Elder Pine Choice Pivo

I’ve been observing for the past several years about how lagers are becoming a bigger part of my beer consumption, but it’s not much in evidence. First, I don’t tend to post that much about them on this here blog. Second, I still refer to them with the monolithic label of “lagers,” a key giveaway that I’m the worst. Granted, sometimes lagers don’t have that crazy hook that drives a post, and the whole situation speaks to a certain generation’s (over)reaction to the ubiquity of bland macro lagers put out by the corporate behemoths, but we can do better.

What we’ve got here today is a Czech-style Pilsner aged in an American oak foeder for 3 months. So I guess there are some things to needlessly explore, as this is a distinct take on the style.

There is supposed to be a marked difference between Czech and German pils styles, but I get the impression that a lot of American breweries are just making the same recipe and if they use Saaz hops, they call it Czech (not your brewery though, you guys do it right). In theory, Czech is lower attenuated, more malt forward (using a decoction mash, if that’s what fuels your reactor), and slightly darker than German varieties. I can’t find too much in the way of Elder Pine’s specific process here, but I get the impression they’re doing it right. The lagering time is pretty standard, but using a foeder as a vessel is less common (though not unheard of.) Add all this up, and I think we’ve got a damn fine Pils:

Elder Pine Choice Pivo

Elder Pine Choice Pivo – Pours a clear golden color with several fingers of fluffy, frothy head, good retention, and lacing. Smells great, bready, crisp, herbal, almost spicy hops. Taste hits that same bready, herbal character, finishing with that note of spice, almost clove-like (but not quite Belgian or weizened – much more subtle than that), and a touch of pleasant bitterness. I don’t get much in the way of oak in the nose or taste, but perhaps it’s a sorta subtle x-factor, because this is great. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and refreshing, well carbed and utterly quaffable. Overall, fantastic pilsner, everything you could want out of the style… A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 6/25/22.

Elder Pine seems to have a lengthy catalog of pils varieties and other lagers, so I’m guessing we’ll see more from them soon enough. In the meantime, don’t fret, there’s plenty of barleywines and stouts and other swanky stuff in the pipeline, along with the lagers.

Victory Dry Hopped Prima Pils

I still remember my first trip to Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, PA. I was already a big fan of Hop Devil IPA* and Golden Monkey, but a visit to the brewery promised all sorts of new, unfamiliar beers to explore. I distinctly remember looking up their taplist online and running that up against ratings on Beer Advocate. I know, I know, ratings are dumb and the people who rate things on the internets are dumb and only dumb people think they are meaningful and I’m the worst, but this was like, well over 15 years ago and I didn’t think a bunch of pseudonymous strangers from the internet would steer me wrong.

Anyway, it looked like the best rated beer that was available on tap during that first visit was Prima Pils. I was incredibly disappointed. It tasted kinda like the dreaded Bud/Miller/Coors that was an anathema to beer dorks of the time. Obviously everyone hates the corporate behemoths for their size and abysmal business practices, but at the time, it was even just the flavor of their bland fizzy yellow stuff that people didn’t like. It was a sorta (over)reaction to the ubiquity of these bland macro lagers. Not that Prima Pils is bland, which is where we’re headed here, but there’s a reason the craft boom was fueled by IPAs and other flavorful brews.

Since then, I’ve had that lager revelation and no longer associate that sort of flavor profile with the BMCs of the world. Prima Pils and Braumeister Pils have become some of my favorite go-to pilsners and probably the sort of thing people in this area forget about too often. In other words, way back when, a bunch of strangers on the internet actually did steer me to the right beer, I just couldn’t recognize it at the time. We all live and learn.

Last year, Victory ran a series of small batch beers, and among them was a Dry Hopped version of Prima Pils, using Motueka, Vic Secret, and Galaxy to put a new spin on an old beer.

Victory Dry Hopped Prima Pils

Victory Dry Hopped Prima Pils – Pours a clear, almost radiant bright straw yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing as I drink. Smells nice, the dry hopping contributes IPA-like aromas of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple and the like, a hint of the more underlying herbal, floral character too. Taste features more of that pils base, but it’s got a bit of that bright citrus character from the nose too. The normal bread and cracker pilsner character is there, but this has certainly got the hoppy bite of a pale ale or IPA. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and refreshing, certainly quaffable stuff. Overall, it splits the difference between Pils and IPA in a way that doesn’t make me wish I was drinking one or the other, which is the real accomplishment here. It’s an interesting spin on an old favorite (or rather, a beer that has slowly grown into a favorite over time, but whatever). A-

Beer nerd Details: 5.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/21/21. Canned on: August 2021

Yes, I’m working through a backlog of reviews here, glad you noticed. Moar to come.

* Hoo boy, those old posts from 2010 are something else, aren’t they? Witness the awful pictures, the shaker pint glasses, the use of the word “smooth” in the tasting notes! I won’t claim to be the best (as has amply been established, I’m the worst), but I have improved over time, I think.

Operation Chowder II: Chowder Harder

It’s been quite a while since travel has been advisable at all, let alone travel specifically for the decidedly unhallowed purpose of beer, but I figured it would be fun to reprise the Operation Chowder trip to the Boston area that was quite enjoyable a few years ago. There was no beer-related event or centerpiece that precipitated the trip, just a desire to get away for a few days.

First stop, on the way, was a sortie on Tree House Brewing. We’ve long been a fan of the brewery here at Kaedrin, so it was nice to finally visit the brewery. That said, the NEIPA (or Hazy IPA or whatever you want to call it) has become common enough (if not ubiquitous) such that while Tree House is undoubtedly one of the better purveyors of such styles, you could probably also find a world class example closer to home (unless you live near Treehouse, duh). Definitely worth visiting if it’s on your way or something, but maybe not worth a trip unto itself.

It’s quite a large operation at this point, and they’ve got the whole ordering process down pat. Beautiful brewery and good beer, not much else to ask for… Some of these have detailed tasting notes and were drunk after the trip, others just have vague thoughts (as a lot of stuff in this post will have, since I wasn’t taking detailed notes while on the trip).

The Tree House building
The Tree House Entrance
Tree House Trail Nelson

Tree House Trail Nelson – Solid little pilsner with an extra dose of Nelson Sauvin hops. While the non-traditional hops are there and make their presence known, it’s still primarily a pilsner (i.e. this doesn’t feel like an IPL or something, as some hopped up pilsners can). Easy going and quaffable stuff. It doesn’t quite hit top tiers of pilsner-dom, but it hit the spot. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV on draft. Drank out of a mug on 8/26/21.

Tree House Free to Roam – Helles lager that spent some time conditioning in a horizontal oak foeder, reminiscent of Hill Farmstead’s Poetica series. Pours a clear golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing as I drink. Smells nice, bread, crackers, noble hops, floral and herbal, maybe a faint hint of vanilla and citrus. Taste hits those same notes from the nose, but perhaps not as complex here. Mouthfeel is light bodied and crisp, with slightly lower than normal carbonation (it’s certainly there, but not as much as you’d expect from this type of beer). Overall, quite enjoyable. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/30/21. Canned: 7/24/21. AND WE WILL.

Tree House Very Green – Amped up version of Green, one of Tree House’s flagship beers. Pours a cloudy, murky pale yellowish color, almost brown depending on lighting (look what you need to know here is that it’s not green, ok?), with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells very sweet, candied tropical fruits, citrus, something floral in the background. Taste follows the nose, sweet, tropical fruit, and a balancing bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, balanced, and and almost dry note in the finish. Overall, ayup, pretty great stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/3/21. Canned on 08/25/21.

Tree House Queen Machine Amarillo

Tree House Queen Machine – Amarillo – Part of a series of beers based off of a Juice Machine base, and using that to explore concentrated lupulin pellets (in this case, Amarillo pellets). Similar in appearance and character to Very Green, but this is less tropical, more like orange or grapefruit, a little bit of floral, very nice. Would be curious to try other editions of Queen Machine at the same time to get the hop distinctions – many of these NEIPAs can get to feel a bit… samey, so it would be an interesting exercise. That said, if you’re going to make a bunch of beers that taste similar to this, you’re not exactly doing bad work… A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/6/21. Canned on 08/11/21. THE QUEEN HAS ARRIVED.

Tree House Cobbler

Tree House Cobbler – This is basically Julius conditioned atop freeze-dried peaches. Another murky chicken broth looking thing, but man those peaches just explode in the aroma. The taste is perhaps less, er, explosive, but that actually works in its favor. The base Julius is there with just some added peachy notes. Same well balanced mouthfeel as Julius too. Great stuff here, probably the highlight of my purchases from Tree House. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/10/21. Canned on 08/23/21.

Tree House Mega Treat – A hopped up rendition of Super Treat, which is itself, an amped up version of Treat. It definitely has that sweet, candied hop character that the name would imply, though I think these were the oldest cans I bought (and despite my normal OCD recording of canned on dates, I seem to have misplaced that info this time, yikes), and that NEIPA character does tend to fall off over time. I suspect this would have been better fresh, though it’s no slouch now. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/18/21.

So Tree House: worth stopping in and excellent as always. Once we arrived in Boston proper, we made our way to Fenway for a baseball game. In checking out the local environs, we did spy a brewery called Cheeky Monkey right across from the field. Let’s not dwell on it, but they did not impress, both in terms of beer and customer service (mistakes were made). My guess is that they can get away with this due to their location.

Fenway Pahk and Lord Hobo 617

Fenway itself is always fun, and a member of my fantasy baseball team hit a home run in my presence, which is nice. There may have been higher end beer options somewhere, but the best I found was Lord Hobo’s 617, a tasty but standard NEIPA (named after the area code for Fenway, and it’s naturally 6.17% ABV).

Notch Brewing entrance

The next day we made our way up to Salem for some witchery, which had some appeal, but the highlight of the visit was Notch Brewing. A nice little place right on the waterfront, they had a wonderful selection of low octane lagers and deeply unsexy European ales (to be clear: in this world of hazebros and pastry stouts, “unsexy” is a high complement.)

Notch The Standard

Notch The Standard – Double decocted Czech pilsner hopped with Sterling. As the name implies, this is a pretty standard pils, but it’s one of those beers that could set that standard. Crisp, quaffable, tasty stuff. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV on draft. Drank out of a mug on 8/27/21.

Notch Ungespundet –  Apparently the name of this beer translates to “unbunged” in German; a reference to a specific fermentation strategy that regulates the amount of natural carbonation. Or something like that. Clean, malt forward, bready with a light toast character, reminiscent of an Oktoberfest (though still distinct). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV on draft. Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/27/21.

Notch Altbier

Notch Altbier – I have some coworkers who live in Düsseldorf, and they’re always telling me I need to visit and drink Altbier, which is a specialty of that city. I’ve had a few American takes on the style, and this might be the best I’ve had. Dark bread, toast, a hint of caramel and vanilla, but with a well rounded bitterness. Really tasty stuff.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV on draft. Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/27/21.

And well, well, well, I just noticed that Notch delivers to PA. Will wonders never cease. You’ll be seeing more from Notch on this here blog. They were probably the highlight of this trip, so it’ll be nice to get my hands on more of their stuff.

There were naturally lots of other activities and bars visited upon the way, including some Freedom Trail shenanigans and a couple of standout bars, like The Plough and the Stars (minor taplist but good live music) and Bukowski Tavern (decent tap list, fun not-quite-dive-bar atmosphere!)

While this is the second Operation Chowder, I must admit that the most distinctive foodstuffs consumed during the trip were probably more lobster-related. However, the name “Operation Lobster” has been reserved for the inevitable trip to Maine that will materialize someday. In the meantime, I will leave you with the note that I did manage to procure some of this operation’s namesake during the trip. Prost!

Human Robot Quadruple Feature

Human Robot opened their doors on February 6, 2020. Around a month later, the pandemic lockdowns started. Oof. That’s got to be a rough way to open a brewery. Located in Kensington (think Northeast Philly), they seem to be doing a healthy takeout business and they’re still kicking 9 months later. Nowhere to go but up, I guess.

In theory the name Human Robot is not a reference to the unstoppable army of humanoid robots they’re building in secret, but rather two brewing philosophies. First, the “human” approach is focused on classic, European-style beers made with traditional ingredients and real human body parts. The “robot” is in reference to more modern, far-out techniques and styles like NEIPA, fruit juice sours, “crazy huge stouts”, and wacky ingredients like spare piezoelectric actuators, hydraulics, and proprioceptive sensors.

I’ve been trying to support local breweries during these pandemic-crazed times, so to start off my Christmas vacation, I made the trek into Philly to snag four different Human Robot beers. The location seemed very nice, but PA was in the midst of an extra-festive holiday lockdown, so I didn’t really spend any time there. The beers? I’m certainly enjoying them, especially the, uh, human ones.

Hallertau Pils

Human Robot Hallertau Pils – Pours a crystal clear golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing as I drink. Smells great, bready, earthy, grassy noble hops. Taste follows the nose, bready with the earthy noble hop character. Mouthfeel is perfect, light bodied, crisp, well carbonated, and quaffable. Overall, pretty great damn pils here. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 12/19/20.

Single Axis Citra

Human Robot Single Axis Citra – Single Hop IPA brewed with Citra. Pours a cloudy pale yellow color with a finger of dense white head that has decent retention and leaves a bit of lacing too. Smells strongly of floral hops, candied citrus. Taste starts moderately sweet, those floral and citrus hops, some dank pine pitching in here too, some actual bitterness detected in the finish. Not, like, West Coast IPA bitterness, but more than your typical NEIPA. It’s not there yet, but I can feel this moving towards green onion territory as it gets older, which is hard to capture in a rating (there are beers I love which eventually do this, but they’re great while they’re fresh…) Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbed, pretty easy going stuff. Overall, a rock solid NEIPA. Can’t really outdo the top tier of NEIPAs, but it’s a respectable entry in the throngs of that middle-tier. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/19/20.

Polotmavy

Human Robot Polotmavy – The name translates to “half-dark”, seems similar to an Oktoberfest. Pours a dark amber brown color with a few fingers of off white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells of lightly toasted bread, maybe a sprinkle of chocolate. Taste hits that toasted malt note hard, hints of roast and chocolate, maybe a bit of earthy hops rounding it out. Mouthfeel is light bodied and crisp, well carbonated and quaffable. Overall, it’s a subtlety complex malt-driven beer that goes down easy. Perhaps not quite as accomplished as the Pils, but I’m definitely happy with this thing. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/21/20.

Terrestrial Reflections

Human Robot Terrestrial Reflections – Pours a very cloudy, very pale yellow color, almost milky looking, with a finger of fluffy white head and decent retention. Smells great, lots of tropical fruit hops, mango, pineapple and the like, a hint of pine. Taste hits those tropical fruit hop notes well enough, a little juicy NEIPA thing going on, with a respectable balancing bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry, goes down pretty easy. Overall, damn good NEIPA, better than the Single Axis Citra above, perhaps approaching that top tier. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/21/20.

A very promising start for this new brewery. I can’t say as though this is the most convenient location for me, but the beer is quite good and as we’ll see shortly, there are other breweries in the area worth checking out (look for another post covering that soon enough!)

Heater Allen Triple Feature

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

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

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

Heater Allen McMinnville Harvest Lager

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

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

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

Heater Allen Bobtoberfest

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

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

Heater Allen Pils

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

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

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

Root Down Brewing Double Feature

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

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

Root Down Crispy Boy
Root Down Crispy Boy

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

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

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

Root Down The Mock
Root Down The Mock

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

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

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

Operation Cheddar VIII: Return of the Living Cheddar

This being the eighth iteration of Operation Cheddar, I don’t think we need too much preamble, but if you want to get some insight into my annual sorties into Vermont hunting for beer, you can read all about each assault here:

The plan of attack had settled into something consistent, but the wrinkle this year was that Lawson’s Finest Liquids had finally opened up an expanded production brewery and taproom, which superseded my usual stop at The Warren Store (a great little “country store” and deli that used to be the key location to find Lawson’s, amongst others – I actually kinda miss it). Of course, now that they’ve got all this expanded capacity, they’ve been distributing cans down to the Philly area for a while now, so it’s not quite the rarity it used to be… but it’s a gorgeous location.

Lawsons Finest Liquids Brewhouse

Inside Lawsons Finest Liquids

Lawsons Finest Fireplace

One of these days, I need to make another proper trip to Vermont so that I can actually hang out at these cool taprooms and maybe even drink some beer, rather than popping in and out on a day trip like this. Next up were stops at Craft Beer Cellars in Waterbury and The Alchemist in Stowe (a visit that has become much more easygoing; minimal line-waiting these days, unlike early trips where you could count on an hour long wait as the line proceeded out the door). As per usual, I stopped at Lost Nation for lunch and had this amazing Spicy Pork Shoulder sandwich. It was phenomenal, and probably my favorite thing I’ve had there since my first trip when I had some sort of crazy smoked lamb thing.

Lost Nation sign

A Glorious Spicy Pork Sandwich

From there, we’ve got the usual stops at Hill Farmstead and Foam, always a pleasure. The Hill Farmstead sign looks like it needs a bit of a touchup though.

The Hill Farmstead sign has seen better days

Alrighty then! Normally, I post some haul pics here, but that’s sorta silly and we’re going to go over the important ones below (or I’ve already covered them before). So here are some notes on new-to-me beers that were acquired during this trip (unlike most reviews here, these are long on general thoughts and short on tasting notes, probably more fun to read than usual…)

Foam Wavvves – A collaboration with Burgeon Beer Company (from California), this is a pretty standard but very well crafted DIPA dry hopped with Triumph and Enigma hops using Burgeon’s process. It was the first thing I cracked open upon returning to the vacation compound, and boy was it a good one. Really fantastic stuff, worth the slight detour on the way home. Also of note: I think I’ve got my brother hooked on hazy IPAs. I mean, not necessarily to the point where he’ll seek it out himself, but he seems to enjoy them when I crack something like this open. This is progress for a guy who “hates IPAs”. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a teku on 7/25/19. Growler filled on 7/25/19.

Foam Gaudy Side of Town

Foam Gaudy Side of Town – Alright, so I must admit that I don’t remember much about this other than that it’s also a pretty standard Northeast DIPA, and also that it’s not quite as good as Wavvves. But I got a nice, picturesque photo, and after drinking Cabana Pils all week, this was really nice (uh, not that there’s anything wrong with Cabana Pils, just that my palate was primed for hops by this point). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a teku on 7/26/19. Growler filled on 7/25/19.

The Alchemist Luscious

The Alchemist Luscious – British Style Imperial Stout – So here’s the thing with Alchemist. For a long time, Heady Topper was the only beer they made, and it showed; they refined and optimized that beer to high heaven and it’s an all time great. Once they got some breathing room and extra brewing capacity, they started making Focal Banger, and damn if that wasn’t just as good (if not sometimes even better). Then… things started to fall off a little. I mean, stuff like Crusher and Holy Cow were nice but not quite the transcendent experience. Then I had stuff like Beelzebub, Hellbrook, and Lightweight, which are fine beers to be sure, but nowhere near expectations… For a while, it felt like every new beer I had from The Alchemist was “the worst beer I’ve had from them yet”, which is a bit unfair, as they’re all good beers in an absolute sense, but disappointing relative to the quality of Heady and Focal. All of which is to say that the streak has been broken, and we’re back to world class stuff here. Of course, Imperial Stout represents a crowded playing field, but amongst regular ol’ non-barrel-aged takes on the style, this is pretty fantastic, rich and chewy, well balanced caramel and roast, absolutely delicious. It’s the best new Alchemist beer I’ve had since Focal, and I’m glad I stocked up. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a teku glass on 7/28/19.

The Alchemist Kennys Kolsch

The Alchemist Kenny’s Kolsch – So after that spiel on Luscious, you’d think that this would be another disappointing take, but perhaps because Kolsch isn’t really one of my preferred styles, I found myself really pleasantly surprised by this. Kolsch is not a style that lends itself to hyperbole, of course, but this is a really good one and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Brisk and refreshing, it’s a perfect summer beer. I wish I bought more than one can! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 8/18/19.

Four Quarters Southern Cross

Four Quarters Southern Cross – Without getting into too much detail on the route taken through Vermont during Operation Cheddar, Burlington tends to be around the last stop I make before the 2.5-3 hour dash back to the vacation compound. As such, I’m usually pretty tired and not really in the mood to stop at more places, but I should really make the effort to hit up Four Quarters again. I picked up a couple of IPAs (and moar!) at CBC in Waterbury, and was glad I did. This one is a pretty standard NEDIPA, super cloudy, juicy, dank stuff, made primarily with Southern Cross hops. Not one of the ultra trendy hops, and I can maybe see why, but it’s a cool little change of pace. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/18/19.

Four Quarters Polaris – This was the other single hopped DIPA, very similar, probably should have drank these side-by-side to get a better feel of the differences (ah, double features). You know you’ve been a beer nerd for a while when you start to see single-hop beers with hop names you don’t recognize. It’s hard to keep up these days. Anyways, this was pleasant enough. Not exactly distinct from the throngs of NEIPA purveyors, but well worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/30/19.

Lawson’s Scrag Mountain Pils – As mentioned above, Lawson’s has started distributing around the Philly area, so the only thing they had that I hadn’t seen around here was this Pilsner, supposedly a Czech style, though it felt more German to me. Someday I’ll get better about distinguishing between the two styles. Anyway, the can was almost a gusher? It didn’t, like, explode or anything, but once cracked the head started overflowing pretty quickly (no, I didn’t shake up the can or anything). It’s not terrible, but I suspect I got a bad batch or something, as Lawsons’s is usually pretty spot on. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/16/19.

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #6

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #6 – Wait, this can’t be right, how have I not had this before? Hmmm, well look at that. I’ve had #s 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9, so it seems there are a few stragglers (I think they’re up to #12 at this point). Glad I got to fill in this particular hole in the lineup, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know that Hill Farmstead has crafted yet another fantastic DIPA, typical northeast stuff, sweet, juicy, fruity hops, a little dank, really fantastic stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/28/19.

Hill Farmstead Marie

Hill Farmstead Marie – I’m not usually a fan of straight up Helles lagers, but this was quite nice. A very light, refreshing, crisp little beer, soft and crackery. Made for perfect accompaniment with some light, grilled fish on a hot evening. Not going to light the world on fire or anything, but that’s what the style calls for, I guess. B or B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/11/19.

Frost Research Series IPA

Frost Research Series IPA – Frost is one of those breweries that just gets overshadowed by the hyped trinity (Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lawson’s), but they tend to put out some really great stuff. Glad I took a flyer on this “single” IPA. And look, I took the requisite boring tasting notes this time! Pours a murky, cloudy yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head with decent retention and lacing. Smells nice, sweet tropical fruit, pineapple, really well balanced. Taste is less intense than the nose would have you believe, but it’s got a nice malt backbone with a well balanced ration of tropical fruit hops, finishing with just a touch of balancing bitterness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light to medium bodied, and more quaffable than the cloudy appearance implies. Overall, this is a really nice IPA! A new favorite from Frost, which given the Research moniker, probably means I’ll never get a taste again… A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/25/19. Canned: 07/11/19. Batch: ROLLING THUNDER

Frost Double Shush – Frost has a whole series of variants around what I assume is their flagship beer, called Lush or maybe Plush? I don’t know, the latter was one of my first tastes of Frost, and look, it was a “research series” beer too, so I guess the previously mentioned beer might not be lost to the sands of time forever either. And again, boring tasting notes: Pours a darker cloudy yellowish orange color with a finger of tight bubbled white head, good retention and lacing. Smells good, typical American Hop citrus and Pine combo. Taste is sweet, more malt here, the usual citrus and pine notes in good proportion. Mouthfeeel is well carbed, medium to full bodied, but easy going. Overall, it’s a damn fine DIPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/25/19. Canned: 07/11/19. Batch: POWER OF SEVENS

Wunderkammer Folk Costume 2

Wunderkammer Folk Costume 2 – And so the fraternity of former Hill Farmstead brewers grows again (it’s a pretty distinguished bunch, including Suarez Family Brewery and Casita Cerveceria). This is a mixed culture saison brewed with Farro (one of them fancy grains) and aged in a foudre with rose hips and hibiscus. I’m not sure why there’s an AK-47 on the label, but the whole affair kinda reminds of me of that movie Midsommar, which is a real trip (not an easy film to recommend, but man, folk horror gets to me sometimes). Um, anywho, now for the real terror – tasting notes: Pours a hazy yellow color with several fingers of fluffy head, good retention, and lacing. Smells great, lots of musty Belgian yeast, cloves and an almost stone-fruit character, maybe a hint of funk. Taste is similar, lots of Belgian yeast character, fruity esters and spicy phenols, maybe a hint of something earthy or floral. I don’t get a ton of funk or oak, but it’s there, if subtle. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and highly carbonated (but still pleasantly so). Overall, rock solid Belgian pale ale, actually something I wish more folks would make this well and while the funk and oak are subtle, I actually kinda appreciate the restraint. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/8/19. Released: July 2019.

This concludes Operation Cheddar VIII; already looking forward to part IX. In the meantime, we’ve got some more reviews and even some more beer travel recaps coming your way…

Foundation Riverton Flyer

The mathematician Hari Seldon created The Foundation as a hedge against a dark age projected to last 30,000 years. If successful, the Foundation would limit said dark age to a mere 1,000 years. So goes the premise of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, which is clearly the inspiration behind the Portland, Maine brewery known as Foundation Brewing Company. Or not. But as has been amply established, I like to speculate on more nerdy origins of brewery and beer names than is often actually the case. Still, it’d be cool if, like, some dudes in Maine had a plan to minimize societal ills using their homebrewed psychohistorical methodology. (I’m trying my best, but I’m still an psychohistorical extract homebrewer.)

Um, yeah, anyway this particular beer is called Riverton Flyer, and is named after one of the first roller coasters in Maine (this one, at least, is not misinformed speculation, but a well established fact – even the label sez so!) It’s a German Pilsner brewed with Hallertau, Magnum, Tettnanger hops (a nice mix of noble and new-world). So let’s brush up on our psychohistory and see what this sucker looks like:

Foundation Riverton Flyer

Foundation Riverton Flyer – Pours a clear straw yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy, medium bubbled head that sticks around and leaves lacing. Smells a little bready with grassy, floral hops and a faint touch of citrus. Taste also has that breadiness with a more earthy, noble hop character, floral and spicy. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and clean, well carbed and quaffable. Overall, this is one damn fine pilsner and something I actually would like to try again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 8/23/19. Canned: 05/31/19. Batch: FLYER? BARELY KNEW ‘ER

I’ve been fortunate enough to try a couple of Foundation’s IPAs, pretty solid NEIPA stuff, but in the interest of occasionally talking up lagers, this is the one I chose to review. For now! Obviously interested in trying more from these folks, and one of these days, I need to get me up to main (Operation Lobster?)

Suarez Family Brewery Quintuple Feature

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

Suarez Family Brewery Sign

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

Suarez Family Brewery Crispy Little

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

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

Suarez Family Brewery Cabana Pils

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

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

Suarez Family Brewery Merkel

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

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

Suarez Family Brewery Parlance

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

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

Suarez Family Brewery Local Boy

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

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

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

Suarez Family Brewing Qualify Pils

In this age of bombast and hyperbole, it’s hard to write about lagers. Beers prized for their crisp, clean, delicate flavors, and the subtlety contained therein generally take a backseat to the extreme, the intensity or concentration of flavors in something like an imperial doughnut brownie chocolate stout aged in 30 year old rum barrels. For better or for worse, there’s a lot to talk about with those beers. Where’d the doughnut come from? Was the brownie batter cooked before added to the mash? Or was it a sorta dry-hopped with brownies? What became of that rum? Why was it aged 30 years? Where was the chocolate sourced from? It better damn well be bean to bar chocolate, or there’ll be hell to pay!

Here there’s just the requisite four beer ingredients. The only real distinction to make is that Qualify Pils differs from Suarez Family Brewing’s other pilsner (Palatine Pils) in that it is a little more “hop-accented”. Big whoop; they don’t even talk about which hops they used. It’s probably an extremely unsexy noble hop of some kind too, given the traditional German take on the style. Of course, both of Suarez’s pilsners are pretty damn fantastic, and well worth trying out if you ever get the chance.

Suarez Family Brewing Qualify Pils

Suarez Family Brewing Qualify Pils – Pours a slightly hazy pale yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, fantastic retention, and lacing as I drink. Smells very nice, earthy, almost spicy noble hops, a crackery malt character and maybe a hint of lemon zest. Crisp, clean cereal grains up front followed by earthy noble hops and that hint of lemon zest to put the finishing touch on it. I’d have to try it side by side with Palatine Pils to be sure, but this does indeed seem to have more hop character to it. Or I’m just a weak-willed simpleton who has been bulldozed by the power of Suarez’s suggestion. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and clean, light bodied and crushable. Overall, yup a fantastic pils here. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 2/24/19. Canned: 1.23.19 , Drink By: 5.1.19

Another winner from Suarez, who is batting 1.000 so far in my experience (at this point, I’ve had at least 7 of their beers.) I hope to visit again this upcoming summer, so you’re certain to see more from them here. Keep a watchful eye.