Great American Beer Fest

I have never been a big fan of beer festivals. Ostensibly a chance to sample lots of special beers from unfamiliar breweries, a lot of fests amount to large crowds of drunk people with lots of beer I’ve had before and relatively few new and exciting things to check out. Great American Beer Festival is the largest beer festival in the United States and one of the largest in the world, with 60,000+ attendees, around 2300 breweries, and approximately 4000 different beers to sample. This goes a long way in addressing my normal issues with festivals. Except for the crowds, but whattaya gonna do? *Italian Finger Purse Gesture* It’s also in Denver, which is a pretty great beer town all by itself. Indeed, the grand majority of my trip was spent outside the festival at the many great co-dependent events that happen during the week of GABF. It seems like every bar and brewery in town has special tappings, releases, and events, and while I generally enjoyed attending the fest sessions, most of my favorite stuff about the week wasn’t part of the festival proper.

We arrived relatively early in the week (Tuesday afternoon), and took a quick spin around the breweries of Denver.

Crooked Stave

Our Mutual Friend

Cerebral Brewing Barrels

Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils

Stops at Crooked Stave (lots of good stuff, including some non-sours that I didn’t realize they even made), Mockery Brewing (seemed like more of a local fave, middling beer, but nice enough), Odell (I’ve had some good beer from them, but was somewhat underwhelmed by the offerings at the taproom, though again, the crowd was nice), Our Mutual Friend (my favorite new-to-me brewery of the week, we unfortunately didn’t get to spend nearly enough time there), Cerebral Brewing (a cheat, because we actually visited here later in the week, but I liked these leaky barrels a lot and their beer is pretty solid stuff), and Bierstadt Lagerhaus (which has this amazing Slow Pour Pils (pictured above) that was actually a perfect way to cap off the night, not to mention a couple other solid German style lagers).

Hops and Pie

Flight of beers from Hops and Pie

Toppling Goliath Mornin Delight at Hops and Pie

Pizza from Hops and Pie

We spent a lot of time at Hops & Pie, a most excellent pizza place/beer bar, and they had a pretty phenomenal rotating taplist (we visited twice). Over the course of two visits, I got a couple flights of great beer, a hefty portion of Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight (which was pretty awesome for an uber-hyped coffee beer), and some rock solid pizza.

Liberati Oenobeer

Liberati Oenobeer and a fountain

Liberati Oenobeers Oximonstrum

The most unexpected discovery of the week was Liberati Oenobeer, a brewery specializing in beer made with wine grapes. The location itself is fantastic and beautiful, and so big that I hope they can keep afloat. The beer/wine hybrids were all pretty fascinating too, with the highlight in my book being Oximonstrum, a 17.25% ABV beer made with 35% Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes from Piemonte, Italy. It basically tasted like a really good port wine (it’s the last picture above, and probably my favorite picture that I managed to take in Denver). Other offerings were perhaps not so extreme, but all of them felt utterly unique and unlike most of what you’d find at a brewery.

Liberati Oenobeers experiment

We actually got back to Liberati later in the week, and tried this interesting little experiment. All the beers seen in the picture above are the same base beer, but with different wine grapes added. I really liked this place. Unique and interesting stuff. Not sure if it would be the sorta place that you’d hang out at constantly, but it’s definitely a great stop if you’re traveling in Denver, and I’m sure if I lived there, I’d make my way over on a semi-regular basis.

Falling Rock in Denver

WeldWerks Single Barrel Medianoche

First Draft

Went to a bunch of other interesting bars while there too, including the Hop Battle at Falling Rock (apparently a pioneer in the Denver beer scene, kinda has the reputation there that Monk’s has in Philly), Finn’s Manor (where I had the pictured Single Barrel Medianoche, which was superb and maybe the best thing I had all week, along with a couple other great brews from the likes of Casey and WeldWorks), and First Draft (which was one of them fancy pour-your-own, pay-as-you-go places, very good but by this point in the week I was kinda pooped).

The Crowd at GABF

The Great Divide Yeti

Not sure what this is, maybe a gnome riding a bunny

So I went to two actual sessions of GABF, one on Thursday night and one on Saturday morning (apparently the Friday night session is much more crazy, and by Saturday night, the breweries are starting to run out of beer and the people are there mostly to get drunk). I’m not a fan of big crowds, but they run the event well and the space is so huge that it doesn’t feel too crowded… unless you’re trying to get one of the more prized brews, then you’re just waiting in line. Everything is well organized and easy enough to find though. For example, all the beers pouring at the fest are listed on Untappd (and you can filter/sort however you want), so it was easy to find things you want to try and line them up so you’re not ping-ponging around the entire convention center.

Fremont Brew 3000

Lost Abbey Veritas 21

Some highlights include:

  • Fremont Brew 3000 – This is Fremont’s take on an English Barleywine, very well respected out there in the BiL community, and I quite enjoyed it. Honestly though, I might like B-Bomb better. I don’t know though, maybe I should get a bottle of Brew 3000 (or 4000, when that comes out) and drink more than a couple ounces.
  • Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze – Lost Abbey’s take on a gueuze, phenomenal, one of the few that approaches Belgium-levels. This is a beer I’ve long wanted to try, but never caught up with (not that it shows up often or anything). Also of note: I didn’t actually get a picture of this one, but I did get a pic of Veritas 21 from Lost Abbey, which was a pretty great fruited sour, so there.
  • Russian River Beatification – A blended spontaneously-fermented beer, this is another American take on the gueuze style… and it’s fantastic. Another tick that was a long time coming, as I’ve been hearing about this for years (almost a decade?).
  • 3 Floyds Dark Lord ‘Rrari Crochet – This was Dark Lord aged in port whiskey barrels with vanilla, freeze-dried strawberries, cocoa nibs + toasted coconut. So I like this a lot better than the plain ol’ Dark Lord, but my inner curmudgeon wants to try a version that’s just aged in bourbon barrels. Maybe with vanilla. And without coffee. My inner curmudgeon is a weirdo.
  • Beers from J. Wakefield, WeldWorks, Revolution, and Live Oak…
  • There was this whole section devoted to Jameson barrel-aged beers (which feed into their beer barrel aged whiskey program), which was pretty cool too…

A doggy!

Another pic of the doggy

A few of my friends go to the fest every year and they had befriended a local couple who hold a bottle share on Friday night every year. Much great beer and I made a new friend, Perle the doggo (who is apparently named after the hop). Oh, and also I made new people friends. That too.

Denver Street Art

Moar Denver Street Art

Yet more Denver street art

I’m not a big weed guy, but it’s legal in Denver and some people we met seem to really, er, enjoy that sort of thing. Also, Denver has a lot of street murals and art out and about, which is fun.

I was pretty exhausted by the end of the week (large crowds and constant socializing wreak havoc on my introverted tendencies) and to be honest, I’m not 23 years old anymore, so drinking this much isn’t what it once was, but it was still a great time and well worth checking out if you ever get the chance (it helps when you have good guides like I did). (Many apologies for the extreme lateness of this post, it took a while to pull together!)

Operation Cheddar VIII: Return of the Living Cheddar

This being the eighth iteration of Operation Cheddar, I don’t think we need too much preamble, but if you want to get some insight into my annual sorties into Vermont hunting for beer, you can read all about each assault here:

The plan of attack had settled into something consistent, but the wrinkle this year was that Lawson’s Finest Liquids had finally opened up an expanded production brewery and taproom, which superseded my usual stop at The Warren Store (a great little “country store” and deli that used to be the key location to find Lawson’s, amongst others – I actually kinda miss it). Of course, now that they’ve got all this expanded capacity, they’ve been distributing cans down to the Philly area for a while now, so it’s not quite the rarity it used to be… but it’s a gorgeous location.

Lawsons Finest Liquids Brewhouse

Inside Lawsons Finest Liquids

Lawsons Finest Fireplace

One of these days, I need to make another proper trip to Vermont so that I can actually hang out at these cool taprooms and maybe even drink some beer, rather than popping in and out on a day trip like this. Next up were stops at Craft Beer Cellars in Waterbury and The Alchemist in Stowe (a visit that has become much more easygoing; minimal line-waiting these days, unlike early trips where you could count on an hour long wait as the line proceeded out the door). As per usual, I stopped at Lost Nation for lunch and had this amazing Spicy Pork Shoulder sandwich. It was phenomenal, and probably my favorite thing I’ve had there since my first trip when I had some sort of crazy smoked lamb thing.

Lost Nation sign

A Glorious Spicy Pork Sandwich

From there, we’ve got the usual stops at Hill Farmstead and Foam, always a pleasure. The Hill Farmstead sign looks like it needs a bit of a touchup though.

The Hill Farmstead sign has seen better days

Alrighty then! Normally, I post some haul pics here, but that’s sorta silly and we’re going to go over the important ones below (or I’ve already covered them before). So here are some notes on new-to-me beers that were acquired during this trip (unlike most reviews here, these are long on general thoughts and short on tasting notes, probably more fun to read than usual…)

Foam Wavvves – A collaboration with Burgeon Beer Company (from California), this is a pretty standard but very well crafted DIPA dry hopped with Triumph and Enigma hops using Burgeon’s process. It was the first thing I cracked open upon returning to the vacation compound, and boy was it a good one. Really fantastic stuff, worth the slight detour on the way home. Also of note: I think I’ve got my brother hooked on hazy IPAs. I mean, not necessarily to the point where he’ll seek it out himself, but he seems to enjoy them when I crack something like this open. This is progress for a guy who “hates IPAs”. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a teku on 7/25/19. Growler filled on 7/25/19.

Foam Gaudy Side of Town

Foam Gaudy Side of Town – Alright, so I must admit that I don’t remember much about this other than that it’s also a pretty standard Northeast DIPA, and also that it’s not quite as good as Wavvves. But I got a nice, picturesque photo, and after drinking Cabana Pils all week, this was really nice (uh, not that there’s anything wrong with Cabana Pils, just that my palate was primed for hops by this point). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a teku on 7/26/19. Growler filled on 7/25/19.

The Alchemist Luscious

The Alchemist Luscious – British Style Imperial Stout – So here’s the thing with Alchemist. For a long time, Heady Topper was the only beer they made, and it showed; they refined and optimized that beer to high heaven and it’s an all time great. Once they got some breathing room and extra brewing capacity, they started making Focal Banger, and damn if that wasn’t just as good (if not sometimes even better). Then… things started to fall off a little. I mean, stuff like Crusher and Holy Cow were nice but not quite the transcendent experience. Then I had stuff like Beelzebub, Hellbrook, and Lightweight, which are fine beers to be sure, but nowhere near expectations… For a while, it felt like every new beer I had from The Alchemist was “the worst beer I’ve had from them yet”, which is a bit unfair, as they’re all good beers in an absolute sense, but disappointing relative to the quality of Heady and Focal. All of which is to say that the streak has been broken, and we’re back to world class stuff here. Of course, Imperial Stout represents a crowded playing field, but amongst regular ol’ non-barrel-aged takes on the style, this is pretty fantastic, rich and chewy, well balanced caramel and roast, absolutely delicious. It’s the best new Alchemist beer I’ve had since Focal, and I’m glad I stocked up. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a teku glass on 7/28/19.

The Alchemist Kennys Kolsch

The Alchemist Kenny’s Kolsch – So after that spiel on Luscious, you’d think that this would be another disappointing take, but perhaps because Kolsch isn’t really one of my preferred styles, I found myself really pleasantly surprised by this. Kolsch is not a style that lends itself to hyperbole, of course, but this is a really good one and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Brisk and refreshing, it’s a perfect summer beer. I wish I bought more than one can! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 8/18/19.

Four Quarters Southern Cross

Four Quarters Southern Cross – Without getting into too much detail on the route taken through Vermont during Operation Cheddar, Burlington tends to be around the last stop I make before the 2.5-3 hour dash back to the vacation compound. As such, I’m usually pretty tired and not really in the mood to stop at more places, but I should really make the effort to hit up Four Quarters again. I picked up a couple of IPAs (and moar!) at CBC in Waterbury, and was glad I did. This one is a pretty standard NEDIPA, super cloudy, juicy, dank stuff, made primarily with Southern Cross hops. Not one of the ultra trendy hops, and I can maybe see why, but it’s a cool little change of pace. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/18/19.

Four Quarters Polaris – This was the other single hopped DIPA, very similar, probably should have drank these side-by-side to get a better feel of the differences (ah, double features). You know you’ve been a beer nerd for a while when you start to see single-hop beers with hop names you don’t recognize. It’s hard to keep up these days. Anyways, this was pleasant enough. Not exactly distinct from the throngs of NEIPA purveyors, but well worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/30/19.

Lawson’s Scrag Mountain Pils – As mentioned above, Lawson’s has started distributing around the Philly area, so the only thing they had that I hadn’t seen around here was this Pilsner, supposedly a Czech style, though it felt more German to me. Someday I’ll get better about distinguishing between the two styles. Anyway, the can was almost a gusher? It didn’t, like, explode or anything, but once cracked the head started overflowing pretty quickly (no, I didn’t shake up the can or anything). It’s not terrible, but I suspect I got a bad batch or something, as Lawsons’s is usually pretty spot on. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/16/19.

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #6

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #6 – Wait, this can’t be right, how have I not had this before? Hmmm, well look at that. I’ve had #s 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9, so it seems there are a few stragglers (I think they’re up to #12 at this point). Glad I got to fill in this particular hole in the lineup, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know that Hill Farmstead has crafted yet another fantastic DIPA, typical northeast stuff, sweet, juicy, fruity hops, a little dank, really fantastic stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/28/19.

Hill Farmstead Marie

Hill Farmstead Marie – I’m not usually a fan of straight up Helles lagers, but this was quite nice. A very light, refreshing, crisp little beer, soft and crackery. Made for perfect accompaniment with some light, grilled fish on a hot evening. Not going to light the world on fire or anything, but that’s what the style calls for, I guess. B or B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/11/19.

Frost Research Series IPA

Frost Research Series IPA – Frost is one of those breweries that just gets overshadowed by the hyped trinity (Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lawson’s), but they tend to put out some really great stuff. Glad I took a flyer on this “single” IPA. And look, I took the requisite boring tasting notes this time! Pours a murky, cloudy yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head with decent retention and lacing. Smells nice, sweet tropical fruit, pineapple, really well balanced. Taste is less intense than the nose would have you believe, but it’s got a nice malt backbone with a well balanced ration of tropical fruit hops, finishing with just a touch of balancing bitterness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light to medium bodied, and more quaffable than the cloudy appearance implies. Overall, this is a really nice IPA! A new favorite from Frost, which given the Research moniker, probably means I’ll never get a taste again… A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/25/19. Canned: 07/11/19. Batch: ROLLING THUNDER

Frost Double Shush – Frost has a whole series of variants around what I assume is their flagship beer, called Lush or maybe Plush? I don’t know, the latter was one of my first tastes of Frost, and look, it was a “research series” beer too, so I guess the previously mentioned beer might not be lost to the sands of time forever either. And again, boring tasting notes: Pours a darker cloudy yellowish orange color with a finger of tight bubbled white head, good retention and lacing. Smells good, typical American Hop citrus and Pine combo. Taste is sweet, more malt here, the usual citrus and pine notes in good proportion. Mouthfeeel is well carbed, medium to full bodied, but easy going. Overall, it’s a damn fine DIPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/25/19. Canned: 07/11/19. Batch: POWER OF SEVENS

Wunderkammer Folk Costume 2

Wunderkammer Folk Costume 2 – And so the fraternity of former Hill Farmstead brewers grows again (it’s a pretty distinguished bunch, including Suarez Family Brewery and Casita Cerveceria). This is a mixed culture saison brewed with Farro (one of them fancy grains) and aged in a foudre with rose hips and hibiscus. I’m not sure why there’s an AK-47 on the label, but the whole affair kinda reminds of me of that movie Midsommar, which is a real trip (not an easy film to recommend, but man, folk horror gets to me sometimes). Um, anywho, now for the real terror – tasting notes: Pours a hazy yellow color with several fingers of fluffy head, good retention, and lacing. Smells great, lots of musty Belgian yeast, cloves and an almost stone-fruit character, maybe a hint of funk. Taste is similar, lots of Belgian yeast character, fruity esters and spicy phenols, maybe a hint of something earthy or floral. I don’t get a ton of funk or oak, but it’s there, if subtle. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and highly carbonated (but still pleasantly so). Overall, rock solid Belgian pale ale, actually something I wish more folks would make this well and while the funk and oak are subtle, I actually kinda appreciate the restraint. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/8/19. Released: July 2019.

This concludes Operation Cheddar VIII; already looking forward to part IX. In the meantime, we’ve got some more reviews and even some more beer travel recaps coming your way…

Plan Bee Double Feature

I recently mentioned that I’m a boring creature of habit, but during this year’s prelude to Operation Cheddar, I did manage to stop in at Plan Bee in addition to Suarez Family Brewery. For the uninitiated, Plan Bee specializes in making beers with local, upstate New York ingredients, some of which are sourced from their very own farm. This includes, as their namesake would imply, honey produced by vicious, unstoppable bees and their blasphemous, inconceivable hive mind. The brewery itself is located not too far away from the Thruway (or Suarez, for that matter). It’s a small place that seems to be operating in a literal farmhouse.

Plan Bee Farmhouse

The whole northeast was in the midst of a heat wave when I visited, so the lack of air-conditioning didn’t exactly make me want to stick around, but I like the rustic atmosphere and I’m sure it’s fantastic in the Fall, Winter, or Spring… On this blog, I’ve only covered their basic flagship beer, but I’ve been lucky enough to sample some others and whilst stopping in on this trip, picked up a couple of fruited wild ales (amongst others) that turned out to be rather good.

I drank these a while ago, but I’ve recently watched a couple of movies for the Six Weeks of Halloween about killer bees that would make a good double feature with these beers. If, that is, you like cheesy horror movies like I do. The Bees is a schlocky creature feature that actually goes to some interesting, if goofy and on-the-nose, places. The Swarm is a big-budget disaster film directed by none other than Irwin Allen and featuring a star studded cast, including Michael Caine. It’s also a bit of a bloated mess, overlong and rather silly, but there’s some entertainment to be had. Not a bad double feature, considering Plan Bee’s meddling with nature will inevitably lead to a killer bee laden apocalypse. They may doom the planet, but in the meantime, we can at least enjoy their beer:

Plan Bee Precious

Plan Bee Precious – Barrel aged NY Wild Ale referemented on apricots from Bittner-Singer Orchards. Pours a very pale yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head with good retention and some lacing as I drink. Smells great, lots of sweet, ripe stone fruit (apricots, apparently) and some musty funk adds a bit of complexity to the aroma too. Taste starts off sweet, lots of that apricot, up front, with some more general tartness emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish, a little bit of oak and funk leavening the proceedings too. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, crisp, and moderately acidic, light to medium bodied, quite easygoing. Overall, this is a pretty damn fabulous beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/3/19.

Plan Bee Beeroo

Plan Bee BeeRoo – Dark NY Wild Ale aged on oak on plums with green and purple shiso leaf. Pours a turbid, murky orange color with a solid finger of white head with decent retention but not a lot of lacing. Smells great, sweet, ripe stone fruits (plums this time), a light earthy funk. Taste is very sweet, plenty of plums, some earthy funk, oak, and a tart sourness emerging in the middle and lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is tightly carbed, moderately acidic, medium bodied. Overall, this is great, maybe not quite as good as Precious, but close enough. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/10/19.

Plan Bee Huitlacoche – NY Farmhouse Ale made with Reid’s Yellow, Blue Clarage & Bloody Butcher Heirloom Corns grown by the brewer on the premises. Bonus review! By which I mean that I brought this to a share and don’t remember much about it other than that it was a solid little wild ale, but it lacks the intensity of the previously mentioned beers. I mean, you would expect that much. It’s not like corn will be more intense than apricots or plums. So not really a review, but I’d definitely drink this again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV bottled (750 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/4/19.

Those fruited beers are a definite step up from my previous experience with Plan Bee, which I’ll grant wasn’t a huge sample size, but still. Those two were fantastic.

Operation Cheddar VII: Dawn of the Cheddar

At this point, the annual sorty into Vermont for beer (codename: Operation Cheddar) has a consistent plan of attack: Warren Store, CBC in Waterbury, Alchemist Visitor’s Center, Lost Nation for Lunch, Hill Farmstead, and Foam are always onboard, with the occasional target of opportunity presenting itself (this year: Fiddlehead came into our sights). It’s a fun day trip for me (embedded as it is in a vacation rooted in upstate NY, which is like, totally closer to VT than PA), but since I do it every year, I’ll try not to bore you with repetition. Again. Anywho, enjoy some pics from the trip, a recap of the haul, and a few quickie reviews (that are light on tasting notes and heavy on ruminations, so less skippable than usual).

Alchemist Artwork

Some artwork from the Alchemist Building, it’s purty.

Lunch at Lost Nation

Lunch at Lost Nation, a smoked chicken sandwich thing that was great. If you’re ever ripping through Vermont, it’s worth stopping here for lunch, the food is excellent.

Fiddlehead Logo

A Fiddlehead sign

Hill Farmstead Poetica 2

Hill Farmstead Poetica 2 – Operation Cheddar involves a lot of driving, so I’m generally reticent to partake in actually drinking beer at all. The only exception is usually a 5 ounce pour of something at Lost Nation. But since it looked like I was going to be at Hill Farmstead for a while and they actually had this interesting sounding thing on tap, I figured I’d give it a swing. You see, Hill Farmstead was hosting their annual Festival of Farmhouse Ales in the coming weekend, so they were packed with newly arrived beer dorks. Alas, since they planned on releasing a bunch of limited stuff during the festival, I had to settle for their “normal” shelfies (which are still phenomenal, to be sure). This was a special DONG release though, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Poetica 2 is basically Hill Farmstead’s Mary, a pilsner, but instead of simply lagering in stainless, they lagered in a single French oak puncheon in their cooler for three months. After that, they moved it to a stainless tank and krausened it with a new batch for carbonation (this is apparently a step they always do when lagering). Anywho, the result is a very good pilsner, much like Mary. Grassy, earthy hops, minerality, quaffable stuff. I was not detecting much in the way of oak and I didn’t take detailed notes, but I do want to say that it had more complexity than I’m used to from a pilsner. This, of course, means that the beer was a placebo and Hill Farmstead is now experimenting with mind control and we should indeed be quite worried because they’re good at everything so why not world domination? Ok, that got away from me there for a second, so I’ll just say that the beer is very nice and fans of Pilsners should look for future iterations on this mind control potion oaked lager. Let’s just say B+ and get on with it.

Beer Nerd Details: ~5.6% ABV on draft (10 ounce pour). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/2/18. Batch 2.

And so we come to the haul pics. For the record, some duplicate cans/bottles not pictured, nor did I hoard all these cans for myself. Indeed, I would say the majority of my purchases were passed along to (or shared with) friends. I’m not exactly a full time mule, but I enjoy spreading the wealth. So here goes:

Nice Cans

Can Haul – Part 1: Hill Farmstead Citra IPA (seems to have been rebranded as an IPA, and I’ll say that these cans were straight fire, very nice), Hill Farmstead Works of Love: Earl Grey Tea & Lactose, Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4, Hill Farmstead Walden, Fiddlehead Mastermind.

Moar Cans. Mark likes cans.

Can Haul – Part 2: Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine, Alchemist Holy Cow IPA, Simple Roots New North End, Foam Built to Spill (many thanks to Kaedrin friend Eric for gifting this can and a few others to me when I met with him at Foam), 14th Star Make the Cut (not pictured, see below), Upper Pass First Drop, Alchemist Focal Banger, Alchemist Lightweight, Suarez Family Brewing Palatine Pils (not technically an Operation Cheddar acquisition, full explanation to come in a separate post), Alchemist Heady Topper, and Alchemist Hellbrook.

Funny observation: While Hill Farmstead was packed with long lines due to FoFA, Alchemist had a practically nonexistent line. Each year, the Alchemist gets less crowded. Plenty of people milling about, but I basically just walked up to the counter and got my beer. Go figure.

Haul of growlers

Growler Haul: Foam Galaxie 500, Hill Farmstead Abner (we will be talking more about Abner sometime in a separate post), Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #9, Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4.

Haul of Hill Farmstead bottles that I want to lick

HF Bottle Haul: Hill Farmstead Arthur, Anna, Grassroots Brother Soigne, Florence, Dorothy, and Clara.

Miscellaneous Haul

Miscellaneous Haul: von Trapp Golden Helles Lager, von Trapp Dunkel, Jack’s Abby Cordon Rouge Barrel-Aged Framinghammer, Good Measure Tawny (#BiL), Lost Nation The Wind Bretta (not to be confused with the “plain” Wind), Stone Corral Bad Rooster IPA, Rock Art Citra DIPA, Burlington Peak Nostalgia, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids Super Session #7.

Moar Miscellaneous Haul

Moar Miscellaneous Haul: 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston 1.5 L Magnum, Suarez Family Brewing Postscript, Proclivity, and Call to Mind (again, not technically Operation Chowder, but we’ll cover that in a separate post), and Crooked Stave Blueberry Origins.

The non-beer haul

Non-Beer Haul: Alchemist Red Heady hot sauce and Cheddy Topper cheddar cheese.

Phew, that’s quite a bit of beer. Now let’s take a closer look at a few of these that I drank:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 9

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #9 – Pours a cloudy, golden yellow with a solid finger of white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells nice, sweet, lots of tropical fruit hops, mango, pineapple, and so on. Taste is also quite nice, sweet, citrusy, pine, balance in the finish. Mouthfeel is perfect, tight, soft carbonation, medium bodied, drinks like a dream. Overall, oh jeeze, another excellent HF IPA, stop the presses. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/4/18. Growler filled on 8/2/18.

Foam Galaxie 500

Foam Galaxie 500 – Pours a very cloudy, milky looking straw yellow color with half a finger of white head that doesn’t stick around too long. Smells of bright citrus, tropical fruit, stone fruit, and the like. Taste is very sweet, lots of those bright citrus hops, with a sharp edge to it, finishing sweet and juicy. Mouthfeel is a tad low on the carbonation, medium bodied, with a sharp alcohol note. Overall, this is a really nice Galaxy DIPA, a bit on the strong side, but no less delicious for it. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/4/18. Growler filled on 8/2/18.

Alchemist Holy Cow – Apparently one of their staples during the halcyon days of the old Alchemist brewpub, it was a local favorite long before Heady became the hotness. Pours, well, I don’t know, because I drank it from a can. I’m guessing pale. Smells citrusy, bright graprefruit. Taste is light and citrusy, finishing with a nice balancing bitterness. Mouthfeel is crisp, clean, and dry, good carbonation, light, quaffable stuff. Overall, it’s not going to blow people away, but I could drill a four pack of these with ease. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.16% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can (like a man) on 8/5/18.

Alchemist Hellbrook

Alchemist Hellbrook – A pretty straightforward Amber ale, a style I can appreciate when done well (and when hopped to high heaven), this doesn’t quite live up to the reputation of the Alchemist’s best work. Indeed, I think the pattern is that after Heady and Focal, there’s a distinct stairstep in quality to their other offerings. I don’t know that I’ve had anything outright bad, to be sure, but all of these others are somewhat standard takes, if well executed. None are quite the style-defining heights of Heady or Focal… This one pours a dark amber, almost brown color with a couple fingers of off-white head. Smells of citrus and dank, resinous pine, with crystal malt lurking in the background, light caramel tonez. Taste hits that crystal malt character, with plenty of piney, resinous hops in the middle, finishing with a balancing bitterness and dank hop profile. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and pretty well balanced. Overall, another solid brew here. Not going to make headlines, but it’s better than your typical amber ale, if not quite at the top of the style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/5/18.

Alchemist Lightweight – Look, I’m not sure what I was expecting from this American Blonde Ale, but what I got was an almost Kolsh-like easy drinker, earthy, grassy, and herbal. Nice lawnmower beer, but again, not going to set the world on fire like you might expect from the Alchemist. I feel like I’m bagging on Alchemist here, but in reality, these are all solid little beers. Sometimes they’re disappointing due to the high bar set by Heady and Focal, but I will say that I’m still going to continually seek out additional varieties of Alchemist stuff. None of it is bad, and it sometimes approaches the sublime, so why not? B-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/5/18.

Frost Beer Works Lush – I had the Plush DIPA a while back, which is a variant of this beer, and heck, they’re both really good DIPAs. Typical Northeast IPA type stuff, not going to replace the top tier, but certainly worth a flier if you’re making your way through VT’s hop laden waters. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/6/18.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids Super Session #7 – If you’ve had any of the Super Session beers, you know what you’re in for here (I haven’t had them in close enough proximity to notice a major difference, but who knows…) Typical session IPA territory, but it doesn’t quite feel like a “diet” IPA like some of them do, it’s a really nice, quaffable, citrus IPA that is light and crisp. It may not stand out against a sea of DIPAs, but it’s a nice summer beer. B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/10/18.

Foam City Lights: Pineapple & Tangerine – A pretty straightforward kettle soured fruit beer, it reminds me a bit of Burley Oak’s JREAM beers, though I think those are better. For whatever reason, this one didn’t quite connect with me. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/11/18.

Simple Roots New North End IPA – Pretty straightforward NEIPA stuff, not top tier, but better than the last Simple Roots stuff I had on a previous Operation Cheddar mission. One thing about these non-hyped cans that always gives me pause is that they tend to be a bit less fresh, which will have an impact. This is not entirely their fault either, as I bought this on 8/2 (when it was already a couple weeks old), but didn’t drink it until 8/17. Not a ton of time, to be sure, but this wasn’t the can I was rushing to try either, and you can see that the highest rated stuff in this post tends to be the freshest as well. Freshness isn’t the only lever here, but that’s probably a part of it. Regardless, this is a fine beer, worth a flier if you’re in VT. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/17/18.

Burlington Peak Nostalgia – This is a Strawberry Milkshake IPA with Vanilla & Milk Sugar, a style that is hyped to high heaven thanks in large part to Kaedrin’s local Tired Hands, who make a whole series of Milkshake beers that are awesome. This Burlington take certainly emphasizes the strawberry aspects well (moreso even than the Tired Hands equivalent), but the balance isn’t quite on point and it’s overall a little disappointing. But my frame of reference is the Tired Hands Milkshakes. I’ve certainly had worse takes on the style, and while it’s a wholly different beer, this beer is far better than Burlington’s Strawberry Whale Cake, which I got on a previous Operation Cheddar. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/17/18.

14th Star Make the Cut Saving Grace

14th Star Make the Cut Saving Grace – Apparently there’s a local homebrew competition where the winner’s recipe is scaled up and brewed at 14th Star. This is a very nice Northeast IPA dry hopped with Mosaic, Citra, and Ekuanot. And it’s really good, lots of juicy citrus and pine, good mouthfeel and pretty easy going. Would try again, though I suspect we’ve seen the last of this particular beer due to its origins. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/18/18.

Phew! That’s a lot of beer, folks. Many apologies for the lack of blogging recently, I hope this makes up for it. I’ve still got quite the backlog of reviews, and plenty of things from this trip that I haven’t dug into yet, so much moar to come. Stay tuned.

This brings this year’s Operation Cheddar to a close. Next year promises to hold at least a minor shakeup in that Lawson’s Finest Liquids is finally opening a brewery, taproom, and retail store in Waitsfield, VT (not far from the Warren Store, which was always my scheduled stop to find Lawson’s and thus will probably fall out of the rotation next year). Most exciting!

Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar

So this annual sorty into Vermont to secure beer has become a hallowed tradition here at Kaedrin, and is thus well tread ground at this point. Every year, there are some minor tweaks, but the general shape of the invasion has cohered into a firm(ish) state: Start at Warren Store, hit CBC in Waterbury, new Alchemist visitor’s center, Lost Nation for lunch, Hill Farmstead, and now Foam, all before heading back to my vacation spot in upstate NY.

It’s a fun little day trip, and I’m happy I get to do it, but I’ll try not to bore you with repetition, so enjoy some brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, and a few quickie reviews (that are light on tasting notes and heavy on ruminations, so less skippable than usual, heh).

The Alchemist Brewery

A wide shot of the new Alchemist site, it’s purty

The Alchemist Brewery Interior

Some brewery equipment at the Alchemist

A Sandwich from Lost Nation

Lunch at Lost Nation, some sort of smoked beef sandwich with pickled onions on top, glorious as always

I know I post a picture of this Hill Farmstead sign every year, but I like it, so you get another.

Obligatory Hill Farmstead sign that I post every year because I like it and you should too

The Hill Farmstead Compound

A wide shot of the Hill Farmstead compound, which kinda makes it sound like a cult and, um, that’s not too far off for a lot of visitors (sadly not excluding myself)

The entrance to Foam

The entrance to Foam

Hill Farmstead Difference and Repetition

Hill Farmstead Difference & Repetition – First things first, this is a perfect name to describe the never-ending succession of IPAs that everyone offers these days. To outsiders, this must seem ludicrous. When I got back from Vermont, my brother asked what the difference was between all these IPAs and it’s like, ugh, he doesn’t want a lecture on yeasts and hop terroir and it’s funny, because these mostly taste the same to him. Even to a grizzled veteran, drowning in IPAs can lead to a sorta palate fatigue. You can see differences, but it all starts to feel samey after a while. Or… different but repetitive, if you will. Anyway, this orangish yellow IPA is brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo, & Galaxy hops (just a citra away from my own Crom Approved homebrew) and smells and tastes fabulous, ripe mangoes, citrus, a hint of dankness, with a well balanced, light bitterness towards the finish. Easy going and quaffable. Overall, yeah, no crap, stop the presses, this Hill Farmstead IPA is great. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Foam Experimental Jet Set

Foam Experimental Jet Set – Named after a Sonic Youth album (all of Foam’s names appear to be indie-rock references), I don’t really know much about it. At first, I assumed it used experimental hops, and maybe that is indeed why they referenced this album, but who knows, the details of the recipe aren’t readily available. I was quite impressed with Foam during last year’s Operation, and loved their Built to Spill (I snagged another growler of that this year for a friend), so I was excited to get another taste of their wares. It turns out that this is one of the murkier, more turbid entries in the NEIPA style (cleaning the growler revealed lots of sediment gunk in the bottom of the bottle, which seems pretty rare for a growler), but it’s pretty darned tasty. It looks like milky orange juice, smells of sweet, juicy citrus hops with a taste that follows the nose. The mouthfeel is a bit chewy and sticky, with some booziness too. Overall, an interesting NEDIPA, a bit boozy for my tastes (I tend to prefer my DIPAs in the 8%ish range), but worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.27% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Hill Farmstead Dharma Bum – An all Simcoe IPA, this one takes me back. Simcoe was, perhaps, one of the first hops I kinda grew to recognize and differentiate. It’s always been a favorite for my homebrewing (my first homebrewed IPA was single-hop Simcoe and I still always use it for bittering, at least, when making an IPA). It’s got a nice citrus and pine character that isn’t entirely overwhelmed by the juicy flavors and aromas imparted by whatever yeast strain HF uses. It makes for an interesting, almost transitional NEIPA beer. Really nice Simcoe character imparted here, and just enough NEIPA juiciness to keep tings interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/6/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo

Simple Roots Citra And Amarillo – When I was walking into the Warren Store (my usual first stop of Operation Cheddar, usually just to get some Lawson’s, but I always end up taking a flier on something I’ve never heard of), I noticed someone carrying two cases of beer from their car into the cooler. I asked, and it turned out it was these Simple Roots cans. After Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo have also been a mainstay in my homebrewed IPAs, and are definitely favorites. Pours a, a, a… is that clear? What the hell guys? Clear golden yellow with finger of white head that leaves lacing. Floral, citrusy hops, a little cereal grain in the background. Light bodied and crisp, well carbonated and quaffable. Overall, do we call these things throwbacks now? Clear, almost west-coast inspired APA? It’s nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/12/17.

Burlington Amber Ridge

Burlington Amber Ridge 2017 – A “robust” maple amber ale aged in bourbon barrels, my kinda stuff. This beer changes from year to year (last year was a brown ale base), but the idea remains the same. Presumably named after Amber Ridge Maple farm and the maple syrup they provided, it was also aged in Stonecutter Spirits whiskey barrels (of which, I don’t know much about.). The result is a pretty darned good take on the style. Nice amber color with off white head, good barrel character, maple, caramel, oak, and vanilla, relatively light and nimble for its 12% ABV (I mean, still medium bodied, but something like this is usually much heavier), I liked this a lot. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 8/12/17. Vintage: Limited Release 2017.

Moar reviews to come, so stay tuned. I’ll leave you with some haul pics because that’s always fun too:

Can Haul

Can Haul: Alchemist Skadoosh IX, Heady Topper, Pappy’s Porter, and Beelzebub. Burlington Strawberry Whale Cake. Upper Pass First Drop and Cloud Drop. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine. Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo (see above).

Miscellaneous Bottles Haul

Miscellaneous Bottle Haul: Central Waters BBA Scotch Ale, BBA Barleywine, BBA Stout. Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett with Blueberries and regular ol Nightmare on Brett. Tilquin Gueuze. Burlington Amber Ridge (see above)

Hill Farmstead Bottle Haul

Hill Farmstead Bottles Haul: Farmer Wave, Anna, Arthur, Clara, Edith, Florence, Brother Soigné, and Convivial Suaréz.

And if you think that’s a lot, well, I didn’t actually capture, *ahem*, all of the bottles and cans I bought. I know that’s the cool kid thing to do, but that was, like, way too much work and you don’t need to see a hundred bottles and cans splayed all over your monitor. Anywho, this basically concludes Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar. More to come in terms of actual reviews, so stick around…

A Trip to Hidden River Brewing Company

Hidden River brewing opened its doors a little over a year ago. So many local breweries have opened recently that I’m having a hard time keeping up, but I’d been hearing some buzz about these beers of late. These guys aren’t in the most convenient location (Douglassville, PA, not quite the middle of nowhere, but far enough from me), and I’m the worst so it took me a while to get in gear, but now that I’ve been there, I will most definitely be making return trips.

Hidden River Sign

It’s still a tiny operation, located in the beautiful Historic Brinton Lodge. It’s a deceptively large facility though, broken up into a small bar area, several dining rooms, and a pretty great outdoor bar. The lodge is supposedly haunted and the owners apparently run various events along those paranormal lines, which I’ll most certainly have to take advantage of next Halloween. So it’s a great space, and the decor works too.

Charcuterie Plate

The food menu is somewhat limited, but everything I had was great (charcuterie plate and a panini, great bread too). A solid and ever-rotating taplist helps things along (more on that below). All in all, it reminds me a lot of the original Tired Hands location, before the hype and expansions.

I’ve now been there twice, and while I didn’t take formal tasting notes, I’ll give you a broad overview of what I got:

Hidden River Green Mass

Green Mass – A 5.9% pale ale made in the Northeast IPA mold, super cloudy, juicy hops, and so on. Would love to try a higher ABV version of this, but this was quite a nice first impression.

Hidden River Fresh Press

Fresh Press – A 6% dry-hopped saison, very nice. Again with the super-cloudy beer (does look like orange juice) and juicy hop character, along with some nice saison yeast character. Definitely a highlight.

Hidden River Kings Watch

King’s Watch – An 8% Baltic Porter that really impressed me. I’ve often noted that many local breweries aren’t great at dark beer, but this is a really impressive take. Not quite HF Everett or Maine King Titus, but along those lines. Fantastic.

Hummingbird High – A 9.5% DIPA, this one doesn’t quite live up to the expectation built up by my first three tries. It’s certainly a fine beer, but not a top tier DIPA (and, perhaps tellingly, seemed like less of a Northeast IPA style).

Golden Oak Magic – I suppose if they were really aping Tired Hands, they would have named this “Golden Oak Magick”, heh. A 4.8% saison brewed with Shiitake and Black Poplar mushrooms, cilantro, and a bunch of lime zest, this one appears extremely clear, and has a more traditional saison yeast character too it, with some savory earthiness (but not really funky and you can’t exactly pick out the mushrooms…)

Melt Banana Face – A 7.6% IPA made with, you guessed it, bananas. And they do come through strong, though that means they sorta overwhelm the Northeast IPA base. All in all, a very interesting beer, would drink again, but sorta one-dimensional…

Hidden River Rum Barrel Aged Mapping the Past

Rum Barrel Aged Mapping the Past – An 11% English Barleywine aged on coconuts in Rum Barrels. My initial reaction was of sugary, rum soaked raisins, but once I figured out the coconut component (didn’t see that in the description before ordering), I really started to get that too. Not sooper boozy or anything, and could probably use a little more malt backbone, but it’s still a pretty fantastic offering that I enjoyed immensely…

So there you have it, everything was very good to great, one of the better hit to miss ratios I’ve seen at a new(ish) brewery in a while. I greatly look forward to sampling more of their wares in the future. I do not look forward to making the trek out there, but the results do seem worth it!

Operation Cheddar V: Bride of Cheddar

When I was a teenager, I drove cross-country with my brother and uncle. One feature of such a trip is that once you get past major population centers, you tend to see the same people over and over again. There are only so many major highways and if you’re both traveling in the same general direction, you’ll find yourself stopping at the same gas stations, eating at the same roadside stops, and even camping at the same campgrounds. There’s a (admittedly trashy) movie called Road Games that relies on this dynamic, making it a sorta moving version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

I noticed something similar going on during Operation Cheddar V: Bride of Cheddar, only instead of gas stations and campsites, I kept seeing the same people at breweries. Go figure. This is my fifth such trek through the wilds of Vermont in search of beer, and as per usual, it was a lot of fun.

This started off, as per usual, at the Warren Store, where I always go to pick up some of Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Alas, both available options were things I’d had before, but then, they’re both great:

Lawsons Finest Liquids (and a Frost too)

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That’s Sip of Sunshine and Super Session #2, for those keeping count. I also snagged a freshish bottle of Frost’s Plush, as I’d heard good things about them.

The Alchemist in Stowe

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From there, I headed up to The Alchemist’s new digs in Stowe, VT. For the uninitiated, during the first Operation Cheddar I was able to go to The Alchemist’s cannery in Waterbury, VT. However, due to the high level of traffic and with consideration for their town and neighbors, they closed that location to the public and started distributing their beer throughout the state. This made their beer more difficult to snag (at least, for passers-through like myself), but due to intense demand, they were able to open a new brewery facility in Stowe. While the cannery still puts out as much Heady Topper as possible, the new brewery focuses on their other brews, notably Focal Banger and Crusher.

Mixed Case of Alchemist Beerz

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Limit of one case, but you could get a variety, so I got a mix of Heady Topper, Focal Banger, and The Crusher. That last one is something I’ve never had before, so you will most certainly be seeing more about that in the near future.

Just a hop and a skip away from there is Lost Nation, which has become a mandatory stop, if for no other reason than their food is just astonshingly good. I had some sort of smoked beef sandwhich, which was great, of course. And I snagged some Gose and The Wind while I was at it.

Amazing sandwich at Lost Nation

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Next up is another mandatory stop, Hill Farmstead. They’ve been doing some expansions of their own, and while lots of folks were there, the lines and waiting have been reduced considerably (though now you get bottles and growlers at two different locations). They also had some vintage bottles for sale, though only for onsite consumption (a bit pricey, to be sure, but probably worth it). I must have hit them at a weird time, as their bottle selections were dwindling rapidly, but hey, it’s hard to complain when you get bottles of world class beer:

Beer haul from Hill Farmstead

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That’s Casita Cerveceria Del Arboles (this is a contract brewing operation that brews at Hill Farmstead, which is something that obviously requires more scrutiny that will be provided at a later date), Dry-Hopped Arthur (I believe this is another beer that uses Segal Ranch Cascades), Table Dorothy, and growlers of Sumner, Single-Hop Citra, and Single-Hop Nelson Sauvin. What the hell, let’s review some of those growlers right now, while we’re here and all:

Hill Farmstead Citra

Hill Farmstead Citra Single-Hop Pale Ale – This is pretty much what it sez. I missed out on this during my first exposure to Hill Farmstead many moons ago during Philly Beer Week, so I was glad to finally catch up with it. Pours a cloudy orange-yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head and decent retention. Smells wonderful, bright, juicy citrus leavened by that floral note I tend to get out of Citra. Taste follows the nose, lots of juicy hops, a little of that earthy floral character, finishing on a bitter note. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with fine carbonation and a bit of dryness, quite drillable. Overall, yep, it’s fabulous and I feel like even grading on a curve, this rates an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/5/16. Growler filled 8/4/16.

Hill Farmstead Sumner

Hill Farmstead Sumner American Pale Ale – Brewed with Simcoe, Citra, and Mosaic hops? Well, ok, if you’re going to twist my arm. Pours a little less cloudy, paler yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells similar, but with less floral character and more dank, resinous pine – still plenty of citrus though! Taste is again more on the dank side, plenty of citrus, a little less bright, but juicy enough, with a little less bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, finely carbonated, less dry, very crushable stuff. Overall, less intense, but still quite good. Again grading on a curve, maybe B+ or A-? This is getting impossible you guys.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/6/16. Growler filled 8/4/16.

Then I popped over to Burlington Beer Company, the first time I’d visited. There I met with Kaedrin friend Cian McGuire, who works at the brewery and was busily bottling some beer when I arrived. We had a nice chat and I picked up plenty of beer. Naturally, I forgot to take pictures of the facility, so you’ll just have to deal with the haul pic:

Burlington Beer Company haul

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That’s It’s Complicated Being a Wizard, Peasant King, Peach of Mind, Brettanomyces Incident, and Chunky. Check out that artwork, so nice. Looking forward to these!

Finally, I stopped in at Foam brewery to visit with Lipstick n Lager and try some of their wares. They’ve only been open for about 4 months, but they’re really nailing their IPAs, which in Vermont is really saying something. I only snagged a single growler from them, but you will most definitely be hearing more about it in the near future. And I will almost certainly stop here again next year.

Foam Brewing

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From there, it was a simple jaunt back to the Adirondacks (where I was staying last week) to enjoy my spoils. I should also mention that I went back to Fulton Chain brewing, which was within walking distance of where I was staying. If you recall, during Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar, I stopped in to this place mere weeks after they had opened. I was glad to see that they seem to be well established at this point, with a healthy crowd and many more taplines open.

Fulton Chain Flight

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Highlights were Go Fluff Yourself (made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff) and Flooded Tent (a cucumber lime saison). Not quite Vermont levels awesome, but hey, walking distance. I should also add that Officer Bob enjoyed Eskimo Strong, an imperial red/amber:

Officer Bob

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Also of note, Wakely’s Speakeasy on the other side of town (awesomely named Thendara, NY) that had probably the best Bourbon selection I’ve ever seen. Very secretive, need a passphrase to get in, and no cell phones/pictures allowed. But live music and again, great whiskey selection (not so good on the beer front, but whatevers). Apparently the owners were from Kentucky, so they’ve got their connections. Well worth stopping in if you’re ever in the area…

And that just about covers another successful Operation Cheddar. Now if you’ll excuse me, all this VT beer ain’t going to drink itself. I’ll leave you with some pictures of Tired Hands beers that I was drinking all week in preparation for Operation Cheddar…

Tired hands Milkshake IPA

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Tired Hands Pineal

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It was a fun vacation, is what I’m saying. Already looking forward to my next VT odyssey.

A Trip to Selin’s Grove

Back in the time of antiquity (i.e. the aughts), you could troll beer rating sites by state and when you got to Pennsylvania, the listings were dominated by this tiny little brewpup located in the middle of nowhere called Selin’s Grove. The IPA even graced Beer Advocate’s top 100 back when that was still a thing people cared about, and people 3,000 miles away would trade for it. They’ve since faded a bit in the popular consciousness due to the rise of other big PA names, but they seem happy toiling away in relative obscurity (then again, the IPA is still #7 on BA’s PA list, so there is that).

Selins Grove sign

Selin’s Grove is about 2 hours away from Kaedrin HQ, which depending on your fortitude is not too big of a deal (these days, there are a few other places you can stop along the way, which might make for a nice full-day trip). I’ve always meant to make a trip up there sometime, and finally pulled the trigger last week when they were celebrating their anniversary. It’s a bit of a haul, but it’s not a bad drive at all. I had a couple of samples when I was there, grabbed a decent sandwich, and of course some growlers. It’s a neat little place, great atmosphere, very warm and inviting. Let’s see if their beer lives up to their reputation:

Selins Grove IPA

Selin’s Grove IPA – Pours a pale orange color with half a finger of quickly disappearing head. Smells sweet, citrus and lots of dank, resinous pine. I want to call this an expertly crafted old school IPA, and I’m guessing lots of C hops here. Taste is sweet, with some citrus and again, lots of dank, resinous pine, finishing with a nice bitter bite. Mouthfeel has lowish carbonation (probably a result of the growler), medium body, and it’s quite approachable. Overall, it’s a rock solid IPA, I can see why it had the reputation, but I can see why it’s fallen off the radar as well. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV from a growler (1L Boston style). Drank out of a snifter on 12/22/15.

Selins Grove Framboise

Selin’s Grove Framboise – Pours a murky purple color with a finger of pinkish head. Smells of pure, unadulterated raspberry puree, sweet and a little tart. That sounds simplistic, but it’s really quite striking. The taste has a little more complexity to it, though it’s still a raspberry bomb. It’s got a richness to it that fits well with the sweet, lightly tart rasberry. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, surprisingly full bodied, rich, and chewy, viscous but the carbonation helps break it up. No matter what the ABV, it’s not really a session beer because of its intensity, but it’s not like it’s hard to drink or something. Still, I was very glad I was sharing this, as taking down a growler on your own is maybe possible, but not recommended. Overall, reminiscent of those New Glarius fruited bangers, this is fuller and more rich, and delicious. Really begs for some sort of Brett addition or barrel aging, but it’s pretty great as it is. B+ or maybe an A- if I’m feeling generous, which I guess I’m not.

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV from a growler (1L Boston style). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/22/15.

It was worth the trip, but it is just a tad bit too far to make it up there regularly. Still, I could see it happening a couple times a year, as there are several other beers of theirs I’d love to try.

Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar

Hot on the heels of Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder, only about a month later, I embarked upon the more familiar, single-day incursion into Vermont. This being the case, I’m not going to cover the trip in as much detail, considering that you can go back and read recaps of my previous sorties into Vermont. Instead, I’ll recap a few beers I’ve had, and let you know about a few new places I visited this time around.

First up is a brewery that’s not even in Vermont. I know, I’m the worst, but it was literally walking distance from the place I was staying and it had just opened less than a week before I visited. How could I not check it out? Enquiring minds want to know about all these new breweries popping up all over the place, and someone has to take up the slack. And until they do, you’ll have to deal with my silly notes. It’s called Fulton Chain Brewing (named after the chain of lakes that winds its way through the Adirondacks), and it’s got a promising start. They only had 4 beers on tap, but plan on having more (things were still coming up to speed for them, they were still waiting on glassware for flights and even empty growlers). Between three friends and myself, we tried all of them, and they’re decent. The clear highlight for me was Lake Hopper IPA, an 8.5% ABV DIPA made with 8 hops to represent the 8 lakes in the Fulton Chain. Nice juicy DIPA, super cloudy stuff, a little raw, but very promising. Not exactly a Heady killer or anything, but pretty darn good for a place down the road.

Fulton Chain Lake Hopper DIPA

I also tried a beer called Stealth Buddha, a Scotch ale made with small amounts of smoked malt, quite approachable. Not going to inspire road trips or anything, but nice enough. Really happy this place opened up, and I’m looking forward to visiting again once they’re more established. They appear to be quite small, but they’ve got a gorgeous tasting room (including an amazing single piece countertop that snakes its way throughout the space), a nice location, and they show promise.

As for Vermont, I made a few of the typical stops, including the Warren Store, a couple places in Waterbury, Lost Nation (got a great pulled pork thing that wasn’t quite as good as the smoked lamb pita sandwich I had last time, but was still fantastic), and Hill Farmstead.

Hill Farmstead

Some spoils of war:

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - bottles

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - Cans

(click to embiggen)

I didn’t snap a pic of everything because I bought a bunch of stuff at Lost Nation and Hill Farmstead that I had snagged last time. Some new stuff includes my most prized acquisition, Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience 14 (barrel aged blend of Anna and Florence), some of this year’s batch of Florence (I still have some of last year’s batch, so I’m hoping to do a comparison). Also some Sip of Sunshine (it comes in bottles and cans!) and a bottle of Rock Art’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Vermonster. Lots of Lost Nation Cans, including some Mosaic and Vermont Pilsner (both of which are very nice), and of course, some Gose. Moar Sip of Sunshine cans, and I took a flier on 14 Star Tribute DIPA… Finally, I made my way to Four Quarters brewing to fill up some crowlers.

Four Quarters Brewing - Barrels

Four Quarters Barrel Room (click to embiggen)

Another pretty small operation, they impressed me during the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston last month and I was really hoping to snag some bottles. Alas, it was not to be, but I did get some crowlers. Here’s Chrysalis, a smoked hoppy amber ale:

Four Quarters Crysalis

Four Quarters Chrysalis – Pours a very nice, mostly clear dark amber color with a finger of bubbly light tan head that sticks around for a while. Smells of citrusy hops initially, but then you get that malty, smoky background that actually sets the hops off rather nicely. Taste starts off on the sweeter side, typical amber and crystal malts, and the smoke is somewhat muted, but it’s there and playing along reasonably well. Hints of piney, bitter hops come in towards the finish as well. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and silky smooth, pretty easy going stuff. The smokey character is not dominant at all, and just adds a bit of complexity to a pretty typical hopped red ale. Overall, it’s a very nice beer, not mind blowing, but interesting enough… B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV canned (32 ounce crowler). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/12/15. Crowler filled on 7/9/15.

I also got a crowler of Opus Dei (a very nice, quaffable little Belgian Pale Ale) and shared it with some friends when I got back. Sorry, no detailed notes there. Another thing I shared with some Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #1, a great little DIPA (what else would you expect from them), not quite as juicy or citrusy as I’ve come to expect, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and it actually matched very well with some smoked chicken we were having. It went over quite well. I managed to squirrel away my last growler though:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 4

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 – Pours a cloudy, bright golden color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells amazing, huge citrus aromas, pure mango juice or something like that. Taste is very sweet, again with a massive blast of mango juice, well balanced finish, not bitter, but just perfectly balanced. Feels kinda like and amped up Susan, but even more fruity. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, smooth, medium bodied, and almost quaffable. Overall, what a surprise, HF hits it out of the park. Again. With a citrusy wonder. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/12/15. Growler filled on 7/9/15.

Finally, this last one is a spoil from Operation Cheddar III, but I think you still want to know about it, right?

Rock Art Smugglers Notch Barrel Aged RIS

Rock Art Smuggler’s Notch Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout – Smuggler’s Notch is a Vermont micro-distillery, so I took a flier on this one rather than going with the more traditional straight bourbon barrel approach. Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, and lots of vanilla, hints of roast and dark chocolate. Taste is surprisingly muted, some of that bourbon and oak, but not much, vanilla, and a big hit of hop bitterness towards the finish. As it warms, some roast comes out to play, and it becomes more expressive. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, and while not dry, per say, it’s more attenuated than I’d expect. Overall, this isn’t top tier stuff, but it’s an interesting take on the style. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/3/15.

Well, that was more involved than I thought it would be! Another successful incursion into Vermont, and there will be more. Oh yes.

Operation Chowder

“That’s ‘chowdah’! Chowdah! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill all of you, especially those of you in the jury!”

The encore to Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder was a trip to Boston for more beery fun, with the centerpiece being the American Craft Beer Festival, though due to my late addition to this trip, I only went to the Friday evening session (the Saturday sessions were sold out). This was no big loss to me, for reasons I’ll get into later, but I’m getting ahead of myself. After Thursday morning’s sorties on the Warren Store, Burlington, and Worthy Burger, we high tailed it to Boston (or, to be more accurate, Cambridge). First stop while we were there, was the most excellent bar, Lord Hobo:

Lord Hobo

(Click to embiggen)

What a fantastic place. It was a little more crowded than we were used to (it turns out that the weekday crowd in Waterbury doesn’t quite compare to happy hour during the weekend in Cambridge, go figure), but what do we have here:

Fiddlehead Second Fiddle.jpg

Yes, after flinging ourselves all over Vermont for a few days, we had to go to Boston to get us some Second Fiddle cans. And it was fantastic! No formal tasting notes, but it’s got a great juicy citrus thing going on, a little more dank and resinous than your Heady Topper or Hill Farmstead stuff, certainly holds its own with the greats and represents a cool alternative if you can find it (perhaps not as under-the-radar as you might think, if the folks in the bar are any indication). The other highlight of Lord Hobo was the relatively local Wormtown Be Hoppy, though I can’t really remember anything about it other than it being a really fabulous IPA. We also had a duck-based charcuterie plate (I’m not normally a pate guy, but I’ll be damned if the duck pate wasn’t delicious) and the cheese plate, one of the better dining decisions we made (remember, we loaded up on Worthy Burgers not that long before this time, so these plates were perfect). Super duper.

Friday morning, we hop on the T and head into Boston proper for a trip to Trillium Brewing, a tiny little operation that only does growler fills and bottle releases at this point. There was a short line, so we popped in and bought us some bottles:

Trillium Haul

(Click to embiggen)

So the haul includes: Trillium, Congress Street IPA, Sunshower Super Saison, and Vicinity Double IPA. Pretty darn good.

From there, we hopped over to a restaurant called Row 34, which from all appearances is an amazing seafood place with a pretty solid beer selection. It was right during the lunch rush though, so we didn’t get any food here, instead standing at some of the pillars (which had little ledges for your beer, etc…) and drinking a pre-fest beer just to get the system primed (we’re still 4-5ish hours away from the start of the fest though).

Pivovar Kout 12

The standout on the menu, surprising to me, but I’m super glad I made the stretch, was Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka, a glorious Czech pilsener that I grabbed because I recognized the name from Evan Rail’s short little book The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest (apparently a refurbished brewery in the middle of nowhere, the recipes come from a book discovered in the old brewery, or something like that). Pilseners aren’t really my jam, but this hit the spot, grainy, earthy, almost spicy hops, but still light, crisp, and refreshing on a warm day after a long walk, and I’m really glad I gave it a shot. Would be really interested in checking out some more of Kout’s brews if they ever become available over here!

From there, we had a sorta lazy afternoon, grabbed a Lobster sandwich from Alive and Kicking Lobsters (it’s not a Lobster roll, it’s a sandwich!) hit Whole Foods for some Massachusetts beer (the source of those Night Shift Morph cans in my previous post) and generally relaxed until we hopped on the train for the ACBF.

Longtime readers (all 3 of you) might recognize that I’m not much of a beer fest kinda guy given that I’ve covered approximately zero of them in the five-ish years of this blog. Large crowds, drunk people, tiny samples, and did I mention the large crowds? I’m not anti-social or anything, but I hate crowds and as a massive introvert, I just get exhausted by these types of events. Also, whatever you may think about the amount of beer I drink, I don’t generally enjoy getting smashed. I’ve been to festivals in the past, and after the first several tastes, I start to get a little woozy, but my novelty instinct is still engaged full force, so I feel like I need to keep sampling at top speed or else I’ll miss out. By the end, I have no idea what I’m tasting, not just because I’m drunk, but because I’ve been obliterating my palate. The other thing about beer festivals, at least the local ones around here, is that they tend to be comprised mostly of local breweries… most of which I’ve already had a lot of before (or could easily get anytime). It’s not that there’s nothing special being poured, but they’re few and far between, and again, after your first rush of tastes, your palate gets wonky and perceptions get weird.

That being said, the ACBF was actually great! There were lots of crowds, but the space was huge, so that wasn’t too annoying. The crowds also meant lines, especially at the more prominent breweries, but that had the benefit of keeping me going at a sustainable pace rather than rushing through everything. I ended the fest with a nice buzz on, but not shitfaced at all. And because the fest was in Boston, there were a ton of Northeast Breweries that don’t often make their way down here, and even the ones that do, don’t often send the special stuff. I didn’t really take many pictures during this leg of the trip because I’m the worst, but here are some highlights from the fest:

And there were a ton of other great beers, but those were definitely the standouts and I don’t want to sit here and list out the other 20 beers I liked (or the handful that I didn’t). Lawson’s definitely had the longest line (it moved well enough, and we were able to get through 3 times pretty easily – I heard things were considerably more difficult on Saturday), though Fiddlehead was also doing pretty well for itself (indeed, there was even a staffer who had to provide traffic control because of the location of their booth). Definitely a worthwhile pursuit that I’d do again, but I was also perfectly fine with the one session. I got pretty much everything I could have wanted and a bunch of stuff I didn’t even know I wanted (about half the highlights above were completely unexpected). I was told that the Saturday afternoon session was way more crowded and the lines were a lot longer, which I probably wouldn’t have liked. We hit up brunch at a place called Cafe Luna, and got this beautiful Lobster Eggs Benedict plate:

Lobster Eggs Benedict

Delicious! And my friend got the Steak and Lobster BLT Benedict, which was the same thing, with added slice of steak, some bacon, and a big slice of tomato. He had trouble finishing. I was more than pleased with my “regular” dish. While my friends went to the early ACBF session, I met up with a local friend and we tooled around Boston for a while. We hit up the MIT museum (totally worth checking out for the Arthur Ganson Gestural Engineering exhibit alone), had a couple drinks at Meadhall, which has a huge taplist, but also seemingly less in the way of local stuff, and ate dinner at Regina Pizzaria in the North End (“The Original”). It’s a tiny little place, and you actually need to wait in line to get in, but we got there early enough that the line was short, so we got in pretty quickly, and hot damn, that is some fantastic pizza. Best I’ve had in a while, crispy crust, chewy interior, well proportioned sauce, cheese, and toppings, and totally worth looking up if you find yourself in Boston. (As we exited, we seemed to run into a bizarre ritual of two dudebros having a pushup contest on the street… quite amusing!)

Phew! That about covers the festivities, and what a lovely week it was! That being said, I think perhaps Operation Cheddar and Operation Chowder would do better with some time between them for recovery and emptying of trunk space, rather than crammed together like this. I was pretty worn out in the end, though I regret nothing! Time will tell if we go through this again next year. Right now, it’s a distinct possibility! And believe it or not, I may end up in Vermont again sooner rather than later, stay tuned! In the meantime, there will be a crapton of reviews headed your way…