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Thirsty Dog Wulver

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In Scottish folklore, the Wulver is a kind of werewolf, but not the kind you're familiar with. Wulvers are not tortured human souls, cursed to yield to the beast within on the full moon. Nor do they have, like, a bazillion abs and fall in love with a passive girl who's knocking boots with a vampire. Not that I'd know anything about that. In fact, Wulvers aren't even human; they're merely a human-like creature with a wolf's head, and they're not known to be particularly aggressive... unless provoked. Wikipedia sez: "He didn't molest folk if folk didn't molest him." Uh huh, interesting choice of words. Anywho, it also sez Wulvers are fond of fishing, and perhaps they'd drink a beer like this one whilst kicking back. That's a blind speculation on my part, but it's a wee heavy style beer aged in bourbon barrels for 11 months, and who wouldn't want to sip on one of those whilst fishing in Scottland? Ok, fine, perhaps the Wulver would molest the bottle. There, you happy? No? Fine, then just look at the pretty picture:

Thirsty Dog Wulver

Thirsty Dog Wulver - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of tan head that has pretty good retention. Smells deeply of bourbon and oak, some caramel, maybe even something smoky, and huge, sweeping vanilla aromas too. Taste starts with rich caramel, a hint of dark and/or smoky malts (very subtle smoke, if it's there) yielding to that bourbon barrel treatment and those big vanilla notes towards the finish. Maybe a bit of dark fruit as it warms up, and a bit of pleasant booze too. Mouthfeel is perfect, well carbonated but silky smooth, rich and almost creamy. Overall, yep, this is a winner for sure. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 1/11/13.

The label sez they made this beer specifically to be aged in Bourbon barrels, and I do believe they've succeeded in that task. Now I'm going to have to keep an eye out for that BA Siberian Night, though wonder of wonders, Wulver seems to be the more highly praised of the two (normally the Imperial Stout is the more popular offering).

Logsdon Oak Aged Bretta

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Hey! I have an idea. Let's take Seizoen Bretta, a juicy funk machine that came out of nowhere and melted my face about a year ago, and age it on oak for a while. That sounds fun, right? Well it appears that David Logsdon had the same idea and went ahead and made some. Great minds think alike. And so do David and I! (Sorry David, but you walked into that one). Many thanks to Jay for sending this my way.

Logsdon Oak Aged Bretta

Logsdon Oak Aged Bretta - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy but dense head that has good retention and leaves some lacing as I drink. The aroma is pure funk, some earthy notes, some farmhouse yeast spice, but a beautiful juicy fruitiness as well, and maybe a faint hint of that oak, but I'm really looking for it in the nose. The taste is also quite funky, lots of spice, a little earth, maybe even some pie-like crust flavors, and a big juicy fruit component, tart pineapple, with that oak appearing in the middle and finish. Mouthfeel is dry, highly carbonated, effervescent, and crisp, maybe a hint of pleasant acidity too. Overall, this is a superb funky saison, complex and delicious. Easily the equal of regular Seizoen Bretta, though I don't know if it's better. But we're still talking about an A grade here, so that's just splitting hairs.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and beeswax dipped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/10/13.

So I seem to have exhausted Logsdon's Seizoen program, but they've got a few others that sound promising (and some that will probably be a bear to acquire). And quite frankly, I'd hit up any of these Seizoens on a semi-regular basis if they distributed out here.

The Bruery Rueuze

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What beer to drink on New Years Eve? I've typically fallen on a big, effervescent saison for this task, but the true answer to this conundrum is the Champagne of Beer: Miller High Life. Unfortunately, I was fresh out, so I had to settle for an American imitation of a Gueuze (which is the actual Champagne of Beer, for the record). I've mentioned a few times recently that brewing is not an activity for the impatient, and these Bruery folks certainly seem to have a lot of foresight and patience in developing their Barrel Aging program.

They've got a 5 year old Solera series going with their Anniversary beers (like Coton or Bois), and this Rueuze beer calls to mind the great Belgian lambic aging traditions. This is a blend of three different vintages of oak aged sour blond ale. The traditional Gueuze is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics, and The Bruery is conspicuously silent on the age of their three vintages, so I'm guessing it's not an exact parallel, but I'm not going to complain because this is pretty good, if a bit pricey:

The Bruery Rueuze

The Bruery Rueuze - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of fizzy white head that quickly subsides to a cap that hangs out for a while. Smells funky, some musky, earthy aromas, but also a very nice fruity, vinous note, and that barrel character is definitely making itself known. Taste starts off with a bang of sourness, a little sweetness, tart vinous fruit, musky notes in the middle, and towards the end, a very nice oak character pitches in along with an intense sourness to pucker that finish, but in a balanced way. Good pucker factor. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, effervescent really, a little pleasant acidity from that sourness, not super dry, but in that direction. Overall, this is a rock solid beer, complex, balanced stuff that doesn't quite hit the heights of the best lambics, but comes pretty close. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/13. 2013 Vintage.

Solid stuff. I'm a bit behind on my Bruery beers, so you'll probably see a few new ones pop up in the coming month or two, including one that appears to use the same oak aged sour blonde ale base (though this other one is fruited). The other is Mash, a bourbon barrel aged barleywine (truly a beer after my heart).

Victory Double Feature

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It has been far too long since I've written about our friends in Downingtown, PA. Victory's staple IPA, HopDevil, will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was probably the first beer that really got me to love hops. Sure, I'd had other pale ales before and thought they were fine, but HopDevil got me to love those citrus hops and bitter finish. Flash forward a decade later, and their line of IPAs was starting to feel a bit stale. HopDevil is still a staple beer and a sight for sore eyes at a lot of local non-craft focused establishments, and I really enjoy the occasional Hop Wallop, but I get the impression that Victory started to see their sales plateau despite the generally skyrocketing sales of IPAs overall.

Perhaps as a result, Victory slowly started fiddling with hops at their brewpub. In 2009 or 2010, they did a line of single hop pale ales called the Pursuit series. I had one of these by chance and wasn't a huge fan, but clearly the experimental aspect of the series was a success, because it culminated in Headwaters Pale Ale, which is a fantastic yet simple take on the lowly pale ale style (it's also a huge seller and may even have surpassed HopDevil to become Victory's flagship).

In 2011, they started playing with Double IPAs and worked with their contacts at hop farms to create the Ranch series (a name which seems to inspire visions of ranch dressing in all who hear it, but it's actually a reference to the hop ranches that victory sources from). This kicked off with Ranch S, which was Cascade single hopped (and which I quite enjoyed), then Ranch R, which was Centennial single hopped (and which I didn't like as much). Things proceeded from there, with other single hop beers (Chinook, Simcoe, Citra, etc... most of which I did not have) and then some hop combos (Philly Beer Week saw a Simcoe and Amarillo combination that was really quite nice). The Ranch series eventually culminated in Dirt Wolf, which uses Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. It's also one of the beers I'll review later in this post (sorry for taking so long to get to the point).

Now, to make matters more confusing, in the summer of 2013, there was a short offshoot of the Ranch series that had a lighter bodied malt bill and utilized a cleaner yeast strain. The first of these was called K-Bomb and it used an experimental hop known as ADHA 483 (it has since been named Azacca). It was quite nice! For Philly Beer Week, Victory evolved that recipe to include Mosaic hops as well, and called it Liberty Bell Ringer and that was a very well received beer. So Victory took that recipe, made some minor tweaks, and just released it in December as Hop Ranch (even though it doesn't really taste like any of the Ranch beers).

I suppose this could be confusing to local beer wonks like myself, but who cares about us? Especially since these beers are really very good. I really have to admire a brewery the size of Victory taking the time and effort to revamp their DIPA line into something worth talking about. I've had both on tap at the brewery and even got a growler of Hop Ranch, but I wanted to do a head-to-head comparison, so after I took in Wolf of Wall Street (a little overlong and vulgar, but also vibrant and energetic), I headed home, popped in The Place Beyond the Pines (very ambitious but also overlong, with an oddly structured story) to complete the double feature that would complement my dueling Victory IPAs:

Victory Hop Ranch DIPA

Victory Hop Ranch - Pours a clear, light golden yellow color with a finger of dense white head. Smells beautiful, mango, juicy citrus hops, very "new" IPA feeling. That's not a real thing, but it could be. You with me? No? Fine then, the taste is very sweet, juicy citrus hops (dat mango), nice balancing bitterness toward the finish. Mouthfeel is very light, crisp, clean, and tightly carbonated, smooth and dangerously drinkable. Maybe a hint of belly warming if you drink quickly. Overall, this is fantastic! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/4/13. Enjoy by May 19, 2014.


Victory Dirt Wolf DIPA

Victory Dirt Wolf - Pours a clear golden color, a little darker than the hop ranch, with a finger of white head and some lacing. Smells dank and resinous, some citrus notes, maybe even some malt and or yeast aromas. Taste definitely has that dank pine and citrus character, maybe even some kolsch yeast or something. Some malt too, more bitterness, and even a little booze (which is funny, because this is slightly less ABV). Mouthfeel is bigger and heavier, but not a monster. Pleasant boozy feel too. Overall, its very good, definitely better than most (if not all) of the Ranch series that I've tried, though I think I like Hop Ranch is better! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass 1/4/13. Enjoy by May 18, 2014.

It appears that 2014 has started out Victorious. I got a several Victory beers as gifts over the holidays and it's been fun. Old Horizontal will be making an appearance at the next beer club, and I'm sure I'll be hitting up some interesting stuff this year as well (now that the new brewery is up and running, we don't have to worry about capacity anymore, so I'm hoping for the return of stuff like Wild Devil, or more adventurous BA stuff)...

Backyard Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout

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Yet another Bourbon County variant, this one is new this year, though it appears to share a certain kinship with variants of years past (for example, last year's Cherry Rye). It looks to be the same base stout, but instead of Bourbon barrels, they use Templeton Rye barrels, and then they add in a 50 pound dose of puréed mulberries, marionberries, and boysenberries to each barrel. According to the Chicago Reader, 200 barrels were filled (which, while still a lot of beer, is significantly less than the 1400+ barrels used for regular BCBS). So what I'm saying here is that this should not only have berry notes, but it will also taste more rare than regular BCBS (and maybe slightly more rare than BCBCS). And we all know how good "rare" tastes, right?

To be honest, I've never had a mulberry, marionberry, or boysenberry (though I get the impression that there is some relation to blackberries and raspberries for some of these, which I have certainly had), but while I do like me some berries, I can't say as though I really love them in my stouts. Sour beers? Sign me up. Fruited stouts? I can't say as though I've had many, but they haven't exactly inspired me either. However, if one beer could turn me around on this, I suspect it would be this one. After a long Christmas Day, I plopped down on the couch and cracked this sucker open (berries are holidayee, right?) to find out:

Backyard Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout

Goose Island Backyard Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color, with a thin cap of bubbly light brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich caramel, vanilla, whisky, with a very prominent syrupy fruit aroma. Taste is very sweet up front, some rich caramel, whisky, vanilla, and oak, but nowhere near as much as regular BCBS, and that syrupy berry character comes on strong late in the taste and lasts though the finish and aftertaste. That syrupy fruit is kinda hard to describe. It's not quite cough syrup (something I've seen in other fruited stouts) and it's not bad, per say, but I'm not sure I'm entirely on board with it either. Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, with some boozy heat. Not quite the monster of regular BCBS (or even BCBBW or BCBCS), and while it has a nice richness to it, it's decidedly less substantial than other variants. None of which is inherently bad, but these tend to be my favorite aspects of a barrel aged stout. Overall, what we have here is a fantastic fruited stout, probably the best I've ever had. That being said, I still greatly prefer straight up BCBS. In truth this is my least favorite variant. That doesn't make it bad, it's just that BCBS is so spectacular that this isn't really working for me. This is probably a personal preference thing though, as everyone else seems to love it. Go figure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 12/25/13. Bottled 20NOV13 0757.

So my favorite Bourbon County beer remains the original, straight up BCBS. Of the variants, my favorite was the Barleywine, but only because I'm not a big coffee guy - if I were, that explosive coffee character in this year's fresh BCBCS would knock my socks off. Backyard Rye is certainly a fine beer and I'd never in a million years turn it down, but expectations were perhaps too high here. There are some other variants floating around this year, but they're Chicago-only brews that I'm unlikely to try (which is a shame, as Coconut Rye sounds like it could be up my alley, and it seems to be pretty popular). So I've got a nice stash of Bourbon County beers that will hopefully last me the rest of the year, though at this point, I believe I've reviewed them all.

Posting will continue to be light this week, again for obvious reasons. Have a great (and safe) New Years everyone!

'tis the season for beer gifts. I arrived at work the other day to literally, like, 5 bottles of beer on my desk. Gotta love my coworkers (and of course I reciprocated said gifts)! Later in the day, I participated in the office White Elephant and ended up with another six pack (I didn't steal it and swear I didn't pick it thinking it was beer). Incidentally, my contribution to the white elephant was a 40 of Olde English (with a gift card tucked into the bag). It got stolen once, and the guy who stole it didn't even know about the gift card. Score.

Anywho, this here was one of said gifts, and it certainly has a very nice presentation. Waxed cap, bomber sized with a classy and beautiful label that nevertheless retains Terrapin's branding feel (which is tough, because I generally hate their labels), but as per usual, it's what's inside that packaging that counts, right? In this case, we've got a variant of Terrapin's normal winter seasonal, a milk stout called Moo-Hoo. Like the base, this one has fancy schmancy cocoa nibs and shells and is dosed with lactose. This variant also incorporates white chocolate into the mix in some way. Color me interested:

Terrapin White Chocolate Moo-Hoo

Terrapin White Chocolate Moo-Hoo Milk Stout - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of quickly dissipating light brown head. Smells great, lots of sweet, rich milk chocolate (maybe white chocolate, though I probably wouldn't guess that blind), some caramel, hint of vanilla, light roast. Taste definitely has that lactose sweetness, very light roast, not quite as complex as the nose implied, but still tasty. Mouthfeel is a little too thin for what it is, but its very smooth and velvety. Overall, its a fine beer, not quite as thick as it should be, but very tasty. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.1% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 12/21/13.

I've actually not had the base beer, so I can't say how it compares, but some seem to think it's basically the same. Terrapin has never particularly floated my boat, but I can't say as though I've had a really terrible experience either...

Posting will probably be light this week, for obvious reasons. Merry Christmas to those of you who are celebrating this week!

Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine

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Back before Goose Island sold out to the great satan, AB Inbev, they took their already wonderful Bourbon County Brand Stout and started making some variants. Some, like the one incorporating coffee, appear every year. Others were one-offs that will probably never happen again. One such one-off was Bourbon County Rare, which used the same base as plain old BCBS, but aged it in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels (which are indeed quite rare) for 2 years. It seems that Pappy mania has extended from the bourbon world to also infect the beer world, as this beer initially sat on shelves (due to a high price tag) but is now a highly sought after rarity in the secondary market or trading boards.

After BCBS Rare, Goose Island took those barrels and deployed them for a third use, this time with a rather large barleywine. The result, dubbed King Henry, was also quite a hit amongst beer dorks. So much of a hit, that a couple years later, Goose Island has revisited the general concept of a barleywine aged in third use barrels (first use was bourbon, second use the straight up BCBS) and rebranded the package as Bourbon County Brand Barleywine. It's only been a few weeks and it's always wise to give people some time to work through the hype, but the general consensus seems to be that it's pretty great. DDB sez it's not as good as King Henry was, but it's better than King Henry is now. I've not had King Henry (either fresh or aged), but this seems like an intuitive result. So let's take a drip down Bourbon County way, shall we?

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine - Pours a very dark brown color, maybe a hint of dark amber or crimson here, with just a cap of light head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells heavily of bourbon and vanilla, oak, fruity malt and booze, maybe even something like brown sugar. Taste hits up front with a wallop of rich caramel, turning to fruity malts in the middle, along with a heaping helping of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. The finish has a pleasant note of booze to it, along with the return of that fruity malt. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, rich, and chewy. Some booze, but nothing hot or unapproachable. Overall, this is exceptional. My face melted. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz. capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/7/13. Bottled on: 17SEP13 0934.

I'm very happy that I have a fair amount of BCBS and variants left, as this stuff is truly spectacular. I even managed to get ahold of this year's Backyard Rye variant (aged in Rye Barrels with a bunch of berries), so be on the lookout for that at some point in the near future.

Anchor Christmas Triple Feature

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Every year, I buy a six pack of Anchor's Our Special Ale, their Christmas beer, but I never drink all of them. I always reserve 3 or 4 bottles to try in the following years. This year marks the first time I managed to wrangle bottles from three separate vintages in one tasting. And if I keep the tradition going, I might be able to swing four varieties one year. Oh sure, the recipe changes each year (along with the label and the tree depicted on such), so it's not a true "vertical", but it's an interesting and fun experience anyway, amirite? Of course I am. I'm awesome. So let's get this party started:

Anchor Christmas Vertical
(Click for larger version)

Anchor Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a deep, dark brown color, maybe the faintest of hints of amber when held to the light, and about a finger of off white head. Smells full of those standard mulling spices, cinnamon and clove seem very prominent, but some other usual suspects seem to be hanging around as well. Taste follows the nose, lots of spice up front, with the sweet malt backbone filling in the middle, and the spices return for the finish, which also has a light, almost dry bitterness (nothing like an IPA or anything, but this isn't super sweet either). Mouthfeel is smooth with a spicy snap, well carbonated, and a relatively dry finish. Overall, it's another rock solid entry in the longstanding series... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a very dark brown color, almost no amber even when held to light, with a finger of dense, creamy looking head. Smells oddly muted, typical spices are there, but not as prominent as it was fresh (or as the other vintages). Taste is similarly faded when it comes to the spices, but the malt picks up a little slack, keeping it interesting enough. As it warms, I'm getting a little more of the uncommon spices (anise?) Mouthfeel is smooth, well carbonated, a little thinner than 2013, but still medium bodied. Overall, it's decent, but not as good as it was fresh last year, nor as good as the other vintages I had tonight... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas) - Moar dark brown beer here, finger of off white head. This nose seems to have held up better than the 2012, lots of spice, and maybe even a nice sugary component. Indeed, I think this nose is just as good if not better than the fresh 2013 juice. Taste also held up well, plenty of spices, and they're more harmonious here than in 2012 or probably even 2013. Mouthfeel is smooth and crisp, medium bodied, highly drinkable. Overall, this has held up remarkably well. It's not a religious experience or anything, but it's still really good, and definitely my favorite of the night. Go figure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.

So there you have it. You see? I don't drink barrel aged face melters every day... Though, um, I did have one later this night, which we'll get to next week. See you then.

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

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