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Febrewary Beer Club

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I'm a little behind on posting stuff here, so bear with me as I play catchup this week. At the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This particular meeting was a long time coming, as weather and a hectic holiday schedule conspired to delay this session multiple times. We went to a different BYOB this month... it's a legitimate restaurant, and thus the mood lighting wasn't quite conducive to picture taking, but here's what we brought (you can click for a larger version):

Febrewary Beer Club

The theme this month was beers with a picture of an animal on the label, though there were a couple of non-qualifying beers. Conditions weren't ideal, so no grades here, but I've included some thoughts on each beer:

  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière - My contribution to the theme went over pretty well, though it would probably make a better summer beer than a winter one. Still, it was quite refreshing, light colored ale with a little citrus. Again, would make a great summer beer.
  • Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend - Technically, it's "beer and wine" club, but I don't really have a clue when it comes to wine. Still, this one was pretty good. Sweeter and less dry than I'm used to from a red wine, but whatever... Also, hard to see in the image, but the Ravenswood logo is awesome.
  • Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout - I'd call this one an above average stout, a little more on the oatmeal side of things, and a good counterpoint to the other stouts people brought. I didn't have enough to make a good judgement though, so it's something I want to revisit at some point...
  • Terrapin Hop Karma IPA - The first in a hoppy trio of beers from Terrapin, this one was interesting, but ultimately didn't blow me away. Again, didn't have a lot of this, so I should probably reserve judgement. Cool label though.
  • Terrapin Rye Pale Ale - Seemed like a pretty standard, but well executed, Americal Pale Ale. Another cool label.
  • Terrapin Hopsecutioner: Pretty standared IPA territory here, though I love the label on this one. Little guy looks like a TMNT.
  • Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot - I'm going to review this one in detail at some point in the near future, so I'll leave it at that. I'll just say that it seems like a pretty good European style barleywine.
  • Founders Breakfast Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - I've already written about these before. Coffee drinkers seemed to like the Founders one better than me, though I don't think anyone thought it was as good as BA says...
  • River Horse Tripel Horse - I was looking forward to this, as River Horse is one of the few semi-local breweries I'm not that familiar with, and the Tripel is one of my favorite styles. However, I found it quite disappointing. I didn't have a lot of it, but it didn't seem much like a Tripel at all, and it had this strange kick to it that I'm having trouble remembering.
  • Wintertraum Christkindles Gluhwein - Another wine. Sorta. Not sure how this is classified, but it was super-sweet tasting reddish wine. Not bad for what it is, I guess, but not really my thing either.
Another successful beer club! Like I said, not exactly ideal conditions for formal reviews, but a great time. The restaurant we went to was pretty good too. Not the best sushi in the area, but a welcome addition that didn't break that bank. As usual, I'm looking forward to next month!

Brooklyn Local 1

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I'm still making my way through 2010 movie releases, hoping to find a final gem in the rough so that I can complete a top 10, and the process is, of course, made much more fun by the imbibing of good beer! I recently caught up with The Last Exorcism and was quite pleasantly surprised. It's not really a top 10 kinda movie, but it's a lot better than the marketing for the film would have you believe. I don't really want to ruin anything, but it takes the form of a mock documentary with an effective setup and conflict, though I think the resolution isn't as satisfying as it wants to be. Still, well worth checking out for fans of horror (it's certainly better than most recent exorcism-themed film). Perhaps it helped that I was drinking some great beer whilst watching:

Brooklyn Local 1

Brooklyn Local 1 - Pours a light, cloudy yellow/orange color with a big head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic - bready belgian yeast, some candi-sweetness, and lots of citrus in the nose. Sweet and spicy with a bit of a kick in the middle and a nice dry finish. A little bitterness lingers... Mouthfeel is strongly carbonated and a bit harsh, but in a good way. A lot of this reminds me of a good Belgian tripel style beer, though BA classifies it as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. I suppose there's a good reason for the classification that has to do with ingredients and brewing methods, but in terms of tasting this is certainly more like a tripel than the last two tripels I've had (Incubus and Weyerbacher Merry Monks (not reviewed yet)). All of which is to say, this is a great beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a tulip glass.

I guess this means I should try Local 2 (apparently a strong dark ale), eh?

Double Feature: Stouts

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This weekend's double feature was a pair of Australian crime flicks: Animal Kingdom and Red Hill. Both are good and well worth a watch, though for different reasons. Animal Kingdom is a better made film, perhaps more realistic, though also a bit too deliberate in its pacing. Excellent performance by Jacki Weaver as the Matriarch of a family of bank robbers (who happen to be in a feud with overzealous coppers). Also notable for featuring a teenager that actually acts like a teenager (i.e. he's generally an idiot) and not a precocious mastermind who outsmarts everyone. Again, good movie, maybe moving a bit too slow. Also covers some unpleasant subject matter. Red Hill, by comparison, moves quicker and features quite the badass villain (would have certainly given the other nominees a run for their money in my movie awards). The only recognizable star in the movie is Ryan Kwanten, who you might recognize from True Blood. He's not as moronic in this role as a cop who moves out to a small town, only to find it under siege from an escaped prisoner. Things proceed in a somewhat cliched manner, but again, well worth a watch.

On the beer side of things, I threw back a few stouts, starting with one I've been meaning to drink for a while:

Samuel Smith Oatmal Stout

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout - Pours an opaque black color with a medium beige head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. It doesn't appear to be as thick as some of the other stouts I've been having recently. Smells bready and roasty. That roastiness comes out in the taste as well. It's got a smooth, medium body with just the right amount of carbonation. It's perhaps not as complex as some of the other stuff I've been having lately, but it's very well balanced and something you could drink all night. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (550 ml). Drank out of a pint glass.

From there, I kicked things up a notch with one of Weyerbacher's "big" beers:

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout - It's perhaps a bit unfair to compare a standard style with an imperial style beer, but this is what I had in my fridge. It also pours an opaque black color with a bit of a darker head than the Sam Smith. Lacing too, but not as much. The nose is full of roastiness, as is the taste. There's more of a chocolateyness to the taste, both in terms of sweetness and bitterness. As expected, it's a bit more intense than the Sam Smith, and it's got a fuller body and heavier feel (even the appearance of the pour makes this beer look thicker). More intense and more complex, but perhaps not quite as well balanced. A well crafted beer nonetheless and well worth a try, even for stout amateurs like me. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of the stout style. I've never really been a big fan, but I'm starting to see why everyone seems to like them so much, even if it's still not my favorite style. I've got several more sitting on my shelf or in my fridge, so expect some more reviews soon.

Sly Fox Incubus

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If you happen to mention Royersford, PA to me, two things immediately come to mind. First is their distinctive fire horn (seriously, that's a badass horn). Second is Sly Fox, a brew pub and micro brewery that's been steadily expanding. They're one of the few craft breweries with a canning line, something they started doing long before it became trendy, though they also have a bottling line for big beers like the one I had recently:

Sly Fox Incubus

Sly Fox Incubus - Pours a hazy yellow gold color with a white, fluffy head. Smells of spicy Belgian yeast (cloves, etc...). Maybe a little fruitiness in the nose as well. Taste is pretty straightforward. Sweet and spicy like the nose, and some booziness as well. In fact, that sticky alcohol flavor lingers a bit in the aftertaste. Coming in at 10.3% ABV, it's a bit too strong, even for a tripel. Highly carbonated with a bit of a bite, it's nevertheless pretty easy to drink. All in all, it's a pretty straightforward Belgian tripel style beer. It's one of my favorite styles, so I do really enjoy this, but on the other hand, there's nothing particularly complex about it. A solid effort. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.3% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a Goblet.

I've got a couple other Sly Fox beers in my fridge, and perhaps someday a trip out to the brew pub for some dinner and beer someday.

Tröegs Nugget Nectar

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So the seasonal beers have shifted from holiday brews and now we end up on one of my most anticipated beers of the year, from semi-local Tröegs.

Troegs Nugget Nectar

Tröegs Nugget Nectar - Technically, this is classified as an "imperial amber", but you can tell from the label (a hand squeezing a giant hop "nugget" which rather resembles a grenade) that you're in for more of a hoppy experience. Pours a clear amber/orange color with about a finger of head and some patchy lacing. Smell is of floral, earthy hops. Taste starts off malty and sweet, but then you get hit with the hoppy bitterness. It's actually quite well balanced for a 93ish IBU beer. The hops are clearly the dominant flavor, but they're not overpowering either. Good carbonation, goes down very easy (especially considering the ABV). It's currently #28 on BA's Top 100, and it's certainly an extremely well crafted beer, but I don't think I'd rank it quite so high. Very strong effort, I want to try some more of this, but perhaps the strong BA reviews led me to elevate expectations too high. I'll give it a provisional B+, though perhaps an A- lies in its future.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

1. INT. CITY TAVERN, PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 1775

After a long day of Constitutional debate at Independence Hall, George Washinton, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson grab a table at the City Tavern, settling in for a long night of drunken Constitutional debate.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: I say, barmaid, fetch us some of my fresh-brewed Porter! My dear friends must try this new brew.

The BARMAID delivers three brimming pints of General Washington's Tavern Porter.

THOMAS JEFFERSON: I say, George, you've outdone yourself with this brew.

BEN FRANKLIN: The barmaid is pretty fucking hot.

GEORGE WASHINGTON (ignoring Franklin): I say, thank you Thom. That is quite generous of you.

BEN FRANKLIN: Do you think she likes me?

THOMAS JEFFERSON: I say, you're quite welcome George.

BEN FRANKLIN: Why do you idiots preface everything you say with the phrase "I say".

THOMAS JEFFERSON (sighing): It's fucking gentlemanly, that's why. Anyway, I prefer my brews to be a bit stronger than this porter, but this is still quite enjoyable...

BEN FRANKLIN: Yes, well, I SAY, we're not all alcoholics like you Thom.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Oh SNAP!

BEN FRANKLIN: You're both capable brewers, but I prefer to use more unconventional, off-centered ingredients.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (loudly): Hey everyone, look at this guy! He uses some spruce in his beer and he thinks he's Sam fucking Calagione!

The door to the bar opens, and ALEXANDER HAMILTON walks in, scanning the room.

BEN FRANKLIN (attempting to hide his face): Oh shit, how'd he find us?

GEORGE WASHINGTON glares at THOMAS JEFFERSON

THOMAS JEFFERSON (hiding his iPhone): What?

GEORGE WASHINGTON: You checked in, didn't you?

THOMAS JEFFERSON: Hey man, I'm the fucking Mayor of City Tavern. If I don't check in, I'll lose my discount!

BEN FRANKLIN: You asshole! We could have been free of Hamilton's nincompoopery for an entire night, but NOOOOO, you have to check in to FourSquare to maintain your lame Mayoral status.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON: HI GUYS!

GEORGE WASHINGTON (in an unenthusiastic tone, accompanied by a sigh): Hello Alexander.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON: HAVE YOU TRIED MY FEDERALIST ALE!?

BEN FRANKLIN (whispering to Jefferson): What the fuck is he going on about? I don't see this beer on the menu.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (whispering to Franklin): I think the brewery is just humoring him. They don't even list that beer on their website.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Um, Thom, I challenge thee to a DUEL!

WASHINGTON takes a glove and slaps JEFFERSON in the face.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (surprised, but catching on): Hey! Uh, oh, OH, yes, I accept!

WASHINGTON and JEFFERSON down the remainder of their pints and exit.

2. EXT. MARKET STREET, PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 1775

WASHINGTON and JEFFERSON run down the street, stealing furtive glances behind them.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: I think we lost him.

THOMAS JEFFERSON: Thank God! Franklin's gonna be pissed that we left him alone with Hamilton.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Nah, he's probably fucking the shit out of the barmaid by now.

3. INT. COMPUTER DESK - PRESENT DAY

MARK: So this is my third of Yards' Ales of the Revolution series. I quite enjoyed the first two, based on recipes from Franklin and Jefferson, and picked up Washington's entry on a recent trip to the local bottle store. I'm not sure why, but Alexander Hamilton's entry into the Ales of the Revolution series seems to be disappearing. I've seen it referred to as Federalist Ale and Treasury Ale, but as Jefferson notes in the above dialogue, Yards doesn't even mention it on their website anymore. I'm pretty sure you can still buy a variety pack with Hamilton's contribution, and judging from BA and RateBeer, it's some sort of pale ale (I think I saw something once about Yards' Philadelphia Pale Ale being basically the same beer, so perhaps Yards just rebranded Hamilton's beer? That's just blind speculation though.) Anyway, this post was supposed to be about General Washington's Tavern Porter:

Yards General Washington Tavern Porter

Pours a dark brown color (perhaps a hint of dark red in there) with a medium sized, light colored head. Roasted malts in the nose, maybe a little bitter chocolate. That chocolate hits pretty well at the start of the taste, followed by some bitterness in the middle and finishing with a bit of a roasty taste. There's a bit of a sticky alcohol flavor in the finish as well, something I was not expecting, but which suits the beer well. At 7% ABV, it's not a monster, but it's got enough zing to give it a distinctive character, which I can appreciate. The boozy tastes that were more overwhelming in Jefferson's beer are more balanced here (perhaps due to the sightly lower ABV, or maybe just the different malt backbone, or probably both). Mouthfeel is a bit lighter than expected. Plenty of carbonation and a medium body, which again helps offset the booziness. Not exactly a session beer, but quite drinkable. I'm not particularly an expert on Stouts or Porters, nor are they really my style of beer, but I rather enjoyed this. Also, like Jefferson's beer, there are rumors of a Bourbon Barrel Aged version of this porter, which could really impart some really nice additional notes to this beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.0% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

So overall, I'm pretty happy with these Ales of the Revolution. Maybe I will pick up the variety pack and get me some Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Ale. In the meantime, I suppose I should include the standard disclaimers: No, I don't think that Jefferson was an alcoholic and as far as I knew, no one hated Alexander Hamilton (nor was he considered a nincompoop by his peers) and I'm pretty sure Jefferson and Washington never participated in a duel with one another. However, Franklin was a noted poon-hound and Jefferson was a total Apple fanboy and angel investor in FourSquare.

Update: The mystery of Alexander Hamilton's Ale of the Revolution... solved! Sorta.

Again Update: More on Franklin and the ladies...

Double Feature: Animated Stouts

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Does TRON: Legacy count as an animated film? There is certainly a ton of animation in the film. Even some of the supposedly "human" characters are animated (notably the pre-disappearance Flynn and CLU), albeit sometimes poorly (you can see that uncanny valley effect quite clearly on a couple of occasions). Well anyway, I went in with very low expectations that were thus met. It was entertaining and pretty to look at, and the music was awesome, which is about all I could ask of it. This iRi post gets at one of the things I really like about TRON (the way the grid seems so alien), but I have to say that the effects described in that post are probably less pronounced in the sequel (in particular, I was disappointed by the light-bikes). The other film of my double-feature (and the only one I was actually drinking during) was Despicable Me, which had a few really funny moments (and I love the minions), but which is ultimately nothing too special. As kids animation goes, it's no Pixar, but it's probably a step above average.

I've never really been a fan of Stouts and when I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to do was better familiarize myself with the style. I took a bit of a detour into Belgian Strong Darks during the holidays, so I have a bunch of Stouts that I've been buying that have been sitting in my fridge or on my shelf waiting. They're certainly good winter beers, though I wouldn't recommend drinking a stout while watching an animated kids movie. Kinda weird, actually, but that's what I did:

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - Pours an opaque black color with a small, relatively light colored head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells a bit on the roasty side with some nice maltiness coming through, maybe even some caramel. There's only a very light roastiness in the taste though, which is instead dominated by rich chocolaty flavors, some of that caramel, and a solid malty sweetness. There's some bitterness there too, but it's dry, like dark chocolate. Indeed, this is almost like drinking a good dark chocolate. It's a full bodied brew with surprisingly good carbonation given the small head and high alcohol, which makes one heck of a smooth, drinkable beer (a bit dangerous when it comes in at 10% alcohol!) I get the feeling that lesser breweries would totally screw something like this up. All of the complex elements here are very well balanced. As I said, I'm not much of a stout drinker, but this one is probably the best I've ever had. I don't think that will last, but it's still an impressive effort from Brooklyn (and my new favorite beer from that brewery). A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout - Before I get into this one, a disclaimer: I don't drink coffee. I wouldn't say that I hate coffee, but I don't particularly like it either. So while this beer is currently ranked on BA as the 7th best beer on the planet, I am not likely to enjoy it quite so much. So if one of my three readers happens to be a beer nerd, be forewarned, I'm gonna rate this one relatively low. Like the Brooklyn, it pours an opaque black color, with a bigger, darker colored but still light brown head. Some lacing apparent, but not as much as the Brooklyn. Smells much more roasty with some coffee thrown in for good measure. Now, I do usually like the smell of coffee, but this beer isn't really doing much for me on that front, which I find odd. The taste is also dominated by roasty coffee flavors. There's some malt sweetness there too, maybe chocolate, but it's overpowered by the coffee. There's a complexity in the taste, but I just can't get past the coffee. As far as mouthfeel goes, it's got good carbonation and a nice full body. A little less smooth than the Brooklyn stout, but still quite drinkable (assuming you like coffee). Really, this just ain't my style of beer. I'm glad I tried it and it's certainly not a poorly crafted beer, I just don't like coffee... If you do, you'll probably love it. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

So there you have it. I loved one and didn't care for the other. I'm looking forward to some of the other stouts I have waiting in the wings though, including one from Stone and, given my taste it should not be surprising that I have some Belgian-style darks that are kinda pretending to be stouts, like Allagash Black and Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence (which says it's a stout on the bottle, but is classified as a Belgian Dark on BA).

Double Feature: Hoppyness is Happiness

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I'm still catching up on 2010 movies, and this weekend's double feature was the relatively interesting duo of Valhalla Rising and Triangle. Now, I have no idea what Valhalla Rising is supposed to be about, but it's a beautiful, if surprisingly violent film featuring a one-eyed, mute Mads Mikkelsen. I'm not sure what to make of Nicolas Winding Refn, but the dude knows how to photograph stuff and and is always interesting, if perhaps a bit too artsy-fartsy (then again, this is a movie where someone armed only with an old arrowhead kills 5 people, in one case using the weapon to graphically disembowel an enemy that's tied up - hardly the usual artsy-fartsy style). Triangle is more conventionally filmed, but in the end, it's also pretty damn messed up. I will leave it at that for now, though I will say that fans of Nacho Vigalondo's (second best director name ever) Timecrimes would probably enjoy this movie (it's not quite a time-travel story, but there's a sorta recursion going on that will be familiar to time-travel fans). I'm on the fence as to whether Triangle will make the top 10 (i.e. it might be nice to have a film on my top 10 that's a little more obscure than the usual suspects), but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Speaking of enjoyment, I took the opportunity to check out two recent IPA purchases. Interestingly, this marks the third occasion that I've done an IPA double feature, which is interesting. I seem to like IPAs better when drinking different varieties together. Go figure.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

Dogfish Head Burton Baton: There's always a story behind the Dognfish Head beers, and this one is no exception, though the story isn't on their website (at least, not in the obvious place for it). I had to resort to an interview with Sam Calagione to find the origins of this beer. It's an homage to an old IPA beer brewed in the 1950s and 1960s by an east coast brewery called Ballantine which was called Burton Ale, itself a tribute to the English town of Burton (apparently a big brewing town - home of Bass ale, among others). The original Burton ale was a blend of different batches that was aged in wood for complexity, and thus so is Dogfish Head's beer. The "baton" part of it's name is not directly explained, but then, it probably doesn't need to be - there are several meanings that fit here, so I'll leave it at that.

It pours a nice amber orange color with about a finger of head and some lacing as I drank. Smells fantastic. Clean and crisp, with some floral hops, maybe some pine, and a little bit of citrus. Taste starts of smooth and sweet, followed by a bite in the bready middle as the bitter hops and alcohol hit, and the finish is surprisingly sweet and sticky. There is some booziness here, which is to be expected from such a high ABV beer, but it's not overpowering or cloying. The sticky finish makes this a good sipping beer, something you need to let linger a bit. Interestingly, some of that hoppy bitterness returns. As it warms, things seem to mellow a bit, which makes it even more drinkable. It reminds me a bit of Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA, but it's a little looser and wilder than that (exceptional) beer. I'm rating it slightly lower than the 90 Minute, but perhaps another double feature is in order to really determine the winner... In any case, it's another excellent brew from Dogfish Head. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Palate cleansed with some Buffalo wings. Yeah, I know, not exactly great for the palate, but wings and IPAs go together well.

Victory Hop Wallop

Victory Hop Wallop: Interestingly, the label on this one also features a story about the legend of Horace "hop" Wallop.

Horace 'Hop' Wallop headed west a broken man. For in the city of Blues a Miss LuLu Bell Lager had left him thirsting for more. Drawn by wild tales of riches to be had in the gold mines, Hop pressed on westward. His last nickel spent on a prospecting pan, Hop's hunger got the best of him. Two fistfuls of barely and three of some wild and wayward hops tossed in a pan with some clear water was to be his meal. But sleep overcame him and he later awoke to a bubbling cacophonous concoction. Overjoyed with the beautiful ale he had made, Hop realized the secret of the green gold he had discovered in those fresh hops. Celebrated far and wide, Hop Wallop lives on this vivid ale with his words, "Hoppyness is Happiness". Enjoy!
I have no idea if there really was a gold-prospector named Horace Wallop, nor do I know if he accidentally made some IPA wort with his prospecting pan (nor if he looks like the cartoon on the typically well designed label), but it's a wonderful story nonetheless. It pours a lighter, hazy yellow/gold color. Not a lot of head on it. Smells very different. Some sweet malty smells with the floral hops almost buried, but a lot of citrus coming through (I initially got the impression of oranges). Very smooth mouthfeel, with a much smaller bite and a dry, bitter finish. Not as much carbonation as the Burton Baton, but I wouldn't say it's bad. A very different taste, maybe a bit less complex, but still very good. There's something distinctive about it that I can't quite place, but it's enjoyable. Graprefruit, maybe? There is a tartness to it, and when combined with the citrus, I guess that does mean Grapefruit. (Looking at BA, it seems that my Grapefruit hypothesis is probably correct and is probably what I was smelling as well). It's a really fantastic beer. Very different from the Burton Baton, but I think I enjoyed it just as much. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Another week, another IPA double feature. I expect another one soon as Nugget Nectar and some other hoppy seasonals hit the shelves.

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

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