Fermentery Form Triple Feature

Fermentery Form is the weirdest local brewery that I know about. If I asked you to design a strange brewery, you’d probably hit on several things that Fermentery Form is doing.

Do they actually brew beer? Nope! They outsource the actual brewing to other local breweries (it’s kinda like a gypsy brewing situation). Most of the information out there says they utilize nearby Saint Benjamin’s facilities for the task, but that brewery has actually closed (Human Robot has taken over Saint Ben’s facility, so perhaps they’re still supporting Fermentery Form?) Once brewed, the wort is delivered to Fermentery Form for conditioning, barrel-aging, and blending. It almost feels more like a lambic blendery than a brewery (though, of course, they’re not making actual lambic).

But it’s, like, normal beer, right? That will depend on your definition of normal; it’s all mixed fermentation stuff (i.e. primarily sours). They apparently make extensive use of Solera blending/aging where new batches incorporate beer from the previous batch. I’m gonna go with “not normal”.

But you can visit the brewery right? Sort of! To be pedantic and annoying, it’s not technically a brewery (as established above), so take that jerkface! But, um, yeah, they do have a location to visit. It’s just that it’s only open one day a week. Currently, that would be Thursdays from 5:30 to 8 pm. However, they also do ad-hoc openings, so if you stalk their social media accounts, you can luck out and find another random opening. This is basically how I did it, and it neatly lined up with my trip to the nearby Human Robot, so I was able to knock out two birds with one stone.

It’s a nice location though, right? Well, um, the inside appears to be nice. When I visited, Philadelphia was in an extra-festive holiday lockdown, so I didn’t get to go in… But the really weird thing here is the outside. It’s basically located in an alley. The only indication that it exists at all is a Green Light that is turned on when the brewery is open (which, as we’ve noted, isn’t often) and a street number with the letters FORM next to it. It’s like a speakeasy for sour beer.

Have I piqued your interest yet? Curious to see how this place can possibly sustain itself? Me too, but it’s been open for around three years, so they must be doing something right. As it turns out, if you make great beer available, knuckleheads like myself will seek out your well-hidden wares. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these suckers:

Fermentery Form Vieux Selection

Vieux Selection – Inspired by geuze lambic, this is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old beer (it’s not lambic in some important ways, but the blending is certainly geuze-like). Pours a hazy golden orange color with a couple fingers of white head. Smells fantastic, sweet tart fruit, some spicy phenols, oak, and a well balanced earthy funk. Taste starts sweet, hits some fruity ester notes, then the spice kicks in, with some earthy funk and oak, finishing on a tart note. Maybe a hint of bitterness in the finish? Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but medium bodied, low to moderate acidity, pretty easy going. Overall, you can feel an underlying Belgian yeast here that isn’t completely overwhelmed by barrel or sour cultures, which is really nice. A very good blend here. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/20/20. Batch 001. Released: June 2020.

Fermentery Form Informal #5

Informal #5 – Fifth in a series of one-off experiments utilizing new ingredients and techniques, this one starts as a saison dosed with leftover grape must from Origins / Sangiovese, which is then refermented on New Jersey cranberry honey, and finally blended back into a cask of 3 year old barrel aged golden ale. Sounds overly complicated. Is definitely worth the effort.

Pours a slightly hazy gold color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head, good retention, some lacing as I drink. Smells great, sweet, vinous fruit, oak, funky earth and spice aromas. I feel like the extended aging is apparent in the nose as well, maybe a faint hint of controlled oxidation or something. Taste starts with that vinous fruit, maybe a hint of tartness here, then on comes the oak and funk, with some subtle spice notes kicking in, finishing with a tart little kick. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated, moderate acidity, but quite approachable. Overall, a little more in line with your sour saisons, but another winner here… A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 12/22/20. Released: July 2020.

Fermentery Form Fooz

Fooz – A pretty standard wheat beer aged in stainless with oak spires before adding 250 pounds of peaches from 3 Springs Fruit Farms and a lengthy refermentation to get back to a relatively dry brew. Pours a clear, extremely light, pale yellow color with a finger of white, fluffy head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, lots of peach aromas, a little bit of oak, and the base wheat also stands out. Taste starts sweet, with those peaches kicking in quickly, introducing additional sweetness and maybe a hint of tartness, finishing on a subtle wheat and spice note. Mouthfeel is crisp, light bodied, well carbonated, very low acidity (almost nothing) making it pretty quaffable. Overall, ayup, it’s a really nice fruited wheat. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 1/8/21. Batch 004.

So there you have it. If you’re visiting Philly and luck into one of their open times, they’re worth the stretch… er, after we get this pandemic thing sorted, I guess. These are my first Fermentery Form beers since it opened and a friend shared some, and damn, I may need to make that trip into Philly more often.

Warwick Farm Brewing Triple Feature

It’s hard to keep up with the throngs of new breweries, even when we’re not mired in a global pandemic. However, given the lean times, it’s worth making the extra effort to support local breweries in whatever way you can.

Warwick Farm Brewing has been in the works for a while, but near as I can tell, they only opened their doors around a single twelvemonth* ago. It looks like they’re still hard at work on a tasting room that will be available right around the time a vaccine should be making the rounds, so maybe it’ll work out well for them. In the meantime, they’re still open for takeout orders, so I made the trek north to pick up some cans.

It looks like a good location, lots of space, and they’ve got ambitious plans to make use of their many acres of farmland to provide fresh ingredients, hops, etc… for their beers. Local buzz is good, if not monster hype levels (which is probably for the best), so let’s take a look at a few of their offerings:

Warwick Farm Leuven

Warwick Farm Brewing Leuven – Belgian Style Dubbel – Pours paler than your typical dubbel, more orange than dark amber, with a fizzy, off-white head that resolves to a ring around the edge, but sticks around like that for a while. Smells of spicy, phenolic Belgian yeast, tons of clove, maybe a hint of black pepper, less in the way of fruity esters. Taste is sweet and spicy, again more focused on the spicy clove than fruity esters, though the fruitiness does emerge a bit more in the taste. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, reasonably well attenuated but not super-dry. Overall, a bit atypical for dubbels, but then, that’s not really out of character for Belgian-inspired beers… I actually quite like this, even if it doesn’t achieve the heights of my favorite dubbels. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a goblet on 10/30/20. Canned on 10/27/20.

Warwick Farm Certain Conclusion IPA

Warwick Farm Brewing Certain Conclusion – A northeast IPA with oats and dry-hopped with Citra, 586, and Columbus hops – Pours a pale golden yellow with only a light haziness to it, and a finger or so of white head. Smells nice, sweet fruit punch, some floral notes, a little dank pine. Taste is also sweet, that fruit punch character coming through here too, a hint of bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderately carbed, a little sticky sweet. Overall, it’s a fine little IPA with a distinct hoppy fruit punch character that is interesting… (I didn’t notice until now, but this can is over a month old – this may have fared a little better while fresher as some NEIPAs fall off very fast…) B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/20. Canned on 09/29/20

Warwick Farm Workshop Series No. 14 - Dark Czech Lager

Workshop Series No. 14 – Dark Czech Lager – A dark sessionable lager made with Saaz hops – Pours a very deep, dark brown, almost black color with a solid finger of tan, tightly bubbled head. Smells roasty, some chocolate and coffee notes mixed with the earthy, herbal, spicy notes of Saaz. Taste again tackles those roasted malt notes, chocolate and coffee grounds, with a mild but balancing bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, it doesn’t at all feel like it’s only 4.5% ABV. It doesn’t really approach imperial stout levels or anything either. Overall, this one is a pretty fantastic take on an unheralded style. Honestly my favorite of the three, which is a little surprising… Maybe I’m becoming a lager person? A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/20.

A most promising introduction to a new local brewery that I’m going to have to become more acquainted with.

* This is the Shakespearean way to say “one year.”

Heater Allen Triple Feature

Over the past five years or so, I’ve cobbled together a functional relationship with lagers… but I don’t post about them very often. It’s sometimes difficult to find an interesting angle on lagers. Still, I do find myself opting for lagers more and more often these days, so maybe I’ll just need to buckle up and plow through some more reviews.

We’ll start with a trio of beers from Heater Allen out of Oregon, a brewery that specializes in lagers (nary an IPA in sight!) I feel like craft lagers in general have turned a corner in recent years (roughly in line with my own palate (I’m a trend setter, is what I’m saying (The three people who read this blog agree. Probably.))), such that a lager-only brewery is feasible today. But these folks started their brewery in 2007, at which time lagers where not especially hot in the craft world. Good on them for surviving and perhaps even playing a part in the shift towards lagers (alright, fine, probably much more than my trend setting ways). These days, they do sport a few ales in their lineup, but they appear to focus on deeply unsexy traditional styles like Altbier or Kölsch.

Alrighty then, enough preamble, let’s get into it:

Heater Allen McMinnville Harvest Lager

Heater Allen McMinnville Harvest Lager – The chief difference between this beer and the flagship Pils (see below) is that it relies on local Willamette hops (instead of traditional Czech Saaz hops in the Pils). They don’t mention that it’s a wet hopped beer, but that’s usually what “harvest” connotes when it comes to beer. Or it could be a reference to the wine grape harvest, as the area is a big wine-producing region and as the old saying goes: “It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine.” And damn, if I worked at a winery during harvest, this would be a perfect beer to kick back with after a long day…

Pours a striking, clear, bright yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head that has great retention and leaves lacing as I drink. Smell is fabulous, a crackery pilsner character for sure, but then a whiff of sweet citrus hops, a hint of lemon, bright and sweet. Taste starts sweet and goes a little more earthy, herbal, grassy than the nose would have you believe. Mouthfeel is bright, crisp, light bodied, and quaffable. Overall, ayup, this is one great little pils. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/20. Canned on 09/16/20

Heater Allen Bobtoberfest

Heater Allen Bobtoberfest – Named after the owner’s late brother, Bob, this is a pretty standard Märzen style Oktoberfest beer. Pours a mostly clear, pale copper color with a solid two fingers of fluffy white head that has good retention. Smells nice, toasted, bready malt, light caramel, a hint of earthy hops. Taste has that sweet, bready malt, a hint of toast, maybe some very light toffee, some earthiness from the hops with a well balanced finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, but still crisp and refreshing, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, it’s a great take on an Oktoberfest beer, one of the better that I’ve had this year. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 10/11/20. Canned on 8/11/2020.

Heater Allen Pils

Heater Allen Pils – Pours a clear, bright yellow gold color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing as I drink. Smell is very good, sweet, bready pilsner, crackers, herbal saaz hops. Taste hits the sweet cracker up front followed by an herbal kick. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and bright, quaffable for sure. Overall, I think the Harvest Lager is better, but this is still a good pils! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/20. Canned on 09/16/2020.

I’ll try to pepper some more lagers inbetween reviews of mammoth barrel-aged stouts and teeth dissolving sours.

Suarez Family Brewery Triple Feature

Remember last week a couple weeks ago* when I said that we all know that Suarez Family Brewery is good at making saisons? Let’s put that to the test. Also, let’s drink a Blonde ale that doesn’t feature a busty blond bimbo on the label, because Suarez is classy and doesn’t need to resort to that kind of thing. Also because I was drinking it out of a growler, but still. They did release it in cans, and the label is very elegant. So there.

N.B. Now is usually the time where you can skip to the end of the boring tasting note paragraphs to see the grade, but in this case, I’ve actually written some general thoughts about each beer. This is probably something I should do more often, no? No? Fine then, be that way. But I did it this time, so enjoy:

Suarez Walk Dont Run

Walk, Don’t Run – This is billed as a hoppy New Zealand blonde ale with Nelson Sauvin and Moteuka hops. Sometimes, when a brewery puts out a blonde ale, it just feels bland and watery. Other times, especially when described as “hoppy”, it just feels like a pale ale or IPA. Here, Suarez has somehow found middle ground that does feel like it warrants the blonde style without veering too far into hoppy or malty territory. Instead, it’s just a perfectly balanced, light, but subtly flavorful session beer. Clocking in at 3.7% ABV, it’s tasty and yet, crushable. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 3.7% ABV growlered (750 ml swing-top). Drank out of a tumbler glass on 7/25/20. Drink by Jul 27 2020 (I drank it the day it was filled/picked up).

Kinda Classic – Remember when saisons weren’t sour? Like, no oak, no wild yeast strains, no bacterial beasties? I do, and they were and still are great, and this is a nice example of that sort of back-to-basics saison. It’s got a nice, expressive Belgian farmhouse yeast going for it, but it doesn’t have the intense earthiness of a Brett beer or the sourness of other varieties. I mean, we’ll get to that soon enough (see below), but I appreciate a take like this:

Suarez Kinda Classic

Pours a hazy straw yellow color with a couple of fingers of fluffy white head. Smells of musty Belgian yeast, lots of spicy phenols, coriander, clove, and the like, with some herbal hops kicking in and maybe a touch of sweet citrus. Taste features plenty of those spicy phenols from the nose, coriander and clove showing up in force, with something a little more herbal pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is crisp, dry, and refreshing, light to medium bodied, well balanced. Overall, I miss a good, non-sour saison like this. Refreshing, tasty, pairs well with food. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (500 ml bottles should have a nickname like “bomber” or something, shouldn’t they?) Drank out of a tumbler on 7/30/20. Blend #3, bottled 4/20.

Slow Bustle – I believe I’ve mentioned before that Daniel Suarez worked at Hill Farmstead before he opened his own brewery, and that influence clearly shows in a lot of his saisons, which bear a marked similarity. This is a good example of that sort of thing, but it manages to coax out some distinct flavors that I’ve not seen in a saison before, so good on them. Maybe it was the “generous portion of raw honey from our neighbors” that they brewed this beer with?

Suarez Slow Bustle

Pours a yellowish gold color with a solid finger of white head that lingers a bit and leaves a bit of lacing. Smells great, sweet, with tart pineapple and a hint of funk, maybe some other tropical aromas. Taste hits the funk a bit harder than the nose would imply, with a nice earthy character that eventually gives way to the sweeter, more tropical pineapple and a bit of tartness with some oak making itself known towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, light acidity, low to medium bodied. Overall, a pretty great saison in the Hill Farmstead mode, but the pineapple character really distinguishes this one from its brethren (or, like, any other saison that I’ve had). A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.1% ABV bottled (750 ml now that I think of it, these don’t really have a nickname either). Drank out of a wine glass on 8/14/20. Blend #4, bottled 3/20.

So it’s been another successful Suarez Family Brewing expedition this year. For the pandemic curious, they had a very easy online-ordering and contact-less curbside pickup situation going, so if you think you’ll be heading through the Hudson Valley anytime soon, give their website a whirl and order you some saisons and pilsners. And apparently pale ales and blondes too. Really, just order whatever they’ve got. I’ve yet to discover an even remotely bad beer from them.

Casey Brewing Double Feature

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

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

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

Casey Funky Blender Cherry

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

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

Casey East Bank Apricot

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

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

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

Root Down Brewing Double Feature

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

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

Root Down Crispy Boy
Root Down Crispy Boy

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

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

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

Root Down The Mock
Root Down The Mock

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

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

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

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

I was impressed by Florida’s Barrel of Monks when I sampled their Three Fates Tripel last year and have finally managed to procure more of their wares. Their wheelhouse appears to be straightforward Belgian styles or Trappist ales that don’t inspire as much beer nerd enthusiasm as freaky sours or barrel-aged pastry stouts and the like. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but it is genuinely nice to take a step back and try a straightforward Belgian Tripel or Dubbel. So when these two bottles came my way, I was ready.

First up is actually something a little more trendy that might twixt beer dorks’ nethers more than the straightforward stuff. Monk de Soleil (Monk of the Sun?) certainly starts off as a simple Belgian Pale Ale, but it then undergoes a secondary fermentation with added Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and then endures some dry-hopping. This collaboration with 7venth Sun Brewery certainly hits that funky sweet spot that beer geeks crave:

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil – Pours a cloudy golden orange color with lots of head that sticks around for a bit. Smells fantastic, great earthy funk mixed with fruity esters and a little clove. Taste hits that funky Brett note pretty well, plenty of spicy phenols, a little bit of that fruit. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated and dry. Overall, this is a great little Brett beer. A

Beer nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/17. Released 4/29/17.

Next, we’ve got a humble Belgian Dubbel. Not much else to it, except that like their Tripel, this is a very well executed take on a style most American brewers don’t even try, let alone do well…

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno – Pours a dark amber brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, that trademark dubbel raisins and fruity esters, spicy phenols, clove. Taste has a great sweet and spicy character, a little caramelized dark fruit, raisins, plums, maybe a hint of toast in the background. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated, relatively dry, making this dangerously quaffable. Overall, rich, c omplex, again one of the better American takes on a vaunted, traditional Belgian style. A-

Beer nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 6/27/17.

So these folks are 3 for 3. Not necessarily lighting the beer world on fire with trendy stuff, but I really appreciate the well executed Belgian styles.

Civil Society Double Feature

It’s a story as old as time. Or, like, 30 years. Something like that. Beer drinkers get fed up with expensive non-local beer, start homebrewing, get good at it, recognize the lack of a local brewing scene, and resolve to start up their own brewery.

Jupiter, Florida, probably most famous for housing a few baseball teams’ spring training facilities, now has a growing hophead scene thanks to Civil Society brewing. When Kaedrin friend and beverage compatriot Steve moved to Florida, he was a little disappointed by the IPA scene (especially having been a fan of the vaunted Northeast IPA), but since these fellas have shown up, he’s been having a better time of it. Let’s dive into a couple of their common offerings, for a hoppy society is no doubt a civil society:

Civil Society Fresh

Civil Society Fresh – Pours a cloudy, pale yellow color with a finger or two of white, tight head. Smells great, lots of juicy citrus, a little pine. Taste is sweet, juicy, fruity, citrus hops, a little pine, just enough bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, one damn fine NEIPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/23/17. No date on can, but I am assured that it was 1-2 weeks old.

Civil Society Blondes Make Me Hoppy

Civil Society Blondes Make Me Hoppy (Citra) – Bonus points for not putting a buxom blonde woman on the label! Pours a cloudy pale yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head that leaves a bit of lacing. Smells great, lots of citrus and a more floral component than Fresh. Taste hits that citrus and floral hop note hard, finishes with a more bitter bite. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, crushable. Overall, a damn fine sessionable hop bomb. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/24/17. No date on can, but I am assured that it was 1-2 weeks old.

These are not the first Civil Society beers I’ve had, and they hopefully won’t be the last. In the same league with the latest wave of NEIPA brewers, for sure.

Evolution Hand Picked Series Double Feature

For centuries, the the Delmarva Peninsula of Maryland has been known for producing bottles of barrel-aged sours that grow on trees. Truly a freak of nature, Maryland’s own Evolution Craft Brewing has exploited that land for their “Hand Picked” series of beers. Straight from the tree!

Alright, fine, they grow fresh fruit on the the Delmarva Peninsula and that just happens to be right by Evolution, who use that in their series of barrel aged beers. I may have gotten some of the continuity wrong, all right? Get off my back. Anyway, I recently spent some time in Ocean City, Maryland, and on the way back to Kaedrin HQ, I met up with some friends and toured a few Maryland breweries. You will most certainly be hearing about them in later posts, but for now, we’ll hit up Evolution. We’re no strangers to their generally well received wares here, and these limited sours seemed worth a flier.

Both use their standard Belgian-style pale ale as a base, but the treatments are slightly different. One is aged in red wine barrels for 18 months with half a bushel of peaches per barrel and a melange of fermenting bugs: Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus, and L. Brevis. The other is aged in port barrels for 16 months with 100 pounds of raspberries and just Brettanomyces Lambicus. First up, the superior treatment:

Evolution Hand Picked Series Peach Sour

Evolution Hand Picked Series Peach Sour – Pours a dark orange color with half a finger of fizzy, short lived head and visible sediment/floaters. Smells great though, lots of peach and a hefty oak character. Taste starts off sweet, lots of peaches, oak, some light lactic sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, medium acidity. Overall, this is a rock solid sour, a little one-note, but the peach matches well. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/19/16.

Evolution Hand Picked Series Raspberry Tart

Evolution Hand Picked Series Raspberry Tart – Pours a reddish brown color with a finger of fizzy, short lived head (no sediment/floaters in this one). Smells nice, raspberry fruit rollups dominate, but that oak is there too. Taste seems a little more muddled, much less raspberry than the nose would have you believe, muted oak, not even particularly sour, an almost bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and lightly acidic. Balance seems a bit off here and the raspberry comes off a bit too artificial, but it’s not excessively bad either. Overall, it’s fine, but disappointing and the Peach was a lot better. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/21/16.

So yeah, go for the Peach. They’re better than raspberries anyway. Stay tuned for more from the Maryland trip, which should be coming once I finish drinking my way out of all these Vermont IPAs…

The Session #105 Roundup – Your Double Features

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

I’ve sporadically participated in “The Session” many times over the years, but this is the first time I’ve hosted. Many thanks to those who took the time to put together a post on this month’s chosen topic, a “Double Feature”, wherein participants drank two beers, compared and contrasted, and maybe even paired with some form of media for extra credit. Let’s check out your responses:

First up, Sara Q. Thompson takes on two Imperial Stouts made with coffee that were aged between 1.5 and 2 years. Coffee is one of those ingredients that tends to fall off over time, so this is certainly an interesting approach. For the media pairing, it Sara points to the Taster’s Choice Gold Blend saga, a series of flirtatious coffee commercials (And she’s in good company: Stanley Kubrick was apparently fascinated by the storytelling economy in coffee commercials, and would recut them to make them even more concise.)

Next, Sara’s husband Mark Lindner went British, pairing two Samuel Smith Organic beers with the last two episodes of Doctor Who Series 2 [reboot, David Tennant]. I have to say, that pale ale doesn’t look pale at all, and from the sounds of it, it wasn’t particularly fresh, which is a pity. “So the moral, I guess, is old TV shows are OK to visit for either the first time or to revisit, as the case may be, but other than the beers-that-can-be-aged most beers should not be.”

The Beer Nut has some choice words for celebrity chefs and their bumbling attempts at beer tie-ins. “It’s always mediocre, lowest-common-denominator, beer for people who aren’t especially interested in beer.” J’accuse! Will Kevin Dundon’s pair of beers, brewed “round the back of his posh country house hotel”, break down The Beer Nut’s cynicism? Or will they be the same bland, uninspired stuff of most celebrity chef fare? Only one way to find out, and along the way, we’re treated to some thoughts on beer and food pairing as well.

Gary Gillman over at Beer et seq. busts out “two beers, both lagers, yet different as can be.” Unimpressed with each, he takes to blending the two together to see if a more harmonious brew results, always an interesting exercise.

Derrick Peterman at Ramblings of a Beer Runner strains our premise to near its breaking point by drinking a pair of Ciders. Ciders! Actually, I love that he went far afield on this one, and I learned that ciders are more of “a study in subtleties”. Plus, Derrick perfectly captures what I was going for when I chose my topic:

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for crystal ball gazing, thinking deeply on esoteric beer concepts, or waxing philosophical on beer culture. But I love his Session topic harks back to an earlier, simpler time of The Session, where the idea was let’s all drink a beer and talk about it. Maybe too many topics only a hard core beer geek could possibly care about, let alone write about, was a big part of why The Session was almost no more.

Indeed, and I’m happy my topic seemed to have the intended effect.

Tom Bedell recalls previous beer duos and then devises some of the most excellent movie pairings for those beers that I’ve seen (certainly the best of this Session!) Filmic choices range from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry, to Anchorman, Rocky, and even Sophie’s Choice (that last a particularly good choice when rating two great beers). The movie nerd in me adores this post. Well done Tom!

The Brew Site’s Jon Abernathy also picks up on my purpose for the topic, noting recent higher-concept sessions and calling this one a homecoming of sorts. To celebrate, Jon picks up two canned, hop-driven session beers, one a hoppy saison, the other a straight up session IPA. Both sound great!

Sean Inman at Beer Search Party surveys a pair of Victory beers, going for a sorta old-school East Coast IPA battle I guess. I like how Headwaters has morphed from an American Pale Ale to a “Quasi-Session IPA” because that’s basically what a Session IPA is anyway. While he’s at it, he dissects the can designs as well. For the movie pairing, he picks a duo of Steve Jobs bio-picks and laments the lack of available suds at movie theaters (dear Alamo Draft House, if you’re reading, please open theaters in LA and Philadelphia, thank you.)

A Good Beer Blog’s Alan McLeod has done this. He’s done this a lot. Over a decade ago. In fact, he points to a couple of quadruple features and a triple feature before settling on an actual double feature (interesting tidbit, I’m pretty sure that’s my buddy Mike correcting the location of Victory brewing on that IPA post, heh). He mentions these exercises were helpful in trying to “figure out my own lexicon of tastes and descriptions”, and that’s my recollection as well. Bonus: we get another round in Alan’s ongoing feud with Oliver Gray. Delicious.

Finally, your humble host contributed a pair of entries of his own. One welcoming Almanac to Pennsylvania, the other a more harmonious combination of beer and movies, a tribute to Wes Craven. And I’m sure I’ll continue to play with such things in the future, so stay tuned!

Also of note, Boak and Baily didn’t get a chance to put together a post for this session, but as it turns out, they were already embroiled in a series of posts on Bottled Milds that actually seems appropriate. This one even compares a canned mild versus the same beer in a bottle. That is a great double feature, if you ask me!

And that just about covers it. If I missed you or if you want to be a little late to the party, feel free to send your post to me via email at mciocco at gmail dot com or hit me up on twitter @KaedrinBeer (apologies again for the misbehaving comment system I have in this antiquated blog).

Next up for The Session, while not officially announced just yet, appears to be Holiday Beers, hosted by one of the founders of the Session, Jay at Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Update: Added another entry from Beer Search Party…