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The Bruery Sans Pagaie

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With the drinking of this beer, I have officially depleted the remaining spoils of Operation Cheddar. It may seem odd to say that, seeing as though Operation Cheddar was an incursion into Vermont and The Bruery is about as far away from that fine state as you can get, but it turns out that Hill Farmstead usually features bottles from their friends, and this was the one available when I was there last year (incidentally, the current guest offerings at the retail shop are numerous and impressive, and that's before you get to the Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup! I need to get back up there.)

The only thing I knew about this before I bought it was that it was a Bruery beer that I had never seen around the Philly area. Once I got my greedy paws on the bottle, I saw that it was a sour blonde ale aged in barrels with cherries, basically their take on a Belgian kriek. I assume this "sour blonde ale" is the same base they use for Rueuze and other fruited variants like Filmishmish and Beauregarde, though that is pure speculation on my part, meaning that you can safely IGNORE ME!

Sans Pagaie translates to "without a paddle", and the bottle itself sez: "Up a Kriek". I see what they did there. Let's see what I did this past weekend:

The Bruery Sans Pagaie

The Bruery Sans Pagaie - Pours an almost clear orange pinkish red color with a finger of off white head. Smell is beautiful, lots of oak, vanilla, cherries, tart fruit, and some light earthy funk. Taste starts off with some tart fruit, cherries, more fruit roll-up than sour patch kid (though both seem present), followed by an intensifying sourness into an oaky, sour finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, acidic, vinegary, intense (but not Avance-level intense), quite the pucker factor. Definitely an interesting and worthwhile beer, the fruit lends a sorta sugary candy character that sets this apart from the really awesome Belgian takes, but this works well enough on its own. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands wine glass on 4/25/14. 2013 vintage.

Among Bruery's attempts at Belgian sours, this doesn't quite hit Rueuze or even Oude Tart levels, but it is interesting on its own. Fortunately, the next Bruery beer we plan to tackle here at Kaedrin will probably be their upcoming anniversary beer, called Sucré (shit, has it really been 6 years since the Bruery started?)

Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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Every time I pull out one of these Voodoo barrel room selections, I wonder what the hell took me so long. The last one I tried, the Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy didn't quite blow my mind, but it was a worthy beer and certainly an improvement over the base. Of course, that was aged in lowly Buffalo Trace bottles; what I have here was aged in that most hallowed of Bourbon barrels, Pappy Van Winkle (ermegerd!) I've already gone over this sort of thing in the past, so I'll spare you the nerdy wrangling about why these barrels are so prized. Suffice it to say, the clouds parted and an angelic choir heralded the opening of this beer, and it was good.

PVW Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Brewing Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a deep black color with a cap of brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich caramel, a hint of roast, and a heaping helping of bourbon. Taste follows the nose, rich caramel, tons of bourbon, booze, and a hint of roast emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied, rich, and creamy. Low but appropriate carbonation, some hot booze, but it's actually pretty easy going for a monster beer. Definitely a big improvement over the Buffalo Trace variant, but still not as great as Pappy Black Magick. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/19/14. Bottle #284. Bottled: 12.14.12.

I think I'll crack open one of the Lairds Apple Brandy variants next, and I'll try to make it snappy too. None of this waiting 5 months anymore. Anywho, after two relatively quick barrel room releases, things look quiet on the Voodoo barrel front. I assume they've filled it up again, but their website does not appear to have been updated and I haven't heard any news on upcoming releases. Here's to hoping they do another Philly release at some point!

April Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we went to a local Pizza place, got our fill of deep fried pizza pockets and other such delights, and naturally partook in lots of beer:

April Beer Club Selections
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, completely unreliable notes on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers apply, and other such waffling. Great, now I have a sudden craving for waffles. Thanks a lot. Anywho, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Green Flash Le Freak - Labeled a Belgian IPA, I didn't get much in the way of hops out of this, but it remained a pretty solid Belgian Strong Pale nonetheless. Nice spicy Belgian yeast character. B
  • Ovila Abbey Saison - Bog standard saison material, nothing special at all, though certainly not bad or anything like that. Still, there wasn't much to make it really stand out in a setting like this. Mild Belgian yeast character, maybe a hint of lemon peel if you are really looking for it. B-
  • Stone Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA - Rock solid IPA that feels like it's actually made with grapefruit (as opposed to only hops that lend a grapefruity character). I don't actually know if that's the case for sure, but that's what it feels like. Beautiful nose, what seems like Stone's trademark hop profile, and a heaping helping of citrusy but astringent grapefruit. An interesting beer. B
  • Evil Twin / Crooked Stave Ryan And The Gosling - One of my contributions for the night, this is dominated by funky Brett. This is quite welcome in the nose, and the front end of the taste is fantastic, but the finish is very odd. That funk turns super earthy, almost savory in the finish, which brings this down a bit. Still an interesting beer to try though. B
  • Allagash Midnight Brett - Hey, look at that, a beer I just reviewed yesterday. And it held up rather well in this setting as well.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Honey IPA - Brewed with a bunch of New Zealand hops, this was quite nice.
  • Sly Fox Nihilist - An interesting take on the imperial stout style, huge carbonation, dryer than I'd normally expect, but a nice roast character, with hints of booze (but not overpowering). It's definitely a decent brew. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel - Straight up imperial stout, this one compared very favorably to the Nihilist, definitely thicker and more creamy, less roast, but really quite nice. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked) - Interestingly, I feel like the char that came through on early bottles has mellowed out, and the bourbon seems to be lessening the roast as well, making this an interesting blend of flavors. It's turned out quite well, though not at all like your typical bourbon barrel aged stout. Still, not bad for a first attempt, and quite nice on its own. B+
  • DuClaw Dirty Little Freak - Holy hell. Huge chocolate nose, like powdered cocoa. Less chocolate in the taste, as it takes a back seat to a big coconut character. Surprisingly not super sweet, and it works well enough I guess (certainly a unique beer), though I was a little disappointed. B-
  • DuClaw Cocoa Fuego - Brewed with dark chocolate and chipotle peppers, its the latter that seems to dominate this beer, even contributing a sorta smokey flavor that's pretty tough to overcome. There's some peppery heat that takes up residence in your jaw, but it's not punishing or anything like that. Not the worst hot pepper beer I've had, but not a beer that I connected with either. C+
  • DuClaw Hell on Wood - Ah, now this is more like it. This is DuClaw's excellent Devil's Milk barleywine aged on bourbon barrels, and it turned out reasonably well. Clearly not a top tier BBA barleywine, but it works really well on its own. B+
So all in all, quite a nice night. As per usual, already looking forward to next month... In the meantime, stay tuned for another .rar wale review tomorrow.

Allagash Double Feature

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This past Saturday, one of my favorite local beer bars celebrated its fourth anniversary. It's a tiny little place, but they had a rather spectacular tap list for the occasion, so I made my way over there, arriving just a little after opening. It was a total madhouse and took me a while to get anywhere close to the bar, so during this time, I reprioritized the order of desired beers, placing ones I've never had at the top of the list. Insanely crowded bars are not really my thing, and a friend I was going to meet was running way late, so we just called it quits and met up later in the day somewhere else.

That being said, I managed to snag a rare Allagash sour while I was there, and was really happy that I got to try this (there was a brewery-only bottle release not too long ago, but thankfully a keg made its way down here...) Avance is a strong sour aged on Strawberries in bourbon barrels for a whopping three years. Strawberry is not a particularly common fruit used with beer, so I was pretty stoked to try this out. Realizing that I've not been particularly attentive to Allagash's sour and wild beer program, I also cracked open some Midnight Brett that I had laying around; it's a dark wheat beer fermented with Brett. All in all, this was quite a nice Saturday!

Allagash Avance

Allagash Avancé - Apologies for the craptacular picture, but I was lucky enough to be able to extend my hand that far in this place, which was pretty obscenely crowded. Nice bright orange brown color, with a finger of bubbly head and great retention. Smells of oak and fruit berries, with the strawberry actually coming through rather well. Big sour twang in the nose too. Taste hits with a massive wave of sourness up front, tempered by oak and jammy fruit in the middle, the strawberry character less here than the nose, but still present, then returning to an intense sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed and very acidic. This is very intense, and reminds me of high ABV sours like Consecration or Riserva (and yep, now that I know this is 10.8% ABV, that makese a lot of sense. I thought the board said 8% when I ordered it, but it turns out that I neglected to notice the "10." ahead of it!) Really nice stuff, intense, oaky, delicious... perhaps just a hint too intense, but it's still great. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 4/19/14.

Allagash Midnight Brett

Allagash Midnight Brett - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head with great lacing and retention. Smells of musty, funky brett yeast along with a fruity, vinous aroma that suits it well. Taste has a very Belgian dark feel to it, dark malts but not a lot of roast, maybe some chocolate though, definitely spicy, fruity Belgian yeast that is offset by some earthy, musty, fruity funk. An almost chocolate covered cherry character that really suits this well. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, smooth, and almost creamy. A little bit of tartness and acidity, but very low on that scale. It's a very nice tweak on the Belgian dark style, and a very worthy beer. B+ but very close to an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/19/14. Date Bottled: Oct. 16, 2013.

So there you have it. I've never been supremely impressed with Allagash's wild beers before, but I also haven't had many of them. Both of these are significant improvements over something like Confluence, though of course, you'll have to pay for the privilege (Allagash is great, but their prices are on the high side).

The Emptiness is Eternal

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For 40 days or so, I pretty much gave up beer, mostly just to see if I could. There were a couple of preconceived exceptions to that, but for the most part I was busy expanding my horizons to bourbon, wine, tea, and the like. I really enjoyed all that and my pleasantly reduced waistline thanks me, but I have to say, nothing quite satisfies like beer. Not even a Snickers.

One of the things I missed most during my mini-hiatus from beer was trips to Tired Hands. This was exacerbated by the fact that they're absolutely tearing it up of late, and they've had plenty of newsworthy events in the past month, including the announcement of a new production facility and brewcafé ("we will soon have room for hundreds of oak barrels" - music to my earballs) and two, count 'em, two bottle releases. Of course, I attended these because I am a glutton for punishment, but when I finally got back into the beer drinking swerve, I knew I had something special to start with.

This is the third beer in the Emptiness series of barrel fermented saisons made with various fresh fruits from "rockstar farmer" Tom Culton (in this case, we've got Hachiya persimmons). So for my triumphant return to beer, I cracked a bottle of this stuff and experienced a Highlander-style quickening (fortunately, my electronics are hardened against such disturbances). I'm sad to say, the emptiness of this particular bottle will now be eternal:

Tired Hands The Emptiness is Eternal

Tired Hands The Emptiness is Eternal - Pours a beautiful, hazy but radiant straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells of oak, fruit, berries, and funky, musty yeast. The taste is perfectly balanced between sweet, bright, and tart fruit, berries, oak, and finishing with a puckering sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated (perhaps the highest carbed Tired Hands beer I've ever had!) with medium bodied, a beautiful oak character, and a well matched dry acidity. It's crisp and refreshing, bright and damn near quaffable. This may well be Tired Hands' best sour since the superb Romulon, and is certainly playing with the big boys of farmhouse sours (Hill Farmstead, Sante Adairius, etc...) This beer is awesome, in the true sense of that word. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/18/14. 400 Bottle Release.

This will be a tough act to follow, but then, I said that about the last Emptiness series beer... So It Goes? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, I had some interesting Allagash stuff this weekend, and dipped into my cellar for another wale that we'll cover later this week. Stay tuned. In other news, I have to get my ass to Tired Hands sometime this week. Godspeed, uh, me.

March Beer Club

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I won't lie, this was a really good night. I went a solid week and a half without beer before completely falling off the wagon this past weekend (as planned, to be sure) and drinking a bunch of beer (and bourbon, and moonshine, and other stuff) during Fat Weekend (a gathering of portly individuals from across the northeast, and some points west, for drinking, fun, and fatness). Now here I am a few scant days later, drinking more beer (again, as planned). For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to a classic Beer Club venue, Jimmy's BBQ. Lots of smoked meat, dirty corn, beer, and fun was had by all:

March Beer Club
(Click for larger image)

Meat induced thoughts on each beer are below. This is for posterity, so I will be sure to be honest, though you might want to take this with a grain (or giant block) of salt, as this BYOB wasn't a hermetically sealed isolation chamber that is ideal for precise tasting notes. Caveats aside, here we go, in order of drinking, not necessarily in order pictured:

  • Kaedrin Fat Weekend IPA - This year's batch finally got that Simcoe and Amarillo loving that I've been trying to get for a few years. My only issue is that I'm still getting a handle on this kegerator operation here, so I feel like I frittered away a significant amount of aroma in the process of trying to get the carbonation and pressure right. I think I've figured out this process well enough that I won't ruin future batches, and it's not like this one turned out bad or anything. Indeed, just a few of us housed 3 whole growlers during Fat Weekend (we would have done so on Friday night if I didn't insist we save one for Saturday). So yeah it was good, and it compared somewhat favorably to tonight's IPA lineup, which was considerable. I'll give it a B for now, though I think it could easily go higher with some slight tweaks to recipe and kegging procedure.
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute - The old standby, I feel like the last couple times I've had this, it hasn't been quite the mindblower it once was for me. Still a rock solid brew, though I might downgrade it to a B+
  • Maine Lunch - One of my contributions. In case you can't tell by the first three beers of the night, we overcompensated for the past couple of beer clubs and brought a shit ton of IPAs this month. Not that I'm complaining, as they were all pretty damn good (to spectacular). This one was a really nice citrus and pine take of the style, in competition for my favorite Maine beer. B+ (though it might go higher outside of this setting)
  • Petrus Aged Pale - Nothing like a sour to cleanse the palate, eh? A very nice oak aged sour beer, something I've had before, and one of those things I'd use to help convert the heathens to the world of sours/good beer. B+
  • DC Brau On The Wings Of Armageddon - Many thanks to Dana for rocking the DIPAs tonight, including this rarity (at least, to us PA folk), which turns out to pretty much live up to the hype, a super piney, dank take on the DIPA, nice body, really well rounded and delicious beer (along the lines of those Pipeworks IPAs I had a while back). Really fantastic, and I hope to someday snag a few fresh cans of this for myself. A-
  • Sixpoint Hi-Res - Alright, so we're getting to a point where specifics about given IPAs are starting to blend together in my head, but I my thoughts on this one are that it comported itself very well in this rather strong lineup of IPAs and DIPAs, actually better than I was expecting (though I'm not sure why, as Sixpoint has always been a pretty solid brewery for me). We'll go with B+ and leave it at that.
  • John's Homebrewed Porter - A relative newcomer to beer club, John made his first batch of beer in about 20 years recently. He went with a pretty straightforward porter that, to be sure, turned out well. But he's working on some interesting stuff in future batches, including a port wine soaked oak beer, possibly even a wile beer, so I'm quite looking forward to it. B
  • Alchemist Heady Topper - Yeah, we've already beaten this one to death before on the blog.
  • Bell's Hopslam - Another one we've covered before, but I certainly ain't complaining, as I do really enjoy this beer and this is the first time I've ever had it out of a bottle. Thanks again to Dana, who brought a crap ton of DIPAs tonight.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Coffee Porter - No real coffee added, but it used some sort of special coffee malt. Not sure if that's malt soaked in coffee or something like that or if it's just roasted to a point that it gives off coffee character, but whatever, it came through well in the beer and did not overpower it at all. Granted, coffee porters aren't really my thing, but this seemed to work reasonably well. B-
  • North Coast Pranqster - A nice little Belgian pale ale, very sweet for it's relatively middling ABV, but still well carbonated enough that it works really well. I enjoyed, and it fit after all those IPAs. B+
  • Widmer SXNW - It came in a fancy box, so it has to be good, right? Well, it's made with Pecans, Cacao beans, and Green Chiles, so I was fearing another hot pepper beer, but it turns out that the dominant character came from that cacao. Huge chocolate notes in the nose, with a corresponding taste. The chiles are there, but in the background, just providing some complexity. Overall, it's an interesting beer, though not one I'd really seek out again. B
  • Humboldt Black Xantus - So I didn't realize this when I bought it, but this is apparently one of them barrel aged Firestone Walker beers, even if it's bottled under the older Nectar Ales brand. That barrel aging comes through loud and clear, and it's quite nice, but there's also apparently a coffee component that also shows up, though it's not as dominant as, say, BCBCS. One of my favorites of the night, though not quite Parabola levels awesome (but still regular beer levels awesome). A-
So there you have it, an enjoyable night had by all. Already looking forward to the next installment of beer club...

The Bruery Mash

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I've made no secret of the fact that I don't drink coffee and thus am not a huge fan of it in beer. Indeed, longtime readers (all three of you) are probably rolling their eyes right now, as I probably mention my apathy towards coffee too often. While I do feel like I've come around a bit on coffee beers and have had several that I really enjoyed, I usually still find myself wondering what it would be like without the coffee. Fortunately, that option is actually available most of the time, and in this case, the Bruery came up with an interesting experiment.

I imagine the process of infusing coffee flavors into beer to be a complicated one with many variables that are difficult to control. What coffee are you using, how does it match with the base beer, when in the process are you adding the coffee, are you using the beans, the grinds, or actual brewed coffee (or some combination thereof)? Each one of those questions has a lot riding on it, so when the Bruery went to make a coffee-infused barleywine, they did some pilot batches and played around with a bunch of factors, but ultimately decided to release two beers: one unsoiled without any coffee at all (called Mash), and one with a very, very powerful coffee component (called Mash & Grind), the idea being that Reserve Society members will get bottles of each beer, open them at the same time, and blend them together to find their ideal level of coffee.

I'm pretty sure that my ideal blend wouldn't be a blend at all, just Mash - the bourbon barrel aged 12.5% ABV English style barlewine, all by its lonesome. So I was pretty happy to see this in a LIF haul a while back (and that I got this one and not the "Grind" version) and have been hankering for a taste every since. The Hulk would totally smash this, but I'll just mash with it:

The Bruery Mash

The Bruery Mash - Pours a murky brown color (dirty penny) with half a finger of white head that sticks around a bit at the start. Smell is nearly the platonic ideal of a bourbon barrel barleywine. Rich caramel and toffee, fruity malt, figs, coconut, a little booze, and a well balanced bourbon, oak, and vanilla kicker. And amazingly, the taste lives up to the nose (though maybe Platonic ideal was a bit overkill, eh?). Lots of rich malt character, molasses, caramel, and fruit coming through strong, coconut, raisins, and figs in the middle with the bourbon, oak, and vanilla pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but smooth, very rich, a little boozy bite towards the finish. Extremely well balanced. Overall, this is superb and absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/28/14. Bottled 05/24/13.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm really glad there was no coffee in this. I'm sure that if there was, I still would have enjoyed it, but it would been a "It's good... for a coffee beer" kinda situation. In any case, it wasn't, and I loved it, so there is that. Anyone want to be my Bruery Reserve Society proxy? It's a long shot, but I'm sure I could make it worth your while.

Nebraska Sexy Betty

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In my grading system for this here blog, a B is actually a pretty good score. It's not going to melt your face (that's, uh, a good thing for me) but it's unambiguously good beer that is worth seeking out. So the fact that every Nebraska Brewing Company beer I've ever had has been a B in my book isn't a hideous disaster, but it's starting to get a little tiresome (Indeed, I see that my previous foray into their beer contains a similar lament). Granted, this is only my fourth beer from them, but on the other hand, buying four of Nebraska's reserve series beers means that I had to seek council from a local loan shark (because I already have three mortgages and the bank has long since cut me off). I don't normally factor price into my reviews because it's all about the taste. But in general, when shelling out $20+ for a bottle of beer, I can at least talk myself into thinking it was a worthwhile affair. For whatever reason, Nebraska, while never truly disappointing, has also never really delivered in that respect.

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't really matter because I'm just some dork on the internets, and like a dope, I keep coming back for more. Like Jay suggests, I should really just admit that I've been beaten here and leave it be. In this case, I talked myself into the purchase because it's a barrel aged imperial stout, truly one of my favorite things in the world, and while I'm a BA nut, I really haven't had many Brandy barrel aged beers. And this one boasts 50 year old American Brandy barrels, which sounds pretty cool to me. Alas, it was not quite as Sexy as it sounded, though again, it's not really bad either.

Nebraska Sexy Betty

Nebraska Sexy Betty - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head that fades relatively quickly. Par for the course so far. Smells of rich dark malts, roast, a little caramel, maybe a hint of that Brandy barrel, but it's very faint. Taste is similar. It's got a big roasty note, maybe some chocolate, grainy stuff, and if I really look for it, a hint of that Brandy coming out a bit towards the finish, but again, not much in the way of oak. If I didn't know this was barrel aged, I might not pick it out blind. Mayhaps a 50 year old barrel has already given all its going to give? Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, heavy but still a bit nimble (perhaps that Brandy lightening the mood a bit), though definitely still a sipper of a beer. Overall, it's a solid imperial stout, but I would have really liked to see more barrel character. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 3/1/14. Bottled 09/23/13.

Apparently the initial incarnation of Sexy Betty used 50 year old Cognac barrels (so French, not American brandy), was sufficiently more rare, and more highly regarded too. Whatever the case, I don't know how much more Nebraska you're going to see on this blog. Maybe in another year or two, I'll forget again and decide to take a flier on Black Betty (the base beer for this one), but I wouldn't hold my breath because I have to figure out how to dodge this loan shark for a while.

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

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