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Jack's Abby Smoked Maple Lager

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Not content with serving the underappreciated market for lagers, Jack's Abby also apparently likes them some smoked beers... another underappreciated style. This time they teamed up with the almost homebrew-sized Vermont operation Lawson's Finest Liquids, who are also fans of smoked malt. I've heard great things about Lawson's, and one of these days I'll plan out a trek to Vermont to hit them up, along with the other usual suspects (Hill Farmstead, Alchemist).

I'm not a huge lager person, and while I can appreciate a nice smoked beer from time to time, I do sometimes find myself wondering who put their cigar out in my beer... That being said, this sucker also has a helping of maple syrup, which I am quite a big fan of, so let's see how this one works:

Jacks Abby Smoked Maple Lager

Jack's Abby & Lawson's Finest Liquids Smoked Maple Lager - Pours a deep, dark chestnut color with a couple fingers of bubbly white head. Smells lightly of campfire, definite smoked malts here but not overpowering, and a sweetness in the nose as well. Taste is very sweet, creamy malt character, with that smoked malt playing nicely with the rest of the flavors, none of which is particularly pronounced. Mouthfeel is velvety smooth, creamy, almost like a milk stout (sans roasted malt), medium bodied and very easy going (update: apparently this was made with lactose, which explains that character). Overall, a solid smoked beer. It doesn't have that "Who put their cigar out in my beer" character, and it is complex and balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a mug on 6/28/13. Bottled 05/13/2013.

Another solid brew from Jack's Abby. Nothing that's blown me away, but really good stuff. I got a couple others to get through, and will certainly keep an eye out for more of their stuff if I ever find myself up that way...

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13

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Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve series is a different beer every year, usually a "big" one. That, my friends, is what she said. (Well, this post devolved quickly.) This year, it's an 11% Belgian style Quadrupel. From what I can tell, it's got a pretty limited release and people line up to buy the stuff, so big thanks to my BIF partner for getting a hold of some of a bottle for me. Let's not waste any more time:

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13 - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a little less than a finger of light tan head. Smells of Belgian yeast, lots of fruity esters and a little less in the way of spice. Maybe some brown sugar or molasses going on too, and a hint of darker malts (but not quite roast). Taste is nice and sweet up front, not quite as fruity as the nose would have you believe, more of a bready character, actually kinda like toast. Maybe even a sorta nutty flavor too. Hints of booze in the finish. As it warms, dark fruits come out more, plums and raisins. Lots of complexity, that's for sure. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but very smooth. A little boozy warming in the belly going on here, but it doesn't feel like a monster either. Not really dry, but attenuated enough. Overall, this is a very nice, complex, flavorful beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/22/13. Bottled 022713.

Another solid offering from Saint Arnold, a brewery I'll have to keep an eye out for next time I'm in Texas...

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void

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So far, Tired Hands has made quite a few barrel-aged beers, but as far as I know, they've all been sours. Excellent sours! And while I've certainly caught that sour bug over the past year or so, I have to admit that I still have an inordinate fondness for straight up whiskey barrel aged stouts. So it was with great anticipation that I chiseled my way through the waxed cap of Tired Hands imperial stout, Only Void, aged in local Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey barrels.

I had the "regular" stainless steel aged Only Void at the Anniversary Party, and I had the Red Wine barrel aged variant on Only Void day. Both were excellent, so I was really looking forward to this bottle - one of only 144 available at the release (adding in Believer's Club members puts the full allocation at somewhere around 220 or so - mental note: find out how to get in on that). So enough blabbing, let's drink this sucker. Oh and check out this fancy glassware too:

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void - Pours a deep dark, almost black color with a couple of fingers of tan, khaki head. Fantastic retention, the head never really goes away. Smells of chalky roasted malts, some caramel, maybe a hint of whiskey (but it's not very pronounced in the nose). Taste is sweet, full of rich caramel, very little whiskey and oak, but lots of vanilla. Chocolate flavors also present, and it evolves as it warms up too. Minuscule roasted malt character. Mouthfeel is super smooth, rich, creamy, full bodied, but surprisingly drinkable. Well carbonated, and no evidence of the booze whatsoever - impressive for a 12% beer. Overall, this is great, delicious stuff. Not quite best in class and no where near as whiskey forward as I'd expect, but right up there with the cool kids and face melters anyway. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of an Only Void snifter on 6/21/13.

Another winner from Tired Hands, well worth waiting in line for. These guys are absolutely killing it right now. And of course ther'll be more jealousy inducing posts about Tired Hands going forward!

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union

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Beer dorks don't seem to get very worked up by lagers, but then Jack's Abby shows up in Framingham, Massachusetts, and everyone starts losing their minds. It shouldn't be a surprise, because there's lots of flavorful lagers out there, but perhaps neophytes still associate lagers with the Macro crowd. Or maybe they're just so overawed by massive facemelting ales that the more subtle, cleaner lagers get lost in the shuffle. Whatever the case, there's a lot of room in the market for breweries that take the road less traveled. From what I can see, Jack's Abby is doing very well for themselves. They're a small operation and only distribute in MA, but a very generous friend kindly picked up a few of their beers during a trip up there last week (Thanks Danur!). I was most excited to get my grubby hands on these suckers, and immediately made preparations to drink this one first:

Jacks Abby Hoponius Union

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union - Pours a slightly hazy yellow golden color with a finge ror two of dense white head. Smell is full of hugely floral hops, some grapefruit, and maybe a subtle bubblegum yeast character too. Taste is full of those floral hops, herbal even, a bit spicy, some grapefruit, with a well matched bitterness towards the finish. Not as much citrus as I'd expect from something made with Citra and Amarillo (Centennial, on the other hand, seems to be dominant here), but that's not a bad thing at all. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, clean, crisp, and easy going. Overall, this is really good, easy drinking stuff. Not quite exactly what I was expecting, but damn good nonetheless. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/21/13. Bottled 05/06/2013.

A promising start, and I've got three more lined up. You will no doubt be seeing them over the next couple weeks.

Arcadia Brewing Company is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, also home to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg... Yes, the guy who invented breakfast cereal. Battle Creek has thus become known by the name Cereal City, USA, complete with a massive "breakfast food funhouse" (whatever that means). Arcadia either hates the moniker, or they just really love puns and couldn't resist naming their English Barleywine "Cereal Killer". There's a lot of text on the label, so I guess you wouldn't call it minimalist, but I really like the one tiny graphical element they have: a hand gripping a spoon like it's the psycho knife (and for added verisimilitude, they've included some dripping milk which... also calls to mind Psycho.)

This particular bottle was aged in Bourbon Barrels (part of the same release as that Imperial Stout I enjoyed a while back). Like the Stout, this one features the same industrial strength waxed cap and rumor has it that this was aged in those mythical Pappy Van Winkle barrels that magically transform mediocre beers into spectacular face melters. Not having ever had the regular Cereal Killer, I can't really say, but I did find that this treatment worked better for the barleywine than it did for the stout. This is some pretty fantastic stuff.

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer Barleywine - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a cap of off white head that resolves into just a ring of head pretty quickly. Smell is pure bourbon and caramel, some toffee, oak, and vanilla playing too. Taste hits the same notes, lots of caramel and toffee mixed with that bourbon, oak and vanilla character. Mild booziness is apparent too, and that bourbon character becomes more prominent as it warms up. Textbook bourbon barrel barleywine stuff here. Wouldn't call it balanced, but it's unbalanced in, like, a good way! Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, a little boozy, decent carbonation but smooth too. Overall, a really nice BA barleywine, textbook stuff... but like, a really good textbook. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz. waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 6/15/13. Bottled on 12/18/12.

I've got another one of these in the cellar, and I'm glad for that. I'm guessing that aging in barrels for 22 months is not something they're set up to do on a rolling basis, but who knows. Maybe we'll see some of this every year. Definitely worth seeking out.

Prairie Gold

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Handling those pans, looking for liquid Gold:

Prairie Gold

Prairie Gold - Pours an almost neon gold color, a little straw yellow in there too, lots of head that quickly dissapates. Smell has some light funk, lots of musty, spicy, peppery Belgian yeast, and a bright lemon note to lighten things up. Taste features a typical Belgian yeast character, but that quickly takes a back seat to the tart, lemony sourness. As it warms, that lemony character morphs into a broader fruit profile, maybe some pear, a little vinous even. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, a pleasant enough acidity, crisp and bright stuff. Overall, it's really good. Not earth shattering, but few are. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/15/13.

Another solid showing from Prairie, though I don't seem to be quite as bullish on them as some others (then again, we haven't had the same beers either). Definitely good enough to seek out more from them though, so keep an eye out. I'm sure we'll get to it sometime.

Manneken-Penn

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A recent tradition of Philly Beer Week is for one local brewer to travel to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This Belgo-Philly connection is mostly due to Tom Peters of the most excellent Monks Café bar. He generally hooks Philly up with great Belgian beers all year round and has the connections to line up special collaborations every year. Last year, we had an Iron Hill and Dupont saison, and the year before that, Sly Fox worked with De Proef to make a funky saison. This year, Chris Wilson of Weyerbacher was chosen to collaborate with Brasserie de la Senne, and they took the enterprise in a decidedly different direction.

They call this sucker a Belgo-American Dubbel. It's got the trappings of the dubbel style (spicy Belgian yeast, dark sugars) mixed with a more American hop bill (notably including Calypso, which is not common, but which should impart fruity citrus hop notes). The label is actually pretty funny, a mashup of the William Penn statue that sits atop City Hall and the infamous Belgian landmark Manneken Pis (which, yes, is a statue of a peeing child). Yeah, so it's an interesting combo, one I don't think I've had before, so let's see how it turned out:

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken Penn

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken-Penn - Pours a deep light brown color with a finger of fluffy head and good retention. Smells feature that typical Belgian yeast profile, spicy and fruity, some brown sugar, but also something else lurking in the background. Maybe hops? Yes, American hops, a little citrus and pine. And whoa, those hops take a front seat in the taste, lots of citrus and pine with the Belgian yeast characteristics still making themselves known before the bitter hop finish. Yep, this is like a dubbel/IPA hybrid, a combo I don't think I've ever experienced... and it works well enough. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and a little dry bitterness in the finish. Overall, this is quite an interesting, novel beer. Doesn't quite blow my socks off, but it's pretty damn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 6/15/13.

Interesting stuff, and I'm already looking forward to next year's collaboration. I may also have to check out some of Brasserie de la Senne's other wares in the meantime.

Dock Street Flemish Red

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Finally ticking the last of five beers I bought at the Dock Street bottle release way back when. A flanders red aged for 2.5 years in old Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, then (unintentionally) further aged in the bottle for another year and a half or so. Color me interested:

Dock Street Flemish Red

Dock Street Flemish Red Sour Ale - Pours a dark amber brown color with minimal, slow forming, big bubbled, white head. Smells of oak and cherries, with a very sharp twang that indicates sourness, quite nice. Taste is very sweet and extremely sour, with that sourness hitting almost immediately, lots of fruitiness, sour cherries, vinegar, jolly ranchers, and some oak making itself known in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel is a little low on carbonation, but nothing excessively low (like some of Dock Street's other barrel aged brews). It works well enough at the start, but it feels a little flat towards the end of the bottle. Medium bodied, an acidic vinegary feel, very slight slickness. Overall, this is a good example of the style, but not quite world beater status. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.75% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands glass on 6/8/13. Bottled November 2011.

It seems like every one of Dock Street's barrel aged brews has just one minor flaw that holds in back from true greatness. They've all been pretty good as they are, but tended to be a little low on carbonation, or in this case, a little high on the acidity. Part of it could always be the age of the bottle, but then, they claimed the low carbonation was intentional, so there is that. I'll probably continue to check out their annual barrel aged brew, and some of the staple beers are pretty great too. One of these days they'll really knock one out of the park...

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

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