Pelican Father of All Tsunamis

Pelican Brewing’s Father of All Tsunamis is the stout spouse of the Mother of All Storms. I’m guessing their child is the 50-year storm that Patrick Swayze rides at the end of Point Break. Alas, there does not appear to be a beer commemorating that momentous occasion (yet!)

The Father of All Tsunamis is an imperial stout aged in Rye whiskey barrels. This marks an interesting deviation from the Mother’s use of Bourbon barrels. Alas, while a very good beer, this doesn’t really enter the conversation of best barrel aged stouts. That’s more because it’s a very crowded field than anything else though, so let’s strap on our foul weather gear and drink this sucker:

Pelican Father of all Tsunamis

Pelican Father of All Tsunamis – Pours a deep black color with a solid finger of beautiful, dense brown head. Smells very nice, rich caramel, hints of roast, something I can’t quite place, maybe liquorish, plus the usual retinue of boozy oak and vanilla. Tastes of sweet, rich caramel up front, with some dank hoppiness peeking through in the middle and some of that boozy oak and vanilla leading into the finish. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and chewy, well carbonated, pleasantly boozy but well balanced. Overall, this is a rock solid barrel aged stout, definitely a good example of the style, refined but restrained. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.2% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/11/20. Vintage: 2020

Pelican also makes a barrel aged Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale called Captain of the Coast that I’m itching to try. Like the Father, it uses a different type of spirits barrel though (Washington Wheat Whiskey). I’m not sure what the aversion is to using the same type of barrel for different beers, but I welcome the change of pace…

Casey Brewing Double Feature

When I was in Denver last year, one of the local breweries I sought out was Casey Brewing & Blending. They’re not actually in Denver, but lots of their beer is available there. I quickly became inundated with options. I’d go to Hops & Pie and see several variants that would look something like this: Funky Blender Apricot, East Bank Apricot, Fruit Stand Apricot, Family Preserves Apricot, and some one off Apricot blends. Naturally, they do the same thing with other fruits. So what’s the difference between these four series of beers? I used my keen powers of observation and Google-fu to discover:

  • Funky Blender – Seems to be a sorta base saison blend
  • East Bank – Similar idea, but it’s a saison made with honey
  • Fruit Stand – Similar saison base, but fruited at a rate of over 1 pound per gallon
  • Family Preserves – Similar saison base, but fruited at a rate of over 2 pounds per gallon

Since they don’t specify, my assumption is that Funky Blender and East Bank are not fruited at as high a rate as Fruit Stand or Family Preserves. There’s almost certainly some yeast/bacterial beastie differences across those series as well.

Casey Funky Blender Cherry

Casey Funky Blender Cherry (Bing) – Pours a bright, pinkish hued amber color with a solid finger of white head. Alright, maybe the head has a slight tint of pink to it. Smells of sour cherries and a hint of funk, with some oak lurking in the background. Taste hits that cherry note well, sweet up front with some oak and a tartness blooming into full blown sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbed, with medium to high acidity. Overall, it’s a well balanced little sour number… B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a teku glass on 4/25/20. Bottled 5/2/19. Bing Cherries.

Casey East Bank Apricot

Casey East Bank Apricot (Perfection) – “Perfection” is the apricot and not some indication of the brewers’ hubris. Pours a hazy golden orangeish color with just a cap of short-lived white head. Smells strongly of apricots with some underlying funk and oak contributing a little. Taste also hits those apricot notes pretty hard, sweet and tart with just a hint of earthiness and oak in the background, finishing with a sour kick. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and a touch low on the carbonation (though there’s enough there to keep things crisp), medium to high acidity, it’s got a bit of a pucker factor. Overall, this is more intense than the cherry, but hey, apricots are great and this is a good platform… B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 5/17/20. Bottled 8/9/19. Perfection Apricots.

The prospect of drinking a 750 of sour beer solo isn’t as attractive these days. However, these Casey Brewing bottles are usually worth the potential dose of Tums. They’re also great at bottle shares. Pricey but tasty.

Adventures in Home Brewing: Barlennan Bottling & Cookies

After three and a half weeks of sedate secondary fermentation and conditioning, my home brewed Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy was ready to be bottled. I’m calling it Barlennan, mostly because I’m a science fiction nerd, but also because “Barl” is the start of barley and “ennan” sounds like the suffix to a vaguely Scottish surname. Aren’t you glad I over-explained that? Anyway, as per usual, I learned many lessons (i.e. I made many mistakes) and I figured I’d also recount my attempt to make spent-grain cookies.


Home Brew Bottling Day

As I’ve already mentioned, I split the five gallon batch into two secondary fermenters. I added oak cubes that had been soaking in Aberlour Scotch to one, and left the other alone. At bottling, I split the batch into four different variants:

  1. Plain old Barlennan
  2. Aberlour Scotch Oak-Aged Barlennan
  3. A blend of Plain and Oak-Aged Barlennan
  4. Fortified Barlennan

The first three are self-explanatory, but I should explain the fourth because this is the first time I’ve practiced that sort of alchemy. So I just added around 80 ml of straight scotch to three bottles. According to my calculations, this should bring the ABV up to around 15% for these bottles. Incidentally, if I had used Aberlour A’Bunadh, it’s cask strength potency would have probably made this more like 18% ABV. The Aberlour 16 is only 80 proof, so it couldn’t do as much. Regardless, my prediction is that these bottles will not carbonate at all and will be ridiculously boozy, but I figure it’s an experiment worth trying. Mad science has to start somewhere.

Bottled home brew

I ended up bottling about a case and a half of this batch, and dumped the rest into a keg. The initial tasting revealed a huge fruity component, but also the notes of rich caramel and vanilla that I wanted. I attribute the bigger fruity notes to the higher ambient temperature during fermentation, which seemed to have an impact on this batch. This is why I normally only brew in the colder months. I blame the pandemic.

Bottles of home brew with waxed caps

I’m still waiting for the bottles to condition, but I’ve been sampling the kegged portion and I’ve observed some things. The fruity notes have gotten even more pronounced and I’ve noticed a distinctly savory umami character. So far, it’s not unpleasant, but I this could turn to an overwhelming soy sauce flavor at some point. Apparently, this has to do with autolysis; basically when alcohol is aged on dead yeast cells. Once again, I think this is due to the higher fermentation temperatures I subjected this batch to, as well as the more extended aging. I might also attribute this to my less-than-stellar skills at kegging beer. I’m hoping the bottles will fare better. I mean, I dipped some in wax, which has to make them taste better, right?

Spent Grain Cookies

After brewing, you’re left with a bunch of barley that’s been soaked in water and thus most of the sugars have been extracted. I usually throw this spent grain out, but I tried something different this time. I saved some grain and to dry it out, I put it in the oven at very low temperatures for a while.

Spent grain flour

It took around 6-7 hours to really dry it out, but once dry, I put it in my blender and turned it into as fine a powder as I could manage. I did some research and found that the general rule of thumb is to substitute about half of a given recipe’s flour with the spent grain flower. I did this for a basic cookie recipe, and huh, it turned out to be a very dark batter.

Cookie batter using spent grain flour

Since I’m an extract brewer, all of my spent grain was specialty grain, which tends to be darker. I also suspect the long drying process added some color. Next time, I might spread it out on a pan and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight. This should remove moisture and thus result in shorter time in the oven.

The cookies did bake up just fine though, so there is that. If I were doing this again, I might use a little less in the way of spent grain, as it does add an earthier note to the cookie. They were still tasty though.

A spent grain cookie

Ultimately, I’m not sure if it was worth the effort, but it was nice to not waste the grain after its first use. I’ll probably try it again (especially if I use some lighter specialty grains in future batches). Maybe I’ll make banana bread instead of cookies…

So there you have it, another home brewing batch in the books. Next batch probably won’t be until fall/winter, so as to avoid higher temperatures. I always did that before, but the pandemic forced my hand. But you live/brew and learn, I guess.

Root Down Brewing Double Feature

During these pandemic-crazed times, I’ve tried to pay extra attention to local breweries I enjoy. It’s not like I was going to serendipitously stumble upon one of their beers on tap at a local beeratorium, so I made sure to go out of my way to pick up some beer at a bunch of places, including Phoenixville’s own Root Down Brewing.

I don’t get out there very often, but I like their style, I’ve got a friend who works there, and their founder/brewer was my very first homebrew pusher purveyor. Oh yeah, and they brew good beer. Let’s kick it Root Down (And Get It):

Root Down Crispy Boy
Root Down Crispy Boy

Root Down Brewing Crispy Boy – Just look at that can art! Does anyone remember Charles Chips? They were a snack company that specialized in potato chips packaged in distinctive tins and delivered right to your home on a regular schedule. Seriously, it was like the old-style milkman, only for potato chips. You’d finish your tin and put out the empty one and the Charles Chips delivery truck would pick up the old tin and deliver you a new one. Anyway, the design of this can calls to mind the Charles Chips logo, which was a nice nostalgic surprise. But how was the beer?

A dry-hopped American Pilsner, it pours a striking clear golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head and good retention. The aroma has lots of bright citrus hops with an underlying pilsner cracker character. Taste hits those pilsner notes more than the nose, crackers and biscuits, but the citrus hops are present, if more subdued. Consequently, this makes it feel more like a pils. Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, light bodied and well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, it’s a good pils with some American hop character layered in, very nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/9/20.

Root Down The Mock
Root Down The Mock

Root Down Brewing The Mock – A unfiltered hazy South Eastern IPA (SEIPA – presumably a play on SEPTA, our craptacular transit authority) hopped with Comet, Azacca, and El Dorado hops. Pours a murky yellow orange color with a couple fingers of head. Smells of sweet, tropical fruit hops, candied mango and the like. Taste hits those bright tropical citrus flavors up front, sweetness balanced by a moderate to high bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little sticky sweet up front with some balanced dry bitterness in the finish. Overall, rock solid little IPA here, probably my favorite IPA from RD… B+ or A- 

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/10/20.

Rock solid stuff from Root Down, as per usual. Now that things are opening up again in PA, I may have to make the trek up to Phoenixville again soon…

Parish Royal Earth

It appears that the pastry menace has spread its dark influence to barleywines. Alright, fine, I appreciate the occasional pastry stout, those high-double-digit ABV, low attenuation, barrel-aged confections with all manner of candy-like adjuncts added. However, as I’ve often noted, I inevitably wonder what the pastry stout would be like without all the bells and whistles. So it’s a little disconcerting to see the excesses of the pastry stout make their way to the staid, dignified world of barleywine.

On the other hand, lord help me, I really enjoyed the hell out of this thing. Parish Royal Earth is a big ol’ barleywine aged in Apple Brandy barrels for 16 months before conditioning on a bed of crushed roasted pecans with Korintje Cinnamon and Madagascar Vanilla. It’s basically a liquid apple pie. Parish is best known for their most excellent Ghost in the Machine DIPA, but if this is any indication, their strong ale game is on point as well.

Parish Royal Earth

Parish Royal Earth – Pours a clear but dense, very dark amber brown color, almost black once it’s fully poured, with half a finger of off white head that quickly resolves to a ring around the glass. Smells great, tons of apple and pecan aromas, some cinnamon and vanilla adding a pie-like sensibility. The taste starts very sweet, loads of caramel and toffee, apple pie quickly kicking in, finishing off with oak and vanilla. Less pecan in the taste than the nose, but it’s still pretty intense and complex stuff. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, moderate carbonation is well calibrated for the beer, and there’s some pleasant boozy heat at this party too. Overall, this is pretty fabulous stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml waxed). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/18/20. Vintage 2020.

I had originally planned a trip to New Orleans in March and while the brewery’s not particularly close by, I was hoping I could maybe sneak a bottle or two of something strange like this back with me. Unfortunately, a global pandemic put the breaks on that particular trip, so who knows when I’ll be able to snag more rarities from Parish.

Changes and Upgrades

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working to upgrade my blogs to WordPress. Yeah, I know, I probably should have done this a decade ago (i.e. before I even started the beer blog), but we’re finally here now, so enjoy the new blog.

There’s still plenty left to do, but it’s basically the same stuff, only more modern and, like, functional. As of now, it’s a lot easier to comment, for example (so far the spam countermeasures are working, but that might not hold). There’s probably some things in the archives that’ll look weird and I’m still tweaking some stuff, but so far, so good. Stay tuned, moar beer nerditry coming soon…

Update: I’ve discovered a couple issues of note:

  • The category archives for the Grades have been smushed together by letter grade. For example, now A-, A, and A+ all show up under the A category. This is just a data issue, but the prospect of updating a thousand posts with the appropriately granular grades is… not appealing.
  • Some links, particularly category links that were embedded in a particular post, are not redirecting properly. You end up back on the old blog. It’s still functional, but the experience is weird and the old site is obviously not going to stay updated. These will be a little easier to update, but again, it’s a manual effort, so I’m sure to miss some (especially on older posts).

Ale Apothecary Sahati

After nearly a decade of beer blogging, it’s not often that I cover a new style. To be sure, the Sahti style basically amounts to a specific Finnish farmhouse tradition that could probably fall under Saison. Because of course it would; Saison as a style is staggeringly vague. The Sahti tends to be made with a variety of grains and uses juniper in addition to (or instead of) hops. While I haven’t written about it, I’ve had a couple in my time: Dogfish Head Sah’tea (which, as per usual, is a wacky take on the style that incorporates Chai tea elements) and Tired Hands Statolith (apparently one of my lowest rated beers from that local fave).

Enter Ale Apothecary’s take on the style, which incorporates some eye opening bits of Finnish tradition – namely, the use of a trough-shaped lauter tun called a kuurna. The brewers chopped down a 200 year old, 85 foot tall spruce tree that was on their property, hollowed it out to create the trough, and used the boughs and spruce tips as a mash filter which will also add some character to the finished beer (they are basically substituting spruce for the historically used juniper). Otherwise, this gets the typical Ale Apothecary open-fermentation/oak-aged treatment, and the result is, as per usual, pretty solid stuff:

Ale Apothecary Sahati

Ale Apothecary Sahati – Pours a deep orange color with some amber tones peeking through and a finger of moderately bubbly head that actually sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, dark, vinous fruits, acetic vinegar, some mild funk, and I don’t think I’d pick out spruce blind, but because I know it’s there, I feel like I can get that aroma too. Taste hits those same dark vinous fruits and vinegar notes, not as sour as the nose would have you believe, but it packs a punch for sure. It’s got a sweetness that perhaps cuts through that sourness and the oak leavens things out a bit too. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied moderately well carbed (a little lower than your typical saison), medium acidity, a little sticky, and some boozy heat too. Overall, ayup, it’s a gud un. I don’t know why I started talking like a grizzled mountain man there for a sec, but here we are. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.26% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/18/20. Bottled: July 11, 2019.

Typically good stuff from Ale Apothecary. They make pricey beers, but if you like a good sour, they’re pretty damned good at that sort of thing.

Adventures in Brewing: Barlennan Secondary

After three weeks of glorious fermentation, I transferred Barlennan, my homebrewed Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, to two secondary fermenters. Fermentation appeared to be vigorous and healthy, like a conquistador who drank from the fountain of youth (sorry, I read a silly thriller whilst cooped up in lockdown and I’m a little loopy right now). After an intense battery of tests and measurements, my initial readings were pleasantly surprising in that I achieved a pretty high attenuation ferment. Of course, by “intense battery of tests” I mean that I splashed some beer on my refractometer and quickly eyeballed the measurement, a process that is far from rigorous and has undoubtedly yielded wildly inaccurate results. I’m the worst!

Barlennan Secondary Fermenters

Final gravity was approximately 12.1 Brix, which roughly translates to 1.022. Given the OG of 1.096, this leaves us with 76% attenuation and about 9.6% ABV. This is well over the normal range for the Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale yeast (which is 69% – 73%), but I’m wondering if the relatively high ambient temperatures kept the fermentation going stronger than I usually maintain (I typically don’t brew during the warmer months due to temperature control issues, but this seemed to work out fine). The beer certainly smelled great, tons of rich, caramelized malt and a very nice fruity note that comes across well. Supposedly higher fermentation temps result in more esters from the yeast, which could be part of that fruity character.

I mentioned before that I’d been soaking the oak cubes in Aberlour A’Bunadh for about three years or so. The resulting scotch wasn’t particularly great (it had a sorta grainy, bitter astringency, and it tasted like burning), so I dumped it (sad!) and got myself a fresh bottle of Aberlour 16 and did a quick rinse of the cubes with a small amount of scotch (about 60 ml). I went with Aberlour for a couple of reasons. One, it’s not an Islay Scotch, so no one will be wondering who put their cigar out in my beer. And two, it’s at least partially finished in sherry barrels, which I think could be a harmonious combination of flavors.

While transferring the beer to secondary, I split the batch into two, one getting the oak cubes (and I dumped the 60ml of scotch in there while I was at it – no sense wasting that precious, pricey juice) and the other I left alone. As with previous oak aged experiments, I plan to let this one sit 3-4 weeks and bottle some of the regular, some of the oak-aged, and some of a blend of the two. I may also court perilous levels of extremity by making up a few bottles of fortified beer, adding some Scotch until a given bottle reaches some ridiculous ABV. Or maybe I’ll dump a bunch into a keg and see what happens. Time and assorted levels of laziness will tell.

As an aside, have I mentioned how much the PLCB sucks? Since Covid-19, all of the liquor stores in Pennsylvania have been closed. Over the last month or so, they’ve slowly been reopening for curbside pickup (and now, I believe, they’re starting to actually open up stores again). I gave it a shot, but I called a couple of local stores approximately 20 times over the course of a few days and always got a busy signal. Instead of continuing with that mess, I just went to TotalWine in Delaware and grabbed a bottle (for what I assume is a cheaper price than PA would have). I think I’m done with the PA state stores. Anywho, I’ll check back in in a few weeks when it’s time to bottle (or maybe Keg)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #20: Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale – Barlennan

According to my voluminous records, it’s been over two years since my last batch of homebrew, so I’ve officially lost any and all superpowers conferred by the home brewing fraternity of zythophilia. I could list out some excuses, but it ultimately comes down to having an excess buildup of world class beer in my house already. Alright, fine, I should probably just admit that it’s sheer laziness, but I do, in fact, have a lot of beer in my house.

Anywho, now that I’m in lockdown, I thought it might be a good time to reignite that homebrewing flame and make the Scotch Ale I’ve been threatening to brew for nigh on 4 years now. It will join Trystero and Bomb & Grapnel in my little series of oak-aged homebrew experiments (using a similar process that will result in some base beer, an oaked version, and a blend). Let’s get into it:

Beer #20: Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale – Barlennan

Full-Batch (5 gallons)

May 19, 2020

0.5 lb. English Medium Crystal Malt (specialty grain)

0.375 lb. Belgian Biscuit Malt (specialty grain)

0.125 lb. English Roasted Barley Malt (specialty grain)

12 lb. Gold Malt Syrup (LME)

1 oz. German Northern Brewer Hops (bittering @ 8 AA)

Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast (1 smack pack + starter)

Barlennan ingredients

I originally wanted to do an even simpler recipe, but my preferred homebrew shop is far away and their Scotch Ale kit had peated malt in it (this isn’t an actual historical thing, but for some reason a lot of recipes call for it), so I just ordered this Northern Brewer kit that seemed pretty close to what I was going to do anyway. My initial version had a little less in the way of specialty malts, but the kit is still pretty simple stuff. Mostly just a base malt with some specialty grains for flavor, a single hop addition for bitterness (historically, Scottish ales are not known for pronounced hop character owing to the fact that they had to import their hops from *groan* England). Simple ingredients, but I’m going to do some decidedly non-simple stuff for the rest of the process.

It’s a high-ish gravity brew, so I did a yeast starter using some old Bavarian Wheat DME that I had laying around (this is not what I mean when I say non-simple – I just should mention it). It had solidified into a brick, so I had to soak it in some warm water first to dissolve it, but the general yeast starter recipe (3 parts water, 1 part malt) worked well enough, and resulted in a reasonable 600ish ml starter. The Northern Brewer kit came with two Wyeast smack packs, so I used one for the starter, and just saved the other to pitch at the same time as the starter. I did the starter on Saturday and brew day was on Tuesday (probably should have been Monday, but no big whoop).

Barlennan boil

The only real deviation from standard brewing practices here is that I followed the apparently infamous skotrat technique that he developed for a Traquair House Ale Clone (incidentally, that’s probably my favorite Scotch Ale that’s actually from Scotland that I’ve had). Basically, the technique has you removing a small portion of the wort and giving it a really hard boil to caramelize it. He says to reduce two gallons down to a pint, but that recipe is for a much larger batch. Also, my readily available cookware for this is limited and I didn’t feel like spelunking through my basement to find something bigger, so my portion was more like 1.5 quarts reduced down to about a cup (maybe a cup and a half, I didn’t measure it). It was noticeably darker than the base brew, so hopefully it got some good caramelization on it that will come through in the finished product. Honestly, this might be something I want to do for all of my high gravity stuff, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

As mentioned above, after about two weeks or so, I’ll rack to secondary, splitting the batch into two 2.5 Gallon fermenters, one of which will get oak cubes that have been soaking in Aberlour for about 3 years (remember when I said I’ve been planning this beer for four years?) At bottling time, I’m going to split this up into three different bottlings. One with the base, one with the oaked version, and one with a blend of the two. Depending on how I feel, I may also do something like a fortified beer, adding enough Scotch to a couple bottles to bring the ABV up to about 20% ABV.

Hopefully, all these little tweaks to the process will make up for my continued engagement with extract brewing.

OG: ~23 Brix = 1.096.

This is a little higher than the original target OG of around 1.083, but I’m fine with the higher gravity because I want this to be a big, chewy, oak aged monster of a beer. That said, assuming something like 70% attenuation, I’ll get about 9% ABV out of this (FG of around 1.027), which should be a good base for the oak aging. One concern with the fermentation right now is that the ambient temps in my house are hovering around 70° F, which is pretty much the max temp for this yeast. Fortunately, we’re having a cool spring, so I should be able to keep it slightly lower for these critical first few days (update: I’ve been able to maintain an average of 69° during the most active periods of fermentation – nice.)

As for the name of the beer, in accordance with my other high gravity brews, I’ve selected an appropriately nerdy (and obscure) reference from science fiction literature: Barlennan. If you already know what I’m talking about, we are probably kindred spirits of some kind. If not, well, it’s from a 1954 Hal Clement novel called Mission of Gravity. That review was from almost exactly three years ago, and when that character’s name showed up in that book I thought it would be an exceptional name for a beer, mostly just because “Barl” is also the base for barley, but also the notion of “high gravity” fits with the events of the book (I suppose we’re talking about different concepts, but still). I’m glad I’m finally able to make this beer. Hopefully it will live up to the years of hype. It’s bubbling away happily right now, so we’re certainly on-track… stay tuned!

Mason B.A. Baracus

I’ve been known to read a bit too much into the name of a beer, often positing obscure pop culture references that are almost certainly untrue (though sometimes I’m correct). Because it’s fun and I’m the worst, that’s why. Anyway, in this case, it’s hard to avoid the obvious: this beer is named after a butterfly. More precisely, Baracus is a genus of grass skippers, or butterflies of the subfamily Hesperiinae. What I’m saying is that Mason Ale Works are closet lepidopterists and certainly not fans of a classic 80s television show about a crack commando unit that was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit.

Alright, fine, it’s named after Mr. T’s character from the A-Team. Are you happy now? Fine then. Believe it or not, the initials “B.A.” actually have several possible meanings. It’s most frequently translated to “Bad Attitude”, but it also stands for “Bosco Albert” (his real name), and while this one isn’t canon, Mr. T has indicated that it could stand for “Born Again” (in terms of his Christian faith).

In context of this beer, B.A. also stands for “Barrel-Aged” – this barleywine spent over a year in bourbon and Cutwater single malt whiskey barrels (presumably that’s Devil’s Share American Whiskey). Cutwater is a venture started by the founder and master brewer of Ballast Point (after BP sold out to megacorp Constellation), so it appears Mason Ale Works wanted to support their former rivals by purchasing some barrels. Or perhaps they share an interest in lepidopterology. Um, whatever the case, let’s get to the good stuff. By which I mean… tasting notes that will make your eyes gloss over.

Mason B.A. Baracus

Mason Ale Works B.A. Baracus – Pours a muddy dark brown color with a half finger of head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells great, lots of caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, some resinous hops lurking in the background. Taste is sweet, toffee, caramel, that bourbon, oak, and vanilla, some of that resinous hop character too. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, moderate carbonation, plenty of booze. Overall, yup fantastic little BA barleywine. It’s got some of that American Barleywine hoppiness to it, but it’s well incorporated. I want to say that it’s reminiscent of Mother of All Storms, but I had these beers far enough apart that I can’t be sure. Gonna have to get fresh bottles/cans of each to do a proper comparison. Ultimately, both are pretty great and worth seeking out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 1/5/20. Vintage: Limited Edition 2018.

Yet another fine barleywine, I’m steadily making progress on my backlog of reviews (this is the last one from before quarantine times), so stay tuned. We’ve got some more barleywine, some stouts, and more local cans of IPAs and Pilsners coming your way.