Before he became a famed Gypsy brewer, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø was a high school teacher. Two of his students showed an abiding interest in homebrewing, so Mikkel schemed to use the school's kitchen during off hours (10 pm until 6 am) to teach them to brew. When they slept, I do not know. Eventually Mikkel would go on to found Mikkeller to great acclaim. A few years later, his two students threw their hat into the ring and started To Øl (Danish for "Two Beers"). Like their teacher (and his Evil Twin), they would pursue the Gypsy approach to brewing, scrounging excess brewing capacity where they could, and started putting out their own well received beers. To date, I have had none, so it's finally time to rectify the situation:

To Øl White Wine Barrel Aged Snowball Saison

To Øl White Wine Barrel Aged Snowball Saison - Pours a mostly clear golden orange color with a couple fingers of white, fluffy head that sticks around a while and leaves lots of lacing. Aroma isn't especially strong, but I'm getting Belgian yeast, fruity esters and spicy phenols, and that white wine barrel is coming through too. Does not smell sour or particularly funky. Taste bears that out, it's very much like a regular ol saison, sweet with some peppery yeast notes. The white wine is there, as is the vanilla aspect of the barrel (though I really don't get a lot of oak itself), but this not at all sour or funky. Mouthfeel is actually very nice, highly carbonated, effervescent. That white wine cuts into that a bit though, and makes the finish a bit on the sticky side. Overall, this is a nice beer, if not exactly what I was expecting. Reminiscent of White Monkey, actually. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/22/14.

So not blowing the doors off the building or anything, but I'm still curious to try more from this pair of gypsies.

HaandBryggeriet Odin's Tipple

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Odin, the chief god of Norse mythology, is associated with war and death, but also wisdom and poetry (amongst other things). I'll have what he's having. But then, we should be careful. Odin once drank from the Well of Wisdom, but to do so, he had to sacrifice one of his eyes. So, have you got what it takes to tipple with Odin? I'd like to think that I do, but I'm a little disappointed with my choice of drinking vessel, as I did not have any giant fucking ram's horns laying around (like Odin has on the label). I'll just have to make due with this snifter glass and this Mjolnir thing.

I've heard some conflicting things about this Norwegian beer from HaandBryggeriet. Some folks have noted that the recipe can change from year to year. It's labeled a Dark Norse Ale, but the Shelton Brothers website sez they use "wild yeast", which is something I didn't really get out of the beer (though perhaps that flavor I attributed to chalkiness is really more of a funky, musty thing?) To my mind, this is definitely in the mold of an Imperial Stout, wild yeast or no. Whosoever tipples this beer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Odin!

HaandBryggeriet Odins Tipple

HaandBryggeriet Odin's Tipple - Pours darker than a politician's soul (sorry, watching House of Cards tonight), black with a finger of brown head that quicky resolves into a ring around the edge. Smells of rich dark malts, chocolate, caramel, a hint of roast, maybe even some coffee. Taste is very rich, much larger roast here than the nose would imply, coffee too, maybe a hint of chalkiness, but plenty of rich caramel and chocolate too, and for a beer this big and rich, it's got a good ofsetting bitterness, especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little pleasant booze. A bit burly, so the 500 ml packaging is a good fit and hey, it's a cold winter over here at Kaedrin HQ, so burliness is welcome. Overall, this is a really fantastic non BA imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/21/14. Batch 487.

I've got to haand it to these wacky Norwegians, they're pretty good at these dark beers. I should really take some time to explore more of their catalog.

Back Into The Emptiness

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Celebrity farmer. Rockstar farmer. Now those are words you don't normally see put together, but they're both used to describe Tom Culton, who cultivates a small patch of land in Lancaster County, PA (let's say it's about 70 miles west of Philadelphia), generating obscure, heirloom produce to supply trendy restaurants in Philly and New York. And let's not forget about Ardmore, PA, as Culton is a good friend of the whole Tired Hands crew, and we often see beers made with fresh fruits or cider from Culton's farm (most recently, we had Culton Hop and Culton Sour, both made with 51% Culton-supplied apple cider, though there have been a bunch of others that I simply haven't mentioned in my crazy long recaps).

This particular beer is part of a series of saisons aged in wine barrels with fresh, local fruit. The first was called Out Of The Emptiness, and it was aged on local plums (not to get all Portlandia on you, but I'm not sure if these plums were actually from Culton Organics). I missed out on bottles, but was fortunate enough to get a glass at the release because people are nice. It was awesome enough that I was ready to stand in line for the next one (not that I wouldn't anyway, because I has a problem, but still). Back Into The Emptiness is the followup, and it's aged on French Policeman grapes. I tried to do some research on these suckers, and found out the backstory:

After a few trips to France, he began growing heirloom crops. Then he cold-called restaurants. His first major "get" was the venerable Le Bec-Fin, which bought small table grapes from 75-year-old vines that Culton says a French policeman gave to his grandfather.

Add in some local wine barrels, Tired Hands' house microflora and "ambient microflora from Lancaster, PA", and we've got this beauty:

Tired Hands Back Into The Emptiness

Tired Hands Back Into The Emptiness - Pours a golden orange color with a finger of fizzy, short lived head, though once it settles down it actually left a bit of lacing. Nose has a beautiful oak character, some musty funk, and a very pleasing fruity sour note too. Taste is delicious, starting off sweet, with a tart, vinous fruitiness emerging quickly and escalating into sourness towards the finish. I don't know that I would have picked out grapes, but this does have a fruited sour feel. The oak comes out in the middle and tempers the sourness through the finish. Mouthfeel is crisp and light, good carbonation (higher than your typical Tired Hands bottled beer), and a moderate but pleasant and well balanced sour acidity. The finish dries things out a bit, but not all the way. Overall, damn if this isn't their best bottled beer yet (at least, that I've had). A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 2/21/14.

Not quite Romulon-level, but spectacular nonetheless. Already looking forward to getting a taste of The Emptiness is Eternal, which is due to be conditioned on persimmons (watch out, Pediobear!) from Culton's farm, of course.

Firestone Walker XVII - Anniversary Ale

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Every year, Firestone Walker invites their neighboring Winemakers to the brewery to tie one on and blend a series of barrel aged component beers for their Anniversary Ale. The Winemakers (no strangers to blending) are divided up into teams and compete to make the best blend. It's apparently quite cutthroat, though fortunately, no murders this year. I'm trying to be concise here, because this is a subject I've already described in wonky, exhaustive detail before. Suffice to say, for barrel aged fanatics like myself, this is one of the most interesting releases each year, and they can vary dramatically too.

The XV blend heavily favored barleywines, and most of the component beers were aged in bourbon and/or brandy barrels (and oh yeah, it was spectacular). The XVI blend was more equitable, a much darker brew though barleywines still had a slight edge overall. The other big change in XVI was the inclusion of Tequila barrels into the blend. This year, things swing back towards the barleywine a bit, though not as much as XV. Here's the component beers:

  • 30% Bravo (13.6% ABV) Imperial Brown Ale. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels.
  • 25% Stickee Monkee (15.3% ABV) English Barley Wine. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels.
  • 15% Velvet Merkin (8.7% ABV) Traditional Oatmeal Stout. Aged in Bourbon barrels.
  • 15% Parabola (12.8% ABV) Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Aged in Bourbon Barrels.
  • 8% Double Double Barrel Ale (12% ABV) Double Strength English Pale Ale. Aged 100% in Firestone Union Barrels.
  • 4% Helldorado (11.5% ABV) Blonde Barley Wine. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels.
  • 3% Wookey Jack (8.3% ABV)- Black Rye India Pale Ale. 100% Fresh, Dank & Hoppy 100% Stainless Steel

So we've got around 67% barleywines, 30% stout, and 3% Black Rye IPA (which sorta splits the difference between the two). Also notable is that this year's blend "only" utilizes 7 component beers (while the previous two used 8), and that PNC with Tequila barrels is nowhere to be seen. So this comes in somewhere between XV and XVI in terms of the components, and I will say that it does taste more like a barleywine than anything else, though I don't quite think it reached the heights of XV:

Firestone Walker XVII - Anniversary Ale

Firestone Walker XVII - Anniversary Ale - Pours a brown amber color, garnet tones, a finger of light tan head that sticks around a bit. Smells of various spirits, boozy but not hot, some caramel-like notes and bready malt too. Taste starts off sweet, quickly moving into a rich caramel note, maybe a hint of fruity malt character, then comes various spirits and the one-two punch of oak and vanilla. The spirits here seem much less Bourbon focused than in years past, and looking at the component beers, perhaps that Brandy is asserting itself more than in previous years, though not in a dominant way. Call it the power of suggestion if you like, but this taste is very complex and evolves as it warms up, with the various flavors emerging or mellowing as I drink. The taste profile is more akin to a barleywine than anything else, closer to XV (which was clearly barleywine) than XVI (which was much more muddled, though still very nice). Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, but velvety smooth. Some pleasant booziness, a bit of heat, but given the cold weather of late, this is a welcome feature, not a bug. Overall, yep, it's fantastic. Better than XVI, but not quite at XV levels. But when you're playing at this level, these distinctions are really splitting hairs. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.3% ABV bottled (22 oz. boxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 2/14/14.

Of course, all of Firestone Walker's barrel aged beers are spectacular and worth seeking out. It's seeming like I've missed out on last year's release of Velvet Merkin (local beermonger sez that government shutdown last year delayed and maybe even limited distro in this area, which could be total BS, but I still hope to track down a bottle somehow, someway). Rumor has it that Stickee Monkee will be coming to bottles and seeing distribution for the first time this year as well, and then there's their first wild ale, The Feral One. So what I'm saying is that I'm going to be hunting for lots of Firestone beer in 2014 (because don't forget about world class bottles like Sucaba and Parabola)

February Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a gathering of beer minded individuals from my work who get together about once a month at a local BYOB for good company and libations. As per usual, a good turnout, with a good representation from the core team, but also some very welcome new faces. About half of us are, at this point, avid homebrewers, so discussion veered into a rather nerdy realm from time to time, but that's all good, and there was also a nice contingent of non-beer drinking peeps who were bemused by our nerdery, but steered the discussion other ways as well. Good times had by all.

February Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, initial thoughts on each beer are captured below. As you might guess, conditions here are not ideal, nor did I always drink a full portion, so take this with a gigantic grain of salt if you dare. Or not. I am pretty awesome, so I'm sure these inchoate notes are all you'll really need. In order of drinking (not necessarily in order pictured):

  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale - A pretty basic Blonde Ale, comparable to most macro slop, but a step above such extremes. B-
  • Kaedrôme Saison - This is drinking well, though it still has not carbonated as well as I'd have liked. I don't know if this is because the yeast is just so old and overstressed or if it's because it's been so cold lately and my cellar is just so cold that it's taking the beer a while to condition. Whatever the case, the flavors are at the right place, and there is enough carbonation to make it drinkable, it's just that I wish there were more. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen - Holy curry, Batman! At first, the curry seemed to overpower everything else, but as I drank and as it warmed (we had some of this later in the evening as well), the coconut and hefeweizen notes came out a bit more. Its a very interesting, weird beer, but I don't think it's quite the right combination of flavors for beer. C+
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids - I think you all know how much I love me some saisons, even weird, incoherent takes on the style, but this one seemed to be filled with a sorta burnt rubber band aid flavor that overpowered everything else. Perhaps not totally undrinkable, but I'm really, really happy I only tried a smallish sample of the stuff. D
  • Green Jack Rippa - I've seen this around and been curious about an "English Triple" beer, and it was an interesting beer, though it came off as being incredibly boozy, which is a bit odd for an 8.5% beer. To be sure, that's not a whimpy ABV, but it's also not something I'd expect to be quite so powerfully boozy. It had a nice malt backbone too, but not enough to stand up to the booze. C+
  • Ken's Homebrewed ESB - A light take on the style, though perhaps it just seemed that way because we had this after the boozy bomb previously mentioned. Still, very easy drinking stuff, malt forward but quaffable. B
  • Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale - Now, this beer club group occasionally visits an authentic (at least, to us Yanks, it seems so) British pub called The Whip Tavern. They have this rather spectacular dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding, so hopes were somewhat high for this beer. To be sure, I was tempering my expectations by the fact that a lot of English ales, even stuff like this that is flavored with adjuncts, come off with hints of diacetyl, but in this case, my fears were unfounded. It's nowhere near as good as the actual dessert, but it had a really nice toffee/caramel character that worked really well for the beer. B
  • Chimay Tripel (White) - A beer I've obviously had many times before, and it's just as good as ever, though I seem to have veered away from a lot of the Belgian styles that initially hooked me on good beer. Still, this is a nice one. I'd probably downgrade to a B+, but it's still very nice.
  • Starr Hill Psycho Kilter - A nice take on the Scotch Ale style, certainly not a top tier effort, but a nice, malt forward, relatively low carbed beer that doesn't quite bely its relatively high 9.3% strength. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked Version) - This is the version of my RIS homebrew that was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes. In this version, the charred oak really comes through strong. Not a ton of bourbon, though it is there. The charred oak is pretty strong at this point, which makes me think that perhaps I should have soaked the oak cubes in bourbon for longer than the 1-2 weeks I employed. Still, this turned out well, though the blended version seems to be the best version. B+
  • Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - A beer I've had and reviewed before. It is still pretty fantastic stuff. A-
  • Deschutes Jubelale - Another beer I've had a few times this year, and it's a nice winter warmer style beer, malt forward with lots of spice, quite enjoyable (and surprisingly did not suffer from a no doubt beleaguered palate at this point in the night). B
And that just about covers it. Already looking forward to the March beer club, where I'll be able to share some Fat Weekend IPA...

Evolution Nouveau Rouge

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Maryland's Evolution Craft Brewing Co. joins the ranks of the few, the proud, the patient: practitioners of the Solera method in the beer world. The base beer is a rather straightforward American Amber Ale called Prelude Red, but it's placed in barrels (along with some bacterial beasties), soured, and blended with younger batches in the style of a Flanders Red. Evolution has added their Solera'd wrinkle, blending each new batch with all previous batches (and only bottling a small portion of the result, thus leaving enough liquid for future blending). Each cycle increases the average age of the bottled liquid, adding maturity and depth while retaining a certain level of freshness. Some Sherry producers have been known to do this for over 50 years, with each release theoretically containing traces of each and every batch. Evolution is only in their third year, so while this still feels very much like a standard Flanders Red, I'm really curious to see what it's like in a few years (and onward).

Evolution Nouveau Rouge

Evolution Nouveau Rouge No. 2 - Pours a mostly clear amber orange brown color, nice highlights when held up to light, and a finger or so of off white, fluffy head. Smells of vinous fruits, cherry, plums, oak, vanilla, vinegary sour twang. Taste follows the nose: vinous fruit, cherry, plums, oak, and vanilla notes are certainly there, perhaps not as intense as the nose suggests, but really good. Mouthfeel is on the lighter side of medium bodied, a little acidic, pleasant vinegar. Starts with a nice richness, though it doesn't quite last through the finish - something I imagine solidifying over time with future iterations. Overall, this is already a pretty good Flanders Red, but I'm really excited to see the evolution of future batches (pun intended!) B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a copita glass on 2/15/14.

Evolution continues to be a solid semi-local contributer that I need to explore more thoroughly. I expect to snag some of their Migration series soon enough, so keep an eye out. And, of course, Lot 3 and Lot 6 are nice IPAs that are in the rotation somewhere (come to think of it, I haven't had one of either in a while).

Maine Another One IPA

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When Main Brewing Co. expanded their brewery, the stress was getting to them. The label on this beer says that when they ran out of creative juice, they just decided to have Another One. It's an IPA with a very clean malt bill and hopped generously with Warrior, Cascade, Citra, and Simcoe. Creative juices flowing, they went ahead and made another beer with the same hop schedule, but a much darker malt bill. The result of that was a beer I had a couple weeks ago, Weez. It was fine, but I lamented the fact that I'd never had this pale counterpart so that I could compare notes. As luck would have it, I ran into a bottle last week, and now here we are. It might seem paradoxical to start my night with a beer called Another One, but that's what I did on Friday:

Maine Another One IPA

Maine Another One IPA - Pours a light golden yellow color with a couple fingers of dense head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. The nose has a huge Citra hop component that comes through strongly, a big whiff of tropical fruit and with some herbal, floral, grassy notes pitching in too. Cascade and Simcoe come out a little more in the taste, with the fruity flavors leaning more towards grapefruit, and an increase in the herbal, floral, and grassy character too. Some hop bitterness emerges towards the finish and lingers a bit. Hops are doing all the heavy lifting here, with almost no malt backbone to speak of. Mouthfeel is light with a very tight, smooth carbonation. It's not watery, but it's very lightly bodied and the finish is dry enough that it doesn't feel thin. So it comes off as quaffable, is what I'm saying, and that's good. Overall, this is a rock solid IPA, better than its darker counterpart, Weez. borderline A- stuff, but I'll stick with my initial gut feeling of B+. But it's a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/14/14. Bottled 1/21/14 (05).

So there you have it, the lighter counterpart works better than the darker. Go figure. One of these days I'll need to try my hand at a dark, hoppy beer. In the meantime, I'm told I really need to try Maine's King Titus, a beer that seems pretty easy to find around these parts. But that may be a while...

Tired Hands Compilation

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It's been a while since I've recapped recapped some recent Tired Hands beers, and these notes just keep piling up, so here goes nothing. Note that the earliest of these is from late August, so it really has been a while since I've attempted to stoke the jealousy of my readership with these local gems. Most are one-offs that will never be brewed again, but we've gotten to a point where I'm starting to recognize rebrews of some of their beers, so you never know.

Screeching Loud Thrashing Death Metal Offensive Song

SCREECHING LOUD THRASHING DEATH METAL OFFENSIVE SONG - 10.5% ABV blended old ale - Named after a review on Yelp where someone complained about the, shall we say, eclectic mix of music you hear when at TH (it looks like someone told her that they brewed this beer in her honor, so she updated her review, but the original one is still there.) A blend of 9 month old Flemish red (25%), fresh Barleywine (65%), and rye whiskey barrel fermented Barleywine (10%). Very interesting! Not a ton in the nose, but the taste is unique and interesting. I'm getting lots of chocolate, and maybe even coffee-like notes. Faint hints of cherries and a note of something bright escaping in the finish (prolly that Flemish red). Unique beer, never had anything like it. B+

Singel Hop Saison Citra - 5% ABV saison - Hurm, either this has gotten a lot better since my last glass (my previous note expressed surprise that Citra wasn't that potent - but it was great this second time), or my palate got destroyed by Vermont beer and is only coming back... Juicy citrus hops and saison spice. Glad I gave it another shot, upgrade! A-

Tabel, Sacred - 4.2% ABV spiced saison - Brewed with oats and Holy Basil, fermented with a touch of grapefruit and pomegranate. Is there a touch of funk in here? Not sure, but it's a nice, quaffable saison, with some citrus rind character, maybe a hint of lemon, an herbal note, and slight spicy yeast notes. B+

Mt.Sharp - 7.2% ABV Citra and Columbus IPA - Interesting sticky icky citrus and pine combo. Sticky and yet creamy? This is striking a chord that I can't place, but who cares, because its awesome! A-

SuchUnique - 8.2% ABV Double IPA, Simcoe & Centennial hops - Nice floral and citrus notes, mango, flowers, good stuff. Well hidden ABV. Good! A-

Pub Style Ale - 4.5% ABV pale ale brewed with oats & Centennial hops - Great nose, lots of citrus, big floral hops in the taste. Quaffable! B+

Sad State of Affairs - 8.2 % ABV DIPA - A less profane reference to the cease and desist for FarmHands? Regardless, this is a rock solid DIPA, citrus and pine, a little slickness but still well balanced. Fantastic! A-

Lizard Queen - 5.2% ABV Motueka & Centennial Pale Ale - Yep, another great pale ale, juicy citrus nose (maybe even a lemon note), some earthy floral notes too. Crushable. A-

Euphoric Sunshine Drip - 5.7% ABV spiced saison with Meyer lemon and pink peppercorn - Another typically great Tired Hands farmhouse saison, not quite funky, but that lemon makes overtures in that direction, and the peppercorn accentuates the yeast well... A-

The Multiverse - 8.1% ABV pear farmhouse DIPA - Wow, really nice pairing (pearing?) of farmhouse spice (funk?) and hops, with neither dominating, but instead melding into something different. Really nice! A-

Critical Anxious - 7.8% ABV Biere De Garde - And I didn't take any notes on this one, though I did write down that I had it, so, um, I dunno. Mulligan.

Oktüberfest - 6.1% ABV Ser Gut Yam Bier - Very nice Oktoberfest style beer, mild, light toasted bread, but still relatively sweet. Great mouthfeel on this one too. Not really my style, but this is my kinda take on the style. B+

My Favorite Show - 5.7% ABV classical modern saison - Typically great Tired Hands saison, almost funky, nice peppery notes, highly drinkable, like a slightly amped up FarmHands (er, SaisonHands). B+

Communication is the Key - 5.5% ABV crushable Simcoe pale ale - Typically great Tired Hands pale ale, big juicy fruit notes, hint of pine, crushable is a perfect descriptor. A-

Tired Hands Murky Growlers
(Click for larger picture)

So I'm at the bar one night and Jean fills a couple of growlers. He gives them to some guy who's making a trip to Hill Farmstead and says that Shaun Hill likes his beer extra cloudy, so he renamed "Communication is the Key" to "Communication is the Murky" and "We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating At The Same Frequency" to "We Are All Hazy As Hell Vibrating at the Same Cloudiness".

Fall Precious - 6.6% ABV autumnal saison - Really nice saison, it's got that typical Tired Hands farmhouse character, but it's carving out an identity of its own. Sweet up front, maybe some fruit, with the spice emerging towards the finish. A-

H.C.S. - 5.9% ABV viscous and delicious saison - Power of suggestion, or is this really viscous? Definitely a fuller body than your typical TH saison, very cloudy, a little yeasty spice, well done. B+

MortalGrade - 8.2% ABV DIPA brewed with wheat, oats, Chinook, Citra, Zythos, and Simcoe - Fantastic, one of my favorite Tired Hands DIPAs! Huge juicy citrus, some grassy, floral, and pine hop notes too. Obscenely quaffable for its ABV, no real hint of booze. Great stuff! A

MoMoCoe - 5.5% ABV Motueka, Mosaic, and Simcoe pale ale - Great juicy hop character, lots of grapefruit, nice bracing bitterness, really good! A-

Singel Hop Saison, Chinook - 5% ABV - The 8th singel hop saison, and probably around the middle of the pack. Indeed, the hops and saison yeast seem a little at odds here. Still good, of course, but not the best of the bunch. B+

Under Pressure - 7.6% Blended Artisanal Farmhouse Biere de Garde - Excellent malt forward Brett beer, some nice malty fruit notes, with some peppery yeast and complementary Brett. Great! A-

Coulton Hop - 5.5% heirloom cider/pale ale - 49% of the fermentables came from cider made of apples, pears, and quinces. Hopped with Simcoe and that's really what stands out, but it's amazing that they were able to coax something so beerlike out of something comprised of so much cider... As I drink more, the cider twang becomes more pronounced... Really nice. B+

Coulton Sour - 5.5% heirloom cider/Berliner Weiss - Similar approach with the cider used as fermantable. Holy sour patch kids, this is super tart, and you really get that cider side of things here too. Really interesting beers here. A-

Cosmic Slop - 8.3% DIPA - Tired Hands' 200th batch is a typically great fruit and hop forward DIPA, lots of citrus, pine, and floral notes, very well done B+

Hail Santa - 6.4% ABV Rye IPA - Slightly darker than typical, but still a pale yellow, beautiful juicy hop nose, with some floral and spicy notes hitting in the taste. Really good! B+

I See a Darkness - 8.5% ABV porter brewed with coffee and honey - Collaboration with Sante Adairius, very nice, bigger than normal porter. Tried getting some a few days later, but they were out... B+

Sgt. Salamander - 5% ABV Holiday Sour Berliner Weiss - Wow, this has a typical Berliner nose, but the taste is all sorts of great. Really tight lactic sourness, puckering really, and it's great. Also had some dosed with cinnamon & vanilla bean syrup that just puts this miles ahead. Super flavorful. B+ (regular) and A- (with syrup)

Trendler - 5.5% ABV alt bier - Very interesting and different, Jean is branching out here, malt forward but not heavy at all... B+

Praise Bee - 9% 2X honey IBA - Zombie rides again... Sorta! Doesn't quite live up to zombie levels, but it's really good, nice hop character, well matched dark malts, excellent. A-

Circumambulation - 7.2% biere de garde - Fermented with kolsch yeast and lagered three weeks, this is a subtle beer, super creamy head, not a typical TH feel, but still very good, lots of muted flavors, complex but not overwhelming... B

Bucolic Overlord

Bucolic Overlord - 8% DIPA - Brewed with oats, Citra, Columbus, and Simcoe hops. Great stuff, dank and resinous, with floral and citrus notes rounding it out. Superb! A

VOID ego VOID - 9.8% ABV blended imperial stout - Partially barrel aged in Tuthilltown rye whiskey barrels for 7 months... Not a lot of barrel character, roasty up front, sweet towards the finish with a nice hit of vanilla. Not as thick or heavy as you'd expect, but it still has admirable heft. I really enjoyed this! A-

Principal Eel - 6% sour farmhouse IPA - Well this is unusual, better than the last sour IPA I had from TH last year, but something about the strong hop and sour combo doesn't completely work for me... B

All-O-Gistics - 5.9% Experimental IPA - Experimental hop #05256 - Whoa carbonation! Not that I'm complaining, but this is more carbonated than your typical Tired Hands beer. Great juicy hop nose, citrus, pine, and grass. Maybe something like green onion. Taste is more piney and it's got a sharp bitterness. Definitely not your typical Tired Hands IPA, but still great. A-

Can't Keep Up - 6.2% Spontaneous Saison - Fermented in old Tuthilltown rye barrels that had previously been used to make some apple cider (by frequent TH collaborator, Tom Culton), only 10 gallons produced. Amazing, nice oak character, sharp but very pleasant sourness, almost vinous tart fruit, really great. I love this! A

And that just about covers it. If you're local and heading over to the next release on Sunday, let me know!

After ruining my last batch of beer with an overly ambitious yeast harvesting scheme, I've returned to a recipe that has worked in the past, and will no doubt work well again. Of course, I'm tweaking the recipe considerably, as I'm wont to do, but the basics are pretty well the same. As with last year, I'm brewing this batch of beer for a specific event in mid-March. It's called Fat Weekend, a annual gathering of portly friends from all over the northeast (and some points west). To be sure, we're not that fat, but as we like to say, fat is a frame of mind, and our caloric intake over the course of the weekend is easily 5-10 times our normal rate. Last year, we housed about half a case of my beer pretty quickly, so this year will be a full batch (as opposed to the 2.5 gallon batches I've been making). And again, there are some tweaks to the recipe and it is scaled up to a 5 gallon recipe, though I think it's pretty similar:

Beer #14: Fat Weekend IPA
Full-Batch (5 gallons)
February 8, 2014

1 lb. CaraPils (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)
6 lb. Muntons Light DME
12 oz. Turbinado Sugar
1.5 oz. Simcoe (bittering @12.7 AA)
0.5 oz. Simcoe (flavor)
1 oz. Amarillo (flavor)
2 oz. Amarillo (aroma)
1 oz. Amarillo (dry hop)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 1272 - American Ale II Yeast

Fat Weekend IPA Ingredients

This was perhaps a bigger change than I let on. Gone is the Vienna malt, and I only really scaled up the CaraPils (for body). The Crystal 20 remains the same, and the Turbinado sugar was only partially scaled up. Hop wise, I went with a Simcoe/Amarillo blend, with Simcoe providing the bulk of bittering (and just a a bit of flavor) and Amarillo pulling duty on flavor, aroma, and dry hops. And just to switch things up a bit, I went with the American Ale II yeast, which seems to be a clean yeast that will still provide a little citrus boost to the hops (so I hope). Furthermore, I'm planning to keg this batch and transport the results in growlers.

So it might be a bit disingenuous to give this the same name as last year's Fat Weekend IPA, but hey, I'm working on it. From a recipe standpoint, I'm thinking this is just about where I want to be. Last year, I really wanted to use this Simcoe/Amarillo hop schedule, but was stymied by a lack of Amarillo and fell back on Falconer's Flight and Citra to make up for the difference. The only real change I could see myself making next year is if the Conan yeast becomes more widely available (whether that be ECY 29 (Northeast Ale) or something else), but I'm definitely curious about this American Ale II yeast (from the descriptions I've read, it seems to have similar properties, though it's clearly not the same yeast).

And this is a first, I forgot to take an OG reading. What can I say, I've been fighting a cold and hadn't quite gotten over it on Saturday. The recipe should have yielded something in the 1.067 range, and given my previous experience, I probably hit something around there. I'm pretty confident that after two weeks we'll be in good shape (somewhere around 7.1% ABV).

Next up on the schedule is some sort of barleywine, which I'd like to give a bourbon soaked oak treatment to (or perhaps I'll go with something more exotic, like Port wine soaked oak, we shall see), then do the whole straight, oaked, and blend of straight and oaked versions. From what I've had of Bomb & Grapnel, the blend seems to be doing the best, so maybe I'll lean more heavily on that... After the barleywine, something light and crushable for summertime consumption (either a 4% pale ale, or a light saison). Then I plan to do something similar to Red Heady again in the fall, hopefully not screwing it up that time. After that, who knows? Maybe a redux of my Christmas Ale (a spiced winter warmer) or another batch of Bomb & Grapnel (with some slight tweaks). But now I'm getting way ahead of myself.

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Dark Hollow

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This is a beer that's been on my radar for a while now, and I finally pulled the trigger. My interest primarily originated from the name of the semi-local (let's call it regional) Virginia brewery, which is Blue Mountain Barrel House. What can I say, I've got a one track mind when it comes to barrel aged beers, and this place sounds like they'd do that sort of thing. Indeed, brewmaster Taylor Smack (perhaps the second best brewer name in the business, just behind Wayne Wambles of Cigar City fame) cut his teeth working at the Goose Island brewpubs in Chicago. You know, the folks that do Bourbon County Brand Stout? As barrels go, they source from four of the big guys (Makers Mark, Four Roses Yellow Label, Wild Turkey, and Elijah Craig), which represents a nice cross section of the market. So that's a good pedigree, though it also sets the bar pretty high (to be sure, I didn't know this before I drank). Fortunately, this was pretty good stuff:

Dark Hollow

Blue Mountain Barrel House Dark Hollow - Pours a black color with half a finger of quickly disappearing tan head. Smells strongly of bourbon, with some oak, vanilla, cocoa, and caramel pitching in and just a hint of roast and chocolate. Taste is also bourbon forward, very sweet, with a more prominent roasted malt character pitching in the middle, cocoa, but that's all overtaken by the bourbon, with some caramel, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy. A little booze makes itself known, but nothing unpleasant. Overall, this is a solid bourbon barrel stout, but not quite BCBS levels. Perhaps an unfair comparison, as Dark Hollow is doing its own thing and it's definitely something I'll hit up again at some point. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 2/8/14.

Certainly a brewery I'd like to sample more of, including a beer called Local Species, which is a Belgian pale ale made from the second runnings of Dark Hollow mash (and also aged in Bourbon Barrels). Color me interested.

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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: That's what I figured after the last release (which was read more
  • rich.on.beer: Also, freaking Lansdale is only kind of sort of a read more
  • rich.on.beer: I wouldn't expect a Philly release of bottles this time. read more
  • Mark: Yeah, that's a big leap in ABV, but it's still read more
  • beerbecue: Nice. I was shocked when I saw the ABV. It's read more
  • Mark: I shouldn't complain, as I suspect my homebrewed barleywine will read more
  • rich.on.beer: Carbonation issues are pretty common with Hair of the Dog. read more
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