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Double Feature: Wrong Turn Wheat

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So the Wrong Turn movies kinda suck. They're like a second-rate The Hills Have Eyes, which is, in itself, a third rate imitation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Oh, and the second movie? It stars Henry Rollins. Somehow, all of this is ok.

Beerwise, things were a little better. I picked up both of Victory's wheat beer offerings. Thematically, wheat beers don't really match with bad horror, but being able to say "Wrong Turn Wheat" was good enough for me.

Victory Sunrise Weiss

Victory Sunrise Weissbier - Pours a cloudy golden color with lots of white head. Nose is typical hefeweizen banana and clove. Taste is also quite straightforward, but well crafted. Light bodied, crisp and refreshing. I have to admit, I was expecting a bit more out of this. A solid example of the style, but not a front-runner. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 6/24/11.

Victory Whirlwind Wit

Victory Whirlwind Wit - Pours a cloudy yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell is full of light spices and wheat. Taste is also quite spicy, anchored by a strong wheat flavor. Again, light bodied, crisp and refreshing. This one's more complex and interesting than the Sunrise, and it's tastier too! Ultimately not a face-melter, but very well balanced and one of my favorites in the style. It hits the spot on a hot day, or, as now, after a long day at work. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.0% bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 6/24/11.

I tend to like German-style wheat beers more than Belgian-style varieties, but of these two Victory varieties, I have to go with the Belgian Wit.

G'Knight Gordon

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According to Oskar Blues website, Gordon Knight was a "Colorado craft beer pioneer and Vietnam vet who died fighting a 2002 wild fire outside of our Lyons hometown." By all accounts, this guy was a saint, and Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis felt honored to know the man, so he brewed a beer in Gordon's name to honor his memory. It was called, simply enough, "Gordon" (read more details about the man and the beer)

Enter Gordon Biersch, a chain of brewpubs that had their own thoughts on honoring Mr. Knight's memory: The sent Oskar Blues a cease and desist order! This was probably the correct thing to do from a legal standpoint - trademark holders must defend their trademark or else they might lose it - but I'll be damned if it isn't the dumbest PR move they could have possibly made. Of course no one knows what went on behind closed doors (neither Oskar Blues or Gordon Biersch have said anything beyond the obvious), but it sure seems like there could have been a better way to handle this sort of thing. It's one thing when two brewers have conflicting interests (though even then, better brewers seem to be able to work things out well enough), but in the case of a beer dedicated to all-American hero Gordon Knight, it just seems silly.

Fortunately, the creative folks at Oskar Blues came up with a clever solution: their new name for the brew is G'Knight. I hate to admit it, but it's almost an improvement. This was all happening at the beginning of the year, and lucky me, I had picked up a couple 4 packs of the beer that still had the Gordon branding:

Oskar Blues Gordon

Oskar Blues Gordon - Interestingly, the can calls this an "Imperial Red" ale, while Beer Advocate calls it a Double IPA. After tasting it, I have to say that it certainly feels a lot like something from the IPA family, but then again, I don't know much about Reds... Well, whatever the classification, onto the beer itself: Pours a dark amber color with a couple fingers of head that leave lacing as I drink. Smells strongly of citrus and pine, very sweet. There could be what beer nerds call "resin" in the aroma as well. It's a really nice aroma. Taste is very sweet as well, with a well matched bitterness in the finish. It's a very smooth drink. Well carbonated, but as it says on the can, it's "sticky". Not sure if that's the alcohol or residual sugars (or both), but it actually makes for quite an interesting beer. Overall, this might actually be my favorite Oskar Blues beer yet... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/19/11. 60 IBUs.

Oskar Blues continues to impress. I've only had a few of their beers, but they're all excellent examples of whatever style they're tackling. Next up, the monster stout, Ten Fidy (I've already had a few of these, and they're great). Actually, I forgot until now, but I've mentioned both Gordon and Ten Fidy before in a Beer Club post. In any case, here's to Gordon Knight. I wish every beer had a story as noble as his... (hat tip to the Aleheads for the whole legal history background)

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp

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Before tonight, I have a vague inkling of what Sierra Nevada Beer Camp was - a sorta Willy Wonka-esque contest with the prize being a tour of their brewery, along with a chance to brew your own beer (collaborating with the other winners and the Sierra Nevada staff). Apparently you win by entering a creative video explaining why Sierra Nevada should pick you to attend - so I would never win! And until now, I was pretty sure I'd never actually get to taste any of these beers either, but imagine my luck: on the same night I got my hands on Pliny the Elder, I spied several Beer Camp beers on tap. Most excellent:

Sierra Nevada Exportation

Sierra Nevada ExPortation - So Beer Camp #25 was a Baltic Porter style beer brewed in honor of Philly Beer week by some Philly beer geeks who won a spot a Beer Camp. It was called Philadelphia ExPorter. Now I'm not sure what genius (not being sarcastic here, whoever had this idea is genius) is responsible, but someone had a brilliant idea: Hey, let's take this Baltic Porter over to Russian River and have them age it in some Pinot Noir barrels. Fuck. Yes. It pours a nice opaque black color with a finger of tan head. The smell is outright twangy. The funk almost, but not quite, overwhelms the typical roasty aromas. In other words, it's fantastic. The taste has a similar profile: funky sourness almost, but not quite, overwhelming roasty Porter flavors. Relatively full bodied, but a smooth and easy to drink mouthfeel. The thing that's most amazing here is that, well, I'm not a huge fan of porters, nor have I truly acquired a taste for sour beers. And yet, this beer is almost perfect for me. It's like the two styles cancel out the things I don't like, and amplify the things I do. Amazing. And keep in mind that I had just drank a glass of Pliny the Elder, so the bar was set pretty high here. The only bad thing about this beer is that I will most likely never get the chance to drink it again (unless I head back over to that bar in the next couple days - certainly a possibility). A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on tap. Drank out of a pint glass on 6/23/11.


Sierra Nevada Hop Smack

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp #48: Hop Smack - This one has a less clear provenance. It's not even listed on the Beer Camp site, nor does it appear on Beer Advocate. I did find the RateBeer page, but it only has one review! Basically, it's one of them American Black Ales (or whatever the hell you call them)... actually, it said it was a Double American Black Ale. My experience with the style is limited, but since ExPortation was so awesome, and since I was unlikely to ever even see this again, I gave it a shot. It pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of head. Smells surprisingly hoppy - almost no roastiness getting through to the nose. The taste is almost wholly like a DIPA. Sweet, hoppy, and bitter. At first, no roastiness at all was apparent - if you blindfolded me and made me taste, I probably would not have guessed that it was an American black ale. As it warmed up and I got to the bottom of the glass, I got the faintest hint of roastiness out of the beer, but it wasn't much. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible beer or anything, it just doesn't seem like a particularly good take on the style. That, or my palate was obliterated by the likes of Pliny and ExPortation (both very strongly flavored beers). I'll give it a B-, as I was disappointed, but I suppose others might find more to like.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass on 6/23/11.

There was another Beer Camp beer on tap, but it seemed like a plain old Pale Ale. Don't get me wrong, I would have tried it, but after having a DIPA, a strong sour beer, and a Double ABA, I think that would have paled in comparison (pun intended!)

Russian River Pliny the Elder

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Oh, this bar looks pretty coo... holy shit, Pliny the Elder, gimme, gimme, gimme!*

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Pliny the Elder - Named after the famed "Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer", Pliny the Elder was one of the folks responsible for initially classifying and documenting hops. The beer itself is somewhat legendary. It's been at or near the top of Beer Advocate's Top 100 Beers on Planet Earth list for a while now (last year it was at #1, right now it's at #3). It's also somewhat rare, which may be part of why it's always ranked so high - a hard to find beer always tastes better once you find it! I've been keeping my eye out for some for a while now, and have had a couple of near misses before this, so when I actually got myself a glass tonight, I was quite pleased.

Pours a dark golden orange color, mostly clear, with a finger of perfect white head. Aroma is extremely hoppy and quite complex. Full of citrus and some pine, with a nice boozy, malty sweetness in the nose. I could hardly wait for the head to subside, so my first sip got some of that double IPA feel, but with a creamy head texture - a very good first impression. The taste starts off nice and sweet, with some citrus and pine, then you get hit with a wave of bitterness that intensifies as you approach the finish. Sometimes I feel like a lot of DIPAs overcompensate with massive amounts of malt, actually leading to less bitterness (despite the higher amount of hops/IBUs,etc...), but not Pliny. This isn't to say that it's overwhelmingly bitter or anything - it's actually just perfectly balanced. Every component sings. Mouthfeel is also extremely smooth (I'd say "velvety" if I knew what velvet tasted like) and it goes down incredibly easy. I could drink these all night, which usually isn't the case for beers this big.

I really suck at picking favorites and whatnot, so while I don't really know if this beer deserves the title of "The Best Beer on Planet Earth", it certainly deserves to be in that top 100 list and, more importantly, it wasn't a letdown. All too often, I've tried a beer from the BA top 100 and wondered what all the fuss was about. Of course, this may have lowered my expectations somewhat for this beer, but I was still hoping for a lot. In any case, I can see why everyone loves this beer. If you ever get a chance, and if you like IPAs, you must try one. It's a delicious and complex beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a, what would you call that, a goblet?

Now, of course, my focus shifts to finding me some of Pliny the Elder's rarer sibling, Pliny the Younger. I expect that to be a much more difficult task - apparently only a handful of kegs make their way to the East Coast every year. I'm not complaining - most areas are not fortunate enough to get any of that beer, and Philly seems to always get at least some (even if you have to wait in line for hours just to get a few ounces).

* Ok, so I was actually told ahead of time that the bar had Pliny on tap, but still. I've been told this before and still missed out on some Pliny goodness (this stuff don't last long). Thanks to friend and fellow beer lover Mike for the tipoff!

Double Wit

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It's summer! On a recent beer run, I stocked up on various wheat beers and whatnot, and when I saw this particular beer, I was intrigued. Most wheat beers tend to be relatively light, crisp and refreshing. As such, they tend to be somewhat low in alcohol and a little thin in terms of body (but, you know, in a good way). So the concept of a souped-up Belgian-style wit beer sounded intriguing to me.

Great Divide Double Wit

Great Divide Double Wit - Pours a cloudy gold color with a finger of bubbly white head. Aroma is fruity and spicy. It's definitely a unique aroma, not like anything I can think of, though there similarities. The taste starts off very sweet and bready, with some spiciness thrown in there (apparently coriander and orange peel). There's some fruitiness apparent as well, but I can't quite pick out the specific flavors. The finish is just a bit sticky with booze - the alcohol is noticeable and makes for something of a weird aftertaste. The body is strange. It seems to start out full bodied, but then it thins considerably by the finish. This is something I associate with wheat beers, but it's not usually this prominent (no doubt a result of the high alcohol) and it doesn't entirely work. I can't quite decide how much I like it. It's certainly an interesting brew, but it's poorly balanced and definitely not one of my favorites. I'll give it a B-.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/10/11.

Strangely, Great Divide has nothing about this beer on their website. Also, I have no idea why there is a two headed... monster? Kid? on the label (presumably a play on the "double" nature of the beer, but still), and yet, I rather like it and want to watch a movie documenting its rampaging exploits. Unfortunately, you can't drink labels.

Gnomegang

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I have to admire Ommegang's ability to incorporate brewery-name puns into their beers. It's inspiring. Ommegeddon, O'mmegang (an Irish stout that I've never had), Obamagang (aka Inauguration ale) and now Gnomegang, a collaboration with sister brewery, Achouffe (world renowned for the cute little gnomes that adorn their bottles... and, you know, I guess they're known for their good beer too). Both breweries are owned by parent company, Duvel, so it's not much of a stretch to see these two collaborating, but it's still nice.

Ommegang Gnomegang

Ommegang Gnomegang: Apparently brewed with Achouffe's house yeast in primary, and Ommegang's house yeast in secondary, this beer has lots of spicy flavors despite no actual spices being added to the wort (something Ommegang typically does with their brews). Pours a hazy, light orange color with a finger of light head. Smells fantastic. Bready/fruity Belgian yeast, sweet candi, and a bit of spiciness in the nose. Taste is very sweet, a little fruity, and spicy, with some alcohol manifesting in the finish. A pretty full body here, with ample carbonation and a well executed boozy stickyness in the finish. There's also a nice warming alcohol sensation here that works pretty well. As I've come to expect from Ommegang, it's extremely well balanced and a joy to drink. I suppose it could be a bit too strong, but it worked well for me and it's really nice to see Ommegang collaborating. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/3/11.

I've always been a huge fan of Ommegang, but I should probably check out more from Achouffe sometime (they're apparently famous for their Tripel IPA, which does sound rather interesting)...

Philly Beer Week: Stillwater Event

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Philly Beer Week kicked off last week, but since I'm one of those suburban types, I'm not sure how often I'll be able to make it into the city for the festivities. Lucky for me, there are quite a few events happening out here in the burbs, so who knows, I may end up filling my schedule with good beer this week.

First up was an event on Saturday that featured Stillwater Artisanal Ales, 12% Importers (who happen to work with Stillwater quite a bit for reasons I'll get into in a bit), and the Shelton Brothers Importers (who import a crapton of foreign beers, including the likes of Cantillon, Mikkeller, Fantôme and more). The focus of the event was Stillwater, which is another "virtual brewery" (or "gypsy brewer") like Mikkeller. Brewer Brian Strumke doesn't have a brewery of his own - he basically schedules time with breweries that have excess capacity and then brews his beers there. It turns out that the majority of his brewing is done at the DOG brewery in Maryland, and he says that once they got up and running, he doesn't need to be as involved in the day to day brewing activities. He also makes trips over to Belgium and does some limited edition stuff there that is then imported (by the aforementioned 12% importers).

I didn't get a chance to speak with him that much, but I did ask him why he seemed to primarily brew saisons and how he liked to differentiate his brews from others that specialize in the style. He seems to enjoy the variety that saisons afford, and he also mentioned that he tends to prefer dry beers, as they go much better with food. I get the impression that he really likes working with saison yeast strains as well, as there were a couple beers featured that were not typical saison styles, but which apparently used saison yeast (more on this below). I actually mentioned that I was planning a saison homebrew and was thinking of using the Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast instead of the 3724 Belgian Saison yeast, and he mentioned that a bunch of his brews used the French Saison yeast and that if I was worried about temperature control (which I am!), that was the way to go. He talked a bit about the first time he used the Belgian Saison yeast and how hot it got during fermentation (upwards of 90 degrees), but he also has access to equipment that is slightly more advanced than my crappy plastic bucket.

I felt kinda dorky asking him about homebrew and I hope I wasn't being too bothersome, but he seemed to perk up when I asked him about it (I guess it's better or at least different than the typical questions he gets, which I imagine revolve around his "gypsy" brewing lifestyle). He gave me two pieces of advice when it comes to extract homebrewing (we were talking about saisons and dark Belgian styles): 1. Use the lightest malt extract available and 2. Try to do mini-mash as soon as you're comfortable with it, because you're otherwise totally at the mercy of the folks producing the extract (and there's apparently not much consistency or control over that part of the process). He mentioned how in his early homebrewing days he tried using one of those pots with a built in spaghetti strainer to do a mini-mash (with what I gathered were mixed results, but it was a fun story). I don't know that I'm quite ready for mini-mash just yet, but it's something to keep in mind.

Stillwater has only been around for a little over a year, but it's been getting a lot of attention and garnering a lot of "top new brewer" awards and the like, but Brian seemed to be very down to earth and focused on making good beer. I'm definitely going to be keeping my eyes out for more Stillwater beer in the future. I did manage to sample quite a few of their beers, along with a couple of others during the day (conditions weren't exactly ideal - most of the below was served in plastic cups, though I did get a glass for the first one):

Stillwater Cellar Door

Stillwater Cellar Door - Apparently the phrase "cellar door" is among the most beautiful sounding phrases in the English language. Pours a hazy light orange color with a fluffy white head. Smells of Belgian yeast and candi. Taste is sweet and spicy with just a hint of citrus. The spice in this was really different and I couldn't place it, but someone mentioned that it was sage, which makes sense. The mouthfeel is actually very dry (not surprising, given what Brian said), which really just made me want to drink more. Is it my favorite saison ever? Probably not, but it's really good and distinct from other saison offerings. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass.

Stillwater Of Love and Regret - This was apparently Brian's first beer made in Belgium that was then imported back to the US. Pours a bit darker. Smells very fruity and sweet, with a taste to match. There's a very floral component to the nose that was quite pleasing and complex. And unsurprisingly, it was extremely dry (even moreso than the Cellar Door). It's a little smoother, and the alcohol is a little stronger. Overall, a pretty good brew. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV on tap. Drank out of a plastic cup.


Stillwater Jaded

Stillwater Jaded - Another Import Series beer made in collaboration with De Struise in Belgium, this is a dark wheat beer brewed with a saison yeast. Beer Advocate just calls it a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but that belies the complexity of what's really going on this beer. Pours a deep garnet color with a minimum of head. The nose is filled with dark fruit and sweet malts. Only really a hint of Belgian yeast in the nose. Taste starts sweet and finishes somewhat dry (not as much as the previous, but for a beer this big, it's relatively dry). Some caramel is apparent in the taste as well. Very smooth beer that's dangerously drinkable given the high ABV. Overall, my second favorite of the day. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap. Drank out of a plastic cup.

De Struise Outblack - This is a collaboration between Stillwater and De Struise in Belgium, though I guess De Struise claims this as their own. I didn't get the full story on this one, but it seems like the recipe was a standard De Struise beer that was modified. Pours very dark with a creamy tan head (good retention). Smells a bit roasty, with just a hint of fruitiness. Taste is sweet and roasty with a nice, sweet finish (not as dry as most of the other beers I had that day). It's almost stoutish, but not quite. Too much character added by that saison yeast to really call it a stout. Another quite enjoyable beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap. Drank out of a plastic cup.

Stillwater / Mikkeller Two Gypsies - Our Side - Two of the world's most famous gypsy brewers collaborating on one beer. Awesome. Pours a cloudy light amber color with about a finger of thick white head. Smell is filled with citrus fruits and hops. Taste is sweet and fruity with just a hint of tartness in the dry finish. It's not super bitter or anything, but it reminds me a lot of a citrusy pale ale. My favorite beer of the day. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (I didn't drink the whole bottle, it was shared!). Drank out of a plastic cup.


Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde

Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde - I spoke with the 12% Importer guy (sorry, don't remember his name!) and he mentioned that this was one of his biggest new imports. It's apparently made on this crazy self-sustaining farm where the whole brewing/bottling process takes place. Apparently there's been some issues with carbonation (i.e. there's lots of it!), but it's quite good anyway. It's similar to something like Saison Dupont, but it's perhaps just a bit dryer. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (I didn't drink the whole bottle, it was shared!). Drank out of a plastic cup.

When I was talking to the 12% guy, I noted that the Hof Ten Dormaal and other famous saisons (like the aformentioned Dupont and Fantôme) are all packaged in green bottles, which don't protect at all from light (which can create off flavors and "skunking"). I asked him if he knew why and he said he wasn't really sure, but it seemed like a traditional thing. I think I will be sending some more pedantic emails to breweries in the near future!

Overall, a very satisfying experience, and I'll definitely want to check out a few more Stillwater beers (there are a few that I either didn't get to or that weren't available at the event that I do want to try, especially A Saison Darkly, which another patron recommended highly)

Mission Blonde Ale

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I picked this up mostly because it had a nice label and I associate the term "blonde" with Belgian style pale ales, which I enjoy. When I looked at this a little closer, I realized that it was a Kölsch. I'm not terribly familiar with the style, but it seems to be to be a whole lot closer to "yellow fizzy beer" that exemplifies the macros than something I'd really want to try. My only recent exposure to the style was Flying Dog's Tire Bite Ale, and it's my least favorite offering from that brewery. This is not particularly encouraging, is it? But then, maybe setting the bar so low will lead to an unexpected surprise!

Mission Blonde Ale

Mission Blonde Ale - Pours a slightly cloudy (but mostly clear) golden yellow color with a finger of quickly disappearing head. Some fruitiness and maybe sweet candi aromas in the nose. I got a distinct candy/bubblegum aroma feeling out of this, but I can't quite place it. Interesting and definitely the best part of the beer. Taste is pretty straightforward and a bit sweet, with just a little bitter dryness in the finish. Very crisp mouthfeel though and a surprising amount of body. Unfortunately, it's a fairly delicate beer, and it didn't quite stand up to, well, the pizza I was eating at the time. Is that unfair? Maybe. It strikes me as the sort of beer that could be quite pleasant or thirst quenching after mowing the lawn or something... but it doesn't seem to hold up to competition (whether that be from other beers or food). B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Despite the relatively low rating, I have to say that I'm now a little more open to the style. There's enough interesting stuff going on with this beer that I'm sure a better version exists somewhere. Not to bag too much on Mission - they seem like an interesting little brewery, and I have another of their brews on my shelf that I hope to check out soon.

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

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

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