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Heretic Evil Twin

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Another beer from a tiny West Coast brewery, courtesy of Jay from the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog. I found out after drinking it that the guy behind the brewery is Jamil Zainasheff. Not exactly a household name, but definitely a big figure in the dorky world of homebrewing. He's got some well respected books on the subject and co-hosts the Brew Strong podcast. When listening to people give advice on homebrewing, there's always a part of my mind that's wondering whether or not I can trust what I'm hearing. I mean, these guys clearly have a lot of knowledge and brew a lot, but it's not like I've ever tasted their beer. So it's heartening to see someone like Jamil open his own brewery and put his stuff out there for all to consume. Good on him, and if this beer is any indication, I think Heresy will become acceptable:

Heretic Evil Twin

Heretic Evil Twin - Pours a dark amber ruby color with a finger of light head. Amazing nose on this thing. Tons of juicy citrus, pineapple, grapefruit, pine, the works. Unfortunately, I think that aroma may be writing checks the taste can't cash. Taste starts of with some big, sweet caramel and amber malts, coupled with a little citrus and pine hop character in the middle, and some hop bitterness finishing it off. This is in no way bad - it's actually really, really good, but it's a little more muted than the nose was leading me to believe. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, but easy to put down. Overall, a really nice hoppy red ale, certainly something I'd go out of my way for again. On the upper end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/22/12. Label sez: Bottled 05.14.12 X33

A nice first impression, and fortunately, Jay sent along another Heretical beer that I'm quite... Worried about (heh). Seriously though, super excited to try that other Heretic beer. In other news, I'm officially caught up on reviews (unless, uh, you consider the beer I drank tonight, which you'll be hearing about next week). Score. Also, it's getting cooler out, so that means homebrewing activities will resume en-force. First up: an Abbey Dubbel. Look for a recap on Sunday. After that... I'm thinking this imperial red ale style could be interesting. I'll have to start thinking up a recipe...

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout

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North Carolina's Duck-Rabbit Brewery fancies themselves "Dark Beer Specialists", an interesting move in an industry that practically requires IPAs (they don't even do a Cascadian Dark Black IPA or whatever it's called). They're a small brewery with a horrible but somehow charming website and a growing distribution. My experience with them has been limited, but someone brought a couple of their staple brews to the last beer club. Their porter was, well, a porter. Well crafted, but not particularly my thing. We didn't get to the Milk Stout that night, but I managed to wrangle it on the way out, and it's been waiting patiently in my fridge ever since. So here goes nothin:

Duck Rabbit Milk Stout

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tight tan head. Actually smells pretty sweet, with a sorta chalky aroma I associate with milk stouts and it's a little light on the typical roasted malt character. Taste is again heavy on the sweetness, with the roast character emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish, which has a surprisingly dry bitterness that doesn't quite fully balance out the initial sweetness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated at the start, medium to full bodied, with a little sweet acidity. Overall, a solid entry in the style, but not something I'd go out of my way for... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 9/21.

While neither beer particularly wowed me, I also haven't really had any of their bigger beers that would have been more interesting anyway. I'd love to try their Baltic Porter, Wee Heavy, or Rabid Duck (imperial stout). Heck, even their Schwarzbier or Duck-Rabbator (doppelbock) sound like they could be fun. All of which is to say, you'll probably see some more from these folks here on the blog someday.

Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil

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I'm guessing that Hoppin' Frog's graphic artist was on vacation when they were bottling this stuff. Every single other label that Hoppin' Frog makes features that weirdly proportioned cartoon frog, so scrolling down their list of beers, this thing definitely stands out. Maybe that's the point. It certainly caught my eye in the store. I was a little wary of the odd description "Belgian-style Barley Wine-style Ale". I mean, huh? Maybe their copy writer was on vacation too. Reading the full description, it becomes a little more clear. This is a barleywine that's fermented with Belgian and English yeasts, then aged in whiskey barrels. Color me excited:

Hoppin Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil

Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil - Pours a bright, slightly hazy amber color with almost no head at all, just barely a little ring of light colored stuff around the edge of the glass. Smells strongly of fruity malts and booze, some caramel, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. Taste starts with rich caramel, those fruity malts, and tons of boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is beautiful, surprisingly well carbonated (perhaps that Belgian yeast asserting itself), but still rich and creamy. As it warms, that tight carbonation winds down a bit into more traditional barleywine territory. Indeed, the fruity flavors and depth call to mind a port wine kinda character. Overall, a fantastic take on the style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a snifter on 9/8/12. Batch 2 (black cap).

So at this point, I've had three beers from Hoppin' Frog, and they've all been pretty fantastic. B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher is a fantastic imperial stout, and some sort of IPA that I don't remember the name of (which was very good, though I wasn't really in a position to take notes or pay much attention - sue me). So I guess what I'm saying is, I need to try more stuff from these folks in Akron, Ohio. They might not have a great graphic artist team (though they're far from bad), but they seem to get the stuff inside the bottle right, which is the important part.

Ommegang Biere D'Hougoumont: A Screenplay

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1. INT. FRENCH BIVOUAC NEAR WATERLOO, DAY (CIRCA 1815)

EMPEROR NAPOLEON stands over a map of Waterloo, discussing strategy and tactics with three of his TRUSTED GENERALS. TRUSTED GENERAL 1 slices a block of cheese and sips wine.

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: This has gone on for far too long. We must surrender!

An embarrassed silence descends upon the tent, though the mood lightens when everyone realizes that TRUSTED GENERAL 1 will be chosen to lead the attack and thus almost surely die a horrifying death.

TRUSTED GENERAL 2 (rolling his eyes): We must take Château d'Hougoumont! It's... strategically important.

NAPOLEON: Non! We will use Hougoumont to draw Wellington's reserve to our left flank, then attack through the center right!

TRUSTED GENERAL 2: But sir, our troops need wine! We will surely find ample stores at the Hougoumont farmhouse. We must secure it immediately.

NAPOLEON: This is Belgium, you fool, that farmhouse makes beer, not wine!

TRUSTED GENERAL 3: That's good enough for me.

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: I concur. Once we have an ample supply of booze, we can surrender in style. I do not think any of you are considering the merits of a good, old fashioned surrender...

NAPOLEON: Non! Non! Non! Non! Who is the military genius here? Who amongst you has been summoned to the future for historical study, eh?!

TRUSTED GENERAL 2 (looking pained): Sir, with all due respect to Messieurs Bill and Ted, I do not think you can rely on your limited time with them. For all we know, you're famous for losing this battle!

NAPOLEON: Nonsense! I will take Waterloo and build an eighth wonder of the world based on my visions of the future, a water-park to inspire awe in all who witness its glory. Waterloo? Water park! This is no coincidence, it is fate!

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: You make a good point. I have been quite impressed by the visions you brought back from the future. I quite liked that... la glacé... what did you call it?

NAPOLEON: Ziggy Piggy.

TRUSTED GENERAL 1: Yes, magnifique! Let us make a Ziggy Piggy and surrender!

NAPOLEON: Non! Non! Non! We are not taking Hougoumont, and that is final. Beer is not worth taking.

2. INT. ENGLISH BIVOUAC NEAR WATERLOO, DAY (CIRCA 1815)

FIELD MARSHAL WELLINGTON stands over a map of Waterloo as a FIELD SCOUT returns from his mission.

SCOUT: Château d'Hougoumont is filled with beer. Apparently something called a Bière de Garde.

WELLINGTON (perking up): Beer? We must commit all our troops to taking Hougoumont! It is... strategically important.

3. EXT. BATTLE OF WATERLOO

The camera slowly PANS across the famous painting Battle of Waterloo by William Sadler.

Battle of Waterloo 1815 by William Sadler

KEN BURNS: And thus the fate of Battle of Waterloo was decided. By beer.

4. INT. COMPUTER DESK, EVENING

MARK: What? I'm pretty sure this is how it really happened. I realize this is too late for instruction, but if you read the above with horribly stereotyped French accents, it's much funnier.

HYPOTHETICAL READER: Isn't this supposed to be a beer blog?

MARK: Yeah, yeah, I'm getting to that. This is Ommegang's take on a Bière de Garde, brewed with a rather complex malt bill (apparently eight different varieties), French Ale Yeast, French Strisselspalt hops, and aged on a combo of oak and maple staves. As Ommegang specialty brews go, it's actually rather expensive, but I'm a sucker for these guys (who were my first real introduction to the world of good beer), so let's get this party started:

Ommegang Biere d Hougoumont

Ommegang Biere D'Hougoumont - Pours a slightly hazy, burnt orange color with a finger of loosely bubbled off-white head. Smells of sweet fruits, maybe a little caramel, and musty Belgian yeast, with perhaps a hint of something else (maybe that's the wood coming through). Taste starts off with some rich caramel, followed by some spicy mustiness from the yeast, finishing surprisingly sweet and fruity. Mouthfeel is on the higher end of medium bodied, very well carbonated, dry at the start by yielding to sweetness in the finish (an unusual but pleasant reversal of the norm, which starts sweet and finishes dry). While very sweet, it never gets sticky or cloying, perhaps because of the strong (but not at all overwhelming) carbonation. This beer drinks big, but it goes down easy too. Not quite a summer thirst quencher, but a very nice fall beer. Overall, straightforward but very well crafted and balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 9/7/12.

Ommegang claims that this "malty French-style Farmhouse Ale is brewed to be aged" and that makes a certain sort of sense to me (and I'm not alone). I only bought the one bottle, but I may get another of these to add to the growing list of beers I'd like to cellar for a few years. Or not. I've established that I'm a weak, weak man when it comes to buying (er, hoarding) beer, but I'm also pretty lazy, so we'll see what wins out.

Lost Weekend

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No, I didn't get blackout drunk this weekend, but I did lose a bunch of reviews due to a hardware failure on my host. All is well now, but I lost last Thursday's review, and any notes I took over the weekend. Also, some comments were lost, so sorry about that (for what it's worth, they were about the recent and awesome trend of non-sour beers aged in wine barrels and other fancy non-bourbon barrels).

But I've got a steel trap for a brain, so here are some thoughts on recent drinkery. I'll include ratings, but I'm sure the nerdiest among you will be wary of their reliability or something. I suppose there's something to such claims, but that's no fun and you should probably get over yourself, so here goes (in order of consumption):

  • Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale - Yeah, it's that season again. I know there are lots of folks that freakout about early availability of these brews, and in July, they might have a point, but it's mid-September at this point, so I think it's time to start easing into the seasonals. This is my favorite time of year, when it's socially acceptable to watch bad horror movies, mutilate pumpkins, and decorate your house with faux-corpses. Oh, and we start to get seasonal beers that are actually distinctive... like this beer. Unfortunately, I found it to be a lackluster example of the style. It's got the typical elements - pumpkin and assorted pumpkin pie spicing (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...) - but it came off flabby and limp. It's a relatively low-ABV beer, which I think lent to the more watery feeling (not that low-ABV automatically means bad or anything - there are beers that do that well). It's not the worst beer ever or anything and I'd totally favor this over any macro offerings, but I found it disappointing. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.84% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/12.)
  • Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps - Probably my favorite beer of the weekend, a Scotch Ale made by those wacky French Canadians at Dieu Du Ciel. I've previously enjoyed their pale ale, but this thing makes me want to stock up on everything of theirs I can find. It's a Spring seasonal and apparently not much makes its way down here, but I lucked into a bottle:

    Dieu Du Ciel Equinox Du Printemps

    Thick and chewy, with a burst of delicious fruity malts and rich, syrupy caramel. It's got a richness that I normally associate with barrel aged beers, though there's obviously no bourbon flavors or anything like that. Apparently this is made with Maple Syrup, which probably explains some things (maybe the syrup was oak aged?) A big, eye opening beer, but well balanced, complex flavors make it something to seek out, especially for malt lovers. Right up my alley, and a good way to follow up with that pumpkin beer. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (11.5 oz twist off) Drank out of a snifter on 9/14/12.)
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest - As near as I can tell, this is the best reviewed Oktoberfest beer on Beer Advocate (at least, of beers with more than 50 ratings), even beating out the Germans. It's not really my favorite style, but I always like to sample a few during the season, just to keep sharp. I actually really enjoyed this one. Not sure how close to authentic style it is, but whatever, it's really solid. Maybe a little sweeter than expected, but it's got that trademark toasty, nutty malt flavor, along with some atypical (to me, at least) caramel malts. It goes down quite smoothly, and I'd certainly put this towards the top of my rankings for the style (along with Live Oak and Ayinger). B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a big ass mug on 9/15/12.)
  • Boulevard Brewing The Sixth Glass - I found myself relatively unimpressed with my previous exposure to Boulevard's celebrated Smokestack series, a double IPA that just wasn't doing it for me. Fortunately this one, a Belgian-style quadrupel, fared better. Perhaps not a top tier example of the style, but it's a respectable and welcome redemption for Boulevard. Lots of Belgian yeast, musty and spicy, along with some fruity malt character. Perhaps a little too much sweetness, leading to a slight stickiness that's not really characteristic of the best of the style. Still, this was a really nice beer, a fitting nightcap to a late Saturday night. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 9/15/12.)
  • Emelisse Barley Wine Ale - Bonus review! I had actually written up and published a full blown post for this one, and it was witty and brilliant stuff, but it got lost in the ether. Fortunately, my tasting notes were still available, so you get more detail here: Pours a deep, cloudy amber brown color with minimal head. Smells of ripe fruit, caramel, and maybe some booze. Taste is filled with rich, fruity malts, caramel flavors, a little booze, a hint of bitterness in the finish. Full bodied, rich mouthfeel, minimal carbonation, very smooth, a little boozy warming going on, some slickness in the finish before it dries out. Overall, this is a very well crafted, if pretty straightforward English barleywine. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 9/1/12.)
So there you have it. A solid weekend, and I'm excited to enter Halloween season. I've got a couple unusual pumpkin ales coming up, as well as an accidentally aged Autumn Maple that's just calling my name. Harvest beers are starting to show up too, though I get the impression that West Coasters benefit from such practices moreso than we do, though I'm sure I'll get my hands on some local harvest stuff from Victory and the like. Stay tuned...

Stone Saison du BUFF

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Back in 2003, the beer brewing trio of Sam Caligone (of Dogfish Head fame), Bill Covaleski (of Victory Brewing fame) and Greg Koch (of Stone Brewing fame), got together and formed some crazy organization called BUFF, which stands for Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor. It sounded like PR fluff, and naturally, nearly no one showed up to their press release. So Brewdog these guys are not, but that's part of their charm! Back in 2010, they finally realized that they could garner some attention for BUFF by brewing a collaboration beer. So they developed a saison recipe that was spiced with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I see what they did there), each went back to their respective breweries, and made up a batch.

During that initial release, I managed to get my hands on Victory and Dogfish Head versions of the beer, but I missed out on the Stone version. Such is the way of collaboration beers, and I thought this would have been lost to the annals of time, but lo and behold, Victory, Stone, and Dogfish Head rebrewed the same beer this year. Score. I've had a couple of the Victory brewed batch (in non-notes-taking social mode, sorry!) this year, but I also managed to find the Stone version to complete the trifecta. Kinda. I mean, I'm trying them over two years, so I'm sure some nerds think that doesn't count, but who can ever satisfy those people? They all tasted pretty comparable to me.

On the other hand, despite the fact that they're ostensibly using the same recipes, the Stone version clocks in at 7.7% ABV, while both the Victory and Dogfish Head beers are a mere 6.8%. As such, I'd expect this to be significantly dryer than than the other versions, but it still felt comparable. In short, they're all good, and despite the suspicious difference here, this one is no exception:

Stone Saison du Buff

Stone Saison du Buff - Pours a light golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells strongly of aromatic herbs and spices, partly from the actual spicing, but also from the yeast. The taste starts sweet, with those herbs and spices coming into play again, drying out a bit in the finish, which also has a slight bitter note. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a little spicy bite. Overall, a solid, interesting take on the saison. It's distinct from the other varieties I've had, but just as good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 9/1/12.

I think this may be the first time I've ever seen a craft beer collaboration beer brewed again (unless you count Mikkeller, but I don't think that counts due to his Gypsy ways), so perhaps they'll do it again, and I can save up three bottles and try them next to one another and see the differences close up. Could be interesting...

In other news, my server has apparently been acting up lately, so things have been a little futzy of late. All is well right now, but apparently my hosting service is replacing hardware and whatnot, so there may be some more downtime later this week. I actually wrote this entry last night, but couldn't publish until now. I'm actually doing pretty well with the backlog of reviews at this point - I only drank this, like, a week and a half ago. Score.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales Seizoen Bretta

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Not content with being the least coherent style in the history of beer, it appears that there are also multiple ways to spell "saison". This is unsurprising though, owing to the fact that "saison" is just French for "season". Now, why Logsdon went with the Dutch spelling is a bit of a mystery, but who cares? This is an awesome beer - the biggest surprise of the year so far. Not that I was expecting it to be "bad" or anything. This was yet another in the cross-country trade with Jay, and he gave this thing a stellar writeup on his blog, so I had high hopes... but as saisons go, this is one of the funky variety, dosed with Brettanomyces. I haven't had a ton of this particular sub-style of saison, but I've had some supposed world-beaters like Saison Rue, and while I've enjoyed them, I've never been really been blown away by one. Until now:

Logsdon Seizoen Bretta

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales Seizoen Bretta - Pours a cloudy orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells wonderful, lots of light fruity aromas along with some spiciness (both presumably due to some sort of Belgian yeast) and a well balanced, earthy Brett funk. Tastes amazing too! Starts off sweet and spicy, a little juicy fruitiness in the middle (maybe a hint of wild yeast twang there), and earthy Brett funk in the dry finish. Definitely not sour, but maybe a really light tartness (which I may be attributing more to fruitiness than tartness, but whatever). Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but not harsh or overpoweringly so (the way a lot of yeasty Belgian style brews can be). Medium bodied with a beautiful, dry finish. Overall, utterly fantastic saison, probably my favorite "funky" saison ever. Superb. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and beeswax dipped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/24/12. Bottle No. SB 12517. Best by: 05/2017. Bottle sez: Certified Organic.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales is apparently the brainchild of David Logsdon, who made his way into the craft beer world by founding Full Sail Brewing way back when, but if this new brewery is any indication, I can't wait to see what they do. Heck, this single beer is pretty darn spectacular, I'd be happy if they just started distributing out East! In the meantime, I'll just have to see if I can get my hands on another of these things. I think there's a pretty good chance this thing could garner the vaunted Kaedrin A+ rating, but I don't hand them out lightly, and usually force myself to have at least a few separate tastings before giving them out.

Almanac Winter Wit

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Meet Almanac Beer Company, a tiny Northern California brewery specializing in seasonal ales brewed with local ingredients. Up until recently1, this meant the brewery produced only one-off beers, one per season. In a world where it seems most breweries boast a portfolio of 50+ beers, it's kinda refreshing to see a brewery that makes one beer per season, period. They're apparently contract brewers, but their reputation seems more like that of a gypsy brewer. In other words, they have a pretty darn good reputation.

Of course, being a local-obsessed brewery has its drawbacks, namely that it's only really available locally... but thanks to the magic of beer trades, I got my greedy little hands on their 2012 offerings. So a tip of the hat to Jay from Beer Samizdat, who I must admit, is the one who got me interested in this brewery and their awesome, classy labels long before the trade ever came up. This particular beer is their Winter offering, a Belgian style Wit brewed with three varieties of early-season oranges and a helping of ginger root. Now, one doesn't typically think of this style when talking about Winter beers, but on the other hand, at 7% ABV, it's certainly heftier than most examples of the style (without going overboard).

Also, what the hell, it was August when I ended up drinking it, so it fit in quite nicely as I fired up the home theater system for some action packed adventure in the form of The Raid. I should mention that I'm almost always watching a movie whilst drinking2, but the pairings don't always strike me enough that I want to post about it. In this case, the light, refreshing Wit contrasted rather sharply with the bombastic action, making it a memorable combo. So let's get to it, shall we?

Almanac 2012 Winter Wit

Almanac 2012 Winter Wit - Pours a cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of bubbly head. Nose is filled with wheat and spice, some orange peel or other citrus character. Taste has a moderated sweetness along with all of those spices from the nose (apparently ginger, but I also get the typical Wit notes of coriander and clove) and a well integrated citrus component. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, just a hint of spicy bite, and a relatively light body. This thing doesn't drink like a 7% ABV beer, it reads much lighter to me. This is a good thing, as the other "big" wheat beers I've had get to be overbearing - completely overwhelming the delicate wheat flavors. Overall, this is a well crafted, tasty take on a style that often feels muted. Right up there with my favorite Wit beers...B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of tulip glass on 8/18/12. Label sez: 5973 (presumably bottle number), 12.29.2011.

I've also got a bottle of Almanac's Spring 2012 Bière de Mars, which I'll probably be cracking open sometime in September, as the weather starts to chill up a bit.


1 - They've just released their year-round California Table Beers (a saison and pale ale), but I think the focus continues to be on their limited seasonal wonders...

2 - I used to talk about this more often than I do now, with the notable exception of Double Feature posts... which, come to think of it, have been pretty sparse of late. I shall have to rectify that, but at the same time, this is a beer blog, not a movie blog, so I expect that side of things to continue to fall by the wayside, with occasional mentions like the one in this post.

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

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