having collaborated on Hill's initial run of Grassroots beers in Europe as well as working together at Denmark's Fanø Bryghus. Heck, rumor has it that Hill considered him a sort of unofficial successor in case of tragedy ("I told my brother Darren that if I died or something he should reach out to Ryan and have Ryan take over the brewery."). After a stint at England's Siren brewing (where he again collaborated with Hill Farmstead on that Lemon Cello IPA), Witter-Merithew returned to the US to work at Hill Farmstead for a spell, and now he's heading up his own operation, using some of the excess capacity from Hill's recent expansion.

My one prior exposure to Casita Cerveceria beer was something I didn't even realize at the time, a collaboration with Stillwater called On Fleek, a big 13% Imperial Stout that was wonderful (I neglected to take notes whilst drinking because I was not expecting it to be anything particularly special - I was wrong, because I am the worst).

Del Árboles (Spanish for "The Trees" and featuring a nifty, anthropomorphized evergreen on the label) is a saison brewed with Juniper, Pine, and Cedar. It's also brewed in collaboration with another contract brewery operation centered in Vermont called Wunderkammer. The label sez: Del Árboles tienen ojos, meaning that the trees have eyes. Ok, this is getting scary, let's see how it stacks up:

Casita Cerveceria Del Arboles

Casita Cerveceria Del Árboles - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of white head and ok retention. Smells fabulous, lots of funky, fruity twang, some more earthy notes, a healthy dose of oak. Taste starts sweet, some spicy phenols, earthy funk but not quite barnyard (perhaps the spruce and juniper give it a fruity, floral kick), finishing with a well balanced sourness and oak. I say oak, but I can't find anything saying it's barrel aged, so perhaps it's cedar? I don't know cedar well. Whatever, it has the character of something barrel aged. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated and dry up front, but that lessens as the sour acidity takes over in the finish. Overall, this is a very well done saison in the Hill Farmstead mold and certainly compares favorably, which is high praise indeed. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 9/16/16. Brewed in May 2016.

Two beers, two winners. So yes, this is a brewery to look out for. I know I will be hunting down more as soon as possible. Alas, I only have more of this beer readily available. I know, boo hoo, right?

Burlington Chunky

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You wouldn't expect peanut butter beers to be much of a trend, but then, what isn't a trend in beer these days? If brewers are throwing everything and the kitchen sink into their beers, why not peanut butter? Well, it turns out that putting actual peanut butter or peanuts into the brew isn't particularly wise because they're full of oils that don't play nice with beer (particularly with respect to head retention). But you can use peanut extract or peanut butter powder, which has most oils and fat removed. Then prepare yourself to fend off accusations of gimmickry! It's all part of the beer game.

Over the past few years, I've seen quite a few of these beers picking up steam and turning some heads. Sweet Baby Jesus, Purple Monkey Dishwasher, and Liquid Bliss are all pretty decent beers with intense peanut buttery character. I'm sure Funky Buddha's artificial flavor wizards have cooked up something like this too (update: it's called No Crusts). It is an unexpected flavor for a beer, but once you get over the initial shock, it sorta feels comforting, conjuring nostalgic memories of PB&J sandwiches or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Gimmicky? Definitely. Certainly not something I go out of my way for or even crave very much, but it's nice to branch out every once in a while and I'm a big tent kinda guy.

During my latest spin through Vermont, I noticed that I was basically purchasing all IPAs and saisons, so I deliberately snagged Burlington Beer Co.'s Chunky, a 12% ABV peanut butter porter (apparently this batch used 50% more peanut butter powder), in order to, well, not balance out my purchases... But after drowning in IPAs for a while, this was a welcome change of pace:

Burlington Beer Company Chunky

Burlington Beer Co. Chunky - Pours a lighter brown color than your typical porter or stout, but still dark enough, with a finger of off white head. Smells decent, that peanut butter comes through, but also a bit of bitter chocolate and even a hint of something fruitier. Taste starts off quite sweet, light on the peanut butter but it's there in the middle, finishing on that odd fruity note. The peanut butter character is not huge, but then, it doesn't feel artificial either (a trap some of these beers fall into). Mouthfeel is well carbonated (but not overcarbonated), medium to full bodied (perhaps a bit lighter than you'd expect for a 12% beer, but I wouldn't call it too thin either), a hint of boozy heat. Overall, it's an interesting take on the peanut butter stout, a little less focused on the peanut character than your typical take, but maybe more interesting for that. B+

Beer Nerd details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/17/16. Vintage: Limited Release 2016.

One more Burlington beer in the pipeline, and I have a feeling it's going to be a good one, so keep your eyes peeled for that one soon enough...

Hill Farmstead Table Dorothy

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So if Shaun Hill was such a big fan of the Golden Girls and if this beer is brewed with wheat, wouldn't it be better named Blanche? What's that? It's named after a family member? Well that makes more sense. Thank you for being a friend.

What we have here is a low alcohol version of regular Dorothy, their Citra dry-hopped saison made with wheat and Brett. This one drops the alcohol down to 4.5%, but is supposed to otherwise be the same. The concept of a "table" beer, something appropriate for anytime drinking in a wide variety of circumstances often served with food, is great, but a little rough when it comes to a smallish brewery like Hill Farmstead. That being said, if I had an inexhaustible supply of this stuff, I'd be a happy camper. As it is, I traveled down the road and back again to get some bottles:

Hill Farmstead Table Dorothy

Hill Farmstead Table Dorothy - Pours a hazy straw yellow color with copious, bubbly white head that sticks around for a while and leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells of spicy farmhouse yeast, a little funky earthiness, some fruity esters peeking out and complementing a light citrus hop character. Taste hits a cereal note, earthy minerals, only a hint of funk, a little bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, highly carbonated, crisp, bone dry, and eminently quaffable. Overall, this is a very well done light saison with hints of hops, but less farmhouse than I'm used to from HF. Really solid and crushable. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/9/16. Bottled: 2016 07 07

Luckily, I did buy a few bottles of this stuff so I think maybe I can use it as a table beer. Only for a couple of dinners, but hey, better than nothing. No more Hill Farmstead in the immediate pipeline, but an adjacent brew that holds much interest, so buck up, fair readers. More fun incoming soon enough.

The Bruery Mélange No. 14

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The Bruery's Mélange series is their line of experimental blends. They've amassed quite a few barrels of beer and have been siphoning off small portions of those barrel aged wonders for blending purposes for quite a while now. Most appear to be one-offs, but a few are recurring. They've generally had limited availability, but this particular iteration looks to have been spread far and wide. The components used in this beer are 85% of "some of our most vintage barrels of barleywine and old ale" (presumably stuff like their Anniversary beers and Mash) and 15% of "both Tuesday-themed releases and Share This" (i.e. imperial stouts).

I would be genuinely curious about exact proportions of components, as blending is a tricky beast. Of course, I don't have any particular experience with it, but my blatant speculation is that it would be very difficult to blend such strongly flavored beers in such a way that would allow them to become more than the sum of their parts. Indeed, I suspect many attempts at blending lead to one component dominating the others, or perhaps even resulting in a beer that is less than the sum of its parts. Blending in other arenas is often done to smooth out rough flavors, but that also has the added effect of making the result blander and more homogeneous. I don't think that's what the Bruery is going for here, and most of these Mélange beers seem to be well received, so I guess they're doing a pretty good job.

The Bruery Melange No 14

The Bruery Mélange No. 14 - Pours a muddy looking, vivid dark brown color with a half finger of light tan head. Smells of rich caramel, bourbon, oak, vanilla, toffee, a hint of something darker lurking in the background. Taste is very sweet, lots of crystal malt, much more on the fruity side, dark fruits, maybe coconut, plenty of booze. As it warms, the fruit subsides a bit and the bourbon and oak come out more, but it's still distinct from your typical Bruery BBA lineup. Mouthfeel is on the lighter end of full bodied, moderate richness, finely carbonated, some pleasant boozy heat. Very complex, lots going on, a slow sipping beer for sure. Overall, this is really nice, typical Bruery barrel character, complex, maybe a bit off balance and muddled, but still delicious. More delicious than its components? I'm not so sure. I definitely have a thing for the Anniversary beers and I love Mash and Black Tuesday. This is a nice change of pace, I guess. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/9/16. Bottled: 05/23/16.

Always fun taking a trip through the Bruery's barrel program. I've always wanted to try Melange No. 3 (a blend of Anniversary, White Oak Sap, and Black Tuesday) and would be really curious about Melange No. 1 (a blend of Oude Tart and Black Tuesday) even if it seems a bit odd to blend a sour with a stout. I also realized that I neglected to review this year's anniversary beer, but then, I've reviewed most of them already, so there's little else to say... No more Bruery on the horizon, but we'll certainly see more from them on here sometime.

Burley Oak Sour Diesel

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Not wanting to (literally) beat around the bush, beer has a relationship with weed. Not one that I'm especially interested in or care much about (not my thing), but it's hard not to recognize the affinity amongst certain infamous brewers. There's often an almost certainly false speculation that hops and marijuana are biologically related, mostly because they sure look and smell similar. Then again, this requires a working knowledge of biology and, well, my main takeaway from this examination is basically: "1) Don't become an angiosperm taxonomist unless you love frustration, because 2) taxonomy can be a giant pain in the butt." Which is to say, well, they're both plants and it passes a literal sniff test, so that's probably good enough for most.

So what the hell am I talking about weed for? Well, after my exhaustive research session of searching Google for "Sour Diesel", this beer is clearly named after an infamous strain of Marijuana. Not sure why that's a great name for weed or beer though. I mean, yeah, I guess it indicates a certain dynamic flammability, but that's not generally something I look for in beer. Anywho, starting life as a stout made with chocolate rye malts and fermented in oak barrels, this was then soured (er, sour dieseled?) with lactobacillus (no mention of Brett or Pedio, for what it's worth). The label sez it's a "satisfyingly dank experience", so let's find out:

Burley Oak Sour Diesel

Burley Oak Sour Diesel - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with practically no head whatsoever. Smells nice, fruity, that sour twang, maybe some cherries. Taste hits those sour cherry notes hard, lots of dark, sour fruits, some heft from the dark malt, a little one note, but tasty. Not particularly dank, but sure, it's sour. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, low carbonation (maybe just enough, but lower than I usually want out of a beer like this), moderate sourness. Overall, this is a nice lactic sour, a little one note, but a good enough note. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/10/16.

One more Burley Oak sour in the pipeline, but I've had it before. It's also a sour stout, but it felt like it had more character than this one, even if I feel like it might strip all the enamel off of my teeth if I drink a whole bottle. Stay tuned!

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