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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?

Double Feature: Saisons

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So I've had these two beers for a while and I've been saving them for this weekend. I mean, how many Easter-themed beers are really out there? Of course, I had to pick probably the two least appropriate movies to watch whilst drinking.

First up was James Gunn's comic book spoof Super, which is basically a continuation of the filmic deconstruction of superheroes started a few years ago. As such, it has a lot of semi-derivative elements, but it sticks to its guns (or I should say, Gunns!) and never flinches at its target. It's extremely graphic and violent, and some of it is played for laughs, but there's at least one unforgivable moment in the film. One thing I will say is that there's going to be a lot of teenage nerds falling in love with Ellen Page because of her enthusiastic performance in this movie. The critical reception seems mixed, but I think I enjoyed it more than most. I wouldn't call it one of the year's best, but it's worth watching for superhero fans who can stomach gore.

The second film in my double feature was Hobo with a Shotgun. If Super represents a bit of a depraved outlook on life, Hobo makes it look like the Muppets. A few years ago, when Grindhouse was coming out, there was a contest for folks to create fake grindhouse-style trailers, and one of the winners was this fantastically titled Hobo With a Shotgun. Unfortunately what works in the short form of a trailer doesn't really extend well to a full-length feature. There are some interesting things about the film. Rutger Hauer is great as the hobo (look for an awesome monologue about a bear), the atmosphere is genuinely retro, it actually feels like a grindhouse movie (as opposed to Tarantino and Rodriguez's efforts), and the armored villains known as the Plague are entertaining, if a bit out of place. Ultimately the film doesn't really earn its bullshit. Like last year's Machete (another film built off of the popularity of a "fake" trailer), I'm not convinced that this film really should have been made. Again, devotees to the weird and disgusting might enjoy this, but it's a hard film to recommend.

In terms of beer, I was drinking some saisons. As a style, they're known for being spicy, crisp and refreshing - Spring or Summer beers. You could say that such beer would be inappropriate given the movies I was watching, and that's true, but perhaps a nicer way to put it was that I was contrasting the refreshing beer style with the depravity on screen. Yeah. That's the ticket.

The Bruery Saison de Lente

The Bruery Saison De Lente - I've only had two Bruery beers before, but both have been damn near perfect in execution. As such, I had high hopes for this, their Spring seasonal saison brewed with Brettanomyces to give it a wild kick. Pours a clear golden color with ample head that subsides quickly, leaving lots of lacing. Smell is dominated by Belgian yeast and a little of that Brett character. Taste starts sweet, gets a bit of a wild and zesty feeling in the middle that makes itself more prominent in the finish, which is a little dry as well. That zestiness is probably the Brett shining through, and it became more powerful as I reached the end of the bottle. High carbonation and a mildly harsh mouthfeel, typical of saisons. I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's a refreshing change of pace and extremely well crafted. Just what I was looking for... and I'm greatly looking forward to exploring some more Bruery beers in the near future... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Victory Helios Ale

Victory Helios Ale - Helios was the Greek god of the sun - an appropriate name for a summer beer, eh? Another clear golden colored beer here, very little head in my pour. Smells very spicy, lots of pepper, with a hint of citrus and some typical Belgian yeast. Taste starts sweet, with some zingy bitterness coming out in the middle and finish (I wouldn't call it super hoppy, but it does have a distinctly bitter feel). The finish also has an interesting spicy character that lingers a bit. Mouthfeel is full of carbonation and a little harsh, about on par with the Bruery's effort. This one has a bit of that zestiness, but nowhere near as much as the Bruery beer. While it made a good first impression, I have to admit that I was less enamored with it as I reached the end of the bottle. The other thing I found a bit strange about this was that I'm pretty sure I had this on tap once, and that it had a much stronger lemony zest to it than I'm getting out of this bottle. It's been sitting in my fridge for a while, so perhaps its undergone some sort of change. I guess, then, I'll give it a provisional B-, but it's something I think i should revisit sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass.

While my last update covered some fantastic beers, I was a little disappointed by the variety of good beers available to me in Vegas. I'm sure that if I actually sought out some beer bars, I would find something new and interesting, but it seemed that most places stocked the standard Macros and maybe one or two interesting beers. Fortunately, I did managed to have a few other beers, even some that I'd never had before:

  • Moretti La Rossa - At some point we ended up at an Italian restaurant for a sponsored junket/open bar and they actually managed to have a few Italian beers available. I picked one that I hadn't heard of (because most of what I have heard of from Italy is not so good, like Peroni) and it turned out to be pretty good. It's technically a Doppelbock, a style I'm not terribly familiar with, but which I should probably check out more often. It was a darkish red/brown color with a finger or two of head, and the smell was much fruitier than I was expecting. It's also got some roastiness and maybe caramel sweetness in the nose. The taste went along with that. Medium bodied with high carbonation, it was quite drinkable and the alcohol was well hidden (I had no idea it was as strong as it was). As doppelbocks go, I understand this one is a bit thin, but it worked well enough for me, and was a welcome diversion from the typical macro selections. I have no idea if Moretti is part of the burgeoning Italian Craft beer scene, but my gut says it isn't, even though I enjoyed this. More research needed... B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a plastic cup (yeah, no good beer geek glasses to be had - hard to complain about then when I'm getting free beer though))
  • Sin City Stout - Walking around the maze that is the Venetian shops, I spied this little hole in the wall:

    Sin City Brewing Logo

    In talking with the bartender, I learned that this is an uber-local brewery, only distributing to Las Vegas. Their lineup seemed rather standard (though I should note that their "seasonal", apparently some sort of IPA, was out when I was there), but I wanted to try something new and different, so I ordered up a stout:

    Sin City Stout

    It was on a nitro tap, so I got one of them gorgeous pours, even if it had to be in a plastic cup. Indeed, it took forever for the nitro foam to subside, which wasn't really a problem for me, as I do enjoy a good nitro pour every now and again. The beer itself was actually a pretty solid stout. Nothing particularly special about it, save for the nitro pour, but it holds its own against the other nitro stouts I've had, including Guinness. Dark, roasty, and tasty, I would probably order this before a Guiness, actually. Not a huge flavor-bomb or anything, but a really solid standard entry in the style. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on nitro tap. Drank from a plastic cup.)

  • Sin City Weiss - I stopped back into the bar to try this one out, and what I got was another solid example of a rather standard style. When I ordered it, the bartender told me that it had a "banana clove" taste to it, as if it was a bad thing (apparently lots of people order it without realizing what wheat beers taste like), but that's music to my ears. Again, very good beer, but not really exceptional or the best of its kind. Still, I really enjoyed it and if my upcoming homebrewed attempt at a wheat beer turns out this good, I'll be quite happy. B (Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV on nitro tap. Drank from a plastic cup.)
  • Chimay Grand Reserve (Blue): Chimay seems to the be the Fancy restaurant's go to beer in Vegas, as it was available in a lot of the nice restaurants. So ordered one of these, probably my favorite Chimay variety, to go along with a really good steak I was having. As usual, it's fantastic. Deep, dark brown color, sweet and fruity in the nose, and a taste to go along with the aromas. Fruity sweet, full bodied, and complex, it's a classic. A

Of course, I had quite a few other beers during the course of the week, but nothing particularly interesting or that I could do a good review of... As noted in the comments to my previous post, Vegas isn't quite a real place. Somehow the laws of the universe don't seem to function properly there. It's a good time, but after a few days, it wears on you pretty quickly. Still, from an alcohol-scared state like PA, it's nice to be able to walk around outside with a drink. But that's not really enough. I'm glad I'm back.

Update: Removed La Rossa picture. Because it's a bad picture, that's why.

Vegas Beer Update

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I'm in Las Vegas this week for a work conference and so far I haven't really run into an awesome beer selection, though Bouchon in the Venetian has a pretty decent selection of beer for a fancy restaurant. There may be some other opportunities for great beer later in the week, but for now, this is what I'm making do with:

  • New Belgium Fat Tire - A pretty straightforward amber ale, this reminds me of a sorta west-coast Yuengling lager. It seems to be ubiquitous around here and while it won't blow you away, it makes a good session beer. It might be a little better than the Lager, but that also may be the novelty of it speaking, as New Belgium does not distribute anything near me... Hopefully I'll be able to find some of New Belgium's more adventurous beers at some point.
  • Chimay Cinq Cents (aka White) - Chimay's version of a tripel is fantastic, as always. I've had these many times before and may even have a half finished blog entry about it somewhere. I still wouldn't call it my favorite tripel or anything, but it's very good and retains a certain distinct Chimay character. I had it on tap at Bouchon, and it went well with my meal.
  • Delirium Tremens - Another beer I've had several times before, but which is, as always fantastic. In fact, I enjoyed it much better while having it during a meal. It's a very sweet beer, so having it all by itself can get a bit cloying after a while. Mixing it with rich, meaty flavors of my dinner worked really well. Also on tap at Bouchon.
  • Shiner Bock - There's a bar attached to Treasure Island called Gilles. It's a Country/Western bar (strike 1) and their beer selection featured mostly macros (strike 2), but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the Shiner Bock and was glad to have a few of these. The bar is pretty funny though. It's got a mechanical bull, and the waitress' uniform was... interesting (I suppose these two features mitigate the two aforementioned strikes). Oh yeah, the beer. It's good. As Bock's go, I have to say it's easily better than the recently reviewed Yuengling Bock, and made for a nice session beer last night. I can see why this beer is so popular (though I don't know why the beer nerds and BA are so hard on it).

I've had a few other beers and will hopefully have something more interesting before the week ends. More to come...

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

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Brewery Ommegang has long been one of my favorite breweries, and I do credit it with introducing me to the world of "good" beer. As such, whenever I see a new beer from Ommegang, I usually snap one up and drink it as quickly as possible. This particular beer, though, has never really been on my list of most sought after beers, mostly because it's a self-described Belgian Style Stout. I've never been a big fan of stouts, but since I've been coming around to the idea lately, I figured this would be worth a shot. After all, I love Belgian style beers, so maybe that will compensate for whatever it is I don't like about stouts. Unfortunately, this one turned out rather like my last experiment with Belgian style stouts (though I think both are technically labeled as Belgian Dark Ales).

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color. Completely opaque, with a rather small head, but lots of lacing as I drink. The smell is dominated by roasty malts, though there are some other more subtle aromas coming through, including the typical Belgian yeast scents. Taste starts off very sweet with some roastiness coming through in the middle and especially in the finish, which is dry and a little bitter. Said bitterness is more reminiscent of dark chocolate than hops (unsurprising, given that this is apparently brewed with real cocoa powder), but I'm sure both are playing a role here. Good carbonation and a medium mouthfeel (I was hoping for something with a fuller body). Very well balanced beer, but pretty straightforward as well. In comparison to the other Belgian-style stout I've tried recently, this one is perhaps a little better balanced, but less... Belgiany. Ultimately, I'm a little disappointed. Another case where I'd rather have had a really good Imperial Stout or a really good Belgian Strong Dark, not a combination of the two. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked bottle). Drank out of a goblet.

I wouldn't call it bad, but this may very well be my least favorite Ommegang beer. But I doubt it will slow me down. I have already procured a bottle of their Tripel Perfection and am very much looking forward to their collaboration with La Chouffe, Gnomegang. Not to mention the fact that I seem to always return to their staple beers...

Yuengling Bock

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I've long professed my love for Yuengling Lager. It's not a face-melting beer by any stretch of the imagination, but it's solid and dependable and locally ubiquitous. Over the year's I've tried most of their other beers - the porter, the black and tan, the premium lager, and various light varieties - but none of those really stick out. Then I see this new beer with a fancy vintage label design that I don't recognize. Yuengling makes a Bock? And it's a seasonal release? Wow, I had no idea.

Apparently this seasonal beer was once a staple release, but it hasn't been brewed for nearly 40 years. To celebrate Yuengling's 180th anniversary, they did a limited, keg-only release that was so popular that they decided to make it a regular thing. Since I was in the market for some non-face-melting beer to drink during my Lenten coke fasting, immediately picked up a sixer of this.

Yuengling Bock Beer

Isn't that label awesome? It's apparently based on artwork from the 1941 release. I love the Billy Goat, apparently a staple of Bock style labels (I'm sure I'll cover that convention at some other time). It pours a clear, dark brown color with a reddish tint and a small, tan head. As you'd expect, it smells malty, but not particularly fruity or sweet. The taste is not especially powerful, but there's some malty sweetness there, perhaps a tiny bit of roastiness, and it finishes a bit dry (though it's not really bitter). It's not dissimilar to a Scotch ale, though this isn't quite as impressive as the Scotch ales I've had lately. Mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side. It's very easy to drink and not disagreeable, but it's not particularly special either. A nice change of pace, but nothing that will unseat the mighty Lager. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

I suspect this is exactly what Yuengling was going for though, and I certainly wasn't expecting anything overly special, but it would be interesting to see what Yuengling could accomplish if they put their resources behind a more unique and powerful beer. I don't really expect that anytime soon though. Yuengling isn't a craft brewery, after all. But they're certainly better than other macros!

April Beer Club

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Every month, a bunch of friends and I get together at a local BYOB and drink lots of beer. I seem to have run out of beer puns for this month, but there was no shortage of beer at tonight's gathering (despite only 7 attendees):

April Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

No real theme this month, but lots of new beers, along with some new ones. Not all of the pictured beers were cracked open, but most of them were (I believe only 4 left unopened, though there was still some beer left in a couple bottles). For reference, here's what I tried:

  • Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale - Intense blueberry aromas and very fruity taste. Overwhelmingly blueberry. Not bad, but not especially accomplished either. C+
  • Unibroue Éphémère - Again, an intense sour apple aroma and flavor, this one is much better balanced and an interesting beer. I've actually had this a few times before, and it's something I've always enjoyed, even if it's not my favorite of Unibroue's offerings. Everyone seemed to enjoy it though, and it's probably a good gateway craft beer. B
  • Southampton Biere De Mars - A very nice looking beer, with a nice spicy aroma and a flavor that is quite unusual, but still drinkable. The consensus among attendees was somewhat mixed, but I enjoyed it, even if it's not exactly a favorite. There's a flavor there that I couldn't quite place, but which made this a rather unique tasting beer. Fellow beer club members had a similar feeling. I'll give it a tentative B
  • Ommegang Rare Vos - One of my all time favorites, I've actually got a bottle of this in the fridge, so expect a full review... at some point. A great beer though, and very popular with the beer club crowd, even with the non-beer nerds.
  • Victory Prima Pils - I have had many of these over the years, and it's one of those beers that tastes very different out of the bottle than it does on tap. And honestly, I think I prefer the bottled version. For a pilsner style beer, it's extremely hoppy, but I rather like that distinction. Well worth a try, and probably something I'll give a more thorough review to later. For now, I'll leave it as a B+
  • Oskar Blues Gordon Imperial Red Ale (aka G'Knight) - One of my contributions for the night, and a solid DIPA. Expect a full review at some point in the near future. Beer club crowd seemed to enjoy it, despite it's hoppy nature.
  • Peak Organic Simcoe Spring Ale - It's got that pine resin aroma and flavor from the Simcoe hops, but it's otherwise a pretty standard IPA. Not particularly popular with the overall beer club crowd, but it's solid, if nothing special. B
  • Long Trail Pollenator - Holy shit, is this a terrible beer. And of course, I ended up taking more of this than most other brews. I immediately regretted the decision. Tasted like skunked piss. My first F since starting the blog.
  • Oscar Blues Ten Fidy - A very roasty 10.5% stout. I enjoyed it, but those who don't typically go in for stouts didn't seem to care for it. Not to get all sexist or anything, but all the guys seemed to enjoy it, while the females seemed to dislike. I have a couple more of these, so expect a full review at some point in the indeterminate future.
  • Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy - Smells and tastes of a sorta carbonated lemonade. Very little beer flavor and I really did not enjoy, though some of the more girly beer club members seemed to like it. D
  • Blue Point Spring Fling - A very average pale ale. Not bad, but absolutely nothing special about it. Profoundly average beer. C
  • My Homebrew Tripel - I brought a nice 22 oz bottle of my tripel, which has really undergone a transformation since bottling. I've been trying about one bottle per week since I bottled, and it's gone from an overly-sweet and under-carbonated beer to something much more drinkable. It used to be a very bright orange color, but it has since matured into a more appropriate lightish brown color. The taste is still a little too sweet and too alcoholly, but it's still a pretty good attempt, and I have a feeling it will mellow out with more time. Expect a more thorough review of this homebrew at some point. If nothing else, I do believe it came out better than my first attempt. This was one of the first beers we opened though, and someone did mention that it could have been a bit of a palate-killer because it's so intense (but luckily most people only took a small sample). It certainly was a strong beer - more than one person commented that they got the sorta wine-flush feeling from the alchohol. So far, I'm pretty happy with this beer, and I think it's only been getting better with time.
  • Dana's Maibock Homebrew - Fantastic homebrew brewed by my friend Dana from a Mr. Beer specialty kit. Very sweet with a nice tang in the finish that I couldn't quite place. Still, very enjoyable beer, maybe my favorite from Dana's homebrewing efforts. Most of the Mr. Beer stuff is pretty average (and Dana also brought a Red Ale which was pretty normal stuff), but their specialty kits seem to produce some really good beers, and this one is a prime example (I also rather enjoyed Dana's specialty Tripel from a while back). We made a deal to trade some of my tripel with some of her maibock. Excellent stuff
So yeah, I suppose you could take the ratings above with a grain of salt (as conditions were not optimal for tasting), but I think the ones I actually rated are pretty accurate. And several of the others will be reviewed on this blog in the near future. It may seem like the above are pretty low, and there were definitely a couple of real stinkers, but some of the ones I didn't provide a rating for will most likely come in to the B to A range, so there were definitely some great beers that were available tonight...

All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I was surprised at the amount of beer that we ended up getting through, even if we did leave some of the beers pictured above unopened (though I will say that the only unopened beer that I've never had before was the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter). As always, I'm already looking forward to next month!

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

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