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Stillwater As Follows

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The label sez this is "An Eschatological ale", which sounds gross, but is actually about the study of the end of the world. I guess I need to get my mind out of the gutter this week. Anywho, this is yet another ale brewed in honor/mockery of the overplayed Mayan calendar thing last year, and I suppose the Belgian Strong Pale Ale style is, for some odd reason, commonly used for such apocalyptic themes. La Fin Du Monde ("The End of the World"), "Duvel" (a "Devil" of a beer), and so on. Of course, that puts this up against some pretty stiff competition, so let's see how it holds up:

Stillwater As Follows

Stillwater As Follows - Pours a cloudy straw yellow color with massive amounts of fluffy white head and high retention. Smells sweet and spicy, pure Belgian yeast, some biscuity notes, perhaps even some orange peel. Taste also starts sweet and spicy, actually lots of spice, white pepper, coriander, clove, and the like, some earthy hop presence emerging in the middle, finishing dry. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, refreshing, and again, finishing dry. Would make a great palate cleanser for meals. Overall, a wonderful Belgian style pale ale, well balanced and complex, this could stand toe to toe with the best Belgium has to offer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 2/9/13.

Stillwater hasn't wowed me with my last few samples, so this one was a welcome return to form. I don't have any additional Stillwater in the immediate pipeline, but being basically MD based, I can usually get a crack at their new stuff. Particularly interested in trying more of their barrel aged series, even if my experience with them so far hasn't been all that great...

Drake's Jolly Rodger

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Historically, the Jolly Rodger is a flag flown by pirates to frighten their victims into surrendering without a fight. The most common said flag featured a skull and crossbones, obvious symbols of death (other variants included full skeletons and things like hourglasses, all symbols of death). Due to the decline in piracy in modern times, the symbol has shifted somewhat. After some prissy British Admiral described submarines as "underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English", a bunch of wiseass British sailors fashioned themselves a Jolly Rodger after a successful mission, and thus the Jolly Rodger began its continuing career as a military insignia.

These days, the Jolly Rodger seems to have been taken up by incessant copyright infringers, making "Talk like a Pirate day" into just a bunch of discussions about where to download new releases. It also seems that the Jolly Rodger has been pressed into service to help sell beer, so there's that too. It seems that Drake's Brewing out in California has utilized the Jolly Rodger for their annual Holiday seasonal. Each year is a different style, and this year's is a good ol' fashioned American barleywine. Be still my heart. Thanks to Jay for sending this my way! Ok, that's enough babbling, let's fire up µTorrent, download some porn movies, sink a Nazi vessel, fly our Jolly Rodger, and drink some beer:

Drakes Jolly Rodger

Drake's Jolly Rodger American Barleywine 2012 - Pours a dark amber brown color with nice robey tones and a finger of whitish head. Smells of piney, resinous hops, with some crystal malts and maybe a little vanilla. Taste is surprisingly bitter, plenty of those piney hops, light malt, some booze, and did I mention bitter? It's not disagreeably bitter or anything, I just wasn't expecting it. Mouthfeel is relatively heavy, but it goes down smooth. Bit of a hot boozy feel, but again, not disagreeable. Overall, it won't sink Nazi ships or scare beer drinkers into surrendering, but it's a solid American Barleywine, hoppy and bitter, and I likey. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 2/8/13.

Drake's has a pretty small footprint, so I probably won't be stumbling across any more of their stuff anytime soon, but they seem to make some nice IPAs and they have this thing called a "barrel house" which sounds rather nice. In any case, I've got more trade booty coming, and, you know, local stuff too.

Tired Hands Guillemot Nebula

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Another Tired Hands bottle release today! Unfortunately, I was unable to acquire the rarer of the two bottles released (Guillemot Prunus, a dark saison fermented in a Jim Beam barrel atop 45 pounds of local tart cherries). According to Jean, they got less out of the barrel than expected, so the bottle count was a little lower than the estimated 150. And I only got there a little early (I was honestly surprised to see so many people, given how cold it was), so I had to settle for just getting an allocation of Guillemot Nebula, which, to be fair, sounds rather awesome. It's a 50/50 blend of Jim Beam and Chaddsford red wine barrel fermented dark saison. It's got some nice bacterial beasties to pucker things up as well, so I'm quite excited to give this one a shot.

Tired Hands Guillemot Nebula

Tired Hands Guillemot Nebula - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells amazing, full of tangy sour cherry character along with vinous aromas, some musty yeast and maybe even hints of chocolate. Taste starts with rich dark chocolate, then the sour cherries hit, tart but not overwhelming, blended well some of that red wine character as well as some oak. Not getting much bourbon out of this, but perhaps some of that oak or chocolate could be attributed to Mr. Beam. Mouthfeel is superb. This thing is just a joy to drink. Tightly carbonated and very smooth, this thing is dangerously quaffable. I got some alcohol warming in my belly, and I had to slow myself down cause I didn't want to be done so quickly. Overall, this is another superb beer from Tired Hands, perhaps their best barrel fermented/aged beer yet, which is saying something. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (375 ml wax dipped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/17/13.

Now I reallly wish I was able to get ahold of one of the Prunus bottles. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to start going to these bottle releases earlier. Hopefully, someday they'll open the Believer's Club up again, so I can get me some bottles without going too crazy...

February Beer Club

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Yeah, so I'm still running dry on beer puns. Fortunately, there's a pretty good chance you don't care about that, so I'll just explain that Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. It ended up being a rather small gathering this month, with just the core group showing up... and yet, plenty of fantastic beer was had by all.

Beer Club February 2013
(Click for bigger image)

Despite the less than ideal conditions, I'm going to record my thoughts on each sampled beer. For posterity! Yeah, the sip test is often unreliable, so take this with a giant boulder of gourmet sea salt, you nerd (he sez, as if it's a bad thing). Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Samuel Smith's Organic Lager - Pretty standard Euro-lager affair here, though perhaps a higher quality version of such. Nice noble hoppiness and a surprising yeast character (nowhere near a Belgian strain, but it did add character to an otherwise normal beer). B
  • Eagle Rock Jubilee - One of my contributions for the night, or should I say, it's actually Jay's contribution, as this was part of our trade. I figured I shouldn't hog all of it to myself, though perhaps I should have, as this was reallly good. Smooth, creamy, spiced but not harshly so, this was a beauty. They call it a spiced old ale, but it feels a whole lot like a winter warmer and heck, let's just call it good beer. Beer Club crowd seemed mighty impressed as well. A-
  • Cisco Lady of the Woods - My other contribution, I liked it so much the first time, that I just had to share another with everyone else. I'm always surprised at how well received sour beers are by the Beer Club crowd, though perhaps I shouldn't be. I tend to call this beer club, but it originally began as beer and wine club, and this beer certainly has a nice Chardonnay character that turned some heads. Still an A by my reckoning...
  • Heavy Seas Black Cannon - One of them semi-local Maryland breweries, this wound up being a very solid black IPA. Beautiful nose, slight roasted malt character dominated by piney, resinous hops and maybe a bit of citrus. Alas, the taste didn't quite hold up, though again, still a very solid beer. B
  • Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve - Hoo boy, I hope you like clove, cause they must have packed this thing to the gills with cloves. Fortunately, I do like that, though the beer is pretty straightforward otherwise. B
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers - One of my long time favorites, just as good as ever. Fancy new label, too...
  • Heavy Seas Bourbon Barrel Aged Siren Noire - Holy chocolate milk, Batman! Seriously, like drinking slightly boozy yoohoo. Not getting much bourbon at all, though perhaps it's contributing to the almost creamy, vanilla character that goes so well with the chocolate flavors that dominate this beer. Really enjoyable and perhaps the most interesting beer of the night, if not exactly the best. B+
  • BrewDog Tokyo* - Another beer I've had before, this thing is a total monster. Clocking in at over 18% ABV, it's a pretty potent beer, though the solid malt backbone and addition of cranberries and jasmine help even that out a bit. Still a B+ in my book.
And with that, we had to cut things a bit short. A few sad beers were left unopened, but it was starting to snow and we didn't want to crack open that bottle of 14% Samichlaus (seriously, beer club compatriot Anthony brought Samichlaus and Tokyo*, which average out to somewhere around 16% ABV, pretty badass if you ask me. As a fan of older vintages of Samichlaus, I advised him to cellar this 2010 vintage until at least next Christmas and he seemed pretty excited about that prospect). So that just about covers it for this beer club. At the next beer club, my Fat Weekend IPA should be ready to go, so I'm pretty excited.

New Glarus Serendipity

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Wisconsin's own New Glarus Brewing Company has achieved a pretty fantastic reputation amongst beer nerds, especially considering that they don't actually distribute outside of their home state. Still, beers like Wisconsin Belgian Red, a beer brewed with massive amounts of local cherries and aged in oak tanks, have piqued the interests of beer nerds all over the country. Alas, last year, a severe drought caused the Wisconsin cherry crop to fail. New Glarus brewer Dan Carey took the loss in stride, improvising a new beer using whatever cherries he could scrounge and making up the difference with apples and cranberries (which fared better during the drought). The result has been almost as well received as Wisconsin Belgian Red, and they've been calling this beer Serendipity, the "Happy Accident Fruit Ale".

New Glarus Serendipity

New Glarus Serendipity - Pours a striking, bright, clear amber color (robey tones, so much clarity) with a finger of off white head. Smells of straight up fruit juice and cherry fruit roll ups, a combo that actually works well enough. The taste is sugary sweet, lots of fruity character, maybe more cranberry flavor coming out here than the nose, but not quite the lunchtime snackfood flavor implied by the nose (this is a good thing). That fruit is a little tart, but nothing approaching real sourness. Mouthfeel is smooth but very well carbonated, which helps cut through the sweetness, though you do get a sticky sweet kinda finish. Still, it's easy drinker, bright and crisp. This doesn't taste much like beer. It's kinda like one of them fancy designer fruit-flavored sodas, though it's definitely more complex and tasty than that. I'm actually really enjoying it, though I'm having trouble rating. As non-lambic "fruit" beers go, this is probably the best I've ever had, and as someone who normally doesn't put up with this sort of fru-fru nonsense, I have to admit I'm really liking this. So let's call it a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.0% ABV bottled (759 ml, waxed and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/8/13.

My hyped-up midwest beer stash, accrued via trade, is dwindling at this point. I've got two left, and one I'm going to be laying down for a while. The other is a Mikkeller collaboration with Three Floyds, which sounds beautiful, if you ask me. In the meantime, we've got lots of other interesting stuff, including some more trade booty. Exciting stuff is on the way. Tomorrow: beer club. Don't miss it.

We all know I love me some Bourbon barrel aged stouts. I won't shut up about it. But what is it about the glorious marriage of bourbon and beer that makes me love it so much? And how important is the provenance of the barrels used for beer aging? Can you really pick out different makes of Bourbon by drinking the beer aged in said Bourbon's barrels?

There are, of course, many factors to consider. What's the base beer like and how well does that match with the Bourbon? How old is the barrel? How big is the barrel? What's the physical condition of the barrel? How long has the barrel been empty? How good is the Bourbon? And there are even more factors to consider.

Now, I'm no expert, but the general rule seems to be: if there was quality bourbon in the barrel, you'll get quality beer out. Now, is using an Elijah Craig barrel all that different from using an Evan Williams barrel? If you took the same beer and aged a batch in each barrel, would you be able to pick which was which? Do Pappy Van Winkle barrels really contain magical properties above and beyond all other barrels? All bets are off when it comes to other spirits. Scotch barrel aged beer varies widely depending on the prevalence of peat smoke. Rum barrels are distinct. And so on.

So I realize that the grand majority of this post thus far has been unanswered questions. Fortunately for us, FiftyFifty Brewing Co. out in sunny California releases a series of barrel aged stouts every year, using a wide variety of barrels so that we can at least do some comparative drinking. What I've got here, courtesy of a cross-continental trade with Jay from Beer Samizdat, is a variant aged in 12 year old Elijah Craig barrels. Looking at the groupthink at BA and RB, these Elijah Craig versions seem to be the highest rated, though not by that much more than most others.

Speaking of which, those other variants have been showing up in local bottle shops, so I'll have to lighten my wallet a bit and pick them up. Research, you know. For science. Anwyho, I couldn't really wait to try this one, so I indulged pretty quickly:

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout Elijah Craig 12

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Elijah Craig (12 Year) - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger of tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, vanilla, and caramel, a really nice balanced aroma here, music to a bourbon barrel lover's noseballs. Taste is filled with a well balanced, rich flavor profile that is similar to the nose: plenty of bourbon, a little oak and vanilla, lots of caramel. Light, pleasing roasted notes also come through in the taste, so it's retaining its stoutness too... the mark of a balanced barrel aging job. Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated but smooth and almost creamy. It's not a chewy monster, but it's not a chugging beer either - it's really easy going for such a big stout. Overall, it's a very well balanced, complex bourbon barrel stout. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz wax dipped bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/1/13.

I've already got my hands on the Heaven Hill Rittenhouse Rye variant, which I imagine being distinct due to the fact that it's a Rye barrel, not Bourbon, but I guess there's only one way to find out!

Daisy Cutter Pale Ale

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Half Acre is one of them hyped up Chicago breweries, but the "Half Acre" in question actually "resides along the banks of the Delaware River in eastern PA". The Chicagoans who run Half Acre actually grew up right outside Philadelphia, which is why they started distributing a few kegs to this area before they even expanded beyond the greater Chicago area. I had this on tap a while back, but I've only recently started seeing cans of their infamous Daisy Cutter recently.

Daisy Cutter is just a lowly pale ale, but it's got a pretty rabid following, to the point where folks used to propose all sorts of absurd trades with the stuff. I get the impression that that sorta douchery has subsided a bit, but then, I just saw someone asking for Kern River Citra and listing this as a potential trade, so maybe not (though it looks like there's plenty of more reasonable trades being offered these days too). Is this beer really a midwest wale? Probably not, but it's still pretty damn good.

Half Acre Daisy Cutter

Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of dank, piney, resinous hops, with some citrus and floral notes for good measure. Taste goes more in the floral direction than the nose, but that dank pine is still prominent with some citrus tagging along too. Nice, well matched bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light to medium bodied, darn easy to drink. Overall, this is some great stuff for a regular ol' pale ale from Chicago. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV canned (16 oz. tallboy). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/27/13.

As pale ales go, this is a pretty solid choice, definitely something I'll get again sometime, and if Half Acre continues to distribute around here, I'll hopefully be able to snag some of their other releases.

Speedway Stout

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Ticking another top 100 coffee-based imperial stout, though this one is definitely more my speed than most, as the coffee adds complexity without being too prominent. Trolling Alesmith's Beer Advocate page reveals that there are over 20 variations on this beer, some using different varieties of coffee (including the dreaded weasel poop coffee, Kopi Luwak), many aged in bourbon barrels (amongst other spirits barrels), and some really weird ones with shit like Pistachios or Spearmint.

What I've got here is the regular, widely-available version, brewed with fancy Ryan Bros. coffee, featuring the silkscreen bottle and silver foil wrapping. Newer bottles seem to have a grey/black color in the wrap, so I'm not sure what's up (and I'm pretty sure this dude on BA who suggests that "The silver foil contained a substance that, when heated sufficiently and ground to powder, could be used for the mass production of meth" is just a wiseass). Regardless, this is a beer to seek out, and if you ever see those barrel aged variants, buy two, drink one, and send me the other (though I'm pretty sure you're more likely to drink both once you realize how awesome it is...)

Alesmith Speedway Stout

Alesmith Speedway Stout - Pours a thick, very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown, creamy looking head that has great retention and leaves tons of spotty lacing as I drink. Smells of rich, dark crystal malts, a little roast and some coffee notes too, but they're in the background. Taste starts with those sweet, rich caramel flavors, quickly moving into a light roasty flavor, not much in the way of coffee at all, perhaps some chocolate showing up in its place. There's a nice hoppy component as well, with some resinous notes showing up and even a slight bitterness that goes well with the roast and chocolate character. Some hot booze shows up in the taste as well. Mouthfeel is rich and chewy, full bodied, a little alcohol burn in the mouth followed by the warming sensation in the belly. Overall, I can see why this is a prized brew and would love to try, well, just about any of the variants (of which there are many). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 1/27/13.

Alesmith is truly awesome, I'm going to have to find a way to get ahold of some of their barrel aged stuff. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for their standard lineup... which is still pretty awesome.

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

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