June Beer Club

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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 returned to an Indian/Thai restaurant and despite a medium turnout, had much in the way of fun.

June Beer Club Lineup

For the sake of posterity, I'm documenting my nearly incoherent thoughts on each beer below, which is my way of saying that you should not trust any of these ratings because as we've established recently, I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Red Star Zingerbuch Kombucha - So the first beer of the night... was not beer! This is some sort of bizarre fermented tea concoction with ginger and hibiscus. It was very aromatic, flowery, and ginger aley. It was not exactly my bag, but this is the perfect setting for weird crap like this. No rating because I don't even really know what this is.
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale - Basically a palate cleanser, and a beer I've already covered before. B+
  • Founders All Day IPA - So the new trend is to call pale ales a "session IPA" or something like that? Ok, whatever, this is a pretty solid example, and I could probably drink a bunch of these with no complaints. Nice hop presence, but light and quaffable. B+
  • Surly Furious - Ah, now this is an IPA! Surly does not distribute to PA... except during Philly Beer Week. One of our attendees tonight was fortunate enough to attend a Surly event and snag a few cans, and generous enough to share with the rest of us. I've heard so many great things about Surly that I was afraid they wouldn't live up to the hype, but this is indeed a really fantastic IPA. Citrus and lots of pine and resinous hops, but exceedingly well balanced stuff, lots of hops and enough crystal malts that it didn't feel super bitter despite being 99 IBU. Probably the best beer of the night. I'll leave it at A- territory for now, but I definitely want to get some more of this (it could warrant an upgrade).
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Dammit, this still has not carbonated as much as I'd like, but it is still a tasty beer, light on the funk, but still a nice peppery saison flavor. I'm guessing that if it hasn't carbonated much by now, it's not going to get much better... which is fine, since I probably only have 6-12 bottles of the stuff left. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Chile Beer - Made with chile peppers and smoked malt, this sucker was spicy but flavorful. Not really my thing, but it's an interesting beer, and certainly not the abomination that Cave Creek Chili Beer was...
  • Lost Abbey Carnevale - A Brett does saison? Sign me up, this was one of my favorites of the night. Nice fruity, earthy funk pervading the whole thing, a pleasure to drink. It's no Logsdon or anything, but it's really nice. A high B+
  • Southern Tier Compass - Perhaps it was just because we opened it towards the end of the night, but this felt exceedingly bland to me, with the only real dominant note being the flowery aromas and flavors. Not really my thing. C
  • Brooklyn Wild Streak - A belgian strong pale aged in Bourbon barrels with Brett? Well ok then. The Brett has a minimal, but still detectable presence. But the taste is more dominated by that pale ale aged in bourbon barrel character that never really works as well for me as it does for stouts or barleywines. It's fine for what it is, but it's not really my thing. B-
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Blend) - The imperial stout is doing quite well. This blend has faint hints of the bourbon and oak, but nothing like a BBA stout. That being said, it's delicious and only getting better over time. I'll still leave it at a B+
And that is all for now. We will probably return to regular blogging next week, so stay tuned.

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

Round Guys Fear Of A Brett Planet

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I've noted before that I'm not particularly good at coming up with names for beers. Thanks to Tired Hands' freewheeling attitude towards naming beers, I'm getting better at it and have a few names saved up for upcoming homebrews, but I only need to spy a name like Round Guys' Fear of a Brett Planet to feel woefully inadequate in this department. I don't know how much to read into that name (are the Round Guys saying that Brettanomyces is a minority and that brewers are afraid of organization and empowerment in the yeast community? I don't think I really want to go there (but you just did - ed.)), but it is a spectacularly awesome name for a beer.

So this is a local can of 100% Brett fermented pale ale. Kinda, sorta like what Stillwater originally wanted to do with Premium/Classique, except the base recipe is more like an APA, what with the hops and all that. So let's fight the power and see how this turned out:

Round Guys Fear Of A Brett Planet

Round Guys Fear Of A Brett Planet - Pours a golden yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy, eggshell white head that sticks around a while. Smells beautiful, Belgian yeast spiciness, clove and the like, a little fruity funk with a hint of earthiness, and maybe some American C hop goodness (but it's not super powerful). The taste has a nice bready base to it, with the yeast not quite as prominent as the nose would have you believe, but it's there with its spicy notes. Some hoppy citrus and pine come to the party, but they're not throwing their weight around much, just adding to the complexity. More earthiness and plenty of hop bitterness appears towards the finish and lingering into the aftertaste. The funky Brett notes are there, but they're a light touch. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and dry, well carbonated, quaffable stuff. Overall, this is a very nice, well executed, easy drinking pale ale with well incorporated Brett. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/6/14.

I'm pretty sure I've had Round Guys' Berliner once, but I've otherwise been neglectful of this local(ish) brewery. I should really check out more of their stuff.

Cisco Pechish Woods

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I've observed on many occasions that my eyes are bigger than my liver, and thus I have a lot of beer laying around the house. As such, when friends stop by, I'm more than happy to throw open the fridge and drink whatever they want. I'm always glad to share, until I get to a beer like this, and I realize that my generosity has truly failed me! I suspected as much as soon as I saw what was in the fridge. I know from previous experience that Cisco's The Woods series are fantastic, and of course it was the brew chosen. I wrangled a solid 8 oz pour, which was certainly enough to know that I really wanted those other 16 ounces (I pretty much know from the first sip, actually). Sharing is caring, but sometimes that backfires.*

Cisco is a fine brewer, but the beers in The Woods series are far and away the best things I've had from them. Both examples that I've had have been spectacular. This one, a sour ale aged in barrels with peaches added, is no exception. I really must snag some more of these beers when I can...

Cisco Pechish Woods

Cisco Pechish Woods - Pours a clear, bright golden color with a finger of white head. Smells amazing, vinous fruit, peaches, oak, and vanilla, very beautiful. Taste follows the nose, lots of tart fruit, peaches, a well balanced sour character, with some tempering oak. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, bright, refreshing stuff. A little acidic, but extremely well balanced. Overall, an utterly fantastic beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 4.88% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/30/14. Vintage: 2013.

Keep an eye out for The Woods folks, I know I will, and they're worth the stretch.

* I am, of course, being facetious here. While I would love to drink more of this beer, I was really happy I got to share it with friends.

Anderson Valley Huge Arker

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So what exactly is an "Arker" and what makes this one of the "Huge" variety? My first thought was to go Biblical, and assume it was a reference to one who bulds an ark, and a Huge Arker would be like a fat Noah. The real answer lies in an esoteric jargon invented in the late 19th century by the residents of Boonville, CA, right smack in the middle of Anderson Valley. It's called Boontling and there are differing stories of its origins, though they all seem to come down to a series of word games played by the residents of an isolated farming community. The one that struck a chord with me sez that the children of Boonville created the language as a means to speak freely in front of their parents without being understood. Speaking as someone who has partaken such endeavors when I was a little one (albeit, on a much more limited scale), I can see that sort of thing being more widespread.

In Boontling, "ark" means "wreck" and as a natural extension of that, "huge arker" basically means "bomb". Or something like that, it's not like I'm from Boonville or anything. At any rate, clocking in at 13.5% ABV and aged 6 months in Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrels (interestingly, it seems that Anderson Valley has exclusive rights to Wild Turkey barrels, which I guess is good for them, but a loss for the rest of us, as Wild Turkey does have a distinctive distilling/aging process where the juice in the barrels tends to be lower proof than other Bourbons and I'd love to compare that to other treatments, like FiftyFifty does with Eclipse series beers. But I digress.), Anderson Valley's Huge Arker seems able to live up to its name:

Anderson Valley Huge Arker

Anderson Valley Huge Arker - Pours a dark brown color with a finger and half of tan to light brown head. Smells nice, some bourbon and oak, but also some chocolate, almost milk chocolate, and a faint hint of roast. Taste is full of rich sugary flavors, not quite caramel, some well incorporated bourbon, oak, and vanilla, lots of chocolate malt, kinda like milk chocolate, and hints of other dark, roasty malts. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, lots of residual sugars (this feels like a high FG). While clearly barrel aged, the bourbon is not as prominent as it is in a lot of other BBA beers. Of course, I tend to prefer that bourbon barrel character, but this one strikes a decent enough balance that I'd think some who don't normally love barrel aged stouts might enjoy well enough. This is not a perfect beer, but it's a well executed bourbon barrel stout with a big chocolatey kick, and well worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/30/14. Vintage: 2014.

Hard to believe that this is my first reviewed Anderson Valley beer, though I know I've had a few of their seasonals before. Interestingly, it looks like the other beers in their Wild Turkey Barl (presumably Boontling for "Barrel") Seris are lower ABV offerings (in the 6-7% range), which could be really interesting. I will be keeping an eye out for those... as I didn't realize what a Bahl Hornin' ("excellent pub") they were.

Tired Hands Second Anniversary

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It's hard to believe that it's only been two years since Tired Hands arrived on the scene and started melting faces with their amazing saisons and quaffable pale ales, amongst other strange and beautiful beers. To a beer nerd like myself, having a brewery of this quality and with these specialties even remotely close to my home has been a Godsend. Two years of fantastic beer, and the future is looking rather bright.

Like last year, the second anniversary celebration yesterday was a total madhouse, and given what they were pouring, totally worth it! I was fortunate enough to snag a seat at the bar rather early on, and my neighboring bar sitters were a lot of fun, which was great. For the sake of posterity and to instill jealousy in you, my valued readers, some half remembered thoughts (based on hastily entered notes jotted into Evernote that I'm trying to decipher right now) on what I had are below.

The Emptiness Is Not Eternal

The Emptiness is Not Eternal - 7% ABV Oak fermented Sorrel & Dandelion Saison - The Emptiness series of collaborations with rockstar farmer Tom Culton continues with this beautiful oaky sour beer, a little more herbal and floral than previous incarnations (all of which were fruited, to be sure). Someone was saying that this resembled Hill Farmstead Vera Mae, though I feel like this is an entirely different beast (in particular, I think the oakiness of this separates it considerably, though the emptiness bugs that bring the funk are also distinct from whatever HF is using). That's all academic though, as they're both great beers. As Emptiness beers go, I think I prefer the fruited versions, but this is still fantastic. A-

St.Twoer

St.Twoer - 6% ABV Citrus IPA - Brewed with clementines and a wicked combo of Galaxy, Simcoe, and Motueka hops, this greatly resembles St.Oner (though this one has less notes of pun). Beautiful juicy IPA, lots of bright fruit and citrus hops, the $4 pint deal on this was well worth it.

Handfarm - 5% ABV Barrel Fermented Saison - At this point, I think I've had some of every batch of Handfarm. I've always loved it, but I think this is the first time I've ever seen it on tap and hmm, I think I might like it slightly better that way. A nice vinous and fruity funk character with a more balanced oak presence, I could have probably drank this all day. Still an A- in my book.

Tired Hands Only Void Garlic Cask

Only Void - Garlic Cask - 11% ABV Imperial Stout Cask Conditioned on local black garlic (!?) - Tired Hands has made some weird beers and done some wacky cask conditioned stuff before, but this one really takes the cake. Their description on the draft list they handed out: "Wweeeiiiiiiirrrdddddddd!" This is pretty accurate. The garlic comes through very powerfully in the nose, and much less so in the taste. This is a good thing. The nose is actually really interesting, almost like... pizza? Yeah, kinda like that. Roasty chocolate pizza? Er, not sure. It's perhaps not something I would seek out again, but I'm very happy I tried it because it is a billion times better than it sounds. One of those beers that's just fun to experience. No idea how to rate, so I'll just slap a B on it and be done with it.

American Youth - 5.5% ABV APA collaboration with Half Acre - One of two Half Acre collaborations on tap, this one was a quaffable pale ale that is basically comprised of a blend of Daisy Cutter and HopHands, with the result being a very aromatic, very light bodied and refreshing beer. I seem to be saying this about a lot of these beers, but I could have drank this all day. A-

Geodesic - 6.5% ABV Hoppy Spelt Saison - Alright, so I'm not afraid to say that I was pretty far gone by this point, so my memory here is a little hazy. That being said, it was a very nice funky saison, almost sour (but then, my palate may have just been completely wrecked at this point). This was the last beer of the day for me, so take this with a grain of salt, but instinct sez rate it a B+

Alright, so now we get to the weirdest thing of the whole event, which was the Parageusia Bar. For the uninitiated, Jean has been posting cryptic comments about some dude named Christian Zellerfield, described as the "talented Future Rustic contract-brewer", for a while now. No one really knew what was up with this guy or these Parageusia beers we kept hearing about, and the research department here at Kaedrin turned up almost nothing about them (other than Jean's cryptic pronouncements on social media). So at the Anniversary, you could buy two (very pretty) pieces of glassware, which would entitle you to a fill of each of the beers available (Parageusia1 and Parageusia2) at a little popup bar they set up in the tiny little second floor office. Only two people were allowed in at any given time, the room was all dark and moody, and the whole thing was very hush hush. When we got in there, we asked what was up with the beers, and the Euro-accented "representative" (who was not Christian Zellerfield) gave us the skinny: Cabernet Franc Barrel Fermented sour ales, one at 6.5% ABV, the other at 8.2% ABV. We asked where this guy was, and honest to God, his answer was that he was traveling in space, but that he had chosen Tired Hands to be the one place to distribute his beer in the Milky Way Galaxy (to me, this implied that other galaxies were awash in Parageusia beer, but the representative was evasive when I tried to press him on that).

So the rumor is that Jean is basically fucking with us, and this whole thing is an elaborate ruse. Or that Parageusia is real, but basically brewed entirely by Jean and his crew, and this Christian guy is the one who is yanking our chains. Whatever the case may be, it doesn't really matter, because both of these beers were spectacular. And that glassware is beautiful too...

I do not remember how to spell this awesome beer

Parageusia1 - 6.5% ABV Cab Franc Barrel Fermented Ale - Wow, this is an amazing beer, rivaling the best of Tired Hands' output. Very sour, beautiful oaked character, funky, vinous, fruity, absolutely delicious. This was probably my favorite beer of the night. A

This one too, it is para-something

Parageusia2 - 8.2% ABV Cab Franc Barrel Fermented Ale - A slightly darker beer, a little more intense on the sour end of things, perhaps not as great as the Parageusia1, but still really wonderful in its own right (and really close in terms of the flavor profile). A-

The word Parageusia is apparently the medical term for a bad taste in the mouth, which could not be further from the truth. I don't know what the future plans for these beers are, but Jean has teased that bottles are coming, so I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for that. Or whatever this crazy space traveling brewer brings to us in the future (or, perhaps, from the future?)

All in all, it was a fantastic day, though I will note that I was happy I took the train to get there! The only thing I didn't get to try was Negative Creep, an oak fermented Kiwi sour ale (it had not tapped as of my departure around 5 pm). Congrats to Tired Hands on two years of spectacular beer, and things are only looking up from here. The next year should see a new brewery and a corresponding increase in output, which is most exciting. Stay tuned, I plan on continuing to make you jealous.

Stone Fyodor's Classic

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Given the size of Stone Brewing Company (a top 10 craft beer brewery in terms of volume), I've always been surprised at the relatively tiny size of their barrel program. If you troll their BA page, you'll see lots of examples, but from what I can tell, you've got a lot of DONG* beers and limited bottle runs in the low hundreds. In the past few years, though, they've really stepped up their efforts, implementing what they call their Quingenti Millilitre (they come in 500 ml bottles, hence that fancy name) series. Last year, they released 9 different varieties, but no imperial stouts. Their previous attempt to bottle a barrel aged IRS in 2010 wound up horribly infected, so everyone was wondering if they'd try it again. Well they did, and holy hell am I glad I got a hold on one of these bottles, because it is nothing short of spectacular. Bottle counts seem to be in the 3000 range, which is nothing to sneeze at, but given Stone's size, it still seems small. Hopefully their meteoric rise will extend to their barrel program in future years.

Take a batch of 2013 Stone Imperial Russian Stout, age it in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels for a whopping 12 months, and you've got Fyodor's Classic. Why they decided to name this after Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I do not know, but here are some tasting notes from the underground:

Stone Fyodors Classic

Stone Fyodor's Classic - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a minimum of head, just barely a cap of brown head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge. Smells deeply of bourbon, with some caramel, oak, and vanilla joining in as well. Taste is full of that rich caramel, oak, vanilla, and bourbon, very faint hints of roast and chocolate, but this is clearly dominated by that bourbon barrel. It opens up even more as it warms, and it just keeps getting better. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and silky smooth, surprisingly little heat given the high ABV, though you get hints of that in the finish and a bit of a warming sensation if you drink quickly. When I saw the head (or lack thereof), I was a little worried about the carbonation, but while low, the carb fits very well with this beer. The 500 ml packaging is just about perfect for this sort of thing too. Overall, this is a phenomenal Bourbon barrel aged stout, absolutely world class. My face melted right off (that's, uh, a good thing). A

Beer Nerd Details: 13.9% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 5/25/14. Bottled: February 2014. IBUs: 38.

There is a version of this beer that also included Ryan Bros. Coffee. That variant is more popular with the general beer nerd population, but while I'm sure I'd enjoy it, I can't say as though I'm that disappointed as I'm not a huge coffee guy (he says, as if he hasn't said it a gazillion times before). Fyodor's Classic is my sweet spot, and I will be hunting this sucker out again for sure.

* Draft Only, No Growler. Aren't acronyms fun?

Crooked Stave Origins

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This is labeled as a Burgundy Sour Ale Aged in Oak Barrels, and digging into matters, I see that batch 1 was a blend of beers aged in French Oak barrels, some for 2 years, some for 1.5 years (I assume this bottle of batch 2 had a similar provenance). Were these old Burgundy wine barrels? Or is the Burgundy just a reference to the color? Perhaps a take on the Flanders Red style? Maybe I should just drink this stuff and worry about it later? But it is later, what now?

Interesting (or lame and pedantic, take your pick) sidebar, I recently saw something that claimed the Flanders Red style was known as the "Burgundy of Beer". Given the above conundrum about why this beer is called a Burgundy Ale, I thought I should check this out. After an exhaustive 2 minute search, I found that the Burgundy of Beer could be: the beers of Bavaria, dubbels, Lambic/Geuze, and yes, Flanders Reds (with Rodenbach Grand Cru generally garnering the title). There's probably a case to be made for all of these (some better than others), but seeing as though I have no real experience with Burgundy wine, I'll just not assume what I heard on the internets is true.

Once again, I've fallen down on the job of emailing brewers and asking pedantic questions that have no real relevance other than the fact that I really enjoy these beers and don't want to rely on internet hearsay. But the show must go on, and here we've got another solid brew from our friends in Denver:

Crooked Stave Origins

Crooked Stave Origins - Pours a deep, dark amber color, almost brown (dare I say: burgundy), with a finger of off white head. The nose is beautiful, lots of oak, vinegary sour twang, vinous fruits, cherries, and the like. The taste follows the nose. Lots of vinous fruits, tart berries, and cherries, some light oak and vanilla, and a nice, tart sourness that is bracing but doesn't overpower. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light on its feet, not as big as expected but there's enough substance to hold the sourness in check, well carbonated, a little acidity playing at the edges of my mouth. Overall, this is a very good, maybe even great sour. Teetering on the border with B+, but I'm feeling generous so we'll go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/14. Vintage: 2013/Batch 2.

Not quite a world beater, but it's close, and some of the variants sound absolutely wonderful (Cherry Origins anyone?) Jay has recently sworn off sours and the likes of Cantillon and Crooked Stave, which is liable to get him branded a monster in some circles, but me, I'm just happy there'll be more of this stuff to go around.

France is clearly more enamored with wine than beer, but seeing as though they share a border with Belgium, it's not a surprise that French-inspired beers tend to share that rustic farmhouse quality. Supposedly there has been a recent proliferation of smaller breweries making interesting stuff, though I have no real experience with that. And it's not like today's beer is actually from France, though it was made with some strains of French saison yeast (in Erie, PA). It's got wheat and rye in the grain bill, IPA sized American hop additions, and it clocks in at a rather hefty 11.5% ABV. So it's appropriately weird enough to call it a saison. Oh, and this particular batch was aged in 30 year old rum barrels from Jamiaca. The bottle mentions nothing of this treatment , but the waxed cap (and, uh, the guy at the bottle shop) gave it away. I've seen mixed results from barrel aged Belgian styles, but this one seems hefty enough to take on the added complexity without getting overwhelmed. Only one way to find out:

Lavery Rum Barrel Aged Imperial French Ale

Lavery Rum Barrel Aged Imperial French Ale - Pours a murky, turbid golden brown color with a finger or two of large bubbled head that nevertheless manages to stick around for a bit. Smell has a lot of what I'd call Belgian yeast character (or is that French yeast?), spicy and fruity, but also a rich element of booze, presumably the rum and oak coming through. And yes, that rum comes through very strongly in the taste, rich caramel and oak, with tons of rummy booze, especially in the finish. Some general spicy fruity yeast characteristics also come through in the middle, but this is clearly a rum bomb. Mouthfeel is rich, nearly full bodied, and very, very boozy. Lots of alcohol heat from that rum. Overall, what we have here is a pretty unbalanced brew. That rum and barrel character come through well and I like that about it, but it's perhaps a bit too hot for its own good (the base is perhaps a bit too dry to really stand up to the barrel). Still a worthy and interesting brew, I've not really had anything like this before... B

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml red waxed cap). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/23/14.

Lavery continues to be an interesting little brewery, and I'd love to try some more from their barrel program... and I'll probably grab a bottle of Liopard Oir next time I see it.

Cascade The Vine

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Cascade Brewing out of Oregon has quite the reputation, and we were able to confirm that a couple times last year, to the point where I now blind buy any new bottle I see. I love the idea of a brewery that got its start specializing in sour beers (rather than the tired old pale ale, amber, and porter lineup that a lot of new breweries roll out). Apparently the folks who started the brewery were sick of the whole "hops arms race" and didn't want to chase the same dragon as pretty much every other brewer out there. So they looked for something that would provide a similar intensity (but without the hops), and thus settled on sour beers. Despite being a rather tiny brewer, they are probably one of the most consistent and largest sour brewers out there, which is saying something.

I recently managed to get my greedy paws on a few new bottles (and some old favorites) of Cascade beers, including this one, a blend of strong blond ales aged in barrels with fresh pressed grapes. I could be wrong, but I get the impression that most fruited sours use macerated fruit, not "pressed". I call this out because when I was drinking this, I got a very distinct "grape juice" vibe out of it that seemed uncommon in grape based sours.

If I were a better person, I would have made a Vine of me pouring this stuff in a glass or something more creative, but that would have been, like, 6 seconds of extra work, and who has time for that kinda hassle. I got beer to drink here:

Cascade The Vine

Cascade The Vine - Pours a hazy yellow color with a couple fingers of bubbly, fizzy head that quickly resolves to a cap that remains for a bit. The smell is full of funk and grape juice, with some more typical tripel type aromas lurking in the background. The taste follows the nose, lots of funk, a very light lactic character, not even really sour (maybe very light up front, but it fades quickly), a hint of oak (but not much at all), heaping helpings of grape juice, and something earthy and musty in the finish. Honestly, it drinks more like a grape flavored tripel than an oak aged sour, though it does work well enough for what it is. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, a little bit of booziness. Overall, it's really good, but I was hoping for a little more sourness and oak. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.3% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 5/16/14. 2013 vintage.

Reading other reviews seems to indicate that others got more sourness out of this than I did, making me wonder if I just got an odd bottle. I love me some Cascade, but one thing I do not love is the price tag, and I can't say as though I'm rushing out to grab another of these (the Kriek or Apricot beers are another story). I also got my hands on the Blueberry beer, which I've got high hopes for (look for that in the next few weeks)...

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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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