The Icon Series is Texas brewer Saint Arnold's experimental line, a chance to try one off beers unlike the normal stuff they make. This particular entry in that series is difficult to pin down. The beer itself says its a saison, and Ratebeer agrees. Beer Advocate calls it a Bière de Garde, which isn't entirely inaccurate (it is a more malt-forward take on a farmhouse ale). The label itself sez it combines "the richness of a winter ale" with a saison yeast, which is probably the best description yet. Personally, I found myself thinking "Dubbel" whilst imbibing, though that's not entirely correct either. I'll just settle on dark saison because it's not like this sort of style dysphoria hasn't struck before. And I kinda love that about saisons.

Saint Arnold Icon Series: Bière De Saison

Saint Arnold Icon Series: Bière De Saison - Pours a cloudy dark amber color with nice highlights at the edge of the glass, visible sediment, and a finger of head. Not your typical saison appearance, but then, it's also not that unusual. The nose is all Belgian yeast, leaning more towards the fruity banana esters than the spicy clove phenols. The taste has an ample malt presence, dark candi sugar, lots of that fruity Belgian yeast and some spice too. As it warms, the spice comes through more. It smells and tastes more akin to a dubbel or quadrupel than a saison (or a Bière De Garde), though it's not quite in full bore Belgian strong dark territory either. It's an interesting middle-ground this beer has discovered. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, a little spicy, and just a hint of sticky booze. Overall, this is a really nice malt and yeast forward Belgian beer, somewhere between a strong saison and a dubbel. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/16/14.

So I've had 3 Saint Arnold beers, each of which rated a B+ in my book, which is enough to make me wish they actually distributed up here, though I apparently have no problem getting unsolicited bottles in trades and BIFs and whatnot...

Boulevard Imperial Stout

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Another day, another barrel aged imperial stout, only this time the barrel aging only accounts for 40% of the finished beer (with the remaining 60% being freshly brewed). I've pondered the mysteries of barrel aging on many occasions in the past, and this represents a bit of a wrinkle in the typical formula. Obviously you can't just take any old beer, throw it in a barrel for a while, and expect great results. But on the other hand, is a 40% blend enough to really bring that barrel presence? Or are you just looking for a hint of complexity rather than a sledge hammer of booze and oak? Is it a way to incorporate barrel character, but still have a high yield in finished product (i.e. the lower the BA percentage, the less barrels you need)? Deschutes also seems partial to these partial barrel aged brews, with the recently covered Mirror Mirror and The Abyss both incorporating some barreled beer into their respective blends. I think I feel a pedantic email spree coming on. If only I had the foresight to do this earlier, I could be reporting actual information here rather than hearsay and speculation. Instead, I'll just let you in on this rather solid imperial stout:

Boulevard Imperial Stout

Boulevard Imperial Stout - Pours a deep, dark black color with a little less than a finger of brown head, very pretty stout here. Smell has some roast up front, but it quickly yields caramel, oak, vanilla, whiskey, and maybe even something approaching a fruity note. Taste has a well matched roasted malt character that doesn't get lost at all in all the caramel, oak, vanilla, and whiskey that joins the party in the middle. The barrel character adds complexity without dominating the taste, though this base beer could clearly stand up to such a full bore barrel treatment (and I would honestly love to try that). Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, smooth, a little bit of boozy heat. Overall, a very well crafted Imperial Stout with a little barrel complexity for extra crunchy goodness. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 5/10/14. 2013 Vintage. Batch Number: S13310-2. Best by date: 11-2015.

Another solid effort from the Smokestack Series, I am still hoping to snag a bottle of Saison Brett one of these days, but it always seems to elude me... Someday, it will be mine.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror

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This beer originated when a transporter malfunction sent bottles of Mirror Pond Pale Ale into an alternate universe where it was revealed to be more like a double batch of that staple beer that was partially aged in Oregonian Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Malbec Barrels. Also, the Federation is an evil empire, Kirk is a dictator, and Spock is a pirate (with a goatee!) Wait, I seem to have mixed this up. I was supposed to make a Snow White reference and not let my true nerd flag fly. Oh well, what are you going to do? Ok, stop that. This is why we can't have nice things.

Um, yeah, so this is the third time this beer has been released, and the previous edition in 2009 had some infection issues. Fortunately, this new batch appears to be sound, and I've had a hankering for a good barleywine of late, so let's trek into this sucker:

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve - Pours a deep, dark amber brown color with a finger of light tan head that disapates slowly but surely. Smell is pure barleywine, lots of dark vinous fruit aromas, rich caramel, and maybe a hint of oak. Taste hits with lots of that rich caramel, maybe some of that oak in the middle, less fruit than the nose, but it's there and it comes through more in the finish, which also has a bitter note to it to even things out. That fruit takes on a more vinous, tannic feel as it warms, but it also develops a bit of a boozy bite as well. Mouthfeel is rich, creamy, low but appropriate carbonation, not quite full bodied, but the richness and booze keep it in the realm of a sipping beer. Overall, this is a well executed barleywine worthy of a look. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.2% ABV bottled (22 oz black waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 5/9/14. 2014 Reserve Vintage. Best After: 2/24/15.

Dammit, I forgot about those stupid "Best After" dates. I was going to say that while this is really good, it's not a transcendent experience or anything, but I could see this aging really well. Alas, I doubt I'll snag another bottle of the stuff, but I guess you never know.

So there's this hoary old tale about the origins of the IPA style being that beers couldn't survive the trip to India without being highly hopped. There appears to be a nugget of truth to this, though there are lots of details that trip up all but the most wonky of history nerds. I'm not such a nerd, so don't break my legs, but the general idea is that a beer will require extra hops if it is being exported to warmer climates.

These days, with our fancy refrigeration devices, it doesn't really matter anymore, but that doesn't stop folks from doing wacky experiments like this one, where Cigar City gets their friends in Puerto Rico to brew up some IPA, then send it on a boat back to Florida in order to be canned. During the trip, this IPA is dry hopped with a single hop variety. Each batch uses a different variety, ranging from the heaven-sent Citra (I never got to try this one, but it has great ratings) to experimental hops (which I didn't particularly love, but it was fine). What we have here is Calypso, a relatively new American hop that's supposed to have some stone fruit character but also an earthy, tea-like note. We'll see about that:

Cigar City Hopped on the High Seas - Calypso

Cigar City Hopped on the High Seas (Calypso) - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a solid finger of fluffy white head. Smells of citrus and earthy hops, pretty straightforward. Taste has a decent malt backbone, but the hops do not come through as much in the flavor, excepting the bitterness which does hit pretty strong towards the finish. Mouthfeel is low to medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry. Overall, a fairly pedestrian IPA... B-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/9/14.

So I've had two different varieties of this beer, and I didn't really enjoy either of them. I suppose I may grab a Citra if they make that again, but if I'm really in the mood for a Cigar City IPA, it's hard to beat Jai Alai (and its variants).

Stillwater Classique

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Ensconced in the loving cocoon of craft beer, it's easy to forget that the grand majority of beer that is consumed out in the real world is mass-produced, industrial adjunct lagers. People suck that stuff down like it's water. It's easy to turn up our noses at a low ABV beer that has the gall to use flavorless adjuncts like rice and corn, but those beers have their place, and it's not like a "cheap" malt bill like that can't make for a great beer.

Enter Stillwater Premium, their reconstructed "Post Prohibition" style ale. The malt bill and hop schedule are absolutely pedestrian (Pilsner malt, corn, and rice, hopped with Cluster, Northern Brewer, and Saaz), but fans of Stillwater know what's coming next: farmhouse yeast and 3 strains of Brettanomyces to add a little funk to the proceedings. These were originally released in bottles, but the goal was to get them into cans for that easy drinking lawnmower market. Alas, despite a successful "hand canned" batch of Premium, brewer Brian Strumke ran into a classic blunder of Gypsy brewing: "finding a facility that would not only brew with Brett, but also run it through the canning line, for obvious cross contamination risks."

Premium remains in bottles, but Strumke took the same recipe, removed the Brett and added some Cascade hops to make up the difference, and called it Classique - a sorta Belgian interpretation of the classic American adjunct beer. Slap some typically awesome Stillwater artwork featuring a mustachioed man wearing an eyepatch (presumably a play on National Bohemian's cartoon logo, notable since the old National brewery is right across the street from Stillwater's bar), and you've got yourself a go-to table beer.

Update: In a grievous oversight, I neglected to mention that this also makes a great go-to shotgunning beer. I was never any good at that sort of thing, but Beerbecue has the goods.

Stillwater Classique

Stillwater Classique - Pours a cloudy straw yellow color with loads of billowy head that leaves thick lacing as I drink. Smell is all Belgian yeast, peppery spice, banana and pear and the like, even some fruity and herbal hop notes. Taste also strays to the spicy side, but the fruit is there aplenty. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, light bodied, crisp, refreshing, a little dry, utterly crushable. It's tasty, but not so intense that you couldn't take down a few of these in one session. Overall, fantastic table beer, worthy of repeat drinking... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/1/14.

So this is a great go-to beer, and rumor has it that there will be a Classique Noir someday (presumably a darker take on the same beer). As per usual, Stillwater is always worth trying for us farmhouse fans...

The Bruery Sans Pagaie

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With the drinking of this beer, I have officially depleted the remaining spoils of Operation Cheddar. It may seem odd to say that, seeing as though Operation Cheddar was an incursion into Vermont and The Bruery is about as far away from that fine state as you can get, but it turns out that Hill Farmstead usually features bottles from their friends, and this was the one available when I was there last year (incidentally, the current guest offerings at the retail shop are numerous and impressive, and that's before you get to the Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup! I need to get back up there.)

The only thing I knew about this before I bought it was that it was a Bruery beer that I had never seen around the Philly area. Once I got my greedy paws on the bottle, I saw that it was a sour blonde ale aged in barrels with cherries, basically their take on a Belgian kriek. I assume this "sour blonde ale" is the same base they use for Rueuze and other fruited variants like Filmishmish and Beauregarde, though that is pure speculation on my part, meaning that you can safely IGNORE ME!

Sans Pagaie translates to "without a paddle", and the bottle itself sez: "Up a Kriek". I see what they did there. Let's see what I did this past weekend:

The Bruery Sans Pagaie

The Bruery Sans Pagaie - Pours an almost clear orange pinkish red color with a finger of off white head. Smell is beautiful, lots of oak, vanilla, cherries, tart fruit, and some light earthy funk. Taste starts off with some tart fruit, cherries, more fruit roll-up than sour patch kid (though both seem present), followed by an intensifying sourness into an oaky, sour finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, acidic, vinegary, intense (but not Avance-level intense), quite the pucker factor. Definitely an interesting and worthwhile beer, the fruit lends a sorta sugary candy character that sets this apart from the really awesome Belgian takes, but this works well enough on its own. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands wine glass on 4/25/14. 2013 vintage.

Among Bruery's attempts at Belgian sours, this doesn't quite hit Rueuze or even Oude Tart levels, but it is interesting on its own. Fortunately, the next Bruery beer we plan to tackle here at Kaedrin will probably be their upcoming anniversary beer, called Sucré (shit, has it really been 6 years since the Bruery started?)

Good news everyone! After three long weeks of primary fermentation, I transferred my barleywine to secondary yesterday. Fermentation was vigorous and I'm glad I used the blowoff tube, but it never quite reached the near catastrophic levels of the initial RIS fermentation (I was seriously worried that my fermenter would pop its top, and it probably would have if I didn't keep such a close eye on it). What's more, I did seem to get a really good, high attenuation ferment here.

Final Gravity was 11.6 Bx or about 1.017. This is a little lower than the goal, but that was expected given that my OG was a little lower than my target as well. High attenuation, as planned, but it should still have plenty of body. This should put us in 10.1% ABV range, which may very well be the highest ABV beer I've managed yet.

As planned, I split the batch into two secondary fermenters:

Secondary fermenters with barleywine

As you can see, the one on the right did not quite reach the full 2.5 gallon mark, so that will be the "regular" version. The one on the left got the bourbon soaked oak cubes. I used Eagle Rare 10 and this time around, I made sure to soak the oak in bourbon for a much longer period (about 3-4 months), which seemed to result in a much darker liquid:

Bourbon and Oak, sitting in a jar...

I used 2 ounces of Hungarian oak this time, which is supposed to be a little more mild than American oak, but more potent than French oak. It was medium char, but from what I can tell, it felt a lot less like a campfire than the American oak I used previously. The plan is to let this sit on oak for around 3 weeks, then bottle some from each fermenter, and a blend of the two treatments. I am greatly looking forward to it, while I believe the RIS turned out well, I think this one will be more refined. But only time will tell.

I still have not really decided what I'll brew next, but I'm definitely hoping to get one more batch in before it gets too hot around here. Right now I'm thinking of a 4ish percent ABV pale ale, highly drinkable. I might even use something akin to the recipe I used for the Earl Grey beer, just without the tea and using American hops instead of the British ones. Or, if I'm lazy and it does get too hot around here, maybe I'll hit up a saison recipe instead. More to come.

Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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Every time I pull out one of these Voodoo barrel room selections, I wonder what the hell took me so long. The last one I tried, the Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy didn't quite blow my mind, but it was a worthy beer and certainly an improvement over the base. Of course, that was aged in lowly Buffalo Trace bottles; what I have here was aged in that most hallowed of Bourbon barrels, Pappy Van Winkle (ermegerd!) I've already gone over this sort of thing in the past, so I'll spare you the nerdy wrangling about why these barrels are so prized. Suffice it to say, the clouds parted and an angelic choir heralded the opening of this beer, and it was good.

PVW Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Brewing Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a deep black color with a cap of brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich caramel, a hint of roast, and a heaping helping of bourbon. Taste follows the nose, rich caramel, tons of bourbon, booze, and a hint of roast emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied, rich, and creamy. Low but appropriate carbonation, some hot booze, but it's actually pretty easy going for a monster beer. Definitely a big improvement over the Buffalo Trace variant, but still not as great as Pappy Black Magick. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/19/14. Bottle #284. Bottled: 12.14.12.

I think I'll crack open one of the Lairds Apple Brandy variants next, and I'll try to make it snappy too. None of this waiting 5 months anymore. Anywho, after two relatively quick barrel room releases, things look quiet on the Voodoo barrel front. I assume they've filled it up again, but their website does not appear to have been updated and I haven't heard any news on upcoming releases. Here's to hoping they do another Philly release at some point!

April Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we went to a local Pizza place, got our fill of deep fried pizza pockets and other such delights, and naturally partook in lots of beer:

April Beer Club Selections
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, completely unreliable notes on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers apply, and other such waffling. Great, now I have a sudden craving for waffles. Thanks a lot. Anywho, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Green Flash Le Freak - Labeled a Belgian IPA, I didn't get much in the way of hops out of this, but it remained a pretty solid Belgian Strong Pale nonetheless. Nice spicy Belgian yeast character. B
  • Ovila Abbey Saison - Bog standard saison material, nothing special at all, though certainly not bad or anything like that. Still, there wasn't much to make it really stand out in a setting like this. Mild Belgian yeast character, maybe a hint of lemon peel if you are really looking for it. B-
  • Stone Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA - Rock solid IPA that feels like it's actually made with grapefruit (as opposed to only hops that lend a grapefruity character). I don't actually know if that's the case for sure, but that's what it feels like. Beautiful nose, what seems like Stone's trademark hop profile, and a heaping helping of citrusy but astringent grapefruit. An interesting beer. B
  • Evil Twin / Crooked Stave Ryan And The Gosling - One of my contributions for the night, this is dominated by funky Brett. This is quite welcome in the nose, and the front end of the taste is fantastic, but the finish is very odd. That funk turns super earthy, almost savory in the finish, which brings this down a bit. Still an interesting beer to try though. B
  • Allagash Midnight Brett - Hey, look at that, a beer I just reviewed yesterday. And it held up rather well in this setting as well.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Honey IPA - Brewed with a bunch of New Zealand hops, this was quite nice.
  • Sly Fox Nihilist - An interesting take on the imperial stout style, huge carbonation, dryer than I'd normally expect, but a nice roast character, with hints of booze (but not overpowering). It's definitely a decent brew. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel - Straight up imperial stout, this one compared very favorably to the Nihilist, definitely thicker and more creamy, less roast, but really quite nice. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked) - Interestingly, I feel like the char that came through on early bottles has mellowed out, and the bourbon seems to be lessening the roast as well, making this an interesting blend of flavors. It's turned out quite well, though not at all like your typical bourbon barrel aged stout. Still, not bad for a first attempt, and quite nice on its own. B+
  • DuClaw Dirty Little Freak - Holy hell. Huge chocolate nose, like powdered cocoa. Less chocolate in the taste, as it takes a back seat to a big coconut character. Surprisingly not super sweet, and it works well enough I guess (certainly a unique beer), though I was a little disappointed. B-
  • DuClaw Cocoa Fuego - Brewed with dark chocolate and chipotle peppers, its the latter that seems to dominate this beer, even contributing a sorta smokey flavor that's pretty tough to overcome. There's some peppery heat that takes up residence in your jaw, but it's not punishing or anything like that. Not the worst hot pepper beer I've had, but not a beer that I connected with either. C+
  • DuClaw Hell on Wood - Ah, now this is more like it. This is DuClaw's excellent Devil's Milk barleywine aged on bourbon barrels, and it turned out reasonably well. Clearly not a top tier BBA barleywine, but it works really well on its own. B+
So all in all, quite a nice night. As per usual, already looking forward to next month... In the meantime, stay tuned for another .rar wale review tomorrow.

Allagash Double Feature

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This past Saturday, one of my favorite local beer bars celebrated its fourth anniversary. It's a tiny little place, but they had a rather spectacular tap list for the occasion, so I made my way over there, arriving just a little after opening. It was a total madhouse and took me a while to get anywhere close to the bar, so during this time, I reprioritized the order of desired beers, placing ones I've never had at the top of the list. Insanely crowded bars are not really my thing, and a friend I was going to meet was running way late, so we just called it quits and met up later in the day somewhere else.

That being said, I managed to snag a rare Allagash sour while I was there, and was really happy that I got to try this (there was a brewery-only bottle release not too long ago, but thankfully a keg made its way down here...) Avance is a strong sour aged on Strawberries in bourbon barrels for a whopping three years. Strawberry is not a particularly common fruit used with beer, so I was pretty stoked to try this out. Realizing that I've not been particularly attentive to Allagash's sour and wild beer program, I also cracked open some Midnight Brett that I had laying around; it's a dark wheat beer fermented with Brett. All in all, this was quite a nice Saturday!

Allagash Avance

Allagash Avancé - Apologies for the craptacular picture, but I was lucky enough to be able to extend my hand that far in this place, which was pretty obscenely crowded. Nice bright orange brown color, with a finger of bubbly head and great retention. Smells of oak and fruit berries, with the strawberry actually coming through rather well. Big sour twang in the nose too. Taste hits with a massive wave of sourness up front, tempered by oak and jammy fruit in the middle, the strawberry character less here than the nose, but still present, then returning to an intense sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed and very acidic. This is very intense, and reminds me of high ABV sours like Consecration or Riserva (and yep, now that I know this is 10.8% ABV, that makese a lot of sense. I thought the board said 8% when I ordered it, but it turns out that I neglected to notice the "10." ahead of it!) Really nice stuff, intense, oaky, delicious... perhaps just a hint too intense, but it's still great. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 4/19/14.

Allagash Midnight Brett

Allagash Midnight Brett - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head with great lacing and retention. Smells of musty, funky brett yeast along with a fruity, vinous aroma that suits it well. Taste has a very Belgian dark feel to it, dark malts but not a lot of roast, maybe some chocolate though, definitely spicy, fruity Belgian yeast that is offset by some earthy, musty, fruity funk. An almost chocolate covered cherry character that really suits this well. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, smooth, and almost creamy. A little bit of tartness and acidity, but very low on that scale. It's a very nice tweak on the Belgian dark style, and a very worthy beer. B+ but very close to an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/19/14. Date Bottled: Oct. 16, 2013.

So there you have it. I've never been supremely impressed with Allagash's wild beers before, but I also haven't had many of them. Both of these are significant improvements over something like Confluence, though of course, you'll have to pay for the privilege (Allagash is great, but their prices are on the high side).

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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.

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Recent Comments

  • Mark: I most certainly did. Thank you again for muling, you read more
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