As mentioned earlier this week, I've attempted to harvest some yeast from old cans of Heady Topper. It seemed to work, though I'm not sure how much I was actually able to grow the yeast. It seemed pretty lethargic to start, it took a few days to seemingly do anything, and while I could see the yeast had grown, I'm still not entirely sure there was enough to be viable for a full batch. I guess there's only one way to find out, eh? I've been toying with this recipe for a hoppy red ale for a while now, and I'm pretty excited to try it out. It's also a batch that doesn't require lengthy secondary treatments (like the RIS or Brett Saison), so this may be ready by Christmas (red ale for Christmas? Sounds good to me), though I'm pushing it a bit close for that. Anywho, let's get this party started:

Brew #13 - Red Heady
December 7, 2013

0.5 lb. Crystal 60 (specialty grain)
2 oz. Roasted Malt (specialty grain)
3 lb. Briess Golden Light DME
3.3 lb. Amber LME
1 lb. Turbinado Sugar
1 oz. Simcoe hops (bittering @ 12.7% AA)
0.5 oz. Citra hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Mosaic hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Citra hops (aroma)
0.5 oz. Mosaic hops (aroma)
1 oz. Citra hops (dry)
1 tsp Bitter Orange Peel
1 tsp Irish Moss
Heady Topper "Conan" yeast

Red Heady Ingredients

Nothing particularly fancy going on here. Very simple specialty grains for steeping, partly because I just went for the Amber extract (I suppose I could have stuck with all light DME and incorporated the Amber malt directly, but this was easier). The Turbinado sugar is pretty large, I guess, but I should get enough body from the Amber extract and Crystal 60, so that should be fine.

I'd originally planned for a Simcoe and Amarillo hop mix, but apparently Amarillo hasn't made its way to my homebrew shop yet, so I fell back on Citra and Mosaic. Citra has been growing on me of late, and Mosaic is relatively new (released in 2012). Mosaic is apparently the daughter of Simcoe, and it has Simcoe-like properties, but also apparently a wider range of tropical fruit aromas. I'm sure this will turn out fine.

Original Gravity: 1.065 (about 15.8°Bx). This is just about on target, and should yield something around 7% ABV if all goes well. I am a little worried about the yeast though, so I bought a packet of Wyeast 1056 in case things don't go so well with the harvested Heady yeast. Fingers crossed for a strong ferment!

Up next on the homebrew front is the RIS bottling (hopefully next weekend), and then I'm not sure! I definitely want to do a Barleywine in the same way I'm doing the RIS (split batches, with one bourbon oaked, etc...) And Fat Weekend IPA is also on the schedule. I'm starting to accumulate a bunch of unused ingredients, stuff that's just laying around. Maybe I'll make something called "Clusterfuck Ale" with whatever I have laying around. I definitely want to make an easy-drinking sessionable pale ale for the summer (around 4% ABV). After that, who knows? I may tweak the saison recipe to get more Brett exposure, maybe incorporate some oak into that too. So many ideas, so little time (and only so much liver).

Hill Farmstead Vera Mae

| No Comments

The spoils of Operation Cheddar are starting to dwindle a bit these days. This hard fought acquisition was one of my most prized, and while I've had many Hill Farmstead brews, this is my first actual bottle of the stuff. It's part of their Ancestral series, named after members of their apparently very large family (Vera Mae was one of 14 siblings, which means that Shaun Hill certainly has a lot of source material for his Ancestral series). This one is a saison brewed with Vermont spelt (which I'll guess is some form of wheat), wildflower honey, and Dandelion flowers from the Hill Farmstead itself. I could not think of finer beer to crack open in preparation for Thanksgiving:

Hill Farmstead Vera Mae

Hill Farmstead Vera Mae - Pours a slightly hazy straw yellow color with tons of head and decent retention. Smells very earthy and floral, maybe grassy, herbal too, and that Hill Farmstead farmhouse yeast is asserting itself too; it's a very unique nose, actually. It's hard to place a lot of these aromas (the label sez honey is involved, and perhaps the power of suggestion is leading me to pick that out?) Very nice, too... Taste has a nice fuity tartness to it, with all those hard-to-place notes from the nose also making themselves known, but not quite as prominently in the taste. There's a bready, not quite spicy yeast character pitching in too, and it matches really well with all those flowery, grassy notes. Mouthfeel is lower medium bodied with huge carbonation. Relatively dry up front and in the middle, but that juicy tartness hands around in the finish. Not really acidic at all, but crisp, dry, and refreshing. Overall, this is a really unique (even for a saison), super complex beer, and it's really delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of my Tired Hands flute glass on 11/27/13. Bottled 07 2013. Batch 2?

Only two beers left from Operation Cheddar, one a Grassroots saison with Brett, and the final being a Bruery beer I got at Hill Farmstead (it's not something I've seen in the Philly area). Do you know what this means? Yes, I'll need to find another excuse to make the 7-10 hour trek back to Vermont. I'm not holding my breath, but it'll be fun when it happens.

Adventures in Brewing - Updates

| 2 Comments

Homebrewing is not a hobby for the impatient, especially when you get a taste for stuff like funky saisons or oak aged beers. My last couple batches have been such beers, so it feels like I haven't gotten much done lately, though in about a month's time, I'll (hopefully) be awash in more homebrew than I know what to do with. I don't know how curious you are about this stuff, but updates on three batches of beer (two already mentioned, one upcoming) are below. Apologies if this isn't your bag, but hey, there's some pretty pictures you can look at too.

First up, Kaedrôme Saison, brewed wayyy back in June, I split the 5 gallon batch into two. Half was bottled in July, the other half was put into secondary and dosed with Brettanomyces, crossing the Rubicon of Funk. The first half, a "regular" saison, is drinking rather well at this point, though I'm running a little low on supply. I brought a bomber to Thanksgiving, and the relatively high carbonation and dry palate were perfect matches for the hearty meal. That second half had been slumbering in secondary for about 4 months, after which I figured it was finally time to bottle it.

Kaedrome Saison, post-secondary

Final Gravity came in at 1.003 (6.2bx), which was a nice decrease from the 1.007 of the "regular" saison. Tasting the uncarbonated stuff, it seemed relatively light on Brett funk, but very dry (as you might expect from gravity readings like that). I was a little worried about bottling this after 4 months in secondary. Would the yeast be up to carbonating this after so long? It turns out that my fears were unfounded. I bottled on 11/16/13, and cracked open a test bottle (that wasn't quite a full fill) on 11/27/13. It wasn't perfect, but it had carbonated a bit, and was very drinkable. Again, it's a little light on the funk for now, but we'll see how it conditions in the bottle. I plan on bringing this to beer club next week, so we'll see how it's doing then.

Now I just need to freak out about all the equipment that touched the Brett. I'm sure I cleaned it all well enough, but it could be a bit nerve wracking because everyone says that Brett is so hardy that it will find a way to survive, like those dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Life finds a way. You can't see me as I write this, but I'm Goldbluming right now. It's sad. Anyway, I've ordered up some new tubing and other fittings, so we should be all good. And the old tubing/fittings will be used the next time I feel like making a funky beer (which will probably be sooner rather than later).

Next, that Russian Imperial Stout that I brewed a few weeks ago! I checked the gravity on 11/16/13, about two weeks after brew day, and it was still at 1.034, which was much higher than expected (especially after that super vigorous fermentation over the first few days). I decided to give it another week in primary, and opted to bottle Kaedrôme that day...

On 11/23/13, I transfered to secondary fermenters. Final Gravity was 1.031 (14.1 bx), which is still excessively high, but I figure giving this another three weeks in secondary would bring that down to something manageable. I'm guessing it won't get down to 1.023, but if I can get it to drop a few points, I'll be pretty happy with it. As mentioned in the original post, I split the batch into two secondaries, one straight up, the other with bourbon soaked oak cubes. The plan is to eventually bottle some of each, then bottle a blend of the two, yielding 3 total variants. I'm super excited to see how these turn out, but I'm guessing it will need to condition in the bottle for quite some time.

I used Medium Toast American Oak, and soaked it for two weeks in Evan Williams 2003 Single Barrel Bourbon. I boiled the oak for a few minutes up front to sanitize and get rid of some of the harsher tannins, then put them in a mason jar with bourbon. Here's a pic of when I first put the oak in the bourbon:

Oak soaking in Bourbon

And below is a pic after a few days. Note how much darker the bourbon got. The comparison isn't super fair because of the cap on the mason jar and the fact that some of the oak was sinking as it got saturated with bourbon (both of which are blocking some of the light and making it seem darker), but even when I hold it up to the light, it's noticeably darker. That medium toast is doing its thing, I guess.

Bourbon and Oak, after a few days

This is shaping up to be my most interesting batch to date. Can't wait to see how it turns out, and I'm really hoping for great things. Bourbon Barrel Stouts have become a true favorite of mine, so being able to produce something like that myself will be great.

Finally, another mad scientist experiment. I had some cans of Heady Topper left over from Operation Cheddar. Heady is, of course, a damn near perfect DIPA, and while I'm sure their hop charges, sourcing, and selection are superb, I think the thing that really separates Heady from the rest of the world is its yeast strain, the fabled "Conan" yeast that supposedly emphasizes the juicy citrus flavors in the hops. For some ungodly reason, neither Wyeast nor White Labs have cultured this yet (and they don't have anything comparable*), so I thought I'd harvest the yeast dregs from a couple cans of the stuff and see if I could whip it into shape.

Yeast Harvesting Goodness

I was a little worried at first, as I saw no signs of activity for at least three days. But before I could properly despair, I started to see some bubbles (it turns out that this delayed start is common amongst those of us nerds who have tried harvesting Heady yeast). Soon, I could see that the yeast had grown, and the fermentation was visible. Score. I'm going to crash it tonight and give it just a teensy bit of extra wort tomorrow night to get it into shape for brew day on Saturday. I'm planning on making a hoppy red beer (planning on Simcoe and Amarillo as the hops, but we'll see what my local shop has in stock). Wish me luck.

So it's going to be an interesting few months. If this Conan yeast thing works out, I'll try using it for the annual Fat Weekend IPA as well. And if the oaked RIS works, I might whip up a barleywine this winter and do the same thing...

* East Coast Yeast makes a Northeast Ale (ECY29) that is rumored to be based on Conan, but it's hard to come by...

(Cross posted at Kaedrin Weblog)

La Cabra Brewing is one of several local "breweries-in-planning" that have been cultivating a grassroots following before they've even opened. Located in Malvern, PA, brewer Dan Popernack has been busy crafting his lineup of beers and readying his brewery for the big time. Since the brewery isn't official yet, Popernack can't sell his beer just yet. Nevertheless, he maintains a small email list that he notifies whenever he has a beer available, and folks go and pick up samples of his beer. His operation seems to be picking up steam as of late, with a profile in a recent Joe Sixpack article as well as reviews on RateBeer and other social media. I had the good fortune to try Brettophile and Peter recently and was so impressed that I thought it would be interesting to pick Dan's brain in an interview. So I sent over a few questions and Dan graciously sent back his responses, which are reproduced below. Cheers!

Kaedrin: La Cabra hasn't even opened its doors yet, but it's already established a good reputation via word of mouth and various social media, like RateBeer.com and Untappd. Why do you think La Cabra has struck such a nerve?

Dan: I always let the beer do the talking and I only put out products that I'm proud of. There are a lot of small guys making great beer but I've let my more exotic beers be my calling card. I would also be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to my art guy...Matt Flail (www.misterflail.com) is an incredible local artist and his eye-catching, unique and downright sexy art helps people remember the brand. Between the liquid and the optics, people who try La Cabra know that a great deal of thought and care goes into our beer.

Kaedrin: Did the mailing list emerge organically, or was it a deliberate attempt to get feedback and publicity? Has the Joe Sixpack article lead to tons of new requests for inclusion (like, uh, mine)?

Dan: I've been inundated with requests since the Joe Sixpack article and welcome the new faces (like, uh, yours.) My mailing list has always been a way to share my work with as many people as possible in the hopes that they will keep tabs on what I'm up to. As I start to turn my eyes towards opening a spot, I hope that these folks will consider getting involved whether as investors, supporters, rah-rah people, or just come in and enjoy a beer.

Kaedrin: What's the one La Cabra beer that you feel will put your brewery on the map, and why?

Dan: I believe that a brewery has to be careful in balancing being "on the map" for certain beers and creating a solid portfolio that people can consistently get their hands on when they want it. The breweries that I tend to appreciate and model my thinking after may not always make the most mind-blowing, super-exclusive beer. But you do know that anything they put their name on will be enjoyable, solid, and carefully made. That being said, I believe that Brettophile will always be a special beer for me and will continue to serve a core purpose for the brewery. Even on an operational level, Brettophile serves as an inoculate beer for all of my barrels so it establishes my "brewery taste" even before being bottled and sent out on its own.

Kaedrin: Are you planning on having a regular lineup with the occasional special release, or will you be focusing on one-off brews? Will you have a "flagship" beer that's always available while those funky sours sleep in their barrels?

Dan: Because I would like to....umm..make money...I will always offer a range of accessible beers for everyday drinking (which I wholeheartedly endorse.) I tend towards saisons and small beers but also brew American Pales and IPAs. Cassiopeia (amber Kolsch) and Castor and Pollux (small saison with lavender and orange blossom honey) are the kinds of things that I like to drink while I'm waiting for those "funky sours [to] sleep in their barrels." My Belgian pale (Delphi) and APA (Leon) will always be on tap.

Kaedrin: Brettophile and Peter are both fantastic, can you tell us a little more about both of these? What yeasts were used, how long were their stays in barrels, that sort of thing...

Dan: Both are aged between 6-8 months in American oak. I use fresh charred barrels so that I know exactly what microbes, yeasties, etc. are in there. Brettophile is a very basic Belgian strong recipe with a little maltodextrin (sometimes) and wheat, fermented in stainless steel then aged in oak with my blend of Brettanomyces. Peter is a Belgian brown with rye fermented with two different Belgian strains then aged in barrels with a mix of Brett., Pedio., and Lacto. I don't usually pitch fresh Pedio and Lacto since the barrels already have a good microflora. The trick is creating a good barrel then feeding it good beer. And waiting.

La Cabra Peter
La Cabra Peter is excellent!

Kaedrin: Your barrel aged brews seem to favor the the wild and sour side. Do you have any plans to do less funky barrel aging, like a Bourbon barrel treatment?

Dan: For a guy who drinks as much beer as I do, I've never really enjoyed the taste of alcohol. I've had mixed results (to my taste) with port barrels on a project with a local brewery and think that my beers don't play well with booze. However, once I have a good library of sour barrels built up, I would most definitely be interested in putting some RIS in a barrel to mix things up. My wood budget is all spent up on fresh barrels...but I have been looking at Dad's Hat Rye barrels recently...

Kaedrin: What's the story behind the name "La Cabra"? Obviously goats are involved, but in what capacity?

Dan: I teach Spanish full time and so my names and brand always have a little Latin-persuasion. I've always liked goats' attitude. At the risk of anthropomorphism, I've always felt like they are independent, rugged, and endearingly crazy. My undergrad and graduate degrees are in English so I've always kept a mental log of mentions of goats in literature, art, etc. I can decidedly say that they are almost universally associated with a good time. In all the most wholesome ways, of course.

Kaedrin: Establishing a new brewery from the ground up is a huge undertaking - about where are you in the process, and how long until La Cabra can officially start selling its wares?

Dan: I'm not putting out a date yet as I have a lot of moves to make before then. However, I have spent the last 10ish years planning this endeavor and picking the brains of some very enlightened beer folks. I've learned where my priorities need to rest in order to be financially successful and also learned some of the pitfalls that brewers succumb to. It's an excellent, brick and mortar industry full of innovative, collegial, and good-hearted people. I'm not rushing in at the peril of my brewery but I will be ready when the opportunity presents itself.

Kaedrin: You describe La Cabra as a nanobrewery in the planning. Are you looking to remain small, or do you have grander expansion plans? In other words, what's your dream brewery?

Dan: At the moment, my concept is moving towards a brewpub. I would like to pair my beers with simply prepared, earthy pan-Latin food in a non-pretentious, accessible environment. One of La Cabra's core principles is that beer and food should be seasonal, occasional, and always enjoyed with friends. Customers can always expect novel, rotating offerings (in beer and food) but know that we'll offer a consistent and comfortable experience. I have a few "brand specific" tricks up my sleeve to make La Cabra Brewing a truly unique beer destination but would prefer to roll those out on opening day.

A long term goal is to expand to a production scale and send sour beer back to California and Belgium. But first I intend to support the local beer scene and offer patrons an experience that they'd be proud to have in their community.

Kaedrin: Finally, what are the non-La-Cabra beers that that have given you inspiration? Are there any new local breweries that you're excited about, or old favorites that still have that magic?

Dan: I really need to make it to Michigan on a beer trip. Among the breweries that have made it a great beer state, Founders and Jolly Pumpkin encompass the blend of consistency, innovation, and no-nonsense beer that La Cabra will always offer.

On a local front, Forest and Main stands out as a great idea of what the La Cabra brewpub will "feel" like. I love the warm, quietly charming vibe there. The beer is always awesome, the food always tasty, and the staff is always welcoming. Great place that I love visiting with friends.

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Old Fitzgerald

| No Comments

To state the blatantly obvious, I'm a beer guy. But I don't exclusively drink beer. After the Scotch de Silly debacle last week, I poured myself a glass of Port wine. I know very little about wine, but I enjoy a glass on occasion and could see myself exploring that world with the same enthusiasm as I have for beer (someday, but not today). And I will often start a night with a couple beers, but finish with a dram of scotch or, lately, bourbon.

Even if you're only into beer, I think you'll recognize that Pappy Van Winkle seems to have the reputation of "best Bourbon in the world", as evidenced by the "ermegerd Pappy" reactions surrounding beers aged in old PVW barrels (you can see some nerding out over PVW and barrel selection in the comments section of my Buffalo Trace BBVD review). But if you think the insanity around PVW barrel aged beers is excessive, just try to find youself an actual bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Since it's got that reputation as the "best", everyone who wants to get into whisky (and apparently everyone does these days) tries to get themselves a bottle. Most liquor stores have waitlists with thousands of names on them, but they only get allocated a handful of bottles a year. Auctions, raffles, secret handshakes, these are tough bottles to land.

So why am I babbling about Pappy when this beer was aged in Old Fitzgerald barrels? Well, it turns out that Old Fitz was the original Pappy. For years, Old Fitzgerald was made at the now-defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery, which just happened to be where Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle toiled away at the art of Bourbon (legend has it that the distillery sported a sign that said "No Chemists Allowed"). If you ever find a bottle of 1970s era Old Fitzgerald, well, you've struck gold. Of course, that distillery is closed now, the Van Winkle family kept their own brand, and the Old Fitzgerald label was sold to Heaven Hill.

So far, I've loved all of FiftyFifty's Eclipse stouts, each variant aged in barrels from different expressions of whisky. This marks the fourth variant I've had, and while they're all uniformly excellent, there are some big differences between the variants. My two favorites, the Rittenhouse Rye and Elijah Craig 12 variants, are very different. The EC12 retained a lot of stoutlike character and roast, while the RR went the super rich direction, huge caramel and vanilla barrel character. Evan Williams came somewhere between the two, but perhaps leaning more towards the EC12 in terms of its flavor profile. And now we have Old Fitz, which isn't at the extreme of the RR, but leans that way. Let's take a closer look:

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Old Fitzgerald

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Old Fitzgerald - Pours a deep dark black color with half a finger of tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, vanilla, and caramel, quite nice. Taste is filled with rich caramel, with that bourbon, oak, and vanilla powering through the middle, with a bit of roast emerging towards the finish (not as much as Elijah Craig or Evan Willaims, but more than Rittenhouse Rye). Mouthfeel is a little less carbonated than I remember from the other variants, but we've otherwise got the same profile. Full bodied and rich, it's not a monster, but a well balanced sipper. Overall, another fantastic entry in the series. I cannot wait to crack into some 2013 variants, assuming I can get ahold of them! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. blue wax). Drank out of a snifter on 11/23/13. Bottle No. BR 3. 2012 Vintage.

So one caveat to my comparative results is that I never had any of these side by side. If my local beermonger gets more of these this year (including, ermegerd, a Pappy variant), I'll try to put together a comparative tasting or something. My wallet won't appreciate it (these are pricey beers), but I think it would be a lot of fun.

Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly

| 4 Comments

Oh boy, I've been down this road before. I can't stand even the slightest hint of diacetyl in my beer. That buttery/butterscotch flavor that seems to be a common component in a lot of English pale ales just kills a beer for me. I've been over this before, so I won't belabor the point, but this was a Scotch Ale made in Belgium, then aged in Port barrels, what could go wrong? Diacetyl, apparently.

Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly

Brasserie de Silly Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly - Pours a deep, dark amber brown color with a finger of whitish head. Smells sweet, lots of vinous fruit (presumably from the port), but uh oh, is that diacetyl I'm picking up here? Taste starts off well enough, nice rich malt backbone, some fruit, a vinous note from the port, maybe a hint of oak, but also that slight diacetyl note that I just can never stand in beer. And it lasts through the finish, too. It's not super prominent, but it's really dragging this beer down for me. Mouthfeel starts out great, full bodied and rich, but it thins out a bit towards the finish. Overall, dammit, this is an otherwise excellent beer, but I will brook no diacetyl. Would still prefer this to most crappy macro beers, but it's a big disappointment. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/22/13. Vintage: 2013.

I really enjoy a glass of Porto from time to time, so it's depressing that every time I try a Port barrel aged beer, it turns out like this. One day, I'll get one that works. One day.

Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy

| 2 Comments

I'm sure it's blindingly obvious that I love me some barrel aged beers. And while I've dabbled with beers aged in exotic spirits barrels like Tequila or Rum (not to mention sours, can't forget those), Bourbon barrels are clearly where it's at. But you can't just dump your beer into a barrel and expect it to come out perfect. There are some clear misfires out there (that aren't that bad, per say, but pale in comparison to the best stuff...) I think that FiftyFifty's Eclipse beers have shown us that the type of Bourbon in question is also a factor.

Indeed, there's a million factors to consider here. What condition is the barrel in? How long did the barrel have Bourbon in it? How long will the beer be in the barrel? What's that base beer like? What's the environment (i.e. temperature, humidity) for the barrel? And so on. Clearly those barrel masters have their work cut out for them.

Whoever is running Voodoo's barrel room has certainly made a pretty good name for themselves. Black Magick aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels is an amazing beer (and I'm not alone in that assessment). The recently released (and sadly not secured by any Kaedrin operatives) K13 Barleywine is tearing up the trading forums too. So maybe my expectations were a little too high for this beer, which is Big Black Voodoo Daddy aged in Buffalo Trace barrels. It's not bad at all, but it sadly doesn't quite live up to the example of the Black Magick beers. Or, you know, maybe this barrel aging stuff isn't as exact a science as we'd like to think...

Voodoo Brewing Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a deep, dark, viscous looking black color with a minimal cap of light brown head that quickly resolves down to a ring around the glass. Smells of burnt caramel, vanilla, oak, and a heaping helping of bourbon. Taste has more roast than the nose would have you believe, less caramel too, along the lines of the regular BBVD, though the bourbon, oak, and vanilla are clearly there. Mouthfeel is thinner than expected, though still full bodied, not quite as rich and chewy as I was expecting. None of this is bad, I was just expecting something slightly different. Indeed, the more I drink, the more this grows on me, and in the end, I'm really enjoying it. Overall, it's a very good beer, better than the base (even though, d'oh, I graded the base beer the same - stupid ratings inflation). Perhaps not quite the amazing brew that Black Magick was, but still very good! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. blue waxed bomber) Drank out of a snifter on 11/16/13. Bottle #: 000096. Bottled Nov 27, 2012.

I've been doing this blog long enough that my grades have started to suffer from some form of inflation. I guess they can't all be A level beers, eh (but looking at the grade archives, maybe the can all be B+ level? - ed Quiet you!) I do have the other two BBVD variants, one aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels (which legend fortells will part the skies and bring forth an angelic choir whilst you drink) and one aged in Lairds Apple Brandy barrels (which certainly worked well for Grand Met), so perhaps this one is just the odd man out.

Yards Olde Bartholomew

| 2 Comments

I tried to find out who this "Old Bart" really was, but the only thing I could find was that he was "a free spirit who bent elbows with the best of 'em", which is pretty cool, to be sure, but not quite informative enough. There feels like a story here, and one that is not related to Saint Bartholemew (who has his own fair share of wacky stories). Nevertheless, what we've got here is a by-the-books English barleywine:

Yards Olde Bartholomew

Yards Olde Bartholomew - Pours a very striking, clear orange amber color with a finger of white head that leaves a bit of lacing as I drink (the clarity is surprising since the older blurbs about this beer indicate that it's unfiltered, but this is so clear that this fact must have changed when the switched their bottling line to 750s). The aroma feels very English, lots of Euro hops, earthy, herbal, very spicy hops, with some malt sweetness peeking out too. Taste is very sweet, with those earthy, herbal, spicy hops providing the bulk of flavor, and some malt character peeking through with a clear bit of booze lasting through the finish too. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, smooth, heavy, a bit boozy. Overall, this is a solid beer, but it's a bit simplistic for a a big, full 750. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.3% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 11/15/13.

Yards continues to be one of the local breweries I take for granted, but they do put out a fair amount of interesting stuff, so stay tuned. Maybe I'll luck into a Barrel Aged version of this, which I feel could be a big improvement...

Three Floyds Moloko

| No Comments

In the Anglo-Russian slang of A Clockwork Orange, the word "Moloko" means milk, hence Three Floyds brewing a milk stout and slapping a Clockwork Orange-inspired label, right down to the swelled up font and the suspenders. It's my favorite of Three Floyds' labels, gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh, but as always, it's what's inside the bottle that counts.

In the book and movie, the drink is actually called a Moloko Plus, which is milk plus drugs. Alex and friends go to "milk bars" to drink up and prepare for a little ultra-violence. Sometimes Three Floyds' beer is also referred to as Moloko Plus, which is mildly disturbing, but my bottle sez nothing of this "Plus" and I didn't get anything more than a little buzzed from drinking it. As far as I'm aware, at least. So gather round, my droogs, it's time to head to the milk bar for the ol' in out (er, um, ok, maybe that metaphor doesn't exactly fit here. Heh, I said "fit". Ok, let's just drink this stuff.)

Three Floyds Moloko

Three Floyds Moloko - Pours a deep, dark brown color, almost black, with a finger of light brown head. Smells sweet, definitely got that milk stout character down pat, light on the coffee, chocolate, and roast, but those components are there. Taste is very sweet, some coffee and chocolate, very light on the roast, lots of lactose sweetness though. Mouthfeel is very smooth, well carbonated, full bodied but not as overbearing as it could have been (not as chewy as I expected, and this is a good thing), probably the best part about this brew, actually. Really easy drinking despite the sweetness. Overall, what we've got here is an above average milk stout. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 11/9/13.

Another solid brew from Three Floyds, and unfortunately, the last of the booty from my Chicago trade (never fear, we're planning a winter trade for some barrel aged Revolution, which is exciting).

November Beer Club

| 2 Comments

Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded friends from work who get together every month at a local BYOB for libations and fun. This month, we hit up a local BBQ joint, which is always nice. Got me some smoked Chorizo, Brisket, and some fixins which made for a great accompaniment to all the beer. And there was a lot of it this time around. The picture is actually missing a bunch of bottles because we did not account for people showing up later with their own stuff.

beerclub-november13.jpg
(Click for larger version)

So yeah, lots of stuff this month, so these notes are almost certainly useless, but for the sake of posterity, I'm including them anyway. Because I'm a good person, that's why. Yeah, let's get to it: in approximate order of drinking (not necessarily pictured):

  • Southern Tier Krampus - An "Imperial Helles" is sorta like a contradiction in terms, but hey, it's an amped up Helles, and it works well enough. Nice uncommon hop character gives an otherwise clean beer the punch it needs. Really quite nice. B+
  • Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold - Bottle wasn't quite a gusher, and we managed to not lose any, but it was hugely carbonated and most of us poured a cup of foam that resolved into more normal beerlike appearance in a minute or two. Once we got to it, it was pretty damn good. Nice Belgian yeast character, wheat is there but not as dominant as you might think (slightly reminiscent of something like St. Bernardus Tokyo). This was one of the first beers we tasted, and I liked it a lot, but we revisited it towards the end of the night and damn, it got almost (not quite) sour. Big fruity esters started showing up when it was warm. Again, not quite sour, but it was going in that direction. All in all, I enjoyed this more than the Ithaca Excelsior Rye beer I had recently... B+
  • Victory Root Beer - Yep, it's a root beer! I'm no expert (hay, there's no alcohol in this!?), but it's really good as root beers go.
  • Sprecher Bootlegger's Bourbon Barrel Hard Root Beer - Not sure I would have pegged this as having anything to do with a bourbon barrel, let alone an alcoholic beverage at all, but perhaps the power of suggestion lead me to believe that there was some bourbon present in the taste. Or something. Ultimately, it drinks like a good root beer, which is nice...
  • Avery White Rascal - A beer I've had before and greatly enjoyed, it doesn't quite fit in with a tasting like this - it is easily overwhelmed by the other brews of the night. Still, I like this as a lawnmower beer on a hot day (alas, it's pretty cold here these days). B
  • River Horse Double Wit - I don't know if it's the 7% ABV or the way this was spiced, but it didn't really connect with me. It's not bad at all, and other folks appreciated the different take on spice and booze level, but it never quite hit me where I wanted it to. B-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Schwarzbier - We need to get on Ken to start entering his beers into untappd or something, because these are getting good. Not my favorite style, but it's a nice dark lager style beer, clean and crisp, lighter than it looks, and quite flavorful. Toasty but not quite full on roast. Me likey. B+
  • Kaedrin Xmas Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel, with a slight dose of cinnamon when I was bottling, is actually drinking really well right now. The regular dubbel has really matured and changed a lot over time, getting more and more raisiny, but this one was more subdued (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'll leave it at B+
  • Lost Abbey Deliverance - One of my other contributions, and a beer I've reviewed before! It's still great. A-
  • Atwater Vanilla Java Porter - While opening this directly after Deliverance was a supremely bad idea, I still get the impression that this would underwhelm. It does have a nice vanilla character, but it's a little thinner than I generally want out of a stout and while I'm not a big fan of coffee, it's nonexistent here. Certainly a drinkable beer and would be welcome change of pace at a macro bar, but it's not something to really seek out. C+
  • Spring House Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout - Can I just point you to a review from a couple weeks ago? No? Well too bad, cause that's what I'm doing. Still a B+ in my book.
  • Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale - The younger, weaker, smaller sibling to Really Old Brown Dog is a rather straightforward brown ale, which naturally has its merits (nice toasted malt and some heft to it) but again, should've probably opened this earlier in the night. Still glad I tried this, just to give context to Really old Brown Dog if not for its regular solid nature. B
  • Saucony Creek Chocolate Cherry Schnickelfritz - An object lesson in things sounding better than they taste, this seems to be a relatively well made imperial milk stout, but it's got this artificial feeling cherry aspect that sorta ruined the beer for me. Not an abomination, but not particularly good either. I guess all the beers I bring can't be winners! C
  • Ommegang Game Of Thrones #2 - Take the Black Stout - These Game of Thrones beers are actually pretty solid introductions to the whole Belgian beer world, and they work well enough for beer dorks too (a neat trick, appealing to the jaded hardcore and mainstream alike). I actually would call this more of a roasty Belgian Strong Dark rather than a full on stout, but to each their own. It's got a nice Belgian yeast character, spice and light fruit, with a hint of that roasted malt too, but the carbonation (and presumably attenuation) cuts through more than your typical stout. Still, it's very good, if not my favorite Ommegang beer. B+
  • River Horse Special Ale - No idea why this was opened so late in the night, but it's such a profoundly average beer that I doubt it would have made that much of an impression earlier in the night. There's absolutely nothing wrong wit it, and it's certainly a step up from fizzy yellow stuff light lagers, but its not really something to get excited about. C+
  • Victory Harvest Ale - I totally fell in love with Victory's Harvest Ale last year (and while I'm not a big Pils guy, the Harvest Pils was pretty good too), but this year's take fell completely flat to me. Not bad, per say, but something about this is rubbing me the wrong way. Perhaps it was a different hop variety, perhaps they used their Kolsch yeast instead of their normally clean IPA yeast, but whatever the case, it didn't inspire like last years. Again, it's pretty good, but it's disappointing. And I had this a couple weeks ago straight from the source too, so it's not just palate fatigue talking here! B
Yikes, that was a lot of beers. Luckily there were a lot of people in attendance, so my tastes were limited on most of these (yet another reason to take my notes with a grain of salt), but this was a really fun installment. Here's to hoping the December one will be just as great!

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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: I think the intensity was less to do with the read more
  • beerbecue: Nice finds. The only strawberry sour I've have is Hanssens read more
  • Mark: Well then, I'll have to keep my eye open for read more
  • Mark: Ahh, good to know about the caffeine, I just did read more
  • phagan55: Yeah, white and green usually have about half the caffeine read more
  • phagan55: Free tastings are the way to go, you can try read more
  • Mark: I need to try some of these with milk/sugar additions read more
  • Mark: I should try that next time. But again, I find read more
  • Mark: Yeah, I just don't drink Scotch often enough to really read more
  • Mark: For a while, I had both the Ardbeg 10 and read more