Anniversary

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Today marks the one year anniversary of Kaedrin Beer Blog. To celebrate, I'm drinking a homebrewed saison (I should review it sometime, but that time is not now) and taking a look at some statistics:


  • 152 total posts (not quite 3 a week on average)
  • 27 posts about IPAs, making that the most talked-about style on the blog. The runner up is Stout, with a whopping 21 posts. In both cases, the numbers are inflated since I don't break out double or imperial varieties and so on, so it's perhaps unsurprising that those two styles are posted about the most often. After them comes Saison (14), Belgian Strong Dark (13), Tripel (11) and Wheat (11, though I also don't make a distinction between Belgian Wit, Hefeweizen and other various styles)
  • 13 posts about Victory Brewing, which is unsurprising as they're my favorite local brewery. Local brewer Yards comes in second with 9, and another local, Weyerbacher, has 8. Also at 8 is Ommegang, while Russian River and Dogfish Head are both at 7.
  • 96 posts about beer from US breweries, significantly outpacing the runner up, which is Belgium at 29 entries. Things trail significantly after that, with the UK coming next at 11, but 6 of those are also categorized under Scotland (meaning that I post more about Scottish beers than English beers!)
  • 51 posts featured a beer rated B+, which was by far the most common rating. B and A- both have 34, while B- has 25 and the big A has 24. Fortunately for me, the least common rating is F, with just one lone entry. I suppose you could take this to mean that I'm overrating a lot of beers, and perhaps that's true, but it's not like I'm trying to find bad beer, after all. And I've only rated 3 beers A+, so there is that too.

Damn, I drank a lot of beer last year. It's probably something that I should tone down a bit. While I think it's clear that I love beer, it's also not particularly good for me from a health perspective. Don't get me wrong, I'll still be drinking a lot, but if all goes to plan, the next year won't see quite as much drinking.

In my first post a year ago, I mentioned that the primary purpose of the blog was really to help me keep track of what I drank and how well I liked it. I also noted that I was pretty unsophisticated about my beer consumption and that my palate wasn't particularly sharp. I'd like to think that I've come a long way since then, but I think I still have much to learn. In a more general sense, my purpose for blogging is to learn, and I feel like I'm making progress on that front.

I can say that I've written many more beer reviews than I was initially expecting. I try to spice them up with general notes about the style or screenplays or whatever, but ultimately, most posts fall into the familiar beer review format. Perhaps if I drink less this next year, I'll spend more time writing or posting about beer in a more general sense. I've got a few ideas for interesting posts, but they will take some time to write (more than most entries at least), so I still expect the majority of posting to be reviews. This may not be the most interesting thing in the world for everyone, but it does get me towards my goal of blogging, as writing about beer forces me to think about it in a more thorough fashion.

All in all, it's been a good year. I don't see my posting slowing up any, and I already have lots of beers in my "cellar" (i.e. my fridge) that I'm sure will be interesting. I'm going to wait until the end of the year to do a top beers post, or to post about my best posts, but for now, look for some additional seasonal beer reviews coming up...

Pumking

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When Europeans made their way to the New World, one of the things they found was that many of the domesticated crops they relied on in the old world did not have native counterparts in the Americas. Because this is about beer, you can bet that one of these non-native crops was barley. It being in short supply, early American brewers, desperate for fermentable sugars, turned to other crops to make up the difference. Hard-up colonists used all sorts of gnarly stuff in place of malts, including molasses, corn, parsnips, spruce, and, of course, pumpkin. These early brews probably tasted nothing like today's pumpkin beers, as they used no malt at all and probably didn't feature the same sort of spicing we use these days.

Once barley and malt became more prevalent, pumpkin disappeared from breweries. It experienced a bit of a revival in the 19th century, but as a flavoring agent (as opposed to a full blown pumpkin beer). The conventional wisdom is that modern pumpkin beers began with Buffalo Bill's Brewery in 1980, but I'm sure there are earlier examples that would approximate the style. In any case, Southern Tier's Pumking is probably the best regarded of the pumpkin ales. Even those crotchety pumpkin-beer-haters I mentioned yesterday seem to enjoy this particular beer, so let's see what's got them so worked up:

Southern Tier Pumking

Southern Tier Pumking - Pouts a slightly cloudy golden orange color. Not much head at all, and it quickly dissapates. The nose is filled with a bready aroma (very familiar aroma, like pie crust) along with the typical pumpkin and spice characteristics that usually dominate. The taste is extremely well balanced. Sweet, pumpkiny, spicy, bready and it nails the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and velvety. It's not assertively carbonated, but it's got enough body to work well. Overall, it's certainly vying for the top of my Pumpkin beer rankings (not that I'm an expert). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/7/11. Hops: Magnum (bittering) and Sterling (aroma)

More pumpkin and octoberfest beer posts are on their way, though they probably won't start showing up until next week...

Rise of the Devious Pumpkin

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Pumpkin beers are an interesting and apparently divisive breed. Many folks seem to really dislike the style, or to at least think it's a bit on the repetitive side. And it certainly can be repetitive: most make liberal use of standard pumpkin pie spicing like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Of course, one of the big challenges with this type of beer is that brewing with any kind of spice is really, really difficult. When it comes to hops, it's easy. If you know the alpha acid content of the hops, there are simple measurements and calculations you can make, thus making it easy to balance the rest of the brew to match. Spices don't have any such easy calculations and their potency varies greatly. This isn't an excuse, but it also represents a big challenge to brewers and when done right, it adds subtle flavors and complexity without overwhelming. For pumpkin beers, though, subtlety is rarely the order of the day. Pumpkin itself doesn't have a particularly strong flavor, but the typical spices are quite potent and can be overpowering. Which, I suppose, is why some folks are leery of the style. Personally, I like it, though I'm glad it's confined to a seasonal exercise.

Fegleys Brew Works Devious

Fegley's Brew Works Devious Imperial Pumpkin - Pours a mostly clear amber color with a finger of white head. Smell is pure pumpkin pie. Lots of spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc... Taste is very sweet and spicy along with some bracing booziness. The mouthfeel is well carbonated but still smooth and velvety. It leaves a nice sticky feeling in the finish too. Folks who dislike the tendency to over-spice pumpkin beers will certainly not enjoy this, but I'm having a good time with it. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/30/11.

I'm many reviews behind at this point, but in the interest of seasonality, I'm skipping ahead to some of the more recent things I've drank (hopefully I'll get back to the older ones later). I've got a few more seasonals lined up, and the blog is approaching its one year anniversary as well. I don't have anything special planned, but, hey, maybe I'll have a beer.

Fiddler's Elbow

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I'm so used to Americanized versions of English styles that I thought it might be interesting to wade into some actual British versions. In this case, we have a simple, hoppy pale ale, though oddly, it's a beer that brewer Wychwood doesn't even list on their website. In searching around, there are apparently a few different versions of this beer, some of which even incorporate wheat in the recipe. My "imported ale" version doesn't say anything about wheat on it and seems to have a higher ABV than the British version, though who really knows. Information about this specific beer is a bit sparse, though I love the evocative name of the beer (my nerdy assumption being that it was the old-timey equivalent of medical condition now known as Wii-elbow - ok, it's also apparently the name of a nearby town in England, but that's just boring). I should note that I also love the artwork on all of Wychwood's beers (and even the unique bottle itself features the witch logo ingrained in the glass). They're actually quite appropriate for this time of year:

Wychwood Fiddlers Elbow

Wychwood Fiddler's Elbow - Pours a hazy golden orange color with less than a finger of big-bubbled head. Aroma is very distinct from typical American pale ales. Smells hoppy, but with lots of malt and yeast character as well. Even some caramel and toffee notes in the nose. The taste is more malt focused, again with the buttery toffee (perhaps even too much of that, and it's got an almost burnt or toasted character to it as well - perhaps it's butterscotch, typically a sign of a problem), though there is a small hop bite towards the finish and in the not-to-pleasant aftertaste. The hop presence here isn't anywhere near as pronounced as American varieties. It's got a medium body, and that overpowering toffee/butterscotch flavor makes it less quaffable than I'd really want for a beer like this. It's an interesting change of pace for me, but it's also not something I'd really go out of my way for either... I have to wonder if I perhaps got an old bottle, or one that had some other defect. It was certainly drinkable, but something seemed very off to me. D

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/4/11.

I've had a couple of Wychwood's other beers, so this was quite the disappointment. I will one day return to this brewery, but I don't see it happening anytime soon, as I have quite a backlog of bottles to get through and we're coming up on my favorite time for seasonal beers...

Russian River Supplication

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Russian River's head brewer, Vinnie Cilurzo, is an interesting guy. He started out in the winemaking world, but was apparently so taken with the fact that you could start drinking beer within a few weeks of brewing that he switched over to beer (ok, it probably wasn't that simple, but it sez so on this bottle of Supplication, so I'm sticking with that story). Perhaps to further taunt his winemaking brethren, Cilurzo started playing around with weird wild yeasts and bacterias when making his beers. Take Supplication, which is a brown ale aged in pinot noir barrels with cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. Those critters certainly add a nice, complex sourness to a beer that would already be pretty flavorful. They're also an anathema to winemakers, who apparently think Cilurzo is a nutbag for using stuff like Brett. It's rumored that those folks won't even enter Russian River's brewpubs for fear of picking up some sort of bug that they'll inadvertently bring back to their winery, infecting their wine (apparently these are hearty little creatures that are difficult to get rid of).

The irony here is that this beer was aged for well over a year before being bottled, so it looks like Cilurzo hasn't completely escaped his winemaking roots. But this series of beers that he's created (all aged in old wine barrels of various styles) is quite interesting, and I have to wonder if we'll see more coordinated wine and beer collaborations in the future (another brewery that mixes expertise from both the wine and beer worlds is apparently Firestone Walker, a brewery I need to become more acquainted with). Ok, enough babble, onto the beer:

Russian River Supplication

Russian River Supplication - The cork for this was really jammed in there. I normally don't have any issues opening corked bottles of beer, but this one took some coaxing. Pours a really gorgeous clear amber brown (copper?) color with a finger of quickly disappearing white head. The smell is filled with sweetness and funk. You get some of that wine and cherry character along with the typical funky Brett aromas. Sourness hits immediately in the taste, followed by cherries and a dry, red-wine-like finish. The sourness is really the most prominent element here, but it's well balanced with the other elements. Mouthfeel features the characteristic twang of sour beers, but it's compulsively drinkable. A wonderful beer, probably favorite of Russian River's sours (that I've tasted so far). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked mini-magnum). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/4/11. According to the label, this bottle was from batch 006X2, brewed on 11/7/2009 and bottled on 1/5/2011 (so it was not quite 2 years old when I drank it).

Well, I'm either getting the hang of this sour thing, or Supplication really is just that good. I will no doubt continue to dabble in the world of sour beers, though it doesn't look like I have any in the pipeline right now, so it may be a while.

Aventinus the Wise

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Both the name of this beer and its label make me think it's going to tell my fortune or something. Perhaps I'll open the bottle, and instead of delicious beer, I'll get a piece of paper with a cryptic message predicting my future, like "You will invent a humorous toilet lid" or "You will be aroused by a shampoo commercial" or something appropriately weird*. As it turns out, Aventinus was named after a famous Bavarian historian and fortunately, my bottle was indeed full of delicious beer:

Schneider Aventinus

Schneider Aventinus - Pours a very cloudy, medium brown color. Smell is full of bananas and clove, but in more of a wheat beer way than a Belgian yeast way. Really wonderful, complex aroma here. Taste is sweet and spicy, some fruitiness and spiciness (clove?) and a nice, dry finish. Wheat is also present, and it even comes out a bit in the aftertaste. Drinks pretty easy for an 8.2% ABV. Overall, a really good beer and I can certainly see why it's considered a classic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 9/3/11.

I'm quite behind on my reviews at this point, but I'm also trying to slow my intake down after the whole Texas debacle vacation.

* Yeah, yeah, another stolen Simpsons gag.

Texas Beer Dispatch

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As previously mentioned, I spent the last week watching horror, SF, action and just plain weird movies, not to mention hobbits beating the crap out of each other (see my other blog for thoughts on the movies and other events of Fantastic Fest). Of course, nearly all of this was accompanied by beer. I must say, the Alamo Drafthouse is one awesome venue for a number of reasons, but right now, I'll just say that it represents a melding of two passions: beer and movies. They've got some common offerings, but most of their beer menu is local craft stuff, and I spent most of the week sampling beers I've never heard of and can't really get up here in PA. As I mentioned in an update to my previous post, I was tracking my beers via Untappd all week, but then, I was also watching movies and talking a lot, so take the below thoughts with a grain of salt. Alright, here goes (in roughly the order in which they were drank):

  • Live Oak Oaktoberfest - So not only local beers, but local seasonals - and this is a pretty damn good one. I wouldn't say it's a spectacular beer, but it was exactly what I was looking for out of an Octoberfest beer, and one of the better examples I've ever head of that style. B+
  • Shiner Bock - You can't got to Texas and not have at least one of these, right? And Shiner happened to be a sponsor of the festival, so these were available in abundance, sometimes even being handed out for free. I've talked about this beer before, though that was on another trip so I didn't actually rate it. It's certainly nothing special, but it's a solid beer and it's hard to argue with free pints, right? B
  • New Belgium Hoptober - Ok, so this isn't a local Texas beer, but New Belgium doesn't really distribute here (though they have started in Maryland) so I always try some of their stuff whenever I can. I would have described this as a very good IPA, but BA calls it an "American Blonde Ale"? Strange because, as the name suggests, it's massively hoppy. A really nice piney hop aroma. Well matched sweetness and hop bitterness in the taste. Overall, a really good brew, one of my favorites of the week. B+
  • Lagunitas Mystery Red Ale - So on Friday, my local Austin friends took me out and I ended up getting some sort of Lagunitas seasonal beer which I can't recall, but it was a red ale of some sort, very hoppy and tasty. I actually enjoyed this one immensely, so I wish I remembered what it was called. I think it may have been the Lucky 13, but who knows. B+
  • Independence Brewluminati Braggot - Well, braggot has gone from a style I'd never heard of to a style I've had two examples of in the past few weeks or so (the other being Weyerbacher's Sixteen). Go figure. I don't know that this one was as good as Weyerbacher's offering, but it was still a nice change of pace and worthy beer. It was lighter in color, so honey flavors dominated the taste more, but I still really enjoyed it. B
  • Real Ale Fireman's #4 - Another blonde ale and apparently another of Austin's typical session beers, as it was available all over. It's not a mind-blowing beer or anything, but pretty good for a simple blonde ale. It's got some subtle bready caramel notes, but is otherwise pretty straightforward. I only had one, but it's certainly a worthy session beer and I'd try it again. B-
  • North by Northwest Black Jack (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - Local friends took me out to dinner at this most excellent brewpub, where I had their bourbon barrel aged black ale (BA calls it a Belgian dark ale, but I don't think that's right). It's quite fantastic. I didn't detect a ton in the nose, but damn, that taste is fantastic (and once I had some headroom in the glass to swirl the beer around, the nose came out more). Rich flavors of caramel malts, bourbon, vanilla, a light oakiness, and maybe even some chocolate. Just a hint of toasted malts, but nothing like a stout. Very well balanced - no flavor dominates, making for a very complex brew. Appropriately carbonated, but a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Not too heavy and not too boozy, but it's certainly not a lightweight either. Probably my favorite beer of the week. A-
  • Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA - This is the sort of beer that makes me feel like IPAs are kinda... samey. It's hoppy in the nose and the taste, and it's bitter, but it's kinda one-note. Not much going on here. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but there wasn't really anything special about it. C+
  • (512) IPA - Now this IPA, on the other hand, was maybe the best I'd had all week. Great citrus/pine nose, well balanced sweet/bitter combo in the taste (with some of that citrus/pine shining through). Nice and complex, a very well made beer. And damn, I didn't try any other (512) beers. Given this one, I probably should have sought them out! B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another non-TX beer that isn't super common in PA, so I gave this one a shot too. It's very good, roasty, coffee and chocolate flavors and that milk stout chalkiness (probably the wrong way to describe it, but it seems common to the milk stouts I've had recently). Well done, but nothing super special either. B
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard - So this one's really not local, nor is it something hard to come by, but I'd had a bunch of drinks that night, and was settling in for the Fantastic Feud, so I gots me a comfort beer. If you're reading this blog and need me to describe Arrogant Bastard... I'm sorry. Actually, I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's of course very good. B+
  • Independence Bootlegger Brown - I have to admit that I'm no expert on brown ales, but this one didn't really do the trick for me. It was fine for what it was - a dark, roasty, almost stout-like ale, but there wasn't really much complexity to it. I had no problems putting one down, but it doesn't really stick out for me at all either. B-
  • Live Oak Hefeweizen - I enjoy a good Hefe as much as the next guy, but they do tend to get pretty boring... but not this one! Wow, what a fantastic (pun intended) brew. If I had this earlier in the week, I'd have certainly had more of them. Really wonderful aroma of bananas and clove. Typical wheat and yeasty flavors mixed with a surprising fruitiness. Well balanced, complex, and a joy to drink. A-
  • Avery White Rascal - Another non-TX beer, but since I was rockin the wheat beers, I gave this one a shot. It's... not as good as the Live Oak, but it is pretty tasty all the same. Perhaps if I didn't have these two wheat beers back to back, I would have rated this higher. B
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 - Yeah, I've had this before and of course it's very good. I don't really have much to say about it - hoppy and bitter! - but if you like a good IPA, it hits the spot. B+
Well, there you have it, a successful outing and quite a variety of new beers I'd never heard of before. If you're ever in Austin, I recommend anything by Live Oak, as they seemed to have put together the best lineup (yeah, I only had 2 of their beers, but BA seems to rate the others pretty highly too). Before I left, I did stop off at a grocery store and picked up a big beer to bring home: Jester King's Wytchmaker Rye IPA in a fancy 750 ml bottle. Look for a review... uh, in the next month or so! Overall, I'm pretty jealous of Austinites. Not only do they have the best movie theater I've ever been too, but they can drink beer there too. We really need to get us some Alamo Drafthouse style places up here.

Gone Fishin'

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Or rather, gone movie watchin'. I'll be heading to Austin, TX for Fantastic Fest, so expect posting to be light for the next week or so. Fantastic Fest is a genre film festival (lots of horror, SF, action, and just plain weird stuff) and it's held at an Alamo Drafthouse. I've never been to one, but damn, a movie theater with good beer available? Near as I can tell, they've got lots of local Texas beers available - stuff from Live Oak, Independence (including a series of beers called the Brewluminati), (512), Jester King, Thirsty Planet, and presumably lots of others. And that's just at the theater. So there will be some beer bloggery resulting from this, maybe even while I'm there.

fantastic fest

If anyone's got any Texas beer recommendations, leave a comment. I'll try and find some (and maybe even smuggle some home). See you soon.

Update: Had some trouble with the commenting system, but everything should be working now!

Again Update: Just FYI, I've been keeping track of my beer dorkery on untappd. Will try to get a recap up on the blog towards the end of the week! So far, so good!

Weyerbacher Sixteen

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Every year, Weyberbacher brews an anniversary batch, often choosing a relatively obscure style. Past styles include a Wheatwine, a Smoked Imperial Stout, and a beer that utilizes a Calagione level of obscure spices. This year's installment describes itself as a Dark Braggot Ale. Right, so what the hell is that? Apparently Braggot is a Welsh variety of mead, one which is brewed with a mixture of honey and malts along with hops. Well, don't mind if I do:

Weyerbacher Sixteen

Weyerbacher Sixteen - Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown with a finger of light colored head. The nose is filled with the sweetness of fruity malts and honey. The taste has a very sweet pop in the middle and a really clean finish. Lots of fruity notes detected. No real aftertaste either, which is interesting. Well carbonated and medium bodied, you get a bit of alcohol burn, but it doesn't overwhelm, instead giving the beer some additional character. Overall it's a complex, unique and welcome change of pace for me. If I were a bigger fan of honey, I'd probably love this beer even more. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/3/11.

Given the dark color and high alcohol, I'd be interested in seeing how this stands up over time. It's probably all gone by now, but if I see more, I'll probably pick some up. Weyerbacher continues to be one of the more interesting local breweries. I don't know that I've had anything revelatory from them, but they're always interesting. That brand redesign they mentioned a few months ago needs to come soon. I mean, their logo is the woefully overused comic sans* text (with an underline). Comic Sans! Word on the street is that Greg at the Pour Curator interviewed them about the redesign a while back, but he has not posted it just yet. Will be curious to read it though.

* Incidentally, Russian River uses comic sans as well, though not in their branding. They should probably stop that too, though it's not as distracting there.

Old Viscosity

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So apparently, back in the day, there was a place called Pizza Port. They served, naturally enough, pizza. Later, they added a small brewery on the premises and became a brewpub. In 2006, they bought a brewery formerly owned by Stone, and started up Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey as independent brewing ventures. The big name brewer at all these locations is a guy named Tomme Arthur, and he seems to be wracking up the kudos ever since. Seriously, they make comics out of him and everything. I'm not all that familiar with his beers, so I've been angling to get my hands on some of late, including this one:

Port Brewing Old Viscosity

Port Brewing Old Viscosity - While certainly not the first beer to use old engine oil as a metaphor, I do have to wonder how appetizing that association really is. Well whatever, I still say if you're going to make that distinction, you should just go whole-hog and package your beer in an old-timey oil can, complete with that funky spout that you have to jam into the can in order to open it. Uh, yeah, so onto this beer: Pours a very dark brown/black color with a finger of light tan head. The aroma has a lot of roastiness, but also some of those oak notes and even some booziness. The taste is sweet, roasty, and very boozy. You get a lot of heat from the alcohol and there's also a nice dry dark chocolate bitterness that emerges in the finish. The oak aging has clearly imparted some character here, but it's more about texture and body than flavor. It's not as full bodied or rich as I'd expect though, perhaps because of that strong alcohol presence, but it's very bold and aggressive stuff. It's certainly good and very complex, but something about this just isn't gelling for me. I like it and had no problem polishing off a bottle, but it's not something I'd go out of my way to try again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/2/11.

I'm still looking forward to trying their Mongo IPA, which has a great reputation, and of course, the entire Lost Abbey line holds interest for me. Nothing in the cellar as of yet. I'm sure you're worried about that, and I thank you for your concern, but I assure you I'll get there. Really. Scout's honor (A cub scout still counts as a scout, right?)

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

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