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January Beer Club

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I've more or less run out of beer puns for beer clubs, so you'll just have to deal with it. I know, you all love puns, so you're all broken up about it, but you'll just have to deal. 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. As per usual, this gathering is anchored by a core group of stalwarts, along with assorted return guest stars. So it was a solid turnout, lots of beer, good BBQ and just an all around good time.

January Beer Club 2013
(Click for bigger image)

In accordance with tradition, my thoughts on each beer we sampled are recorded below for posterity. Standard disclaimers regarding non-ideal tasting isolation conditions apply, so all you pedants better stay frosty, as nearly all of this will be untrustworthy/awesome. Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer - Things started off on a bizarre note. It's basically alcoholic ginger ale, which is fine for what it is, I guess, and definitely attracts the non-beer folk due to it's high sweetness and ginger spicing, but I found it kinda poopy. It's actually good that we had it in this sort of setting where I only had to try a tiny sample, but I'll give it a D, because fuck ginger beer. Seriously guiz.
  • Belhaven Scottish Ale - Belhaven is supposed to be one of the top Scottish ale styles out there, but man, we must have gotten a bad bottle. It has that gross diacetyl buttery flavor that I get out of a lot of British pale ales and have grown to hate. I'm not sure if that's just the beer, or if it's the clear bottle, or what, but it felt kinda skunky too. Not totally undrinkable, but I was again glad that I only took a very small sample of the stuff. D
  • Abita Jockamo IPA - While a big improvement over my first two tastes of the night, this strikes me as being a fairly unremarkable IPA. It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over BMC (or, since we're talking about my college years, Natty/Beast), but nothing special at all. A nice hop aroma, but a taste that fell a little flat and bland. B-
  • Old Forge Overbite IPA - Ahhh, now that's more like it. A really nice semi-local IPA, lots of that citrusy, floral hop goodness, maybe a little pine too, was a real breath of fresh air after the first three beers of the evening. It's not a world beater, to be sure, but these guys are totally making a name for themselves in the Philly area, and this makes for a pleasant enough IPA. B+
  • Birrificio Del Ducato Nuova Mattina - Guest star Steve contributed this very nice Italian beer to the proceedings, a Belgian style pale with lots of sharp carbonation, sweet and spicy (lots of spices used in making this, and they contribute, but not overwhelmingly so), bready, with a touch of light fruit. Overall, it's got a really nice rustic quality, an almost quaffable beer, really enjoyable. B+
  • Widmer Brrr - A totally solid winter warmer, pretty light on the spices actually, though it works well enough. It's not the sort of thing that stands out in a tasting like this, but it's totally serviceable and would probably get the job done if needed. B
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale (2011) - A vintage bottle of my very own homebrew? It's still doing pretty well, actually, though I do believe it has peaked and is now on a bit of a downward swing. It's still retained that sorta creamy vanilla caramel base, and the spices are still there, particularly clove with a hint of cinnamon, though those are diminished from last year. It's held up about as well as I could have hoped, though it's not quite as fantastic as it once was. B+
  • Allagash Fluxus 2012 - Another of my contributions for the night, it's a totally solid Belgian pale ale, actually quite similar to that Nuova Mattina beer, though with less carbonation. Still, a very nice Belgian yeast character, spicy and biscuity. Not especially a standout, especially amongst Allagash's lineup, but a solid beer nonetheless. This could be tasting fatigue setting in, but I'll go with min instinctual rating of a B
  • Traquair House Jacobite - Ah, now this is a Scottish brewery I can get behind. Of course, this is a slightly stronger style, but I like me some Wee Heavy/Scotch Ales, and this is a pretty superb example of the style. Big rich malt character, brown sugar, some fruitiness, a light booziness, and all of this is very well balanced against each other. Truly a solid beer, and widely available too, well worth checking out for the Scotch Ale fan and a contender for best of the night. A-
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale - Once again, this might be tasting fatigue setting in, but I was expecting more out of this. Don't get me wrong, it's a totally good beer. Not very red in appearance, but it certainly smells/tastes like an imperial red, big, well integrated citrus and pine hops mixed with those crystal and red malts. Very nice, would like to try again in better conditions. For now, we'll give it a provisional B+
  • DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus - Perhaps the strangest beer of the night, but it worked surprisingly well. You could say it's gimmicky, it being a "Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter", but this is quite possibly the perfect beer for a tasting like this. Exclamations of "Whoa" and "It smells like peanut butter" all around the table. It tasted like peanut butter brownies that were perhaps a bit overcookied so that you got that roastiness. Kinda like the edge/corner piece (which, you know, I love). It worked surprisingly well in this setting. I have no idea how I'd react if I were to drink an entire bottle, but I'm feeling generous enough to hand it a B+ (though it's probably more of a B)
  • Victory Oak Horizontal - Another of my contributions for the night, it's just as good as I remembered it. The bourbon, while prominent, was not overpowering at all, which endeared it to some folks who don't tend to like bourbon. Still an A- and a fitting end to the evening.
So there you have it. After a shaky start, things livened up quickly, and this sort of ratings distribution is actually quite nice. I mean, this isn't the most exclusive of beer clubs, after all, and only a few of us a really huge beer nerds, but it's a lot of fun and I always look forward to beer club. February's meeting will come soon enough!

Ommegang XV

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Another Belgian Strong Dark from Ommegang, I wasn't sure if I'd go for this "extremely limited" release, but dammit, they put it in a tin canister thingy and I'm powerless against fancy packaging. So here we are. I'm not sure exactly what makes this worthy of their 15th anniversary, aside from the fact that it's big and dark and strong. They claim it's unlike any other ale they've brewed, but I can think of two obviously similar beers in their lineup. How does this stack up to the solid but straightforward seasonal Art of Darkness? Or, for that matter, the admittedly unique and most excellent staple beer that is nonetheless big and strong and dark, Three Philosophers? Only one way to find out:

Ommegang XV Anniversary Ale

Ommegang XV - 15th Anniversary Ale - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and half a finger of bubbly tan head. Smells faintly of Belgian yeast, a little spicy with biscuit and maybe a hint of fruit. Taste is sweet, lots of spice from that Belgian yeast, some caramel, a non-roasty chocolate character that's really nice and perhaps unique (definitely sets it apart from Ommegang's other Belgian Strong Dark styled beers). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, almost but not quite effervescent, medium bodied, relatively dry for such a big beer, though there's a bit of stickiness in the finish. It's all rather well balanced though, and that's a good indicator that Ommegang is hitting on all cylinders. They're at their best when they're doing stuff like this. Overall, an easy drinking, very well balanced, complex brew, worthy of a look, though it's a pretty steep price tag. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 12/31/12.

Ommegang has recently gained some notoriety for partnering with HBO to create a series of Game of Thrones beers. The first beer looks to be a relatively ho-hum affair, a 6.5% blonde ale. Certainly will be approachable for the non-beer-nerd fans of the series, but I'd be more excited if they did something really wacky. I can't say as though I'm excited by this. I like Game of Thrones fine, and Ommegang was the brewery that got me into beer, but somehow this combination isn't doing it for me. I suppose it will prove beneficial to both companies though, and as corporate tie-ins go, this is much better than most. I do wish success on Ommegang though - maybe if they can make enough money, they'll start an actual sour program or something (they've made overtures in that direction in the past, but nothing regular).

Tired Hands HandFarm

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Tired Hands held a bottle release today, which, as far as I know, is their first official such event (I've heard tell of mythic one-off bottles, and even seen a few empties floating around as decorations, but I'm pretty sure this is the first real release). Approximately 500 bottles of wine barrel aged FarmHands (a saison, one of their two mainstay house beers) was available, and it sold out in less than an hour. Here at Kaedrin, we're big fans of Tired Hands, so we made sure we were there. Not a particularly nice day to wait in line outside, but I'd guesstimate that around a hundred folks were in line ahead of me, and it looked like the supply was dwindling mightily by the time I got my share. As per usual, all the beer dorks on line were amiable folk, so it was a good enough time, and I'm glad that I didn't arrive too late to get my greedy paws on some of this stuff.

Alrighty, that's enough preamble, let's get this party started:

Tired Hands HandFarm

Tired Hands HandFarm - Pours a bright but hazy straw yellow color with half a finger of white head. Smells funky, lots of vinous aromas from the wine barrel, some musty, spicy farmhouse yeast character too. Taste is sweet, again lots of vinous white wine flavor here, but the more traditional FarmHands flavors (musty yeast, some grainy malt complexity, a little spice) come through in the middle. A nice sharp sourness also hits pretty quickly, and a pleasant tartness continues through the finish. Not a ton of oak, but it's there too, blended well with everything else. Mouthfeel is lightly but appropriately carbonated, a little pleasant acidity that delivers the sourness, but it's crisp and bright, and it's an easy drinker. It's not super dry, but it makes overtures in that direction. Overall, this is a well crafted, balanced, complex beer and I'm happy I got my hands on some. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (500 ml wax dipped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/13/12.

So this is some pretty great stuff. For any Tired Hands experts out there, I'd put this a peg above Mysterious Mood, another barrel aged saison they did this past summer (which, actually, has a pretty good reputation). I guess this means I'll be hitting up Tired Hands bottle releases semi-regularly too. Fingers crossed for some Westy 13, which I really grew to love when it was on tap. I have, of course, got a bunch of other Tired Hands reviews in the pipeline somewhere, but I wanted to get this one out as soon as I drank it... I'll save those other ones for another speed round or something. Great stuff, as always. Indeed, their Domo, a black rye saison aged in a blend of Weyerbacher Insanity barrels and Chaddsford red wine barrels, is another fantastic sour beer, lots of sour cherry goodness. Ok, I'll stop now, as I could probably just ramble on and on about these guys. Here's to hoping they can keep this momentum up...

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA

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Another top 100 beer from Midwest ballers and abnormal label art masters, Three Floyds. Behind Zombie Dust and various barrel aged versions of Dark Lord that I'll probably never see, this DIPA is nevertheless well celebrated by beer nerds. Beer Advocate recently made some "controversial" changes to their ratings scheme, so I think this one fell down the ranks a bit, and we all know that the opinions of a bunch of strangers on the internet are usually dead on, so this is vexing. Still, being ranked 75th in the world is pretty sweet. Let's not waste any more time and get to it:

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA - Pours a clear golden color with a finger or two of white, fluffy head. Smells wonderful, sugary sweetness with tons of citrus and pine. Taste starts off sweet, very light crystal malt character, but then the mango and grapefruit emerge quickly and continue into the finish, along with some floral and pine notes. It finishes with a nice bracing bitterness, which is impressive considering the high ABV. As it warms, the floral notes open up and become more prominent in both the nose and taste. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, crisp and clean, maybe just the slightest hints of stickiness, but again, this is pretty good for such a big beer. Overall, this is a fantastic beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/12.

I would put this about on par with Double Jack and Gemeni. It's maybe slightly beefier in terms of malts than Double Jack, but perhaps not quite as much as Gemeni. I don't know the hop schedule of this one, but I suspect there's some of that cascade/simcoe and centennial going on, wither perhaps a few others, which I believe puts it right in the same playing field. But I'll tell you one thing, Dreadnaught tastes a whole lot harder to get than those two. That being said, I may need to start trading with more Midwesterners, just to keep up a supply of Three Floyds stuff, which has been uniformly impressive.

Old Rasputin XIV

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I bought this beer a while ago, and then I saw on the interwebs that the next iteration (XV) was just released, so I figured it was finally time to raid the cellar and drink this sucker. I'm a big fan of the regular Old Rasputin, and that resilient video-game-boss-like historical figure is pretty interesting too, plus we all know my thoughts on barrel aging, so I was excited for this one (despite the rather high price tag):

North Coast Old Rasputin XIV

North Coast Old Rasputin XIV Anniversary - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head, great retention, tons of lacing. Smells of bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, and that citrus and pine hop character from the regular Old Rasputin... Taste features that rich bourbon and caramel flavor, some oak and vanilla, maybe a hint of that roasted malt character, and some light hop bitterness in the finish. Not like a Black IPA or anything, though this does retain a lot of hop flavor. The bitterness is appropriate for a big stout though. Mouthfeel starts rich and chewy, but it dries out a bit, finishing with seemingly less body. Sometimes I don't like that, but it works well here. Ample carbonation also helps cut the rich flavors while still allowing them to shine. Overall, a very good Bourbon Barrel aged stout, though I don't know that it really warrants the price tag. Still, if I ever run across a cheaper bottle of the stuff, I'll pick it up in a heartbeat. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/28/12.

This is a sneaky one. I thought it was a 22 oz bottle, and it certainly looks at least bomber sized, but it's only 500 ml (16.9 oz). You can get a 4 pack of BCBS for a couple bucks more (and if some BA nerds are to be believed, some places jack up the price of BA Rasputin to well above that, on the order of $26-$30 which is a little ridiculous), and that stuff will kick your arse. Not that this is bad, the A- is nothing to whine about and I'm glad I tried it, but still. North Coast has not endeared themselves to me with these prices (Old Stock Cellar Reserve is no slouch in that department either, though at least that bottle looks like 500 ml). I'm sure they're all broken up about it.

Three Floyds Broo Doo

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Let's talk label artwork for a minute here. Three Floyds obviously employs talented artists for their labels and branding, but on the other hand, what the hell? Their main logo has a skull with batwings attached, kinda like an Ed Hardy dudebro logo. Then there's the label for Broo Doo, their fresh hop harvest ale. It features what appears to be a troll doll in a sailor's outfit, but instead of the typically furry hair, we've got a sorta hop/hair hybrid thing going on. Now, this is a little odd, but kinda par for the course in terms of beer labels. However, in the background, there's also a unicorn attempting to perform a Lucio Fulci-esque eye gouging maneuver on what appears to be a Disney princess (update: it may be Princess Peach, but the jury is still out on that one). And behind that, there's a fairy tale castle on fire with a rainbow flying over it. None of which mentions the outer portion of the label, which is all pastels, neon swishes, and stars, like something out of My Little Pony. In a bit of self-awareness, they have at least emblazoned the sides of the labels with the slogan: "It's not Normal" Well, they got that right.

I can't decide if it's the worst or most awesomest label ever, but in any case, it's what's inside the bottle that counts, so let's get to it:

Three Floyds Broo Doo

Three Floyds Broo Doo Harvest Ale - Pours a clear golden (they say "apricot") color with a finger of white head. Nose is all citrus and piney, with some floral and grassy, herbal, almost spicy hop notes coming through too. The taste has a crystal malt sweetness that provides a nice platform for the various hop flavors, which tend more towards that grassy, herbal, almost spicy side than the nose, though the citrus and pine are still quite prevalent. It could just be my imagination, but it does feel like the age has subdued some of that hop character, making this more sweet than I'm guessing it is when fresh. No info on exactly what hop varieties are used, but I'm guessing Simcoe/Cascade, Centennial, and maybe some CTZ, but who knows? Mouthfeel is crisp, well carbonated, medium bodied. Not quite something I'd call quaffable, but it's still very easy to drink. Overall, another strong offering from FFF, I really like it, though I don't think there's much to differentiate it from the throngs of similar beers and it's far from the best harvest ale I've had (but then, there is the freshness factor). A tentative B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/23/12.

I've got a few more FFF beers left in the pipeline, but hoo, I'm going to want to get me some more of their stuff at some point. They are seriously pretty awesome at this whole beer thing.

¿Impending Descent?

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Tröegs Scratch series of beers is always interesting, but every once in a while, they hit on something great. This beer, brewed in honor of (or perhaps to spite) the (now lapsed) Mayan apocalypse, is a big imperial stout. Their description sez: "If your tongue doesn't disintegrate as a result of the birthday party cheesecake jellybean BOOM, it most certainly will wreak major havoc on your taste buds." I don't know what the "birthday party cheesecake jellybean BOOM" thing means at all, but I stumbled onto this beer on tap, and it melted my face. Makes me wish I made the trip out to Hershey to pick up some bottles. But who knows, maybe they'll make this an addition to their regular lineup, a la Flying Mouflan. A man can hope.

Troegs Impending Descent

Tröegs Scratch Beer 83 - 2012 (¿Impending Descent?) - Pours a deep black color with a finger of brown head. Smells lightly of chocolate and a little roast - not a strong aroma, but that's more the bar/glass than the beer (this has happened before at this place). Taste is full of rich malt sweetness, light caramel and plenty of chocolate with just a hint of roastiness peeking through and lingering into the aftertaste. Nice, well balanced bitterness in the finish. It's a great imperial stout flavor profile. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, gooey, and a little chewy. Lightly carbonated but enough to be appropriate for the style. It's a big, heavy beer, a sipping beer, but I really don't detect much booze at all either, which is impressive. Overall, fantastic, absolutely delicious beer. I want moar. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 12/23/12.

This could easily have made my top 40 for 2012, but I had lazily let the notes linger in Evernote instead of reviewing it. Perhaps I'll make an exception for next year. If I remember. I doubt there are any bottles of this hanging around, but if I see any, I'm going to snatch them up.

Holiday Beer Roundup

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Holiday beer season is my favorites, but I've been slacking a bit this year, so let's catch up with a few of these suckers that I had in the leadup to Christmas. It turns out that most of these beers were shelf turds (meaning, they've clearly been sitting on the shelf, unsold, for a while), but I'm a big tent kinda guy, so I liberated these beer from their boring shelfish lives and put them to work, fulfilling their intended purpose. Things are also looking pretty international here, but again - big tent. We're like that here at Kaedrin. Let's get this holiday party started:

Baladin Noel

Birrificio Le Baladin Noël Baladin 2010 - I keep hearing things about these fancy new Italian craft breweries, so I figured I'd give them a shot. Fancy bottle, hefty price tag that was fortunately marked down, how could I pass this up? Pours a dark amber, almost brown color with visible sediment and half a finger of bubbly head. Smells of dark fruits - raisins in particular, with some light spiciness and maybe a hint of darker malts. Taste is also quite fruity, again with the raisins, plus a very light spiciness. Mouthfeel is surprisingly well carbonated considering how little head I got out of it, but it's got a medium-ish body, thinner than I'd expect, with a relatively dry component. Overall, this is a solid Belgian style beer, but nothing to really write home about. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 12/22/12.

Hoppin' Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale - The only non-foreign beer in the post, I suppose I could make an insensitive crack about Ohio, but I'm not a jerk (remember, big tent guy here). Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown, with half a finger of bubbly head. Smells strongly of traditional mulling spices, ginger, cinnamon, clove, etc... Actually smells a lot like a snickerdoodle. Taste has a nice, sweet malt backbone to match that spicy flavor profile, leaning more on the cinnamon here than in the nose. Mouthfeel is quite nice actually, medium bodied, well carbonated, but with a hint of stickiness. No real booze in here, which is nice for a reasonably strong beer. Overall, it's a really solid winter warmer style beer, one of the better I've had this year. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip on 12/22/12.

Dieu du Ciel Solstice d hiver

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel! Solstice d'hiver - These wacky French Canadians threw me a wicked curveball the last time I tried them, an utterly fantastic take on a Scotch ale, so I made preparations to try more. This Winter Solstice beer pours a cloudy dark brown color with just a thin layer of quickly disappearing head on top. Smells of caramel malts and fruit, with some hops peeking through as well. Taste is sweet, filled with that rich caramel flavor with the fruits showing up in the middle and finish. Some hop presence as well, but nothing overboard like a lot of American barleywines. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and smooth, almost creamy. There's just enough carbonation to make it palatable, so it's smooth without being still, if you know what I mean. Overall, this is a very well crafted, balanced brew. Not as eye opening as with my previous Dieu Du Ciel experience, but a pleasant one nonetheless. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 12/23/12.

Emelisse Winterbier 2011 - I've heard good things about these brewers in the Netherlands and have had some pleasant experiences with their brews first hand, so let's try some more. Pours an amber brown color with minimal head. I inadvertently poured a big slug of yeast into mine glass, so this thing was cloudy as can be, with chunks o' yeast floating all around. Fortunately, that didn't adversely affect the beer, at least by my count. Nose is quite nice, fruity sweet with what could have been spice, but I couldn't quite place it. I may be imagining things. Taste follows the nose, nice sweetness with ripe fruits and a note of brown sugar, finishing with a balancing bitterness. Booziness is apparent, but not overpowering. Mouthfeel has a low carbonation, perhaps too low, bit it comes together well enough. Medium bodied, a little booze. Overall, a solid wintery ale, but I think I'd rather have had a fresh bottle. Still, these crafty Netherlanders intrigue me enough that I'll seek out more of their stuff... B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/26/12.

A thousand pardons for the lack of pictures on two of these. I'd fire up MS Paint, but I'm no artist (read: I'm too lazy at the moment). You'll just have to use your imagination. This, more or less, wraps up the holiday beers for this year, but don't you worry, I've got plenty of facemelting stouts and barleywines on the way, wintery to their core, and perhaps a few IPAs and sours as well, just to keep things interesting. Stay tuned.

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

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