I mean, sure, I’ve drank a ton of Oktoberfest beers over the past few years (and indeed, they’ve been a key driver of my more lager-focused beer portfolio of late), but do you really need me to delve into esoteric topics like decoction mashes, the melanoidins that form via a Maillard reaction resulting from taking a portion of the mash, boiling it, and returning to the mash to raise the temperature and increase starch extraction? Probably not, but then there’s the whole historical component, in which this whole shebang started because thermometers hadn’t been invented yet and brewers used this as a way to reliably increase temperatures while mashing in, which almost accidentally resulted in a distinct flavor profile that is quite lovely. This is, um, equally esoteric I guess, but mildy more interesting.
I suppose there is a whole purist’s debate at this point, which is a reliable source of controversy. It’s still hard to get that worked up about the folks who are like, yes, decoction mashing is great, but we have thermometers and other state of the art equipment now and can achieve a step mash perfectly fine without adding 4 hours to the brewing process thankyouverymuch. To be sure, as a trusted blogging source, I should be researching each of these brews and ruthlessly shaming those who don’t do a decoction mash. “But I do do a decoction mash!” you (a brewer) say? First of all, you just said “do do” which is pretty funny, but what I really want to know is if it’s a triple decoction mash? No? I’m very disappointed in you.
Oh, I guess the other thing that’s worth mentioning about the hallowed Oktoberfest is that it can kinda, sorta divided up into two families: Märzen and Festbier. Märzen originated as a beer brewed in March because it was illegal to brew in the summer months and they needed to ensure that the beer would last until Oktoberfest. It tends to be a bit darker and stronger than the Festbier, which is a more modern take that is a less heavy take on the style and thus more suitable for pounding a few liters of during the festival. There’s certainly a distinction there, but I suspect a lot of breweries play it a little fast and loose with the terms.
Hmm, so for someone who whines about not having much to write about, I’ve just spent several babbling paragraphs barely scraping the surface of the subtleties that lie beneath the Oktoberfest style, haven’t I? Well, let’s actually take a look at some of the more prominent examples I took on this past Oktoberfest season:
Ettal Mythos Bayern Kloster Spezial – Obviously, I needed to include an actual German brewery in this roundup, and while some of the more famous and widely distributed examples are great, this one rivals just about any Oktoberfest I’ve ever had. I actually only discovered it a few years ago and supplies appear limited, but it’s worth snagging some of this if you ever see it. Truly great Märzen style Oktoberfest, gorgeous amber orange color, great toasty character, caramelized Munich malt, medium bodied but quaffable, well balanced, just fantastic stuff. A
Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 8/7/21.
Human Robot Festbier – Local lager maestros at Human Robot have put out a couple different takes on the style; this one obviously leans more towards the lighter Festbier type, but it’s a rock solid version of that. Would love to try their take on a Märzen, but this one hit the spot for sure. Pours a clear, pale, golden color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that nonetheless has good retention. Smells bready, biscuity, a hint of toast in the background. Taste starts sweet, hits that lightly toasted malt backbone, finishing with a bit of a balancing bitterness. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and quaffable. Overall, rock solid Festbier here. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 9/3/22.
Elder Pine Autumn Awaits – Like their Choice Pivo Pils, this is a traditional Märzen style Oktoberfest that’s been been lagered in an American Oak Foeder for 3 months, a nice spin on the standard takes. Pours a coppery amber color with a finger of off white head. Smells nice, toasted malt, a hint of noble hops. Taste hits those toasty notes up front, a little light caramel sweetness, earthy, spicy noble hops pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, crisp, and well carbonated, very easy going stuff. I don’t really get much oak, but I think it does lend something to the overall complexity and balance. Overall, it’s a pretty fantastic little Märzen, worth seeking out. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 9/24/22. Canned on 08/15/22.
Elder Pine Festival Lager – Elder Pine’s take on Festbier with an American twist: the use of Lemondrop hops adds a hint of citrus to the more standard proceedings. Pours a paler golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells a little more hop forward than Autumn Awaits, a hint of citrus, but the toasty malt is still there (i.e. this isn’t some insane, over-the-top American citrus hop bomb, it’s a subtle difference). Similarly, the flavor is more hop forward but the toasty notes are quite prominent, moreso than a lot of festbiers. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, crisp and highly carbonated, perhaps a hint easier going than Autumn Awaits, and it’s almost dry (perhaps a hint too much so, but that doesn’t sink the beer or anything). Overall, I tend to prefer Marzens over Festbiers, but this is a decent enough example of the latter and it makes for a nice comparison with the aforementioned Autumn Awaits. B
Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/25/22. Canned on 08/08/22.
von Trapp Oktoberfest – The hills are alive with the sound of lager, and the von Trapp folks have naturally produced a straightforward but excellent example of the Märzen (even if it appears a bit paler than I’d expect). Pours a golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells sweet, some light caramel notes, toast. Taste also hits that sweet note, light caramel, toasted malt, balanced hop character. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbed, but still quaffable. Overall, pretty fantastic example of the style, as is typical from von Trapp. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a mug on 10/1/22.
Phase 3 P3 Oktoberfest – Pours… a golden orange color with a finger of white head. Yes, this is getting repetitive. Smells sweet, bready, biscuits, a bit of toast. Taste follows the nose, a bit of light caramel showing up here, but still heavy on the biscuity toast. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbed, dryer than the other examples here, and still quaffable. Straightforward stuff. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 10/23/22.
Locust Lane Oktoberfest – A local brewery that sourced ingredients from local Deer Creek Malthouse for this take. It’s listed as a Märzen but feels more like a festbier. Pale, with pretty standard Oktoberfest character, a little flabby, maybe my least favorite from this post, but I might have just been disappointed because their Farmhouse Pils was pretty damn good so I was getting my hopes up. B-
Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 10/26/22.
A hearty no-thank-you goes out to Sierra Nevada, whose annual spins on Oktoberfest beers were always a highlight of the season… until this year, when they scaled back dramatically in favor of a seasonal hazy IPA or some such. I love their standard take on the style, but they did a few years of collaborations with German breweries that were all pretty fantastic (and distinct). I hope they get back to that next year.
Remember when I said I’d get this post out in October? Lol, I’m the worst. I’ve a few reviews in the hopper, so mayhap we can get back to posting more than once a month sometime soon.
I joined the Bruery Reserve Society last year and I have plenty of freakish, disjointed thoughts to share on the experience. And naturally, I’ll cover the plethora of high-octane Bruery beers (and a couple that are perhaps not so much) I’ve drank during the past couple of years. This is going to be a lengthy post, so strap in.
The Societies Themselves
About two years ago, I found myself craving Black Tuesday and The Bruery had just opened a satellite location in Washington D.C. so I took the plunge and joined the Preservation Society. I won’t pretend that driving to D.C. to pick up the beers is convenient, per say, but it’s certainly doable. It makes for a decent enough day trip with about 4 hours in the car.
At this point, I should cover the varying levels of Bruery Societies. As I just mentioned, I started by joining the Preservation Society, which is basically a quarterly membership. You can join for a single quarter, snag the 3-4 included beers (and order whatever society exclusives are available to you) and then quit. That was actually my initial thought – join, grab a bunch of Black Tuesday, and then quit. But I ended up staying on because I was generally enjoying the included beers and access to other stuff.
The other thing to note about the Preservation Society is that the four included beers per quarter are a mix of Bruery strong ales and Terreux sours (usually two of each). In terms of pricing, it’s also quarterly billing at $70 (for 4 included beers), which is actually pretty reasonable for these beers (at a minimum, they’re probably $80 worth of beer, if not more like $100 or more if bought separately). It allows access to society exclusive beers, but not all exclusive beers (i.e. there are beers that are only available for the Reserve or Hoarders societies).
All in all, I had a good experience with it. However, after a year, a few things became clear. First, the quarterly pickup timeline was a tad much for the commute that I was making. Second, while I enjoy Bruery Sours just fine, my favorites tend to be the non-sour barrel aged strong ales.
Enter the Bruery Reserve Society. This is a yearlong membership with at least 12 included beers, but there’s more flexibility in terms of the included beers and pickup timing. I opted to do the Bruery (Non-Wild/Sour) version, but you can do a mix of both or all-sour if you so desire. That’s basically it. It’s marginally more expensive (and billed all at once), but there’s much more flexibility in terms of what’s available and when you pick it up.
There’s another society level called Hoarders, which is like the others, only moreso. Lots more beer and some exclusive releases. I doubt I’ll ever do this, even if I could. The Reserve Society keeps me plenty busy.
Below is an epic recap of over two years worth of Bruery beers. N.B. While a lot of these are massive beers packaged in 750 ml bottles because Patrick Rue is trying to kill us all, I should note that I did manage to share a lot of them. Since the pandemic, this has not been possible in any meaningful way, but I’m hoping that will start to ease over time this year…
Black Tuesday remains a staple Bruery offering, and it is great. You’ll be hearing a lot about this beer below, as it’s often a component of a blend, but it’s great by itself and well worth seeking out.
Also of note: the last couple years, they started packaging in 16 ounce cans, which is a welcome development. Look, I can drink a full 750 of BT by myself if I really want to, but I shouldn’t do such things. Even at 16 ounces, it’s a bit of a project to put one down. I feel like the pandemic didn’t help here, and I’ve got the waistline to prove it. It’s a great beer to share though. I miss bottle shares, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about this beer is that while it’s big and burly… it’s actually pretty nimble when compared to our current trend of ever-thicker brownie-batter-esque pastry stouts. Boozy for sure, but that doesn’t bother me much. Anyway, there’s a ton of BT variants, so let’s get to them.
Black Tuesday Reserve (2020) – Brewed in 2018 and aged in bourbon barrels for a year, then transferred to a separate set of bourbon barrels for another year of aging. Holy hell, this is phenomenal. A friend shared a bottle of the 2015 Reserve a while back, and the small taste I had there was also amazing. This is Black Tuesday, only moreso. Richer, deeper, stronger, more complex, an incredible barrel character. It’s massive and boozy and I love it. A candidate for the vaunted A+, but for now we’ll just give it the A
Beer Nerd Details: 21% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 9/18/20. Bottled 02/11/20.
Rum Barrel Aged Black Tuesday – I’ve found that once you get away from the Bourbon/Rye world of barrels, Rum barrels tend to be my favorite. So I was looking forward to this beer, which I drank solo on New Year’s Eve. It’s quite good, and the rum barrel adds a distinct brown sugar note to the proceedings that works well. Is it better than regular BT? Probably not, and this is not the best rum barrel aged beer I’ve had or anything, but I appreciate these non-standard barrel treatments. There does seem to be a high variability to Rum barrels, and these seem on the better side of things. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 20.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a BT glass on 12/31/20. Bottled 10/23/20.
Red Wine Barrel Aged Black Tuesday and 2 Year Red Wine Barrel Aged Black Tuesday – Black Tuesday in Red Wine barrels for one or two years… and I dunno. They’re both good, but the vinous character doesn’t match the base beer as well as bourbon. It’s a nice change of pace and it works in a share, but it can’t quite compete with the other variants. They did put the 2018 version in 375 ml bottles though, which was welcome. The 2020 2 year aged variant is maybe a minor improvement, but still has the same character. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 18%-18.5% ABV bottled (375 ml and 750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/5/19 and 3/3/20. Vintage: 2018 and 2020.
Black Tuesday Virtual Box – Double Barrel Aged Imperial Stout Finished in Vanilla Barrels – Aged for three years total (one in bourbon barrels, two in vanilla extract barrels), this is awesome. The vanilla character is prominent but not overpowering or artificial. It’s hard to call anything about this subtle, but the vanilla is just very well integrated into the BT base here and elevates it well above BT. Also of note: every Bruery strong ale should be available in 10 ounce cans, they’re awesome. A
Beer Nerd Details: 20.5% ABV canned (10 ounces). Drank out of a BT glass on 11/22/20. Vintage: 2020.
Black Tuesday Virtual Box – North American Port Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – Another beer aged for three years, this one spent two of those years in North American Port barrels. The result shows that character well, imparting a jammy fruit element to the beer that works really well. It is my least favorite of the Virtual Box releases, but that’s a pretty high bar. It’s certainly interesting and well worth trying. B+ or A-
Beer Nerd Details: 19% ABV canned (10 ounces). Drank out of a BT glass on 11/23/20. Vintage: 2020.
Beer Nerd Details: 20.4% ABV canned (10 ounces). Drank out of a BT glass on 11/24/20. Vintage: 2020.
Soie – The Bruery Anniversary beers have long been a cornerstone for Kaedrin and they hold a special place in my beery history. The Anniversary ales are named after the traditional wedding anniversary gifts, in this case Silk. This entire series of beers has been one of my favorite things that the Bruery produces and I was always surprised at their availability on shelves. Pricey, but good.
Alas, the last couple releases haven’t been distributed, and this is honestly one of the things that keeps me interested in the Bruery Reserve Society. Soie is as good as ever and I want to say that I like it more than the last few years, but who knows? Regardless, regular ass Anniversary is a favorite and remains so (N.B. – Pretty much the same goes for Acier, which was last year’s Anniversary beer… but I figured this post was long enough!) A
(There was a Hoarder’s Society exclusive called Soie Reserve that got released this year, which has a similar treatment as the BT Reserve mentioned above (i.e. two years, two sets of barrels). This will hopefully be available to regular Reserve Society members this year, because it is 1000% my jam.)
Beer Nerd Details: 17% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 8/2/20. Vintage: 2020.
Bois – Brandy Barrel Aged – For a few years, the Bruery conducted a series of barrel-aged variants for the anniversary ales. They seem to have fallen off that bandwagon, but perhaps that will be reinstated in the future. This brandy barrel version is unquestionably my favorite of the barrel variants. The brandy adds a brighter note to the rich caramel and oak from previous solera-ed iterations of the Anniversary. It’s like a perfect blend of bourbon and brandy barrel aged barleywines or something. Really loved this one, and it’s holding up amazingly well for a beer made in 2013. A
Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 6/29/19. Bottled: 04/17/13. Vintage: 2013.
Bois – New French Oak Barrel Aged – I appreciate the idea here, and it does kinda let the base beer shine more on its own than a spirits barrel treatment, with a little more candied fruit emerging. I won’t call it my favorite, but it’s a welcome change-up that I’d spring for again. A- or A
Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 7/23/20. Vintage: 2013.
Sucré – Rum Barrel Aged – Another barrel variant, and probably my second favorite of such treatments. As mentioned above, I like a good rum barrel treatment, and it fits well with the base old ale here. The sweet treacly molasses matches well with the caramelized dark fruit of the old ale better than stout, perhaps. A
Beer Nerd Details: 17.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 8/22/20. Vintage: 2014.
Poterie – Scotch Barrel Aged – The most dreaded barrel variant because of the possibility that they’d use a peated Scotch barrel, which has wrecked many a beer. So it’s nice to see that this comports itself very well. Not as good as the other variants or the normal bourbon treatment, but either the solera base cuts it, or they used a non-peaty barrel, because there’s little to no smoke here (it’s been a while though, so I don’t remember much, other than it was much better than feared). Still, not a variant I’ll be seeking out again (though you could do a lot worse). B or B+
Etain – Red Wine Barrel Aged – Red wine barrels might be better suited here than for Black Tuesday… but they’re not better than the other barrel treatments. The vinous note is nice and matches the dark fruit of the base well, but tannins aren’t a great match and the oak isn’t as prominent. Good for a change of pace, but not something I’d seek out again. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/19/19. Vintage: 2018.
Chronology and Assorted Strong Ales
Chronology – Wee Heavy – The Bruery does this thing where they make a beer and age it in barrels, releasing at intervals: 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. It’s a fascinating experiment! Unfortunately, the 750 ml bottles makes it hard to do a side-by-side tasting. Plus, I didn’t try all of these – I did, however, try the 6 month and the 24 month versions, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the 6 month version, which I think might have been better than 24. But these were months apart and could be due to any number of factors. B+ or A-
Chronology:24 – Imperial Porter – I’ve only had the 24 month and I thought it was really good – better than the Wee Heavy, but not my favorite, so I didn’t really branch out to the other entries in this series. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 13.6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/15/19. Vintage: 2018.
Chronology – Old Ale – This was the first series they did, and it feels like a sorta amped up version of the Anniversary old ale (which ain’t no slouch, to be sure). I’ve had the 18 and the 24 and was surprised by the distinction between the two, but they’re both pretty great. I feel like the 24 fared better here than with the Wee Heavy. These are all old at this point, but the Old Ales seem to hold up the best for me too. A-
Chocolate Rain – This is Black Tuesday with cacao nibs and vanilla beans added. And yet, it very closely resembles regular Black Tuesday. There’s maybe a bit of extra chocolate/vanilla character, but it’s not a huge difference. I’d have to try them side by side to tell for sure. All that being said, it’s not like Black Tuesday is a bad thing to taste like. It may not be worth the pricing premium, but it’s still great. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 19.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/26/20. Vintage: 2019
You Asked For It – A blend of Black Tuesday and So Happens It’s Tuesday, conditioned with vanilla. It’s very good, but far from the best vanilla dosed stouts. The vanilla comes through loud and clear, which is nice. Despite blending with the lower-octane SHIT (*ahem*), it comes off as pretty boozy, which isn’t a huge problem in my book. Also of note: available in cans. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 16.4% ABV canned (16 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/24/20. Vintage: 2020
Quad Kisses – Belgian Style Quadrupel aged for a “brief” stint in four different barrels (bourbon barrels, rye whiskey barrels, scotch barrels, and rum barrels), then blended back together. Not sure if it’s because of the “brief” aging or the variety of barrels or the base beer, but this doesn’t really come together for me. It’s fine, to be sure, but the barrel character feels muddled (this can happen when you blend too many different types of barrels). B
Beer Nerd Details: 13.1% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/19/20. Vintage: 2020.
West Wood – Belgian-style quadrupel aged in Woodinville Whiskey barrels (a craft distillery out of Washington State). Rock solid stuff, distinct barrel character matched well with the quad base. Quite enjoyable, and I prefer this sort of thing to the more out-there adjuncts/ingredients. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/25/19. Vintage: 2019.
American Copper – Belgian style quadrupel aged in Copper & Kings Apple Brandy barrels. Seems similar to the just mentioned West Wood, only this time the barrel character is a little more distinctive, owing to the apple character that comes out. However, the apple flavors don’t overwhelm, they just add complexity (unlike a beer we’ll get to below, which goes a little too far). B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 12/27/18. Vintage: 2018.
Wether – A blend of barrel-aged and fresh weizenbock. Conceptually, I really like this idea. Weizenbocks are an underrated style and I always appreciate finding an interesting take on one like this. I do feel like this could be better, but it’s been a while, so my memory has faded a bit here. I would be interested on a new take on this beer though. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/16/18. Vintage: 2018.
12 Days of Christmas
Bourbon Barrel-Aged 12 Drummers Drumming – This started as a blend of 80% quadrupel and 20% solera-aged old ale (presumably the Anniversary beer). That initial blend (released last year) was tasty, but nothing to write home about. But when you put that blend into a bourbon barrel for more aging? That turns out great. I really enjoyed this, and it might be my favorite of all the 12 Days beers (though, to be fair, I have not had all of the BBA versions). A-
Beer Nerd Details: 15.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/5/20. Bottled 10/20/20.
Partridge In A Pear Tree (2020) – Not a precise rebrew of the original PiaPT, but it appears that they’re just restarting the series with new entries every year? This is a pretty standard quadrupel with spices, and it’s very well done. It fits with my sorta back-to-Belgian-style-basics movement. I think it will also be fabulous if given a BBA treatment this year… B+ or A-
Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/4/20. Vintage: 2020
4 Calling Birds (2011) – I actually didn’t get this as part of my society membership; I unearthed it from my cellar after 9 years of aging. And… it was infected. I liked it fresh just fine, but aged was just plain bad. This could very well be due to less than ideal aging conditions, but it may also be the beer itself. I gave it a couple of tastes and let it warm up a bit and it just didn’t get any better, so it was just another exhibit in the ongoing “should I age beer” trial. F
Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank (what little of it I did) out of a tulip glass on 12/21/20. Vintage: 2011.
Not So Strong Beers
Ruekeller: Märzen – Gasp! The Bruery makes traditional German-style lagers? Yup! They don’t add weird ingredients or anything (made with real lederhosen!)? Nope! This is actually a rock solid take on the style, one of the more enjoyable ones I had this year (and I drank a bunch of different Festbier/Marzens this year). Clean, toasty malt character all the way, very quaffable. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/10/20.
Loakal Red – An unassuming American Red Ale made with Centennial hops and aged in oak for a short period. I don’t know that the oak comes through particularly strong, but I like a nice, hoppy red ale like this, and it’s quite well done. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/23/19.
Saisons & Sours
Beauregarde – Sour Blonde Ale aged in Oak Barrels with Blueberries. Blueberries are a tricky fruit with beer, but this might actually be my favorite of the Bruery’s fruited sours. The blueberry character meshes well with the sour blonde base, and there’s no smokey weirdness from the blueberry (this happens sometimes). Tasty stuff, and probably the biggest surprise (I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did). A-
Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 12/29/19. Vintage: 2019
LXXV – Inspired by the French 75 cocktail, this collaboration with NOLA brewing is a sour ale made with botanicals, co-fermented with Chardonnay grape juice, and a little lemon zest. It’s fine, I guess? A lot of these Bruery sours tend to feel samey to me and thus they all sorta blend together in my head. B- or B
Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 10/12/19. Vintage: 2019
Train to Beersel – Inspired by Belgian lambics, this is a blend of sour beers aged in French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon and American Oak Sauvignon Blanc barrels. The comparison with lambic perhaps sets an unrealistic frame of reference with this one, which again, feels a lot like a standard Bruery sour blonde (i.e. more tart flavors than earthy funk). It’s certainly well done and I enjoyed it, but I was hoping for something more lambic-ey. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/28/19. Vintage: 2019
Annuel – This was made for the fourth Anniversary of Bruery Terreux (they have a separate brand for sours) and on paper, it sounds like an amped up version of The Wanderer (an excellent beer). It is a blend of oak barrel-aged sour quadrupel ale with what appears to be the Anniversary Old Ale (presumably Acier or Etain, given the timeframe) and wine barrel-aged sour blonde ale. Sounds interesting, but in practice it feels like the components are kinda fighting each other. The high ABV might also have something to do with it. It’s interesting and neat at a share, but not something I’m going to get again. B
Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/4/19. Vintage: 2019
Kisses Betwixt Mr. & Mrs. This Is Ridiculous – A blend of saisons made by the Bruery and Dogfish Head that was then aged in a French Oak foeder for 7 months. It’s good, but there’s just a ton of competition for this type of beer these days (particularly locally, with folks like Tired Hands and Forest & Main consistently putting out bangers in this style). B+
Beer Nerd Details: 7.6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/18/19. Vintage: 2019
Stream Crossing – A collaboration with Green Cheek Beer Co, it’s another foeder aged saison, and like the beer we just discussed, it’s good, but in a crowded field, it doesn’t really stand out. You get to make fun Ghostbusters references though. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 4/26/19. Vintage: 2019
Brazo Brazo – American Wild Ale aged in oak barrels with Brazos blackberries. Supposedly Brazos blackberries are larger and more acidic than your typical blackberries, and are thus used more in cooking applications than fresh. It’s tasty and I like blackberries, but I apparently found this a little disappointing. B
Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 3/20/19. Vintage: 2019
Flavored Beers, Weird Ingredients, Adjuncts, &c.
Sundae Sunday – A variant of Black Tuesday aged in a combo of Red Wine and Bourbon barrels with vanilla and boysenberries. I don’t especially love adding fruit to barrel-aged stouts. There might be some exceptions and I don’t mind small pours, but an entire 750 of this wouldn’t work for me (I did mange to share this in a socially distanced/safe way, so I only drank about 1/4 of the bottle, which was perfect. It was better than expected, but the boysenberry just doesn’t do it for me. Curmit (the personification of my Inner Curmudgeon) tends to not like this sort of thing (i.e. wacky ingredients, etc…), so this section of the post will probably feature lots of complaints like this. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 17.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/9/20. Vintage: 2020.
Apfelsap – This is a wheatwine fermented with McIntosh Apples, aged in Apple Brandy barrels. It’s well done, but the apple character is just overwhelming. My prejudice here is against using the adjuncts, as I like what an Apple Brandy barrel can bring to the table all by itself (see: American Copper, mentioned above). It’s also possible that the wheatwine base can’t stand up to the treatment here. This isn’t bad or anything, but it’s just not especially my thing. Curmit strikes again.. B–
Beer Nerd Details: 15.6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/21/20. Vintage: 2020.
White Chocolate Raspberry – Bourbon barrel aged wheatwine with cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and raspberries added. Once again, the added fruit really wreaks havoc here. It overwhelms the beer, and it kinda clashes too. I like the base beer fine, but it’s not one of my favorites to start with. Adding raspberries doesn’t do much for me and honestly, I felt like it really detracted from it. Curmit is disappoint. C+
Beer Nerd Details: 13.1% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/8/20. Vintage: 2020.
Pie Happy – Old ale aged in bourbon barrels with apples, vanilla and spices; clearly intended to resemble apple pie. And this one fares a lot better than the last two beers mentioned. Perhaps the base could stand up to the treatment better, or the apple pie character is just more appealing to me. It’s far from the best apple pie beer (Parish Royal Earth comes to mind), but it’s a really solid attempt at one. Curmit is mildly amused. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 16.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/24/20. Vintage: 2020.
Joy Ride – Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with coconut, almonds, cocoa powder, milk sugar, and the ever so comforting “natural flavors”. Basically meant to be a liquid Almond Joy candy bar, and it does a good job evoking that taste. Lots of coconut, chocolate, and almond, very good. Curmit doesn’t love it, but he’s somewhat mollified since we shared most of the bottle and it’s got a nice novelty factor. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/25/20. Vintage: 2020.
American Anthem – Imperial Brown Ale aged in bourbon barrels with peach, apricot, cinnamon, and vanilla beans. Another pie-inspired beer, this time peach cobbler. It’s not bad, but not as good as Pie Happy. I’m certainly a big fan of peaches and apricots, but I don’t know that it mixes as well with this sort of thing. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 14.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/12/19. Vintage: 2019.
Wee Heavy Coconuts – Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch-Style Wee Heavy Ale with toasted coconut, walnut, and cinnamon. It’s nice and while I wouldn’t necessarily put all those ingredients together, they seem to work well enough… but Curmit would probably just prefer the BBA Wee Heavy all by itself (presumably something like the aforementioned Chronology beers). It was a nice beer to share though, and I distinctly remember because we were at a restaurant and we sneaked the waitress a taste (she loved it). B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 4/18/19. Vintage: 2019.
Grey Monday – Black Tuesday with hazelnuts added to the barrels as it ages. I’m not the biggest hazelnut fan in the world, but this makes for a neat little variant of BT. Again, Curmit can appreciate it in small doses, but it’s telling that I/he have not sprung for any additional bottles over the intervening year. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 19.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 9/27/19. Vintage: 2019.
Marzipandemonium – A blend of Tuesday stouts with added almond “character” and vanilla. It’s solid stuff, but the almond “character” does come off as a little strong and possibly artificial (hence the scare quotes). Again, fun beer to share, but would never really want to drink a whole bottle. B or B+
Beer Nerd Details: 16.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 3/6/19. Vintage: 2019.
So there you have it. More than you probably ever wanted to know about Bruery beers. I know they’re not the new hotness anymore and it’s easy to get carried away with these high ABV brews or wacky flavored experiments, but I still love them and have enjoyed this experience. That being said: I probably won’t remain a member beyond this next year. I love these beers, but even having drank all of the above, I’m still building up a backlog of beers that need to be shared… during a pandemic. Still, looking forward to seeing what 2021 brings. And, hopefully, the return of bottle shares.
Over the past five years or so, I’ve cobbled together a functional relationship with lagers… but I don’t post about them very often. It’s sometimes difficult to find an interesting angle on lagers. Still, I do find myself opting for lagers more and more often these days, so maybe I’ll just need to buckle up and plow through some more reviews.
We’ll start with a trio of beers from Heater Allen out of Oregon, a brewery that specializes in lagers (nary an IPA in sight!) I feel like craft lagers in general have turned a corner in recent years (roughly in line with my own palate (I’m a trend setter, is what I’m saying (The three people who read this blog agree. Probably.))), such that a lager-only brewery is feasible today. But these folks started their brewery in 2007, at which time lagers where not especially hot in the craft world. Good on them for surviving and perhaps even playing a part in the shift towards lagers (alright, fine, probably much more than my trend setting ways). These days, they do sport a few ales in their lineup, but they appear to focus on deeply unsexy traditional styles like Altbier or Kölsch.
Alrighty then, enough preamble, let’s get into it:
Heater Allen McMinnville Harvest Lager – The chief difference between this beer and the flagship Pils (see below) is that it relies on local Willamette hops (instead of traditional Czech Saaz hops in the Pils). They don’t mention that it’s a wet hopped beer, but that’s usually what “harvest” connotes when it comes to beer. Or it could be a reference to the wine grape harvest, as the area is a big wine-producing region and as the old saying goes: “It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine.” And damn, if I worked at a winery during harvest, this would be a perfect beer to kick back with after a long day…
Pours a striking, clear, bright yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head that has great retention and leaves lacing as I drink. Smell is fabulous, a crackery pilsner character for sure, but then a whiff of sweet citrus hops, a hint of lemon, bright and sweet. Taste starts sweet and goes a little more earthy, herbal, grassy than the nose would have you believe. Mouthfeel is bright, crisp, light bodied, and quaffable. Overall, ayup, this is one great little pils. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/20. Canned on 09/16/20
Heater Allen Bobtoberfest – Named after the owner’s late brother, Bob, this is a pretty standard Märzen style Oktoberfest beer. Pours a mostly clear, pale copper color with a solid two fingers of fluffy white head that has good retention. Smells nice, toasted, bready malt, light caramel, a hint of earthy hops. Taste has that sweet, bready malt, a hint of toast, maybe some very light toffee, some earthiness from the hops with a well balanced finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, but still crisp and refreshing, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, it’s a great take on an Oktoberfest beer, one of the better that I’ve had this year. B+ or A-
Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 10/11/20. Canned on 8/11/2020.
Heater Allen Pils – Pours a clear, bright yellow gold color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing as I drink. Smell is very good, sweet, bready pilsner, crackers, herbal saaz hops. Taste hits the sweet cracker up front followed by an herbal kick. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and bright, quaffable for sure. Overall, I think the Harvest Lager is better, but this is still a good pils! B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5% (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/20. Canned on 09/16/2020.
I’ll try to pepper some more lagers inbetween reviews of mammoth barrel-aged stouts and teeth dissolving sours.
I did a pretty good job cobbling together a functional relationship with lagers last year, but have mostly fallen off the wagon in 2016 (I guess the barrel-aged Troegenator counts, but it feels like cheating). I know, I’m the worst and it’s not like I was really comprehensive last year or anything, but I have drank a bunch of lagers this year, just not anything I’ve reviewed. You guys don’t need me to tell you that Prima Pils is awesome, do you?
The brewery I keep coming back to for lagers of late is Jack’s Abby. Since we’re in full Oktoberfest season and since they put out very nice tallboys of their take on the style, I figured it’s time to get back in the swing. Last year, in reviewing one of their collaborations, I mentioned that they could turn me into a lager man yet. They responded: “ONE OF US! ONE OF US!” As a fan of that movie, this only endears them to me even more. Gooble gobble!
Jack’s Abby Copper Legend – Pours a burnished golden orange, dare I say, copper color, with a couple fingers of fizzy head that nonetheless sticks around for a while. Smells of bready, toasted, lightly caramelized malt, earthy noble hops. Taste has a great sweetness to it up front, again with the toasty, caramelized malt, and enough Euro hops to balance it all out. Maybe some nutty flavors as it warms up. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, soft, easy going, refreshing, near quaffable. Overall, yes, this is my kinda Octoberfest! B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 10/15/16.
Alas, no other lagers in the review pipeline just yet, but I’m sure we’ll find something in the nearish future. In the meantime, I’ve got a ton of IPAs and DIPAs clogging that pipeline, so we’ll spend the rest of this week covering those…
The wishful thinking approach to fall: start drinking fall beers in the hopes of precipitating a drop in temperatures. We’re fast approaching my favorite time of year, so I’m breaking out some more fall-based beers. We’re not really ready for pumpkins just yet, but an imperialized Oktoberfest beer brewed with blueberry honey and brown sugar that’s then aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels and conditioned on blueberries? That’s the ticket. It’s also perhaps a bit much, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work:
Neshaminy Creek Bourbon Barrel Aged Creekfestbier Lager – Pours a slightly cloudy, deep, dark amber brown color with a finger and a half of off-white head. Those blueberries certainly show up in the nose, actually meshing pretty well with bourbon, oak, and vanilla, giving it an almost blueberry/bourbon jam kinda aroma. Taste is sweet, rich bourbon and oak up front yielding quickly to those blueberries which take over from there, a slight fruit tartness lingers in the finish. The Märzen base is certainly there, but it’s clearly taking a backseat to blueberries and bourbon. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, plenty of carbonation, a little fruity acidity in the finish to cut through the heaviness, but still a sipping beer. I don’t generally think of an Oktoberfest (even an imperialized one) as having the body to carry a barrel aging treatment, but this is really well done. Maybe we should see more of this. Overall, this works better than expected, quite tasty! B+
Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (22 ounce blue waxed bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/11/15. Vintage: 2015.
I feel like this is a more successful barrel treatment than BBA Leon and I found it really enjoyable (I would like to try a non-blueberry version though, that tart note works fine here, but it might be even better without that…) Next, I need to get my hands on, well, pretty much all of their other barrel aged treatments… and I’m sure a Punkless Dunkel will make its way into my house this season as well (even if you’re not a big pumpkin beer person, that one’s worth trying).
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, and this time we hit up America’s Pie, probably the best pizza joint in West Chester. Lots of food and beer and mirth was had by all. Things started small but grew as the night progressed, so this picture doesn’t quite capture all the beers that arrived later:
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For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As per usual, these beers were not consumed under ideal conditions, but hey, these were really fun conditions, which, come to think of it, are ideal enough for me. But you may want to take these notes with a giant rock of salt. Anywho, here’s the impressions I’m left with (in the order of drinking, not necessarily from the picture above):
Lakefront Pumpkin Lager – A strangely muted flavor profile that features all the typical pumpkin pie flavors nonetheless, this was actually a decent way to start off beer club. Very aromatic, light, spicy, straightforward beer. Not going to light the world on fire, but a worthy brew. B
Duvel – This is generally considered to be a classic beer, but I have to admit, I’ve always come away somewhat underwhelmed by Duvel. I feel like this bottle was much better than any of my previous tastings. Sweet, spicy Belgian yeast character in the nose and taste. Last time I had this, I was a little turned off by what I perceived to be tart, lemony notes, but that didn’t appear to be in tonight’s bottle at all. Strange. I still wouldn’t call this one of my favorites or anything, but I could bump it up to a B
Original Sin Hard Cider and Dana’s Homemade Applewine – I tend to call this event “beer club”, but lots of other alcoholic beverages make appearances. This usually amounts to wine, but some folks who don’t like beer will go for some cider too (especially this time of year, I guess). Me, I don’t really care for that sort of thing. I tried a couple offerings and thought, yep, that’s got apple flavor, and left it at that.
Cigar City Guava Grove – One of my contributions for the night, this is a big, delicious ball of spicy, fruity saison goodness. Great orangey color, spicy Belgian yeast character in the nose and taste, with a level of fruitiness, presumably coming from the guava. Generally considered to be the best beer of the night, I jokingly mentioned that I wished I kept it all for myself. But I kid. Anywho, exceptional beer. I really must figure out how to get my hands on some more Cigar City stuff. A-
War Horse India Pale Ale – Probably suffered a little in comparison to the Guava Grove, but yeah, it’s an IPA, focusing on the earthy, floral notes, with a strong malt backbone and a fair bitterness in the finish. I found it to be somewhat unremarkable, but it was generally enjoyed by the group (we are easily amused). B-
DuClaw Mad Bishop – Ah, it was about time someone broke out the other major seasonal style, the Oktoberfest. Not one of my favorite styles, but as these things go, I found myself enjoying this one quite a bit. It seemed a little sweeter than your typical, authentic examples of the style, but that’s not a horrible thing in my book. Very nice. B
Lindemans Framboise – Another offering that was popular with the cider/wine crowd, I found it a little on the cough syrupy side of things. Nice raspberry flavors and it’s pretty thick and sweet for such a tiny ABV beer, but I don’t know, maybe I’m spoiled by better lambics at this point. B-
Great Lakes Nosferatu – This is one of them Imperial Red Ale beers that goes heavy on the citrus and pine hops, certainly a welcome development at this point in the night. Even with my palate probably being in pretty bad shape, I found this to be quite good. And you’ve just gotta love the label/name of this beer too. I should pick up a bottle of the stuff and give it a fair shake, though I’ll still hand it a B+ rating, making it one of the better beers of the night.
Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale – One of those late arrivals, this one actually held its own against some of the bigger beers I’d been drinking. Big citrus and pine character in the nose and taste, making it seem more like a straight up IPA than a lowly Pale Ale. Quite enjoyable and again, one of the better beers of the night. B+
St. Bernardus Tripel – Another beer I’ve actually reviewed before, though this time my feelings on the beer haven’t changed much. I didn’t have a lot of it tonight, but it’s pretty much exactly what I remember about it. Excellent Belgian Tripel, if not quite my favorite.
Yuengling Oktoberfest – At this point in the night, my palate is pretty well wrecked, but again, it seemed like a really solid, traditional take on the Oktoberfest style. Not exactly my thing, but I could probably put a few of these down in a session if duty called for such. Indeed, I might even prefer this to the ubiquitous Yuengling Lager… B
Lavery Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale – My other contribution for the night, I think this one comported itself quite well. It’s got that big, chewy pumpkin pie thing going on here, but the balance of malt, pumpkin, and spice was pretty well honed here, as I really enjoyed it. Now, again, I was pretty well in the bag at this point, but the bomber I brought seemed to go pretty quickly, and folks seemed to enjoy it. I’ll give it a provisional B+
Phew, that ended up being quite a list of beers. Oddly, they were all pale colored – not a single stout to be had. The closest thing to a dark beer was Nosferatu, which probably couldn’t be counted as pale, but it’s no stout either. Not that I’m complaining. Indeed, I shall declare this gathering yet another success. I’m already thinking ahead to our next meeting…
No, I didn’t get blackout drunk this weekend, but I did lose a bunch of reviews due to a hardware failure on my host. All is well now, but I lost last Thursday’s review, and any notes I took over the weekend. Also, some comments were lost, so sorry about that (for what it’s worth, they were about the recent and awesome trend of non-sour beers aged in wine barrels and other fancy non-bourbon barrels).
But I’ve got a steel trap for a brain, so here are some thoughts on recent drinkery. I’ll include ratings, but I’m sure the nerdiest among you will be wary of their reliability or something. I suppose there’s something to such claims, but that’s no fun and you should probably get over yourself, so here goes (in order of consumption):
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale – Yeah, it’s that season again. I know there are lots of folks that freakout about early availability of these brews, and in July, they might have a point, but it’s mid-September at this point, so I think it’s time to start easing into the seasonals. This is my favorite time of year, when it’s socially acceptable to watch bad horror movies, mutilate pumpkins, and decorate your house with faux-corpses. Oh, and we start to get seasonal beers that are actually distinctive… like this beer. Unfortunately, I found it to be a lackluster example of the style. It’s got the typical elements – pumpkin and assorted pumpkin pie spicing (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc…) – but it came off flabby and limp. It’s a relatively low-ABV beer, which I think lent to the more watery feeling (not that low-ABV automatically means bad or anything – there are beers that do that well). It’s not the worst beer ever or anything and I’d totally favor this over any macro offerings, but I found it disappointing. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.84% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/12.)
Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps – Probably my favorite beer of the weekend, a Scotch Ale made by those wacky French Canadians at Dieu Du Ciel. I’ve previously enjoyed their pale ale, but this thing makes me want to stock up on everything of theirs I can find. It’s a Spring seasonal and apparently not much makes its way down here, but I lucked into a bottle:
Thick and chewy, with a burst of delicious fruity malts and rich, syrupy caramel. It’s got a richness that I normally associate with barrel aged beers, though there’s obviously no bourbon flavors or anything like that. Apparently this is made with Maple Syrup, which probably explains some things (maybe the syrup was oak aged?) A big, eye opening beer, but well balanced, complex flavors make it something to seek out, especially for malt lovers. Right up my alley, and a good way to follow up with that pumpkin beer. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (11.5 oz twist off) Drank out of a snifter on 9/14/12.)
Great Lakes Oktoberfest – As near as I can tell, this is the best reviewed Oktoberfest beer on Beer Advocate (at least, of beers with more than 50 ratings), even beating out the Germans. It’s not really my favorite style, but I always like to sample a few during the season, just to keep sharp. I actually really enjoyed this one. Not sure how close to authentic style it is, but whatever, it’s really solid. Maybe a little sweeter than expected, but it’s got that trademark toasty, nutty malt flavor, along with some atypical (to me, at least) caramel malts. It goes down quite smoothly, and I’d certainly put this towards the top of my rankings for the style (along with Live Oak and Ayinger). B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a big ass mug on 9/15/12.)
Boulevard Brewing The Sixth Glass – I found myself relatively unimpressed with my previous exposure to Boulevard’s celebrated Smokestack series, a double IPA that just wasn’t doing it for me. Fortunately this one, a Belgian-style quadrupel, fared better. Perhaps not a top tier example of the style, but it’s a respectable and welcome redemption for Boulevard. Lots of Belgian yeast, musty and spicy, along with some fruity malt character. Perhaps a little too much sweetness, leading to a slight stickiness that’s not really characteristic of the best of the style. Still, this was a really nice beer, a fitting nightcap to a late Saturday night. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 9/15/12.)
Emelisse Barley Wine Ale – Bonus review! I had actually written up and published a full blown post for this one, and it was witty and brilliant stuff, but it got lost in the ether. Fortunately, my tasting notes were still available, so you get more detail here: Pours a deep, cloudy amber brown color with minimal head. Smells of ripe fruit, caramel, and maybe some booze. Taste is filled with rich, fruity malts, caramel flavors, a little booze, a hint of bitterness in the finish. Full bodied, rich mouthfeel, minimal carbonation, very smooth, a little boozy warming going on, some slickness in the finish before it dries out. Overall, this is a very well crafted, if pretty straightforward English barleywine. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 9/1/12.)
So there you have it. A solid weekend, and I’m excited to enter Halloween season. I’ve got a couple unusual pumpkin ales coming up, as well as an accidentally aged Autumn Maple that’s just calling my name. Harvest beers are starting to show up too, though I get the impression that West Coasters benefit from such practices moreso than we do, though I’m sure I’ll get my hands on some local harvest stuff from Victory and the like. Stay tuned…
My sampling of this year’s seasonal beers has trended heavily towards the pumpkin side of things, but the other major seasonal style is the Märzen, more commonly known as the Oktoberfest beer. Back in the day, brewing during the hot summers was illegal, besides which, results were often poor as there was no real way to cool the brews, leading to bacterial infection and other nasty effects. So beers that were brewed in March (in German, Märzen) were kept in cellars and caves that were cooled with ice to last through the summer. From what I can understand, the modern style isn’t really that similar to the historical style (I wonder if any brewers actually brew their Oktoberfest beers in March?), but they all have a certain character that seems unique to the style.
Warsteiner Premium Oktoberfest – Pours a golden yellow color with a finger or two of off white head. Aroma is malty and sweet, with a bit of a twang that I can’t quite place. Taste features the typical octoberfest maltiness along with some of that twang from the nose. The twang isn’t horrible, but it’s also not particularly doing anything for me either. I don’t really know what to make of this. It’s not horrible, but not particularly accomplished either. I’m not a huge fan of Oktoberfest beers, but I’ve had a lot of varieties that were better than this… C
Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 10/21/11.
I can’t say as though I’ve been particularly impressed with the Octoberfest style of beer. I’ve never had one that I’d consider great or transcendent, though I’ve had a few that would make worthy session beers.
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:
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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.
Back in March, we had a beer club outing at The Whip Tavern, an English style pub. At the time, it was a bit cold and pouring rain, so we resolved to come back later in the year and sit outside. Well, a few weeks ago, we did just that. England doesn’t really have a reputation for great cuisine, but both meals I’ve had here have been really great. The first was Bangers and Mash, and it was perfect. This time around I had some delicious duck contraption. For whatever reason, it seemed like the taplist was a bit more limited this time around, but I still managed to get my hands on a few seasonals and interesting beers nonetheless. I’m going from my sparse Untappd notes and memory here, so take the following with a grain of salt (also no pictures – sorry):
Dock Street The Great Pumpkin – Another pumpkin ale, this one somewhat more subdued in the alcohol and spice departments, which isn’t really a bad thing, but which also doesn’t really set this apart from any other pumpkin ale. Pretty standard stuff, though certainly something I could drink a few of… B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
Weyerbacher Harvest Ale – It’s the time of year when hops are harvested and breweries grab a portion of fresh “wet hops” (normally hops are dried in order to preserve them) to make various hoppy styles (a practice that deserves a closer look on the blog at some point). This beer gave off a really fantastic hoppy aroma. It’s a little on the earthy/grassy side, with just a little citrus peeking through. The taste was nice and bitter, with an almost spicy hop character to it. Perhaps this is just me buying into the hype, but it tasted fresh. It’s not a face melter or a revelation or anything, but a well executed IPA. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
Leavenworth Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen – Not terribly familiar with the style, but it was kinda like a stout mixed with delicate wheat flavors. I have to say, I didn’t really care for it. No off flavors or anything, it just wasn’t working for me. Perhaps the roasty flavors were the cause of my issue, but whatever. I didn’t have a problem drinking or finishing it, and it was certainly more interesting than a macro, but still not particularly inspiring. C (Beer Nerd Details: 4.7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
Theakston Old Peculier – I’ve always heard good things about this beer, but I must have gotten a bad bottle because I didn’t care much for it and the flavors I got out of it don’t seem to match up with much of the BA nerds’ thoughts… I got a distinct apple aroma out of this, which is typically a sign of problems. I also got some raisins in both the aroma and taste. It wasn’t undrinkable, but it wasn’t particularly good either. D (though I may revisit it at some point). (Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.)
Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer – I had this the last time I went to the Whip as well, perhaps because it goes really well with one of the desserts. This time around, I got a better feel for the oak and caramel/toffee flavors in the beer and was quite pleased that I got another. So I will up this to a B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
Spaten Oktoberfestbier – I was going for a German Octoberfest beer; what I got was a skunked bottle of dishwater. Yes, it was in a green bottle, and it was bad. I couldn’t get much out of this beer at all, and didn’t finish it. This does kinda bring up the question of how to rate beers that are clearly defective, but in this case, it’s all due to the green bottle choice, so I have no problem giving it an F. (Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.)
Well, there you have it. Even considering that the drafts were mostly half-pints, I probably drank too much, but it was still a fun night out (we even stayed long enough to play a couple rounds of quizzo). I’m sure I’ll be returning to this place at some point soon.