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Tired Hands Parageusia4

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Parageusia is the medical term for a bad taste in the mouth (though there are some definitions that are more charitable and call it it "an abnormal or hallucinatory sense of taste" which is perhaps more fitting in this context), but that doesn't stop beer geeks for going bananas about this stuff. After the initial and bizarrely theatrical first taste of Para1 and Para2 at last year's Anniversary, the two subsequent bottle releases were the most crowded I'd been too (even if I still managed to secure my allocation). Parageusia3, having built on its younger siblings' reputation, had an absolutely cuckoo nutso release. I got there 3 hours early and was almost certainly a couple hours too late (I did not stay to find out, but I've heard that my position in line was far from viable). And this wasn't one of those gorgeous weather days or anything, it was the day after a snowstorm, so everything was slushy and icy. It appears Tired Hands were successful at breeding that new, cold-resistant strain of beer nerd. Something about these sour ales aged in barrels seems to really strike a chord with the local coterie of beer dorks.

Given my (sad lack of) experience with Para3, I was overjoyed that my Believer's Club membership started taking effect with the release of Parageusia4. No waiting in line for me, just a leisurely stop in at the brewery a couple days after the general release. Alas, only a 1 bottle limit, making this a fair rarity and totally worth waiting in line, even if I didn't have to. It is a 12 month old Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented sour ale, so let's see what kind of abnormal or hallucinatory tastes pop out:

Tired Hands Parageusia4

Tired Hands Parageusia4 - Liquid gold in appearance, with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells nice and funky, musky earth and vinous fruit all over the nose. Taste definitely goes more vinous than previous iterations, lots of grape here, a little oak, and a well balanced lactic sourness in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel has decent carbonation, but a little light compared to previous iterations (perhaps more time in bottle would have solved that), light bodied, crisp and refreshing, only a very mild sense of sour acidity here. Overall, it's another winner, though it doesn't quite compare to Para1 level awesomeness (but few do!) A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15.

Will be so happy once the barrel aged wonders they're making at the new Fermentaria start to come of age in the next several months/year. In the meantime, I'll just have to cry into regular old top-tier IPAs and saisons. Woe is me.

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron

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Fiddlehead was the first stop of Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder and while we struck out on Second Fiddle cans (which we later got to consume in Boston, oddly enough), we did manage to get our hands on some cans of Tejas Marron, a hoppy brown ale brewed with unrefined dark brown sugar, which sounds awfully nice. Not sure what makes it a Texas brown ale (as the name implies) or why the can has Spanish for "The Devil's Right Hand" included, but who cares - it sounds great:

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron - Pours a hazy brown color with a finger of light tan head that sticks around a while. Smells of citrus and pine, maybe hints of brown sugar. Taste is surprisingly tame given the color, some citrus and pine hops again, especially up front, with the brown sugar emerging towards the finish, which seems well balanced between sweet malts and bitter hops. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lower end of medium bodied, not thin at all, but not quite what it appears to be either. It feels a lot like an IPA that has some darker elements incorporated... without getting into stout/black IPA territory. Overall, it's a rock solid brew, not my favorite thing ever, but I'll have no hesitation in polishing off the 4 pack! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a Charente glass on 6/5/15. Canned: 05/22/15. Can also has a note that says "T for Timbuktu" (or something like that - batch designation?)

I like this a lot, and I shared a Hodad with a friend a while back which was nice, but it's still pretty clear that Second Fiddle is the best thing I've had from these fellas. That being said, I will certainly be on the lookout for more from them on subsequent Operation Cheddars!

Alchemist Focal Banger

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In the dark days of the aughts, The Alchemist was basically an obscure little brewpub that made a name for itself by perfecting IPAs and DIPAs. In 2011, they expanded their operation to a production brewery and cannery... right before Tropical Storm Irene laid waste to the pub. Having just opened the cannery, they opted to just sell cans of Heady Topper for a few years while they recouped their losses. They only made that one beer for a couple years, but I guess you can get away with that when it's the single highest rated beer on the planet. Nevertheless, The Alchemist certainly had a growing stable of recipes that were languishing in obscurity, and starting last year, they started doing limited runs of some other beers and dialing in the recipes to be scaled up and brewed on their new system.

One such beer was Focal Banger, a 7% ABV American IPA made with copious amounts of Citra and Mosaic hops, yielding a beer that is distinct enough from Heady Topper while retaining the DNA that serves that flagship so well (presumably that Conan yeast in action). The canned runs of this were severely limited last year, and they didn't even have approval to send them out via traditional distribution channels (they sold them at little pop up events). Well, they recently got their new artwork approved, and started producing proper cans, though distribution is still severely limited. We managed to snag some cans at the Blackback Pub during Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder a couple weeks back (and we were lucky enough to grab another at The Reservoir the next night). According to the bartender, once The Alchemist's new brewery and retail space opens (presumably next Spring, fingers crossed), production will increase dramatically, and Focal Banger will have similar availability to Heady Topper (and here's to hoping some other stuff makes its way into the mix as well!) Enough preamble, let's get to it:

Alchemist Focal Banger

Alchemist Focal Banger - It doesn't pour because you DRINK IT FROM THE CAN, as ordered (the artwork on the can is beautiful though). Beautiful citrus nose, maybe more tropical than Heady, I keep sticking my nose into the can like a dope (or, come to think of it, like the guy on the can). Taste is hugely citrus, tropical fruits, light bitterness in the finish. The Mosaic hops seem to be dominant here. Citra is no slouch, but it has some more subtle components that tend to fall by the wayside when Mosaic is in play, but then, Mosaic really plays well with that Conan yeast, yielding a really juicy, citrusy feel. Mouthfeel shines, well carbonated, silky smooth, almost creamy, compulsively quaffable. Overall, hot damn, another beautiful Alchemist beer, distinct enough from heady, but in a similar vein... A!

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can, like a man, on 5/26/15.

Totally worth trying to track down if you find yourself in Waterbury, but it sounds like we won't have to wait too long until production ramps up either. Can't wait to be able to actually bring some of this stuff home. Also hoping that the expansion will also include some of their other brews... would love to try one of their imperial stouts, just to see how they handle that sort of contrast. In the meantime, I've got plenty of other Vermont beer to get through, so stay tuned.

Avery Tectum Et Elix

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The last year has seen many breweries upgrading their facilities and increasing production, often dramatically. Colorado's Avery brewing is among those ranks, with a new facility, increased production, and a greatly expanded barrel aging program. 2 years ago, they had 250 barrels aging a variety of beers in their warehouse and they're now at around 2000 barrels. This a welcome development and probably explains how I could get my grubby hands on several of their barrel aged beers over this past year. I'm pretty enamored with those beers, so when this beer, part of a recent trend that's been dubbed Sour Spring, showed up in my local bottle shop, I took the plunge despite never having had any of their sours before (unless you count the infected Black Tot, I guess).

Tectum Et Elix translates to "roof and grains", a reference to their new brewing facility. The new building also seems to be the inspiration for the cryptic little description for this beer, number 26 in their barrel aged series: "Conceived in the alley. Born under a roof on Nautilus. Where 'drain' isn't just a noun but finally, once again, a verb as well. FINALLY!" The new brewery is located on Nautilus Court in Boulder, Colorado, so that line is easy to figure out. Presumably there's an alley next to the building where people hang out and come up with beers or something. And the notion of drain being a verb rather than just a noun is perhaps a reference to draining barrels after a long wait? This beer spent 9 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels along with a mix of yeasts and bacterial beasties (apparently straying from their normal Brett strain to experiment with others). Worth the wait? Let's take a closer look:

Avery Tectum Et Elix

Avery Tectum Et Elix - Pours a clear, golden orange color, radiant with a finger of white head. Smells intensely earthy, lots of funk, hints of fruit, sour cherries, but really earthy, horsey, barnhouse stuff (supposedly due to the use of different Brett strains than normal Avery sours). Taste is more on the fruity side, sour cherries, some earthy funk, sweet fruit, and a little vinegary sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, moderately acidic, light bodied. Given that the normal barrel aged Avery beer is somewhere north of 14% ABV, this sucker feels downright approachable at 5.5%... Overall, it's a nice little sour number, nothing ecstatic, but really very nice and quite tasty and it grew on me as I drank. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15. Bottled: Apr 16 2015. Production: 908 cases.

On deck is Insula Multos Collibus, a sour aged in bourbon barrels with cherries. After that, who knows. The production on these things is way, way up, so I'm sure we'll see more Avery barrel aged wonders as time goes on. In the meantime, I've got my hands full with VT and Boston beer, so it may be a while...

Alpine Nelson

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Inspired by a 2003 trip to New Zealand (the image on the label is a bay from the Nelson region of NZ) where the owner of Alpine stumbled upon NZ hops (then not used very much in the US) and decided to make a Kiwi inspired beer. The hop bill is comprised of all NZ hops with Nelson Sauvin being a specific focus, though others are clearly in use.

This video mentions that the first hop addition is extra double super secret, the second is Nelson Sauvin, the third is Southern Cross, and the fourth is a combo of Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross. There is a dry hopping period as well, but the hops used are unspecified (my not particularly insightful swag: Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross). My impression is that Nelson Sauvin is an intense citrus, grapefruit, almost wine-like hop, while Southern Cross is a more mild, floral affair that would match really well with the rye in the recipe. I was very much impressed with Duet, so let's see how Nelson stacks up:

Alpine Nelson

Alpine Nelson - Pours a clear, very pale, golden yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells of citrusy, vinous fruit, grapefruit and the like, maybe something more floral and earthy lurking in the background. Taste has a beautiful grapefruit and vinous fruit character to it up front, followed by some rye spice in the middle, and a well balanced, light, dry bitterness in the finish. Great hop character without overpowering anything, and perhaps the first time I really get Nelson Sauvin. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, and crisp, absolutely and dangerously quaffable. Overall, another spectacular IPA from Alpine. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/22/15.

I also managed to score some Hoppy Birthday whilst out and about because Alpine distributes here now, and it was quite nice (I didn't take notes because I'm the worst, but it was very light and quaffable, great hop character, though not quite as potent as Nelson or Duet). I'll also be checking out some Captain Stout at some point in the near future as well, and who knows, if they keep distributing out here, I'll almost certainly be drinking more of their goodness.

A couple years ago, I acquired a bottle of Great Divide's Barrel Aged Hibernation in a LIF. It was quite nice, but the barrel component wasn't quite as integrated as I expected. This could be because the bottle was nearly 2 years old or it could be that the Stranahan's barrels they used don't really live up to the more common bourbon barrel approach. The former could be addressed by snagging a fresh bottle of BA Hibernation (which I see are circulating in the area right now), but the latter will be more of a challenge since Stranahan's is relatively small, there aren't that many breweries that use their barrels, and then there's the fact that they have asked brewers not to disclose their name on labels anymore. Also, the nature of a small distillery like Stranahan's can lead to inconsistency, which could also translate to their barrels... I'm not an inconsistency hater and can even find it charming in some instances, but that doesn't make a true miss any less annoying!

All that being said, it's my understanding that Great Divide does still use Stranahan's for their barrel program, and when I saw this barrel aged barleywine (for 12 months, no less), I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm happy to report that this worked out better than the old ale (though it appears some folks have gotten infected bottles - mine was not, so I don't know how prevalent any of those issues was):

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian - Pours a dark, murky amber brown color with a finger of off white had that sticks around for a bit. Smells of dark fruits, raisins, plums, with some caramel and toffee and hints of whiskey in the background. Taste goes to a similar place, rum soaked raisins and plums, hints of slightly boozy oak and whiskey, and a malt backbone of caramel and toffee, finishing with that touch of whiskey and vanilla. As it warms, it gets a bit deeper and the whiskey comes out a bit more. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tightly carbonated, with a moderate amount of richness from the barrel aging, silky smooth, with enough alcohol heat in the finish to keep it a sipper. Overall, very well executed bourbon barrel barleywine, quite a treat. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/16/15. Bottled on: March 26, 2015.

This was very nice and makes me want to go out and grab another BA Hibernation, though I really shouldn't, as I'm drowning in good beer over here. I know, woe is me, but I've got to drink down my cellar a bit and oh, it looks like I've got a trip to Vermont on the near horizon, so this is going to be rough. For certain values of "rough".

AleWerks Lover's Greed

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How do you do, dear reader? I am your most obedient servant and I am right heartily glad to see you. Forsooth, I have a most curious beer to discuss with you. Hailing from the honorable brewery known as Aleworks, situated close to the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia, this elixir began its life in a traditional brick wrapped brewhouse with open flame (as opposed to the modern heathens who useth more gentle steam systems), then slumbered for nearly 18 months in French oak barrels formerly used to age red wine. Truly a testament to the fleeting virtue of patience, that most humble of qualities. Hold ye onto thine britches, for these suds pack a sour punch:

AleWerks Lovers Greed

AleWerks Lover's Greed - Pours a pale, hazy reddish orange color with a finger of fizzy head that quickly resolves into a cap of head that sticks around for a while. Smells of vinous fruit, sour cherries, and tart vinegar. Taste is surprisingly mellow, definitely lots of tart fruit, cherries and grapes, vinegar tones, a little in the way of oak and vanilla, sour but not overpoweringly so. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated but smooth, slightly acidic but not a monster. Overall, a nice American wild ale; it's quite approachable and goes down rather easy, comporting itself well in a crowded and competitive style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/16/15. Vintage: 2014.

Many thanks to Danur for the bottle! Also, I beg your pardon for my horrid attempts at colonial speech. It's funny, AleWerks has even dropped Williamsburg from their name, so I'm guessing they're trying to distance themselves from that connotation. Regardless, I've enjoyed most everything I've had from this small operation, and have been on the lookout for Bitter Valentine for a while now... There's always next year.

Midnight Sun Berserker

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Alaska is a cold place, so I guess it makes sense that brewers situated in that bleak environment would resort to big, heavy malts and lots of booze. And thank God that they do, because I love those beers. Midnight Sun exemplifies this approach, with a line of impressive imperial stouts, one of the best barleywines I've ever had, and now this barrel aged monstrosity.

In Old Norse literature, Berserkers were warriors who dressed in bear pelts and fought with an uncontrollable, trance-like rage. It's speculated that they entered this state of wild fury through the use of drugs, though probably not a depressant like alcohol. These days, it's mostly a cheesy reference or way to describe comic book characters like Wolverine. And also this beer, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout brewed with maple syrup and molasses. I sure do enjoy me, well, all of those things, so let's get to it. My love for you is like a truck, Berserker!

Midnight Sun Berserker

Midnight Sun Berserker - Pours a deep black color with a beautiful cap of dark brown head (maybe even a sorta amber tint to the head, very pretty, but short-lived). Smells of dark, roasty malts, vanilla, sweet brown sugar, dark chocolate, and a touch of bourbon. Taste starts with a nice, rich caramel that quickly yields to brown sugar, syrupy molasses, almost fruity, vinous flavors, a little oak and vanilla, boozy bourbon, then dark chocolate and more traditional roasted malts emerge towards and into the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little boozy heat. The closest thing I can compare this to is The Abyss, but with a little more barrel character. Overall, this is a rock solid Bourbon barrel aged stout, right up my alley. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.7% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/15/15. Vintage 2015. 30 IBUs.

There is a beer called Son of Berserker that is made from the second runnings of Berserker's no doubt large malt bill, and honestly, at this point, I'm down for just about anything from this brewery, the bigger and burleyer, the better.

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

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