The Session #125: Mark SMaSH!

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session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Mark Lindner SMaSH! No, he's not the Hulk, he's talking about "single malt and single hop" beers. Frankly, this is not a topic I'm particularly well versed in, so I'll just vamp on some of his questions:

Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, ...) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?

This does appear to be trendy amongst a relatively small segement of homebrewers, but I wouldn't peg it as a more general beer trend. I've apparently had a couple of these without even realizing it, which says something. It feels like a trend requires people to be seeking out these beers because they are SMaSH, which isn't something I see much of...

What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally. Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?

There are four main ingredients of beer (water, barley, hops, yeast), so strictly controlling two of them reduces the variables, making it an interesting experiment, especially when part of a series. This can go multiple directions, highlighting a particular malt, hop, or even yeast or water, depending on what you vary from batch to batch. This does sorta depend on having a series of SMaSH beers to compare, but comparative drinking is something I enjoy and can be illuminating for novices or experienced lushes alike.

Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a "style," however you define that?

The great thing about niches is that you can never have too many, so even if I doubt that this will break out into the mainstream, this has a place (again, as mentioned above, doing a series of these could be illuminating). This isn't really a "style" unto itself though, as evidenced by the fact that you can find wildly divergent SMaSH profiles out there (then again, it's not like some established styles are particularly coherent - I'm looking at you, saison!)

Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.

I've only had a handful (that I know of) and they've been decent enough, though I can't think of anything that really melted my face. That being said, I'd be willing to bet I had a great one that I didn't even realize was SMaSH...

Do you brew them?

I have never brewed a SMaSH beer. I wouldn't rule out the possibility and I like the idea of working within restraints, but at the same time, I don't brew often enough to really get the most out of the idea.

Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)

Absolutely! You could achieve this sort of thing with various lager styles (maybe a Kolsh?) or Belgian styles. In fact, as mentioned above, I'm virtually certain that I have had SMaSH beers that would fall under those styles that simply don't advertise the simplicity of their recipes (or that weren't made with SMaSH in mind, but nonetheless qualify as SMaSH anyway).

Interboro Premiere IPA

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Interboro Spirits & Ales continues NYC's beer renaissance. Less than a year old and I feel like they've joined their neighbors like Other Half, SingleCut, and Grimm (amongst others) as brewers to keep an eye on. Not to shabby for a region that used to be a bit of a wasteland for good beer (if my last trip to NYC a few months ago is any indication, they are greatly improved on all fronts, though still not where you'd expect for a city that big).

Premiere IPA is a well executed, clean, straightforward take on the style, but hopping it with Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy certainly gives it a sheen that beer nerds can latch onto:

Interboro Premiere IPA

Interboro Spirits & Ales Premiere IPA - Pours a hazy pale yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a while. Great aroma of tropical citrus with some floral notes and a hint of pine in the background. Taste isn't quite as intense as the aroma, but it's got that same citrus and floral one/two punch, with a nice light but dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is perfectly carbed, light to medium bodied, moderately dry, quaffable. Overall, this is one damn fine IPA. Not a NEIPA, but not everything has to be, you know? A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/17.

NYC is killing it. Many thanks to fellow Beer Nerd Pete for gifting this can to me. Who knows if or when I'll get more, but I'll certainly be keeping my eyes open for moar of their wares.

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

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I was impressed by Florida's Barrel of Monks when I sampled their Three Fates Tripel last year and have finally managed to procure more of their wares. Their wheelhouse appears to be straightforward Belgian styles or Trappist ales that don't inspire as much beer nerd enthusiasm as freaky sours or barrel-aged pastry stouts and the like. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, but it is genuinely nice to take a step back and try a straightforward Belgian Tripel or Dubbel. So when these two bottles came my way, I was ready.

First up is actually something a little more trendy that might twixt beer dorks' nethers more than the straightforward stuff. Monk de Soleil (Monk of the Sun?) certainly starts off as a simple Belgian Pale Ale, but it then undergoes a secondary fermentation with added Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and then endures some dry-hopping. This collaboration with 7venth Sun Brewery certainly hits that funky sweet spot that beer geeks crave:

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with lots of head that sticks around for a bit. Smells fantastic, great earthy funk mixed with fruity esters and a little clove. Taste hits that funky Brett note pretty well, plenty of spicy phenols, a little bit of that fruit. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated and dry. Overall, this is a great little Brett beer. A

Beer nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/17. Released 4/29/17.

Next, we've got a humble Belgian Dubbel. Not much else to it, except that like their Tripel, this is a very well executed take on a style most American brewers don't even try, let alone do well...

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno - Pours a dark amber brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, that trademark dubbel raisins and fruity esters, spicy phenols, clove. Taste has a great sweet and spicy character, a little caramelized dark fruit, raisins, plums, maybe a hint of toast in the background. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated, relatively dry, making this dangerously quaffable. Overall, rich, c omplex, again one of the better American takes on a vaunted, traditional Belgian style. A-

Beer nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 6/27/17.

So these folks are 3 for 3. Not necessarily lighting the beer world on fire with trendy stuff, but I really appreciate the well executed Belgian styles.

Civil Society Double Feature

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It's a story as old as time. Or, like, 30 years. Something like that. Beer drinkers get fed up with expensive non-local beer, start homebrewing, get good at it, recognize the lack of a local brewing scene, and resolve to start up their own brewery.

Jupiter, Florida, probably most famous for housing a few baseball teams' spring training facilities, now has a growing hophead scene thanks to Civil Society brewing. When Kaedrin friend and beverage compatriot Steve moved to Florida, he was a little disappointed by the IPA scene (especially having been a fan of the vaunted Northeast IPA), but since these fellas have shown up, he's been having a better time of it. Let's dive into a couple of their common offerings, for a hoppy society is no doubt a civil society:

Civil Society Fresh

Civil Society Fresh - Pours a cloudy, pale yellow color with a finger or two of white, tight head. Smells great, lots of juicy citrus, a little pine. Taste is sweet, juicy, fruity, citrus hops, a little pine, just enough bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, one damn fine NEIPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/23/17. No date on can, but I am assured that it was 1-2 weeks old.

Civil Society Blondes Make Me Hoppy

Civil Society Blondes Make Me Hoppy (Citra) - Bonus points for not putting a buxom blonde woman on the label! Pours a cloudy pale yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head that leaves a bit of lacing. Smells great, lots of citrus and a more floral component than Fresh. Taste hits that citrus and floral hop note hard, finishes with a more bitter bite. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, crushable. Overall, a damn fine sessionable hop bomb. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/24/17. No date on can, but I am assured that it was 1-2 weeks old.

These are not the first Civil Society beers I've had, and they hopefully won't be the last. In the same league with the latest wave of NEIPA brewers, for sure.

Sapsquatch

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Southern Tier seems to have fallen from the vanguard of the beer nerd scene (you can only drink so much Pumking, you know), but offerings like this could certainly make some waves with jaded dorks on the prowl. It's an English style barleywine aged in a trio of barrels. A third of the blend was aged in bourbon barrels, another third in bourbon barrels that once held maple syrup, and the final third aged on charred oak staves used in Southern Tier's distilling program to create whiskey.

There's a large community dedicated to investigating the existence of the legendary sasquatch, but did you know that they refer to their investigations as "squatching". I'd call it kinda dumb, but then, I wait in lines for beer. Fortunately not this beer, though. Aged for 12 months and clocking in at a healthy 14.9% ABV, it's a beer worthy of Bigfoot. Or at least something to bring on your latest squatching excursion.

Southern Tier Sapsquatch

Southern Tier Barrel Works Series: Sapsquatch - Pours an almost clear, very dark amber brown color with a cap of short lived light tan head. Smells fantastic, booze soaked raisins, rich caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste hits similar notes, but is not quite as complex as the nose. Sweet, but not cloying at all. Mouthfeel is rich, medium-to-full bodied, perfect carbonation, some lingering but pleasant booze. Balance isn't a word you'd use for a beer like this, but maybe proportional works. Overall, this is really damn good. A high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 6/23/16. Bottled: April 2017.

I've never been particularly in love with Southern Tier, so this was a welcome treat. It seems pretty widely available too, which is nice (I would totally grab another of these for a rainy day). There's supposed to be another Barrel Works beer called Monstrous that looks like a straightforward bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, my kinda beer. It's nice to see these folks stepping up their game (and with a minimum of gimmicky adjuncts).

Black Project Reheat

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So there was this brewery in Denver called Former Future Brewing. They put out your standard brewery starter kit of beers, like IPAs and porters and whatnot, but they had this top-secret, backroom operation where they were experimenting with capturing native microflora and yeasts by using coolships. Soon enough, beers from this "Black Project" started to take off... so much so that at this point, Former Future is no more, and Black Project has become the heart of the operation.

This particular offering almost symbolically resembles the transition of the brewery. There's a barrel aged sour that is refermented on locally sourced wine grapes called Supercruise... but instead of rinsing and steaming the emptied barrels (as they'd normally do), they simply added freshly coolshipped wort to the Supercruise "dregs", and allow the whole thing to referment and mesh. The result? Pretty tasty stuff, so lets reheat some leftovers and pop the cork on this sucker:

Black Project Reheat

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales Reheat - Pours an almost pinkish hued golden color with a half finger of fizzy white head that is short for this world. Smells nice and musty, funky, vinous fruit, a little oak. Taste is sweet and sour, vinous fruit, oak, and moar sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, lowish carbonation, moderate to high acidity. Overall, it's a rock oak aged American wild... with more carbonation, this could rate higher than a B+ but that's where it's at for now...

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 6/17/17. Bottled on: ? 09 2017 (can't read that first number). Label also has "CF-CS" printed on the front too, not sure what that means.

I had acquired another of Black Project's beers along with this one, but I shared Rocket Sled with some friends so I didn't take detailed notes (it was more sour and better carbed, with a dry hopped kick to it...) and darn, I don't have any of these Black Project beers left... But I'll surely find ways to procure moar of this stuff, because these were good...

de Garde Anianish

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I love pretty much everything I've had from de Garde, but I must admit that I'm starting to get a sorta samey vibe from much of what I've managed to procure. Sure, those fruited Bu variants (especially the imperial ones) are making waves and are obviously diverse in terms of flavor, but there also seems to be an unending series of 5%ish tart saison/American wild hybrids that are delicious, but again, samey. This isn't the worst thing in the world, of course, and making consistent wild ales is an achievement in and of itself. Plus, as I continue to evolve as a beer dork, this sort of consistent, approachable, 5% offering is more appealing than ever. It's just a lot easier to write about something that blows your mind (or the reverse situation of a beer that is a disaster). Blogger problems, bro.

It's probably also worth noting that a low-level trading dilettante like myself doesn't really pull the truly face-melting offerings from these Tillamook ballers. Not that I'm bitter. Which is usually, like, an ironic statement, but I'm genuinely not bitter, because this is some really tasty stuff, and as these things go, it's still in the top tier. It's just that there's not much to say about this wild farmhouse ale aged in oak with unspecified fruit & spices. Except that I've now written a couple of paragraphs about how I don't have much to say, so, um, let's just get to the beer:

de Garde Anianish

de Garde Anianish - Pours a golden orange color with a finger of white head that sticks around for a while. Smells of saison spice and fruity esters, a little bit of oak and funk. Taste is sweet and spicy, with lots of tart, vinous fruit, not quite sour but enough of a bite. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and tasty. Overall, this is some great stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 6/3/17.

No more De Garde on hand at chez Kaedrin, but I expect more to come my way soon enough. I would like to actually review one of the many Bu variants (the last one I got, I foolishly shared with other people in a setting not conducive to reviewing) and what the hell, maybe someday I'll manage to snag one of those face-melters like Broken Truck...

Four Legs Good

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The name of this beer harkens back to George Orwell's Animal Farm, where the phrase "Four legs good, two legs bad." is used as propaganda that initially helps clarify the animals' goal to be free of human oppression, but which eventually devolves into a meaningless sound bleated by the sheep ("two legs baa-d") that only serves to shut down dissent. As the novel progresses and the needs of the leadership change, the chant is modified to the ironic "Four legs good, two legs better", which sounds similar but obviously means the opposite. Such reversals might sound silly, but this sort of thing happens all the time, even in science. For example, over-the-counter nasal docongestant sprays are effective... for about 3 days. After that, the user's continuing stuffiness and congestion are actually caused by the product itself, something called a rebound congestion.

But I digress. I'm not positive why Sante Adairius named a beer after this infamous quote, but their blurb on the bottle mentions a three-legged dog, so one must assume that there is a rising tide of three-legged dogs plotting revolution in Capitola, California. And I, for one, welcome our new doggo overlords and would like to remind them that as a trusted blogging personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground bone mines.

And I'm digressing again. The beer itself is labeled a "Belgian-style blonde Quad" (a "made-up beer style") that is fermented in oak puncheons then aged for long periods in oak foudres. As befits the style-defying description, this was originally part of Sante Adairius's 16e series of weird one-offs, but it appears to have graduated to a regular offering. Four Legs Good, three legs better?

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Four Legs Good

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Four Legs Good - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of white, bubbly head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, fruity and oaky, a little spice in the background. Taste is sweet and spicy, vinous fruit, with oak emerging quickly, followed by some tartness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated but a little sticky, plenty of booze. Overall, this is one damn fine beer, complex and tasty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 6/2/17. Batch 2.

Fabulous stuff, as always. I got a small taste of a new(ish) 16e beer called Feeling Ursine (a tart barrel aged brown) that was decent, and I've got another SARA beer on its way. Certainly one of my favorite breweries to snag something from these days...

Checking in with Levante Brewing

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For a brewery that is as local as Levante (a place that I visit regularly) I sure haven't kept up with them when it comes to reviews. This is mostly just because I'm the worst, but also because I'm generally palling around with local beer nerds and don't really take the time to write down detailed notes (see, maybe I'm not the worst).

In the year and a half since I last wrote about them, they've grown considerably, branched out a bit, and started bottling/canning beer. After working out some kinks, they appear to be dialed in on that front, as these two recent can releases were fantastic! Both are Northeast IPA style beers with trendy, citrus-forward hops and they stack up favorably amongst the growing throngs of NEIPA producers in the region (and it should be noted, they still put out more typical West Coast IPA style stuff on occasion as well). While I'm at it, I figure I'll throw out some notes on the latest iteration of Bullit Train (their bourbon barrel aged vanilla stout), because why not?

Levante 3D Hippo

Levante 3D Hippo - An IPA brewed with Citra and Galaxy hops - Pours a cloudy dark yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of bright, tropical fruit, juicy citrus. Taste starts sweet, again lots of citrus and tropical fruit, juicy, a bit of a bitter bite to round things off in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, thick, bright. Overall, one damn fine NE style IPA, on par with (if not better than) some of the recent Tired Hands cans I've sampled. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/29/17. Canned on 05/24/17. Batch: MUCH LOVE!

Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel on draft

Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel - A DIPA brewed with an unspecified blend of New Zealand and Australian hops (from talking to the brewer, I believe it involves at least Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, but probably more). This was initially released on tap in February, and it was spectacular. Bursting with juicy citrus hops in both aroma and taste, great mouthfeel, just a wonderful beer.

Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel

I guess people wouldn't shut up about how awesome it was, because they decided to brew another batch and can it a few months later. I will note that the can was perhaps not quite as spectacular as it was on draft, but it's pretty darn close and it's been my favorite can release so far. A (on tap), A- (canned)

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/1/17 (on tap), 3/31/17 (can), and several times thereafter, bro. On tap: 2/1/17. Canned: 03/27/17.

Levante Bourbon Barrel Aged Bullit Train Bottle

Levante Bourbon Barrel Aged Bullit Train - So I already reviewed this back when it was initially released, and they had a batch after that that was incredible as well... but the initial bottle release left something to be desired. The bottles were way overcarbonated, which just cut through the rich flavors and made it unsatisfying. BUT! The following bottle release fared significantly better, and the good folks at Levante made the stand-up decision to allow people to trade-in the old, overcarbed bottles to get a new one. Great decision, and a great beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter glass.

So there you have it. I hope to show you more from these fine folks in the near future, so stay tuned...

Our Finest Regards

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It's been a little over a year and a half since the famed gypsy brewers of Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project decided to close up shop. Despite speculation, there was no official reason given for the closure other than their note that it was never meant to be a long term thing. As gypsy brewers, their very nature meant that their enterprise was lightweight and not tied down by things like debt, equipment, or real estate. I suspect they had their fill and decided to walk the Earth (you know, like Caine from Kung Fu) basically just because they could. And why not?

They were great brewers though, so it was still a sad thing. I thought I'd long since drank my last Pretty Things beer when I spied this bottle of barleywine at a random liquor store in Maryland. A decidedly English take on the style, this is meant as a tribute to barley (their hot take on American Barleywine: "...normally a sad beer indeed, lots of hops and alcohol but the star of the show is left scratching his chin in the eaves of the theatre." Burn.) So I think its time to pay our finest regards to this sadly defunct brewery:

Pretty Things Our Finest Regards

Pretty Things Our Finest Regards - Pours a cloudy dark brown color with a half-finger of off white head. Smells of rich crystal malt, a little nuttiness adding complexity along with hints of hops playing in the background. Taste has a nice caramel and toffee character with a distinct malty nuttiness finishing with a bit of dry booze. Mouthfeel is rich and medium-to-full bodied, perfectly carbonated, some pleasant booze. Overall, this is a great non-BA barleywine, one of the better that I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/26/17. Bottled: Nov 2015.

Despite their closure, Pretty Things did put out a pale ale in the UK last year, so it's possible we'll see their return at some point. The nimble business model that allowed them to close neatly should also allow them to start up again if they so desire, but I suspect the best we'll see are limited one-off type events like that pale ale... if that. Still, a beer dork can hope.

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

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