Black Damnation III

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I don't know much about Belgian upstart brewers De Struise, but they certainly seem to enjoy a pretty good reputation. Unlike a lot of Belgian breweries, De Struise seems to have a wide and varied set of beers, including limited editions and barrel aged beers and the like. They also seem to do a lot of collaborations (indeed, my only exposure to De Struise thus far has been their collaborations with Stillwater). In this particular case, we have another beer aged in Islay Scotch casks (let's hope this goes better than last time), so yeah, lots of smoky, peaty, almost medicinal flavors will be present. This time the base beer is De Struise's Black Albert, a Russian Imperial Stout (there's apparently a whole series of Black Damnation beers that put the Black Albert beer through a bunch of different treatments). Will it be able to stand up to the powerful Scotch flavors? Only one way to find out:

de Struise Black Damnation III

De Struise Black Damnation III - Black Mes - Aged on used Caol Ila barrels, the beer pours an opaque black color with a finger of creamy, light brown head. I'm not getting much out of the nose (probably a more a function of the full glass and bar atmosphere than the beer), but the taste is full of peaty Scotch flavors, finishing with a warming alcohol burn. The dark roasted malts are able to stand out a bit against the onslaught of peat, but it's clearly a background character as opposed to something that is assertive in itself. The mouthfeel is not quite as rich as you'd expect, but it's still quite full thanks to all that alcohol. Overall, it's a good beer, but it is just a tad overwhelmed by peaty Scotch character. If, perhaps, I had a bottle of this, I have to wonder if it would mellow out after some aging... A worthy experiment, and something I might try again (if it's ever made again and if I can afford it!) B

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/8/11.

It was a bit expensive, but I'm glad I got to try this. I'm actually quite looking forward to the bottle of De Struise's Pannepot that I recently acquired as well.

I really wanted to start this beer earlier, but due to a variety of factors1, I didn't get to this until now. All I really knew is that I wanted a winter warmery type of beer, which is pretty damn vague. My local homebrew shop owner was very helpful, despite my lack of preparation here. We discussed a bit, talked about Anchor's Christmas Ale (which, granted, changes every year), and eventually settled on a dark red ale with my choice of spices added at the end of the boil. I'm actually pretty happy with the recipe - it sounds really good. Now to find out if it will taste good!

Beer #6: Spiced Christmas Ale
November 5, 2011

1 lb. Crystal 40 (specialty grain)
2 oz. Roasted Barley (specialty grain)
3.3 lb. Golden Light LME
3 lb. Amber DME
1 lb. Golden Light DME
1 oz. Northern Brewer (Bittering @ 8.6% AA)
1 oz. Hallertau Hops (Flavor)
1 tsp Irish Moss
1 tsp Bitter Orange Peel
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Coriander
2 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Whole Cloves
Wyeast 1056 - American Ale Yeast

Nothing super unusual here, though there are only two hop additions. The reason for this is that the aroma will be derived from spices rather than hops. Speaking of spices, I have no idea what I'm doing. Everything I've ever read about spices indicates that it's very easy to overdo things. So I'm deliberately attempting to keep it down2. Looking around at some other recipes, I see people adding about 0.5 oz. (or more) of spices to beers, which works out to 3 tsp. I'm trying to do less than that (though it's difficult to tell with cinnamon sticks/whole cloves, but I'm using slightly less than most recipes I've seen), which will hopefully leave me with some spicy goodness without overwhelming the beer.

Not wanting to go in completely blind, I tried making a couple cups of spice tea (i.e. hot water and spice) using two different spice mixtures. I completely overdid the Nutmeg, which overpowered the other spices, so I cut that down in the recipe. But otherwise, it smelled pretty great. Of course, this doesn't even come close to approximating the final product I'm hoping for, but it seemed like a useful exercise. Alright, enough preamble, let's get this party started!

Steeped the specialty grains in 150° F - 160° F water for around 20 minutes, drained, sparged with another half gallon of water, and put the lid on to bring the wort to a boil. Once there, added the 3 pounds of Amber DME, stirred like crazy for a while, brought it back to a boil and added the bittering hops. Here starts the clock. 30 minutes into the boil, added the rest of the DME and LME. This brought the boil to a standstill, so I took some extra time to get it back to boiling (which took 5-10 minutes). After another 10 minutes, I added the flavor hops. 5 more minutes, added the irish moss. With about 3 minutes left, I started adding the various spices, removing from heat just when I was finishing with the spices.

Moved the pot to the ice bath to cool it off, brought it down to about 90° F, strained the wort (removing most of the spice and hops) into the fermenter, topped off with about 2.5 gallons of water, mixed it up real good, and took a sample and hydrometer reading. The wort was still about 75° F, so I had to wait a bit to get the temperature down (I moved it out of the kitchen, which was pretty hot at this point, and it cooled off after about 25 minutes so that it was in the high 60s). Not sure if the extra time sitting out in the open will be good for it, but it was definitely too hot to finish. I pitched the yeast, put the top on the bucket and installed the airlock. The temperature in my closet is in the mid 60s, which is perfect for this. Done.

Original Gravity: 1.060. Assuming 75% attenuation, that should bring me down to 1.015 and about a 5.9% ABV. I'm actually hoping for slightly higher attenuation (and thus a dryer beer with slightly higher ABV), but either way, this should be pretty good.

So I'm looking at two weeks in the fermenter, then bottling, and at least 2-3 weeks bottle conditioning. This will bring me to early/mid December, which is just in time for some Holiday celebration. Indeed, it should be peaking right around Christmas and New Years (though it may peak later).

I don't think I overdid it with the spices. I could clearly smell them in the finished product, but it didn't seem overpowering. I guess we'll see what happens after the fermentation. My guess is that it will become even less potent after the yeast has its way with the wort. Worst case scenario, if the spices aren't coming through, I'll throw a cinnamon stick in the bottling bucket to give it some extra oomph. But from what people say about these kinds of spices, I should be fine.

So there we have it. Not sure what's next. I've wanted to make a Belgian dubbel since I started (about a year ago), but winter is not the time for that. I should really make something that requires lower fermentation temperatures. I'm thinking perhaps an Simcoe single-hop IPA (or mixed hop IPA).

1 - And by variety of factors, I mean that I was lazy.

2 - But then I found that I had some leftover bitter orange peel from my saison, so I added a tsp of that too. I still think I'm under most other recipes when it comes to spices...

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Allagash Big Little Beer

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For Beer Advocate's Belgian Beer Fest, the Allagash folks apparently collaborated with the hallowed Alström Bros to create two beers. First was Little Big Beer, a funky 10.5% wild ale. Then, using the second runnings of the Little Big beer, they made Big Little Beer. This one turned out to be more like a straightforward Abbey single. At least, on paper, that's what it looks like. But damn, this thing turned out to be quite flavorful, almost like a Tripel without the alcohol:

Allagash Big Little Beer

Allagash Big Little Beer - Pours a very cloudy golden color with a finger of creamy white head. I actually didn't pick up a ton in the nose (I'm assuming that's more a function of the full glass and bar atmosphere than the beer), but it did have a typical Belgian yeast aroma. Musty and spicy. The taste, though, is very powerful. Full of spice and fruity citrus, almost perfectly balanced with a nice dry finish. The mouthfeel is light, refreshing, and compulsively drinkable, with that perfect dry finish. The amazing thing about this beer is that it seemingly packs the flavor of a Tripel (or at least a Belgian Strong Pale) into a very lightweight beer. At 5.5%, I would have expected this to be much less flavorful, but it's now obvious why it's called Big Little Beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/8/11.

I totally lucked out in finding this beer. It just happened to be on tap when I went to dinner (though, granted, I went to the Station Taproom, which always has an interesting selection). According to Greg, Allagash is considering making this a year round brew, but I'm guessing that's just wishful thinking (I would totally buy tons of this stuff if it was readily available though, so if Allagash is reading this, please go for it). Greg's also got some additional details about the recipe used for Big Little Beer, in case you're interested...


Hop'solutely

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Ah, the delicious world of hop puns. I know lots of folks hate puns, but I always get a kick out of them, even though they're dreadfully overused, especially with respect to IPAs and hop puns. Smooth Hoperator, Hopacalypse Now, Hoptical Illusion, Black Hop Down (for an American Black Ale), Hoptimus Prime, Modus Hoperandi, Tricerahops, Hoptober, Hoppy Ending, Hopzilla, Secret Hoperative, Hopular Mechanics, Hopencrantz and Gilderhops are Hops, by Tom Hoppard and ok, fine, some of those are made up by people who hate hop puns, but most of them are actual beers. Ultimately, the only thing that really matters is how the beer tastes, so let's get to it, shall we:

Fegleys Brew Works Hop-solutely

Fegley's Brew Works Hop'solutely - Billing itself a "triple" IPA, this 11.5% ABV monster isn't exactly sporting my favorite hop pun, but again, it's what's in the bottle that counts, not what's on the label. Local beer critic Joe Sixpack actually named this his 2010 beer of the year, saying "Is Hop'solutely as good as Pliny the Younger? In a word, yes." Pliny the Younger is, of course, the other "triple" IPA - the exceedingly rare big brother of Russian River's Pliny the Elder. The general consensus is that both of the Pliny beers are among the best in the world, but there are always contrarians who will argue otherwise. And in the case of the Younger, a beer I've never had, I have to wonder if its rarity is part of the reason it gets ranked so highly. Well, my bottle of Hop'solutely was actually sitting on my shelf longer than it probably should have. I don't know if there's any substance to the notion that a caged and corked IPA degrades faster than a capped bottle, but if so, this one probably aged more than it should have. It almost certainly lost some of its hoppy character. But on the other hand, at 11.5%, it should be able to stand up to some longer-term aging. Well, regardless, here was my initial reaction:

Pours a dark gold color with a finger of white head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells nice and hoppy - pine, citrus, caramel and booze are prominent. There's even some earthy floral notes in the aroma as well. As it warms, the hoppiness fades a bit, but it still smells great. The taste is very sweet, nice flavor from the caramel malts, some citrusy notes, and just a little bitterness. Oh, and lots of booze in the finish, lasting through aftertaste. As it warms, that booze takes on an even more prominent position... A really nice warming effect coming from the alcohol. Mouthfeel is very heavy, almost chewy, but it remains smooth. Just a bit of stickiness in the finish. This is powerful stuff. Not quite a sipping beer, but not really something you want to gulp down quickly either. Overall, it's quite a good beer. I would really like to try this again when it's fresher, as the bottle I had was sitting around for a while. I'll give it a B+ for now, but I suspect it could be higher depending on my mood...

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on... um... sometime in early/mid September. I.B.U.: 100+. Hops: Cascade, CTZ, Summit, Amarillo and Chinook hops. Dry hopped with Chinook and Amarillo.

Someday, perhaps, I'll do a double feature of Pliny the Younger and Hop'solutely, declare a winner, then pass out because I'll be totally shitfaced. Speaking of double features, I haven't done one in quite a while. I'm not sure why this is, but I may have to rectify this grievous oversight this weekend.

Stoudt's Stout

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Sometimes I forget just how awesome the state of Pennsylvania is in the beer world. Oh sure, our liquor laws are absurd and draconian, but we have an amazing variety of brewers in this state, and especially in the Philadelphia area. Stoudts is out near Reading, about an hour and a half from here, which is close enough for me. I've had a few of their flagship beers before, but nothing that ever really blew me away. So I figured I should try out one of their bigger beers, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout:

Stoudts Fat Dog

Stoudt's Fat Dog - Pours an opaque black color with a small tan head. Smells of roasted malts and coffee, with perhaps a touch of sweetness. The roastiness is more subdued in the taste (something I like) and a subtle chocolaty flavor also emerges. Very sweet, but tempered by a well balanced dry bitterness in the finish. Full body, lots of carbonation, and a well balanced alcohol character. Overall, a very well crafted beer, but not something I see myself seeking out on a regular basis. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 9/10/11.

And of course, on their website, they mention a bourbon barrel version that's no longer available. Thanks a lot, Stoudts! But then, they "just might have do it again", so there's still hope for us barrel-aged fanatics.

The Fear of 120 Minute IPA for Halloween

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I don't normally talk about where I work, and I won't go into specifics, but I always wonder who on earth signs up for our emails. We're a retail company, and I guess if you're into some stuff, the emails could be beneficial, but in my personal life, I don't think I've ever actually wanted an email from a retailer (aside from order/shipping confirmations, which are a different beast). Except, of course, for my local beer and liquor stores. So when Pinocchio's sent out their Halloween specials, notably featuring the long absent Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, I was all aboard. I now know what it means to be an email subscriber, despite the fact that I've never really cared before (I mean, aren't emails so 1990s?) So yeah, I got to have a long sought-after beer (hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on some bottles that I can age (more on this later)), and Pinocchio's always has a huge selection of great beer in the coolers as well, so I brought home some interesting stuff as well. Let's just call this a beertastic Halloween. But enough babbling, let's get to the good stuff:

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Many moons ago, Dogfish Head was among the few breweries shooting for the title of highest ABV beer. Their entry was a whopping 23% ABV IPA that was basically an extension of their 60 and 90 minute series of IPAs. The central conceit behind the series is that they are continually hopped beers. Small amounts of hops are being added to the boil continuously, eventually yielding a large amount of hop character. The 120 is boiled for a full two hours (an hour longer than most beers) and it features a huge amount of hops and malts too. And then the beer is dry hopped and further aged with hops for more aromatic characters. Anyway, as the race to highest ABV beer evar went on and breweries like Brewdog started really pushing the envelope, Dogfish Head bowed out and actually decreased the amount of alcohol in this beer to make it a bit more manageable and well balanced. This was probably for the best, as I can't imagine a higher ABV beer tasting this good.

Pours a mostly clear but dark golden color with minimal head. The aroma is full of citrusy hops, orange and grapefruit notes, just a hint of herbal hop character and alcohol heat. Taste is sweet with a very well matched booziness. It's obviously a strong beer, but I don't know that I would have guessed just how high the alcohol is... There's surprisingly little hoppiness in the taste, with just a hint of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste. The mouthfeel clearly features that alcohol burn character, and yet it's relatively smooth for it's strength. Overally, it's quite good, complex, and well worth seeking out. I'm having trouble picking a rating, as I value the extreme and experimental nature of the beer, but it's not exactly the most delicious beer ever or anything. I'll give it an A-, because I really enjoyed it and would love to get me a 4-6 pack of the stuff to try over the period of a few years.

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 10/31/11.

Now, after the beer (and after I ate something), I headed to the back room at Pinocchio's, which has a massive (800+) selection of beer varieties available. A few folks were tasting some of the beers, and I spied an open 750 of the 120 minute. Knowing that I'd love to have a bottle or two of the stuff, I asked the guy behind the counter if he had any for sale and he laughed and pointed at the date on the bottle. It turns out that the bottle was from 2003. The guy kindly poured about an ounce into a shot glass for me to try out (for which I am very grateful), and damn, this is clearly that same beer, but with a much more complex array of flavors. It was too small to really rate, but damn it was good. I really need to find me some bottles of this stuff and age it in my cellar (aka my fridge).

Anyway, before I went to the store, I had myself another beer (with my dinner), this one a more festive Halloween beer:

Flying Dog The Fear

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale - Hey, look, another dark colored pumpkin ale. Very dark brown, almost black color with some amberish highlights and a finger or so of tan head. Light pumpkin pie spices in the nose. Taste is full of sweet malts and a well balanced portion of pumpkin pie spicing (I know lots of folks don't like overly spiced pumpkin beers, but these darker beers really do seem to stand up better to the spicing). Well carbonated, but either my palate was obliterated by the 120 Minute or it was a light bodied beer. I would have expected something with a little more heft to it, but it certainly wasn't bad. It's a really nice beer, but not something that really stands out. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip on 10/31/11.

I grabbed a glass of water, finished off my meal, and then headed over to the bottle shop, where I picked up a nice selection of exciting beers, including:

Phew. I've clearly got my work cut out for the next few months (not to mention all the stuff I still have sitting around, including a few cases of homebrew). Too many beers, too little time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish watching Halloween. Speaking of which, have a good Halloween!

Before, During And After Christmas Beer

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Yet another Gypsy brewer? Apparently! Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the man behind Evil Twin, and he is, in fact, the identical twin brother of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (better known as Mikkeller, probably the most famous Gypsy brewer). Strangely, they haven't collaborated on a beer yet, but perhaps someday... Evil Twin has only recently made its way to the US, but many of the beers have been much sought after. Jeppe doesn't seem to be quite as prolific as his brother, though he seems to be just as experimental (though sometimes those funky experiments don't quite work out so well).

The bottle for this one sez: "You might think this Christmas Beer is a Christmas Beer. But actually it is something so non-Christmassy as a classic Imperial IPA." Then at the bottom of the label, it says "Best before next Xmas." Well, there goes the during and after Christmas part, but hey, at least he's owning up to the weirdness of the beer's name (unlike those tricky Sierra Nevada folks).

Evil Twin Before, During And After Christmas Beer

Evil Twin Before, During And After Christmas Beer - Pours a very nice orange color with some yellow peeking through and a finger or so of white, fluffy head. Smells sweet with lots of fruity citrus hop aromas and even a little pine. Taste has a nice, strong sweetness to it, plenty of that pine and citrus in the flavor as well, with the bitterness coming out in the slightly sticky finish and aftertaste. Carbonation is a little lighter than usual, but still appropriate, and you get a nice biting hop character, not to mention some warming alcohol character. Overall, an above average DIPA, certainly something I would try again (perhaps during or after Christmas?)... if I could afford it! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip on 9/17/11.

Another day, another great Gypsy beer. And another hit on my wallet. I guess that's bound to happen when a brewer makes small batches and doesn't actually have a brewery (and then we import the beer from Denmark). I'll most likely be keeping my eye out for more Evil Twin, but I don't expect to be going too far out of my way for this stuff...

Warsteiner Premium Oktoberfest

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My sampling of this year's seasonal beers has trended heavily towards the pumpkin side of things, but the other major seasonal style is the Märzen, more commonly known as the Oktoberfest beer. Back in the day, brewing during the hot summers was illegal, besides which, results were often poor as there was no real way to cool the brews, leading to bacterial infection and other nasty effects. So beers that were brewed in March (in German, Märzen) were kept in cellars and caves that were cooled with ice to last through the summer. From what I can understand, the modern style isn't really that similar to the historical style (I wonder if any brewers actually brew their Oktoberfest beers in March?), but they all have a certain character that seems unique to the style.

Warsteiner Oktoberfest

Warsteiner Premium Oktoberfest - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger or two of off white head. Aroma is malty and sweet, with a bit of a twang that I can't quite place. Taste features the typical octoberfest maltiness along with some of that twang from the nose. The twang isn't horrible, but it's also not particularly doing anything for me either. I don't really know what to make of this. It's not horrible, but not particularly accomplished either. I'm not a huge fan of Oktoberfest beers, but I've had a lot of varieties that were better than this... C

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 10/21/11.

I can't say as though I've been particularly impressed with the Octoberfest style of beer. I've never had one that I'd consider great or transcendent, though I've had a few that would make worthy session beers.

Happy Hour

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The hour so happy it lasts 5 hours! Usually bars around here have a handful of craft taps to go along with the usual macros, but tonight, I went to a place that unexpectedly had a huge selection of big craft beers. I wasn't expecting it at all, but when I arrived, someone handed me the beer menu (the fact that there's a beer menu in itself is pretty awesome) and scanning through it I saw a few beers I didn't recognize (always an interesting venture) along with some heavyweights like The Bruery (rarely seen around here), Lagunitas, and some other worthy beers. Good times. Here's what I had:

  • Bavarian Barbarian Grumpy Pumpkin - Well, most pumpkin beers tend to be on the lighter side, but this marks the second time in a few days in which I've had a dark pumpkin ale. This time it's more of a pumpkin porter, and it was a very solid beer (not quite as good as the imperial pumpkin stout we had at the most recent beer club). Very muddy brown color here, with almost no head. Lots of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...), but it doesn't overpower the typical dark beer flavors as well. This wasn't quite as well matched as the Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout I had earlier this week, but it's along similar lines. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Wild Ale - I wasn't sure what to expect out of this one. The description on the menu talked a lot about Belgian characteristics, but I would have called it more of a DIPA or Imperial Red than a Belgian Pale Ale. That being said, there is a hint of that Belgian yeast in the taste, enough to differentiate this from the throngs of other hoppy beers.


    Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Wild

    But the hops are really taking center stage here. Filled with pine and resin flavors, with a full body and a sticky finish, it was quite a beer. I suppose it's not a super bitter beer, though it's clearly there. Once again, I find myself resolving to seek out more Lagunitas beers. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 8.85% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

  • Boxcar Brown Ale - After two approximately 9% whoppers, I had to slow down a bit, so I picked this uber-local 5% brown ale. Boxcar is basically right down the street, and they only have a couple of beers. Their launch beer was solid, though not particularly special. They've since expanded to a couple other standard styles, including this brown ale. It's super cloudy looking (you can tell despite the even brown color) and bursting with flavor. Lots of caramel, a little bit of a nutty flavor, and even some chocolate. Indeed, I got the impression that I was drinking a sorta liquid brownie at some point, though that notion doesn't really survive the whole session. I've actually had this before, but it was from a bottle and it was very different. From the bottle it was much more muted. On tap, it was quite a bit more assertive. Full bodied, but still easy to drink. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap (16 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint.)
  • Avery Maharaja - Well, so much for moderation. Here comes another 10.5% ABV monster. It's actually the only beer of the night to be even remotely clear, with a pale orangish color and a finger of head. Features a lot of the same characteristics as the Lagunitas beer I tried earlier, but this strangely had a lighter body and seemed like it would be a more refreshing brew (if it wasn't already the 4th beer of the night). Perhaps a bit more bitter, with a similar pine and citrus character, but less of the stickiness in the mouthfeel and again, lighter bodied. A really solid beer, and something I should probably try again with a cleaner palate... B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

I had really wanted to get a glass of The Bruery's Rugbrød, but apparently the keg had just kicked. Damnit! But that's ok, because as the ratings above show, I had a pretty great night. Did I say that I was going to cut down on my beer intake? Well apparently not this week! That being said, I had a great time tonight and I've found a new local place to get some good craft beers.

Octobeer Club

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Tonight's beer club was most excellent. Good turnout, really good beer, and an overall good time. For the uninitiated, the beer club is basically just a bunch of folks from my work who get together once a month to enjoy a nice dinner together... along with lots of different beers and wines and other alcoholic wonders. The past few months have been sparsely attended, so the beer selection was somewhat sparse, but tonight we had so many beers that we didn't even get to them all. As you might expect, lots of seasonal beers were brought, and we had a couple of quite excellent brews:

octobeerclub.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For reference, here are some brief thoughts on most of the pictured beers (some we did not get to, though at least two of those I will review separately). As usual, this isn't exactly ideal tasting conditions, so take them with a grain of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Ithaca Flower Power IPA - While not popular with some folks (i.e. non-hopheads), I thought it was quite a good beer. Very floral, so much so that it does tend to differentiate itself from the throngs of other IPAs. Quite enjoyable and something I'd like to try again at some point. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • The Bruery Autumn Maple - Wow! This was a really fantastic beer. Full of Belgian yeast character and full bodied, this was a dream to drink. Perhaps it was just the power of suggestion, but I felt like the molasses and maple syrup flavors were very apparent, along with the general spiciness. It doesn't taste like a pumpkin beer, but it's definitely got a fall seasonal feel to it, which is a nice change of pace. The Bruery never ceases to amaze me with their beers. I loved this one and will need to find myself a bottle to try out by itself, but for now I'll give it the A it surely deserves. (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Shmaltz Coney Island Freaktoberfest - Perhaps the weirdest beer of the night. It pours an odd blood red color with a pink head, but it tastes more along the lines of an Oktoberfest beer, though there was something distinctive and odd about the taste that was throwing things off. As a gimmick beer, it's certainly successful. The appearance is certainly a hoot, and the fact that it's 6.66% ABV is pretty funny as well. Ultimately, it's got some neat gimmicks, but it's an average beer. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Otter Creek Oktoberfest - A not particularly accomplished version of the Octoberfest style. In discussion, someone mentioned that it tasted a bit like rotting otter, which is perhaps an exaggeration, but this isn't a particularly good beer. Maybe drinkable, but not something I'm rushing to try again. My least favorite of the night. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Blue Point's Mother Pumpkin Ale - Another of the more subdued pummpkin ales that I've had this year. Certainly not a bad beer, but the pumpkin and spice flavors were somewhat faint here. That's not necessarily a horrible thing, but it also doesn't really make the beer stand out either. It's an ok beer, worth trying, but not something I see myself seeking out at any point. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Post Road Pumpkin Ale - I didn't realize it when I tried it, but this is actually Brooklyn Brewing's take on a pumpkin ale. It's yet another of the more sessionable pumpkin ales, perhaps slightly better than Blue Point's entry (see above), but not nearly as good as some of the other pumpkin ales I've had this year. Well crafted and worth a try, probably something I could drink again, but also not particularly special. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Dundee Oktoberfest - Ah, a stealth macro! Not bad, but I'm also not sure if I'd identify this as having that distinctive Oktoberfest character either. It tastes fine, and it maybe has a hint of the typical flavors associated with the style, but it's certainly not an eye-opener either. I don't see myself seeking this out again, but I wouldn't turn it down either. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Victory Otto - This is one of my most anticipated beers of the year; a smoked Belgian style dubbel from my favorite local brewery. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to expectations. It's got a nice smoky character and it doesn't seem like that would overwhelm the rest of the beer, but I would have liked to have tasted some sort of Belgian yeast flavors here as well, and they were just absent. This makes it somewhat one-dimensional. I will say that it seemed to get better as I drank, and it certainly isn't bad, but as Belgian dubbels are one of my favorite styles, I wish this had more of that sort of style going for it. I'll probably try this again at some point, as it did end up being enjoyable, but I did find it a bit disappointing as well. B (Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout - Wow, this is really fantastic beer from a brewery I've never even heard of... It's basically an imperial pumpkin stout. It's got the typical pumpkin pie flavors and spices, but it's all very well balanced. The stoutness is downplayed and not very roasty, but that's the way I like it, and the pumpkin pie character fits well with the dark style. It's full bodied but smooth, and it definitely hides the 11% ABV well. Dangerously drinkable stuff, and perhaps the most flavorful beer of the night - certainly the only beer that even came close to comparing with the Bruery Autumn Maple. I'm not sure where I can get this, but I need to find myself another bottle of this stuff. Really wonderful beer. A (Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
Well, that covers most of the beer we drank. We also had another of my homebrewed saisons (which, again, I should review, but not now) and some of the less beer inclined folks had a Leinenkugel Berry Weiss, but I kinda knew that's not for me, so I didn't try any of that. Of the unopened bottles, I'm sure I'll be trying the Warsteiner Oktoberfest this weekend, and I'll get to Founders Centennial IPA at some point as well.

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

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