Continuing with coverage of the annual beer slowdown, we come to a bit of a sticky wicket. While non-alcoholic beer still contains a trivial amount of alcohol, it’s still technically beer, right? Well, I figure this is still in the spirit of the exercise, and since there’ve been a few NA brewers stepping up the game of late, I figured it would be interesting to sample it. Think of it as a particularly vexing googly (ok, sorry for all the cricket references which I admit I don’t fully understand, but I just watched Lagaan so we’re just going to have to live like this from now on).
Anywho, Athletic Brewing Co. seems to be a leader in the newfangled space of NA beer that features actual flavor. Wild idea. Let’s take a look at a few of their offerings.
Athletic Tucker’s West Coast IPA – Pretty straightforward West Coast style IPA with a nice citrus punch that was originally an experimental one-off brew that was popular enough to bring back. Pours a bright yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells great, lots of bright citrus hops, tropical fruit, certainly feels like an IPA. Taste hits standard IPA notes, a hint of sweetness up front, bright, tropical citrus hops, and the nice bracing bitterness you get out of west coast IPAs. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, crisp, and a pleasant dryness that makes this quite quaffable. The dryness could be a bit too much in the wrong circumstances, but it worked well enough for me. This went down awful quick. Overall, this is pretty damn good for an NA beer, and indeed, it probably compares favorably to lots of, er, less famous small breweries out there. B or maybe even a B+
Beer Nerd Details: 0.5% ABV canned (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/20/23.
Athletic The Ocean Under the Moon – This is an experimental pilot program stout that claims to be inspired by barrel-aged beers and is aged on french vanilla oak chips, which sounds right up my alley… but didn’t quite play out that way… Pours a very dark brown color with a solid finger of tan head. Smells extremely roasty, maybe hints of dark chocolate, and coffee. Taste hits that roast hard, I don’t mind a bit of bitter roast, but this borders on acrid… “borders on”, it’s not terrible or anything, but it does overwhelm pretty much everything else. The promise of french vanilla oak is mostly left unfulfilled, though perhaps some of that acrid character comes from oak tannins… Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, dry, and despite the intense bitter roast, it’s pretty easy going. A sipper, but not terrible or anything. Overall, it’s fine, but I was really hoping for more of an oaky richness. C+
Beer Nerd Details: 0.5% ABV canned (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter glass on 1/20/23.
Athletic Lodge Life – This one bills itself as a campfire brew crafted with cinnamon, vanilla and cacao nibs, made with smoked malt, it seems to be going for a sorta s’mores type situation. Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells of roast and smoke, maybe the faintest hint of cinnamon, but I’m really stretching the nose here. Taste isn’t quite as strong as the nose would have you believe, but the roast and smoke are the primary drivers here too, a little bitterness in the finish too. No cinnamon or vanilla to speak of in the taste, maybe chocolate is there but it fades into the roast and smoke. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, and thinner than I’d want for something like this. Overall, I was hoping for stronger cinnamon and/or vanilla notes out of this. It’s perfectly cromulent for what it is, but I’d rather it be a bit more sturdy… B-
Beer Nerd Details: 0.5% ABV canned (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter glass on 1/21/23.
In theory these are somewhat mixed results, but compared to my previous experiences with NA beer, these are at the very least fascinating, and generally more tasty than anything I’ve had before. I will definitely be playing around with more NA beer whenever it comes time for a slowdown (even if it is a bit of a cheat!) This will just about cover it for this year’s beer slowdown coverage – stay tuned for a triumphant return to beer reviews (up next: a beer I drank last Halloween… so yes, I’m a bit behind).
I joined the Bruery Reserve Society last year and I have plenty of freakish, disjointed thoughts to share on the experience. And naturally, I’ll cover the plethora of high-octane Bruery beers (and a couple that are perhaps not so much) I’ve drank during the past couple of years. This is going to be a lengthy post, so strap in.
The Societies Themselves
About two years ago, I found myself craving Black Tuesday and The Bruery had just opened a satellite location in Washington D.C. so I took the plunge and joined the Preservation Society. I won’t pretend that driving to D.C. to pick up the beers is convenient, per say, but it’s certainly doable. It makes for a decent enough day trip with about 4 hours in the car.
At this point, I should cover the varying levels of Bruery Societies. As I just mentioned, I started by joining the Preservation Society, which is basically a quarterly membership. You can join for a single quarter, snag the 3-4 included beers (and order whatever society exclusives are available to you) and then quit. That was actually my initial thought – join, grab a bunch of Black Tuesday, and then quit. But I ended up staying on because I was generally enjoying the included beers and access to other stuff.
The other thing to note about the Preservation Society is that the four included beers per quarter are a mix of Bruery strong ales and Terreux sours (usually two of each). In terms of pricing, it’s also quarterly billing at $70 (for 4 included beers), which is actually pretty reasonable for these beers (at a minimum, they’re probably $80 worth of beer, if not more like $100 or more if bought separately). It allows access to society exclusive beers, but not all exclusive beers (i.e. there are beers that are only available for the Reserve or Hoarders societies).
All in all, I had a good experience with it. However, after a year, a few things became clear. First, the quarterly pickup timeline was a tad much for the commute that I was making. Second, while I enjoy Bruery Sours just fine, my favorites tend to be the non-sour barrel aged strong ales.
Enter the Bruery Reserve Society. This is a yearlong membership with at least 12 included beers, but there’s more flexibility in terms of the included beers and pickup timing. I opted to do the Bruery (Non-Wild/Sour) version, but you can do a mix of both or all-sour if you so desire. That’s basically it. It’s marginally more expensive (and billed all at once), but there’s much more flexibility in terms of what’s available and when you pick it up.
There’s another society level called Hoarders, which is like the others, only moreso. Lots more beer and some exclusive releases. I doubt I’ll ever do this, even if I could. The Reserve Society keeps me plenty busy.
Below is an epic recap of over two years worth of Bruery beers. N.B. While a lot of these are massive beers packaged in 750 ml bottles because Patrick Rue is trying to kill us all, I should note that I did manage to share a lot of them. Since the pandemic, this has not been possible in any meaningful way, but I’m hoping that will start to ease over time this year…
Black Tuesday remains a staple Bruery offering, and it is great. You’ll be hearing a lot about this beer below, as it’s often a component of a blend, but it’s great by itself and well worth seeking out.
Also of note: the last couple years, they started packaging in 16 ounce cans, which is a welcome development. Look, I can drink a full 750 of BT by myself if I really want to, but I shouldn’t do such things. Even at 16 ounces, it’s a bit of a project to put one down. I feel like the pandemic didn’t help here, and I’ve got the waistline to prove it. It’s a great beer to share though. I miss bottle shares, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about this beer is that while it’s big and burly… it’s actually pretty nimble when compared to our current trend of ever-thicker brownie-batter-esque pastry stouts. Boozy for sure, but that doesn’t bother me much. Anyway, there’s a ton of BT variants, so let’s get to them.
Black Tuesday Reserve (2020) – Brewed in 2018 and aged in bourbon barrels for a year, then transferred to a separate set of bourbon barrels for another year of aging. Holy hell, this is phenomenal. A friend shared a bottle of the 2015 Reserve a while back, and the small taste I had there was also amazing. This is Black Tuesday, only moreso. Richer, deeper, stronger, more complex, an incredible barrel character. It’s massive and boozy and I love it. A candidate for the vaunted A+, but for now we’ll just give it the A
Beer Nerd Details: 21% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 9/18/20. Bottled 02/11/20.
Rum Barrel Aged Black Tuesday – I’ve found that once you get away from the Bourbon/Rye world of barrels, Rum barrels tend to be my favorite. So I was looking forward to this beer, which I drank solo on New Year’s Eve. It’s quite good, and the rum barrel adds a distinct brown sugar note to the proceedings that works well. Is it better than regular BT? Probably not, and this is not the best rum barrel aged beer I’ve had or anything, but I appreciate these non-standard barrel treatments. There does seem to be a high variability to Rum barrels, and these seem on the better side of things. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 20.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a BT glass on 12/31/20. Bottled 10/23/20.
Red Wine Barrel Aged Black Tuesday and 2 Year Red Wine Barrel Aged Black Tuesday – Black Tuesday in Red Wine barrels for one or two years… and I dunno. They’re both good, but the vinous character doesn’t match the base beer as well as bourbon. It’s a nice change of pace and it works in a share, but it can’t quite compete with the other variants. They did put the 2018 version in 375 ml bottles though, which was welcome. The 2020 2 year aged variant is maybe a minor improvement, but still has the same character. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 18%-18.5% ABV bottled (375 ml and 750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/5/19 and 3/3/20. Vintage: 2018 and 2020.
Black Tuesday Virtual Box – Double Barrel Aged Imperial Stout Finished in Vanilla Barrels – Aged for three years total (one in bourbon barrels, two in vanilla extract barrels), this is awesome. The vanilla character is prominent but not overpowering or artificial. It’s hard to call anything about this subtle, but the vanilla is just very well integrated into the BT base here and elevates it well above BT. Also of note: every Bruery strong ale should be available in 10 ounce cans, they’re awesome. A
Beer Nerd Details: 20.5% ABV canned (10 ounces). Drank out of a BT glass on 11/22/20. Vintage: 2020.
Black Tuesday Virtual Box – North American Port Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – Another beer aged for three years, this one spent two of those years in North American Port barrels. The result shows that character well, imparting a jammy fruit element to the beer that works really well. It is my least favorite of the Virtual Box releases, but that’s a pretty high bar. It’s certainly interesting and well worth trying. B+ or A-
Beer Nerd Details: 19% ABV canned (10 ounces). Drank out of a BT glass on 11/23/20. Vintage: 2020.
Beer Nerd Details: 20.4% ABV canned (10 ounces). Drank out of a BT glass on 11/24/20. Vintage: 2020.
Soie – The Bruery Anniversary beers have long been a cornerstone for Kaedrin and they hold a special place in my beery history. The Anniversary ales are named after the traditional wedding anniversary gifts, in this case Silk. This entire series of beers has been one of my favorite things that the Bruery produces and I was always surprised at their availability on shelves. Pricey, but good.
Alas, the last couple releases haven’t been distributed, and this is honestly one of the things that keeps me interested in the Bruery Reserve Society. Soie is as good as ever and I want to say that I like it more than the last few years, but who knows? Regardless, regular ass Anniversary is a favorite and remains so (N.B. – Pretty much the same goes for Acier, which was last year’s Anniversary beer… but I figured this post was long enough!) A
(There was a Hoarder’s Society exclusive called Soie Reserve that got released this year, which has a similar treatment as the BT Reserve mentioned above (i.e. two years, two sets of barrels). This will hopefully be available to regular Reserve Society members this year, because it is 1000% my jam.)
Beer Nerd Details: 17% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 8/2/20. Vintage: 2020.
Bois – Brandy Barrel Aged – For a few years, the Bruery conducted a series of barrel-aged variants for the anniversary ales. They seem to have fallen off that bandwagon, but perhaps that will be reinstated in the future. This brandy barrel version is unquestionably my favorite of the barrel variants. The brandy adds a brighter note to the rich caramel and oak from previous solera-ed iterations of the Anniversary. It’s like a perfect blend of bourbon and brandy barrel aged barleywines or something. Really loved this one, and it’s holding up amazingly well for a beer made in 2013. A
Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 6/29/19. Bottled: 04/17/13. Vintage: 2013.
Bois – New French Oak Barrel Aged – I appreciate the idea here, and it does kinda let the base beer shine more on its own than a spirits barrel treatment, with a little more candied fruit emerging. I won’t call it my favorite, but it’s a welcome change-up that I’d spring for again. A- or A
Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 7/23/20. Vintage: 2013.
Sucré – Rum Barrel Aged – Another barrel variant, and probably my second favorite of such treatments. As mentioned above, I like a good rum barrel treatment, and it fits well with the base old ale here. The sweet treacly molasses matches well with the caramelized dark fruit of the old ale better than stout, perhaps. A
Beer Nerd Details: 17.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 8/22/20. Vintage: 2014.
Poterie – Scotch Barrel Aged – The most dreaded barrel variant because of the possibility that they’d use a peated Scotch barrel, which has wrecked many a beer. So it’s nice to see that this comports itself very well. Not as good as the other variants or the normal bourbon treatment, but either the solera base cuts it, or they used a non-peaty barrel, because there’s little to no smoke here (it’s been a while though, so I don’t remember much, other than it was much better than feared). Still, not a variant I’ll be seeking out again (though you could do a lot worse). B or B+
Etain – Red Wine Barrel Aged – Red wine barrels might be better suited here than for Black Tuesday… but they’re not better than the other barrel treatments. The vinous note is nice and matches the dark fruit of the base well, but tannins aren’t a great match and the oak isn’t as prominent. Good for a change of pace, but not something I’d seek out again. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/19/19. Vintage: 2018.
Chronology and Assorted Strong Ales
Chronology – Wee Heavy – The Bruery does this thing where they make a beer and age it in barrels, releasing at intervals: 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. It’s a fascinating experiment! Unfortunately, the 750 ml bottles makes it hard to do a side-by-side tasting. Plus, I didn’t try all of these – I did, however, try the 6 month and the 24 month versions, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the 6 month version, which I think might have been better than 24. But these were months apart and could be due to any number of factors. B+ or A-
Chronology:24 – Imperial Porter – I’ve only had the 24 month and I thought it was really good – better than the Wee Heavy, but not my favorite, so I didn’t really branch out to the other entries in this series. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 13.6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/15/19. Vintage: 2018.
Chronology – Old Ale – This was the first series they did, and it feels like a sorta amped up version of the Anniversary old ale (which ain’t no slouch, to be sure). I’ve had the 18 and the 24 and was surprised by the distinction between the two, but they’re both pretty great. I feel like the 24 fared better here than with the Wee Heavy. These are all old at this point, but the Old Ales seem to hold up the best for me too. A-
Chocolate Rain – This is Black Tuesday with cacao nibs and vanilla beans added. And yet, it very closely resembles regular Black Tuesday. There’s maybe a bit of extra chocolate/vanilla character, but it’s not a huge difference. I’d have to try them side by side to tell for sure. All that being said, it’s not like Black Tuesday is a bad thing to taste like. It may not be worth the pricing premium, but it’s still great. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 19.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/26/20. Vintage: 2019
You Asked For It – A blend of Black Tuesday and So Happens It’s Tuesday, conditioned with vanilla. It’s very good, but far from the best vanilla dosed stouts. The vanilla comes through loud and clear, which is nice. Despite blending with the lower-octane SHIT (*ahem*), it comes off as pretty boozy, which isn’t a huge problem in my book. Also of note: available in cans. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 16.4% ABV canned (16 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/24/20. Vintage: 2020
Quad Kisses – Belgian Style Quadrupel aged for a “brief” stint in four different barrels (bourbon barrels, rye whiskey barrels, scotch barrels, and rum barrels), then blended back together. Not sure if it’s because of the “brief” aging or the variety of barrels or the base beer, but this doesn’t really come together for me. It’s fine, to be sure, but the barrel character feels muddled (this can happen when you blend too many different types of barrels). B
Beer Nerd Details: 13.1% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/19/20. Vintage: 2020.
West Wood – Belgian-style quadrupel aged in Woodinville Whiskey barrels (a craft distillery out of Washington State). Rock solid stuff, distinct barrel character matched well with the quad base. Quite enjoyable, and I prefer this sort of thing to the more out-there adjuncts/ingredients. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/25/19. Vintage: 2019.
American Copper – Belgian style quadrupel aged in Copper & Kings Apple Brandy barrels. Seems similar to the just mentioned West Wood, only this time the barrel character is a little more distinctive, owing to the apple character that comes out. However, the apple flavors don’t overwhelm, they just add complexity (unlike a beer we’ll get to below, which goes a little too far). B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 12/27/18. Vintage: 2018.
Wether – A blend of barrel-aged and fresh weizenbock. Conceptually, I really like this idea. Weizenbocks are an underrated style and I always appreciate finding an interesting take on one like this. I do feel like this could be better, but it’s been a while, so my memory has faded a bit here. I would be interested on a new take on this beer though. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/16/18. Vintage: 2018.
12 Days of Christmas
Bourbon Barrel-Aged 12 Drummers Drumming – This started as a blend of 80% quadrupel and 20% solera-aged old ale (presumably the Anniversary beer). That initial blend (released last year) was tasty, but nothing to write home about. But when you put that blend into a bourbon barrel for more aging? That turns out great. I really enjoyed this, and it might be my favorite of all the 12 Days beers (though, to be fair, I have not had all of the BBA versions). A-
Beer Nerd Details: 15.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/5/20. Bottled 10/20/20.
Partridge In A Pear Tree (2020) – Not a precise rebrew of the original PiaPT, but it appears that they’re just restarting the series with new entries every year? This is a pretty standard quadrupel with spices, and it’s very well done. It fits with my sorta back-to-Belgian-style-basics movement. I think it will also be fabulous if given a BBA treatment this year… B+ or A-
Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/4/20. Vintage: 2020
4 Calling Birds (2011) – I actually didn’t get this as part of my society membership; I unearthed it from my cellar after 9 years of aging. And… it was infected. I liked it fresh just fine, but aged was just plain bad. This could very well be due to less than ideal aging conditions, but it may also be the beer itself. I gave it a couple of tastes and let it warm up a bit and it just didn’t get any better, so it was just another exhibit in the ongoing “should I age beer” trial. F
Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank (what little of it I did) out of a tulip glass on 12/21/20. Vintage: 2011.
Not So Strong Beers
Ruekeller: Märzen – Gasp! The Bruery makes traditional German-style lagers? Yup! They don’t add weird ingredients or anything (made with real lederhosen!)? Nope! This is actually a rock solid take on the style, one of the more enjoyable ones I had this year (and I drank a bunch of different Festbier/Marzens this year). Clean, toasty malt character all the way, very quaffable. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/10/20.
Loakal Red – An unassuming American Red Ale made with Centennial hops and aged in oak for a short period. I don’t know that the oak comes through particularly strong, but I like a nice, hoppy red ale like this, and it’s quite well done. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/23/19.
Saisons & Sours
Beauregarde – Sour Blonde Ale aged in Oak Barrels with Blueberries. Blueberries are a tricky fruit with beer, but this might actually be my favorite of the Bruery’s fruited sours. The blueberry character meshes well with the sour blonde base, and there’s no smokey weirdness from the blueberry (this happens sometimes). Tasty stuff, and probably the biggest surprise (I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did). A-
Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 12/29/19. Vintage: 2019
LXXV – Inspired by the French 75 cocktail, this collaboration with NOLA brewing is a sour ale made with botanicals, co-fermented with Chardonnay grape juice, and a little lemon zest. It’s fine, I guess? A lot of these Bruery sours tend to feel samey to me and thus they all sorta blend together in my head. B- or B
Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 10/12/19. Vintage: 2019
Train to Beersel – Inspired by Belgian lambics, this is a blend of sour beers aged in French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon and American Oak Sauvignon Blanc barrels. The comparison with lambic perhaps sets an unrealistic frame of reference with this one, which again, feels a lot like a standard Bruery sour blonde (i.e. more tart flavors than earthy funk). It’s certainly well done and I enjoyed it, but I was hoping for something more lambic-ey. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/28/19. Vintage: 2019
Annuel – This was made for the fourth Anniversary of Bruery Terreux (they have a separate brand for sours) and on paper, it sounds like an amped up version of The Wanderer (an excellent beer). It is a blend of oak barrel-aged sour quadrupel ale with what appears to be the Anniversary Old Ale (presumably Acier or Etain, given the timeframe) and wine barrel-aged sour blonde ale. Sounds interesting, but in practice it feels like the components are kinda fighting each other. The high ABV might also have something to do with it. It’s interesting and neat at a share, but not something I’m going to get again. B
Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/4/19. Vintage: 2019
Kisses Betwixt Mr. & Mrs. This Is Ridiculous – A blend of saisons made by the Bruery and Dogfish Head that was then aged in a French Oak foeder for 7 months. It’s good, but there’s just a ton of competition for this type of beer these days (particularly locally, with folks like Tired Hands and Forest & Main consistently putting out bangers in this style). B+
Beer Nerd Details: 7.6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/18/19. Vintage: 2019
Stream Crossing – A collaboration with Green Cheek Beer Co, it’s another foeder aged saison, and like the beer we just discussed, it’s good, but in a crowded field, it doesn’t really stand out. You get to make fun Ghostbusters references though. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 4/26/19. Vintage: 2019
Brazo Brazo – American Wild Ale aged in oak barrels with Brazos blackberries. Supposedly Brazos blackberries are larger and more acidic than your typical blackberries, and are thus used more in cooking applications than fresh. It’s tasty and I like blackberries, but I apparently found this a little disappointing. B
Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 3/20/19. Vintage: 2019
Flavored Beers, Weird Ingredients, Adjuncts, &c.
Sundae Sunday – A variant of Black Tuesday aged in a combo of Red Wine and Bourbon barrels with vanilla and boysenberries. I don’t especially love adding fruit to barrel-aged stouts. There might be some exceptions and I don’t mind small pours, but an entire 750 of this wouldn’t work for me (I did mange to share this in a socially distanced/safe way, so I only drank about 1/4 of the bottle, which was perfect. It was better than expected, but the boysenberry just doesn’t do it for me. Curmit (the personification of my Inner Curmudgeon) tends to not like this sort of thing (i.e. wacky ingredients, etc…), so this section of the post will probably feature lots of complaints like this. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 17.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/9/20. Vintage: 2020.
Apfelsap – This is a wheatwine fermented with McIntosh Apples, aged in Apple Brandy barrels. It’s well done, but the apple character is just overwhelming. My prejudice here is against using the adjuncts, as I like what an Apple Brandy barrel can bring to the table all by itself (see: American Copper, mentioned above). It’s also possible that the wheatwine base can’t stand up to the treatment here. This isn’t bad or anything, but it’s just not especially my thing. Curmit strikes again.. B–
Beer Nerd Details: 15.6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/21/20. Vintage: 2020.
White Chocolate Raspberry – Bourbon barrel aged wheatwine with cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and raspberries added. Once again, the added fruit really wreaks havoc here. It overwhelms the beer, and it kinda clashes too. I like the base beer fine, but it’s not one of my favorites to start with. Adding raspberries doesn’t do much for me and honestly, I felt like it really detracted from it. Curmit is disappoint. C+
Beer Nerd Details: 13.1% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/8/20. Vintage: 2020.
Pie Happy – Old ale aged in bourbon barrels with apples, vanilla and spices; clearly intended to resemble apple pie. And this one fares a lot better than the last two beers mentioned. Perhaps the base could stand up to the treatment better, or the apple pie character is just more appealing to me. It’s far from the best apple pie beer (Parish Royal Earth comes to mind), but it’s a really solid attempt at one. Curmit is mildly amused. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 16.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/24/20. Vintage: 2020.
Joy Ride – Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with coconut, almonds, cocoa powder, milk sugar, and the ever so comforting “natural flavors”. Basically meant to be a liquid Almond Joy candy bar, and it does a good job evoking that taste. Lots of coconut, chocolate, and almond, very good. Curmit doesn’t love it, but he’s somewhat mollified since we shared most of the bottle and it’s got a nice novelty factor. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/25/20. Vintage: 2020.
American Anthem – Imperial Brown Ale aged in bourbon barrels with peach, apricot, cinnamon, and vanilla beans. Another pie-inspired beer, this time peach cobbler. It’s not bad, but not as good as Pie Happy. I’m certainly a big fan of peaches and apricots, but I don’t know that it mixes as well with this sort of thing. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/12/19. Vintage: 2019.
Wee Heavy Coconuts – Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch-Style Wee Heavy Ale with toasted coconut, walnut, and cinnamon. It’s nice and while I wouldn’t necessarily put all those ingredients together, they seem to work well enough… but Curmit would probably just prefer the BBA Wee Heavy all by itself (presumably something like the aforementioned Chronology beers). It was a nice beer to share though, and I distinctly remember because we were at a restaurant and we sneaked the waitress a taste (she loved it). B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 4/18/19. Vintage: 2019.
Grey Monday – Black Tuesday with hazelnuts added to the barrels as it ages. I’m not the biggest hazelnut fan in the world, but this makes for a neat little variant of BT. Again, Curmit can appreciate it in small doses, but it’s telling that I/he have not sprung for any additional bottles over the intervening year. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 19.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 9/27/19. Vintage: 2019.
Marzipandemonium – A blend of Tuesday stouts with added almond “character” and vanilla. It’s solid stuff, but the almond “character” does come off as a little strong and possibly artificial (hence the scare quotes). Again, fun beer to share, but would never really want to drink a whole bottle. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 16.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 3/6/19. Vintage: 2019.
So there you have it. More than you probably ever wanted to know about Bruery beers. I know they’re not the new hotness anymore and it’s easy to get carried away with these high ABV brews or wacky flavored experiments, but I still love them and have enjoyed this experience. That being said: I probably won’t remain a member beyond this next year. I love these beers, but even having drank all of the above, I’m still building up a backlog of beers that need to be shared… during a pandemic. Still, looking forward to seeing what 2021 brings. And, hopefully, the return of bottle shares.
At this point, the annualsorty 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).
Some artwork from the Alchemist Building, it’s purty.
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.
A Fiddlehead sign
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:
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.
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 & 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 – 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 – 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 – 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!
Every summer, I find myself vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland. I’m not one of those people who go to the beach every weekend (I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. /Vader), but I enjoy it every once in a while, and it’s a way to get out of my Philly rut in many ways. Including beer! A couple of years ago I discovered Burley Oak Brewing, just a hop and a skip away in Berlin, MD, and it just so happened that this year’s OCMD trip perfectly coincided with a can release of four different beers.
Such releases come in many flavors. There are infamous national attractions, like Dark Lord day, that are more like festivals, but the grand majority of releases at most breweries tend to be relatively mellow affairs. You maybe go a little early and wait in line, but often even that level of committment isn’t needed. Then there is a kooky tier of relatively small breweries that nevertheless generate an insane demand. Local Kaedrin favorite Tired Hands falls into that category, and while their releases have calmed down somewhat on the whole, they still get insane for certain beers (notably Milkshake variant cans and Parageusia bottles). There are some other PA breweries that generate a lot of angst over releases (i.e. Voodoo, Bullfrog, etc…) but in general, these are the events that make the normals think that beer nerds are degenerates (and, well, they’re not wrong).
All of which is to say, I was expecting something akin to a low-level Tired Hands release for this Burley Oak event (i.e. people in line, but nothing bonkers). A friend cautioned me to get there two hours early, which was certainly a surprise for me. I’ve had a bunch of Burley Oak beer in the past, but with all due respect, nothing that warranted this sort of crazy. Then again, a big release of popular beers on a holiday weekend is just asking for trouble. Fortunately, the timing of my independently planned departure from OCMD perfectly aligned with that recommendation, so that’s what ended up happening. And I’m glad it did, because that line got all kinds of stupid as time went on (it basically encircled the entire brewery and parking lot). Let’s dive in:
Burley Oak 100 – Double IPA tripple dry-hopped with Mosaic and named after an emoticon? My kinda stupid. – Pours a murky golden yellow color with a finger of white, dense head. Smells nice, lots of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple, and the like. Taste follows the nose, lots of tropical fruit, juicy citrus stuff, mild finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well but tightly carbonated. Overall, this is the best Burley Oak IPA I’ve had, it compares favorably to the typical NEIPA purveyors, worth waiting in line. And I’ve had a couple more of these over the past couple of weeks and damn, it’s only grown in my estimation. A
Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/17. Canned: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)
Burley Oak Blueberry Strawberry J.R.E.A.M. – Sour ale with lactose conditioned on blueberries and strawberries. Incidentally, the acronym stands for “Juice Rules Everything Around Me”, just in case you were wondering. – Pours a cloudy but bright, almost luminous maroon color with a finger of bubbly head that doesn’t last long. Smells of bright citrus and a little Berliner-like twang. Taste is very sweet, those strawberries an blueberries coming through in a sorta generic jammy way (not sure I’d pick them both blind, but I might get one), a nice lactic tartness pervades, especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, moderate to high acidity, but nothing untoward. Overall, a nice little tart ale here, though it kinda begs for oak. B
Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/1/17. Released: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)
Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M. – Sour ale with lactose conditioned on apricots and raspberries. – Pours a cloudy but bright reddish orange color with a finger of quickly dissipating head. Smells more of raspberry than apricot, jammy, a little of that lactic funk. Taste hits that raspberry pretty hard (with hints of apricot, but again, I doubt I’d be able to place that blind), very sweet, jammy, with a little less sourness, though it’s still pretty puckering. Mouthfeel is rich, medium to full bodied, well carbonated, less acid than the other variant, but still moderate to high. Overall, I like this better than the blueberry/strawberry, but it still sorta begs for some oak to leaven things a little. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/2/17. Released: 7/1/17.
Burley Oak Coffee N’ Cream – Cream ale with Burley Oak’s house made cold brew coffee. Hey look, this is apparently the first time I’ve written about a cream ale. Score? – Pours a clear golden color with a finger of white head. Smells strongly of roast coffee and not much else. Taste hits that coffee flavor pretty hard too, an underlying sweetness peeks out a bit too. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and easy to drink. Overall, this is not a beer for coffee-ambivalents like myself, but if you do like coffee, you may enjoy. For me, I’ll give it a C+ because I’m the worst.
Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/17. Released on 7/1/17.
So there you have it. I probably won’t be going to far out of my way for these releases, but there is that annual trip to OCMD, so there’s always a chance!
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 – 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 – 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…
Over the past several months, I’ve been dipping into my cellar to try out some aged beer. You may have noticed a few of theseshowing up on the blogalready, but I’ve been keeping a running log of some of the less unique bottles I’ve opened as well. Some of these were aged intentionally, some were just sitting in the back of my fridge or in my basement for far too long. What can I say, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my liver. My cellar isn’t as insane as many you’ll see out there, but it’s getting sizable, so I sometimes try to take a break from keeping up with the new releases and check out some of these old suckers.
There’s something very romantic about aged booze, I think, but with beer it’s a bit of a dicey proposition. It’s rare that I’ve had a beer get better over time. It can certainly be different, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also not usually what you expect. It’s worth trying, but if you ever find yourself with a nice bottle of something that might age well, drink it fresh. If you can snag another bottle, age that. If not, just be happy you got your hands on a fresh bottle. Let’s take a closer look at some of these:
2014 Deschutes Abyss – Finally got around to drinking one of these Deschutes beers after their “Best After” date (usually a year in the future when they release the beer). Pours a deep black color with a finger of light brown head, very nice. Smell brings a lot of the non-stoutlike elements to the fore, vinous fruit, caramel, anise, liquorice, vanilla, maybe even some dank hops. Taste starts with rich caramel, moves right on to more fruity notes, followed by a wallop of dry hop bitterness. As it warms, I get hints of that roasted malt character that I found much more prominent in fresh Abyss. Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, more dry than I remember it being fresh. Overall, I don’t know that it’s improved with age exactly, but it feels very different and it’s certainly not worse, making it an interesting candidate for aging. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a teku glass on 1/31/16. Best After: 11/10/15.
2011 Firestone Walker XV Anniversary Ale – My first Anniversary Ale, this one lives up to my memory. A bottle shop recently celebrated their anniversary or something by releasing a bunch of aged beer, and I managed to snag this one (so it hasn’t been sitting in my cellar for quite so long, probably wouldn’t have lasted!) Age has treated it well, though I don’t think it’s any better than it was back in the day. With time, it’s got a little less zip, but the flavors have blended together more. It still feels very barleywineish, lots of dark fruit, rich caramel, some nice barrel character. Overall, this was worth aging and is doing well these days, but it was probably still a little better when it was fresh. This is probably good advice overall for the Firestone Anniversary beers – worth aging, but not at the expense of drinking it fresh. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 1/1/16.
2013 Dark Horse Plead the 5th Stout – This has held up well. The intense roasty character is much faded, only really revealing itself in the finish. In its place we get caramel and an almost dark fruit note, like port wine or something. This hasn’t really been my favorite stout, but it holds up well. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 1/30/16.
2011 Lost Abbey Angel’s Share – Bourbon Barrel Aged – The first time I had this, I thought it was a bit hot and could use some aging. Fortuitously, I came into a bottle not long after, and promptly hid it away in my basement and basically forgot about it. What was lost was found, so I figured 4 years was long enough to age the sucker. Wow, just look at that head. Yes, this was before Lost Abbey got their carbonation game on track. Fortunately, this is a tasty beer. Age is definitely showing, some oxidation apparent, but it still smells and tastes great. Great dark fruit character matches well with the bourbon barrel treatment, reminiscent of early Bruery Anniversary beers. Age definitely mellowed the booze, though perhaps not as much time is actually needed to accomplish that feat. Carbonation is an issue for me. Verdict: Uncertain! Newer vintages are better carbonated and might hold up better. I’d say 1-2 years is ideal aging time. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/24/15.
2013 Fantôme Saison – From the Smoketôme era, I was curious to see if the smokey, burnt latex funk worked itself out over time. The answer? Nope! I suppose it’s probably mellowed some, but I feel like all the elements mellowed, so the smoke is still there in the same proportion as before. Like my other bottle, this isn’t dominated by the smoke, and it adds a sort of complexity rather than straight burning latex and bandaids (as some of the worst Smoketomes exhibited). I really wish I had saved some of my first bottles of Fantome though, from the 2009-2010 era, as those were really special, even if I had no idea what I was drinking at the time. If you’ve got a smoketome, I say hold on to it. Let’s see how that bitch tastes in 5-10 years, eh? C+
Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 11/30/15.
2010 Weyerbacher Merry Monks – Back in 2010, I bought a variety case of Weyerbacher, and promptly found myself disappointed by this beer. I gave it a few tries, but this one just sat around for, well, 5 years I guess. It was time. Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells sweet, lots of raisins, maybe a hint of spice. Taste is again very sweet, and again has tons and tons of raisins. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but almost creamy in texture, really nice, but as it warms, a boozy note hits pretty hard. Overall, this is maybe an improvement over the regular, but I’m not really a fan of either. B-
Beer Nerd Details: 9.3% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/11/15. Bottled 11/23/10. Best By: 11/23/12.
2010 Founders Breakfast Stout – Pours a pitch black color with a gorgeous light brown head. Smells of coffee and creme and more coffee, roasty coffee, spent coffee grounds, did I mention coffee? Taste features lots of that roasty character, less intense coffee here but it’s still pretty prominent. Coffee is supposed to fade over time, but this is still pretty intense, even more out of balance than when fresh. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little thin actually, though it feels more full as it warms. Overall, I like this and it’s held up remarkably well, but it’s still not a massive improvement over the base, which seems more balanced. B
Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/11/15.
Of course, this barely puts a dent in the cellar, so after this semi-hiatus from beer, expect to see some more of these aged beer reviews. In the meantime, I’ve got some wine, bourbon, and Scotch coming your way. And maybe a few more beer posts peppered in…
My favorite time of the year is the Halloween through Christmas corridor, and part of that is the seasonal beer we get. It’s not fashionable to be into Christmas beers, winter warmers and the like, but I love them and always make room for some of them during the holidays. I know I just got done mentioning that I don’t feel the need to write about every beer I drink, but now that the holidays are over, I need some way to occupy my time that doesn’t involve poopsocking it through Fallout 4, so here’s a sampling of two beers I drank for last minute Christmas wrapping fuel, and two that were gifts.
Ballantine Burton Ale – So Pabst revived the Ballantine name with a decent IPA, and for Christmas, they put together this little barleywine number. According to a bunch of strangers on the internets, this is the single best beer Pabst has ever made. Let’s see, shall we? Pours a clear amber orange color with a finger of head and some lacing. Smells sweet, lots of dank, piney hops and a little dark fruit. Taste is also quite sweet, more of the dark fruit here, but the hops balance things out without feeling too bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tight carbonation, hints of booze, a sipper for sure. Overall, it’s a solid little barleywine, tasty, and I haven’t had something like this in a long time… B+
Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2015.
Samichlaus Classic 2010 – It’s become something of a Kaedrin tradition to do last minute Christmas wrapping whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies and imbibing a Samichlaus of some kind (or maybe, um, two of them). This year was no exception, and in the spirit of dipping into the cellar to drink some of my aged stock, I grabbed a 5 year old bottle. Pours a deep dark amber orange color with a half finger of head that quickly disappears. Smells intensely of clean, dark fruits, very sweet, a little booze. Tastes very sweet, sticky, sugary sweet, with muted dark fruit, and did I mention it was sweet? Not cloying though, age has treated this well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated. Overall, it’s very good with some age on it, among the better I’ve had. I’m going with a high B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2010.
Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo – My brother isn’t a big beer guy, but usually manages to get some decent stuff. For instance, this year’s selections included a Sierra Nevada Celebration, a La Fin Du Monde, and a few other beers I genuinely love yet rarely revisit. Then there’s this one, which sounds like the most interesting of the lot on paper… English Strong Ale aged in oak barrels for over a year? Well sign me up! Alas, this runs into that Belgian pale ale character that I always find distressing and the oak aging doesn’t feel harmonious at all. Something odd going on here. Pours a murky amber color with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smell has a lot of fruity character to it, some toffee and maybe some butterscotch, possibly diacetyl. Taste has more of that dark fruit, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, and a hint of tart astringency. Not, like, infected, but I think it’s the result of that barrel aging. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but medium to full bodied. Overall, this seems well crafted, but it’s just not really my thing. C
Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.
Ridgeway Lump of Coal – A gift from a coworker, I knew I was in for trouble because I’ve never had a Ridgeway that I’ve ever liked, despite the fact that they put out, like, ten Christmas beers. Pours a clear dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of off white head. Does not smell like a stout at all, getting that toffee and butterscotch and diacetyl here. Taste is along the same lines, diacetyl and maybe even some skunking, this is terrible! Notes of death and decay. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, appropriate for the style I guess, but the problem lies not here. Overall, this is terrible! It doesn’t even warrant taking the time to upload the image I took. I don’t hand these out often, but this one earned it: F
Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.
A decidedly mixed bag this year. I shall have to endeavor to do better next year. In the meantime, New Years Eve drinking was more palatable, so I’ll cover that one tomorrow.
Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and general revelry. This time, we stopped in at a local Pizza place for some deep fried dough, strombolis, and yes, pizza. It’s not a big place and the pizza isn’t as spectacular as the last beer club gathering, but we always manage to make due. Good attendance tonight too, and plenty of beer.
(Click to embiggen)
For the sake of posterity, some half-addled thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, this was a social gathering, so I wasn’t paying too close of attention to what I was drinking and you should totes ignore what I’m writing and make up your own mind because I’m totally the worst and this post is definitely an ill-advised idea that I’m only doing out of tradition because I’ve done it for all previous iterations of beer club and are you even reading this? Why? The beer notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured (and some later attendees brought some stuff that is not pictured):
Platform Speed Merchant White IPA – Not expecting much out of this Ohio beer brought back by a visitor, fantastic citrusy nose, more typical IPA-like taste. Quite solid though, and worth a look on its own. B+
New Belgium Pumpkick – Whoa there, this is quite perfumey, moar ginger than anything else, but that perfumey character really overpowers everything else with this beer. Not horrendous, but not a particularly good pumpkin beer either. C+
Firestone Walker Union Jack – Back in the early days of this blog, this would have been an A worthy beer, but grade inflation is a bitch. It’s still an accomplished and emminently accomplished IPA, well worth checking out. Delicious citrus/pine/malt balance. B+
Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau – Very nice little tart beer, tart, crisp, refreshing, very light bodied and easy going, sorta beginner sour stuff but quite nice on its own. B+
Overshores Tripel Brun – Bottle a bit of a gusher, and thus carbonation levels a bit off, but this is basically a very raisiny Belgian strong dark. B
Fantôme Coffee Ruby – One of my contributions, this came off as surprisingly muted. There’s some coffee character that is definitely present, but it’s not overpowering at all, despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a ton of other stuff going on with this beer. It’s got a very, very mild funk to it, and the combination of the base with coffee doesn’t entirely blesh, but it’s certainly an interesting beer. A little weird, but could more interesting with more funk. Keeping in mind my legendary indifference to coffee, I’ll give it a B
Cascade Figaro – This is typical Cascade sour here, which is to say, it’s a fantastic little sour. I don’t get a lot of fig or lemon peel out of it, but it’s got that trademark Cascade lactic sour and oak character that just work so damn well. Generally agreed to be one of the best of the night. A-
White Birch Indulgence Ale (2014) – Not sure which version of this beer I tried (I think it’s this retired 2014 version), but it was labeled as a Belgian Imperial Stout, and it definitely had a sorta brighter take on the imperial stout style that worked really well. Lots of rich malt, light roast, some hints of Belgian character, but with the style’s inherent dark malt sweetness (i.e. not a dry or highly carbonated beer). Actually quite nice and among the better of the night. B+
Brewmaster Jack Barrel Aged Prinsipia Quad – Sounds great, but came out kinda limp, very boozy, a little raisiny Belgian character, but not at all balanced. Not terrible, but not quite getting the job done either. B-
And that just about covers it. We just got this one in under the wire, last day of the month. Will need to try and plan the next beer club soon. Great time, as always.
Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and fun. This time we went to a favorite discovery of mine, Ravanesi Pizzaria, a tiny little joint out in the burbs that scratch makes almost everything. Pizza places are a dime a dozen around here, but these guys really distinguish themselves. It’s one of those places where they open at 4:30 pm and close whenever they run out of dough. Yes, it takes approximately 30 hours to make the dough, so they do run out fairly frequently. As a veteran BYOB attendee (because of beer club), most places aren’t so busy on Tuesdays and thus welcome a bunch of beer nerds who take up a table and drink a lot of beer whilst occasionally munching on their food. This place was pretty much bumping from around 5 pm until we left at around 8 pm. But the pizza. The pizza is almost absurdly good. And it’s not like Philly is bad at pizza (there’s plenty of bad pizza, but we’ve got our hotspots). Check it:
A most excellent backdrop for beer club.For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we had are below. Usual nerdy disclaimers apply, this was not ideal tasting conditions and I didn’t exactly take detailed notes, so take it all with the requisite mountain of salt. In order of drinking, not necessarily how they appear in the photo:
Otter Creek/Jack’s Abby Joint Custody – Yep, it’s a pilsner, but it’s a pretty darn good one, crisp, light, and refreshing. Certainly a step up from your typical macro, and perhaps worthy of a closer look this next weekend. B+
Night Shift Santilli – A rock solid IPA, nice citrus and dank pine character, nice and crushable. B+
Vault Mosaic Imperial IPA – Does this sound familiar? Of course it does, I just reviewed it yesterday. In fact, it performed supremely well in this tasting format, pairing well with the spicy Sopressata pizza and just generally standing up to the other beers pretty well. May be tempted to raise this one to an A-
Night Shift Trifecta – Brewed with three Trappist ale yeasts, I found this a bit disappointing. It’s got some decent Belgian yeast character, but it isn’t quite carbonated or dry enough to really work well. Disappointing C+
Smuttynose Spank – For a beer that labels itself as a “hoppy saison”, I have to admit that I find little in the way of hops here, even if it’s an otherwise unremarkable beer that is far from bad, but which won’t exactly light the world on fire. B-
Adroit Theory Ortolan Bunting – A very odd beer, almost quad-like, but without the full fruit character, but a very nice nose that doesn’t quite live up to the straightforward taste, with some dark malts, perhaps even some smoked malt. Fine, but not quite a top tier effort. B
Lickinghole Creek Enlightened Despot – One of the best beers of the night, a clear winner, Pappy 15 barrel aged imperial stout, is quite tasty, very sweet, loads of coconut and vanilla from that barrel, delicious stuff. A-
Smuttlabs Durtay – Smuttynose – A rum barrel aged brown ale, this one works pretty darn well, very sweet, a little boozy, but a nice barrel and molasses character comes through too. B+
And that just about covers it. I really love this pizza and want to come here as often as possible, but it’s also a little out of the way, so I’m guessing it won’t be quite as regular as some other BYOB places. Still worth the trip though, so we’ll see…
Beer club was tonight! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and fun. Astute observers will notice that we skipped the month of May, which primarily came down to laziness and the fact that a couple of key attendees were embarking on Operation Cheddar/Chowder. That said, our triumphant return was quite the success, good attendance, great beer, and some rather fine sushi.
For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. As usual, these are mostly from memory because I’m not a total dick and was socializing at the time, so take these impressions with a gigantic nugget of salt or something. Here goes, in order of drinking, not necessarily how they appear in the photo:
Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA – This must be the gazillionth time this has made an appearance at beer club, but it made for a nice warm up beer for the folks who arrived early. B+
Evil Genius Shut Up, Meg! – Evil Genius is this weird brewery that seems to always be mentioned as a PA brewery, yet they brew all their stuff in Connecticut. Also, almost all of their beers have pup culture reference names, such as this obvious reference to Family Guy. It’s a pretty straightforward Belgian farmhouse ale or saison with a hint of hoppy goodness added in for character. Nothing particularly special and suffers in comparison to much better executed examples of the style (which we’ll get to in a moment). B
Jester King Das Wunderkind! Saison – Ah, now this is more like it. A beer that shares certain characteristics with the above two beers, but is wholly better. It’s a funky saison with a light tartness and a nice dry hopped citrus nose. Really pleasant and refreshing, a great summer beer. I really should try to track down more Jester King! B+
Hill Farmstead Dorothy – I’m not sure what precipitated this run on hoppy farmhouse ales, but this is certainly the high point in the style (at least, with tonight’s entries) and represents a wonderful balance between spicy saison and citrusy hops. Really a beautiful beer that I will most certainly be revisiting in more detail soon enough! A-
Scotchy, Scotchy, Scotch, Get In My Belly – A friend’s homebrew, and it’s a fantastic little Scotch ale aged on Scotch soaked oak chips. Really nice Scotch wiskey flavor, but not overpowering the malt backbone, which has a nice caramel and toffee character, accentuated by the Scotch and hint of oak. I’ve yet to have a homebrew that really gets at the really great barrel character, but this is still quite nice! B+
Rock Art Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale – An interesting contrast to the previous beer, a little darker and with more barrel character, but with substantially more carbonation that almost ruins the beer. I’m pretty sensitive to carbonation issues, and that usually means something being undercarbonated, but in the case of a Scotch ale, I usually expect something smooth and rich, and this was effervescent and not quite as rich as it could have been. Certainly not bad at all, but a bit of a disappointment. B
Elysian Avatar Jasmine IPA – Yet another beer we’d had before at beer club, and one I do not particularly care for. My feelings have not changed at all, and if anything, I’m less forgiving of this beer than I was last time. I must not be that big of a fan of jasmine… C
Shiner Birthday Beer Chocolate Stout – Man, this thing has an absolutely amazing nose. Lots of chocolate brownie character, really sublime. Alas, the taste doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of the nose, lots of chocolate, but really thin, almost watery, very disappointing. An imperialized version of this might work wonders, but we’re left with something in the middle of the road. B
And that just about covers it. Another successful beer club, and I’m already looking forward to next month’s edition…