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DIPA Double Feature

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This past weekend's double feature consisted of a pair of rather depressing movies and, of course, two IPAs. After a pretty long stretch of IPA double features that highlighted the variety and distinctiveness of the style, I seem to be experiencing some bad luck with the last two. In the last IPA double feature, I had two great beers that were actually pretty similar. This post covers two middling DIPAs that are, again, pretty similar. Huh.

On the filmic side of things, I started with I Saw the Devil , a rather extreme Korean revenge flick (those Koreans really seem to enjoy vengeance!) Fans of Park Chan-wook's Vengance Trilogy will no doubt enjoy this one. The second film was Black Death, a dour British film set during the bubonic plague. It has its moments, but it's ultimately quite depressing and hard to recommend. I would recommend Director Christopher Smith's previous effort, Triangle, though. It's also depressing, but it features an odd elliptical plot that's quite intriguing (if a bit polarizing).

Depressing films and bitter beer, a match made in heaven?

Breckenridge 471 IPA

Breckenridge 471 IPA - Part of Breckenridge's "Small Batch" series, this is a rather straightforward double IPA. I'm not sure what the number 471 signifies, but if you haven't seen Breckenridge's fantastic mockery of big beer advertising, check it out. Interestingly, I've been seeing Heineken ads on TV lately that seem to be doing the same thing. Not sure which brewery got their first, but it's an interesting contrast in breweries and advertising. The Heineken ad is much more polished and pretty, but also somewhat cold, impersonal, and rather boring. Breckenridge's ads are, by contrast, low budget and static, but they amply demonstrate the personable and lovable nature of American craft brewing. And they're much funnier!

But enough about advertising. This beer pours a darkish amber gold color, with about a finger of head. Grassy hops in the nose, with just a hint of sweetness. Taste is surprisingly straightforward. It's not overly sweet or bitter, though both flavors are there. I'm not entirely sure I'd recognize this as a DIPA, though it does get a bit boozier as it warms up. Looking at the hops it's brewed with, I'm not sure why I didn't enjoy it more, but I got less citrus or pine than I would expect. It's a solid beer, with earthy hops and a nice medium to full body, but it's not something that's blowing the doors off the wall either. Whatever that means. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.2% bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass on 5/20/11. Hops: Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe, Fuggles. IBUs: 70

Sly Fox Odyssey

Sly Fox Odyssey - I didn't know this until now, but every year since 2004, Sly Fox has celebrated the IPA style with a year long series of single-hopped beers at their brewpub, culminating in an all day festival in December of each year. Every year the number and varieties of hops changes, but it's usually somewhere around 8-10 different hops. To coincide with the festival, they also launch a new beer made from all the hops used that year, called Odyssey. A double IPA with shitloads of hops.

It's a bit darker in color than the 471 - less amber and more brown. The nose is less sweet, but perhaps more hoppy. There's also a bready, almost Belgian aroma poking out, but it's very subtle. The taste is more intense and complex, but very similar. The body is a bit less full, but that makes it a bit more drinkable. Ultimately, I'm getting a very similar feeling with this beer - a solid brew, but not lighting my hair on fire either. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% bottled (22 oz). Drank from a tulip glass on 5/20/11. Hops: Cascade, Newport, Warrior, Northdown, Vanguard, Palisade, Simcoe, Nugget, Magnum, Challenger*. IBUs: 90

It's unclear how often the Odyssey recipe changes, but in any case, I'm probably more likely to revisit that one than the 471.

In terms of IPA double features, this surely won't be the last, and I can guarantee that the next one will feature more distinct varieties of the style. In fact, it may even be a triple feature!

* Again, it's a little unclear if they change the Odyssey recipe from year to year, but according to their website, it was first brewed in 2006, and so I listed the hops from that year.

The Bruery Mischief

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Ok, fair warning, this post is gonna get weird if you don't know or care about fantasy sports. If there was such a thing as Fantasy Brewery, where do you think The Bruery would be drafted? I guess much of this depends on the details of such a league. Do you draft individual beers, or whole breweries? What are they measured on? Sales? Quality? How would you determine quality? Do you have a rotisserie league where beers are evaluated on a number of more objective measurements, like IBUs or ABV (dibs on Mikkeller 1000 IBU)?

Yeah, it's a stupid idea. But I'd draft The Bruery. They may be small (which, depending on the details of such a league, may be a deal breaker), but every beer I've had from them has been excellent, and three of the four have absolutely blown me away, including:

The Bruery Mischief

The Bruery Mischief - Pours a pretty golden orange color with a finger or two of white, fluffy head. Smells fantastic. Citrus and floral hops, bready Belgian yeast, and a sugary aroma to cap things off. Taste starts sweet and a pleasant and crisp hoppy bitterness appears midway through the taste, lingering beyond the finish. The taste is quite complex, but not overpowering in any way. It's hoppy, but not as much as an IPA or DIPA (indeed, it's only 35 IBUs - just a hair less than Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and given the higher alcohol/sweetness of Mischief, I suspect that's a bit misleading). It's sweet and tasty, but not sticky or cloying. It's a medium bodied beer but that's a good thing in a refreshing pale ale like this. This is a great beer. I usually don't go in for hoppy Belgian-style beers, but this one is very well balanced and unique. Another homerun from the Bruery. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/13/11. 35 IBUs.

I've got a bottle of Saison Rue sitting my my shelf that I'm hoping to get to soon, and I'm hoping my local bottle shop will still have a bottle or two of Coton sitting around as well (I've had it before, and it's superb. In the words of the guy who sold it to me: "It's really good. Boozy, but good.")

Allagash Curieux

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I should drink more Allagash. Along with Ommegang, they're the other major east-coast brewery that seems to specialize in Belgian style beer, so it's no suprise that I tend to enjoy their beers. They make the standard Belgian styles, but they aren't afraid to experiment either. Their 2009 Fluxus was a bit of a revelation for me. "Ale brewed with sweet potatoes and black pepper." It certainly doesn't sound all that appealing, but it was a unique take on the Saison style. I would love to try it again, but alas, it was only a one-time brew (Fluxus is released once a year, but the recipe changes - 2010 was an Imperial Chocolate Stout). Sometimes their experimentation isn't quite as successful, but I'm always game for a new one. However, I've been a bit neglectful of late. Indeed, I've had this bottle sitting on my shelf for a solid six months (and according to the label, it was bottled in May 2010).

Allagash Curieux is a Belgian-style Tripel aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels. It was apparently their first foray into the world of barrel-aged beer, though they've clearly expanded their scope in the past few years.

Allagash Curieux

Pours a cloudy golden color with minimal head. Smells of sugary sweet fruit, spicy Belgian yeast and maybe even a little of that Bourbon. Tastes very sweet. Candi sugar, fruits, some spiciness. Finishes dry with some sticky alcohol in the aftertaste (perhaps a hint of Bourbon in there too). Mouthfeel is quite harsh, making this more of a sipping beer. A good thing, too, considering the 11% ABV. As it warms, the beer becomes more clear and a little more smooth, though it's still full bodied and the alcohol still asserts itself. It's perhaps a bit too hot for the style, and certainly not an everyday beer, but it's another interesting offering from Allagash. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Bottled May 2010. Drank out of a Goblet on 5/14/11.

In case you can't tell from the past several reviews, I'm in the midst of a bit of a drink-down right now. I've collected quite a few bottles over the previous months, and despite my best efforts, quite a backlog has accrued. Most of them tend to be high ABV monsters, which partially explains it, but I've also been a bit overzealous in my procurement. This is, of course, a good problem to have. I'm a bit behind on reviews as well, and may end up grouping a few together here and there. In any case, whenever I manage to dig out of this wonderful hole of great beer, I plan to try out a few more of Allagash's limited releases. I've had their standard stuff, and several of the limited releases, but I'd really like to explore more. However, looking at the beer on my shelf (not to mention the homebrew that's building up), that may be a while.

Victory V-Twelve

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So I haven't actually reviewed my homebrewed tripel yet, but it's definitely good enough that I might want to give it a name. Unfortunately, I kinda suck at that. I always end up with informative, but ultimately bland names. Witness the name of this blog: Kaedrin Beer Blog. Boy, I really pushed the envelope on that one. This is mildly depressing. Lots of beers have fantastic names and crazy backstories and I'm going to end up with, what? "Mark's Tripel" won't cut it. "Tripel Play"? Yeah, no one's come up with that before. I just don't have a knack for it. I wish that I could come up with something like Johno's Trogdor The Burninator "Consummate V" Belgian Strongbad Ale, but even funny referential naming escapes me when I try to think of a name for my beer.

So when I see something like Victory V-Twelve, I'm somewhat relieved. It's such a pragmatic name. It's the sort of thing I would name a beer. I like to picture Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet sitting in a boardroom brainstorming names while drinking the beer, but because it's fucking 12% ABV, they quickly get shitfaced and say "Fuck it, we're Victory and it's 12% alcohol, we'll just call it V-Twelve!", then do the Go Team Venture symbol and pop the cork on another bottle. Incidentally, this was sitting in my fridge for a while. Not only is it 12%, but it only comes in 750ml bottles, so you either need to share it with someone or you need to be in the right mood.

On Victory's website (and the bottle itself), they say that it's a "vintage-dated, Belgian-style specialty ale". Alas, my bottle had no date on it (or perhaps it just got rubbed off or something). I know I bought it before the new year, so I'm guessing it's at least half a year old, and given the high alcohol and flavors involved, I'm sure it could stand up to some long-term aging.

Victory V-Twelve

Pours a relatively clear dark amber/orange color with a minimal white head. Smell is full of dark fruits (plum?) and spices, with just a hint of Belgian yeast. Sticky dark fruit in the taste as well. Very sweet, I worried that it might get a bit cloying after a while, but that annoyance thankfully never developed. Some warming alcohol character is present as well. It's got a full body but a smooth texture. Beer Advocate calls it a Quadrupel, but it seems more like a Barleywine than a Quad. Of course, Victory doesn't really call it a Quad either - they call it a Belgian Specialty Ale (or an Amber Ale), which is probably more accurate.

Whatever the designation, this is quite good. Again, I was a little worried that the sweetness would get cloying, but I never actually got there, and as it warms, it evens out a bit. There's no real bitterness at all, but its texture and alcohol keep it from getting too overwhelming. And speaking of that alcohol, it's clearly present, but not in a bad or overly boozy way. It's very well balanced with the rest of the brew. This is one of those beers whose quality has grown in my head as time goes on, making me want to get a few more bottles so that I have one on hand if the mood strikes. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked) Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/30/11.

Victory continues to be my local hero. Even when I'm disappointed by one of their beers, I'm glad I tried it (and they're usually still worth drinking anyway). I'm most definitely going to pick up a few more of these and age them, just to see what happens.

Ommegang Tripel Perfection

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I love Ommegang, but even I have to pause at their presumption of "perfection" on the label of this beer. They even mention on the label that tripels are brewed "with simple ingredients and fierce attention to detail, there is little room for error - but lots of opportunity." Indeed. Belgian tripels are among my favorite styles, and Ommegang is among my favorite breweries, so I had high expectations here. Indeed, this was a hard one to find, raising expectations further. The only place I saw it was in a holiday package that also had a couple other Ommegang beers and some nice glassware (which, unfortunately, didn't show up particularly well in the image below).

Ommegang Tripel Perfection

Ommegang Tripel Perfection - Pours a cloudy orange/brown color with a couple fingers of head. Smell is full of fruity and spicy belgian yeast. The taste starts off sweet (some fruity character here), hits a spicy note (coriander?) in the middle and finishes dry. That dry finish may be partially because I waited so long to open the bottle - tripels tend to get more dry the longer they age. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it's not out of place at all here. The bottle I have is marked as having been packaged on 6/29/10, so it isn't that old, but still. In any case, the beer is extremely well balanced, which is something I've come to expect from Ommegang. Mouthfeel is high in carbonation and a bit harsh, but those are welcome for the style. Just a hint of stickyness and some warming alcohol notes. Very complex for a tripel. Perhaps not the best in style, but certainly in the top tier. In general, I feel that Ommegang's seasonals and special releases aren't as good as their regular stable of beers, but in this case, I think they really have a winner. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 5/6/11.

There's an anonymous quotation on the bottle that says "One can not adequately explain perfection. One can only enjoy it." Indeed. I don't think the beer quite lives up to Perfection, but it's close!

Russian River Redemption

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I've written about Trappist style beers before, mentioning their naming convention of dubbels, tripels and quadrupels. The styles are notoriously vague, but the idea is each numerical step up the ladder represents an increase in the strength of the beer. Furthermore, at many breweries, there is often what's called a House beer or a "Single" (aka "Enkel"). In a lot of cases, this terminology has yielded to the term "Blonde". In any case, it's generally the lightest and least alcoholic of the styles (again, with each successive step up getting stronger). So apparently the monks at Westmalle aren't constantly getting sloshed on their excellent tripel (9.5% ABV), instead preferring to pop open a single to enjoy with their meals. In some cases, these beers are not released to the public, earning the name Patersbier (which translates to "father's beer", meaning that it is reserved for use within the abbey). For instance, Westmalle's single, called Westmalle Extra, apparently has very limited availability.

Inspired by the tradition of "singles", Russian River brewer Vinnie Cilurzo created this beer, called Redemption. Apparently, like many of RR's other beers, Brettanomyces was added to the initial bottling to add a wild flavor to the beer. However, it appears that the Brett additions were not included in subsequent batches, and the alcohol content seems to be shrinking as well. Initial batches were in the area of 6-6.5% ABV, but the bottle I got (batch #8) is marked as 5.15% ABV (strangely, their website says 5.0%)

Russian River Redemption

Pours a very light, hazy straw yellow color with about a finger of head. Smells strongly of fruity belgian yeast. Taste has an almost wheat beer character to it... Very sweet and crisp, with just a hint of lingering dryness in the finish. There's maybe some citrus in there, perhaps lemon, but it's not particularly tart, though there is a bit of a sharpness to it. This isn't a beer that will blow you away, but it's light and refreshing and would make a fantastic summer beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.15% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet. Batch #8, bottled on 9/1/2010 and drank on 4/30/2011.

And on an ironic note, after all my blathing about singles and patersbiers, BeerAdvocate lists this as being a simple Belgian Pale Ale, which probably makes sense. Anyway, according to the bottle, this is the sister beer to Russian River's stronger pale ale, Damnation. I just happen to have a bottle of that sitting around here somewhere, so expect a review at some point (I've had it a few times before, and it's great).

Beer Club: May the 4th Be With You

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Today is Star Wars day! And Beer Club! Due to schedules and various other factors, this month's beer club was a rather small gathering, but there were still some great beers to be had, as well as some wine and even homemade hard cider.

May Beer Club

The theme this month was local brews, but as you can see from the picture, there were really only 4 beers on the docket this month (again, this was due to the fact that less people came and not because of any difficulty finding local beers). For reference, here's what we had:

  • Dogfish Head ApriHop - A fellow beer clubber had visited Dogfish Head's brewpub earlier in the week and got themselves a growler of ApriHop. It survived the trip reasonably well, though the brew was a bit light on the carbonation. It was still quite good though. It was quite a pleasant IPA, with a ton of fruity citrus character (apparently from Apricots added during the brewing process). B+
  • Dogfish Head Hellhound On My Ale - A play on famed blues guitarist Robert Johnson (who, legend has it, sold his soul to the Devil to create the amazing music he did), this was actually the first beer of the evening, and I don't know if it was because I'd had a particularly long day, but this was amazing. It tasted like a very refreshing pale ale, along the lines of, say, Dale's Pale Ale. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out that it was a 10% ABV double IPA with 100 IBUs. Astounding! The alcohol was incredibly well hidden, and despite the high IBUs, it wasn't overwhelmingly bitter (again, I thought of it more as a regular pale ale rather than an IPA and would never have guessed that it was a DIPA). Very sweet with lots of citrusy hop character and a nice bitter kick. There's something else here that I can't quite place, but in the end, it's a very complex and yet well balanced beer. As it warmed, the alcohol seemed to become a bit more prominent, but it was still a triumph of a beer. A-
  • Sly Fox Saison Vos - My contribution for the evening was a pretty well crafted saison from local Sly Fox brewery. Nice clear pour with lots of head, a spicy Belgian yeast aroma, and that sweet and spicy taste with a harsh mouthfeel that I've come to love about saisons. There's a bit of a bite to this beer that isn't particularly pronounced, but which adds a welcome bit of complexity. If my upcoming saison homebrew turns out this well, I'd be over the moon. B+
  • Yards Brawler - Labeled as a "Pugelist Style Ale", this one is probably more accurately described by the Beer Advocate style of English Dark Mild Ale. I've actually had this a few times before, and I've always thought of it as a solid if unremarkable beer. Tasting it after the above was a bit of a letdown though. It's a bit thin and subtle, but it would make a good session beer and would probably stand out better if it didn't have to compete with the likes of Dogfish Head or Sly Fox. A tentative B-
And that just about covers it for the beer. I had a couple of the wines (including a Chaddsford Spiced Apple Wine that sounded and smelled great, but the taste was quite off for me - would have wanted some sort of carbonation there) and the hard cider, but none of those really stood out as much as the beers.

Despite the small session, good times were had by all that managed to attend, and I'd count it as yet another success. As usual, I'm already looking forward to the next meeting!

Lost Abbey Avant Garde

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Given my shameless love of Belgian-style beer, I'm surprised that this is the first Lost Abbey beer I've ever had. They're a West Coast brewery, but their stuff is still somewhat available out here, I've just never picked up anything from them. Until now! I didn't actually know much about the brewery, but I know I like the Bière de Garde style of beer (despite not having really drank many examples), so I picked this up. The style name basically means "beer worth keeping" and such beers were historically brewed in farmhouses during the winter and spring for consumption in the summertime (i.e. they "kept" it until summertime because the yeast used for these beers didn't work well in the heat of summer). I find these to be very similar to saisons in a lot of ways (though, as always, the boundaries between styles are somewhat fuzzy).

Of course, the Lost Abbey claims that this beer demonstrates their commitment to "brewing beers to no particular style", but I don't really know who they're kidding with that. Styles are vague enough as it is, and this is pretty clearly a Bière de Garde.

Lost Abbey Avant Guarde

Lost Abbey Avant Garde - Pours a very pretty, hazy yellow/orange color with an ample head and some lacing as I drink. The head seemed to have larger than normal bubbles. Smells fruity and spicy, with that distinctive Belgian yeast coming through clearly. Taste is sweet and spicy with some fruity citrus notes to start, but a dry bitterness slowly establishes itself in the finish. Well carbonated and reasonably refreshing, it's an easy drink. Not particularly a world-beater, but a quality brew and a nice first impression for me. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/9/11.

Again, a nice first impression of Lost Abbey for me. Looking forward to trying some more of their beers at some point, though I'm not really sure where to go next. Any recommendations?

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