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.

Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton

In this corner, weighing in at approximately 90,000 tons per year, current Michigan tart cherry champion: Montmorency. And in this corner, weighing in at approximately 20,000 tons per year, upstart tart cherry challenger: Balaton. Ready? Fight! Alright, so I didn’t completely make up those numbers, but the general idea is that Montmorency is the most common sour cherry produced in the United States. Balaton is relatively “new” (I mean, been around 20 years or so in the US), but quickly growing.

Also, a true fight would be to produce two different beers, highlighting each cherry separately… then, like, I dunno, smashing the bottles together and reading shards of broken glass like tea leaves in order to proclaim a victor. Or maybe just be boring and do a double-blind taste test or something; clearly an inferior option (no gnarly broken glass!), I don’t know why I even mentioned it. Um, yeah, anyway what we’ve got here is an even blend of cherry varieties added to one of Jester King’s oak-aged farmhouse ales. So let’s get with some hot cherry on cherry action:

Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton

Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton – Pours a pinkish red color, so many robey tonez, a finger or two of light pink head. Smells great, lots of cherries, a bit of funk. Taste is sweet, tart cherries, some funky earthiness, finishing with a sour punch. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and moderately acidic. Overall, it’s a really good cherry beer, near the top tier but not quite hitting the level of best lambics, etc… A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.1% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/30/19. Bout 6, February 2019.

Jester King remains generally pretty solid, but the competition in the farmhouse ale arena is pretty fierce and they’re pretty comparable to local purveyors of such things…

Plan Bee Double Feature

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

Plan Bee Farmhouse

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

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

Plan Bee Precious

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

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

Plan Bee Beeroo

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

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

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

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

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

Suarez Family Brewery Quintuple Feature

I’m sometimes a boring creature of habit, so of course I’ve already explained that an alternate route to my annual vacation in upstate New York exists, and on that route lies a few great breweries, such as Suarez Family Brewery.

Suarez Family Brewery Sign

I stopped there last year and was quite impressed with their offerings (and thanks to the generosity of fellow beer nerds, I’ve had the opportunity to try a few other beers from them as well), so it was obviously on the agenda for this year’s trip. Again, boring creature of habit here folks. Fortunately, the beer itself isn’t boring at all!

Suarez Family Brewery Crispy Little

Suarez Family Brewery Crispy Little – One of the interesting things about Suarez is that the grand majority of their beers are below 6% ABV and many are below 5% ABV. For Pilsners and Saisons, that’s not that big of a deal, but for pale ales, it kinda is. I mean, sure, lots of breweries have a low ABV pale ale, but they also have IPAs or DIPAs – not so for Suarez. Only low ABV hoppy stuffs. I was really looking forward to trying one of their pale ales, and my first taste didn’t disappoint… but then I stuck it in the fridge of the rental, which was apparently cranked up too high, so my cans essentially froze. Not to the point of deforming the can, but enough to essentially ruin future tastings. So these notes are mostly from my initial taste… Drank from the can, so I don’t know what it looks like, but imma guess pale, slightly hazy, yellowish. Smell is a burst of citrus and ripe fruit hops (this decreases in intensity as I drink). Tasty has a light sweetness to it, initially that ripe fruit hoppiness is there but that lessens to a more usual citrus/pine combo, very light dankness, balancing bitterness in the finish (not a punishing west coast style bitterness, but not quite the juicy NEIPA either). Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, crisp (pun intended!), well balanced for such a low alcohol pale ale (or session ipa or whatever you call this – they sometimes feel like diet ipa, but not in this case), and quaffable. Overall, it’s very nice. Due to the weird icing issues, my rating is provisional, so let’s say, B or B+… but on the other hand, it was perfect for day drinking on the lake…

Beer Nerd Details: 4.6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can on 7/20/19. Canned on 7.11.19. Best by 8.26.19.

Suarez Family Brewery Cabana Pils

Suarez Family Brewery Cabana Pils – Another interesting thing about Suarez is that one of their primary focuses is on Pilsners. Not a style that you expect to see a ton of variants of (at least, from a single brewery), but this marks the third different Pilsner that I’ve had from them. Palatine Pils is your standard German Style Pilsner, Qualify Pils is a more “hop-accented” version, and here we have Cabana Pils, a Pilsner that incorporates wheat malt into the mix. Due to the accidental refrigeration incident mentioned above, this Pils ended up being my primary go-to beer for the week, and you know what? It’s a damn good beer to drink whilst sitting lakeside. Pours a clear, very pale straw yellow color with a finger of head. Smells of bready wheat, grassy hops, a little earthy. Taste hits that earthy, bready wheat note, then you’ve got grassy, floral hops. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and clean, reasonably well carbed, quaffable. Overall, yup, Suarez has made another great pils. A-

Beer nerd Details: 4.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can on 7/21/19. Canned on 6.26.19. Best by 9.18.19.

Suarez Family Brewery Merkel

Suarez Family Brewery Merkel – Oak ripened country beer (i.e. Suarez’s name for oak aged saison) of mixed fermentation, rested upon whole Montmorency cherries for a good long while. They have done this several times before, but often using different varieties of cherry… Pours an amber hued orange color with a finger of off-white (pinkish?) head. Smells nice, plenty of cherry character (a light fruit-by-the-foot note), a hint of funk and maybe some faint oak. Taste starts sweet, some jammy cherry and funk, finishing tart. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, light acidity. Overall, pretty damn good. Not quite top-tier cherry stuffs, but tasty. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/29/19. Harvest Year: 2018. Bottled: 03.19

Suarez Family Brewery Parlance

Suarez Family Brewery Parlance – Oak ripened country beer of mixed fermentation, rested upon whole Japanese plums for a good long while (I’m assuming the same base as Merkel, with different fruit)… Pours a pinkish hued orange color with a finger of off-white, barely pink head. Smells fabulous, tons of plums, oak, and funk, none of the fruit-by-the-foot notes. Taste starts sweet, hits the plums and dark fruit, a more pronounced sour note with more oak presenting as well (as compared to Merkel). Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate acidity. Overall, this is better than the cherry for sure, and a damn fine beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 7/29/19. Harvest Year: 2018. Bottled: 12.18

Suarez Family Brewery Local Boy

Suarez Family Brewery Local Boy – Simple country beer brewed with all New York grown barley and hops (hence the name of the beer), fermented with a mixed culture and ripened in oak casks… Pours a slightly hazy golden color with a solid finger of fluffy white head that has good retention and leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells of lemon and pepper with some earthy farmhouse aromas and even some floral notes packed in for good measure, maybe a hint of that oak too. Taste is sweet and spicy up front, more of a yeasty pepper than you normally get out of HF/Suarez saisons (not a complaint, but it is notably distinct), the funk pitching in after that, some restrained oak character with a light lemony tartness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed but tight, medium bodied, crisp, with a low acidity (though it has a small kick). Overall, probably the most distinct saison I’ve had from Suarez, but just as good as any the others. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/17/19. Bottled: 2/19

So there you have it. Barring user error like accidentally freezing the beer, these guys are batting 1.000 in my league.

Anchorage The Experiment

Even for a science fiction nerd like myself, the prospect of visitation by extra-terrestrial aliens is pretty unlikely. Since this is a beer blog, I won’t geek out on the scale and energy details needed for interstellar travel here, but I will note that a lot of the common stories about, for example, an alien craft crashing near Roswell, NM, strain credulity even further. If an alien species manages to travel thousands of light years, dodging all manner of interstellar obstacles, but gets tripped up by the tricksy New Mexican landscape, something doesn’t quite fit. Then again, maybe aliens did land in Alaska and start collaborating on beer with Anchorage brewing.

This is a light sour fermentated in French oak foudres with a Belgian yeast and then aged for a year in those foudres with a mixed culture and finished on what I must assume was an obscene amount of wild Alaskan blueberries. Doesn’t sound that unusual or experimental, but the color they were able to coax out of this stuff doesn’t seem possible without the aid of extra-terrestrial brewers. Or just a shit ton of blueberries. Probably the latter, but the former should not be discounted. Unfortunately, my bottle did not contain an overabundance of carbonation, so the color (of the head in particular) isn’t quite as striking in the picture as it could have been, but just look at this stuff!

Anchorage The Experiment

Anchorage The Experiment – Pours a deep, dark amber purple color with a finger of striking, dark purple head that alas, doesn’t stick around too long and which I was lucky to capture in the picture as much as I did. Smells quite funky, earthy, with those blueberries coming through strong. Taste is sweet, with that earthy funk coming through, a little oak, tons of blueberries with a very light tartness. The funk here is something that feels distinct to blueberry beers, the sort of thing that turns almost smokey, though in this particular case, they did a good job preventing that (I had a bottle of Cascade Blueberry once that did not fare so well; again, this Anchorage beer did much better). Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, a little low on the carbonation (but there’s plenty there), low acidity too. Overall, an interesting *ahem* experiment. Tasty, but the most striking thing about it is the other-worldly appearance… B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/14/18.

Pretty sure my teeth were bright purple after drinking this stuff. Many thanks to Kaedrin friend, fellow beer nerd, and Alaskan beer enthusiast Rich for helping procure the bottle. One of these days I’ll get my greedy biscuit snatchers on an actual bottle of ADWTD for myself, rather than just relying on the generosity of friends like Rich at a share. In the meantime, Anchorage’s more accessible brews are usually still worth a flier.

Plan Bee Barn Beer

This upstate New York brewery specializes in making beer with the use of only local, New York ingredients, some of which are even harvested from their own grounds (including, as their namesake would imply, honey from an army of sentient bees they are no doubt breeding for eventual world domination). Ingredients are often sourced from all over the world, even when you’re “drinking local”, so this “brewing local” focus is a nice twist, provided the bees do not perceive us as a threat to be eradicated, which they surely will. I’ve looked into visiting before, but it always seemed out of the way and I’m terrified of these vicious, unstoppable bees and their blasphemous, inconceivable hive mind. Writing this post, I have just now realized that I could probably stop in during the prelude to next year’s Operation Cheddar (this year, I stopped somewhere else nearby that was not infested with swarms of monstrous bees, which we will get to in time). This particular beer appears to be something of a flagship and while not exactly widely available, I did find a bottle in PA. It’s made with a coolship (for, um, cooling, but also inoculating with wild yeast and other beasties) and aged in oak.

Plan Bee Barn Beer

Plan Bee Barn Beer – Pours a pale, not quite clear yellow color with a solid finger of white, fluffy head with decent retention. Smells great, funky but bright and lemony, a little spice in the background. Taste follows the nose, a light funk and spice, tart lemony flavors, finishing with a nice sour kick. Mouthfeel is well carbed, crisp, and refreshing, light acidity, almost quaffable. Overall, it’s a really solid little farmhouse beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/14/18.

I’ve had small tastes of a couple other Plan Bee beers, and they’ve all been pretty darned good. We will have to find a way to snag some of those beers in the future. In the meantime, I’ve got a few beers from the brewery hinted at above, and astute readers will recognize that I initially wrote this in July and thus I have a backlog of reviews to get through, so stay tuned.

Update: I have been informed that the bees are not hostile and that “Plan Bee” is not a military operation proposing a world ending hivemind threat, but rather a simple, good-natured pun. Many apologies, some comments above have been struck from the record.

Operation Cheddar VII: Dawn of the Cheddar

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

Alchemist Artwork

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

Lunch at Lost Nation

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

Fiddlehead Logo

A Fiddlehead sign

Hill Farmstead Poetica 2

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

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

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

Nice Cans

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

Moar Cans. Mark likes cans.

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

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

Haul of growlers

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

Haul of Hill Farmstead bottles that I want to lick

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

Miscellaneous Haul

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

Moar Miscellaneous Haul

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

The non-beer haul

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

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

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 9

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

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

Foam Galaxie 500

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

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

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

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

Alchemist Hellbrook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14th Star Make the Cut Saving Grace

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

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

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

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

Again Burley Oak Quadruple Feature

In what’s become an annual tradition, I stopped in at Burley Oak on my way home from a vacation in Ocean City, MD for a big, pre-holiday release. Last year, I was taken aback by how bonkers the release was. This year, I was mildly prepared for the insanity. I wouldn’t think to put Burley Oak in the top tier of breweries capable of sustaining releases like this (i.e. TreeHouse, Monkish, Other Half, etc…), but I suspect their location matters, and it helps that it was a holiday weekend.

For their part, Burley Oak has implemented some practices to minimize the strain, such as numbered wrist bands and pre-orders (though not pre-payment, which would make the line move faster, but probably presents challenges of its own). The facility has morphed a bit as well, and is more conducive to the whole beer swap/share environment that inevitably emerges during such events. I talked to a guy who was third in line; he’d arrived at 7 pm the night before and hadn’t left. Me? I was 173rd in line. But I still got everything on offer, so there is that:

Burley Oak 100 Citra

Burley Oak 100 (Citra) – Last year’s Mosaic 100 was amazingly good. Here we have the same beer, but with Citra hops. Alas, I don’t think that this rivaled last year’s version, though it’s obviously quite nice. Pours cloudy, downright murky, a muted, milky looking yellow color with a finger of white, dense head that sticks around for a while. Smells great, lots of sweet citrus and floral notes. Taste is sweet and citrusy, orange juicy, that floral component kicking in for complexity’s sake, with a perfectly calibrated finish. Not noticeably bitter, but not sickly sweet either. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a little chewy, well balanced stuff. Overall, it’s great. I’d put the mosaic higher, but this is quite good. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/30/18. Canned: 06/29/2018. Batch: Y WAS THE B BALL COURT WET?

Pretty Girls Like Hazy IPAs

Pretty Girls Like Hazy IPAs – This is a “Pink” IPA (whatever that means) triple dry-hopped with Vic Secret, Summer, and Mosaic hops. Pours a murky pinkish hued color with a finger of off-white (a hint of pink?), dense head that sticks around and leaves some lacing. Smells great, citrus, pine, pineapple, really nice. Taste isn’t quite as great as the nose, sweet with a little of that citrus going on, and a balancing bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, moderately dry, again, not quite as good as the nose would have you believe. Overall, it’s a solid little IPA, but nothing special. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/18. Canned: 06/29/2018. Batch: BECAUSE OF ALL THE DRIBBLING.

Double Blackberry Mango JREAM

Double Blackberry Mango JREAM – The acronym stands for “Juice Rules Everything Around Me”, in case you were wondering, and last year’s entries in this series were nice, but didn’t particularly blow me away. This one turns things around, perhaps because of the “double” nature providing a wallop of richness, or maybe just Blackberry Mango combo is more to my palate. Pours a hazy, bright red color with a finger of striking pink head. Smells nice, lots of fruit, those blackberries coming through strong, less of the mango. Taste starts off with rich and sweet, with bright, tart fruit coming through in the middle, again with the mangoes taking backseat to the blackberries, finish with a lactic sour kick. Mouthfeel is rich and on the higher end of medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate acidity. It’s not something you could slam several of in a row, but it’s really great. Overall, this might be my favorite take on a JREAM yet. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/18. Canned: 06/25/2018. Batch: I DON’T TRUST THAT TREE

Strawberry Banana JREAM

Strawberry Banana JREAM – Pours a hazy yellowish orange color with a finger of white head. Smells decent, sweet, I’m getting both strawberry and banana in there, though who knows if I’d be able to pick that out blind. Taste starts off sweet, hits a sugary strawberry and banana note in the middle, finishing with a tartness that escalates into sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but smooth and medium bodied, a sorta sweet soft drink feel to it, but with that acidic note in the finish. Overall, it’s not the eye opener that Double Blackberry Mango was, but it’s pretty good and compares favorably the ones I had last year. B or B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/6/18. Canned: 06/25/2018. Batch: IT LOOKS A BIT …SHADY

So there you have it. Not sure it’d be worth getting in line at 7 PM the night before, but I’m glad I got there when I did…

American Lambic Wars

To paraphrase Yoda: begun, the American lambic wars have. Ouch. Sorry, quoting the prequels hurts. I don’t recommend it. Anyway, there was a kerfluffle with some American breweries that are taking inspiration from lambic, mostly caused by Jester King’s notion of creating a specific designation that is now called Méthode Traditionelle (they originally called it Méthode Gueuze, but real lambic producers weren’t too enthused by that one), complete with a protected mark for the label and everything. So far, it doesn’t seem to be catching on. Allagash seems content to just keep doing their thing, as befits their pioneering status in the American lambic debate (they were basically the first to get really serious about spontaneous fermentation in the US). And de Garde seems actively hostile to the idea.

Whatever the case, there are plenty of smaller names getting in on the action. I’ve had three beers recently that all claim to be inspired by lambic in one way or another, whether it being the way something is aged, or the ingredients, or the spontaneous fermentation, or in one case, I’m not sure it resembles lambic at all, except it’s sour. And yet, all three were pretty great. First up:

Tahoe Mountain Evolution of the Barrel

Tahoe Mountain Evolution of the Barrel – A blend of one, two and three year old sour golden ale fermented and aged in oak barrels. As far as I can tell, not spontaneously fermented, but the aging and blending resemble geuze… Pours a mostly clear golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells great, earthy funk, vinous fruit, lactic, a little oak. Taste has a good depth to it, earthy funk leavened by vinous fruit, stone fruit, a heaping of oak, and a well modulated sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, with a moderate acidity and medium body. Overall, this is fantastic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/8/17.

Logsdon Spontane Wilde

Logsdon Spontane Wilde – They say this is made in a traditional “Methode van Lembeek” (suck it, Jester King), and it actually does seem like they’re going for something like lambic – unmalted wheat, aged hops, spontaneously fermented, oak aged, pretty close. The result pours a bit darker than the above, with lots of carb and head. Smells great, barnyard funk, tart fruit, and oak. Taste hits similar notes, a little more fruit in the taste, but plenty of funk and oak. Mouthfeel is dry, highly carbonated, and effervescent, moderately acidic and a little puckering. Overall, really good, but it feels a lot like your typical Logsdon beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/8/17.

Phantom Carriage Crawling Eye

Phantom Carriage Crawling Eye – They say this is “Lambic-inspired” but they don’t really say what that means and after drinking this, um, I don’t think it particularly resembles lambic. But it’s still really good. Also, I love the classic film references. Classy. Pours a mostly clear yellow color with just a little short-lived head. Smells of sweet, vinous fruit, sour twang. Taste hits that lactic sourness pretty hard, with a little funk and vinous fruit, and some oak leavening things. Mouthfeel is low to medium carbed, bright and acidic. Overall, really good. Not at all like lambic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/27/17.

Not exactly in the same game as Belgium, but really nice nonetheless. I should really hunt down more Allagash or Jester King to really dig into this more.

Again Dark Wednesday

Every year, on the day before Thanksgiving, Victory has some sort of beer release. They hath dubbed the day Dark Wednesday, and past offerings include the likes of Dark Intrigue, Java Cask, and Java Cask Rye. This year’s primary offering was Wisdom’s Hour, a dark sour, but they were also teasing another “mystery” beer that wasn’t really a mystery because it sorta already came out during the summer that they were making another batch of Java Cask Rye, but with added vanilla beans. As per usual, Victory’s releases tend to be pretty low-stress affairs, so even though I was battling a cold at the time, I managed to pop over and secure a couple bottles without notably impacting my condition… Anywho, Victory is one of my long time favorite local breweries, so I’m always excited to see them trying new things from time to time. Let’s get on with it:

Victory Wisdoms Hour

Victory Wisdom’s Hour – Pours a dark amber color with a finger of off white head. Smells of dark fruit, oak, vinegar, vanilla. Taste has some darker malt sort of notes, not exactly roasty, some dark fruit, spice, oak, and vinegar, only moderately sour. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate acidity, pretty easy going. Overall, it’s a nice little sour, not going to light anything on fire, but worthwhile. It may be on the lower end of the B+ rating, but I’m feeling generous enough.

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/27/17. Bottled on: 10 Nov 2017.

Victory Java Cask Rye with Vanilla Beans

Victory Java Cask Rye with Vanilla Beans – Pours a jet black color with almost no head whatsoever (and what’s there disappears quickly). Smells of coffee, with a little bit of booze and hints of that vanilla evident. Taste starts with some rich caramel, lots of booze, oak, and a little vanilla, with the coffee only emerging in the middle and not super strong either. Mouthfeel is rich and despite the appearance, actually pretty well carbonated, lots of warming booze. Overall, it’s pretty darned good, but I have a feeling coffee fans would be a touch disappointed, but as someone ambivalent to coffee, I think I liked this more. It’s definitely not the non-coffeed version of my dreams, but it’s darned good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 12/3/17. Bottled on: 13 Nov 2017.

As per usual, Victory remains a local go to, and it looks like they have another batch of Red coming soon, which was phenomenal last year…