Victory Smokin' Oats

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I know, it's unfair. This beer is only available at the Victory brewpub (and maybe a few local beer bars). I promise, tomorrow I'll review a beer that's more widely available*. Anyways, Victory seems to like smoked beer. They've got their roots in German brewing, so perhaps that's not a surprise, but they do a lot of smoked beers at their brewpub (though mostly not for wide release - one exception to this is Otto, a smoked Belgian Dubbel). But if they wanted to, I think this smoked porter (presumably brewed with oats) would actually work pretty well:

Victory Smokin Oats

Victory Smokin' Oats - Pours a very dark brown color with amber highlights and finger of tan head. Smell is smoky with a solid amount of roasted malt character. Those roasted malts take on more prominence in the taste, along with some coffee flavors and a rather well matched smokiness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with solid carbonation and a nice crisp finish. It actually went really well with the brisket taco things I was eating at the time. A very good beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 0.3L glass on 1/7/11.

* Technically, the next beer on my list is Trappist Westvleteren 8, which is one of the least accessible beers in existence, but I'll skip it for a day or two, I think.

Pannepot

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A "pannepot" was a fishing boat based in the small Belgian village of De Panne. As the story goes, the men would go out fishing and their wives would stay home and brew up a strong, dark beer. I don't know how closely De Struise Brewery is following those historical recipes, but they call this beer their Fisherman's Ale, an ale brewed with spices.

Struise is something of an anomaly in Belgium - they're relatively young! In a country where some abbeys have a brewing tradition going back almost a thousand years, Struise began operations in 2003. They seem to be part of a crew of European brewers that are taking their cue from US craft beer, creating non-traditional Belgian beers. Apparently this wasn't so successful at first, but as recounted in a recent article in The Atlantic (reproduced at theBeerAuthority):

Struise's reputation is almost entirely a consequence of the Internet. "In the early days, it was impossible for us to sell beer in Belgium," Grootaert said. But after a RateBeer.com user in Denmark contacted Grootaert and tried his beer, Pannepot began circulating within the Danish beer-geek community, and its Web-savvy fans broadcast their approval to the rest of the world.
Yet another thing to thank the Danish for, I guess. Cause this beer is pretty fantastic:

De Struise Pannepot

De Struise Pannepot - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of tan head. The smell is very strange. Spicy, but not the typical Belgian spice. Also very fruity sweet, maybe even some brown sugar. Taste starts off sweet with a spicy kick. Fruity sweetness emerges in the middle (again maybe some brown sugar) and lingers through the aftertaste, though it does finish pretty dry (with just a hint of bitterness). Complex flavors keep evolving as it warms up. Mouthfeel is great. Highly carbonated, but not overpowering. Nice full body. A really interesting beer, and something I'd love to try again. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a goblet on 1/7/11. 2010 vintage bottle.

Recommended if you're looking for a good Quad/Belgian Strong Dark. Good stuff and I'm sure I'll be crossing paths with De Struise again soon enough (heck, I didn't even realize it, but this is my third post about De Struise without even really trying to focus on trying their beers...)

Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale

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Back in aught two, Stone started what they call a Vertical Epic. Each year, they put out a one-time brew that is meant to be aged until December 12, 2012. Assuming you're patient enough, you can then enjoy a vertical tasting of all the brews (it's not strictly a "vertical" tasting, as each year's beer has a different recipe, but you get the idea.) Each beer is released on one of them funny numerological dates, like 2/2/02, and 3/3/03, and so on, with the culmination being on 12/12/12 later this year (after which, such numerical games are not possible). This year has the added benefit of being binary (for the last time this century!)

I've actually never had any of these beers until now, but they generally seem to be a Belgian Strong Ale with some sort of twist. This year's installment was brewed with Anaheim chiles and cinnamon. Yeah, I think we're all thinking the same thing here:

Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11

Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale - Pours a dark amber color with a finger of light head and some lacing as I drink. Smell is filled with bready, musty Belgian yeast and some spiciness. The taste starts out surprisingly bland, with some sweet flavors emerging in the middle and a big bang of spice (chile and cinnamon are both there, though I'm not sure how well I'd be able to pick them out if I didn't already know about it) hitting in the finish and plowing through the aftertaste. It's most unusual. The chiles are definitely there and you even get a bit of heat from them (and it seems to build as you drink), but they're nowhere near overwhelming (the way they've been in other chile beers I've had). Overall, this is an interesting beer with a unique character. It's not a beer I'll be pining after for years to come or anything, but I'm really glad I got to try some. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.4% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/6/12.

An epic idea, for sure, but it seems I've come on board a little too late in the process! Still, I'll check out that 12/12/12 beer for sure.

Victory Ranch S IPA

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Having exhausted Victory's regular catalog of beers (and most of their seasonals...), I set about sampling their irregular catalog of beers. This one appeared out of nowhere. No fanfare, just a new Double IPA on tap at the brewery. With a cryptic name.

As it turns out, this is a 100% Cascade hopped beer. Victory sourced the hops for this beer from a family owned hop farm called the Segal Hop Ranch (i.e. Ranch S), apparently the first hop farmers to commercially grow cascade hops (starting back in the late 1960s), so these folks ain't fooling around. In an interesting Victory blog post a while back, one of the Victory brewers recounted his visit to the farm, talking about the Cascade Hops (which are apparently also used in Hop Devil) as well as Citra and then there's this intriguing tidbit: "During the visit, the Segals showed me an unnamed experimental hop they are growing that had a fruity aroma with notes of banana and vanilla." Well that sounds interesting, but I'll have to make due with this Cascade single hopped double IPA for now. I picked up a growler of the stuff a couple weeks ago and ended up drinking the whole damn thing that weekend. Incidentally, Victory's growler filler machine thingy is absolutely badass.

Victory Ranch S IPA

Victory Ranch S IPA - Pours a really striking clear golden orange color with a finger or two of fluffy white head. The smell is filled with earthy citrus hop aromas. As it warmed and/or as I drank more of it over the course of the weekend, I started to pick up more of a pine-like aroma. You know how all the descriptions of Simcoe hops say that they're like Cascade on steroids? I never understood that until now. This Cascade beer really does have the smell (and taste) profile of a Simcoe beer. The taste is sweet with some of that earthy, piney citrus, but also a more floral or even herbal character leading into the dry, bitter finish and lingering aftertaste I expect from an IPA. Again, I feel like my palate adjusted to this the more I drank, with the pine taking a more pronounced position. Mouthfeel is smooth and just a bit sticky, with a light to medium body. Quite an easy drinking beer. I even got a bit of alcohol warming out of it, though I think that's because I drank a lot of it quickly. It's a lot like a souped-up Hop Devil (and it has less in common with Hop Wallop)... Hop Devil was the beer that sold me on IPAs, so this is very good thing, and a nice surprise from Victory. Again, as I drank more of it and that Simcoe-esque quality started to shine through, it perhaps came into its own. I really like this beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV growler (2L), filled on 12/30/11. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/30/11 and 12/31/11.

I have no idea if this beer will return (I went to the brewery again this past weekend and they were already out of this) or if Victory has bigger plans to bottle this or something, but I'm glad I got to try some, as I enjoyed it greatly.

January Beer Club: Hoppy New Beer!

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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 an average turnout this month, with 5 folks drinking beer and one pregnant club member who actually brought some non-alcoholic beer for us to try:

January Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or a giant hunk of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale - I already reviewed this beer last month, but this bottle seemed a lot better than the one I had before. Not sure what the deal is there, but it was a better balanced brew than I remember, and certainly not a C. Maybe an upgrade to a B- is warranted.
  • Clausthaler Premium - The first of our non-alcoholic beers, this one was actually not the worst thing I've ever had. It's not particularly great either, but it's certainly comparable to a solid macro lager, maybe even better. If you're pregnant, this would certainly hit the spot (though apparently there's an amber version that is better). I give it a C
  • Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale - I've had this a few times before, but it's actually better than I remember. Very nice, lots of hop character in the nose and the taste (nice floral and pine notes), but not overwhelmingly bitter or anything. I don't get a ton of oak out of this, but it's definitely more complex than the standard Arrogant Bastard. A-
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale - Rogue's collaboration with the Voodoo Doughnut shop generated a lot of buzz when it was announced, but once it was released, it got denounced as a "foul abomination". Fortunately, it's not that bad, though it's certainly not a mainstream beer. It smells very strongly of maple syrup with a little smoke coming through. The bacon comes out a little in the taste, but I'm still getting more maple syrup than anything else. There's some smoke there too, but it's not an overpowering flavor. Mouthfeel is actually quite nice, though it's still not an easy drinkin beer. I'm not sure I'd want to drink an entire bottle, but I did seem to like it a lot more than most beer club peeps. Perhaps because I was drinking this along with the burger I had ordered? Whatever the case, it is a bit of a gimmick, but I kinda enjoyed it. B-
  • Kaliber - This is the other non-alcoholic beer we tried, and we had high hopes. It's brewed by Guinness, and when my pregnant friend asked around, this was one of the recommendations she got. But yeah, this is horrible beer. Bland and watery with some off flavors or something. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was a kinda nice palate cleanser after the strong character of the Voodoo Doughnut (but then, water would probably have done just as well or better). F
  • The Bruery Mischief - A classic. I reviewed this a while back, and it's just as good as it was the first time. Still an A and probably my favorite beer of the night.
  • Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock - Very sweet and malty beer, I rather enjoyed this, though it was far from my favorite beer of the night. Perhaps a bit too sticky sweet, though still quite solid. I actually have one of these in my fridge somewhere, so I'll have to give this some closer attention at some point. For now, I'll give it a B
  • Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper - During a beer run in early December, I actually bought one of these (along with a few others) and put it on my passenger's side seat for the trip back home. At some point, I had to brake suddenly and my beer went flying... and this one broke open. I knew what happened right away, but since I was driving I couldn't really address it until I got home. For the next week or so, my car smelled of imperial stout... which, actually, wasn't that bad. I eventually picked up another bottle, but never drank it, so I brought it to beer club. It's quite a solid imperial stout. Roasty aroma with a taste that features a lot of dark chocolate and roasted malts. It was quite good, though perhaps my taste buds were a bit shot at this point of the night, as this wasn't quite as great as I was expecting. I'll give it a B for now.
  • My Homebrewed Christmas Beer - I think this is perhaps my best crafted beer yet and other folks at beer club certainly seemed to enjoy it (it went pretty quickly, which is pretty gratifying). I keep saying this, but I should really do some reviews of my homebrewed beers at some point.
  • Dana's Homebrewed Tripel - This did not come out as Dana had planned - there was a bit of a sour flavor present in the beer - but it actually turned out ok. Very citrusy nose and the taste, while not a typical tripel, was actually pretty good.
And that covers all the beer that we drank. As always, a great time was had by all, and we're already looking forward to February.

Trappist Westvleteren 12

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My first beer of the year and I may have just shot myself in the foot. I mean, yeah, January 1st just another day and our penchant for creating end of the year lists is an entirely arbitrary practice, but still. This sets the bar pretty high.

Trappist Westvleteren 12. The fabled Westy 12. Both Rate Beer and Beer Advocate have it ranked as the #2 best beer in the world, and it's been there for a long time. Indeed, it is often in the #1 slot, occasionally falling to a Pliny the Younger or Kaggen Stormaktsporter. In short, it's a legendary beer.

Of course, it's impossible to get. Almost literally. To buy a case of it, you have to fly to Belgium and even then you have to jump through all sorts of hoops, calling the Monastery at the magic time, going to the secret pickup place at the secret time, doing the elaborate 42 step handshake with the attending monk, ducking below the booby traps (Only the penitent man will pass!), then bribing the airport baggage handlers so they don't just "lose" your package, and so on. Apparently the monks also sell some bottles to their local cafes, so you can get one there too, but for most of us, the Westy is a pipe dream. Why do they do this? Well, the monks at the Saint Sixtus Abbey only sell their beer in order to financially support the monastery (occasionally, they will also use their earnings to support a charitable cause). This means not much beer is made, and apparently the local folks like this stuff too, so it sells out quickly. Go figure.

How did I get one? Let's just say I'm a weak, weak man. I bought a "collectible bottle" that just happened to be unopened. Wink, wink. I feel a little bad about it, but not really. It was expensive but not obscene (the way a lot of "collectible bottles" are), and it's pretty much the only way I'd be able to actually get my hands on one of these things. Ok enough preamble, let's do this:

Trappist Westvleteren 12

Check out that bottle. You've got to love a brewery that's so badass it doesn't even need to put labels on their bottles. The only real identifier is the gold cap.

Trappist Westvleteren 12 Cap

Pours a cloudy dark brown color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smell is strong with dark fruits - raisins and plums - along with some bready Belgian yeast. The taste has that same dark fruit character to it, very strong and rich flavors, sweet, well matched, a little booze, and a nice dry finish. The mouthfeel is absolutely perfect. Full bodied, a little chewy, but very easy to drink. Perfectly balanced carbonation that lasts throughout the entire taste. There's a little booze in there, but its true strength is hidden well by the rich flavor profile. Overall, an exceptional beer. A

Trappist Westvleteren 12 Closeup

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 1/1/12. The cap has a date printed on it that says 15.06.14.

So is it the best beer in the world? Probably not, but it's up there. I mean, I've only had the one and it was superb, but I'd like to try it a few more times before I put the best in the world label on something. I suspect even then it wouldn't be at the very top of my list (though perhaps a top 10 slot would be fitting). Heresy? Maybe, but who really cares? When you get to beer that is this good, it doesn't really matter how you rank it. I've also got a bottle of the less infamous but just as hard to get Westy 8 that I'm hoping to crack open this weekend, so look for another review soon!

A Note on Commenting

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Those who have attempted to leave a comment recently have no doubt found themselves facing a rather ugly error page despite the fact that the comment actually went through and was being displayed properly on the site. Sorry about that. In the short term, I've tried to make that error page a little more friendly so that you know what's what.

This has been a problem I've been running into lately and is probably the result of my host attempting to deal with the massive throngs of spam comments that were attempted on this site (and on my generalist blog) a while back. It's a 504 error, which is apparently something of a scripting timeout, and yeah, I know, you don't care.

So to make a long story short, if you submit a comment here, it should work, even if you get a weird page with an error on it. Also, I know it's annoying to have to log in with your Google or Wordpress (or whatever) account to leave a comment, but you can blame that one on the spammers too. I understand this is all a confusing state of affairs, and I assure you the appropriate person or persons responsible will be sacked. Unless that person is me, in which case, you're fucked because I'm pretty lazy about this stuff. I mean, come on, this beer isn't going to drink/review itself, amiright?

Update: Playing around with some Module Caching settings. You may see some funkiness on the site. If something seems wrong, I suggest panic.

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Mario wants to know what we drink when we're not drinking beer:

So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let's talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as Scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.
Well, leaving aside the beer blog roundup of posts that aren't about beer, I didn't have much trouble picking my poison. A few years ago, and I would have said Coca-Cola. But then my doctor told me I drank too much Coke. And I won a basket of Scotch and Cigars. Warning: What follows is a long and arduous tale of how I came to enjoy Scotch, followed by a beer review (said beer having been aged in Scotch casks). Feel free to skip ahead if my blabbering is putting you to sleep.

Every year at work, we have a number of charity events, and for one of them, various teams put together a basket of goodies. People buy tickets and enter to win each basket. In the 7 or so years I've participated, I've won three times (the secret is to put your tickets in the bags with the least amount of tickets). There are always baskets of booze and beer, and they're usually among the most entered baskets, but the Scotch and Cigar basket only had one bottle of scotch, so I'm guessing folks went for quantity over quality, and so I won and thus began my interest in scotch (and to a lesser extent, bourbon).

The Scotch I won was called The Balvenie. It's a single malt Scotch, but unlike most single malt Scotches, The Balvenie comes from a single cask (I'm no expert, but usually multiple casks are filled with the whisky from a single malt, then blended together). It's the 15 year old version, but it's got a nice fancy label with all the relevant dates and whatnot, and as luck would have it, my particular bottle sat in the cask for 18 years (it was casked in 1990 and bottled in 2008).

The Balvenie 15

At the time, I was a little intimidated by the world of fine Scotch whisky. I didn't want to waste this gorgeous and unique bottle of Scotch on an unrefined palate. Truth be told, it was right around this time that my beer geekery went into overdrive. I was learning a lot about beer, so I knew how different things could feel after you refined your palate a bit. So instead of cracking the Balvenie, I went out and bought some cheap Scotch. I started with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. A scotch whisky blend, and relatively cheap stuff with which to acquire a taste for scotch.

My initial strategy consisted of pouring a little bit of scotch in a glass, then filling most of the rest with water. Yeah, if a whisky nerd ever reads this, their head might explode, but this is why I got the Johnnie Walker. I would have one of these every day, but each day, I would decrease the amount of water. After a couple of weeks, I was drinking it straight up (like a real, fire-breathing man!) and enjoying myself quite a bit. I finally cracked open The Balvenie and basked in its glory.

During this period, my friend Padraic took pity on my scotch newbie soul and gave me the rundown (Padraic is a big beer nerd too, and he also maintains a blog about tea - quite the renaissance man!) He gave me a nice list of Scotches to try, and pointed me to a blog written by his friend Jacob called Water of Life (Padraic also contributes some reviews there). Thus armed with recommendations, I began exploring the world of Scotch a bit more.

It's been slow going and I won't pretend to be an expert. Beer is my poison of choice and I've probably only had 7 or 8 different scotches in my life. I only recently figured out that Islay is pronounced "eye-wah". Speaking of which, I don't know much about the various scotch regions either (though Islay seems to be home to the peaty, smoky monsters of Scotch). But I tell you now, every time I pour myself a dram of The Balvenie 15, I find my appreciation grows immensely. It is a really spectacular spirit, and I'm glad I still have some of it left. Oh sure, I could buy myself another bottle, but as it says on the label "Each bottle is unique and unrepeatable."

But this is a beer blog, so to bring the subject back to beer, we'll naturally have to talk about Scotch barrel aged beer! I've covered a few of these, ranging from the sublime to the merely brilliant to the awkwardly balanced to the outright disastrous. Today, I review one of Brewdog's now defunct Paradox series. An intriguing idea - they brewed up some imperial stout, then aged it in varying brands of Scotch barrels. This one was aged in Smokehead barrels. It's an Islay scotch, and apparently quite heavily peated, with lots of smoke. In my above referenced examples, Islay seems to overpower the flavors in beer, even in an imperial stout. But two examples isn't exactly a big sample size, so here's a third.

This one's been sitting around for at least a year, so perhaps the flavors have had enough time to come together and harmonize or something. The bottle says this should be served "at room temperature, unless you live in an igloo." In which case, I presume our Eskimo friends would have to find a way to warm up the beer. Fortunately, I don't live in an igloo:

Brewdog Paradox Smokehead

BrewDog Paradox Smokehead - Pours an extremely dark brown, almost black color with a couple fingers of light brown head. The aroma is dominated by peat smoke (as expected), with just a little musty yeast and roasted malt character shining through. That peaty smoke appears prominently in the taste as well, along with the corresponding scotch flavors, but you also get more of that roasted malt. Coffee and even chocolate make a welcome appearance towards the middle to finish, with a lingering aftertaste that actually works well. Mouthfeel is weird to judge. Feels very heavy and chewy, but that is perhaps due to the temperature (I don't normally drink beer at room temperature). Overall, this is actually a damn good beer. I never really had a fresh bottle of this, but I suspect that the extra time on my shelf has done this beer a favor, and that it would get even better with additional aging. The flavors have actually married together well, though it is not quite the perfection of Ola Dubh 40 or Devine Rebel. That being said, I'm impressed and a little saddened that Brewdog doesn't make these anymore. Perhaps I'll still be able to find a bottle somewhere... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/6/11. Bottle label says this is Batch 15, best drank before 19-8-16 (and unlike Storm, this one didn't have a little sticker over the date!)

Well, there you have it. I wish I had a bottle of Smokehead to chase this with, but what are you going to do. I have about 5 bottles of scotch in my little liquor cabinet with varying degrees of glory left in the bottle. Since this is a strong beer, I may have to forego the Balvenie tonight and hit up the newly acquired Ardbeg 10, whose Islay smokeyness knows no bounds. Someday, perhaps, I will do more considered Scotch reviews (they would definitely make great candidates for a double feature) here, but for now, this post will have to do.

Update: The Roundup has been posted. As it turns out, I'm very unoriginal, as lots of beer folks apparently go for the occasional dram of scotch as well. Go figure.

Polishing Off Christmas Beer Season

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Did I say I only had 2 Christmas beers left? Turns out there were more. Rather than belabor the holiday beers, I figured I'd just finish them off, all in one post.

  • Mikkeller Red/White Christmas - Inspired by the colors of Christmas, red and white, Mikkeller made this combination between an Imperial Red Ale (i.e. the Red) Belgian Wit (i.e. the White). Is this anything more than a gimmick? Well, I'll tell you, if there's wheat in this beer, I couldn't detect it (and only found out about it after the fact), but there are spices added. Of course, the spices are subtle, but there's definitely something going on here. Whatever the case, it's a pretty great beer:

    Mikkeller Red White Christmas

    Pours a dark reddish brown color with fluffy head and tons of lacing on the glass afterwards. Smell is fully of earthy hops and citrus, maybe a little pine. The taste is sweet with a spicy bite and a well balanced hop bitterness in the finish. The hoppiness trends towards the citrus and pine, and as the beer warms, some complexities emerge in the taste as well. Mouthfeel is great, smooth and eminently drinkable. I was taking pretty big swigs of this one. Surprisingly medium to full bodied, with lots of complexity. It's not quite Yule Smith, but it was quite enjoyable. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - A Christmas gift from my brother (apparently picked out by my nieces, as they liked the funny looking reindeer on the label). As it turns out, I've sampled this before, but neglected to rate it. I was pretty middle of the road on it in that context (a larger tasting with lots of other beers), but by itself, well, it just didn't stand up. Pours a clear orange amber color with a very small amount of bubbly head. Aroma is very English pale ale to me - bready, a little citrus, maybe even some raisins... but there's also some buttery diacetyl notes (typically something that doesn't go over well with me). Taste is sweet, a little bready, with some light caramel/toffee flavors there, but I can never seem to get past the prominent buttery diacetyl in these beers. Mouthfeel is ok, maybe a little light on carbonation, but smooth and drinkable. The beer gets slightly better as it warms up, but this was still disappointing. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Pickled Santa - Another Christmas gift from my brother. Ridgeway is a brewery that makes 22 beers, and I swear, half of them are Christmas beers. 11 Christmas beers. And most of them seem to be mediocre at best, this one not being an exception. It's definitely better than the Reindeer's Revolt - more spicy, more head, less diacetyl - but there's nothing particularly special about this beer either. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
So there you have it. That wraps up this year's Christmas beer blogging extravaganza. Regular beer blogging will resume next week, and boy did I have a doozy to start the new year off right!

Noel De Calabaza

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Ok folks, coming down the homestretch here. Only two holiday beers left to review. This one is an Belgian style ale aged in oak barrels with wild yeast to give the beer a bit of a sour twang. I didn't realize that last part when I bought it (beers that say they're oak aged generally make me think of bourbon barrel aged stuff, not sour stuff, though both seem to happen frequently), so that wild ale twang sometimes catches me by surprise. This was my Christmas night, done with all the festivities, vegging out on the couch beer, and despite the unexpected wildness, it fulfilled its duty well enough:

Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza

Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza - Pours a dark brown color with some amber highlights and a white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. The aroma is full of vanilla, oak, sugary sweetness, and a twang that I normally associate with sours. And yes, there is a bit of a tartness to the taste, though it's not nearly as prominent as it is in a lot of sours. The taste has a lot of sweetness and fruitiness along with some spiciness (peppery? Not notably Christmassy, but it's there...) and that wild twang emerging in the finish. The richness of the base beer's flavors can clearly hold their own with the sourness, a combination I usually like better than beers that are super sour. The mouthfeel is strong and full bodied, a little acidic, but well matched. Overall, it wasn't what I was expecting at all, but I'm enjoying it... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/25/11.

I don't really know what style to call this one. BA calls it a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but it seems more like an American Wild Ale to me, so that's what I'm putting it as. In other news, Jolly Pumpkin is a brewery I should really become further acquainted with.

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

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