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.

Suarez Family Brewing Quadruple Feature

Every year, I take a vacation in upstate New York (these are the occasions that inspire the Operation Cheddar trips to Vermont) and this year, I noticed that there’s an alternative route to get to my vacation destination that takes me past a few NY breweries of note. Case in point: Suarez Family Brewery. Dan Suarez cut his teeth working at a series of NYC breweries in the mid aughts (notably Sixpoint and Brooklyn) and then became Sean Hill’s first employee at Hill Farmstead. After a few years there, he set out on his own, creating his family brewery in upstate NY and putting out what he terms “crispy little beers”. From what I can tell, they seem to specialize in saisons (which tend to be similar in character to what Hill Farmstead puts out) and pilsners, with the occasional pale ale thrown in for good measure. The brewery is a small but comfy little place, and Suarez seems to have lots of plans. For now, they’re just serving their beers, but someday they hope to have tacos and other foodstuffs. Until then, we’ll just have to deal with their world class beer. Let’s dive in:

Palatine Pils

Palatine Pils – Before I left on my trip, I bought some local beer to drink whilst on vacation (and before Operation Cheddar), and promptly left that local stuff at home. So when I got to Suarez, I grabbed a few extra four packs of this, which became the unofficial beer of the week. Pours a clear, pale gold color with a finger of white, fluffy head that has good retention and leaves a bit of lacing. Smells of earthy, grassy noble hops with a bready crackery character that fits well. Taste follows the nose, a light bready character with some noble hops kicking in. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and quaffable, really well balanced. Overall, yup, certainly one of the better pilsners I’ve had… B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can on 7/31/18 (picture above is in a willibecher glass in September). Canned 06.27.18. Drink by 08.29.18.

Suarez Proclivity

Proclivity – Country beer brewed with fresh pineapple sage. Pours a pale golden color with a finger of white, fluffy head that doesn’t quite stick around as long. Smells good, similar, light musty funk and hints of spice. Taste is sweet, with a little more spice and some sort of fresh herbs (presumably that sage), finshing with a light tartness. Mouthfeel is a little heftier than Call to Mind, well carbonated, no less crisp or quaffable. Overall, this is also great, maybe a hint better, but overall quite similar. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tumbler glass on 8/1/18. Bottled: 2/18.

Suarez Call to Mind

Call to Mind – Country beer brewed with chamomile, lemon thyme, and lemon balm, briefly ripened in oak casks. Pours a pale golden color with a solid finger or two of white, fluffy head that leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells nice, light musty funk, hints of spice, and some tart lemon lime action. Taste starts sweet, hits that tart lemony note, then moves on to a light spicy funk. Mouthfeel is light bodied, low acidity, well carbonated, crisp, and quaffable. This goes down fast. Overall, it’s a great little farmhouse number, akin to something like HF Florence. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/7/18. Bottled: 3/18.

Suarez Postscript

Postscript – Country beer brewed with a generous portion of raw spelt sourced from their neighbors, then aged in oak casks. Pours more of a pale, straw yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head. Smell is back to the tart lemon character, but with plenty of funky aromas and some spice too. Taste is a little more rounded, starting off sweet, hitting those spicy notes, then some oak, and finishing with a well balanced tartness. Mouthfeel is more like Proclivity than Call to Mind, that oak is definitely doing its thing, well carbonated, moderate acidity, still pretty darned crisp and quaffable. Overall, oh wow, another great farmhouse beer from Suarez, big shocker. Very good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tumbler glass on 7/31/18. Bottled: 5/18.

So yes, well worth seeking out Suarez, and I’ve certainly found a new, regular stop on my way to vacation.

The Veil Quadrupel Feature (Again)

The Veil occupies an interesting space in my beer consumption. I will gladly partake whenever I get a chance, but so far, I am unlikely to make the four hour (one way) trip to Virginia to hit up a release. Of course, I’m also unlikely to make the thirty minute trip to Tired Hands for a release, so that’s the context here. Fortunately, I know people, and through their generosity, I sometimes bag a few cans of this stuff. Last time, we got somewhat uneven results. This time, we’re remarkably consistent, but nothing really melting my face either. A nice mixture of styles though, and it made for a nice weekend of drinking:

The Veil Coalesce

The Veil Coalesce – Czech style Pilsner and someday I’ll be able to tell the difference between Czech and German Pilsners blind, but alas, that day is not today – Pours a slightly hazy golden yellow color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells of earthy, spicy, floral hops. Taste hits those same hop notes, spicy, grassy, floral, with a hint of bready malt, finishing clean. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light bodied, and crisp. Overall, solid little Pilsner that’s a welcome change of pace from all these IPAs I’ve been downing. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 7/21/17. Canned: 07/11/17.

The Veil Snozzwired

The Veil Snozzwired – This is The Veil’s session chocolate milk stout Snozzwanger conditioned on a bunch of Lamplighter Coffee Roasters espresso – Pours ridiculously dark, one of the blackest beers I’ve seen, with just a cap of brown head that doesn’t stick around long. Smells of deep roast coffee, roasted malt, dark chocolate, did I mention roasty? Taste is, yes, extremely roasty, spent coffee grounds, a little bitterness from that roast, hints of dark chocolate taking a back seat to, you guessed it, roast. Mouthfeel is medium bodied (more than you’d think), well carbonated, relatively dry, doesn’t really drink like a 4.4% ABV beer, but it doesn’t feel like a big imperial bruiser either. Overall, it’s solid, but my general lack of coffee enthusiasm has its downsides. B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a snifter on 7/22/17. Canned: 07/11/17.

The Veil Henry From Monkish

The Veil Henry From Monkish – IPA made with Galaxy and Simcoe in honor of Henry Nguyen of Monkish brewing, who, if this can is any indication, is a frost giant from the Thor movies – Pours a turbid, murky orange yellow color with a solid finger of white, fluffy head that has good retention and leaves some lacing. Smells great, typical NEIPA juicy citrus hops, mango, tropical fruit. Taste again hits those South Pacific citrus hop notes (guessing Galaxy here), lots of mango and tropical fruit, finishing with a bit of a bitter bite. Mouthfeel is low to medium bodied, ample carbonation, relatively dry. Could perhaps use a hint more heft, but otherwise this is overall pretty damn nice! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/22/17. Canned: 07/10/17.

The Veil Broz Night Out

The Veil Broz Night Out – An imperial version of The Veil’s low ABV Citra IPA Broz Day Off – Pours a similar turbid, murky orange yellow color with a finger of white fluffy head, good retention, and some lacing. Smells of sugary sweet citrus, like candied fruit, with some floral notes and maybe even some of that booze. Taste is sweet and citrusy, with plenty of floral hops too, juicy, and a little boozy. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, almost creamy, medium bodied, a little sticky nonetheless, and hints of booze. Overall, rock solid DIPA. I tend to like them with a little less booze, but this is nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/23/17. Canned: 07/10/17.

Many thanks to fellow beer nerd Sheik for being a great American and trading me these cans.

Half Acre Pony Pilsner

I have been surprisingly consistent in my newfound but still mild acceptance (an upgrade from moderate disdain) of lagers this summer, averaging about two or three new lagers a month. I still can’t say as though I’ve got the thrills for the pils (not really a pilsner man, Teddy), but I’ve gained a modicum of respect for the style and will probably continue to explore as time and liver capacity permits. To be honest, I’m still at the, “yep it’s a pilsner” stage, which is pretty sad considering how long I’ve been at this, but I am getting better, I swears.

This German style pilsner is one of Half Acre’s staple beers. Would have been nice if this was packaged in those adorable little pony bottles, it is available in handsomely designed pounder cans. Despite the cute little pony in the artwork, I prefer to believe this beer was named after the venerable Hyundai Pony, the South Korean answer to the AMC Gremlin and Ford Pinto (um, legends in their own right). Maybe it was one of the owners/brewers first cars or something. Of course, I have absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever, but this is the internet so it must be true. I… should probably stop now before the libel lawsuits start rolling in. Let’s take a ride on this pony:

Half Acre Pony Pilsner

Half Acre Pony Pilsner – Pours a very pale straw yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head and decent retention. Smells biscuity, some of those earthy hops doing their thing, maybe some faint hints of citrus. Taste has that bready quality to it, biscuits and crackers, some earthy, spicy hops kick in towards the middle and proceed through the finish, those faint citrus hints emerge a little more in the taste too. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and clean, goes down quick and hits that lawnmower beer spot. Overall, a very light (but quenching) take on the style, but enjoyable. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/15.

Decent stuff, as per usual from Half Acre. I’m sure we’ll see more of them on the blog in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled. Or not, I’m not your mother.

Tired Hands Conspectus

Now that the Fermentaria is open, it’s getting difficult to keep up with the sheer variety of awesome emanating from the fine brewers at Tired Hands. I still hit up one location or another pretty often, but the small batch style simply yields a lot of new brews. Also, I’m getting more and more lazy about writing down any sort of notes on the beer I’m having, which means it’s getting difficult to even remember what I’ve had. Still, I manage to squirrel away some notes every now and again, so I might as well append them to the more detailed tasting notes on two highly prized bottles.

First up is Parageusia5, a Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented Ale, aged for approximately 12 months. This is a prized line of sours, and this one takes a distinctly more Flandersy take than previous Parageusias, and while it doesn’t quite live up to the hallowed realms of the first few iterations, it’s pretty darned fantastic. This quote accompanies the beer:

“Trigeminal prisim on a sunny hillside. Will you engage indefinitely?” – Christian Zellersfield

I can kinda, sorta parse that, and my answer is yes. I will engage indefinitely. Or I would, but I only had this one bottle:

Tired Hands Para5

Tired Hands Parageusia5 – Pours a very dark, clear amber color, very pretty when held up to light, with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and acetic sourness, kinda Flandersy. Taste starts rich and sweet, cherries and oak followed by a bit of acetic sourness, vinegar, vinous fruit, finishing on that sour note. Mouthfeel is full and rich up front, but less so towards the finish, moderate sourness and acidity, reasonably well carbonated. Overall, doesn’t quite compare to the initial Parageusia offerings, but is pretty impressive in its own right. Also: match with dark chocolate. Delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/6/15.

Next we have one of them swanky beer and music collaborations, in this case it’s jazz musician Mike Lorenz, who released an album of Black Sabbath and Nirvana covers along with this beer (Jean provided the art for the album, git that vinyl while it’s still around), Scentless And Senseless. Lorenz is a fixture at Tired Hands, playing a show once a week and sometimes humoring the beer nerd masses during bottle releases. This beer is an oak fermented Saison dry hopped with Equinox and Mosaic, right up my alley:

Tired Hands Scentless and Senseless

Tired Hands Scentless And Senseless – Pours a very pale, cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell definitely has that foudre thing going on, a little oak and vanilla, big citrus aromas too, partly from the funk, partly from hops. Taste hits again with that foudre character pretty hard, dry oak, vanilla, some citrusy fruit in the middle, just a bit of tartness, followed by some earthy funk in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light body, hints of sourness, some very dry character happening, right up front too. Overall, a step up from the previously released foudre bottle (Astral Plane), and pretty delicious in its own right. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/12/15.

Dudholio – 4.5% ABV maize saison with motueka and Brett – Great little saison, light Brett feel, moderate fruity hops, and well carbed, really enjoying this! A-

Milkshake IPA – 7.4% ABV blackberry and blueberry IPA brewed with lactose sugar and Mosaic and Citra hops – So a while back one of the “Bros.” from BeerAdvocate published a review of a cloudy pour of HopHands and called it a mess (the Bros. have a bug up their arse about beer clarity, I guess), saying literally “Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with modern styles… No excuses.” In response, Jean and crew have put together a series of “Milkshake” IPAs (that actually use lactose and are also generally cloudy beers); as usual, it’s a fun way to respond to criticism. Anywho, this was a great Tired Hands style IPA, juicy fruit, fuller bodied than normal but velvety smooth, great! A

Hissing at Snakes – 7.5% ABV Rye IPA – Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin, typically great TH IPA with a spicy rye kick, really nice! A-

Neutral Impulse From The Visual Cortex – 6.2% ABV IPA – Nice citrus hops and a surprising honey note, almost creamy mouthfeel… B+

Expansive Vestibule – 6.1% ABV sturdy Porter – Nice nose, dark chocolate and vanilla, with a more roasty taste and a relatively light body… B+

Einsteinium – 5% ABV hoppy sour – Not a huge fan of hoppy sours in general, though this is working just fine… B

Rutilant – 5.9% ABV Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe IPA – Beautiful little IPA, typical Tired Hands stuff but with significantly more carbonation, really nice… (IIRC this is one of the first beers I had at the Fermentaria, which seems to have a different carbonation profile) A-

Temporary Shape of My Own Person – 5.2% ABV Grissette – Like a slightly tart version of a typical th saison, crisp and light, refreshing summer drinking… B+

Vaporizer – 6.8% ABV IPA – Ah, now this is a typical TH IPA , bright, juicy citrus hops, something a little more on the green, grassy, floral hop side as well. Nice! B+ or A-

I’m Sad – 8.5% ABV imperial honey coffee Porter – Interesting interplay between the honey and coffee, both are there, but the combo sorta works for me, despite not particularly liking either honey or coffee! B

Can’t Keep Up 23 – 5% ABV blended sour saison – Whoa cucumbers, blend of HandFarm, Parageusia, and Saisonhands conditioned on lemon, cucumber and agave nectar, tasty! Have liked other Can’t Keep Up beers better, but this is nice. B+

Slowly Rotating Mass With Bright Lights – 5.2% ABV crushable pineapple IPA – Solid IPA, delicious and juicy, very light and quaffable, A-

Rigel – 6.8% Rye India Black Ale – This is all I wrote about this beer, and yeah, I don’t really remember anything about it, though I’m guessing that means it didn’t melt my face (nor did it make me do a spit take in disgust).

Fripp – 4.5% ABV American Bitter – Very nice bitter base with sweeter, more citrusy hop character, quaffable in the extreme! B+

Honey, I Love You – 5.8% ABV Honey Saison – Beautiful little saison here, nice citrus and spice character, a little oak and tartness in the finish… Foudre beer starting to come into its own. Delicious! A-

Avoiding Purgatory #1 – 6.6% ABV India Black Ale – Hrm, surprisingly muted hops and roasted malt here, one of those IBAs that makes me wish I was drinking an IPA or Stout instead of this quasi hybrid. Lack of roast probably has to do with the use of debittered black malt, but the hops (lemon drop and centennial) aren’t doing the trick… Not really bad, to be sure, but TH has done much better in this realm! B

Yup – 5.1% ABV hoppy blonde ale – Amazing citrus nose, lemons and tropical fruit, tasty stuff! B+

Nope – 4.2% ABV dry stout – Polar opposite of Yup, dark, roasty, earthy goodness. B+

Rob “Strawberry” Berliner – 6% ABV strawberry Berliner Weisse – Very nice, lots of ripe, tart strawberry goodness, very well balanced, delicious. A-

Wound – 7.3% oat IPA – Awesome, back to basics Tired Hands style IPA, citrusy and floral, delicious! A-

Calm – 4.2% crushable IPA – Nice light pale ale, quaffable and refreshing. B+

Tuff Leather – 1.5% table saison – Whoa, beer nerd lite beer, nice carbonation profile, grassy, bready, a little watery, but not in a bad way for what this is… Very impressive for such a low ABV beer. B+

It’s Okay – 7.6% ABV IPA – Nice IPA, sweeter than normal, lots of citrus, hints of dank pine, more body than normal, but really good stuff here… B+

Yellow & Green – 5.6% ABV dry hopped Pilsner – Dry hopped with Ella and Helga, 2 hops I’ve never heard of before! Earthy, grassy, floral, with enough citrus to take it away from traditional pils profile, nice! B+

Perfectly Preserved Brain – 8.2% ABV English Smoked Barleywine – Moar earthy than expected, sweet, slightly burnt bread, interesting, but not amazing.. B

Lambos & Mansions – 4.8% ABV crushable Galaxy IPA – Nice citrus hop character, dry, quaffable stuff, very nice! B+

Fuzzy Yellow – 6.3% ABV local peach IPA – Typically solid th IPA, citrusy, balanced, tasty! B+

Petalite Songbird – 5.2% ABV gooseberry saison – Whoa, was not expecting the tart, fruity funk on this, really nice, looks like Emptiness culture stuff, which explains it. Great stuff… A-

Minnow – 8% ABV DIPA – Nelson Sauvin & Citra Very nice, sweet, delicious, juicy, almost vinous stuff. A-

Kuro – 5.5% lime leaf schwarzbier – Muted black malt, burnt sugar, something bright, very nice! B+

Pathway of Beauty – 6.8% ABV Citra IPA – Holy hell, this is amazing, juicy hops, compulsively quaffable, delicious IPA, a kinda successor to Psychic Facelift (one of my favorite TH IPAs of all time)… A

Tired Hands Freedom from the Known

Freedom from the Known

Freedom from The Known – 7.2% ABV Cherry saison – Whoa, this is the most cherry I’ve ever gotten out of a beer, ever. Sometimes cherry flavors in beer are overwhelmed by other elements, but not at all here. Cherries are the star. Kind of like a cherry version of Peche ‘n Brett. Amazing, tart, delicious, a little oak mellows things out, dryish, great stuff. A

Mosaic MagoTago – 7% Mango IPA – An interesting twist on the standard Simcoe Mago, beautiful juicy citrus IPA. Hard to believe this was on at the same time as regular Mago, Pathway of Beauty and Freedom from the Known. An embarrassment of riches at the Fermentaria! A

FunnieDuddie – 6.5% ABV Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe IPA – Typically good th IPA, but damn, this suffers from the comparison to the rest of the tap list right now. B+?

Yellow Fog – 3.7% cucumber Berliner wieise – Really nice, cucumber comes through well, still a nice tart beer, tasty! B

Lychee Milkshake IPA – 7.2% IPA made with lactose sugar, lychee purée, vanilla, and citra/Mosaic hops – Sweet and juicy, lots of citrus, almost rich, full bodied mouthfeel… Great! A-

Phew, that covers about 6-8 months of visits to Tired Hands, and honestly, I probably missed a few things. Indeed! I forgot to mention that the latest couple batches of SaisonHands, Tired Hands’ flagship saison (and one of two beers that is almost always available) that used to be a rock solid standard-approach saison, but now spends time in the foudre and wow! You can really tell, this beer has changed a ton since the Fermentaria opened, and it’s pretty amazing that it’s this regularly available. This is the sort of thing that keeps me coming back (also the potential for that one night they had MagoTago, Pathway to Beauty, and Freedom from the Known on tap, seriously astounding).

Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint Custody

Collaborations always sound fun, but they can be tricky beasts. Sure, it’s always cool to see two brewers hang out and have some fun, but I’ve found the results to be a little hit or miss. Collaborations seem like opportunities to let loose and experiment, so it makes sense that such exercises don’t always yield gold. They’re rarely bad, but a lot of them just feel like they’re floating in a nether-region, not really representing either brewer’s character very well. Sometimes, though, you get something harmonious, more than the sum of its collaborators. Is this collaboration between the lager focused Jack’s Abby and the recently rejiggered hopheads at Otter Creek one of those harmonious combinations? It’s certainly one of the better collaborations I’ve had recently and these two brewers seem to retain their identity whilst still producing something new.

Label sez this is a “nouveau Pilsner” and it lives up to that name by incorporating a pretty traditional Pilsner lager (presumably Jack’s Abby at work) with two new German hops called Huell Melon and Mandarina Bavaria. It turns out that American “special” aroma hop mania has spread to traditional noble hop growers in Germany, who released these two daughters of Cascade hops in 2012. I’ve had Mandarina in a few things before, but I haven’t even heard of Huell Melon. Both are supposed to introduce citrusy characteristics to the more traditional German herbal hop profile. I didn’t realize this when tasting it below, and called these “bright European hops”, which I actually think fits pretty well. Let’s take a closer look:

Jacks Abby and Otter Creek Joint Custody

Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint Custody – Pours a mostly clear pale yellow color with a finger of dense white head, great retention, and some lacing too. Smell features some grainy character along with what I’ll call bright European hops (meaning that it’s not like American or NZ/Australian citrus/pine bombs, but it’s got a citrusy vibe to it), citrus zest and some earthy, herbal notes. Taste has some biscuity character, those citrus and herbal hop notes from the nose come out here too, a little sweetness amply balanced out by earthy bittering hops in the dry finish (not like a heavy handed IPA; more balanced and clean). Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and clean, relatively dry, with a certain quenching feel to it. Overall, another nice take on the style, I might become a lager man yet. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/21/15.

Certainly a worthy collaboration, and both of these brewers are pretty good in my book. Look for more Jack’s Abby reviews in the nearish future…