Allagash Double Feature

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We've been mightily impressed with Allagash's seemingly expanded sour program, so we've been keeping an eye out for more of this stuff, and fortunately, Allagash has obliged my whims. A pretty steady stream of new bottles has been showing up from time to time, and I'm always willing to take a flier on these, even if they are a bit of a pricey proposition. Interestingly, several of their sour beers are aged on stainless steel rather than more traditional barrels, and I have to say, it doesn't make as big of a difference as I'd think. I loved Farm to Face, and the better of today's double feature was also a straight stainless steel offering (of course, it was still aged 2 years, so maybe that's part of it).

First up is Tiarna, a blend of two beers, one a Brettanomyces fermented ale aged on oak, and the other a Belgian ale aged on stainless steel. It's a nice beer for sure, but not quite up to their best offerings:

Allagash Tiarna

Allagash Tiarna - Pours an almost clear pale yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a while. Smells quite nice, typical belgian yeast spice notes of clove and maybe anise, some fruity esters, but also that earthy Brett funk. Taste hits more bready and yeasty than expected, hints of those spicy phenols and fruity esters (not really tart at all), a bit of funk, a little oak pitching in too. Was really hoping for a little more funk and oak here. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, lightly bodied, relatively dry. Overall, this is like an entry level funky saison. It's complex and well crafted, but restrained. I have to wonder if the funk would increase over time in the bottle, but for now: B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 1/30/16. Bottled: Sept. 16, 2015.

Next up is James and Julie, presumably named after two people who worked at the brewery or something. Or just two random people off the street, for all I know. It's their take on a Flanders Oud Bruin, a sour brown ale that is aged on stainless steel with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus cultures. Rumor has it that this is the base beer for Neddles (which is the same thing aged on Rum barrels and named after a former employee), but I'll be damned if this isn't pretty spectacular just by itself. It's not super funky, but it's got a very nice sourness and balance to it that just works beautifully:

Allagash James And Julie

Allagash James & Julie - Pours a light brown amber color with a finger of off white head that holds its own for a while. Smells of vinegar, tart fruit, sour cherry, maybe a hint of earth. Taste starts off sweet, lots of flavor, sour cherries, vinegar, perfectly balanced amount of sourness here, really tasty. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, perfectly balanced amount of acidity. Overall, intense but balanced, this is a true winner. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet/chalice on 1/30/16. Bottled: Aug. 24, 2015. Released: Black Friday 2015.

Always enjoyable catching up with Allagash, and I will of course be keeping an eye out for more stuff, particularly their sours, which seem to hit me just right.

Logsdon Szech 'n Brett

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We're big fans of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales here at Kaedrin. They really know their Brettanomyces, and produce some of the better funky saisons that are generally available (... where they distribute, at least). They've done great things with oak aging and added fruit as well, so it's time to tackle a session saison. Well, sorta.

Szech 'n Brett is kinda toned down from their flagship Seizoen Bretta and it's got added Szechuan spice (I see what they did there) to make up for the shortfall. Kinda. At 6.5% ABV, this isn't toned down all that much... Now, I'm not a British session zealot, but I'm not an Adam Avery "17% ABV beer is sessionable, your session just ends sooner" type either, so this does feel a bit off. Nothing worth getting in a twist about, but to my mind, if you're going to go "session", go all the way. On the other hand, that's all just kinda marketing fluff, what about the juice? Let's dive in:

Logsdon Szech n Brett

Logsdon Szech 'n Brett - Pours a very pale, cloudy yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head and great retention. Smell has that trademark Logsdon house funk, more fruity than earthy, pears and the like, plus a little spice... um... spicing up the nose. Heh. Taste also hits those juicy pear notes, a little more funky Brett earth that melds pretty well with whatever spice is being brought in here, something peppery (turns out it's Szechuan pepper), though I don't know that the spice is necessary. Mouthfeel is lightly bodied, highly carbonated, and effervescent, quite dry but with a little juicy kick in the finish that suits it well. At 6.5%, this is approachable, but not really a session beer. Overall, this is another solid entry from Logsdon. I prefer Seizoen Bretta, but this is certainly a worthy twist on the saison. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/29/15. Bottle No. 6949. Best By: 10/2019.

Always on the lookout for new Logsdon stuff, and they do seem to be slowly expanding their lineup over time, which is nice. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about them sooner rather than later.

Perennial Abraxas

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Remember when Imperial Stouts were special? Just regular stouts that happened to be higher in alcohol than normal? Those things like Storm King, Kate the Great, Darkness, and so on? Then people started going nutso for barrel aged imperial stouts. I should note at this point that I'm not really waxing nostalgic or complaining here, I'm fully on board the barrel aged train to impy stout town, I just wanted to note a progression here. It's not a perfect progression, but in broad strokes it works. We start with big stouts, move on to barrel aging, and then people started losing their minds over imperial coffee stouts (and to a certain extent, they still do). As frequently opined here (I won't shut up about it and I am totally the worst), I'm pretty ambivalent towards coffee. I have gained a certain appreciation for coffee stouts, but I'm almost always wondering what the regular, non-coffeed version would be like.

Nowadays, the trend is towards adjuncts and a kitchen sink of ingredients. Stuff like Hunahpu's, Bomb!, Mexican Cake, and today's beer: Perennial's Abraxas. It's an Imperial Stout brewed with ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks. There are other versions with even more ingredients, but this is the regular one lowly mortals like myself can get my hands on. I've not been particularly on the ball with these adjunct stouts, having only had a couple, so let's see if this is a trend worth hunting:

Perennial Abraxas

Perennial Abraxas - Pours black and viscous looking with a cap of short lived light brown head. Smells of roasted malts that give it a coffee or dark chocolate feel, with notes of vanilla and spice, definitely getting cinnamon, a little less in the way of chili (though that comes out a bit more as it warms). Taste has a light roast to it, again with the dark chocolate (less in the way of coffee), hints of vanilla, with the chili pepper coming more to the fore here. It's got a bit of a kick to it and the flavor comes through, but it's not really hot either. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied (I mean, it's not watery, but I was expecting a more substantial body here, especially when considering that it looked pretty thick as I was pouring), very low carbonation, not still, but close, and a little bit of heat from the chili peppers. There's a fine line between a complex beer and an unbalanced mess, and I kinda went back and forth on this one, eventually settling on complex, but it also strikes me as the sort of thing that will be different every time I have it. Overall this is good, and it gets better as it warms, but it's not the mind-blowing stout of the future I was lead to believe it would be. Perhaps a matter of dashed expectations, but it's still a solid beer that I'd totally seek out and drink again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 1/22/16. Bottled: 11/2015.

I could see barrel aging pulling this beer together, but from the looks of the trading boards, I don't feel like the hoop jumping would be worth it. This is a fine beer, but even this was too hard to get ahold of...

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru

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While the concept of a "Grand Cru" is formally defined for wine, there's little to distinguish it from a marketing tactic in beer. Nothing particularly wrong with that, it's just good to know that beery Grand Crus are not quite as reliable. But most brewers do try to make their Grand Cru special in one way or another, and when a brewer of the stature of Almanac introduces a series of beers with the designation, it's enough to pay attention.

So far, there have been two released, one of which we have here. Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru is an imperial version of their sour blonde ale (and base for a whole series of fruited sours that we very much enjoy here) with California-grown Muscat Blanc grapes added and then aged in white wine French oak barrels for over a year. Finally, it's packaged in a gorgeous looking bottle. There's been this persistent myth that beer and wine people don't get along, but California brewers seem to be continually turning that notion on its ear, frequently collaborating with their neighbors in many ways. This sort of beer/wine hybrid isn't on every shelf, but it's not particularly uncommon either, and it's always fun to see what happens when boozy buddies take inspiration from one another. "As the old saying goes, in vino veritas, in cervesio felicitas - in wine there is truth, in beer there is happiness." With this, I think they've hit both nails on the head:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Grand Cru.

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru - Pours a light, hazy golden yellow color with a finger of white fluffy head that sticks around for a bit. Smells wonderful, lemon zest, vinous fruit, white wine, oak, very nice. Taste is more reserved than the nose might lead you to believe, but it's got tons of that vinous fruit, white wine barrel, some tart acidity lingering in the finish. Mouthfeel is moderately carbonated, medium bodied, light to medium acidity, a bit of boozy heat, and just a bit of stickiness in the finish. Despite the booze, this does not drink like a 10.2% sour, it's pretty light on its feet. Overall, this is really fantastic stuff, certainly worth seeking out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/23/16. Bottled: Autumn 2015.

The other release is Dogpatch Grand Cru, basically an imperialized version of their Dogpatch Sour made with a variety of red wine grapes (instead of the typical cherries), which I plan to share with a few friends soon. As usual, Almanac is a reliable source of excellent sours that are readily available in Philly these days (which is certainly a boon).

Bourbon Barrel Aged Siberian Night

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Having just endured Blizzard Jonas this past weekend, I figure it's time to dig through the svelt 25" of snow outside and then come back inside and review beer. In truth, being snowed in particularly suits my temperament, so long as I don't lose power or internets (and even then...) Anyway this beer seems particularly appropriate, as Siberia is famed for its short summers and long winters of punishingly cold climate. That's "punishingly" in an almost literal sense, actually. The Russian Empire had a system of penal labor called Katorga in which prisoners were sent to remote areas (where voluntary workers were never available in sufficient numbers) and forced to into mining or lumber production. The Soviets later incorporated and expanded on the concept with the Gulag system. If you've ever read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, you know that Siberia is not generally a place you want to be.

Of course, this is a brewery called Thirsty Dog we're talking about here, so I don't think they were channeling Alexander Solzhenitsyn with this beer. Instead, they were probably thinking of adorable Siberian Husky memes.

Siberian Husky questions your marathon

Certainly more pleasant than crippling forced labor. Also more pleasant: The beer itself is an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels for 11 months, which makes it good wintering beer, let's take a closer look:

Thirsty Dog BBA Siberian Night

Thirsty Dog Bourbon Barrel Aged Siberian Night - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, some roasted malt, lots of vanilla, some bourbon and oak too. Taste has a rich caramel character up front, a little chocolate, oak, and vanilla pitching in, hints of boozy bourbon, with a little bit of roast coming to the fore in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, well carbonated, lightly boozy. Overall, this is a pretty approachable BBA stout, well balanced, tasty, a step up from the beginner's stuff, but not quite top tier. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 1/17/16. Vintage: 2015.

The regular non-BA version is pretty solid as well, and it's companion beer, Wulver has become one of my favorites.

Frosty's Nightmare

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What is the snowman's weakness? There's probably a better way to ask that question, one which does not imply that snowmen are monsters we must defeat by exploiting some sort of weakness, but the answer is obvious: heat. One might think that this sort of thing would also populate a snowman's dreams... or nightmares, if you will. But then I remember that Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story called The Snowman in which a snowman falls in love with a stove. So maybe snowmen don't fear the heat. Then again, like most actual fairy tails, this one comes to a tragic end: the snowman melts and is forgotten by those who made him. It's speculated that Andersen was inspired by a short love affair with a "handsome young dancer" that resulted in "pining and discontent". Well this post went in a dark direction, so let's drink an Old Ale from Conshohocken Brewing Company, a newish (couple years old now) local brewery near my old stomping grounds. I've had a few things from them, but never really made the time to visit. This beer was made in 2014 and released near Christmas in 2015, truly an "old" ale.

Conshohocken Frostys Nightmare

Conshohocken Frosty's Nightmare - Pours a dark amber brown color with just a cap of off white head. Smells of dark fruits, figs, crystal malts, maybe some toffee. Taste starts with light caramel and dark fruit, a little booze, malts, finishing up with booze soaked fruit. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, chewy, tightly carbonated, a little boozy heat, feels a bit unbalanced. Overall, this is a nice old ale, not going to light the world on fire, but decent. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a charente glass on 1/16/16. Vintage: 2014.

Supposedly they had a tequila barrel aged version of this on tap at the brewery, which actually might represent a significant improvement on this. I could see the base being a good platform for barrels of many kinds, actually, but then, I would think that because I'm a barrel freak. I'm the worst.

McKenzie Hallowed Ground

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One of the things that emerged during the 1990s surge of microbreweries (and subsequent bubble burst) was an explosion of brewpubs. I mean, they weren't a new concept, but the infusion of capital that happened in the 90s lead to a particular style of brewpub that went through a rough patch before settling into a rythm. You know the type. John Harvard's (who used to be all over the place, but retreated back to their New England roots when times got rough), Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch, and countless local chains. They're not necessarily bad, per say, but they tend to be generic. Bright, spacious, competent, but bland and lacking personality. Newfangled brewpubs like Tired Hands, Forest & Main, and Vault are more idiosyncratic, warmer, more homey, and their beer is an order of magnitude better. Even their expansions seem more organic and less cookie-cutter. The oldshchool brewpubs that survived the 90s have generally done so by expanding their offerings into new and interesting territory than your standard brewpub lineup (i.e. light lager, pale ale, porter, wheat, etc...), but they often still feel generic. Around here, Iron Hill seems to do well with a nice atmosphere and decent taplist. They even opened one a block over from Tired Hands and seem to be holding their own. Not all of these brewpubs are doing that well.

Enter McKenzie Brew House. They've been around a while and there are 3 or 4 locations in the area, but I've always been underwhelmed by their offerings. I can certainly make due, but I've never had anything from them that blew me away. Until, that is, I got the chance to sample some of their limited bottled offerings like this one: a barrel-aged, dry-hopped saison, my kinda crazy. Stuff like this has actually been around for a while, but very limited and kinda under the radar. I'd always written them off because of their normally underwhelming taplist, but now I've seen the light. Hallowed Ground, indeed:

McKenzie Hallowed Ground

McKenzie Hallowed Ground - Pours a radiant golden yellow color, cloudy with a chance of a moderately dense finger of head and some lacing. Smells fantastic, some farmhouse yeast character, spicy and fruity, hints of lemon and lots of tropical citrus hops. Taste starts sweet and spicy with a light tart fruit character that blooms into full blown lemony sourness towards the finish, which also brings out a little of that citrus hop character as well. Mouthfeel is fabulous, highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, light acidity. Overall, this is surprisingly fantastic! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 1/8/15. Batch: 2. Bottled: October, 2015.

Great, even when I think I have a local brewery pegged, they go and do something like this. I will most certainly be seeking out these special releases in the future.

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot

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Thanks to the ever generous Jay from Beer Samizdat, I've had the pleasure of drinking a few beers from Tahoe Mountain and found myself quite pleased with their offerings. Their Provisions saison is a pretty standard take on the style, but of course they've been doing more adventurous things with that most vague of styles (I kid because I love). Enter their Recolte Du Bois (translates to "harvest of the wood") series of Brett-dosed, barrel-aged saisons, music to my earballs. Some are fruited, some are aged in various wine casks, and one is even made with sage. What we have here is the Apricot Saison, which wound up being quite nice:

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot Saison

Tahoe Mountain Recolte Du Bois Apricot - Pours a mostly clear straw yellow color, gorgeous when held up to the light, with a finger of white head. Smells of apricot. I mean, there's other stuff going on here, a little farmhouse, funk, but nothing that overpowers the apricot. The taste starts out with more of that traditional farmhouse feel, slight funk, fruity esters, very light spicy phenols, and then that apricot kicks in towards the finish bringing a little tartness to the party, but there's a nice earthy note that balances it all out too. Mouthfeel is crisp and light, well carbonated, very approachable. Overall, this is quite nice, not quite a full-on apricot bomb (which is, uh, not a bad thing), but not a lactic bomb like, say, Cascade Apricot either. Well balanced and very tasty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/8/15. Bottled: 20150623.

So yes, I want more of these Recolte Du Bois variants, particularly interested in the Peach version, though they all sound great. Oh, and why not try some of their Dark Ages beers? Old Ale? Imperial Stout? Bourbon barrels? Yes please. Thanks again to Jay for introducing me to these fine purveyors of beer.

Marius Double Feature

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Forest & Main's Marius series of oak-aged, fruited saisons is pretty clearly their most anticipated release. While normally laid back affairs, Marius releases tend to sell out right away. As a result, I've missed out on the first few releases. I finally got my act together for the most recent release, which was three different variants: Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. I split the Cherry with some friends and loved it (but never wrote down any notes - I'm the worst) so I was quite excited to crack open the other two whilst embarking on the great 2015 movie catchup. The Big Short kinda came out of nowhere and has a pleasingly odd pedigree, and I loved it. It's actually kinda the best explanation for the 2008 economic crisis I've seen (save the source material, of course) and the humor is mildly effective at toning down just how insane the whole situation was (and kinda still is). Kung Fu Killer is, erm, less successful, though it has some nice martial arts action sequences that'd make it worthwhile for fans of that sort of thing. Fortunately, this beer made up for any of that film's shortcomings:

Forest and Main Marius (Peach)

Forest & Main Marius (Peach) - Pours a striking, clear yellow color with a finger of fluffy head that has great retention that leaves a little lacing (for what it's worth, the second pour was more cloudy). Smells nice, some musty funk, but lots of fruit too, those peaches coming through well. Taste has a very nice earthy, musty funk to it with a fruity peach kicker, some tartness and oak pitching in towards the middle and lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and dry, lightly acidic, almost quaffable. Overall, this is a winner, rivaling the Cherry though probably not exceeding it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

Forest and Main Marius (Plum)

Forest & Main Marius (Plum) - Pours a much more cloudy, darker yellow color with more head, at least two fingers, great retention, some lacing. Definitely has a distinctly different smell here, still some musty funk, but moreso than the Peach, and the plums certainly lend a different fruit character. Taste has more of a yeasty character to it, some of that earthy, musty funk, but also some more traditional estery feel along with the plum fruit, not as sour as the peach either, though there is a bit of tartness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and very dry, less acidic, though there is still something there. Overall, this too, is a winner, though not quite up to the level of Cherry or Peach. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

More great efforts from Forest & Main. They've got an expansion underway, so I'm expecting to see great things from them in the nearish future.

Stout Rullquin

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New Year's Eve has emerged as a time to drink lambic. At least, for me it has. So we cracked a couple bottles, and I found this to be the more interesting of the two. It's a very strange beer. It's a collaboration between Gueuzerie Tilquin and Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles wherein Tilquin blended 7/8 of La Rullés Brune with 1/8 of 1 year old lambics from Tilquin's stores (Tilquin does not brew their beer, but they do age and blend it) and then aged the result in barrels for 8 months. Truth be told, I almost didn't notice it sitting on the shelf because the (rather nifty) label blends the two collaborators' artistic styles (though not proportional to the blend of beer, but if they did that, Tilquin would get almost none of the label!) Tilquin used to be reliably available, but has been getting more scarce lately, so my eyes always perk up with I see their distinctive labels. We did it, you guys! We made another great beer hard to find!

This actually marks the second time I've had this beer, but the first time was at a share and I only had a small taste. At that time, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much the lambic came through. I mean, it was clearly a toned down character, but it was prominent and quite tasty. I had already procured this bottle and became quite excited at the prospect of getting a full pour. Then a curious thing happened. This bottle tasted different. Still good, but perhaps not as well balanced as the first pour. That or my palate was just way off that night. Regardless, it's still quite an interesting beer, and I wouldn't mind snagging a bottle and putting a little age on it to see how it fares. Until then, we're left with this:

Stout Rullquin

Tilquin/Rulles Stout Rullquin - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head. Smells musty, maybe some toasty malt character, definitely some straight Belgian yeast going on here, but you get hints of twangy funk in there too. Taste starts off like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, spicy, bready Belgian yeast, hints of toasty malt brightened by that funky lambic addition. It's not as big of an influence in this bottle as the last one I had, but it's there. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, pretty easy going. Overall, it's an interesting beer, and both times I've had it, it wasn't what I expected... but it was good nonetheless! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/15. Best Before: 31/03/2025. Released: September 2015.

Tilquin's Gueuze was the beer that made me see the light when it comes to sour beer, so I'm always on the lookout for their stuff. Would really love to try the blackberry lambic they recently made, but who knows when that will show up (and when it does, I'm sure it'll go quick).

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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