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).

Belated 2019 Year End Musings

At the beginning of each year, it’s good to generally take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we’re going. Seeing as though we’re halfway almost through February, I’ve pretty much missed out on the usual timeframe for such musings, but said timeframes are mostly arbitrary anyway, so why not do a belated year-in-review? I mean, sure, hundreds of reasons, but nothing that’s convincing me not to, so let’s hop to it, shall we?

  • The Decline of Blogging – After that intro, this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. It’s a long term-trend that continued to accelerate in 2019. In my most prolific years, I’d put out 3-4 posts a week. That tapered down to about 3-4 a month, and is now at 1-2 a month, if that. There are a few things driving this trend. Firstly, this blog has never really garnered a huge readership and blogs in general are in decline. Sure, I post semi-regularly over on Twitter and less-so on other social media platforms, but it’s just not the same. Also of note: Google’s ranking of blogs appears to have dwindled. I used to get a pretty healthy amount of traffic from natural search, but that’s declined dramatically (there could be other reasons for this, including the aging infrastructure of my blogging software/templates). In any case, it’s hard to justify spending a lot of time writing stuff no one is reading. It’s true that a good amount of the reason for the blog is to better myself, but it’s also nice to have some sort of interaction with readers. Secondly, after nearly ten years of maintaining the blog, there isn’t as much to say. At least, not in my tried and true format of tasting notes surrounded by (hopefully) more interesting context. That being said, it might be time to shake things up a bit, stop relying so heavily on tasting notes, and maybe do a little more blue-sky thinking. Easier said than done, but we’ll see. Thirdly, other responsibilities crop up that limit time for this sort of thing. For instance, I have a new role at work that is more fulfilling and rewarding than my previous role, but which also takes up more time and mindshare (not a complaint!) In short, you can expect blogging to continue, but it will remain on this more leisurely schedule, with perhaps the occasional spike (or lull) in activity.
  • The Continued Rise of Lagers – Another long-term trend, lagers have become something of a mainstay in my beer fridge. Perhaps even moreso than IPAs. It might be difficult to notice if you’re just looking at the blog, which tends to be more focused on barrel-aged stouts/barleywines, saisons/sours, and IPAs, but that’s the weird thing about lagers: There often isn’t that much to say about them. This isn’t to say that they’re all bland or uninteresting to drink, just that they tend to be staid affairs with little in the way of hype or innovation or weird ingredients. Indeed, that’s part of their appeal! And to be sure, there’s plenty of interest behind the craft of lagers, so maybe I just need to dig deeper. This is probably something worth exploring in more detail, especially since I seem to be drinking more of these.
  • The Decline of Drinking and Taking a Break – As I get older, the appeal of drinking quite so much in a given session has lessened. Oh sure, I still drink plenty, but left to my own devices, I have tended more towards moderation in the last few years (the whole “Rise of Lagers” thing mentioned above also helps, given that they tend to be lower ABV). Social situations and travel still result in some longer sessions, for sure, but they’re not as frequent as they used to be. Indeed, we’re coming up on my seventh annual beer slowdown, a Lenten tradition wherein I (mostly) avoid drinking beer. It’s an exercise I always find valuable, and it sorta resets my tastes and perspectives (not to mention, ahem, my waistline).
  • Aging Beer – In general, my thoughts on aging beer have shifted more towards just drinking it as soon as possible. It’s still occasionally fun to age beer and see what happens, but for the most part, it’s not really worth the hassle. However, I’ve often noted that my eyes are bigger than my liver, so there are plenty of times when I buy too much beer and must age some of it by necessity. And in my experience, aging something (at least something that’s a good candidate for aging) a year is usually still pretty interesting. However, one experience I had this year has me drinking down my cellar at a higher rate than usual. I had a bunch of friends over on my birthday to “drink my beer” and went through a bunch of beer that I had broken out for the occasion. Some fresh, but some really old stuff too, and results were typical: they were all different than they were fresh, but not necessarily better, and some were downright atrocious (in particular, I had a 2012 Parabola that really fell off dramatically and wasn’t particularly good.) The sole exception was lambic, which was arguably more complex and comparable (if still different) to the experience from 8 years earlier, so experiments in the lambic realm will probably continue. We’ll see how well I can do this year. Maintaining a cellar is definitely fun, but I like the idea of shrinking it down a tad.
  • Homebrewing Limbo – It’s been a couple of years since my last batch of homebrew, and I keep finding excuses not to brew (some of which, like having the flu, are actually good, but most of which come down to pure laziness). I still find it an interesting process and have been itching to try a couple of things, so maybe I’ll figure something out in the coming weeks…

At this point, I usually do a top “new to me” beers of the year list, but the decline in blogging will result in a smaller list. Standard disclaimers apply: this is a list of beers that were new to me this year and which I reviewed on the blog. It’s not an all time favorites list, so if you don’t see something on here, then maybe I didn’t try it this year or perhaps I had it in a previous year. Or you have bad taste and are a bad person. It could be that too. This is a naturally arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with it and enjoy making lists like this. Lists are American! So let’s do this thing:

  1. Bottle Logic Sight and Mind (Barleywine)
  2. Fremont Barrel Aged Dark Star (Imperial Stout)
  3. Cycle Rare DOS 1 (Imperial Stout)
  4. Plan Bee Precious (American Wild Ale)
  5. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #6 (DIPA)
  6. Odd Breed Fresh Off the Farm With Peaches (Saison)
  7. Foam Wavvves (DIPA)
  8. Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton (American Wild Ale)
  9. Gigantic Massive! (Barleywine)
  10. Mother of All Storms (barleywine)
  11. Side Project Merci (Saison)
  12. Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation (Imperial Stout)
  13. Fremont Barrel Aged B-Bomb Coconut Edition (American Strong Ale)
  14. Tree House Treat (DIPA)
  15. Suarez Family Brewery Parlance (Saison)
  16. The Alchemist Luscious (Imperial Stout)
  17. Frost Research Series IPA (IPA)
  18. Suarez Family Brewing Qualify Pils (Pilsner)
  19. Cycle Roadtrip – Fresh Blacktop (Imperial Stout)
  20. Free Will Maple Ralphius (Imperial Stout)

The Unreviewed

Beers that where I had small samples and/or never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

  1. Weldworks and Perennial MamaNoche (Imperial Stout)
  2. Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze (American Wild Ale) (GABF)
  3. Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #25 (Saison)
  4. Russian River Beatification (American Wild Ale) (GABF)
  5. Weldworks Single Barrel Medianoche (Imperial Stout) (GABF)
  6. Bruery Black Tuesday Reserve (2015) (Imperial Stout)
  7. Bruery Brandy Barrel Aged Bois (Old Ale)
  8. Bierstadt Lagerhaus Slow Pour Pils (Pilsner) (GABF)
  9. Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight (Imperial Stout) (GABF)
  10. Liberati Oximonstrum (Oenobeer) (GABF)

Bruery Brandy Barrel Aged Bois

I’m a sucker for the Bruery’s Anniversary beers, and managed to acquire some of the variants aged in other barrels. The best of those was this Brandy barrel treatment. The Brandy complements the base and is just different enough from the normal Bourbon barrel aged version to make the whole enterprise worthwhile (Scotch and Wine barrel treatments are still good, to be sure, but only the Brandy rivals the Bourbon). The Bruery isn’t quite at the vanguard of beer nerdery these days, but I still love their Belgian inflected takes on barrel aged beers, and you’ll be seeing some more about them on the blog soon enough…

This just about wraps things up. I’ve got a bit of a backlog of reviews to plow through, so keep your eyes peeled, more coming soon…

2018 Year End Musings

The two-headed Roman god Janus could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other, and as such is generally regarded as the god of things like beginnings, transitions, and time (amongst other such concepts). So too is the month January named after Janus, as it’s a transition to a new year. An almost completely arbitrary one, to be sure, but it’s good to take some time out to strap on our Janus mask, take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we’re going. This can be a tricky thing in our increasingly polarized society, but fortunately beer is generally a simpler pleasure (especially if you focus more on the liquid in the glass rather than more nebulous things like business, law, or culture) and this is but a simple beer blog, so let’s take a look at my year in beer. Assorted thoughts:

  • The Evolution of Novelty – Last year I speculated on the end of novelty, but that’s too broadly stated. However, the fact remains that I’m drinking more repeat beers than ever. There are annual releases that I look forward to every year. Sometimes I’ll even buy a 4 or 6 pack of something and drink the entire thing! I know that sounds awfully normal to most people, but for years and years, I would just buy single bottles/cans/drafts of as many things as I could and basically never drank the same beer twice. In short, I was a novelty whore, and drinking the same beer twice almost felt like some sort of moral failure. Of course, this is silly, and such feelings have pretty much disappeared in the past few years. This is not to say that I don’t still seek out the new and exciting, just that the prospect of drinking multiples of the same beer is now pretty common, especially when it’s something I really enjoy. Which, again, sounds dreadfully normal and I’m sure the fact I’m even harping on this at all would be confusing to some people, but this is where I’m at.
  • The Rise of Lagers – It’s no secret that the grand majority of beers that garner hype in the beer world tend to be ales, and even here, my tendencies are to review mostly ales. That being said, lagers have been a growing portion of my beer diet. Again, this is indicative of a longer term trend that began years ago, but blossomed more this year, in particular with respect to Oktoberfest beers, of which I drank many (indeed, these beers were a key player the aforementioned repeat beer drinking). Of course, I didn’t actually review any of them, so maybe I have some work to do on that front, but then:
  • The Decline of Blogging – This blog has never particularly garnered a huge audience, but I’m assuming that if you are actually reading this, you may have noticed a distinct decline in the posting schedule over the past year. Once again, this is a longer term trend, but it accelerated this year, to the point where I’m only really posting 3-4 times a month on average. Certainly a far cry from the heyday of the blog, when I’d regularly post 3-4 times a week. There are many reasons for this. I’ve been writing here for over 8 years and while I’m not above a little repetition, it does feel like I should only really be writing about things that really knock me out or that inspire me in some sort of unique way. After writing about 200+ Stouts (and similar numbers of IPAs), the style itself doesn’t provide much inspiration, so it’s got to come down to brewery info, some sort of story about the name or inspiration behind the beer, or just bald recitations of tasting notes (and you know how exciting that can be). Posting will, of course, continue, if only out of sheer momentum, but I like the more relaxed once a week schedule these days. Or perhaps I should take to writing more freeform stuff or more creative exercises. Time will tell, of course, but I suspect I’ll maintain a relatively healthy schedule.
  • Beer Shares – At this point, I regularly participate in 2-3 bottle shares a month, with varying ranges of intensity. This has lead to new friendships and the opportunity to taste some great beer that I’d otherwise never have a hope to try, and it’s a lot of fun. Alas, since these tastings aren’t happening in a sensory deprivation chamber with strictly controlled light, temperature, and humidity conditions, they don’t usually make for good blogging material (another contributer to the above lack of posting). This has been one of my favorite developments of recent years though, and it’s been a really good time.
  • Barleywine is Life – The trend of the year that I didn’t realize was happening until I put some lists together below and noticed the prevalence of a style that I’ve always enjoyed, but which has taken on a bigger role, probably due to DDB‘s totally bonkers Barleywine is Life Facebook group. Fully 25% of my top 20 of the year are barleywines (or at least, life-adjacent stuff like B-Bomb), and 40% of the unreviewed hit the mark too (at least one of which will be reviewed in detail, I just haven’t gotten to it yet because I’m the worst). It’s an impressive showing, and I expect the trend to continue into the new year (already have a couple new bwizzle bangers in the pipeline).
  • Homebrewing Limbo – I’m at a place right now where I’m home brewing once a year. I enjoy the process and it’s been a really great way to learn about what really makes beer tick, but I haven’t make much time for it in recent years. I was planning on doing something when I took a vacation across the holidays, but then I came down with the flu and that kinda killed any motivation I had. I really do want to do that Scotch ale I’ve been threatening to make for a few years now, so who knows? Maybe I’ll ramp it up this winter.
  • Aging Beer – My first few rounds of experiments with aging beer have already come to fruition, and this year was something of a rebuilding year, with more of a focus on getting Lambic in the cellar to age. I suspect some of that aging will come to fruition in the next few years, but in general, aging beer is fun, but highly variable and not strictly necessary. Mostly beers do change, sometimes dramatically, but aren’t necessarily much better than they were fresh (and sometimes they’re far worse). As per usual, my eyes are bigger than my liver, so some aging happens just by default as I buy more beer than I could ever drink (or even share). The cellar is getting a tad bit unwieldy though, so this year might see a more significant “drink down” of older beers with a bit of a purchasing freeze. Regardless, it will be a fun year.
  • Taking a Break – I continued my Lenten tradition of (er, mostly) giving up beer for a while this year, and I think the practice is a solid one that does me (and my waistline) a lot of good, so I expect that to continue. Indeed, I could see my overall consumption reducing throughout the year as well. This dovetails nicely with the whole evolution of novelty thing mentioned above, as one of the things that drove drinking to higher levels was the all-consuming need to explore the new and exciting beers I’d acquired (or which were on tap locally, etc…) I’ve also gotten better at not forcing myself to power through too much of a beer that I don’t like. This goes against my general desire for efficiency and frugality (I mean, I spend a lot more than most on beer, but since I do so, I generally feel obligated to get my money’s worth), but there’s no need to torture myself.

So all in all, it’s been a good year for me and beer, but then, what year hasn’t been good? In accordance with the decline in blogging and increase in repeat beers, my top “new to me” beers of the year list is shrinking. This year, I’m only listing 20 beers with reviews (but another 10 that I never got around to reviewing for various reasons). Standard disclaimers apply: this is a list of beers that were new to me this year and which I reviewed on the blog. It’s not an all time favorites list, so if you don’t see something on here, then maybe I didn’t try it this year or perhaps I had it in a previous year. Or you have bad taste and are a bad person. It could be that too. This is a naturally arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with it and enjoy making lists like this. Lists are American! So let’s do this thing:

  1. 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston (2015) (Gueuze)
  2. Kane Object Permanence (Barleywine)
  3. Fremont B-Bomb (American Strong Ale)
  4. Levante Glitter Parts (IPA)
  5. Xyauyù Gold Label 2011 (Barleywine)
  6. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #9 (DIPA)
  7. Samuel Adams Utopias (2017) (American Strong Ale)
  8. Suarez Family Brewing Call to Mind (Saison)
  9. Tilquin Oude Pinot Noir Tilquin à L’Ancienne (Lambic)
  10. Tree House Bbbrighttt with Citra (DIPA)
  11. Kane A Night To End All Dawns (Imperial Stout)
  12. Finback Social Fabric (DIPA)
  13. Cantillon 20 Ans D’Amitié (Lambic)
  14. Suarez Family Brewing Palatine Pils (Pilsner)
  15. Smog City Bourbon Barrel-Aged O.E. (Barleywine)
  16. Barrel of Monks Bourbon Barrel Aged Father Christmas (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
  17. Victory Java Cask Maple (Imperial Stout)
  18. Burley Oak Double Blackberry Mango JREAM (American Wild Ale)
  19. Phantom Carriage Crawling Eye (American Wild Ale)
  20. Hill Farmstead Poetica 2 (Pilsner)

The Unreviewed

Beers that where I had small samples and/or never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

  1. Anchorage A Deal With the Devil – Double Oaked (2017) (Barleywine)
  2. Bottle Logic Sight and Mind (Barleywine)
  3. Pelican Mother Of All Storms (2013) (Barleywine)
  4. Maine Dinner (DIPA)
  5. Allagash Coolship Resurgam (American Wild Ale)
  6. Firestone Walker Abacus (2011) (Barleywine)
  7. Cycle Rare Noa (Imperial Stout)
  8. The Bruery Chronology:24 – Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy)
  9. Aslin Moonshield (Imperial Stout)
  10. Funky Buddha Morning Wood (Porter)

Bottle Logic Sight and Mind

You will be seeing a full review of this Bottle Logic barleywine soon enough, so stay tuned. In other news, the new year in beer looks as promising as ever, so let’s get back to the hard, hard work of drinking beer, shall we?

2017 Year End Musings

Another orbital cycle has passed, which means its time to take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we’re going. There are always things to dislike about a given year, but rarely do I come down on beer as being one of those things, which is nice, since this is a beer blog and all. So what happened this year?

  • The End of Novelty? Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. But the fact remains that I’m drinking more repeat beers than ever. This is to be expected, as I’ve been at this for a while, but even beyond that, there are annual releases I look forward to drinking every year, and sometimes I will even *gasp* buy a four (or six) pack and drink all of them. There are tons of people for whom this is a trivial occurrence (and who are no doubt confused if they’re reading this), but I spent several years as a total novelty whore, where basically every beer I drank was different and a repeat beer seemed like a moral failure. That is silly, of course, and I’ve moved on. I regret nothing, and both approaches are fun, and it’s not like I don’t go in for new, novel beers or anything.
  • The Rise of Lambic? One thing I’ve found myself reaching for more and more over the past couple of years is Lambic and in particular, Gueuze. This goes along with the above, since what is regularly available is usually something I’ve already had, and yet I do keep reaching for these beers whenever I get a chance. I’ve definitely reviewed more lambic in the past couple of years, but there’s still less opportunity to do so. I’ve also found that lambic purchases contributed to:
  • Aged Beer Coming to Fruition? The past couple of years have seen a lot of aging experiments come to fruition. For instance, this year I reviewed a host of vintage Victory and Dogfish Head beers that had been sitting in my cellar for 5 years or so (there were a bunch of others that I never got around to posting about either). Of course, only some of these were intentionally aged beers, and not all were of good aging stock, so results were mixed. But then, aged beer results have always been mixed in my estimation. My general advice remains: Aging beer is fun, but if you’ve only got one bottle and you’re debating whether to drink fresh or age it, drink it fresh. One exception to this seems to be Lambic though. I haven’t done much formal evaluation of this, but informally, I’ve had some aged lambic (in the 3-15 year aged range) and seen some fascinating results. As such, my cellar is filling up with lambic to age.
  • The Rise of the Local Beer Release? Ok, so this one isn’t particularly new at all, but I was talking with a friend recently about good beer distributers in PA and realizing that I pretty rarely go to them anymore. For the uninitiated, PA law changed at the beginning of 2017 to allow distributers to sell singles or 4/6 packs (previously, you had to buy a case if you wanted something – a ridiculous law that basically meant I never went to beer distributers), but while I’ve popped in to a few of them from time to time, I find that I still get most of my beer from local brewery releases (or travel to other brewery releases, as with Operation Cheddar, or muled releases, or trades, etc…) The only thing I really go to package stores for anymore is lambic. Doesn’t mean I won’t pick up something else while I’m there (always in the mood for some BA Firestone Walker, etc…), but still.
  • The Decline of Blogging? The rate of new posts here has also been slowly dropping over the past couple of years, but has seen a more steep decline of late. This is partly due to some of the factors discussed above: less novelty and more repeat beers means less reviews to blog about. Plus, I’m starting to run a little dry when it comes to writing up a new beer. There’s only so many quick brewery profiles or style recaps to go through, and sometimes a beer’s backstory isn’t all that interesting. I’ve got a backlog of reviews right now, of course, but I’ve been slow to pick them off. This might augur more general or creative writing about beer, which could possibly be in the cards, but wouldn’t be as frequent as reviews. Then again, blogging in general has been in steep decline for, like, a decade, and it’s not like anyone is reading this (if you are, thanks!)
  • What happened to Homebrewing? No homebrewing all year. I had hoped to turn that around this fall, but I got sick at the wrong times and it just never aligned. I still hope to rebrew Crom Approved and that oak-aged Scotch Ale that I’ve been threatening for a while now (tentatively named Barlennan, a particularly nerdy reference – if you get it, we really need to be friends).
  • Other Stuff: I took another break from beer this year, and I still find this a very valuable exercise. From a health perspective, though, I had a not so great year. I’ve managed to right the ship by the end of the year, but I suffered through a weird toe injury (that prevented exercise) and then I had a cold and ear infection that have lingered on for far too long, which makes drinking and general health a bit challenging. Still, I’m hoping the new year will really get me going again. I’ve ticked some great stuff this year, but less in the way of walez, bro. Not complaining at all, just a note. Ratings inflation continues unabated, and I never managed to induct a new class of A+ beers, but perhaps we’ll just make that a bi-annual event anyway.

So it’s been an interesting year in beer. In accordance with the decline in blogging and increase in repeat beers, my top “new to me” beers of the year list is shrinking. This year, I’m only slotting in 25 beers with reviews… though I will have a list of unreviewed beers that I had a shares, etc… Standard disclaimers apply: this is not an all time list, it’s a list of beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you’re favorite isn’t on it, that might just be because I reviewed it in a previous year, or perhaps I haven’t had it at all. Or maybe I had it and hated it and you have bad taste. I’ve also tried to limit brewery appearances so as not to be a list of the 20 best Hill Farmstead beers I’ve had this year. This is a naturally arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with it and enjoy making lists like this. After all, lists are American! So let’s get on with it.

  1. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Apple Brandy Fayston Maple Imperial Stout (Imperial Stout)
  2. Tree House Julius (IPA)
  3. de Garde Oude Desay (Saison)
  4. Victory Red (Flanders Red Ale)
  5. Burley Oak 100 (DIPA)
  6. Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel (DIPA)
  7. Burial The Persistence Of Memories (DIPA)
  8. Upper Pass First Drop (American Pale Ale)
  9. Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil (Saison)
  10. Pretty Things Our Finest Regards (Barleywine)
  11. Hill Farmstead Sue (American Wild Ale)
  12. Casey Saison (Saison)
  13. Rare Barrel Wise Guise (American Wild Ale)
  14. Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend (Gueuze)
  15. Founders CBS (Imperial Stout)
  16. Tired Hands The Emptiness is in Bloom (Saison)
  17. Bottle Logic The Spice Must Flow (Pumpkin Beer)
  18. Oude Mûre Tilquin à L’ancienne (Lambic)
  19. Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
  20. Fantôme Vertignasse (Wheat Beer)
  21. Bissell Brothers LUX Rye Ale (Rye Beer)
  22. Tired Hands Only Void Bourbon Barrel Aged (Imperial Stout)
  23. Firestone Walker Bravo (American Brown Ale)
  24. Interboro Premiere IPA (IPA)
  25. Civil Society Fresh (IPA)

The Unreviewed

Beers that where I had small samples and/or never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

  1. Hill Farmstead Aaron (Barleywine)
  2. Modern Times Monsters’ Park Aged In Nicaraguan Rum Barrels With Cherries & Vanilla (Imperial Stout)
  3. Anchorage A Deal With the Devil (Barleywine)
  4. Cycle Trademark Dispute: Hazelnut (Imperial Stout)
  5. Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th (Imperial Stout)
  6. Other Half/Monkish Twice Baked Potato (DIPA)
  7. Casey Fruit Stand – Bing Cherry (Saison)
  8. Voodoo Tenacious Wee – Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged (Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy)
  9. Angry Chair Dulce de Pepe (Imperial Stout)
  10. OEC Antioch (American Wild Ale)

Anchorage A Deal With The Devil

I may need to make some real deals with the devil if I am to land that caliber of beer again. Or, you know, like, try. I could do that. And not risk my immortal soul. Or something. There are a few things I drank last year (even including stuff from way back in the middle of the year) that I still haven’t written up at all, but I guess they can wait until next year. So it’s been a fun year, and hopefully many more to come. Enjoy your beer folks!

The Annual Beer Recession

I am entering that cyclical period of contraction which results in a general slowdown in drinking activity (i.e. a beer recession; like an economic recession, but nowhere near as dire). As with previous experiments on this sort of thing, this is not quite a strict ban on beer drinking (nor alcohol in general), just a reduction in consumption. The goals are pretty much the same as ever: break some bad habits, get my health in order, explore other realms of boozy glory, reset my palate, delay gratification, and so on.

Posting will slow down a bit for the next few weeks, but you can still expect one or two posts a week. Some will cover differing areas of booze (I’ve got some Wine and Bourbon on deck right now) and others might even involve non-alcoholic substances (customarily Tea, but I might throw something out there about maple syrup and/or hot sauce). As usual, while I might be writing about something other than my preferred beverage, I tend to do so from a beer dork’s perspective, which I hope is enlightening. Indeed, I sometimes wonder what a whiskey or wine nerd would think about my posts on that topic… as if I have enough readers for that to matter! Anywho, I might even do a little straightup beer commentary while I’m at it, who knows?

When I started doing this a few years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I enjoyed it enough that I’ve done it every year since then. Detoxing and realigning for a while really does make for a triumphant return, and my waistline is usually pretty happy about it too. So stay tuned, we’ll almost certaining be talking Wine and Bourbon next week…

2016 Year End Musings

It’s the time of year when everyone feels obliged to take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we’re going. I suppose aligning this with orbital cycles makes as much sense as anything else, so since this is a beer blog, I shall recap my year in beer. 2016 was a crappy year in many ways, but no so much with beer, which is nice, since this is a beer blog. So what happened this year?

  • Repeat Beers – I’ve been something of a novelty whore for a while now. Rarely did I drink a beer that I’d had before, preferring instead to try something new. This is something that’s been easing for a while now, and 2016 marks a high point for me. I probably still drink a far wider variety of beer than your average dork, but the thought of buying a 4 or 6 pack and drinking the whole thing doesn’t seem infeasible anymore, so that’s different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fascinated with new beers and continually seek them out, but I’ve had enough beers to know what I like, and look forward to trying certain beers every year now, which is nice.
  • Bottle Shares – I mentioned last year that I fell into a good group of local beer nerds who have a regular share, and it’s been fantastic. Everyone’s very generous, and it’s always a good time. I’ve been to a few others as well, and it’s generally a fun way to try a bunch of beer that I’d probably never even know about or hope to acquire (most of the below “Unreviewed” list is from shares.)
  • Homebrewing – Another lackluster year in this arena for me, but let’s make a new years resolution to get this hobby going again. I had a good start with my Christmas Ale rebrew (which I dubbed Rantlers! after a favorite movie quote from a bad movie) and plan to keep it going with my much threatened Scotch Ale in the near future.
  • Blogging Plateau – I’ve continued a slow decline in the number of posts, I know. Part of this has to do with the above. Drinking more of the same beer means less things to review. I’ve also gotten over the compulsion to write about every new beer I try and tend to focus on beers that are interesting or great. This will probably continue into 2017.
  • Taking a Break – For the third year in a row, I basically gave up beer for Lent. This is a great chance to reset and recalibrate and it’s good for my waistline too. Plus, I get to explore other worlds of boozy glory, which is actually very enlightening. In theory, this should translate to more variety throughout the year, but I’m basically still obsessed with beer, so while I do blog about wine and whiskey and whatnot from time to time, don’t expect this to turn into anything other than a beer blog.
  • Other Stuff – Minimal trading last year, but I don’t think that will hold up. Definitely some great stuff I’m looking to trade for this year. I still go through phases where I drink down my cellar and try aged beer (another recap of vintage beer coming soon) and for the most part, my recommendation remains to drink your beer fresh. My aging focus now is more on lambic than anything else, because I’ve had the best experience with that. Still plenty of things aging down there though, so you’ll probably continue to see posts about aging beer from time to time.

It’s been a good year of beer for me. Nothing too unusual going on, but my beer nerdery is continuing to progress apace. So here’s a list of my 30 favorite beers of the year that were new to me. Astute readers may notice that this list is normally 40 beers, but in accordance with some of the above, I feel like less is more this year. As per usual, it has to be a beer that I reviewed this year and it’s also something that I haven’t reviewed before (i.e. no Heady or Parabola on this list). I’m also going to include a separate list of 5 beers I loved that I didn’t review (almost all of which came from bottle shares, and thus were small pours with no notes taken, and so on). Of course, this is an entirely arbitrary exercise and the rankings would probably change depending on mood etc… I’ve also tried to limit the number of entries from a single brewery, but sometimes that’s hard, so whatever. Let’s get to it:

  1. Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2015) (Imperial Stout)
  2. Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #14 (Saison)
  3. Other Half Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dream (Double IPA)
  4. Allagash FV 13 (American Wild Ale)
  5. Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  6. Ale Apothecary Sahalie (American Wild Ale)
  7. Tired Hands Rustic Pentagram (Saison)
  8. Sante Adairius Saison Bernice (Saison)
  9. FiftyFifty Eclipse Grand Cru
  10. Fantôme Artist 2 (Saison)
  11. Foam Built To Spill (Double IPA)
  12. Hill Farmstead Dry Hopped Arthur (Saison)
  13. Casita Cerveceria Del Árboles (Saison)
  14. Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett with Blueberries (American Wild Ale)
  15. SingleCut Softly Spoken Magic Spells (Double IPA)
  16. Funky Buddha Wide Awake It’s Morning (Imperial Stout)
  17. Midnight Sun Termination Dust (Barleywine)
  18. Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy (Imperial Stout)
  19. Tired Hands Oat Potion (Saison)
  20. The Veil Crucial Crucial Aunt Aunt (Double IPA)
  21. Tired Hands Believer’s Club Bottle 1 (Saison)
  22. Forest & Main Marius (Peach) (Saison)
  23. Free Will Ralphius (Imperial Stout)
  24. Oude Geuze Boon Black Label (Gueuze)
  25. McKenzie Toad the Brett Rocket (Saison)
  26. Tröegs Bourbon Barrel Aged Impending Descent (Imperial Stout)
  27. Hanssens Oude Schaarbeekse Kriek (Fruited Lambic)
  28. Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel (Tripel)
  29. Rodenbach Alexander (Flanders Red Ale)
  30. Victory Java Cask Rye (Imperial Stout)

The Unreviewed Five

Beers that where I had small samples, never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

  1. The Bruery Wineificiation III
  2. Cigar City Double Barrel Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
  3. Kane A Night to End All Dawns (Vanilla)
  4. Fremont B-Bomb Bourbon Barrel Aged Abominable Winter Ale
  5. Casey Family Reserves – Cherry

I would love to get more of each and every one of these beers, but I’m just glad I got to try some of them at all.

So a great year in beer, with hopefully even more to come in 2017.

Comments Are Working Now!

At least, I think they are, hence this test post which you can safely ignore.

Ignore Me!

I’ve confirmed that the two most popular login types are working, so Google OpenID and WordPress users are free to fire away in the comments. It looks like the new version of Google ID (now that I’ve got it working) actually shows a relevant name and even links to Google+ (formerly, you got a username at best, and a weird string of characters at worst). Go forth, ye readers, and comment. Also, why are you reading this? I said to ignore this post. IGNORE ME!

2015 Year End Musings

Now comes the time of year when we attempt to divine information about the time past and times to come, all based on the relative positions of celestial objects. In other words, we all become astrologists around the new year! I’m making light of this, but it’s a good thing to take stock of where we are and where we’re going from time to time, and completing another orbit around the sun is as good a time as any. This isn’t really the place for personal reflections, but it is a place for beer! So let’s get down to the year in beer that was, and perhaps look forward to what the future holds.

It was a good year! I drank lots of great beer, made lots of new friends, and even got interviewed. 2016 has a lot to live up to, but also plenty of opportunity.

Looking at the past few year end musings (jeeze, has it been 5 years? Yikes.) I tend to get repetitive on my reflections, so I’ll try to limit these observations to relatively new stuff rather than just repeating that yes, I’ve aged some beer, and while I’ve had a couple of revalations, most of it was just as good fresh (see how I squeezed that one in there? I may not be so successful at this.)

  • Beer Festivals – I’ve never been a huge fan of beer festivals for reasons I have already belabored in my recap of Operation Chowder, a trip in which I attended the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston. I only went to one session (Friday night), and had a great time, but felt no regret that the other sessions were sold out. Likewise, I had a fine time at the more local Kennet Brewfest, but I only went to it because someone had an extra ticket. I mean, it’s fine, but 95% of the beer flowing there was generally available in the area anyway. I think I enjoyed ACBF more because there were so many New England breweries that I’d never had before that were there. As such, I may loosen my disdain for festivals… when traveling. GABF, here I come? Let’s not get carried away.
  • Bottle Shares – I have often posted about Beer Club, but that’s generally a low key affair. This year, I connected with a more formal local group that has very cool bottle shares, ones that I haven’t really posted much about (though I have mentioned them). I would expect this to continue, because I enjoy not documenting every beer I drink, and honestly, writing a full review based on a 2 ounce sample after having sampled 10 other beers really isn’t the best way to do it. Plus, you know, it’s rude. Look for a tweet here or there, but otherwise, these shares will remain just plain old fun. Alright, fine, based on this and my beer festivals, I might add a supplementary list of beers I loved, but only had small samples of below.
  • Taking a Break – For two years in a row, I’ve basically given up beer for Lent. I find it to be a very good chance to reset and recalibrate, not to mention the benefit to my waistline. Plus, I get a chance to focus on other things like Bourbon, Scotch, Wine, and Tea. It’s now something I actually look forward to every year. This starts in early February this year, so look for a shift in blogging material in a month or so…
  • Wales, bro – I’ve often talked about slaying personal white whale beers, things that aren’t particularly rare, but which I’d never managed to snag before. This year was the first year I actually slayed true beer nerd walez, that ridiculous list of absurdly rare beers. In each case, it wasn’t something I realized until after I drank the beer in question (usually lucking into it by accident), and to me, that’s the way to do it. I feel like intentionally hunting down beers on that list would be quite annoying. Then again, I guess that’s why they call them wales, bro. Regardless, I’m happy I got to try those beers, and one of them was my favorite beer of the year (see below!) so maybe the list isn’t complete bullshit.
  • Style Parity – Alright, this is not really true at all, but after last year’s American Wild Ale dominated top 40, this year’s list is at least a little more diverse. A lot of this is just the natural ebbs and flows of availability and the degrees to which I’m willing to hunt stuff down. Part of it is also more of a willingness to branch out. Heck, I even listed a Pilsner on this year’s top 40. A Pilsner! Will wonders ever cease?
  • Blogging Plateau – I’m still blogging at a pretty good clip, but I feel like I’ve reached a nice 2-3 posts a week cadence that I don’t really want to exceed much anymore. There was a time when 4-6 posts a week were common, but those days have past, and I’d expect things to continue on the slower pace. After all, it’s nice to drink something without having to write about it, and I’ve long since gotten over the compulsion to post about literally every beer I’ve tried.
  • Other Stuff – Of the normal topics, I have little to say. I had a terrible year in homebrewing, so I’m going to try and turn that around in 2016. Ratings inflation continues unabated. I keep meaning to inaugurate a new class of A+ beers, and I guess 2016 is the year for that. I’ve actually been drinking a bunch of aged beers recently, and plan on posting about them in more detail in the nearish future.

A pretty interesting year, and it’s fun to see how my beer nerdery is progressing. So here’s my list of top 40 beers I’ve tried this year. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you don’t see your favorites on the list, don’t get all wound up about it. I’ve either had it in a previous year or just didn’t catch up with it. Or, I had it and hated it, because you’re the worst. How could you like such a horrid thing? But I digress. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with lists. Lists are American. What are you? A communist? There I go digressing again. I tried to limit breweries to a handful of entries, but whatever, it’s my list and I’ll do what I want. Speaking of which, let’s do this:

  1. Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) (Lambic)
  2. Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) (American Wild Ale)
  3. Tired Hands Pathway of Beauty (IPA)
  4. Allagash Cuvée D’Industrial (American Wild Ale)
  5. Alchemist Focal Banger (IPA)
  6. Firestone Walker XIX – Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  7. Midnight Sun Arctic Devil (Barleywine)
  8. Tired Hands Freedom From the Known (Saison)
  9. Logsdon Peche ‘n Brett (Saison)
  10. Pizza Boy Golden Sour (American Wild Ale)
  11. Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev’s Cobra (Imperial Stout)
  12. The Bruery Cuir (Old Ale)
  13. Firestone Walker XVIII – Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  14. Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Rye (Imperial Stout)
  15. Allagash Farm To Face (American Wild Ale)
  16. Trillium Congress Street IPA (IPA)
  17. Jack’s Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer (Baltic Porter)
  18. Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout (Imperial Stout)
  19. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip Of Sunshine (Double IPA)
  20. Forest & Main Moeder Seizoen (Saison)
  21. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 (Double IPA)
  22. Lost Abbey Cuvée De Tomme (American Wild Ale)
  23. Almanac Dogpatch Sour (American Wild Ale)
  24. BFM XV (√225 Saison) (Saison)
  25. Alpine Nelson (IPA)
  26. Stone Southern Charred (2014) (American Strong Ale)
  27. Midnight Sun Berserker (Imperial Stout)
  28. Crux Tough Love [Banished] (Imperial Stout)
  29. Prairie Pirate Noir (Imperial Stout)
  30. Victory Java Cask (Imperial Stout)
  31. Forest & Main Rum Barrel-Aged Gmork (Imperial Stout)
  32. Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta (Saison)
  33. Telegraph Gypsy Ale (American Wild Ale)
  34. Sante Adairius Jose Pimiento (American Wild Ale)
  35. Modern Times Monsters’ Park (Imperial Stout)
  36. Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka (Czech pilsener)
  37. AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout (Imperial Stout)
  38. Grassroots Brother Soigné (Saison)
  39. Lost Nation The Wind (Gose)
  40. Kern River Just Outstanding IPA (IPA)

The Unreviewed 5

Beers that where I had small samples, never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

I need to find a way to get more of each of these. Yum

So it’s been a great year, and hopefully 2016 has even more in store for me. Cheers!

Upgradation

So the comments on here have been broken for a few months and I haven’t been able to figure it out. I’m finally taking some time to get this stuff fixed. All of which is to say that things may get a little wonky around here for the next couple of days, but we’ll hopefully be upgraded to the newest version of Movable Type and comments should work too. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, here’s a pic of Tired Hands Out of the Emptiness Batch 2.

Tired Hands Back Into The Emptiness

It’s just as fantastic as batch 1. Go forth, and drink ye a beer for me.

Update: The upgrade is complete, but I’m still dealing with some issues. Comments are working on my generalist blog, but not on the beer blog (no idea why), and I’m having trouble publishing new entries now. Super duper. Not even sure if this update will make it out there… In any case, bear with me. We’ll be back and running soon enough.

Again Update: Huzzah! I think all issues have been resolved. Comments are working again, and I’m able to actually publish updates. And the world rejoiced! Or, well, I am rejoicing.

We Interrupt This Program (Again)

Around this time last year, I took a wee break from beer:

In the 1930s, folks became very worried when their favorite radio programs were interrupted by special news bulletins. News back then tended to include things like Depressions and Nazis, so that was a pretty reasonable reaction. These days, the phrase “We interrupt this program…” is a pretty harmless declaration used half ironically to state things like how I’m not going to drink that much beer for the next six weeks or so.

See how I slipped that in there?

Well it’s that time of year again, and I’m taking another break from beer, for largely the same reasons elaborated in that post. Believe it or not, last year’s experience was a lot of fun. I had fun with some other beverages and my waistband was pretty happy with the experience too.

One thing I wasn’t expecting last year was that I almost ended up blogging more than normal. I’ve been writing about beer for over 4 years, so all the writerly low-hanging fruit is pretty well exhausted. But I’ve barely scratched the surface of wine, whiskey, or tea. Not to mention whatever else I’ll get up to this year. Plus, I find that writing about other booze from the perspective of a beer nerd can be interesting. So while the blog may slow down slightly, there should still be plenty to keep you busy (even if you’re not a whiskey/wine/whatever type of person).

Plus, as with last year, there are a few instances when I still plan to drink beer. And I have a couple of reviews saved in the hopper that will keep us busy on the blog too. So stay in touch, it’s going to be a bumpy fun ride.