April Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. We had a good turnout this month, with quite a few interesting beers to try. As usual, we hit up a local BYOB, this time a sushi place that seems to be a regular beer club venue. Good food (and the waitress put these amazingly intricate designs on our plates - see photo below) and good times were had by all.

April Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As usual, these were not ideal conditions, so take it all with a grain of salt or whatever superstition floats your boat. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • My Homebrewed Earl Grey Bitter - The first thing we opened was my most recent homebrew, an English bitter style beer brewed with Earl Grey tea. I've actually been sampling this on a weekly basis since bottling, and it keeps getting better. At week 1, it was still very thin, but by week 3, it had really matured into a really nice beer. It is a low gravity beer, so it's not a powerful beer, but it's actually got a lot of flavor packed in for an approximately 4% ABV beer. I don't know that you get a really big Earl Grey component, but there is more citrus here than in your typical bitter, which is exactly what I was going for. It's got a really nice nose, with a light earthy hoppiness and plenty of citrus (from the hops, but probably more from the bergamot and orange peel). The taste matches, and while it is a light and quaffable beer, it's not thin or watery. It's got a certain delicacy to it that wouldn't stand up to stronger flavors, but it's still exactly what I was going for. I'll probably do a separate post on this at some point as well... For now, I'll give it a B+
  • War Horse Peace Bomber German Lager - I'm pretty sure this is a tiny brewery, but one of our beer cub peeps visited New York recently and picked up a bottle for us to enjoy. It turns out to be a pretty straightforward lager, sweet but muted malt character, not a lot of hop character but enough to match the flavors. A solid beer. I'm not too familiar with the Vienna Lager style, but this seems like a worthy example, even if it's not really my thing. B-
  • Philadelphia Brewing Fleur De Lehigh - For those of you not in the know, Lehigh is an Eastern PA town with the third largest city in PA (Allentown). Also notable for Lehigh University, who I seem to recall had some recent sports success, but I don't really know or care about the details (probably because it had something to do with the contemptible sport of basketball)... The beer looked like a wheat beer and the nose is very much in line with a Belgian wit beer, light with very interesting and heavy spicing. But I didn't get much in the way of wheat out of the taste (Update: probably because there was no wheat in the beer! It's actually classified as a standard Belgian pale ale.) Still, it's got a similar sort of light-bodied summer-drinking character. It's not something that knocked my socks off or anything, but it would make a nice warm-weather quencher. My friend Mike gave this a nice writeup in Epikur magazine (though he only gave it 2 out of 5 stars) I'll say: B-
  • 5even Dillon Imperial Pilsner - This was the other beer club homebrewer's beer, and it turned out great. Sweet, assertively hopped but not overpoweringly so, and a nice, quaffable mouthfeel. B+
  • Lester's Fixins Bacon Soda - Bonus non-alcoholic review! Bacon flavored soda? Sounds disgusting? Well guess what? It is disgusting! Ok, so maybe it's not that bad, but I didn't really care for it. Overly sweet and not really much in the way of bacon flavor. (unratable!)

    Bacon Soda
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - I've had this before (I even reviewed it), and it's just as good as last time, though I will say that it wasn't quite as bitter as I remembered (not that it was a bitter bomb last time, but still). Great citrus and pine character, highly drinkable beer. It shall remain at the most excellent A- level I rated it before!
  • The Bruery and Cigar City Collaboration: Marrón Acidifié - This was my other contribution for the night, and it's another beer I've already reviewed in detail. I'm really hoping that we'll get to see more of this stuff, but I have a feeling this will be the last I ever see of this collaboration. As sours go, I think it may be my favorite, and as I've noticed before, it goes exceptionally well (luckily, a fellow beer club member had stopped at famous West Chester chocolatier Eclat recently and had a nice dark chocolate bar available, which really goes well with the Flanders Oud Bruin style). Excellent stuff. A
And we called it a night after that. I had also brought a Founders Porter (reviewed recently) and a Centennial IPA (review forthcoming!), but we never cracked them open. We also didn't get to the DuClaw Soul Jacker (a blend of Blackjack Stout and Devil's Milk barleywine), but maybe I can pick a bottle of that stuff up for later! I will leave you with a picture of a plate of sushi:

Sushi plate and design
(Click for bigger image)

Beautiful stuff, and each of our plates had custom, hand-drawn artwork that was just as intricate and pretty.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

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Back in the day, when I was still trying to wrap my head around the daunting complexity of the beer world, I put together a dorky list of beers I should try. It was based on recommendations from friends and things I read on teh internets (because that's a trustworthy and reliable source, right?) Anyways, this was one of the beers suggested to me (by frequently mentioned beverage compatriot Padraic), and in true Kaedrin fashion, I picked up a bottle about two years later, and here we are:

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja - Pours a dark amber color with a a bit less than a finger of whitish head. Smells funky, with some Brettanomyces character and that twang that makes me expect sour flavors, but there's also some malt sweetness peeking through. The taste is very sweet with a tartness emerging in the finish. It's not super sour, but that twang is there, along with some of that barnyard Brett character. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied. The sourness makes it more of a sipper, but it's not heavy. Overall, quite solid, a nice example of the style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/21/12.

Yeah, so I'm, uh, still working through that list of beers I made in 2010. For the most part, I'm not actively pursuing the list (rather, the list of stuff I want to try that resides in my head has grown exponentially - I should really post a most wanted list or something), but I've actually made a great deal of headway. One of these days I'll pick up a bottle of Rodenbach, as was also suggested to me way back when. I do not forget these things... it just sometimes takes a few years for me to get to them.

The Monkey Julius

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I'm not entirely convinced by the whole beer coctail craze - beer is good all by itself, thanks - but I have to admit, this does sound pretty good:

I'm a little surprised that I've not reviewed Golden Monkey on the blog yet, a situation that will have to be rectified soon. But this coctail does sound pretty interesting. Orange juice seems like a really nice match to the spiced Belgian tripel style that Golden Monkey falls into, and the sparkling wine would give it an extra efferfescence. Sounds like a great brunch drink, and a nice alternative to the bloody mary (a drink I've never quite been able to get behind).

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA

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Dogfish Head is always producing interesting, if perhaps a bit gimmicky, beers. Unfortunately, interesting doesn't always translate to "tastes good". Yeah, yeah, you developed the recipe from some three thousand year old tomb, but it doesn't taste very good (I'm looking at you, Midas Touch!) And lately, it seems like everything has to have the weirdest ingredients ever. But when it comes to more normal styles, Dogfish Head can really nail it. In particular, they're great at IPAs. Their Minute series of beers is exceptional. I'm sure many would call the whole continually hopped nature of the series something of a gimmick, but compared to some of the other stuff they do, I think it's a valid approach.

The 60 Minute IPA is an excellent take on a standard style (though I may have overrated it a bit), the 90 Minute is an exceptional beer (and the best thing Dogfish Head makes), and the 120 Minute is a monster. Then there are the variations. Squall is bottle conditioned 90 Minute IPA, and it's really nice (alas, this beer was discontinued... in favor of the beer I'm reviewing today). Burton Baton is wood aged 90 Minute IPA, also a fantastic beer. And now we come to the 75 Minute IPA, a blend of the 60 and 90 Minute beers, with additional dry hopping and bottle conditioned with maple syrup. Also, I think this is their first beer bottled in their fancy new embossed bottles...

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA - Pours a bright but slightly cloudy golden color with tons of billowy white head. Smells strongly of sugary sweet citrus, with plenty of pine and hints of something else too. Perhaps a bready yeast character? And as it warms, it takes on a more earthy character. Taste has a nice, sweet profile that eventually gives way to a nice dry bitterness in the finish. You get a little of that citrus and pine flavor too, and again, something I'm having trouble placing. Perhaps it's the yeast or the maple syrup... and again, as it warms, an earthiness emerges. Mouthfeel is strongly carbonated, but still surprisingly light to medium bodied. I haven't had a 90 Minute IPA in quite a while, but this feels a lot lighter. Overall, a damn good IPA and a solid addition to the minute series (though I think I still prefer the 90 Minute). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip on 4/12/12.

While Dogfish Head can be hit-or-miss with me, I'm always at least interested in trying their stuff. I don't really have anything in the pipeline right now, though I do have a couple bottles of 120 Minute aging in the cellar right now, along with the monster World Wide Stout (both of which are beers I really love).

Firestone Walker Double Jack

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Firestone Walker has one of my favorite logos, mostly because it features a standing bear holding up its paws like an old-timey boxer. This is across from a more typical rearing lion figure that nevertheless seems like it's relying on wimpy slaps (though, granted, it looks like it has some pretty vicious claws) in the implied fight to the death depicted on most labels.

Firestone Walker logo

Oh, and I guess the brewery is somewhat known for their beer too. While it's far from my first of their beers, this is the first time I've actually reviewed one... a situation that will reverse itself in a few weeks, I suspect, as a few others are in the pipeline. There are many interesting things about the brewery, especially their philosophy on barrel fermentation, but since this particular beer is fermented on stainless steel like most other beers, I'll save the barrel discussion for later:

Firestone Walker Double Jack

Firestone Walker Double Jack - Pours a gorgeous clear golden color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells strongly of bright citrus with some resiny pine aromas peeking through as well. As it warms, maybe some more floral notes come out to play. Taste also has a nice citrus and pine character to it, with a robust bitterness emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth, medium bodied, and goes down pretty easy. Overall, fantastic double IPA. I feel like I should have more to say about a beer that is this good, but the only thing that comes to mind is that... I want more! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/7/12. Label sez: 02/29/12 (presumably bottling date).

I've had some of their standard Union Jack IPA before, and I really enjoyed that. I actually mentioned Walker's Reserve Porter in my Oscars post, though I never got around to doing a full review. I wasn't a huge fan, but it's a solid take on a style I don't usually love. Coming up, we've got Firestone Walker XV, their blended anniversary monster beer that everyone's been raving about (as will I, when I get to the review, probably next week!) and Sucaba, another barrel aged barley wine that I'm very much looking forward to... Basically, they're a brewery to look out for...

Another Note on Commenting

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One of the really annoying things about running your own site and blog software is that spammers are a constant pain in the arse. As such, hosts often implement new and fun (and by "fun" I mean invasive and disruptive) security measures... which can sometimes wreak havoc on blogging software, particularly the commenting. Those who've tried to comment in the past week or two may have had a great deal of difficulty, as certain authentication methods (particularly Wordpress.com) were throwing nasty little 403 Forbidden errors. Other methods had sporadic problems. It looked like it was fixed earlier in the week, but apparently something else changed.

Well, that should all be corrected now. A thousand pardons for the inconvenience. I've got some ideas for future enhancements to the site, but progress is slow, and I'd rather spend my time writing posts than figuring out a way to optimize the way the site rebuilds after a comment. So commenting is going to remain a bit funky, but it should work. Now if you'll excuse me, this beer ain't gonna drink itself.

Lavery Imperial Red Ale

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So I've heard a lot about these Erie, PA brewers from the guys over at Aleheads, who did a great interview with the founder, Jason Lavery. As such, when I noticed a few bottles popping up here in Eastern PA, I jumped at the chance to try some of this stuff. Selection is still limited and I'm holding out hope for their summer seasonal, apparently a huge saison-style beer. In the meantime, I figured I'd check out this Imperial Red Ale.

This can be a bit of a strange style. A lot of times, it comes out like a reddish IPA or DIPA (think Gordon/G'Knight or Yule Smith Winter), but in this case, it was much more recognizable as a souped up Irish Red Ale. Knowing more about the brewery now, this is unsurprising, as these brewers are Irish, and you can see that influence all throughout their catalog.

Apparently the recipe for this has changed significantly. They originally used all Amarillo hops, one of the most popular and trendy varieties out there, but apparently small breweries can experience supply problems... From the Aleheads interview: "It's a really sad story. The Imperial Red Ale was originally all Amarillo. From the hops in the kettle to the dry hops, but our hop contractor told us that since we're so small, we won't be getting any more Amarillo until 2013." Well, crap. I love me some Amarillo hops. They've got this bright, juicy citrus flavor and aroma that's just very difficult to replicate, hence Lavery's woes. The beer I had was apparently a blend of Centennial, Cascade, and Nugget, but I'd love to get my hands on some of that Amarillo version someday (perhaps next year!), assuming the great hop contractor conspiracy deems it acceptable.

Anyway, I cracked this open to celebrate the return of Game of Thrones. It's not a very... Irish... show or anything, but something about this beer seemed to fit with the atmosphere of that series quite well. Go figure.

Lavery Imperial Red Ale

Lavery Imperial Red Ale - Pours a deep, dark red color with two fingers of small bubbled head. Smells are interesting... definitely some sugary sweetness and plenty of hop character, but when put together it's hard to place. Is it... is it like a fruit rollup, but with earthy, piney hops instead of fruit? Geeze, I hate it when reviewers say stuff like that, but that's what I'm getting out of this. The taste features a well balanced sweetness and bitterness, with neither overpowering the other - a relatively mild seeming beer. The malt backbone is similar to that of an Irish Red (amber and caramel malt, probably a hint of roasted malts for color), but unlike most in the style, strong hop flavors hit in the middle with a burst of citrus and pine (but not a lot of that resin character that I usually expect), leading in to a very dry finish. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light to medium bodied, and again, the finish is extremely dry. Overall, it's more like a hopped up Irish Red Ale than anything else, but I like that concept and would gladly try this again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/1/12.

Well, there you have it. An interesting first taste, but I'm intrigued by a lot of Jason's experimental talk in the Aleheads interview... though I have to wonder how much of that stuff will make it over to us Easter PA folk. As previously mentioned, I'm really hoping to get my hands on some of their Imperial French Ale, apparently a summer seasonal...

For the most part, I drink all sorts of different beer styles at all different times of the year. But there is a certain seasonality that also comes into play too. Darker, stronger beers in winter, lighter, crisper, more refreshing beers for summer. Fall and Spring are a little more odd though. Fall has a big seasonal component with harvest ales and standard pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers, but Spring seems more open. For whatever reason, I tend to think of Spring (maybe late-winter) as Barleywine time. I have no idea why, it just feels... right.

But yeah, who am I kidding? Barleywines are always good!

I've heard a lot about Schlafly brewing (from St Louis, MO), but this is actually my first beer from them. Despite the 2008 vintage, I had only purchased this recently, so I was really curious to see if it held up (this may be the oldest beer I've ever had)... Then again, I would have also liked to compare it to a fresher variety.

Also, I didn't realize when I bought this that it didn't have any bourbon at all. I just saw oak aged and assumed bourbon was involved... until I cracked the bottle open and tasted it. I was looking for that bourbon flavor, but I couldn't find it. Then I looked at the description on the box a little closer and realized my mistake. Interestingly, reviewers on Beer Advocate frequently mention bourbon. Perhaps something resembles that in fresher vintages, but I didn't get anything like that here. Fortunately, the beer has a ton of flavor already, and that oak does add its own complexity, all by itself:

Schlafly Oak Aged Barlywine Style Ale

Schlafly Reserve Barleywine Style Ale 2008 - Pours a very nice, thick, dark copper color with minimal head. Smells strongly of caramel and vanilla, maybe a little oak notes too. Some fruity hops are present too, but they're subtle. As it warms, that fruitiness intensifies, throwing out raisiny notes. The taste prominently features that strong caramel malt flavor along with some fruitiness and vanilla/oak notes, especially in the finish. The age has definitely contributed to a certain complexity of flavor here, and as it warms, the fruity raisin flavors become even more prominent. Unfortunately, I don't know how well that age has treated the mouthfeel, which I find to be just a bit undercarbonated. This isn't really a flaw and it's still got enough carbonation to make this an excellent beer, but I find myself wishing for just a hint more carbonation. Again, I suspect this is more due to the age of the beer than anything else, and I do wonder what a 2010 or 2011 vintage would be like right now. Then again, this seems like less of an issue as the beer warms up a bit. Overall, this is still a wonderful beer, and I'm really glad I got to try some, even of this older vintage. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 3/29/12.

A very nice first impression for Schlafly, and I've got a bottle of 2008 Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout burning a whole in my fridge right now (perhaps I may open it later tonight!)

Wilco Tango Foxtrot

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Wilco Tango Foxtrot? Ah, I see what they did there:

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot - Pours a very nice looking clear dark brown color with beautiful amber highlights and a finger of light head. Smells sweet, with some fruity hop character and some malty notes, maybe even a hint of roastiness. The taste is more malt than the nose would lead you to believe, very much like a brown ale (Beer Advocate calls it an American Strong Ale though), light caramel and some minor roastiness, but the hops are clearly there too. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with ample carbonation. Overall, very solid beer, well worth trying. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.83% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/7/12.

Despite not being a huge brown ale kinda guy, Lagunitas continues to impress, and thus I continue to explore their catalog.

PS - In other news, my commenting system was torpedoed by my host's new security measures, but has since been restored. Sorry for any inconvenience, and thanks to those who alerted me to the issue. I assure you the person or persons responsible will be sacked. Good day.

PPS - My readers (all 4 of you) are an astute bunch, so I'm sure you've noticed that my Wednesday entries tend to be rather sparse. This is generally because I spend time writing for my other blog on Wednesdays, so time is limited. I don't know how long I'll keep up this 4-5 entries a week schedule here, but while I don't see any end in sight, I also assume things will slow down a bit at some point. Thems the breaks, I guess.

Troegenator Double Bock

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One would assume that a Doppelbock grew out of the single Bock style, but apparently not. Doppelbocks have their roots in monastic brewing, and it was after the beer became secularized that goat-loving drinkers1 began to notice similarities between these beers and regular Bocks. Apparently, a bunch of drunken Italian monks2 found their way to Munich and began brewing this extra strong beer to sustain themselves during the fasting periods of Advent and Lent3. Full bodied with a rich, chewy malt character, these beers became known as "liquid bread".

Their beer was called Salvator (translates to "the Savior") and the Monks kept it to themselves for over a century. Once they began selling it to the public, that's when the whole Doppelbock moniker came up, though interestingly enough, other breweries who copied the beer called the style "Salvator" too. Eventually trademark protection forced those other breweries to come up with new names for their beer, though many try to keep it traditional by using words that end in "-ator", including new takes on the style like today's example:

Troegs Troegenator

Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock - Pours a deep, dark amber color with hints of ruby and a small amount of light colored head. Smells of caramel malt with a yeasty note, maybe a hint of fruitiness as well. The taste tends towards those caramel malt flavors, though it's a bit muted. Clearly there and very sweet, but not overpowering either, and while there's no real hop character to the beer, it's balanced enough not to be cloying either. Mouthfeel is smooth with just a bit of richness filling out the body, making this easier to drink than a sipper, but not quite at the level of a super-quaffable beer either. Overall, this is a solid beer. Not a ton of complexity, but quite nice for what it is. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of one of them fancy Sam Adams glasses on 3/30/12.

Tröegs continues to be an interesting semi-local brewery. I enjoy trying their beers, but I've rarely been blown away... though I will admit that Nugget Nectar has grown on me quite a bit and I'm always on the lookout for new beers in their Scratch series....

1 - For the uninitiated, "Bock" means "Goat" in German. Like a lot of beer origin stories, there are a few interpretations of where that comes from. One is that it was a shortened, mispronounced version of Einbeck, a city famous for its beer. Another is that the beer was often brewed in the Capricorn (symbolized by a goat) timeframe. Regardless, that's why you see a lot of goats on labels for Bocks and Doppelbocks.

2 - These monks were from Paula, Italy, and became known as Paulaners... a name that exists to this day, though the brewery seems to have been secularized.

3 - Yeah, I probably should have posted this on (or before) Easter, eh?

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

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