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A Trip to Hidden River Brewing Company

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Hidden River brewing opened its doors a little over a year ago. So many local breweries have opened recently that I'm having a hard time keeping up, but I'd been hearing some buzz about these beers of late. These guys aren't in the most convenient location (Douglassville, PA, not quite the middle of nowhere, but far enough from me), and I'm the worst so it took me a while to get in gear, but now that I've been there, I will most definitely be making return trips.

Hidden River Sign

It's still a tiny operation, located in the beautiful Historic Brinton Lodge. It's a deceptively large facility though, broken up into a small bar area, several dining rooms, and a pretty great outdoor bar. The lodge is supposedly haunted and the owners apparently run various events along those paranormal lines, which I'll most certainly have to take advantage of next Halloween. So it's a great space, and the decor works too.

Charcuterie Plate

The food menu is somewhat limited, but everything I had was great (charcuterie plate and a panini, great bread too). A solid and ever-rotating taplist helps things along (more on that below). All in all, it reminds me a lot of the original Tired Hands location, before the hype and expansions.

I've now been there twice, and while I didn't take formal tasting notes, I'll give you a broad overview of what I got:

Hidden River Green Mass

Green Mass - A 5.9% pale ale made in the Northeast IPA mold, super cloudy, juicy hops, and so on. Would love to try a higher ABV version of this, but this was quite a nice first impression.

Hidden River Fresh Press

Fresh Press - A 6% dry-hopped saison, very nice. Again with the super-cloudy beer (does look like orange juice) and juicy hop character, along with some nice saison yeast character. Definitely a highlight.

Hidden River Kings Watch

King's Watch - An 8% Baltic Porter that really impressed me. I've often noted that many local breweries aren't great at dark beer, but this is a really impressive take. Not quite HF Everett or Maine King Titus, but along those lines. Fantastic.

Hummingbird High - A 9.5% DIPA, this one doesn't quite live up to the expectation built up by my first three tries. It's certainly a fine beer, but not a top tier DIPA (and, perhaps tellingly, seemed like less of a Northeast IPA style).

Golden Oak Magic - I suppose if they were really aping Tired Hands, they would have named this "Golden Oak Magick", heh. A 4.8% saison brewed with Shiitake and Black Poplar mushrooms, cilantro, and a bunch of lime zest, this one appears extremely clear, and has a more traditional saison yeast character too it, with some savory earthiness (but not really funky and you can't exactly pick out the mushrooms...)

Melt Banana Face - A 7.6% IPA made with, you guessed it, bananas. And they do come through strong, though that means they sorta overwhelm the Northeast IPA base. All in all, a very interesting beer, would drink again, but sorta one-dimensional...

Hidden River Rum Barrel Aged Mapping the Past

Rum Barrel Aged Mapping the Past - An 11% English Barleywine aged on coconuts in Rum Barrels. My initial reaction was of sugary, rum soaked raisins, but once I figured out the coconut component (didn't see that in the description before ordering), I really started to get that too. Not sooper boozy or anything, and could probably use a little more malt backbone, but it's still a pretty fantastic offering that I enjoyed immensely...

So there you have it, everything was very good to great, one of the better hit to miss ratios I've seen at a new(ish) brewery in a while. I greatly look forward to sampling more of their wares in the future. I do not look forward to making the trek out there, but the results do seem worth it!

2SP Rummy Sticks & Bourbon S.I.P.

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I've generally enjoyed 2SP's offerings, but their limited bottlings have been a bit less consistent for me. This is partly due to style choices that just didn't quite align with my general preferences. Hardly a crime and it's been amply established that I'm the worst, so I've been lagging behind on their releases. Enter these two bottles, much more to my taste.

The first is an English Strong Ale aged in rum barrels for 12 months. This is the longest they've managed to barrel age a beer to date, and it sounds delicious. The second is a bourbon barrel aged imperial porter. Aged for 10 months in Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and apparently a single barrel 1792 bourbon barrel that originated from local Kaedrin favorite Teresa's Cafe (I've never gotten the 1792, but I've had some of their other single barrel picks and they've been good!) These both sound delicious, lets dig in:

2SP Rummy Sticks

2SP Rummy Sticks (Rum Barrel Aged English Strong Ale) - Pours a very dark amber brown color with a quarter finger of fizzy head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge which manages to stick around a bit longer. Smells of... banana? Definitely rum, oak, dark fruits, molasses, but yes, banana too, interesting. Taste is a little less complex than the nose would have you believe, but it hits similar notes, just not as hard. Sweet, dark fruit, rum, oak, molasses, and sure, banana, why not, maybe some noble hops going on too, not really bitter, but the finish balances out some of the upfront sweetness. A little more rummy booze shows up as it warms too. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, finely carbed, perhaps a bit too thin for a Rum barrel-aged approach, but it comports itself well. Overall, a definite improvement over recent bottles, but still not quite a home run... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 11/19/16. Bottle No. 470. Batch Date: 8/8/15. Released: 11/4/16.

2SP Bourbon Barrel S.I.P.

2SP Bourbon Barrel Aged S.I.P. (Stigz' Imperial Porter) (Teresa's 1792 Bourbon Barrel) - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with half a finger of off white head. Smells of roasted malt and fudge, a little oak and bourbon. Taste is sweet, hints of roast, bourbon, and oak, a little vanilla. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, pretty easy going for a bourbon barrel aged porter. Overall, it's pretty good, but not top tier. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/19/16. Bottle No. 075. Batch Date: 10/14/15. Released: 9/30/16.

So these are definitely more to my taste than the past couple releases, but still haven't quite breached that top tier. That being said, these are certainly good enough to continue hunting down...

I'm not always great about aligning my drinking up to the occasion, but Halloween is one holiday where I try to make the extra effort. I embark upon a six week horror movie marathon and generally attempt to drink some seasonally appropriate beers (or, at least, rationalize completely irrelevant choices). Halloween night always begets something special. Last year, I watched a duo of Wes Craven movies and paired with beers inspired by his work.

One of those beers was Crooked Stave's Nightmare on Brett, a series of sour baltic porters (all of which clock in at the vaguely antichristian ABV of 9.666%) aged in barrels. There are tons of variants, but the one I had last year was aged in Leopold Bros. whiskey barrels with cherries. This year, we take on their newest variant, which is basically the same thing, but aged with blueberries instead of cherries. Sounds glorious, so let's grab our fedora and knife-glove-thingy and haunt the dreams of some beer:

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett with Blueberries

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett with Blueberries (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head. Smells great, hints of roast and chocolate, I don't know if I get blueberries specifically, but it's definitely got a nice chocolate covered berries sort of feel, maybe a note of whiskey and oak too. The blueberries actually do come out in the taste though, their distinct flavor inflecting the sourness, which is pretty substantial (I want to say moreso than the cherry version I had last year, but who knows?) Less in the way of roast or chocolate, as the balance has flown towards the blueberries, but this is still very clearly a sour stout and you kinda get that. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, medium bodied, with a sharp but pleasant acidity. Moderate richness from the barrels, and a bit of warming booze too. Overall, this is great, but I want to say that the one I had last year was better. I guess I need to do a taste test with both at some point. Woe is me. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.666% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/31/16. Batch: January 2016 (pretty sure it was only released in September though).

Crooked Stave does it right, as per usual. Will always be on the lookout for more of their wares. Many thanks to Kaedrin friend Danur for procuring this bottle and smuggling it back to PA for me.

Russian River Defenestration

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Defenestration is literally the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. Sounds cathartic, especially since the best known objects of such treatment are unwanted politicians. The label sez it perfectly, so I'll just let it speak for itself:

Some of the most famous and notorious defenestrations occurred in Prague in the 15th and 17th centuries. These defenestrations were done in an effort to remove government officials by throwing them out a third story window. The result was either sudden death or serious bodily injury. Either way, mission accomplished!

In the spirit of this 2016 election year, we hope you enjoy our hoppy Belgian-inspired blonde ale named for the act of removing politicians by throwing them out the window - literally!

The picture on the label is also quite apropos, though the 2016 election probably deserves a more gruesome visual. Lots of people are struggling right now and while it might be fun for defenestration to make a comeback, that's probably not the answer. Probably. In the meantime, maybe beer can provide some small measure of comfort:

Russian River Defenestration

Russian River Defenestration - Pours a straw yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head and good retention. Smells quite nice, musty Belgian yeast, a little bit of spice, and a slight aroma of citrus hops. Taste mostly hits those Belgian yeast notes, spicy phenols, light on the fruity esters. Mouthfeel is light bodied, highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, quite dry too, goes down very easy. Overall, this is a very nice, pretty straightforward Belgian pale ale, with just a hint of hops for added fun. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/8/16. Bottled on: 091616.

Not Russian River's top tier, but a rock solid Belgian ale. Many thanks to fellow Beer Nerd Gary for securing the bottle and slinging it my way!

Double Nickel Feature

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When I was a kid, I collected coins. And not just those goofy books with slots for each year's penny, I went all out, grading them (XF-45 bro), putting them in fancy individual casings, and so on. Yes, I was a nerd, I believe we've already established that, quit screaming "NERD!" at the top of your lungs. Anyway, Buffalo nickels (aka Indian Head nickels) were interesting because the ill-advised design lead to normal wear and tear basically erasing the year from the coin (since it was on a raised area of the engraving, it was the first to fade). Still, it was a nice design, as you might expect when Teddy Roosevelt's administration started on a mission to "beautify" the nation's coinage. All our coin designs these days are boring old presidents. Those older coins were great, with a million variations on lady liberty, Mercury wings, buffalo, Native Americans, shields, and so on. These days we're stuck with a cavalcade of presidents. Nice, I guess, but it could use some updating, no?

Anywho! This is a pair of barrel aged beers from New Jersey's Double Nickel brewing company, both Buffalo Nickel inspired. Or at least named after them. I mean, nickel is a toxic transition metal and thus not a great ingredient in beer. But I digress. Again. Anyway, a friend had brought both of these to a bottle share a while back, and I was pretty impressed, but then, it's tricky to really evaluate beer at a share. Too many flavors, tiny pours, and so on. So during a recent sojourn into the Garden State, I saw these and jumped on them. I mean, I quickly purchased them. I didn't literally jump on them. That would have hurt. As expected, slightly different perception when drinking by themselves, though I still really enjoyed them. One of the most interesting things about them is that they're relatively low alcohol for bourbon barrel aged beers. 8-8.5% is reasonably high, but compared to the normal 13+% we see, these are pretty svelte. Let's see how they hold up:

Double Nickel Marbled Buffalo

Double Nickel Marbled Buffalo - Pours a clear dark brown color, amber highlights, with a finger of light tan head. Smells great, toffee, rye spice, hints of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste hits those spicy rye notes hard, a little rich caramel and toffee, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Really impressed by the rye character here. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, moderate richness, goes down pretty easy. Overall, this is a fascinating beer, nice barrel character, but the lower ABV makes it more approachable than your typical take. The rye comes through really well. Unique and complex. Borderline high B+ or low A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 10/28/16. Bottle No. 142 of 1800.

Double Nickel Buffalo Nickel

Double Nickel Buffalo Nickel - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color, with half a finger of light brown head. Smells of caramel and vanilla, with hints of bourbon and oak, and maybe some faint roast. Taste is rich caramel and vanilla, with some roast and maybe even a little hop character floating around in the middle, finishing on a bourbon and oak note. Mouthfeel is slightly less carbonated, rich, full bodied, but still pretty approachable. Overall, nowhere near as unique, but a solid little BBA imperial stout, all the more impressive because of the lowish ABV. Quite nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 10/28/16. Bottle No. 1516 of 1800.

These beers made a pretty great first impression on me, and being located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, they might be closer than a lot of great PA breweries I visit on the regular, so you'll probably see more from them here at some point...

Allagash FV 13

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In 2008, Allagash acquired a 2,700-gallon oak foudre and filled 'er up. For the uninitiated, the FV in the name stands for Fermentation Vessel and though you might think this was their 13th such vessel, it actually wasn't. They had a whole fleet of stainless steel fermenters and, being superstitious, they decided to skip the number 13. Apparently they managed to get over their Triskaidekaphobia before setting up their foudre.

As befits their first foray into this type of aging, they went through quite a labor intensive process. Primary fermentation happened in one of the lucky stainless fermenters with Allagash's house yeast strain, then moved to the unlucky foudre along with two strains of Brett, souring bugs (lactobacillus and pediococcus), Sherry yeast, and Allagash's reserve yeast. Then they waited four years before bottling. Sadly, I missed out on that 2012 vintage, but it's been another four years, another batch has been dispensed, and this time Kaedrin's beer acquisition department was ready to pounce.

What's different this time? Well, it seems that instead of just distributing the entire 2,700 gallons back in 2012, they kept some in reserve and used it to inoculate the next batch. Due to this sorta solera-like approach, each batch will be different (and we'll have to wait 4 years between batches). If this batch is any indication, I don't think 13 is as unlucky a previously thought:

Allagash FV 13

Allagash FV 13 - Pours a orange hued golden color with half a finger of white head. Smells quite nice, musty funk, vinous fruit, dark fruit, cherries. Taste hits those notes, lots of fruit notes, cherries, vinous fruit, estery, mild funk, plenty of oak, a nice acetic sour bite, quite balanced. It has a sorta oxidized sherry note to it that is quite nice. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, moderate to high but still pleasant acidity. Complex and very well balanced. Overall, something about Allagash's sour program hits my palate just right, I guess. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/23/16. Bottled: May 5, 2016.

As per usual, Allagash is killing it with these sours. As mentioned above, something about these things just clicks with me. One of these days, I really want to seek out some of their Coolship beers (i.e. spontanously fermented beers). Until then, I'm glad Kaedrin's beer acquisition department has been keeping tabs on these things...

Other Half Quadruple Feature

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Time to check in with our friends up north. Other Half opened in 2014, but only started canning in February of this year. They built their reputation almost entirely on word of mouth, and that word is "excellent", so can releases tend to be pretty crowded affairs. Such is the way of Northeast IPA brewers, I guess. Fortunately, cans have been finding their way into my possession often enough to know that their hype is at least partially deserved. Will I be driving up to Brooklyn and waiting in line anytime soon? Probably not. But I know some people who do, and for that, I am grateful. Here are the four latest brews I've had from these folks, two single hop beers, a duo, and one of their staple triple IPAs.

Other Half Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dream

Other Half Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dream - Similar to regular Double Mosaic Dream, but with moar dry-hopping - Pours a hazy yellow gold color with a finger of white head, decent retention, and a little lacing. Smells great, tropical fruit, citrus hops, a little dank pine. Taste follows the nose, huge amounts of tropical fruit and citrus, mangoes, pineapples, and whatnot, sweet up front with a well balanced bitter note in the finish. Mouthfeel is perfect, well carbonated, tight, medium bodied. Overall, delicious. Not sure how different it is from the non double dry hopped version, but it's still exceptional! A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/8/16. Canned 9/23/2016. Batch: Violently Hoppy.

Other Half Amarillo IPA

Other Half Amarillo IPA - I love Amarillo, but have found it to be a poor choice as a bittering hop, so single-hop beers like this tend to suffer a bit because of that. - Pours a cloudy, dark yellow gold, almost brown, with a finger of white head. Smells very nice, sweet with lots of citrus hops. Taste starts off sweet with lots of citrus hop flavor, maybe a bit of pine, finishing with a sharp, astringent bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, crisp, and relatively dry. Overall this is rock solid stuff, one of the better Amarillo Single Hop beers around, but it still can't quite overcome Amarillo's sharp bittering character... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a charente glass on 10/9/16. Canned: 9/23/16. Batch: Pretty Daddy.

Other Half All Green Everything

Other Half All Green Everything - A triple IPA brewed with Motueka, Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic hops, this one certainly doesn't fall into the "Isn't this just a hoppy barleywine" trap that many TIPAs are susceptible to, even if it doesn't quite reach the top of that mountain. - Pours a mostly clear, dark, golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells nice, sweet citrus and pine, with some floral, grassy notes too. Taste has a big malt backbone, hits a more dank piney aspect than the nose, but plenty of citrus, finishing with a well balanced and soft bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, but with a fair amount of boozy heat. A very good beer, but a little disappointing given its reputation. On the upper end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a teku glass on 10/9/16. Canned: 9/22/2016. Batch: Best Coast.

Other Half Simcoe + Wai-Iti

Other Half Simcoe + Wai-Iti - I think this might have been my first Wai-Iti hopped beer ever, though it turns out that two of those Veil beers I recently posted about also had them. It certainly has that New Zealand flare to it and works well enough for me, though I'd like to try more. This combo with Simcoe worked out quite nicely. - Pours a pale, almost clear yellow color with a finger of head and great retention. Smells great, sweet, candied citrus and pine hops, nice and dank, as Simcoe is wont to be. Taste has more Wai-Iti hop influence, much more tropical than your typical Simcoe, though you get a bit of that Simcoe dankness, and a good sweetness/bitterness balance. Mouthfeel is perfect, light to medium bodied, well carbonated, dangerously quaffable. Overall, this is awesome. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/14/16. Canned: 9/22/2016. Batch: Yeast Coast.

Phew, I think that's enough IPA reviews for the time being (only 8 over the course of two posts!). No more Other Half in the immediate pipeline, but you will almost certainly be hearing about them again soon. Indeed, I hope to perhaps try something that's not an IPA at some point...

The Veil Quadruple Feature

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Richmond, Virginia's The Veil Brewing Co. opened it's doors around six months ago. Brewer Matt Tarpey spent some time at several Northeast breweries, including the likes of The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead, as well as completing an apprenticeship with Jean Van Roy at Cantillon in Belgium. That's a pretty impressive pedigree. Since they're just getting started, I imagine their spontaneous fermentation program will take some time to develop, but their IPA game is already turning heads amongst the beer dork community.

The name of the brewery comes from Tarpey's time in Belgium. He was discussing pellicles, the thin film that forms on top of the beer during spontaneous fermentation, and he noted that "Jean has a lot of friends in Italy that are natural winemakers and he told me that his friends in Italy call pellicles 'the veil.' That moment was very special and I just remembered it..."

I managed to get my grubby little biscuit snatchers on four different cans of relatively fresh stuff. No spontaneous fermentation here, but one great IPA, two interesting takes, and one that didn't work out. So a pretty decent batting average and a promising start. I'm really intrigued to see where these folks go next.

The Veil Crucial Crucial Aunt Aunt

The Veil Crucial Crucial Aunt Aunt - Double Mango Double Dry Hopped Double IPA - Pours a cloudy, turbid yellow orange color (orange juice looking) with a finger of white, fluffy head, good retention, and some lacing. Smells of pure, unadulterated, juicy citrus hops. Taste starts off very sweet up front, hitting lots of those juicy citrus hops in the middle before heading to a balancing bitter hop town in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, fine, medium bodied, juicy up front but more dry in the finish. Overall, this is a rock solid Northeast IPA and it's delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/7/16. Canned on 09/20/16.

The Veil Joooseee Boizzz

The Veil Joooseee Boizzz - Triple IPA with Raspberries, a collaboration with Monkish (another brewery that I need to become more familiar with) - Pours a milky orange amber color with a couple fingers of off white, almost pink head. Smells of fruity, juicy hops, but also a sorta fruit roll ups or fruit by the foot aroma. Taste follows the nose, lots of citrus hops, ample malt backbone, and some more gummy fruity notes. Sometimes this came off as a sorta artificial feel, as befits fruit roll-ups, but it was still pretty darn tasty. Mouthfeel is full bodied and heavy, well carbed, but certainly a sipper. Overall it's an interesting and tasty beer, worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/9/16. Canned on 09/20/16.

The Veil Boss Man

The Veil Boss Man - Sour Double IPA - Pours a golden orange color with a finger of white head that doesn't last too long. Smells of citrus and some sort of souring twang. Taste is quite sour right from the start, some resinous citrus hops, but mostly dominated by that sourness with a bitter hop note towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and quite acidic. Overall, the notion of sour IPAs always seems to disappoint me. It is well crafted, for sure, but not really my thing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/14/16. Canned on 09/19/16.

The Veil That Part

The Veil That Part - Double IPA hopped exclusively with New Zealand Wai-iti hops - Pours a murky golden color with a couple fingers of fluffy head. Smells... odd, almost like bubble gum, but with some strange notes. Hop notes almost absent. Not bad, per say, but certainly not your traditional IPA. Taste is, ugh, not good. Something is wrong with this. Astringent, off flavors, weirdly spicy, and earthy (and not in a good, funky way). I'm guessing it's a yeast problem and I'm curious if it fared better when it was initially canned... but then, it's only been a little more than three weeks. Mouthfeel is again kinda weird, medium bodied, well carbed, but again with some sort of strange astringency. Overall, yeah, avoid this one. I may have gotten a bad can or something, but this is really awful. F

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/14/16. Canned on 09/20/16.

Many thanks to fellow beer nerd Nick for making the trip down to Virginia and securing these cans for me. He's a great American, and I'll be discussing more of his generous acquisitions later this week as well.

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

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