Manneken-Penn

A recent tradition of Philly Beer Week is for one local brewer to travel to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This Belgo-Philly connection is mostly due to Tom Peters of the most excellent Monks Café bar. He generally hooks Philly up with great Belgian beers all year round and has the connections to line up special collaborations every year. Last year, we had an Iron Hill and Dupont saison, and the year before that, Sly Fox worked with De Proef to make a funky saison. This year, Chris Wilson of Weyerbacher was chosen to collaborate with Brasserie de la Senne, and they took the enterprise in a decidedly different direction.

They call this sucker a Belgo-American Dubbel. It’s got the trappings of the dubbel style (spicy Belgian yeast, dark sugars) mixed with a more American hop bill (notably including Calypso, which is not common, but which should impart fruity citrus hop notes). The label is actually pretty funny, a mashup of the William Penn statue that sits atop City Hall and the infamous Belgian landmark Manneken Pis (which, yes, is a statue of a peeing child). Yeah, so it’s an interesting combo, one I don’t think I’ve had before, so let’s see how it turned out:

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken Penn

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken-Penn – Pours a deep light brown color with a finger of fluffy head and good retention. Smells feature that typical Belgian yeast profile, spicy and fruity, some brown sugar, but also something else lurking in the background. Maybe hops? Yes, American hops, a little citrus and pine. And whoa, those hops take a front seat in the taste, lots of citrus and pine with the Belgian yeast characteristics still making themselves known before the bitter hop finish. Yep, this is like a dubbel/IPA hybrid, a combo I don’t think I’ve ever experienced… and it works well enough. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and a little dry bitterness in the finish. Overall, this is quite an interesting, novel beer. Doesn’t quite blow my socks off, but it’s pretty damn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 6/15/13.

Interesting stuff, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s collaboration. I may also have to check out some of Brasserie de la Senne’s other wares in the meantime.

Decembeer Club II: Electric Boogaloo

Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As usual, a core group of stalwarts showed up, along with some new faces and other return guest stars. All told, a solid turnout, plenty of good beer, and a fun time had by all.

Decembeer Club 2012

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Apologies for the image quality. Brightness kinda got away from me there. Stupid flash. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. Standard disclaimers apply, though I think I’ve achieved a new level in beer nerdom in that I’ve already had (and probably reviewed) a lot of the beers presented here. Go figure. Roughly (yeah, yeah, gimme a break, it’s a social gathering after all, you’re lucky I can do this much) listed in order of drinking, not the order in the picture above:

  • Hitachino Nest White Ale – This has actually been on my radar for a while, but it’s not something I’ve ever tried before. It’s a very solid Belgian wit beer, not super strong on the wheat (though it’s there), more defined by the Belgian yeast character of fruit and dry spice. Sorta reminded me of St. Bernardus’ Tokyo beer, which is not suspicious at all, as Hitachino is Japanese (I swears, I didn’t realize it when I was drinking, except perhaps subconsciously because Hitachino does sound pretty Japanese). Really worth checking out, and it won’t break the bank like St. Bernardus will. A-
  • Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer – This must be the 4th or 5th time I’ve had this. I’ve always enjoyed it too, though I didn’t have any sticky toffee dessert dish to pair it with (like I normally do). A solid contribution from a beer club newcomer. B+
  • Ommegang Scythe & Sickle – Malt-focused, Belgian-style harvest ale, recently reviewed! Well chosen and well placed in the tasting. This works well with food (which came out as I was drinking this)… B+

  • Ballast Point Sculpin IPA – Yep, another that I’ve had several times before, but I do love this beer. It seems that some beer club members have been doing some research on Beer Advocate and this is a pretty good choice. Well played, Paul. A-
  • Magic Hat Hi.P.A. – A decent enough IPA that I think just pales (pun intended!) in comparison with Sculpin. Flavors seemed muted and a little bland, but seemingly well crafted enough. Not something I’d seek out again, but I wouldn’t turn it down if you handed me one. B-
  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel Xmas – A variant on my homebrewed abbey dubbel beer, when I was bottling and I got to the bottom of the bucket I added a cinnamon stick and some clove to the remaining beer. Alas, I didn’t get much additional spice out of this, at least in my small sample. However, I feel like the beer has finally conditioned into something solid. Still not quite what I was going for, I think perhaps too much in the Special B department, yielding a bit too much in the way of toasted malt character, but still, it’s coming along well. I will refrain from rating this for now, as I don’t think it’s peaked yet, but perhaps a full review will be forthcoming.
  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) – Just reviewed this one yesterday (along with the 2011 variety). This was one of my contributions, so of course it was good.
  • Evolution Secret Spot Winter Ale – I’ve enjoyed most of Evolutions offerings that I’ve tried so far, and this one is no exception. But it’s not really exceptional either. Another beer that may have suffered a bit by comparison to the previous beer. Technically an altbier, this drinks kinda like a winter warmer without the spice. I like. Want to try again in better context. B
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ – Yep, just reviewed this one too. Big flavors do well in beer club setting.
  • Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2011 – One of my contributions… I’ve had the 2010 vintage, and though Mikkel claims to tweak the recipe every year, this seemed pretty similar to me. It’s listed as a Belgian Strong Dark, but it reads more like an Imperial Stout. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts, smooth, well hidden booze. It’s said that this is a spiced beer, but it’s hard to detect in this. Definitely a complex beer, and I’m guessing the spices contribute to that without being overpowering. Overall, a very good beer, worthy of the holiday. A-

So there you have it. Another successful beer club. Good company, good food, good beer. As always, already looking forward to the next installment.

Novembeer Club

Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together once a month to share good beer, a good meal, and good company! We typically congregate at a local BYOB to share all our brews and wines and whatnot. As per usual, much merriment was had by all, lots of beer and wine and good food. It ended up being a rather small gathering by our normal standards, but still plenty of fantastic beer shared by all.

Novembeer Club

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For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers about the fact that I wasn’t in a sensory deprivation chamber whilst tasting these, and in a lot of cases, I was only sampling rather small pours, but whatevers. Take these descriptions with a grain of salt if you’re really concerned, but you really shouldn’t be, because I’m pretty awesome. Or not. Whatever. Here’s what I had (in order of drinking, not necessarily in order of the picture above):

  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel – My homebrewed abbey dubbel style beer seems to still be conditioning, though it’s getting better every week. Right now, it’s quite tasty, if a bit boozy, and the carbonation doesn’t seem to have fully taken hold of the brew. This is actually somewhat expected, given that the brew came in much stronger than I had originally intended. I suspect this will be drinking fabulously in a few weeks or so… I wll refrain from rating right now, just cause I want to give it some more time to mature…
  • Turkey Drool Homebrew – A friend of a friend of a friend contributed this homebrew, which actually seemed to fall a little flat, especially when compared with other brews we had tonight. There didn’t seem to be any off flavors, per say, but on the other hand, what was there was very subtle if not non-existent. From the ingredient list, I was expecting much more out of this. Again, not the worst thing evar and certainly drinkable, but also completely forgetable. C+
  • New Belgium Snow Day – A strange, but mostly enjoyable brew. BeerAdvocate classifies it as an American Black Ale, but I would say that it’s more of hoppy red ale than that implies. Maybe some winter warmer base here, but quite a nice hop character to it. Overall, very drinkable stuff, a nice hop presence, but it’s not going to light the world on fire either. B
  • Great Lakes Christmas Ale (2011) – Kaedrin friend Dana procured this last year, and has held on to it since then. Apparently a highly sought after beer, this is a very light colored winter warmer style offering, reminiscent of a deeper English pale ale that doesn’t quite contain any of that diacetyl character I associate with it. Sweet, a very light spiciness, flavorful, but not quite blowing me away either. I can see why this is a prized holiday brew, but it’s not something I go out of my way for… B
  • Westmalle Trappist Tripel – A classic, which I have already reviewed in detail. For the most part, it’s as good as evar. On a personal level, I’ve cooled somewhat on the tripel style, though I still quite enjoy one every once in a while… A
  • Kona Pipeline Porter – Holy coffee, Batman! This is apparently a porter, but it’s heavily influenced by coffel flavors all throughout, sorta light a lighter Founders Breakfast Sout. I’m not really a fan of coffee or porters in general, so it’s pretty amazing that I didn’t tink of this as the worst thing I’ve ever tasted. It’s actually pretty solid and goes down easily. That being said, I don’t think I’d ever really seek to try this again… B-
  • Weyerbacher Winter Ale – Another beer I’ve had and reviewed before. For the most part, my feelings remain unchanged. It’s a fine beer, a pretty standard winter warmer, but I’d like to see more complexity and flavor out of this one. B
  • Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Red Ale – One of my contributions for the night, this is one of those beers often recommended to sour newbies, and it actually did seem to go over really well with the beer club folks, even those who don’t go in for normal beertastic stuff. A nice malt backbone and sweet fruit character followed by a very slight sourness that nevertheless cut through and made this one of the more flavorful brews of the night. Overall, definitely a nice beginners sour beer, something I’ll probably try again at some point as well… B+
  • Nebraska Hop God – Reserve Series Aged In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels – Yet another of my contributions for the night, this one turned out to be interesting, if not quite what I expected from a beer called “Hop God”. Hops certainly play a role in the flavor profile, but it’s mostly defined by that oak Chardonnay character, with some booze peeking through as well. It’s really quite nice, though I wish I had a better palate for white wine. B or B+
  • Victory Storm King Stout – Once again, we get a beer I’ve had before. It’s a beer I’ve come to appreciate more and more over the years, but I still wouldn’t rate it among the highest imperial stouts. Still a solid stout with a big hop presence. B+
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout – My last contribution for the night, this is just as good as it was the last time I had it. Beer club peeps seemed to enjoy, though there were a couple that don’t particularly enjoy those bourbon flavors, and thus didn’t care for this. Me, I’ll leave it at an A.

And there you have it. Another successful outing, as per usual. Alas, we didn’t get to all the beers we brought (I was particularly interested in Lancaster’s Winter Warmer, but I’m sure I’ll catch up with it sometime). Already looking forward to next month and some more holiday brews…

Choose Your Own Adventure Beer Reviews

After wandering the forest for hours, you are relieved to come to a white house. The doors are locked, but as you circled the structure, you find a large window ajar. Clouds cover the sky and you can feel a rapid decrease in pressure in your bones. It is going to rain. Flashes of lightning illuminated the sky in the distance, followed by peals of rumbling thunder. Throwing caution to the wind, you pry the window wide enough to allow entrance.

You are in a kitchen. A table seems to have been used recently for the preparation of food. No food remains, but an unopened brown bottle adorned with a pictogram of a combined “O” and “C” can be seen. A rack of stemmed, curvy glasses hangs above the table. Some sacks smelling faintly of pepper are piled in a corner of the room. A narrow passage leads to the west, and a dark staircase can be seen leading upward. A dark chimney leads down. You hear stirrings of movement coming from the chimney.

Lightning flashes and the accompanying thunder follows quickly. Outside, rain has begun to fall. Your growling stomach echoes the thunder. What to do?

To sit at the table and drink the bottle, click here.

To take the passage to the west, click here.

To climb the stairs, click here.

To explore the chimney, click here.

Next Section

You have chosen to drink the unopened brown bottle.

You sit at the table, glad to be off your feet after the long trek through the forest. You examine the bottle more closely. Otter Creek 20th Anniversary Ale. Your eyes widen. You remember hearing of the war up in the northern territory of Vermont in which a race of ferocious otters purged humans from their land. No one is welcome there, but these otters are known as craftsmen, and have taken to exporting their beer. It is rare indeed that such a brew would make its way this far South:

Otter Creek 20th Anniversary

Otter Creek 20th Anniversary Ale – Pours a dark brown color with almost no head at all, just a little ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich malts, very much like a Scotch Ale, with some booziness and maybe even hops also apparent. The taste starts very sweet, followed by booze in the middle and more booze in the finish. It’s… boozy! But lots of malt character too, maybe a little hop bitterness also hanging around, but just enough to balance out the sweetness. The mouthfeel is strong with a little heat from that booze, not to mention a certain stickiness, especially in the finish. Again, this reminds me of a souped up Scotch Ale, ton of malt character, lots of booze. A solid sipping beer, worth drinking, but not really lighting the world on fire. B

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/7/12.

Refreshed by the beer, you consider your other options.

Choose another path.

Next Section

You have chosen to take the western passage.

You walk through a long hallway that turns to the right, leading into a large room housing many boxes, barrels, and what looks like a laboratory. Lots of tubes, beakers, open flames, boiling liquids, and jars filled with fruits and spices populate a large table on one side of the room. Boxes of bottles, all adorned with a railroad track logo, line the wall on the other side of the room. You recognize the logo as that of the Boxcar Brewery, a business located just a mile or two away from your home! Overjoyed at the prospect that you are no longer lost, you quickly snap up a bottle and gulp it down:

Boxcar Mango Ginger IPA

Boxcar Mango Ginger IPA – I have to admit that Boxcar’s regular “IPA” has grown on me. Sure, it doesn’t feel like an IPA at all, but as Belgian style pale ales go, it’s solid stuff, and fresher bottles do have a really nice (if unusual) hop presence. Pours a golden orangish color with a finger of medium bubbled head. Smells strongly of that ginger, along with some fruity hops, perhaps augmented by the mango. These are fruity hops, but not typical grapefruit and pine, and they’re not as strong as you’d expect in an IPA. The taste is sweet, with lots of ginger balancing it out and just a little in the way of hop fruitiness (again, perhaps augmented by the mango). Like the regular Boxcar IPA, there’s not much bitterness here, but the mango ginger adjuncts seemed to overwhelm any Belgian character. The mouthfeel retains that effervescent, highly carbonated Belgian pale feel to it. The spices keep it from being something to gulp down, but it’s decent stuff. Overall, this is a reallly strange beer. Like the regular Boxcar IPA, this is certainly far away from your typical IPA (I would never in a million years have labeled this as such in a blind tasting), and even when it comes to Belgian pale ales, this is an odd duck. None of which makes it inherently bad, it’s just hard to wrap my head around… and to be honest, ginger is not my favorite spice in beer. A solid beer, a strange change of pace, well worth trying, but I think I’d rather have one of their regular IPAs than this… B-

Beer Nerd Details:7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/29/12.

Alas, the room seems to be a dead end.

Choose another path.

Next Section

You have chosen to climb the stairs.

The stairs are steep and tiring, but you can see a mesmerizing glow ahead that keeps you climbing. You reach the top and enter a large, bright room. As you enter, the room becomes even more luminous, almost blinding you. Indeed, no exits seem visible anymore, even from whence you came. In front of you is an old man armored in chain mail with a large cloth cloak displaying the markings of a Crusader. You are surrounded by a vast array of chalices, many sizes, many shapes, some gold, some silver, some clear, but they all glitter with potential. The knight selects three and places them on the alter in front of you.

The knight simply says “To escape this place, you must choose,” and waves his hand at the alter.

There are three glasses in front of you, one goblet, one brandy snifter, and one plain pint glass. They are all filled with liquids of varying degrees of darkness.

To drink from the goblet, click here.

To drink from the brandy snifter, click here.

To drink from the plain pint glass, click here.

Next Section

You have chosen to drink from the goblet.

You pick up the goblet and drink deeply. Pleased with the taste, you look to the knight, who grins and says “You have chosen… wisely.”

Val-Dieu Brune

Val-Dieu Brune – I’ve actually seen this beer many times before, but the name Val-Dieu just doesn’t inspire much confidence (sounds like it would be cheap, “value” beer from Belgium). That’s completely superficial though, and it turns out that this is a brewery with a decent enough reputation… Plus, as we frequently say here at Kaedrin, it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts: Pours a clearish dark brown color with beautiful amber highlights and a finger of deep tan head. Smells very nice, biscuity Belgian yeast with a hint of spice, maybe some dark crystal malt aromas. Taste is sweet, that dark, toasted crystal malt character coming through loud and clear, maybe even a small amount of straight up roasted malt, and of course, that bready, spicy Belgian yeast. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, well carbonated yet very tight, with a pleasant dryness in the finish. Alcohol is well hidden, though I did get a bit of a warming effect… perhaps because I drank rather quickly… I’ve been craving a dubbel recently, and this hit the spot pretty well. Not quite a top-tier dubbel, still very nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 7/18/12.

As you finish the goblet, you notice that the room has become completely saturated in light. Your eyes are overwhelmed by the white light, but soon your vision comes back. You are standing about a hundred yards from the house. It has stopped raining. There is a road in front of you, and you quickly recognize the way home. Success!

Next Section

You have chosen to drink from the brandy snifter.

You pick up the snifter, give it a whiff, and sample some of the brew. You look to the knight for validation, and he shrugs and says “Eh… good enough.”

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale – Apparently this beer was brewed in honor of a 20 day suspension imposed on the brewery by overzealous coppers who sent people undercover to discover how much pot the Lagunitas boys were smoking (apparently a lot). I guess they couldn’t convince the police that they were actually just smoking hops. Anywho, it pours a clear dark golden amber brown color with a finger of whitish head. Smells wonderful. Sweet, juicy pineapple aromas along with something else I can’t quite identify. I could just sit here sniffing this all night. The taste seems comparatively muddled. Very sweet, tons of flavorful hop citrus character, a hint of darker malts (maybe even some roast), and quite a bitter finish for such a high ABV beer. That bitterness and roast character lingers in the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is relatively heavy, ample but tight carbonation, actually goes down easier than you’d think. Overall, this is a strange one. It’s not quite gelling for me, but it’s a complex and enjoyable enough brew. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/14/12.

A blinding light appears on the far side of the room, then subsides, revealing a door. You bid the knight good evening and open the door, finding youself at a road leading into your hometown. It’s still raining lightly, but life is good. Success!

Next Section

You have chosen to drink from the pint glass.

You observe that the liquid is a clear golden color with some fluffy white head. The aroma is slightly skunky, but you drink it anyway. It’s so very cold that you don’t notice much at first, but it feels sorta flabby and bland. As it warms, a well-rounded skunkiness dominates the palate. You haven’t drank much of it, but you’ve realized your mistake too late. You look over at the knight, who frowns and says “You have chosen… poorly.”

He reveals that the beer is, in fact, Miller Genuine Draft. While your body physically feels ok, you can feel your soul being diminished. Soon, you collapse to the floor. Alive, breathing, but completely inert. As your soul dissipates, your body quickly ages, decomposing into dust in mere seconds.

You have died! Go back and choose another beer.

Next Section

You have chosen to explore the chimney.

As you approach the chimney, the noises you heard earlier begin to intensify. The chimney has quite a wide opening, such that you are able to enter. When you look up, you can see darkness, occasionally illuminated by lighting overhead. This is a most unusual structure, and after further examination, you find that the wall is carved with regularly spaced grooves. It’s a ladder!

Visions of hidden treasure fill your head as you quickly mount the ladder and begin to descend. The noises you heard earlier conspicuously disappear, but you’re too excited to notice. As you progress, darkness seeps in around you. The light from the kitchen above is becoming dimmer, but it feels like you’ve almost reached bottom.

A scraping sound of stone against stone sounds out from above. The light from the kitchen completely disappears as you are plunged into darkness. Startled, you miss the next ladder rung and fall backwards. Fortunately, you really were close to the bottom, and your fall is cushioned by burlap bags smelling of peppers.

It is pitch black. You stand up and dust yourself off. You feel a sinister, lurking presence nearby. The silence is disturbing, but not as disturbing as the sounds you now hear.

You have been eaten by a Grue. Its insatiable appetite craves strong flavors, such as the hot peppers from the burlap sacks. It finds you somewhat bland tasting, but it washes you down with a bottle of Rodenbach Classic.

Rodenbach Classic

Rodenbach Classic – Pours a dark amber color with a finger of thick tan head. Smells of wine and vinegar, that twang that indicates sourness, and maybe some bready yeastiness too. The vinous character hits pretty quickly in the taste, light on the tangy sourness, followed by some malt character. The grue gets much less oak character from this than from the Grand Cru, but there’s still a complexity that is coming from that small, oak aged portion. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and the sourness keeps it light. Overall, a very good beer and it certainly spiced up the grue’s meal, but the Grand Cru is clearly superior. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/14/12.

You have died! Go back and choose another path.

Next Section

Well, that’s one way to catch up on reviews, I guess. Not that I don’t have plenty of tasting notes still to be posted, but still. Making progress here, and sometimes it’s fun to liven things up with a post like this. Also, sorry for the lack of an MGD picture, but I swear to you, I was handed a clear glass bottle of the stuff recently and it was, in fact, skunked and disgusting stuff. I know some folks don’t mind that brew, but even among macros, MGD is foul.

I’ll be traveling later this week, but a few posts will make it out if I can manage to click the “Publish” button on my phone, assuming I’m able to get a signal where I’m going.

Febrewary Beer Club

Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. An interesting turnout this month, as a few stalwarts were absent, but new attendees picked up the slack. This time around, we visited a Mexican BYOB with quite the ostentatious decor:

February Beer Club

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Phew, that place has some brightly colored furniture. But amazing salsa and good food too. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so you can and should be skeptical of my notes. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale – Wow, very rich malt flavors here, like a Scotch ale, but with something more. I got a distinct barrel aged character out of it, though this not one of those versions (apparently there are bourbon, port or brandy barrel aged versions, which I’d love to try). Fantastic beer, got the night going in style, though it may have set the bar unreasonably high for the following beers. I’d love to get me some more of this. A candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Appalachian Jolly Scot Scottish Ale – A somewhat local PA beer, this is another malt-forward ale that, unfortunately, didn’t stand up too well to the Hairy Eyeball. It was fine, to be sure, and I’d probably really enjoy one of these by itself, but it came off as being a biton the thin side after the rich flavors of the Hairy Eyeball. B
  • Blue Moon Belgian White – I know, it’s brewed by Coors, but hey, it actually worked really well at this point in the night. After two malt forward beers, it was a really refreshing change of pace, and I honestly have no problem with this beer anyway. Obviously not something I would ever go out of my way for, but a lot of places that only stock macros will have this on tap, and it’s actually a nice beer. No, it won’t melt your face, but it’s a good gateway beer. Lots of wheat and citrus, it’s refreshing and made for a nice palate cleanser tonight. B
  • Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale – Big brown ale brewed with Maple Syrup, you do get that character coming through pretty strongly here. A big, rich ale, no real hop presence, but lots of malts and that maple syrup adds a nice richness to the proceedings. Very well done, and another candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA – Well hopped (citrus and a little pine), plenty of balancing malts, and some of that distinctive rye character (though I never got the full-on rye bread character people seem to talk about). It didn’t blow my mind, but a very solid beer that I could probably drink often. B+
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8 – Not pictured (late arrival), but it’s a classic. Already reviewed here.
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) – Another beer I reviewed a while back, this is one of the more interesting beers of the night. Massive aroma, intense flavors of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, maybe even some coffee. I could just sniff this stuff all night. Great stuff, maybe even a little better than I remember (though I think my chief complaint last time was that it’s a bit too sweet to drink a whole bottle). A strange beer because I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, but it’s so distinctive and interesting that I’d highly recommend it to just about anyone. A great dessert beer.
  • Dominion Ale – Any beer that follows the intense flavors and aroma of Creme Brulee was probably doomed to failure, and this turned out to be a rather standard English Pale Ale, a style I’m coming to dislike quite a bit these days. I always feel like there are buttery off flavors in these beers, and this one is no exception. I even threw in a small slice of orange, which helped mellow it out a bit, but blegh. Not a fan of this beer. D
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale – My homebrewed winter warmer style beer (a kinda spiced red ale), this thing has to be my best beer yet. Very nice spicy aroma, picking up lots of that cinnamon and clove, tastes quite nice, almost creamy mouthfeel. I really hope this wasn’t some sort of fluke. I should really do a recap of all my homebrews at some point on the blog, so no rating for now, but I would seriously put this up against any of the winter warmer style beers I’ve had over the past couple years.
  • Boxcar Brewing A Long Winter’s Night – This is probably as local as I can get. The (tiny) brewery was literally a few blocks away from where we were tonight (and this limited edition brew doesn’t even warrant a page on BA, apparently). This winter ale was very interesting. I didn’t get a lot of spice or anything out of it, but it was a very nice cloudy brown color with… it’s hard to describe. Roasted chocolate? But not at all like a stout. More like a brown ale, but with no coffee and some chocolatey overtones (to be honest, it’s very much like their regular brown ale, but perhaps less nutty). Very solid beer. B

All in all, a pretty great night! We didn’t manage to get to all the beers in the picture, though I ended up taking a can of pale ale home with me, so perhaps a review of that in the coming weeks… That’s all for now.

Affligem Dubbel

Affligem Abbey was founded in the middle of the 11th century by a group of six “pillaging knights” who had reformed themselves into Benedictine monks. Brewing activities began as early as 1074 and the abbey was apparently intimately involved in the hop trade (apparently hops still grow near the monastery). History being what it is, the abbey’s buildings were sacked several times over the centuries, and always rebuilt, though after it was destroyed during World War II, the monks decided to contract a local brewery to make their beer. That brewery was eventually bought out by Heineken, but the monks retain the Affligem brand name and certain controls over their beer (and like the Trappists, they use their proceeds for charitable purposes).

They claim their current recipes are a modernized version of the same beers being brewed nearly a thousand years ago. The modernization was apparently lead by a monk named Tobias, who called the result “Formula Antiqua Renovata”. I assume that this is all marketing fluff and that “modernization” consisted of completely redesigning the beers or that the original recipe went something like: water, barley, hops. Anyway, Affligem appears to be most famous for their Tripel or perhaps their Noël, but they first came to my attention because of their most excellent Dubbel (which people rarely talk about for some reason):

Affligem Dubbel

Affligem Dubbel – Pours a cloudy brown/amber color with a couple fingers of white head. As you get towards the bottom of the bottle, you can see yeast sediment as well. Smell is filled with dark fruits (raisins, plums) and Belgian yeast character (spicy). Flavor is rich, sweet and fruity with a well matched spiciness and nice dry finish. There’s something else here that’s contributing to that richness – almost like molasses or brown sugar. Sometimes I’m even getting a note of chocolate in there. It gives the beer a most welcome distinctive quality. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied and it’s got those rich flavors, but this is definitely easy to put down. At 7%ABV, it’s not going to kill you either. Overall, one of my favorite dubbels! A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 1/20/12.

This beer does share a certain character with Ommegang’s Abbey Ale, though this isn’t quite as heavy. I remember picking up a bottle of this stuff in my fledgling beer nerd days when I knew nothing about beer. I picked it because it had a tasteful design and I knew I liked dubbels – not quite Belgian beer roulette, but pretty close. I remember being somewhat disappointed by their Tripel when I circled back on it, but it’s something I’m going to need to revisit at some point.

Trappist Westvleteren 8

I’ve already written about this beer’s bigger brother, the legendary Westy 12 – purported to be the best beer in the world (maybe second best) – and most of what I said goes for this beer as well. It’s just as hard to obtain (I got my bottle along with the 12), it’s got that same spare Trappist aesthetic (no labels, just some info crammed on the crowns to identify them), and while its ratings might not be quite as high as its brethren, it’s still extremely well reviewed (it currently resides at #16 on Beer Advocate’s list and #15 on RateBeer’s list). So let’s take a closer look, shall we:

Westy 8 Cap

Trappist Westvleteren 8 – Pours a dark brown color with some amberish highlights and a couple fingers of light tan head. The aroma and taste have the same profile as the 12, but somewhat more subdued. Lots of dark fruit in the nose, plums, raisins and the like, and some of that musty Belgian yeast character. Taste is also very flavorful with that dark fruity sweetness and dry finish. Mouthfeel is a dream, just like the 12. Perfectly carbonated, dry (but not too dry), and just a hint of booze. It’s definitely lighter bodied, and the flavors are slightly less rich. Overall, a fantastic beer, but not the equal of its big brother. A-

Westy 8

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 1/13/12. The cap has a date printed on it that says 07.10.14.

Amazing stuff. I feel like I should have more to say about it, but nothing else is coming to mind. If you ever get the opportunity to try any Westvleteren beer, don’t pass it up. I’m not going to go out of my way to try the Blonde, but perhaps I will luck into one at some point in my life. Or perhaps not. These are rare beers, after all!

Novembeer Club

Another month, another beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is just a monthly gathering of friends from work for dinner and, of course, lots of beer (and often other alcoholic wonders). We had an average turnout, but still lots of fun and we had so much beer that we couldn’t even get to all of it… A transitional period in terms of seasonal beers. Some leftover fall seasonals, some holiday beers, but the majority of beers were regular offerings:

beerclub-nov11.jpg

(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or as sacred scripture (as I’m sure you do with all my other posts). The choice is yours. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat – A very solid Hefeweizen from semi-local Tröegs. I’ve actually had this a few times before, but there’s nothing particularly unique about it. A really nice example of the style though. B
  • Amager Julebryg 2008 – Dark color, with a wonderful aroma that is filled with crystal malts and caramel flavors (and maybe some subtle spicing). Taste is a little more roasty than I was expecting from the nose, with some coffee and maybe a little chocolate apparent. Full bodied but smooth, a really nice beer. It feels more like a solid stout than a holiday beer, but it’s good either way (Beer Advocate calls it a dubbel, which sorta fits, but I probably wouldn’t have guessed that from the beer itself). The bottle sez it was spiced, and it was certainly complex, but nothing particularly stood out (this is actually a good thing). Brewer Amager warrants further exploration. B+
  • Guinness Black Lager – This feels like a more crisp, carbonated version of Guinness’ famous dry stout with less roastiness. It’s an easy drinking beer, but the flavor seems oddly muted (perhaps because of the other brews of the night). Nothing wrong with it, but not a particularly special beer either. C+
  • Abita Turbodog – A great name for a beer that turns out to be a standard brown ale. Certainly nothing wrong with it and a solid example of the style, but not particularly special either. B-
  • Wychwood King Goblin – According to the bottle, this beer is only brewed under a full moon. It’s got that typical Wychwood style label which is fantastic. Unfortunately, the beer doesn’t quite live up to the branding. Lots of head and perhaps as a consequence, a little too light on the carbonation. Not quite flat, but it wasn’t a good mouthfeel at all. Taste was hoppy, but not in the typical American pale ale way – perhaps this is more of an English pale ale (BA has it pegged as an English Strong Ale). Not a horrible beer, but not something that I could really connect with either. I don’t know, Wychwood beers seem to be hitting me the wrong way lately… C
  • Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale – An interesting example of the style as it seems to emphasize the pumpkin more than the spices (which are still there, but not anywhere near as prevalent as they typically are in pumpkin ales). Smooth, tasty, and easy to drink. Nothing revelatory, but a good example of the style. B
  • Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes – One of my contributions for the night, this is a really interesting combination. Basically a Scotch ale brewed with Belgian yeast, it features the hallmarks of both styles. Unlike a lot of style mixtures, I think these two styles complement each other well. Very sweet and malty, with that typical Belgian yeast character coming out in a prominent way. I actually have another bottle of this sitting around, so look for a full review at some point…
  • Fegley’s Brew Works Rude Elf’s Reserve – Another beer I’ll probably review separately, but I will say that this is a hugely alcoholic (10.5% ABV) spiced beer. Kinda like an overspiced pumpkin beer without any pumpkin (I had one of these earlier, along with a pumpkin ale, and found this one sharing a lot of the pumpkin spices)… Look for a separate review sometime this holiday season…
  • Dana’s Homebrewed Dubbel – A nice dubbel style beer, only recently bottled, so it could probably use some more time to condition, but it’s still pretty good. Nice traditional Belgian yeast character with a medium body. Easy to drink.

We didn’t get to try a few of the beers in the picture, including Troegenator, Hoptober, and Amish Four Grain Pale Ale. All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I’m already looking forward to the next installment, as we will most likely be drinking all Holiday beers (aka, my favorite seasonals).

Octobeer Club

Tonight’s beer club was most excellent. Good turnout, really good beer, and an overall good time. For the uninitiated, the beer club is basically just a bunch of folks from my work who get together once a month to enjoy a nice dinner together… along with lots of different beers and wines and other alcoholic wonders. The past few months have been sparsely attended, so the beer selection was somewhat sparse, but tonight we had so many beers that we didn’t even get to them all. As you might expect, lots of seasonal beers were brought, and we had a couple of quite excellent brews:

octobeerclub.jpg

(Click for bigger image)

For reference, here are some brief thoughts on most of the pictured beers (some we did not get to, though at least two of those I will review separately). As usual, this isn’t exactly ideal tasting conditions, so take them with a grain of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Ithaca Flower Power IPA – While not popular with some folks (i.e. non-hopheads), I thought it was quite a good beer. Very floral, so much so that it does tend to differentiate itself from the throngs of other IPAs. Quite enjoyable and something I’d like to try again at some point. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • The Bruery Autumn Maple – Wow! This was a really fantastic beer. Full of Belgian yeast character and full bodied, this was a dream to drink. Perhaps it was just the power of suggestion, but I felt like the molasses and maple syrup flavors were very apparent, along with the general spiciness. It doesn’t taste like a pumpkin beer, but it’s definitely got a fall seasonal feel to it, which is a nice change of pace. The Bruery never ceases to amaze me with their beers. I loved this one and will need to find myself a bottle to try out by itself, but for now I’ll give it the A it surely deserves. (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Shmaltz Coney Island Freaktoberfest – Perhaps the weirdest beer of the night. It pours an odd blood red color with a pink head, but it tastes more along the lines of an Oktoberfest beer, though there was something distinctive and odd about the taste that was throwing things off. As a gimmick beer, it’s certainly successful. The appearance is certainly a hoot, and the fact that it’s 6.66% ABV is pretty funny as well. Ultimately, it’s got some neat gimmicks, but it’s an average beer. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Otter Creek Oktoberfest – A not particularly accomplished version of the Octoberfest style. In discussion, someone mentioned that it tasted a bit like rotting otter, which is perhaps an exaggeration, but this isn’t a particularly good beer. Maybe drinkable, but not something I’m rushing to try again. My least favorite of the night. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Blue Point’s Mother Pumpkin Ale – Another of the more subdued pummpkin ales that I’ve had this year. Certainly not a bad beer, but the pumpkin and spice flavors were somewhat faint here. That’s not necessarily a horrible thing, but it also doesn’t really make the beer stand out either. It’s an ok beer, worth trying, but not something I see myself seeking out at any point. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Post Road Pumpkin Ale – I didn’t realize it when I tried it, but this is actually Brooklyn Brewing’s take on a pumpkin ale. It’s yet another of the more sessionable pumpkin ales, perhaps slightly better than Blue Point’s entry (see above), but not nearly as good as some of the other pumpkin ales I’ve had this year. Well crafted and worth a try, probably something I could drink again, but also not particularly special. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Dundee Oktoberfest – Ah, a stealth macro! Not bad, but I’m also not sure if I’d identify this as having that distinctive Oktoberfest character either. It tastes fine, and it maybe has a hint of the typical flavors associated with the style, but it’s certainly not an eye-opener either. I don’t see myself seeking this out again, but I wouldn’t turn it down either. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Victory Otto – This is one of my most anticipated beers of the year; a smoked Belgian style dubbel from my favorite local brewery. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. It’s got a nice smoky character and it doesn’t seem like that would overwhelm the rest of the beer, but I would have liked to have tasted some sort of Belgian yeast flavors here as well, and they were just absent. This makes it somewhat one-dimensional. I will say that it seemed to get better as I drank, and it certainly isn’t bad, but as Belgian dubbels are one of my favorite styles, I wish this had more of that sort of style going for it. I’ll probably try this again at some point, as it did end up being enjoyable, but I did find it a bit disappointing as well. B (Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Cape Ann Fisherman’s Imperial Pumpkin Stout – Wow, this is really fantastic beer from a brewery I’ve never even heard of… It’s basically an imperial pumpkin stout. It’s got the typical pumpkin pie flavors and spices, but it’s all very well balanced. The stoutness is downplayed and not very roasty, but that’s the way I like it, and the pumpkin pie character fits well with the dark style. It’s full bodied but smooth, and it definitely hides the 11% ABV well. Dangerously drinkable stuff, and perhaps the most flavorful beer of the night – certainly the only beer that even came close to comparing with the Bruery Autumn Maple. I’m not sure where I can get this, but I need to find myself another bottle of this stuff. Really wonderful beer. A (Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)

Well, that covers most of the beer we drank. We also had another of my homebrewed saisons (which, again, I should review, but not now) and some of the less beer inclined folks had a Leinenkugel Berry Weiss, but I kinda knew that’s not for me, so I didn’t try any of that. Of the unopened bottles, I’m sure I’ll be trying the Warsteiner Oktoberfest this weekend, and I’ll get to Founders Centennial IPA at some point as well.

(Not So) Recent Beer Recap

As you may have noticed in my last review, I’ve got a number of reviews that have been sitting in the queue for a long time. I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with recent drinking, but I just haven’t gotten around to some of those older reviews, so I figured I’d just do a quick recap now…

  • Leffe Blonde – I was surprised to see the relatively craptacular reviews on beer advocate (though apparently it’s gone up to a more respectable and appropriate B rating since I’ve last looked at it… the Bros still have it at a C). I wasn’t sure why the hate existed for this, then I found out that Leffe is owned by Inbev, the Belgian beer conglomerate that owns Anheuser-Busch and is famous for changing recipes for their acquired beers to save costs; even including long-standing Abbey breweries like Leffe which apparently now uses cheap adjuncts in their recipe (for all the beer nerd fury, I can’t really find much detail around this – though the brewery does say that it uses rice, which is not typically a favored ingredient in beer). In any case, it certainly looks, smells, and tastes fine. Sweet and bready, typical Belgian yeast aromas and taste. It’s not complex or subtle, but as a simple and straightforward brew, it’s pretty good. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.2 oz bottle) Drank from a goblet on 4/16/11.)
  • Stone Double Bastard – It’s like Arrogant Bastard, only moreso. Very hoppy in the nose which follows through in the taste along with that unique blend of hoppy flavors that Stone uses for this brew. A nice bitterness and slick alcohol character are also present. It’s very good, but I don’t get the high praise heaped on it, though it does seem to have fallen off the BA top 100 at this point. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 11.2% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank from a goblet on 4/23/11.)
  • Trappist Achel 8° Bruin – This is the sixth of the seven Trappist breweries that I’ve sampled, though unfortunately, I was not particularly impressed with this brew (at least, compared with other dubbels). That’s not to say it was bad – definitely a nice appearance, with typical dark fruits and spiciness in the nose and taste. Relatively dry finish, drinkable, but not particularly complex either. I typically expect richer flavors out of a dubbel, though perhaps I should have this again just to make sure. Even considering that, it’s quite good. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz bottle) Drank from a goblet on 5/7/11.)
  • Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout – Another imperial stout that used to be in the BA top 100 but has since fallen out (no wonder I can never get a high percentage of completion on that list!) This one reminds me a lot of Victory’s Storm King Stout – very roasty, giving way to a hoppy bitterness as it warms up. Very well crafted, but not especially my style. B (Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (12 oz bottle) Drank from a tulip on 5/7/11.)
  • Ommegang Rare Vos – An old favorite of mine, I always worry about beers like this. Will it continue to live up to the expectations I’ve built up in my mind? I’ve spent the past year or two trying as many different, new beers as I could. Would this beer live up to memory? As it turns out, yes, it does. One of my first discoveries after Hennepin about a decade ago, I always come back to this one, a sweet and spicy Belgian amber. It is delicious and matches well with most meals. I daresay it’s a candidate for the vaunted A+, though I’ll just stick with an A for now. (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked bottle) Drank from a tulip glass on 5/13/11.)
  • Tröegs Pale Ale – Ok, so this is a relatively recent drink, but I don’t have a ton to say about it. It’s a decent, straightforward pale ale. It actually made a really nice first impression (nice hoppy presense of pine and grapefruit), but it loses some of its punch as it warms. Certainly not among the best pale ales, but well worth a try… B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (12 oz bottle) Drank from a tulip on 7/16/11.)

Well, that just about covers it. I have more details about these tucked away somewhere, but for now, this will have to do. Of course, this doesn’t completely catch me up on reviews, but now the unwritten ones are from the past couple weeks, which is certainly more manageable.