Casey Saison

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Colorado's Casey Brewing and Blending was unleashed upon the world in 2013 and the trading boards have been awash with ISOs ever since. They focus on wild fermentation, oak aging, and blending, which attracts a certain type of beer dork. Including me, apparently.

What we have here is their base saison offering. Made with all Colorado ingredients, this is initially fermented in open oak barrel fermenters, then moved into other oak barrels (presumably sealed ones) for further aging. Casey has probably become much more famous for their fruited variants of this sort of thing, but this one isn't anything to sneeze at. SO STOP SNEEZING AT IT.

Casey Saison

Casey Saison - Pours a hazy, very pale straw yellow color with half a finger of quickly dissipating head. Smells nice, oak, vinous fruit, a little lactic funk, hints of saison spice. Taste is sweet and tart, vinous fruit up front, with some sourness kicking in quickly, followed by some of that yeast spice, finishing with another sour bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, with moderate acidity. Goes down quick. Overall, this is a great sour saison. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/13/17. Bottled: 3/28/17.

I have had the good fortune to have tried three other Casey beers, one of which, the Casey Family Preserves Montmorency Cherry, was one of the best years I had all of last year. I will obviously be on the lookout for more of their wares.

Carton IDIPA

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Every year around Halloween, I gird my loins and make a trek into New Jersey for some spooky beer hunting. Alright, fine, it's a day with some sort of seasonal-themed mini-golf and a haunted restaurant, and while I'm there, I hit up some Jersey liquor stores to see what I can find.

Carton has been a reliable little brewery for a while now, and I really enjoy Boat beer and 077XX, so when I saw this newish IPA offering that was unheard of by me, I grabbed a four pack. I was initially confused by the name, thinking it was some form of Double IPA, though I couldn't figure out what the leading "I" stood for. It turns out that this beer is actually a reference to the Id (and that Carton also makes beers called EGOIPA and SUPEREGOIPA, the latter being a whopping 13% ABV). Very Freudian:

Carton IDIPA

Carton IDIPA - Pours a clear golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells of dank, resinous hops, a little citrus. Taste is sweet, some crystal malt here, with citrus and pine hops. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, easy going. Overall, solid old-school IPA here, a little more muted than I'd expect, but I'm chalking that up to freshness (though it should probably keep this long) and it's not like it's really bad at all or anything. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/28/17. Canned on 10/03/2017.

Carton continues to interest me, of course, and I will always snag something from them when I see it...

Fantôme Boo

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A travelling friend recently procured a bottle of this Fantôme pumpkin saison for me, so I saved it for Halloween. Near as I can tell, this was a one-off brew from the 2012-2013 timeframe (just before the Smoketôme era), which indicates that there are some areas in this country that get lots of Fantôme that just sits on shelves. What is wrong with you people?

Anyways, these bottles had a reputation as being gushers such that, if you turned them upside down whilst opening, they could propel you into low earth orbit. Um, anyway, this sort of thing usually makes for a poor experience (and perhaps explains their current availability five years later) and I can confirm that when this happened with a different bottle a little while ago, it was pretty much a lost cause. Fortunately, my bottle of Boo did not have this problem (and unfortunately, I still haven't visited space). This could be the extra few years talking, but it could also be Fantôme's infamous lack of consistency manifesting. Whatever the case, it was a nice, spooky choice for Halloween night:

Fantôme Boo

Fantôme Boo - Pours a murky, moderately dark orange color with half a finger of white head. Smells sweet, a little spice, and that trademark Tôme funk. Taste has some saison spice to it, lots of earth and funk, all somewhat muted by age. As it warmed up, the spice began to feel more peppery, even a hint of spicy hotness (as opposed to spicy clove or cinnamon or something, which is not here). Mouthfeel is sharply carbonated, medium bodied, and it's got some spicy heat. Overall, this is a minor ghost, a little long in the tooth, but an interesting spin. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/17.

In fairness, I was coming down with a bit of a cold at the time, so perhaps I wasn't in the best condition for a true evaluation. Also, my deprivation chamber was on the fritz, so I was just sitting on my couch watching horror movies (Halloween and Trick r Treat, in accordance with tradition), which also matters. I'm the worst. Anyway, Fantôme is always an interesting drink and I'm sure it won't be long before we tackle another offering...

The Spice Must Flow

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The most wonderful time of the year has rolled around, bringing with it the requisite leaf piles, mutilated pumpkins, paper skeletons, decorative corpses, "fun" cobwebs, and other oxymoronic traditions that are nominally ghastly but suddenly become socially acceptable during this season of seasons. Oh there's also tons of complaining about pumpkin beer and other pumpkin spiced abominations. As per my personal orthodoxy of "extremist moderation", I generally find everyone's reaction here overblown. Pumpkin beers are fine and I always make room for a few in my beer drinking agenda, especially when I can find one that's an interesting take (read: someone put it in a barrel).

This year's entry in the "pumpkin beers can be perfectly cromulent" sweepstakes is Bottle Logic's The Spice Must Flow. Since everyone's first joke of the season is now (and frankly should be) Decorative Gourds, I have started to rely on my backup of Dune related humor. Fortunately, Bottle Logic has already gone and done that work for me. Clearly members of House Atreides. (Kaedrin: Come for the beer, stay for the cutting edge cultural references.)

Anywho, Bottle Logic is one of the new hotness breweries out of Anaheim, CA and their wares have been melting faces amongst a certain subset of the beer dork community, particularly when it comes to their barrel-aging (and I guess coffee-dosing) program. What we have here is an ale brewed with pumpkin, coffee, and spices, then aged in rum and bourbon barrels. Look, I know some of you hate pumpkin beers, but this sort of beer is why I end up drinking some every year. It feels a little weird for this to be the first thing I write about, but then, everyone knows about Fundamental Observation and Darkstar November (I've had the latter, it's great). Not everyone can fold space and time, as the spice melange can:

The Spice Must Flow

Bottle Logic The Spice Must Flow - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells of coffee and pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, a little caramel and brown sugar too. Taste hits some rich caramel, toffee, brown sugar, with coffee and pumpkin spice emerging quickly, followed by oak and vanilla, a hint of bourbon and rum. As it warms, the coffee takes a backseat to the pumpkin spice. I'm sure some would hate that, but my coffee ambivalence means that I kinda love it. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but rich and full bodied, hints of pleasant booze, perfectly balanced. Overall, this is awesome, even with the coffee. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 10/7/17. Vintage: 2017. Batch: 2 (label sez Level 2)

I've had a couple barrel aged offerings from these folks and they're fantastic. Some of their more normal beers are solid too, but the Barrel Aged stuff is where it's at. I will most certainly be looking for more.

Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale

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According to my records, I haven't done a proper review of an Ommegang beer in almost 5 years. Can you imagine that?! Yes, well, you are pretty sharp, so I'm not surprised that you can, indeed, imagine that. My three readers are the best. Anyway, it's perhaps fitting that the last review was Ommegang's XV Anniversary beer, a rock solid Belgian Strong Dark. Since that time, Ommegang seems to be most famous for their Game of Thrones series of beers, popular but mostly unremarkable. Ommegang does occupy a special place in Kaedrin history though (being that they were the ones that introduced me to great beer way back during the turn of the century timeframe), so I'm glad they've stepped up their game for this 20th Anniversary brew.

This beer starts out as something similar to that XV Anniversary beer, a Belgian Strong Dark, but then it spent a few months in old Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels. Sometimes I find that bourbon barrels overwhelm the more subtle Belgian ale characteristics. Will that be the case here? Spoiler: nope, this is great!

Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale

Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale - Pours a clear, very dark amber brown color with a finger of off-white head. Smells great, lots of fruity esters, dark fruit, some spice, clove, and hints of boozy bourbon. Taste hits more of those spice notes than the nose, lots of clove, some sweet, rich caramel, molasses, a little of those fruity esters, finishing on a boozy note. A light touch on the bourbon and oak character, but it's clearly there. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium to full bodied, moderately rich, a little booze. Intense, but very well balanced. The bourbon contributes while not overpowering the more subtle Belgian notes. Overall, this is pretty darn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/14/17. Vintage: 2017.

Good ol Ommegang. It's been far too long, old friends, and I see you've been doing some more interesting stuff, like brett-dosed beers and more barrel aged variants. Nice.

de Garde Oude Desay

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de Garde has made a several variants of a beer called Saison Desay. Near as I can tell, they had no real reason to use the word Desay (I mean, maybe they're big fans of the crappy electronics company or perhaps the unique wooden window found in Kathmandu, but I'm doubting it)... until I saw this beer. Did... did de Garde wait three years to blend this beer just so they could make an Odyssey pun with this beer name? I'm probably just the worst, but I like to think that someone at de Garde was willing to go to such elaborate lengths for such a trivial pleasure.

Anyway, this beer is a blend of one, two, and three year-old oak barrel and oak tank matured Petit Desay. A neat, gueuze-like approach to the blending (though obviously not an actual gueuze, which has additional rules concerning wheat in the mashbill and aged hops, etc...) makes this one of the more intriguing offerings I managed to acquire from these Oregonian spontaneous ballers... I couldn't find any details on the proportions of the blend, but I think it's safe to assume that there is more of the younger components and less of the older. Whatever the case, it's a worthwhile exercise. A beer odyssey, you might say:

de Garde Oude Desay

de Garde Oude Desay - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with tons of head that sticks around and even leaves a bit of lacing. Smells great, saison yeast spicy phenols and fruity esters, definitely a light, raisiny character that aged Belgian styles give off, but also some musty, earthy funk lingering in the background. Taste hits those saison notes up front, spicy with cloves, fruity with vinous fruit, hints of raisin, but this is all overtaken by a growing sourness in the middle through the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, dry, highly carbonated and effervescent, with a moderate and pleasant acidity. Overall, this is the best de Garde I've had yet, certainly reminiscent of the others (they're all saisons of similar stock, so I guess this makes sense), but with more complexity and balance. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/8/17. Batch 2 (I think?)

As per usual, I'm always interested in checking out more from these fellows at de Garde. Alas, nothing in the pipeline. Woe is me.

Tusk & Grain Barrel Aged Blend No. 02

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Saint Archer was an independent San Diego brewery that opened in 2013, but then sold out to some sort of unholy agglomeration of Miller, Coors, and Molson in 2015 (those three macros have been circling each other for a while and while I think they've finally settled on their final form, I don't think it's worth going into too much detail. Suffice to say that they're the number two brewing concern in the U.S. behind AB InBev.) It was one of the earlier sellouts, and of course the news was greeted with much consternation and gnashed teeth amongst the craft beer cognoscenti.

To my mind, whilst not a huge fan of massive corporations pushing around smaller breweries (which manifests in a variety of sneaky ways not worth enumerating at this point), I'm also not going to completely close myself off to the possibility of a beer from sellouts. For all the bluster and fury of the beer dorks, it's not like people aren't lining up for the likes of Bourbon County Brand Stout (made by notable sellout Goose Island) on Black Friday every year. What's more, that beer is still phenomenal. And, you know, I like phenomenal beer. So will this Tusk & Grain (i.e. their series of oak aged offerings) beer justify shelling out shekels for a stealth-macro?

As the name implies, this is a blend of several barrel-aged components. Primarily a barleywine that spent two years in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels, with some two year old imperial stout and a one year old "export" stout blended in for complexity (exact proportions not specified). Apparently the big different between this second blend and the original blend is that the components are much older this time around. Sounds good to me. This approach calls to mind Firestone Walker's Anniversary mega-blends, which frankly sets the bar pretty damned high. I don't think they quite managed to clear that bar, but it's an admirable attempt, and one that I'm glad I tried, macro-ownership issues be damned.

Saint Archer Tusk and Grain Barrel Aged Blend No. 02

Saint Archer Tusk & Grain Barrel Aged Blend No. 02 - Pours a dark brown color with a cap of light brown head. Smells boozy, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, a little roast, a little caramel. Taste hits similar notes, more roast here than the nose, with a crystal malt note, moderately integrated barrel character, typical bourbon, oak, and vanilla notes. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, a little boozy. Overall, it's a nice blend and worth the stretch, but it takes a clear backseat to the Firestone Anniversary blends. A high B+ (possibly an A- if I was feeling generous, but obviously I'm not right now...)

Beer Nerd Details: 12.94% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 8/19/17.

Jeeze, I don't review anything for a couple weeks and my return review is a stinkin macro? A thousand pardons, I shall endeavor to do better. That said, this beer made a decent enough impression that I'd be curious to try some of their other offerings. So perhaps not a full thousand pardons. But a few, maybe? Something like that? Eh, let's just drink a beer and leave it at that.

Anchorage Darkest Hour

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I have a friend with a penchant for Alaskan beers who was always giving me a hard time for only having two reviews of Anchorage beers on the blog, so this one's for you buddy. Also, if you can get me an extra bottle or two of A Deal With The Devil, I will gladly review that (in all fairness, this person has generously shared a bottle of that right excellent barleywine, and it was indeed glorious, but those weren't exactly ideal reviewer conditions and you know how we do here at Kaedrin - journalistic integrity and all that garbage. Alright fine, it's just laziness, you happy now?)

So what we have here is an Imperial Stout brewed with Summit hops, aged in a variety whisky barrels, and bottle conditioned with a wine yeast. This is apparently different from the original batch (released in 2013), which used a Belgian yeast and incorporated Pinot Noir barrels in addition to whiskey barrels. It still feels like a distinct offering in a crowded BBA stout field. To paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, this is the sort of beer that requires "an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth." Or, you know, something like that.

Anchorage Darkest Hour

Anchorage Darkest Hour - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with just a ring of brown head around the edge of the glass. Smells sweet and rich, caramel, liquorish, oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Taste has a sweet, rich caramel to it, with that liquorish pitching in, roasted malt, char, coffee, a hint of spice, finishing on that whisky, oak, and vanilla tip. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, light but appropriate carbonation, sneaky booze bite. Overall, yep, really good example of the style, if not quite as comparatively great as something like ADWTD... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter glass on 8/18/17. Vintage: Batch #3 DEC/2016.

So there you have it. If I ever get my greedy little paws on ADWTD, you will most certainly see that popping up here at some point, but you never know. I've generally enjoyed everything I've had from Anchorage, so maybe we'll get to something else before then...

Cigar City Hard Sauce

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Hard Sauce is a rich mixture of butter, sugar, and booze that is a frequent accompaniment to a large number of holiday sweets, puddings, and pies (as befits its seasonal provenance, other flavorings like vanilla and nutmeg are often added). The term "sauce" doesn't really capture the consistency here though, it's more of a spreadable soft butter than a smooth liquid or glaze. But when paired with warm pudding or pie, it does melt into more of what you'd think. It appears to be English in origin, dating back to King George I (aka The Pudding King), who demanded plum pudding with hard sauce at all Royal Christmas dinners.

Apparently the fine folks at Cigar City prefer their hard sauce paired with warm Pecan Pie, so they brewed this beer with pecans and vanilla, then aged it in bourbon-barrels. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but then, the second half of that quote is "that mediocrity can pay to greatness" so let's not get carried away. So hold on to your hats, Oscar Wilde fans, we're taking a closer look:

Cigar City Hard Sauce

Cigar City Hard Sauce - Pours a dark brown color with a thin cap of tan head that quickly disappears. Smells of, yes, pecan pie, nutty, sweet, caramel and toffee, a little bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste starts with rich caramel and toffee, some oak and vanilla, moves into that nutty pecan character, finishing on a boozy bourbon note. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and rich, tightly carbonated, some sticky booze. Could probably use a bit more heft here, but it comports itself well enough. Overall, this is really nice and the pecans come through strong... not their best Barrel Aged effort, but a decent change of pace. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 8/11/17. Bottled on: 12/21/16.

Many thanks to fellow BeerNERD Ray for the bottle (it's one of the El Catador Club beers). Cigar City always worth a try, and I tend to enjoy their barrel aged efforts...

Upper Pass Double Feature

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This isn't exactly Vermont Beer Roulette, that venerable practice wherein I just grab a bottle (or can) of something in Vermont that I've never heard of and hope for the best, but it's close. In accordance with tradition, I did a little asking around before this latest Operation Cheddar to see if there was anything I should be on the lookout for, and one of the things that came up: get some Upper Pass!

They've only been around for about a year and a half, but if these two cans are any indication, they'll be here to stay. Currently brewing on a tiny one barrel system, they do manage to slip in the occasional big batch at the Von Trapp Brewery in Stowe (I believe my two cans hailed from one of those supplementary batches). I don't know what it is about Vermont that breeds great IPAs, but Upper Pass has joined those hallowed ranks. Maybe it's in the water.

Upper Pass First Drop

Upper Pass First Drop - An "American Pale Ale" (but seriously, pretty much indistinguishable from an IPA) made with Golden Promise and Pilsner malt, a blend of two "East Coast" yeasts (and we know how important that is to the NEIPA style), and a lineup of hops that include Azacca, Centennial, Citra, and Mosaic. Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing. Smells great, sweet stone fruit, almost peachy, with some dank pine peeking through. Taste hits that juicy citrus and dank, resinous pine note hard, peaches and pineapple, with a balancing but only moderate bitter bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry, and quaffable. Overall, this is fabulous stuff. Very well balanced and crushable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/11/17. Canned on: 7/27/17.

Upper Pass Cloud Drop

Upper Pass Cloud Drop - Pours a little paler orange, cloudier, and a half finger of white head and lacing. Smells just as good, less stone fruit and less dank but still juicy and citrusy. Taste hits that juicy citrus hop character, sweet and less bitter, but still relatively balanced. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little thicker than First Drop, sticky with a faint but pleasant hint of booze. Overall, while I think I might actually like First Drop a teensy bit better, this is still pretty fantastic and earns the same grade! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/11/17. Canned on: 7/27/17.

Always something new and great brewing in Vermont, these folks are putting out some great beer and we will be on the lookout upon future sorties into Vermont.

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