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Cigar City Jai Alai

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According to Wikipedia, the Basque Government promotes jai alai as "the fastest sport in the world because of the balls". Insert innuendo joke here. Good, glad we got that out of the way. I'm a little surprised that I haven't had this yet; I've had ample opportunities, just never pulled the trigger... which is weird, because Cigar City is one of those brewers I'm always keeping an eye out for. Well, I finally got me a can of this stuff, so lets chug a beer and ball really hard (if you're so inclined, feel free to insert whatever innuendo you want here).

Cigar City Jai Alai

Cigar City Jai Alai - Pours a deep, dark golden color with visible sediment and a finger of white head with decent retention. Smells fantastic, bright citrus, juicy pineapple, a little additional piney resin. Taste starts sweet, with some crystal malt, that citrus hop character quickly emerging and morphing into resin and pine. There's a balanced bite of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of medium bodied, tightly carbonated, almost creamy but also juicy. Overall, this is one really well crafted IPA, but I feel like the bar's been set pretty high on that front. As shelf beers go, it's great, but it can't quite compete with the likes of Tired Hands or Hill Farmstead. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/12/13. Canned on 15 JAN 2013.

I mentioned Tired Hands and Hill Farmstead, and I realized a while ago that part of the reason their hoppy beers are so spectacular is that I always have them when they are super fresh. The same goes for a bunch of other hop bombs, like Pliny the Younger or Hopslam. I'm not going to claim I have a great palate, but it's tough for a 3 month old can to compete with that sort of thing. I guess what I'm saying here is that I need to down a six pack of Jai Alai. You know, just to make sure. In the meantime, I've got an interesting looking Cigar City beer aged in rum barrels burning a whole in my fridge. Look for a review next week.

A few months ago, Michigan's Arcadia Ales put out a couple of big beers aged for 22 months in bourbon barrels. Rumor has it that they were Pappy Van Winkle barrels, which apparently imbues it with mystical healing powers. Or something. They had me at bourbon, but I'm easy. And to cement the deal, they waxed the bottle. Industrial grade stuff too. Had to break out the chisel and hammer, but I got there*:

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a cap of bubbly tan head that resolves into a ring that hangs around for a while. Smells strongly of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, oak. Given the nose, I'm surprised at how well the taste retains its roasty character, a little char, and don't get me wrong, lots of bourbon and booze here too. Mouthfeel has more carbonation than expected, not overcarbonated or anything, but its got a bite to it. Or maybe that's the booze, which is certainly present and potent. Overall, a very nice bourbon barrel stout. I may have rated this higher if I hadn't had that amazing barrel aged 2 Live Gran Cru beer earlier in the day. But B+ is nothing to sneeze at either, and that's where I landed on this.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz. waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/13.

So I've also got a bottle of Barrel Aged Cereal Killer, a barleywine that is supposedly even better than this sucker. Review is coming soon. I just have to, you know, drink it first.

* Note to self: Don't wear an orange t-shirt whilst taking pictures of beer. Jeeze, look at that reflection.

Dock Street Devil's Double IPA

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As I slowly explore the world of trading, I find myself in the need of interesting bottles of local beer from time to time. Dock Street doesn't have a trendy reputation, but they put out solid product, and their bottle releases are low stress affairs and their last release aligned perfectly with a trade I was setting up, so I took a trip to the brewpub and picked up a couple bottles of Prince Myshkin RIS (the regular version, not the near-flat Barrel Aged one). While there, the bartender upsold me on this newly released Double IPA (yes, I'm a weak man).

Now, I've got plenty of beer to drink over here, but I've also reached a point of my beer nerdery where IPAs have to be consumed fresh. For you hopheads out there, this one's made with Simcoe, Citra, and Sorachi Ace. So let's buckle up and hope we don't get so drunk the Devil asks us to double for him, like in that horrible movie.

Dock Street Devils Double IPA

Dock Street Devil's Double IPA - Pours a cloudy dark orange color with a couple fingers of off white head, lots of lacing. Smells of big citrus and pine hops, a little resinous, and an additional hop aroma I'd call "green" (this is definitely the Sorachi Ace making itself known). Taste leans towards the east coast IPA, lots of robust crystal malt character providing a backdrop for those big hop flavors. More resinous pine than citrus, but the unique thing here is that "green" herbal character, like cilantro or dill or something (again, this is clearly the Sorachi Ace hops throwing their muscle around, holding their own with the more popular Simcoe and Citra). Mouthfeel is medium bodied, ample carbonation but very smooth. Goes down easy. Overall, a well done DIPA, reminiscent of DFH 90 Minute, though those Sorachi Ace hops differentiate it big time. An interesting change of pace from your typical DIPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/26/13 and 4/27/13. Bottled 2/5/13 (may have been 3/5, label got cut off a bit).

So Dock Street continues a streak of solid brews that nevertheless feel a bit underachieving. That being said, I may have saved the best for last, their Flemish Red sounds pretty darn good. Will probably get to that in the coming months...

Voodoo Barrel Room Collection

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Voodoo has a tiny little barrel room and recently held two releases. One out at their brewery in Meadville, PA, and one in the Philly area. The Philly area one was held yesterday, and looky at what I found:

Voodoo Barrel Room Collection

Well hello, my pretties. Gotta love the look of waxed bottles. The three small bottles are Black Magick (big stout somewhere on the order of 15% ABV) variants (one aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, one in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, and one in Laird's Apple Brandy barrels), the next three bombers are Big Black Voodoo Daddy (one of Voodoo's staple beers, a still rather large 12.5% stout) aged in the same three barrel types. And lastly, another of Voodoo's staple beers, Gran Met, a Belgian style tripel aged in Laird's Apple Brandy barrels. Supposedly, these suckers stayed in the barrels a little longer than planned as Voodoo was opening a brewpub and availability of the packaging line was maxed out.

Anywho, the Philly area release was held at the Blue Dog Tavern in Chalfont, PA (i.e. north of the city). I got there a little over an hour before opening, but while there was a sizable crowd ahead of me, I was there in plenty of time to ensure that I got a bottle of each barrel room beer (some variants only had 72 bottles available at this release). About a half hour before the doors opened, the staff passed out wristbands so that they could do a "deli-style" release - they call your number, and you go to a table to pick up your allotment. Very orderly and convenient, and it allowed me to sit at the bar and try a couple Voodoo rarities, like this beauty:

Voodoo 2 Live Gran Cru Greatest Hits - Vol. 1

They call this stuff 2 Live Gran Cru Greatest Hits - Vol. 1, a blend of Big Black Voodoo Daddy and Black Magick aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 15 months. Don't mind if I do. Massive bourbon and oak in both the nose and taste, but plenty of malt to balance that out, leading to that great caramel, vanilla, and oak character I love so much. Clocking in at 13% ABV, it's got a pretty big boozy component too. Big, chewy stuff, smooth with a big boozy bite. Fantastic stuff, and hopefully an omen of what those bottles will taste like. It was a small sample, but I'll give it an A- for now...

My cellar is getting crowded again, and I've even got more stuff coming. It's going to be a fun summer.

April Beer Club

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In the Beer Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The drinkers who investigate crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. They meet once a month at a local BYOB to sample beers. These are their stories:

beerclub-april13.jpg

The following notes, compiled by our resident stenographer, should be taken with a grain of salt as I'm pretty sure the stenographer was also drunk (as evidence, well, the stenographer was me). In order of drinking (not in order of picture, and sadly, we didn't get to all beers in the picture either):

  • Starr Hill The Love - A pretty straightforward but enjoyable hefeweizen. Super carbonated, overwhelming head, but a nice banana/clove weizen yeast character, highly drinkable stuff. B
  • The Captain's Brew House All American - This is actually a buddy's homebrew, and I arrived a bit late, so I only really got to try the yeasty dregs of the bottle, but it seemed pretty darn good - easily the equal of the previous beer. Would like to try it fresh sometime. Still, truly a beer worthy of Captain America (i.e. the namesake of my buddy's home brewery).
  • Ommegang Hennepin - You know, I've mentioned this beer numerous times on the blog, but I've never actually reviewed it. It's a really nice beer, one of my favorites, the beer that introduced me to the world of good beer. Nice Belgian yeast character, light, crisp, refreshing, quaffable stuff. I might be into chasing more funky varieties of saison these days, but it's always fun to revisit this beer and it holds a special place in my heart. A
  • Ommegang Rare Vos - The slightly maltier sibling of Hennepin, I also love this beer (which, yes, I've actually reviewed before), one of those beers that is also probably impacted by nostalgia for me, but it's just as good as ever. A
  • The Captain's Brew House Shameless IPA - Another homebrew, this one is actually a Northern Brewer Dead Ringer. It was very good, with a big malt backbone, but also a nice hop character. I'm not a huge fan of centennial single hopped IPAs, but this one was solid.
  • Kaedrin Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel continues to evolve, with an almost coffee-like character emerging right now (but not straight coffee, and not really a roast either, somewhere perhaps between those flavors). It's actually quite interesting. I'll be interested in trying this again in isolation, as beer club isn't exactly the best setting for my palate!
  • Trappistes Rochefort 8 - Truly a classic beer, one of my favorites of all time. Previously reviewed.
  • Boulevard Collaboration No. 3 - Stingo - A collaboration with Kaedrin favorite Pretty Things, this one goes a more English route, though it's souped up a bit more than that might lead you to believe. Nice subtle hints of breadiness and toffee with maybe a hint of dark chocolate. Didn't really strike a big chord with me, but it was certainly a well made beer. B
  • Starr Hill Double Platinum - A solid, if a bit boozy DIPA. Nice hop character, but the booze was more prominent than I expected for an 8.5% ABV beer. It was probably a little warmer than it should have been, but I'll leave it at a B for now.
  • Lost Abbey Red Poppy - Another of my contributions for the night, this is still a spectacular beer, and made a lot of waves with the attendees, even folks who don't normally go in for "beer". Previously reviewed, and still an A in my book.
  • Firestone Walker §ucaba - Very generously contributed by Kaedrin friend Dana (she's not a huge bourbon fan, but knows that some of us other beer club members are), this sucker is as good as ever. Previously rated and still an A in my book.
And that just about wraps up this episode of Law & Order & Beer. Fortunately, all As and Bs, so no District Attorneys needed. See you next month.

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon

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I give Clown Shoes guff for their lame marketing gimmickry and controversy, stuff like brewing a beer with Holy Water or mounting a half-hearted Presidential campaign (they chose "beer" as their running mate), but it's what's inside the bottle that counts. Unfortunately, the only beer they've made that really raised my eyebrows was Third Party Candidate... a collaboration with another brewery. Let's give them another chance, shall we?

Here we've got a big 12.5% ABV imperial stout. No gimmickry, no controversy, just a big beer with a quasi-portmanteau name coming from Black Unicorn mixed with Soul Dragon and a label that's actually respectable. Lets strap those clown shoes on and start this party:

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon - Pours a deep dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells like dessert; brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, chocolate, and a little roast. Really fantastic nose. Taste starts off with that roast character asserting itself right away, then softening into rich caramel and chocolate before the roast returns in the finish. Some hop character emerges in the finish too, a bitter balance to the big malts. Not quite as delicious as the nose had lead me to believe, but solid. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and a little chewy. Definitely a big beer, but it doesn't feel like a 12.5% monster either, not really much in the way of booziness at all. Perhaps because it's more of a sipper. Not exactly easy to drink, but for all the right reasons. Overall, a really solid RIS, and I liked it better than Vampire Slayer. It hasn't opened my third eye and brought about true enlightenment, but perhaps that is setting the bar too high. This is really nice anyway. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/20/13. Bottled 3/2012.

Again, this is a solid beer; consider my eyebrows mildly elevated, enough that I'd like to check out a couple more of their beers (that Porcine Unidragon sounds nice), but on the other hand, Clown Shoes doesn't really excite me too much either...

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter

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This one's going to live up to its name, so stay frosty folks: Dock Street describes this as a "Vatted porter blended with a small dose of Prince Myshkin Russian Imperial Stout. Aged in an Apple Brandy barrel for 3.5 years with brettanomyces and Cantillon wild yeasts!" So yes, this is certainly full of funk, both figuratively and literally. Lets see if all that funk translates to greatness:

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of big bubbled tan head that actually has decent retention. Nose is filled with funk and that twang that indicates sourness, quite nice, actually. Taste is less funky than the nose would have you believe, only a very light sourness, just a little oak, but enough that the roasty, toasty porter flavors don't really overpower the taste either. There's a slight vinous character that works well enough here, but isn't super prominent. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, with low carbonation, but nowhere near flat(definitely much more here than in the BA RIS or Barleywine, though it's still low overall). This has a sorta muted flavor profile, but it's also well balanced. Overall, a solid beer, not something that is going to weaken the knees, but really nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/13/13. Bottled 9/23/12.

Not quite the sour funk bomb that I was expecting, but really good, probably my favorite of their barrel aged treatments, but only because it had mildly appropriate carbonation (that BA Prince Myshkin would have been perfect if it wasn't almost completely still) and I still have one more to try (a Flemish Red, which actually has a pretty good reputation). Speaking of Dock Street, they're doing another bottle release on Saturday and I plan to pick up at least a couple bottles, so this Dock Street train will continue on.

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot

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Sierra Nevada seems to have a weird reputation. On the one hand, most of us cut our teeth on the likes of their basic Pale Ale (and I suppose freshly minted beer dorks are digging into Torpedo these days), but these are mass produced beers that don't usually inflame beer nerd passions for very long. Don't get me wrong, that pale ale has long been a beacon of light in otherwise inhospitable beer wastelands like sports bars or wedding receptions, but we're creatures of novelty. Fortunately, Sierra Nevada groks that notion, and thus they manage to put out a lot of more experimental stuff alongside their standards. From what I gather, the really out-there stuff doesn't really go far and wide, but occasionally they make an appearance all the way out here on the east coast.

Bigfoot is one of their standards that is frequently recommended to nascent beer nerds. Want to try a rock solid American Barleywine? Get yourself a Bigfoot. Want to dip your feet into the realm of cellaring beer? Buy a 4 pack of Bigfoot and drink one per year. They've been putting this beer out every winter since the early 80s and it's widely available, so that's a big part of its reputation. Heck, one my local bottle shops is selling 4 year old bottles of the stuff.

Anyways, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada aged a batch of this stuff in old whiskey casks for over a year. The hops have mellowed and the oak adds that rich caramel and vanilla character, making this very different. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this sucker, though perhaps I shouldn't have been:

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - Whiskey Barrel-Aged - Pours a very striking clear amberish copper color with a finger of off white head. Smells strongly of citrusy, piney, resinous hops, with just a bit of the whiskey barrel character and some caramel too. As it warms up, the whiskey barrel becomes more prominent. Taste is filled with a rich caramel, vanilla, and oak character, with the hops emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish, which has a nice, balancing bitterness as well. Again, as it warms, the whiskey barrel aging components really open up and some booze makes itself know in the middle to finish as well. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, very smooth, with a full body and richness from the barrel aging. Overall, this is a superb BA barleywine. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.2% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 4/13/13. "2013 Expedition"

Definitely a worthwhile beer to seek out. It's not a Sucaba killer or anything, but it's damn good. I didn't have any trouble finding this on the shelf, but I gather that it went pretty quickly, so if you see one and it sounds like it might be up your alley, get it.

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

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the United States category.

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