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Victory Donnybrook Stout

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Another day, another Victory. This low gravity Dry Irish Stout is only really available on tap (and I'm pretty sure it's only locally available too), so it's not one that I've had often, but it's a solid beer (and though I didn't drink this on St. Patrick's Day, it makes a nice local alternative to the ever present Guinness, especially when it's on nitro tap).

In other news, I'm pretty sure this is the lowest alcohol beer I've ever reviewed (unless you count that non-alcoholic swill we had that one time at Beer Club). Let's do this:

Victory Donnybrook Stout

Victory Donnybrook Stout - Pours a very dark brown with a tiny amount of highlights and a finger of thick, light brown head. Smells strongly of roasted malts and a little coffee... Taste features that same roast and coffee character. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, very lightly carbonated with a nice light body. Almost quaffable. I'm pretty sure this one was on regular tap, but when it's on nitro, it's much smoother, though still light bodied. Overall, it's a nice stout that's as good as any I've had in the style and as previously mentioned, it makes a nice local alternative to the ever-present Guinness. B

Beer Nerd Details: 3.7% ABV on tap. Drank out of Victory's 0.3L glass on 3/24/12.

I'd like to say that this will probably be my last Victory review for a while, but I think we all know that's not going to happen.

Update: Nope, this is only the second lowest ABV beer I've reviewed. The lowest was Tetley's English Ale, clocking in at 3.6% ABV. However, this beer was a heck of a lot better, so foo on you.

Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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Alright, let me just check out Voodoo Brewing's homepage first and... holy shit, what the hell? Did I accidentally time travel back to the early 1990s? Even by those standards, this isn't a website that really gets the job done. But then, right there on the main page, it says "By the way I brew beer not websites, nor can I spell or type, so be critical of the beer not the website." Well, at least they know what they're doing. And they're right, it's the beer that counts, so let's get us some oak aged imperial stout:

Voodoo Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a thick, very dark brown color with almost no head (though what's there is brownish). Smell is filled with rich aromas of caramel, vanilla, and oak with just a little in the way of roastiness. The taste is along similar lines, but with the roastiness taking on a much more prominent position. Chocolate makes an appearance too. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy with minimal carbonation, though it's strangely not the heaviest thing I've drank lately. For a beer this big, the alcohol is hidden pretty darn well. Overall, it's a very good stout. It's not the best thing I've ever had or anything, but it's my kinda stout. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 3/17/12.

Now apparently the Voodoo folks make a bourbon barrel aged stout that clocks in at 15% ABV and is only available in limited quantities (apparently there will be some small release party in Philly this summer, though details have not been announced). I'd love to try it though. This Voodoo Daddy beer took on some nice oak flavors without the bourbon character, but I'd like to try the bourbon barrel aged one too!

Peeper Ale

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It seems that everywhere I turn, people I respect are drinking and writing about these crazy hippies from Maine. This is odd, given that Maine Beer Company is tiny - a "nano-brewery", which is, like, a few orders of magnitude smaller than a "micro" brewery. So when I hear that this hit Jay's radar and piqued his beer dork instincts enough to orchestrate a trade with some east-coast folks to get his hands on some of their beer, well, it made me want to get some of this stuff too. On a recent trip to the bottle shop, I noticed two varieties of Maine's beer, which I greedily snapped up.

Now, I'm not normally a fan of hippies, but this is my kind of activism. Make a delicious product, sell it to me based on that, then donate a small but fun portion of the proceeds to various charities. Good on these Maine folks. I'm glad I bought a few bottles of this stuff because it's damn good and as an added bonus, it goes towards a good cause.

Anyways, first up is Peeper Ale, an American pale ale whose name offers unlimited opportunities for double entendres that I will refrain from, because I have dignity. Or something like that. Anyway, let's take a voyeuristic look at this stuff:

Maine Peeper Ale

Main Beer Co. Peeper Ale - Pours a straw yellow goldish color with a finger of bright white head. It's a nice enough appearance, but not something that's gorgeous to peep at, if you know what I mean. Smells of citrusy, grassy, floral hops along with a little sugary sweet character too. The taste starts sweet, but then you get that floral and grassy character from the hops in the middle (maybe, MAYBE, a little lemony zest here, though it's not at all tart) and a surprisingly strong, but still pleasant hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated but light to medium bodied. As it warms, the carbonation tones down a bit, making the beer a little more quaffable, but it's still got a bite to it. Overall, a very nice pale ale that focuses on grassy, floral hops. A nice change of pace and a very well crafted beer. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/23/12. Bottle sez 120611 (presumably bottling date) and 25 (batch number?)

I've already had me some Zoe (a hoppy red ale) as well, which I do think is the superior beer, but which will have to wait for next week. But even with this Peeper stuff, which didn't really connect wholly with my palate, it's apparent that these Maine Beer Company folks know exactly what their doing. It's an expertly crafted beer, and judging from the ratings on BA and RB, it hits other folks square in the face. I'm glad I got my hands on some and will be looking out for other varieties as well.

Founders Porter

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Just who is that lovely lady on the label of this beer? Looks like a Victorian era painting... According to Founders, she's Dark, Rich, and Sexy. Or maybe that's the beer they're talking about...

Founders Porter

Founders Porter - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells strongly of roasted malts, with some coffee and maybe even chocolate thrown in for good measure. Really nice nose. Taste starts sweet, maybe with some of that chocolate, but it gets drowned out by a heaping helping of roasted malts and coffee flavors starting in the middle and intensifying through the finish. A bitterness (which seems to come from more than hops, perhaps from those dark malts, with all their coffee and dark chocolate character) emerges in the finish as well. This ain't an imperial stout or anything, but it packs a ton of flavor in a relatively small package. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and reasonably full, and it finishes dry. Overall, while porter is not one of my favorite styles, this is exceptionally well executed and one of my favorite examples of the style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 3/24/12.

Several months ago, I had bought a Founders variety pack, so I had a few of these floating around. At first, I didn't care for it, but it quickly grew on me, and now I feel like it could be a go-to beer in some instances. Another thing I've found is that this beer goes really well with a good cigar. I'm no cigar expert and don't smoke them very often, but those roasted malt flavors match quite nicely with, uh, smokey flavors from the cigar.

Anyways, I'm thinking that Founders is one of the all-around best breweries in the country, and while I've had my fair share of their standard beers, I should really seek out some of the more obscure stuff and seasonal releases.

Victory Uncle Teddy's Bitter

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One of the things I love about Victory Brewing Company is that they do everything. Huge Belgian style specialties, hop bombs, imperial stouts, bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts, wild ales, and all the other trendy stuff are well represented in their portfolio, but the thing that really sets them apart is that they embrace things that aren't that trendy. Smoked beers (there seems to always be one of these available in the brewpub, even if bottled distribution is rare), pilseners, heck, lagers in general. Do I love every one of these beers? Well, no, Victory has earned their fair share of B- ratings here, but I do really appreciate the depth and breadth of their lineup (and it's worth noting that I can't think of a beer they make that I hate).

Another thing I've been appreciating lately is that Victory also makes some low gravity beers, like this English style Bitter that's only available on cask (and probably only locally, sorry west coasters!) I've had a few of these recently and finally remembered to take some notes whilst drinking. Apparently Uncle Teddy was not a bitter man at all, but he was Victory co-founder Ron Barchet's Godfather and he passed on when Ron was in the UK, so he brewed this beer in memory of his uncle...

Victory Uncle Teddy Bitter

Victory Uncle Teddy's Bitter - Pours a deep golden color with a couple fingers of white head and tons of lacing. Smells of earthy, floral, spicy hops. Taste is soft malts and that light, earthy hop character. Mouthfeel is smooth & creamy, minimum carbonation, very light bodied, all as you'd expect from a cask ale. Highly quaffable stuff. Overall, very nice, soft but flavorful... a fitting tribute. B

Beer Nerd Details: 3.9% ABV on cask. Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 3/24/12. Hops: Styrian and Kent Golding.

I enjoy this beer, but I think it would be interesting to contrast it with my homebrewed bitter, which will have additional citrus notes from the Earl Grey tea and orange peel (and possibly my use of US Fuggle bittering hops). Anyways, look for another review of a low-gravity Victory beer soon...

Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

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Great moments in trademark history: When Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing realized they both had a beer in their lineups called "Salvation" they considered several options. They could have pursued lawsuits, but that's boring and costly. They could have taken their dispute to Thunderdome, but they couldn't book the venue in time (also: it's a fictional venue). Instead, they simply decided to blend the two beers together, neatly defusing the crisis. Apparently over a drunken night at Russian River's brewpub (well, probably not, but I like to think of my brewing heroes as being constantly drunk), they mixed together the two beers in varying degrees and figured out the right proportions, eventually scaling the process up to commercial levels and releasing the result as "Collaboration Not Litigation Ale". It's pretty much the poster child of craft brewer solidarity and it's one of the reasons beer nerds love this whole craft beer thing (though there are obviously some folks who just don't get it...)

I've seen bottles of this around in rare instances, but never pulled the trigger. After my Pliny the Younger adventure on Sunday, I noticed this was also available and thus made the best of the situation:

Avery and Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation

Russian River and Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale - Pours deep brown color with a little amber peeking through and a solid finger of light tan head... Tons of lacing, industrial strength stuff, you could barely see through the glass even after I was finished. Smell is very spicy and peppery with a little bready Beligian character too. Taste is also quite spicy, with a nice sweet flavor, perhaps dark candi, and a little fruit. Mouthfeel very smooth, lightly carbonated, but still enough to cut through the malt and alcohol... As it warms, the texture becomes almost creamy... Overall, quite good and I'm really glad I got to try one of these! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.72% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 3/18/12.

Russian River's Salvation has actually been on my to-drink list for a while, I just haven't gone out and gotten a bottle. For that matter, I've not had Avery's Salvation either. I think it'd actually be very interesting to try one of each, then the collaboration, just to see how the flavors have blended. Avery is certainly a brewery I haven't had a ton of exposure to, but I've had almost uniformly good experiences with them (and Russian River too)...

Beer Club: The End is Beer

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. We had a good turnout this month, with quite a few interesting beers to try. As usual, we hit up a local BYOB, this time a Thai place. Good times were had by all.

Beer Club March 2012
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so the below probably isn't completely representative of reality. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Elysian NIBIRU Yerba Mate Tripel - I arrived a bit late to the gathering, so I didn't get to have a lot of this, but it was a nice Tripel style beer with a twist. Apparently part of a twelve beer series celebrating the Mayan apocalypse of 2012... (also the source of the "End is Beer" pun). I wouldn't call it a top tier beer, but it was nice. B
  • Lakefront New Grist Sorghum Beer - Wow, is this a light colored beer. Incredibly light beer in every way. Not bad, per say, but there's not a ton of flavor here either. It reminded me a lot of a less tasty but better balanced Coors Light, if that makes any sense (which it probably doesn't). Certainly not a great beer, but it has it's place. C+
  • Tröegs Nugget Nectar - I've actually reviewed this before, but I've revisited it a couple times since then and I have to admit that it gets better every time I try it. Nice hoppy citrus and pine resin character, with some earthy/herbal notes as well. An excellent beer, I'd upgrade this to a B+, maybe even higher (this was generally considered the best beer of the night by beer club homies)
  • My Homebrewed Simcoe IPA - Seemed to go over very well with the beer club folks, even the people who don't normally love IPAs. Not to toot my own horn, but this did turn out really well. Tons of citrus and a little pine from the hops in both the nose and taste. The bitterness is well matched and pleasant. Really solid beer. B+
  • Atwater Dirty Blonde Ale - A very nice, sessionable wheat ale that sorta suffered from being tasted after a few stronger, fuller flavored brews. A very nice beer, to be sure, but it was hard to really pronounce it a great beer compared to other beers in the tasting. B-
  • Stillwater Of Love & Regret - Another of my contributions to the night, I bought this last week without realizing that I'd actually had it before, so I figured I'd share the wealth. The bottle did sorta explode when I popped the cap, instantly foaming over. Luckily, we did not lose much of it, and the beer still tasted wonderful. It's got a saison style feel to it, but a little fruitiness and lots of spice too. Very nice beer and one of my favorites of the night, though some others didn't care as much for this one... B+
  • Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale - This Irish Red Ale seems to share something with the typical English Pale Ale style, though this time around, there's enough flavor around to make it feel balanced and actually decent. I enjoyed this beer, despite not being very blown away by it. B-
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale - A very nice IPA style beer, though BA lists it as an American Pale Wheat Ale. Not sure what that means, but it turns out that it's a lot like a regular old (well, a very good, actually) IPA. Lots of American Hop Character, quite nice. I'd like to try it again sometime... B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another beer I've had before and enjoyed. Reminds me very much of Lancaster's Milk Stout - very roasty, some coffee flavors, and overall a decent roasty stout. Solid, but not one of my favorites. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Cocoa Mole - A most unusual beer. I get lots of caramel malt and chocolate out of this, but the chipotle spice is what really gives this beer an extra kick. It was pretty good in the context of beer club, though I'm not sure I'd love to drink an entire bottle of the stuff. B
  • AleSmith Old Numbskull - My other contribution for the night, this was the biggest beer of the night, and boy does it have an intense aroma/flavor profile. Lots of caramel and citrusy, resinous hops. Really nice and I liked it a lot, but I was glad to have shared it with a bunch of other folks. Overall, might be the second best beer of the night behind the Nugget Nectar. B+
A great time was had by all, so it was another successful beer club, and as always, I'm already looking forward to next month!

Stone Old Guardian 2010

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I didn't realize this, but apparently Stone tweaks the recipe for their barleywine every year. This partly explains why I was so surprised by this beer. The difference between American and English barleywines tends to come down to hops. American varieties have a ton of them (and we tend to favor the high alpha-acid, citrusy, piney varieties), whilst the English go for a more rounded approach. Knowing what I know of Stone, I would expect this thing to be bursting with hops... what I got was unexpected, but not unpleasantly so.

The first thing worth noting is that this bottle is apparently from early 2010 (I only bought it recently, so I'm not that patient) and so I assume those hops would have mellowed out a bit since it was fresh. The second thing to note is that apparently in 2010 and 2011, Stone went in a more English direction with this beer. According to their blog, there were two big recipe changes in 2010. First, they began using a new crystal malt that was derived from English Maris Otter malts. This change would retain the caramel flavors of other crystal malts, but apparently also contributes a distinct nutty character. Second, rather than using huge US hops for dry hopping, they went with East Kent Golding hops. A smooth, pleasant English aroma hop that has a slight citrus and big floral component (it's apparently the go-to English hop, and it's used extensively in Belgian beers too). Stone also contends that it smells like unicorn tears, but that stuff is rarer than Pliny the Younger, so I haven't had a chance to compare yet*. Now, it's still Stone, so there's 90 IBUs, which is still higher than most English barleywines, but I have to say that I still found this to be more on the English side of things:

Stone Old Guardian 2010

Stone Old Guardian Barleywine 2010 - Pours a deep amberish brown color with a finger of quickly disappearing, light colored head. Intense smells of caramel with some floral hops, fruitiness and lots of booze. Taste starts sweet, with just a bit of that caramel and fruit character emerging in the middle, only to be snuffed out by a heaping helping of booze and balancing hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth, well carbonated, and a little sticky. Not quite full bodied, but let's say, high-medium bodied. Overall, a solid, if a bit simplistic, barleywine. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 3/10/12. Bottle sez: "Limited Early 2010 Release". 90 IBUs.

On thing I've just realized is that most of the barleywines I've had have been barrel aged in some way, which perhaps explains why I felt this one was a little simplistic (also why I didn't call it full bodied). I'm kinda curious to try out some of the newer varieties, which have apparently veered back to American hops like Chinook, Calypso and Cascade (so tons of citrus, pine, and resin, as opposed to the floral, unicorn tears of East Kent Hops). And it should go without saying, there are barrel aged versions of this brew that I'd love to get my hands on... As craft brewers go, Stone is so ubiquitous that it's (ironically) easy to forget about them, but I'm always happy to try another of their brews.

* I've recently made the acquaintance of a mythical/endangered species poacher, so I may be able to pick up a growler of unicorn tears next week. Fingers crossed!

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

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