Flying Dog

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A little while ago I picked up Flying Dog's variety pack and in between all of the holiday beers and whatnot, I've been working my way through them and their awesome Ralph Steadman artwork.

Flying Dog Logo
  • In Heat Wheat: Sweet, light, crisp and wheaty - a rather typical wheat beer. More details here. B-
  • Tire Bite Golden Ale: Light and crisp, perhaps a small step above crappy "fizzy yellow stuff", but not by much. C-
  • Old Scratch Amber Lager: Nice amber color, medium body, a little sticky and overall, it's a very drinkable session beer along the lines of Yuengling lager (maybe even a little better, but that's hard for me to admit!). B
  • Snake Dog India Pale Ale: A nice west-coast style hoppy, earthy IPA. It does well on its own, but pales (pun intended!) when compared to other good IPAs (including Flying Dog's own Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA). B
  • Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale: Solid hoppy pale ale, a little darker than the IPA, but a nice quality session beer and maybe the best overall beer in this pack. B
  • Road Dog Porter: Dark and a bit roasty, it wasn't quite as complex as I'd have hoped. I've never been a big fan of the style though, so that's probably part of my distaste. It's not bad, but definitely not my thing. C+

Overall, while most of them are quite drinkable and solid beers, none are really all that exceptional. This isn't to say that they don't make exceptional beers though: Raging Bitch IPA is actually a big step up from the Snake Dog IPA, and I've heard good things about the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

Affligem Noël

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After the Christmas festivities, I just wanted to site down and relax with some good beer, so I popped open one of my favorites of the season:

Affligem Noel

Affligem Noël: It's strange, I don't see much about Affligem in the beer nerd community. Perhaps because they have a relatively steady lineup of 4 beers (including Noël, the one seasonal on their roster). That being said, according to the bottle, this Abbey has been brewing beers according to a recipe orginating in 1074, and damn, everything they make is great, including the Noël. It's gorgeous color, a deep orange/brown with a finger of light-colored head. Smell is crisp and clear, a little yeasty and maybe some fruit. Taste starts sweet with some dark fruit flavors, then you get some spiciness and a crisp, but not very bitter finish. It's a wonderful and well balanced beer. The carbonation is a bit high, but given the relatively high ABV, that actually makes it more drinkable. This carbonation subsides a bit as it warms, at which point it begins to take on a more boozy flavor, but nothing overwhelming or bad. It's a little more different than Affligem's standard Dubbel (one of my favorites) than I was expecting, but it's a fantastic beer and among the best of the winter seasonals I've had this year. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

I believe this marks the end of this year's formally holiday beer, though I do have a few stouts and other wintry seasonals waiting in the wings.

Nøgne Ø Peculiar Yule

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This was essentially my Christmas Eve, holy-crap-look-at-all-these-presents-I-have-to-wrap, beer. I actually wasn't expecting to pick this up, but I had to make a trip to my Aunt's house, and wouldn't you know that she lives right near a Delaware liquor store that happens to have an awesome beer selection. I was actually surprised it was open, but then, business appeared to be booming. Anyway, a few beers caught my eye, including this one:

Nogne O Peculiar Yule

Nøgne Ø Peculiar Yule - I've noticed bottles from this brewery for a while. They're very well designed and apparently have a decent reputation, so when I saw their holiday ale, I figured it was time to give Nøgne Ø a shot. Me being the nerd that I am, I always thought it had something to do with the null set, but apparently the brewery name is old Danish for "Naked Isle" and is a reference to an Ibsen poem. Pours an opaque, very deep, dark brown, almost black. Solid finger or two of head with lots of lacing. Cinnamon dominates the nose, but there's some malty sweetness there as well, and you get some bitter hoppiness as it warms as well. Taste starts off sweet and spicy (The cinnamon is in there, but it doesn't overwhelm like it does in the nose, so you get some more complex flavors here), but it ends on a note of dry hoppy bitterness. Indeed, this hoppiness character seemed to grow as I drank, including some citrus notes. It's certainly not a hop-bomb or anything, but it's there, and it's something I haven't seen (er, tasted) in, well, any of this year's winter seasonals (save Sierra Nevada's Celebration, which, as I mentioned in that post , has nothing really wintry about it). A good amount of carbonation and a medium body make for a very drinkable beer. It doesn't blow me away, but it's pretty damn good and while it has a warming spiciness to it it, it's a nice change of pace from other wintry beers. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Petrus Winter Ale

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I stopped in at Wegman's the other night to pick up some beers for presents to my beer club colleagues, and while there I spied this handsome label and a fancy foil cover. I've never heard of Petrus before, but in case you can't tell, I'm a big fan of Belgian beer, so I figured this was well worth a try (apparently this is a practice known amongst beer nerds as Belgian Roulette). So tonight I threw in my Blu-Ray of It's a Wonderful Life, planning to catch up on some blogging and maybe do some wrapping with it on in the background. Of course, it didn't take long, and I simply sat on my couch, mezmerized by the movie (one of my favorites of all time) and sipping on my beer:

Petrus Winter Ale

Petrus Winter Ale: Pours a dark red/brown, with a clearish appearance and a nice big light-colored head that quickly dissipates (no real lacing evident). Smells very fragrant, with Belgian yeasts and lots of spiciness apparent. Taste is malty sweet and a little tart, which is unexpected for this type of beer, but not entirely unwelcome either (It's not a sour or anything, but it's there). Lots of carbonation and a medium body make this an easy drink, and the relatively low ABV helps in that respect as well. All in all, not among the best of the Holiday Beers from this year (I think perhaps this would have suffered from double feature with the Ommegang, Bruery, or St. Bernardus beers that take top honors this year...), but a nice change of pace. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

I think this marks the last new Holiday beer I'll have this year. I'll still got a bottle of Ommegang Adoration and Affligem Noël, one of which I'll bring to share with my family, the other of which I'll hog to myself. And there's also the super secret New Year's ale coming sometime next week as well. Other than that, I've been stocking up on some Stouts and other dark beers, which are at least wintery, if not exactly holiday themed. I'll also probably put an order in for some brewing supplies next week, but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Double Feature: Yet More Holiday Ales

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Yeah, I've been a bit of a sucker for Holiday ales this year, probably because I love a good Belgian Strong Dark Ale, of which there are many Holiday variations. As such, I find myself playing Belgian Roulette, picking up beers based solely on the fact that they're from Belgium and have pretty holiday pictures on the label. Last night, after my Samichlaus adventure, I had a couple of other beers:

Scaldis Noel

Scaldis Noël: I saw this tiny little bottle with the fancy foil wrapping at the store and thought it might be a good idea to play some Belgian Roulette. The bottle only contains about 8.5 ounces, which is quite the odd size for a bottle, but then, it also comes in at a hefty 12% ABV, so I'm actually glad it wasn't too large. Pours a nice dark amber color with minimal head. Smells a bit boozy, and tastes that way too. It's sweeter than the Samichlaus and maybe a bit more carbonated, but the flavor isn't as complex. Indeed, I didn't really connect with this beer all that much. It's certainly not bad, but it reminded me a bit of how I felt about Mad Elf, though at least I had the small bottle around this time. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (250 ml). Drank from a tulip glass.

Between beers, I cleansed my palate with a single cashew.

Weyerbacher Winter Ale

Weyerbacher Winter Ale: Not a Belgian, but I picked up a sixer of this and gave a few away to my beer club homies, saving a couple for myself. Pours a clear dark brown color, with about a finger of head that leaves some minimal lacing as I drink. Smells of roasted malts and maybe a bit of spruce. Tastes like it smells, with a dry roastiness coming through strongly, but the spices seem a bit lost. Mouthfeel is good, with solid carbonation and good drinkability. I'm not terribly familiar with Weyerbacher, but I was expecting something a lot stronger and more assertive than this. Instead, I got a pretty decent session beer (technically just a hair stronger than most session beers, but I think it would work fine) and there's nothing really wrong with that... It actually reminded me of a less complex 2010 Anchor Christmas Ale (which makes a bit of sense, as they're both classified as "Winter Warmers"). Not a bad beer by any stretch of the imagination, but I would have liked a bit more complexity (it probably didn't help that I had had two relatively intense monsters before cracking this one open, but still). B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a goblet.

Well, I've nearly exhausted my supply of holiday seasonals, but look for a few more posts before the holiday, and apparently one New Years beer as well (I'm excited for that one, which I totally lucked into without even realizing it - keeping this one a secret for now).

Samichlaus

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Yesterday, I made the trek into Philly to see Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a Finnish movie that might be the world's greatest homicidal Santa movie (not a highly populated subgenre, to be sure - when your chief competition is Silent Night, Deadly Night, the bar's set pretty low). Anyway, the film let out around 5 pm, and rather than battle the traffic, I headed over to Eulogy for some dinner, and, of course, good beer. After perusing the on-tap list, I noticed something labeled only as "Samichlaus". Say, that sounds kinda like "Santa Claus"! The bartender says that it's an "intense" Doppelbock, very high in alcohol (she also says it's kinda like a Barleywine). I say: Pour me a glass! Ordered some Belgian style mussels and sipped this beer throughout.

Samichlaus

Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier: This beer is only brewed once a year, on December 6 (for the uninitiated, that's the feast day of Saint Nicholas, hence the name of the beer.) It is then aged for at least 10 months before being released to the public, which means what I was having was probably brewed in 2009. Apparently it was once among the strongest beers in the world, and is even now in the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest lager beer in the world. Coming in at 14% ABV, that's not hard to believe, and it certainly smells and tastes of alcohol. The color is a nice, clear reddish brown. There was no real head on the beer, thus no lacing, and the carbonation was also low. This made for a relatively smooth mouthfeel, though there is a bit of a bite due to the alcohol. There's a distinct syrupy texture going on with this beer, but it's not super sweet or cloying. Taste is complex and boozy. I have to admit that it's not really my favorite style of beer, but it was damn good and indeed, very intense, as promised. I don't know that I'd have it on tap again, but I would love to get me a bottle of this and wait a few years to see how well it ages. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV on tap. Drank from a Snifter glass.

I've been to Eulogy before, but it was always so crowded - this time I got there right around opening time, so it wasn't as crazy as usual (it was also only a Wednesday night, so that might also have something to do with it). Nevertheless, I think I'll have to take in some more movies at the Ritz and head over to Eulogy after...

Double Feature: Christmas Ales (Again)

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Last Saturday's double feature was the unlikely pairing of The Kids Are All Right (a family drama featuring two moms, their half-sibling children, and the sperm donor father!) and Silent Night, Bloody Night (an escaped serial killer dredges up a past tragedy on Christmas Eve). Sometimes when I have a disparate pair of films like this, I'll find some unexpected similarities, but that's not really the case here, except perhaps that I think both films are a bit overrated (though both are still good, in their own way).

On the beer side of things, I'm still working my way through recent holiday purchases:

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale - First things firs, I love the label on this. It's hysterical. It looks like a bad photoshop of the trademark St. Bernardus monk with a Santa hat and some snow. Fortunately, the contents of the bottle are much better than the label. Pours a dark, hazy brown, with a big head. Smell is yeasty with some dark fruits coming through. Mouthfeel is full of carbonation, with lots of dark frutiy flavors. The finish is almost like caramel. Surprisingly drinkable for a 10% ABV beer, I had no problem downing a 750 ml of this... It's a really fantastic beer, one of the best I've had this season. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

I was quite pleased with the St. Bernardus, but it set a high bar... apparently, too high for my next beer:

Corsendonk Christmas Ale

Corsendonk Christmas Ale - I picked up a 4 pack of this a while ago and I had a couple before last Saturday, but damn, drinking this back-to-back with the St. Bernardus was a bad idea, as St. Bernardus is clearly the superior beer. This isn't to say that this one is bad, per say, but it simply cannot hold a candle to the St. Bernardus (nor, I suspect, to my other favorite holiday beers). Pours a dark, clear brown color, with a big head. Smells fantastic, citrusy, spicy, and yeasty. It's a little lighter than the St. Bernardus, and a bit less flavorful. Lots of carbonation, with a lighter, fruity sweetness and a spicy kick at the end, maybe some coriander. The finish is crisp. It's a decent beer, but not at the top of the holiday seasonals. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (330 ml). Drank from a goblet.

A good night! Still have a few more holiday beers to get through, look for them soon...

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: A Screenplay

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1. INT. SIERRA NEVADA BREWERY - LATE OCTOBER

Six men sit around a table. A projector is displaying a marketing presentation on the screen.

BREWER 1: What the fuck is this shit about?

BREWER 2: Who fucking cares? Free beer!

BREWER 1: Hey shitdouche, you work in a brewery! You drink free beer all the time!

BREWER 2: You're just jealous because I got the fucking good stuff!

KEN GROSSMAN: Hey! Every beer we make is "good stuff"

BREWER 1: Yes, sir...

BREWER 2 (in unison): Yes, sir...

MARKETING WEENIE: Ok folks, let's get started. We here in Marketing are proud to debut the label designs for our new Holiday ale.

BREWER 1 and BREWER 2 start fidgeting anxiously.

KEN GROSSMAN: Great! What's it called?

MARKETING WEENIE:Picture this: A quaint little cottage in the countryside. Surrounded by evergreens, snow adorns its roof, smoke curling up from its chimney...

HEAD BREWER: Hey, shit-for-brains, he asked what it was called.

MARKETING WEENIE sighs, pausing for effect.

MARKETING WEENIE: It's called... Celebration.

KEN GROSSMAN: Love it, love it, love it. Let's go home.

MARKETING WEENIE: Well, wait, shouldn't we try tasting it first?

KEN GROSSMAN: Holy shit, yeah, duh, forgot about that. Where is it? All I see in this bucket here is a bunch of pale ales and IPAs.

BREWER 1 (under his breath): Fuuuuuuuuuuck

BREWER 2: What the fuck are we talking about here?

HEAD BREWER glares at BREWER 1 and BREWER 2

MARKETING WEENIE: You guys were supposed to bring a few bottles of the new holiday ale for us to taste.

BREWER 1: Yeah... so, uh, we didn't brew any.

HEAD BREWER: What!? So what the fuck is in all those fucking beer tanks out there!?

BREWER 2: It's actually a pretty bitchin' IPA.

HEAD BREWER: What about all the cinnamon and nutmeg we were going to brew it with?

BREWER 1: Brewer 2 heard a rumor it would get him high...

HEAD BREWER: That's the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard.

BREWER 2: Duuuude, it totally works.

KEN GROSSMAN: Really?

MARKETING WEENIE (in unison):This is unbelievable. You assholes should be fired!

KEN GROSSMAN: Eh, not so fast. Do you still have any?

BREWER 2: What, cinnamon?

KEN GROSSMAN: Yeah, let's fire that shit up!

HEAD BREWER: I'm game.

MARKETING WEENIE: So what are we going to do about the holiday ale?

BREWER 1: Shit, man, bottle that IPA and slap those Celebration labels on it. Done. This ain't fuckin rocket science.

KEN GROSSMAN: You guys are fucking brilliant. I'm giving you all raises.

MARKETING WEENIE: This is amazing.

KEN GROSSMAN: Except for you, you're fired.

2. INT. COMPUTER DESK - 11:15 PM

Sierra Nevada Celebration

MARK: Yeah, so it's pretty good, but I have no idea what makes this a winter seasonal. Pours a nice clear amber red color, with a solid, light colored head. Typical IPA smell of malt and hops, and a taste to match. Nice citrusy start, dry bready bitterness in the finish. There's absolutely nothing about this that screams "Holiday" (except for the label), but it's a good beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

So I'm looking forward to Sierra Nevada's upcoming summer seasonal, a Russian Imperial Stout. (What? That makes about as much sense as this one!)

Update: This should go without saying, but I obviously don't think Ken Grossman (and his brewers) is a cinnamon snorting addict. However, I do think it would be funny if he was.

Again Update: Apparently I missed the opportunity to make fun of Sierra Nevada's "green" industry practices (which are praiseworthy, to be sure, but also probably ripe for hijinks).

Tröegs Mad Elf

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I don't know, maybe this just isn't a good year to be drinking beers with "elf" in the name. Not that any were super bad, just that none of them really connected with me. I had high hopes for this one, as I've heard many good things, but I found myself disappointed:

Troegs Mad Elf

Tröegs Mad Elf - Pours a light, clear, reddish color, with a relatively small head that dissipates pretty quickly. Smell is a bit fruity and musty. Taste is sweet, with some of that cherry taste, and very boozy. The strong alcohol taste isn't nearly as well balanced with other flavors as this weekend's other big holiday brew, Three French Hens, but it's not out of control (like the Insanely Bad Elf I had on Thursday) either. Carbonation is low, which makes it a relatively smooth drink, but drinking a whole bomber of this gets a bit cloying towards the end. It's not bad, but I just didn't connect with it at all. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank from a tulip glass.

I'm getting close to the end of my Holiday brews, but I think I've got enough to tide me over until Christmas. So far, so good, even if there've been a few missteps.

Blood Into Beer: Three French Hens

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I've been catching up with 2010 movies lately, and one that I've been looking forward to was Blood Into Wine, a documentary about Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan's winery in Arizona. As a film, it tends to focus more on the personalities involved and their motivations rather than what they produce (though there's some of that as well). This makes a certain sort of sense, as there's something fascinating about an already mysterious rock star putting his music career on hold while he jaunts off to make wine.

It's a very slickly produced film, and it looks fantastic. Some of the sequences are obviously staged (including one embarrassingly stupid scene in a bathroom), but they don't pretend not to be and it does indicate something about the quirky personalities covered by the film. Keenan has always been a bit impenetrable, so the mixture of fact and fiction makes a certain sense. Arizona is clearly not a haven for wine-producers, and the winery shown in the film is absolutely tiny - kinda like a micro-winery. It's still a young business, but early indications seem promising. It seems for a moment that the film is gearing up towards a Beer Wars-style (or maybe King of Kong-style) underdog versus monolithic corporation confrontation, but it doesn't really go that way. The wine world certainly seems competitive, and there are big entities there, but it hasn't quite reached the epic alcoholic-drink-as-commodity levels that the beer world deals with. As such, all we get are a few other wineries and wine critics who opine on the oddity of an Arizona winery. There are a number of other celebrities that make appearances, such as a hilarious, recurring Tim and Eric interview, Milla Jovovich (Keenan's coconspirator in music with Puscifer) and Patton Oswalt. In the end, it's quite entertaining. I don't particularly love wine though, so I substituted beer for wine whilst watching:

The Bruery - 3 French Hens

The Bruery 3 French Hens: The Bruery is only a few years old at this point, but it's gained quite a reputation in that time, and from what I've seen/tasted, it's very deserving of all the attention it gets. This beer is the third in a planned 12 year series of beers based on the 12 Days (or should we say Years) of Christmas. You have to respect that sort of audacity, though as I understand it, there's some controversy about the first couple of years of this (in particular, Partridge in a Pear Tree) being hard to find and thus fetching quite a price on eBay and the like. Regardless, when I saw a bottle of this at the local beer garden, I had to pick it up... It pours a very dark brown, almost black, color. You can only really see it when you hold it up to a light, but when you do, you can see through it (just barely). The head is well proportioned and surprisingly light colored. It also smells a bit lighter than it looks, which I have no problem with, as it smells great. The taste is sweet, a little fruity, and spicy (maybe a little clove), with a bit of a syrupy middle and a nice boozy kick at the end. Sometimes that sorta booziness can overpower a beer (as it did with last night's Insanely Bad Elf), but in this case, it's relatively well balanced, and you can get that sort of flavor without being overpowered by it. I think I can also get a bit of that oaked flavor as well, which just adds to the complexity. Overall, it's an exceptional beer, and something I wish I had the foresight to buy a case of and the willpower to store it for the next ten years. As it is, I guess I should just be happy that this West Coast beer is even available here at all! Now I find myself greatly looking forward to Four Calling Birds. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml, capped bottle). Drank from a goblet.

This is only the second beer I've had from The Bruery (the first being Coton, which I thought was amazing, if a bit powerful), but they seem every bit as excellent as their reputation implies, so I'm quite excited to seek out more from them...

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

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