Other Half Double Feature

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One feature most of these newfangled Northeast IPA brewers have is that they make, like, a hojillion different varieties of IPA. To all the normals out there, this must seem baffling in the extreme. How different can all these IPAs be? Us abnormal hop-sniffing degenerates know what's up though, and these two cans of Other Half that recently found their way to Kaedrin HQ are a pretty good example of distinction.

By all appearances, they're similar DIPAs with the major difference being the hops used. One a trendy Mosaic hopped beer, the other using more traditional Segal Ranch high-oil Cascades, but they come off very different. I mean, not night-and-day, but maybe night and twilight or something. No, I don't like this metaphor anymore. It's hacky and cliched. I'm the worst. Let's just look closer:

Other Half Double Mosaic Dream

Other Half Double Mosaic Dream - First, that is one gorgeous label, eh? Pours a hazy straw yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells great, huge waft of tropical fruit, some resinous pine lurking in the background, sweet candied notes tying it together. Tastes delicious, sweet with that juicy tropical fruit up front, hints of pine in the middle, finishing with just enough bitterness to balance things out (definitely on the sweeter side of the IPA realm, but not at all cloying). Mouthfeel is medium bodied, finely carbed, and very well balanced. Overall, yeah, this is the stuff. Sometimes I feel like Mosaic is overrated, and people do tend to go a little too crazy of these hops, but beers like this show why pretty well. Best Other Half I've had yet. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/22/16. Canned 7/15/16. Batch: Double Downer.

Other Half Magic Green Nuggets

Other Half Magic Green Nuggets - Another nice label, though sometimes the hops on the label look like... broccoli? Anywho, pours a clearer, darker, more golden yellow color with finger of fluffy white head, similar lacing. Smells a little more subdued, sweeter but with a lesser citrus and pine quality. Taste is very sweet, but with a cleaner, more earthy, floral character in addition to the typical, old-school citrus and pine, a hint of booze in the finish. In general, a little more dank than the Mosaic, not really juicy. Mouthfeel is bigger and heavier, but still nice, well carbed, a little more out of whack and boozy, but still quite well crafted. Overall, this is decent, but it reminds me of something more older school. Victory's Ranch S (i.e. another single hopped DIPA with Segal Ranch Cascades) comes to mind, though this is just as good if not better. Indeed, this feels like there might even have been a different yeast in use (producing a cleaner, clearer beer, similar in many ways to the type of stuff Victory produces). Tasty double IPA, well worth trying, but there are easier to acquire analogs out there. B+*

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/22/16. Canned 7/15/16. Batch: Kazaam!

Other Half is clearly the real deal and if I didn't have Tired Hands in my backyard, I'd probably be seeking this sort of thing out more often. As it is, I'm still going out of my way to snag their stuff, so there is that. You will no doubt hear more about them soon.

* But you rated Victory's Ranch S an A-!? Two answers to this: 1. Grade inflation is real and b) I'm the worst. This has been established.

2SP Barrel-Aged Dead of Night Saison

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Ah the Dark Saison, everyone's favorite! By which I mean no one really likes or appreciates these things. They're all liars. But they've got good taste and that's got to count for something, right? The answer is no.

In all seriousness, this is not the most common style, and even the really good ones we do get tend to be more American Wild Ales than saisons... but now we're just splitting hairs. The truth is that it's difficult to really nail this sort of thing, a dark saison aged in American Oak barrels, and I've only had a couple that I've really enjoyed. That being said, I'm always looking for a beer to turn me around on an underwhelming style. It's happened many times before, did 2SP manage it with this entry? Alas, the answer is again: no. It's perfectly cromulent, to be sure, but not something that will change hearts and minds:

2SP Barrel-Aged Dead of Night Saison

2SP Barrel-Aged Dead of Night Saison - Pours a very dark brown color with hints of amber when held in light, a finger of very light tan head. Smells of dark chocolate, hints of that musty saison base, and a little tart funk peeking through. Taste has a nice richness to it, some chocolate, some saison spice, a very light funky tartness, and a slightly discordant boozy note. It never quite reaches that chocolate covered fruit character that the best entries in the style have. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, decent carbonation, a little boozy. Overall, this is interesting and cromulent enough, but I'm not sure it's entirely baked. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/23/16. Batch date: 11/15. Bottle No.: 252. BBL Aged: American Oak.

I've really enjoyed a lot of 2SP's beers, but for some reason the two barrel-aged entries have underwhelmed. It still feels like there's a lot of potential here though, so I will most certainly be trying some more...

Softly Spoken Magic Spells

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After sleeping on these SingleCut beers for a while, I'm slowly making my way through celebrating their entire catalog, and yes, this has been a good idea. As per usual, their beers are named after some sort of rock music reference and in this case, we're talking about a line from Pink Floyd's "Breath (Reprise)" (aka the end of "Time") from The Dark Side of the Moon. It's a wonderfully evocative line, calling to mind love and loss and... hobbits. So lets get to it. I predict mystery, enchantment, and hops:

Singlecut Softly Spoken Magic Spells

SingleCut Softly Spoken Magic Spells - Pours a murky orange color with a finger of white head. Smells of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple, grapefruit and the like, very nice nose. Taste starts off sweet, hits that juicy citrus character pretty hard, followed by some dankness in the middle, finishing back on the tropical fruit tip with just enough bitterness to keep things interesting. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, dense, moderately carbonated, hints of pleasant booze, goes down easy. Overall, yup, it's fantastic, maybe a step above 18-watt. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/23/16. Bottled on 7/13/16. Ultra fresh buddy.

So these beers are quickly escalating to must buys, and you'll no doubt be seeing more from SingleCut in the nearish future.

Funky Buddha Nikolai Vorlauf

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We've already established that Funky Buddha has a thing for kooky ingredients that they are mystically able to incorporate into good beers. Now it's time to take a look at a more unassuming take on a classical style. Sure, it's got oats and lactose, but those aren't particularly unusual in a big imperial stout, so this is about as close as it gets.

At first glance, I could not find any information on this fellow Nikolai Vorlauf, so I concocted a story based on the bear pictured on the label. A performer at the infamous Moscow State Circus, Nikolai got himself into trouble when he started walking on his hind legs and... exposing himself to passers by (hence the censored strip on the label). Thus began Nikolai's decades-long quest for revenge upon the cruel taskmasters at the circus. Alas, this speculation was foiled by the truth (imagine that!) It turns out this beer is named after two different things. One is Nikolai Volkoff, a WWF wrestler famed for his bearhug (he teamed up with The Iron Sheik to win the tag-team championship at the first Wrestlemania). The other is a brewing term, vorlauf, which is the process of clarifying the wort being drawn out of the mash tun. Not as fun as my version, but hey, it works:

Funky Buddha Nikolai Vorlauf, look at the bear on the label

Funky Buddha Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Stout - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger and a half of tan head. Smells sweet, caramel and vanilla, hints of roast. Taste starts off sweet, that caramel and vanilla are here, typical milk stout feel too, a light smokey roast emerges in the middle, finishing on another sweet note. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied up front, but thinning out in the finish, low carbonation, maybe a hint of booze. Overall, this is rock solid, but nothing exceptional. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/15/16. Bottled on 11/18/15.

Many thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Steve for slinging this my way. More southern Florida goodies will be had in the near future, for sure, so stay tuned.

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir

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Once upon a beer trade, many orbital cycles ago, Jay of the quasi-defunct Beer Samizdat sent me a bottle of Eagle Rock Jubilee. Being a sorta hybrid old ale/winter warmer, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. So I kept my eyes open for Eagle Rock. Three years later, and lo, I hath finally secured another bottle of Eagle Rock wares. This is a red wine barrel aged dark mild ale (they use the genuinely sessionable Solidarity as the base) that has soured up nicely. Insert beer-themed film noir joke here:

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of musty, dusty funk, sour, vinous fruit, a little oak and vanilla. Taste has that sour vinous fruit character, less of the musty, earthy funk, finishing with a nice puckering sourness. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light bodied and nimble, well carbonated, with medium acidity. Overall, this is really quite nice. On the higher end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/16/16. Bottled: October of 2015. Batch: 002.

Nice, let's check in on them in another three years to see where they're at. Or, you know, we could try and do it before then. Only following the orbital cycles will tell.

Fantôme Forest Ghost

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So it's called Forest Ghost, but it's got palm trees and a beach on the label? Like, I'm sure ghosts enjoy traveling and vacations and all, but what's going on here? It turns out that this beer is brewed with Brazilian spices and since Brazil is known for their palm trees and forests, et voila! As per usual, I went into this with no idea what to expect and of course bustin' always makes me feel good:

Fantome Forest Ghost - Light

Fantôme Forest Ghost (Light) - Pours a mostly clear dark orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy, dense white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, candied malt, typical earthy Brett funk, maybe hints of fruit too, banana and raisins maybe? Taste has a nice sweetness up front, followed by some of that earthy Brett, noble hops, maybe some unidentifiable spice (peppery? Maybe it is identifiable), and finishing with that raisiny banana note. Mouthfeel is fuller bodied and richer than expected, though it's not a monster by any stretch. Well carbonated, tight, and balanced. Overall, rock solid stuff here, yet another interesting spin from Dany. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/15/16.

I've got the "Dark" version of Forest Ghost in the pipeline as well, though I may end up sharing that one with some friends. Always looking for more Fantôme!

Toad the Brett Rocket

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Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland. Flamboyant ambidextrous Rex apparently fell off the back of a motorcycle. "Fell off the back of a motorcyclist, most likely," quipped ace drummer Jumbo McClooney upon hearing of the accident. Plans are now afoot for a major tour of Iceland.

And thus did Monty Python birth the name of alt rock heroes, Toad the Wet Sprocket, in an old sketch called "Rock Notes". Apparently the band was a big fan of Python and couldn't settle on a name, so they just snagged this one. It was meant to be temporary, but it just stuck.

Fortunately, the multitude of differing and evolving beers that show up in brewpubs lends itself to eccentric names, obscure references, lame/awesome puns, and so on. Thus Toad the Brett Rocket, a dry hopped saison aged in wine barrels with Brettanomyces, was born. With an awesome label depicting a toad riding a barrel-shaped rocket. This is not quite the revelation that Hallowed Ground was, but these bottle releases are not to be slept on. Er, strike that. Let's keep these things manageable and not get out of hand. Nothing to see here, move it along:

McKenzie Toad the Brett Rocket

McKenzie Toad the Brett Rocket - Pours an almost clear golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells very nice, citrusy hops, vinous fruit, earthy Brett. Taste starts off sweet, hints of white wine, lemon peel, citrusy hops, a bit of tartness, then it moves on into more funky, earthy Brett territory, light but lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and lightly acidic, very refreshing summer spritzer type of thing. Overall, this is another winner, though perhaps not quite as great as Hallowed Ground, it still earns an A- in my book. Er, blog. This is a blog.

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/8/16. Released: 6/28/16.

It's nice to see that older local breweries are still managing to do interesting things, and I will most definitely be snagging more McKenzie bottles whenever Nate puts them out.

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel

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Remember the days when anything Belgian, even American imitations of such, was noteworthy? Alright, maybe you don't, but I spent a goodly portion of my youth pining for generally unavailable Belgian abbey ales and so on. Even earlier in the days of this blog, you could see wildly inflated ratings for well made dubbels and tripels. These days I'm so addled by juicy milkshake IPAs, tropical fruit hops, funky brett saisons, tooth-enamel-stripping sours, and bourbon barrel aged wonders that taking a step back and pondering a simple Belgian style tripel actually feels novel and refreshing.

Simple, but I should add: not easy. Most American takes on the Tripel style are a little too sticky sweet, not dry enough, and/or not carbonated enough. These styles are flavorful, but not in a way that is easily masked by adding craptons of hops or coffee or whatever the adjunct of the week is... Belgian beers really get their character through fermentation and yeast, and that's not as easy as it sounds. There's a delicate balance that those Trappist Monks over in Belgium seem to have mastered. The occasional American take works well, and of course we like to explode the style with Apple Brandy Barrel treatments and souring bugs and whatnot, but those things don't really count, do they?

Enter Florida's Barrel of Monks, a year-ish old brewery in Boca Raton that specializes in the regular-ol' Belgian pantheon, including a whole series of Abbey styles and the occasional special release. No IPAs, no Goses, just straight up Belgian standards, and if this tripel is any indication, the 8 years they spent developing these recipes were well worth it. Three Fates is an allusion to three sister deities in Greek Mythology who controlled life and destiny. So let's make like Atropos, cut the thread of this introduction, and get to the review:

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel - Pours a slightly cloudy pale with a finger and a half of head, lots of visible carbonation. Smells nice, light on the fruity esters, heavier on spicy phenols, clove and the like. Taste hits the same Belgian yeast notes, fruity and spicy, cloves, etc... Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, almost effervescent, relatively dry. Overall, this is an exceptional take on the style from an American brewer. Maybe it's just because I haven't had a great one in a long while, but I'm feeling generous so let's go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 6/25/16.

Thanks again must be given to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Steve for slinging this my way. I may need to acquire some more of these fellas wares.

Funky Buddha Wide Awake It's Morning

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Gimmicky beers with kooky ingredients can get old really fast. The problem is that it's really difficult to incorporate some of this stuff into a beer without either A) overpowering the base beer, B) disappearing into the base beer, or C) making you feel like it was constructed in a chemical lab. But when done right, such schemes will make you wonder what sorcery the brewers hath engaged in to make the beer taste like that. Funky Buddha doesn't always manage this feat, but they are amongst the best in the business when it comes to incorporating disparate and sometimes bizarre flavors into their beer. Last Snow, a coconut coffee porter, is astoundingly well balanced and delicious (only my general aversion to coffee holds it back, and honestly, even then I've grown to love this on subsequent tastings).

Now we come to Wide Awake It's Morning, an imperialized version of their Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, a combo that seemingly requires genuine witchcraft to make work. Maple syrup is often used in beers, but its influence ranges from barely noticeable to a sorta transmuted version of maple. Coffee is coffee, of course, and can go sublimely with beer. But bacon? Usually when bacon is referred to in beer, it's got some obscene dose of smoked malt that basically just ruins the rest of the beer. Somehow, though, Funky Buddha pulls all these flavors together, whips them into recognizable shape, and perfectly balances them in this beer. Clearly witchcraft, so let's see what they got out that bubbling cauldron they call a brewery:

Funky Buddha Wide Awake Its Morning

Funky Buddha Wide Awake It's Morning - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head, and yep, it's a porter. Smells like, whoa, yep, coffee, maple syrup, and bacon, maybe a little of caramel and vanilla in the background. Very impressive nose, adjuncty, but not quite artificial feeling even though it feels like it almost obviously has to be artificial. Gah. Taste has more coffee than the nose, roasty malts, chocolate, but the maple syrup and even bacon are there too. I have no idea how they got that bacon to work in here. I mean, maybe it's a bit smokey, but it genuinely has that rich, meaty feeling you get from bacon somehow. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, moderate to low but appropriate carbonation. Overall, this is intense and complex, and asoundingly enough, the proportions are right. A little gimmicky perhaps, but a delicious gimmick, to be sure. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 6/24/16. Bottled on: 4/21/16.

Many thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Steve for hooking be up with some Southern Florida goodies. You will be seeing more from Funky Buddha on here in the nearish future.

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

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Man, what's going on in NYC these days? This is the third brewery we've covered in just the past few months (granted, these breweries have been around for a while and it's not like I'm discovering them or anything, but still) and they seem up to par with their brethren at Other Half and Grimm. I've been a little lazy on the uptake with these things, but I think that's come to an end.

SingleCut is a reference to a body style of guitar, and most of their beer names appear to be music references of some kind. This particular beer is named after an 18-Watt amplifier and while I'm not positive what Billy refers to, Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top fame and bearded glory) seems to favor the 18-Watt in his setup. SingleCut makes a series of "Billy" beers though, including Half-Stack and Full-Stack (also amplifiers), so who knows? What is this, a music blog? Let's get back to the beer, which looks to be one of them newfangled Northeast IPAs, though this is the low-wattage version clocking in at 5% ABV, so you could probably take down a few of these no problem:

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA - Pours a very cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing, very Northeast Milkshake IPA appearance. Smells that way too, tons of green hops, floral aromas, huge, juicy citrus, tropical fruits, mangoes and tangerines and the like, really nice. Taste follows the nose, lots of juicy citrus, some floral and herbal notes, and a nice, tight bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed, crisp, and relatively dry, light body, quaffable stuff. Overall, yup, this is some fantastic stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/16. Bottled: 6/10/16 (I think that's what the label sez).

Yeah, so I think we'll be seeing more from these folks in the coming months, so stay tuned.

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