So this annual sorty into Vermont to secure beer has become a hallowed tradition here at Kaedrin, and is thus well tread ground at this point. Every year, there are some minor tweaks, but the general shape of the invasion has cohered into a firm(ish) state: Start at Warren Store, hit CBC in Waterbury, new Alchemist visitor's center, Lost Nation for lunch, Hill Farmstead, and now Foam, all before heading back to my vacation spot in upstate NY.

It's a fun little day trip, and I'm happy I get to do it, but I'll try not to bore you with repetition, so enjoy some brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, and a few quickie reviews (that are light on tasting notes and heavy on ruminations, so less skippable than usual, heh).

The Alchemist Brewery
A wide shot of the new Alchemist site, it's purty

The Alchemist Brewery Interior
Some brewery equipment at the Alchemist

A Sandwich from Lost Nation
Lunch at Lost Nation, some sort of smoked beef sandwich with pickled onions on top, glorious as always

I know I post a picture of this Hill Farmstead sign every year, but I like it, so you get another.
Obligatory Hill Farmstead sign that I post every year because I like it and you should too

The Hill Farmstead Compound
A wide shot of the Hill Farmstead compound, which kinda makes it sound like a cult and, um, that's not too far off for a lot of visitors (sadly not excluding myself)

The entrance to Foam
The entrance to Foam

Hill Farmstead Difference and Repetition

Hill Farmstead Difference & Repetition - First things first, this is a perfect name to describe the never-ending succession of IPAs that everyone offers these days. To outsiders, this must seem ludicrous. When I got back from Vermont, my brother asked what the difference was between all these IPAs and it's like, ugh, he doesn't want a lecture on yeasts and hop terroir and it's funny, because these mostly taste the same to him. Even to a grizzled veteran, drowning in IPAs can lead to a sorta palate fatigue. You can see differences, but it all starts to feel samey after a while. Or... different but repetitive, if you will. Anyway, this orangish yellow IPA is brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo, & Galaxy hops (just a citra away from my own Crom Approved homebrew) and smells and tastes fabulous, ripe mangoes, citrus, a hint of dankness, with a well balanced, light bitterness towards the finish. Easy going and quaffable. Overall, yeah, no crap, stop the presses, this Hill Farmstead IPA is great. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Foam Experimental Jet Set

Foam Experimental Jet Set - Named after a Sonic Youth album (all of Foam's names appear to be indie-rock references), I don't really know much about it. At first, I assumed it used experimental hops, and maybe that is indeed why they referenced this album, but who knows, the details of the recipe aren't readily available. I was quite impressed with Foam during last year's Operation, and loved their Built to Spill (I snagged another growler of that this year for a friend), so I was excited to get another taste of their wares. It turns out that this is one of the murkier, more turbid entries in the NEIPA style (cleaning the growler revealed lots of sediment gunk in the bottom of the bottle, which seems pretty rare for a growler), but it's pretty darned tasty. It looks like milky orange juice, smells of sweet, juicy citrus hops with a taste that follows the nose. The mouthfeel is a bit chewy and sticky, with some booziness too. Overall, an interesting NEDIPA, a bit boozy for my tastes (I tend to prefer my DIPAs in the 8%ish range), but worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.27% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Hill Farmstead Dharma Bum - An all Simcoe IPA, this one takes me back. Simcoe was, perhaps, one of the first hops I kinda grew to recognize and differentiate. It's always been a favorite for my homebrewing (my first homebrewed IPA was single-hop Simcoe and I still always use it for bittering, at least, when making an IPA). It's got a nice citrus and pine character that isn't entirely overwhelmed by the juicy flavors and aromas imparted by whatever yeast strain HF uses. It makes for an interesting, almost transitional NEIPA beer. Really nice Simcoe character imparted here, and just enough NEIPA juiciness to keep tings interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/6/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo

Simple Roots Citra And Amarillo - When I was walking into the Warren Store (my usual first stop of Operation Cheddar, usually just to get some Lawson's, but I always end up taking a flier on something I've never heard of), I noticed someone carrying two cases of beer from their car into the cooler. I asked, and it turned out it was these Simple Roots cans. After Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo have also been a mainstay in my homebrewed IPAs, and are definitely favorites. Pours a, a, a... is that clear? What the hell guys? Clear golden yellow with finger of white head that leaves lacing. Floral, citrusy hops, a little cereal grain in the background. Light bodied and crisp, well carbonated and quaffable. Overall, do we call these things throwbacks now? Clear, almost west-coast inspired APA? It's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/12/17.

Burlington Amber Ridge

Burlington Amber Ridge 2017 - A "robust" maple amber ale aged in bourbon barrels, my kinda stuff. This beer changes from year to year (last year was a brown ale base), but the idea remains the same. Presumably named after Amber Ridge Maple farm and the maple syrup they provided, it was also aged in Stonecutter Spirits whiskey barrels (of which, I don't know much about.). The result is a pretty darned good take on the style. Nice amber color with off white head, good barrel character, maple, caramel, oak, and vanilla, relatively light and nimble for its 12% ABV (I mean, still medium bodied, but something like this is usually much heavier), I liked this a lot. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 8/12/17. Vintage: Limited Release 2017.

Moar reviews to come, so stay tuned. I'll leave you with some haul pics because that's always fun too:

Can Haul

Can Haul: Alchemist Skadoosh IX, Heady Topper, Pappy's Porter, and Beelzebub. Burlington Strawberry Whale Cake. Upper Pass First Drop and Cloud Drop. Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine. Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo (see above).

Miscellaneous Bottles Haul

Miscellaneous Bottle Haul: Central Waters BBA Scotch Ale, BBA Barleywine, BBA Stout. Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett with Blueberries and regular ol Nightmare on Brett. Tilquin Gueuze. Burlington Amber Ridge (see above)

Hill Farmstead Bottle Haul

Hill Farmstead Bottles Haul: Farmer Wave, Anna, Arthur, Clara, Edith, Florence, Brother Soigné, and Convivial Suaréz.

And if you think that's a lot, well, I didn't actually capture, *ahem*, all of the bottles and cans I bought. I know that's the cool kid thing to do, but that was, like, way too much work and you don't need to see a hundred bottles and cans splayed all over your monitor. Anywho, this basically concludes Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar. More to come in terms of actual reviews, so stick around...

Hill Farmstead Sue

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An overdue recap of Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar (my latest foray into Vermont hunting for beer) is on its way, but in the meantime, let's look at a beer I drank in anticipation of that momentous undertaking.

Sue is a wine barrel-aged version of Susan, which is one of Hill Farmstead's trademark bright, juicy, tropical fruity IPAs. This is... not the most likely candidate for extended aging. However, after two years in the barrels, the beer picks up lots of wine character and lemony tartness, making it much better than what an "aged IPA" would normally conjure.

So let's get dressed up all in black, head over to San Quentin, and drink a beer named Sue*. "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do!?"

Hill Farmstead Sue

Hill Farmstead Sue - Pours a yellowish golden color with a solid finger of long lived head. Smells quite nice, oak, vinous fruit, lemons, and sneaking in the background are some of those dank, faded hops (very delicate aroma, it works). Taste has a nice sweetness to it, tons of that vinous fruit, wine, lemons, a bit of earthy funk, almost no sign of hops until well into the finish. MOuthfeel is medium bodied, crisp, and effervescent, with a relatively dry finish. Overall, much better than its description would imply - it feels like a solid, complex saison rather than an IPA (I'll slap the American Wild Ale label on this one, but you could easily call it a saison). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/28/17. Bottled: 2017 05 11.

Many thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Dana for picking this up on her own invasion of Vermont recently. Several more Hill Farmstead offerings to come, as well as a full recap of Operation Cheddar VI, so stick around.

* Get it? Screaming hot Johnny Cash reference here. Somewhere I have a list of potential beer names, and one of them was A Beer Named Sue. I mean, not "Sue" (like the above beer) but literally "A Beer Named Sue". I have no idea what it will be, and at my current rate of 1 batch per year it may be a while, but I will brew a beer and call it that. Someday.

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Gail Ann Williams of Beer by BART wants to talk about "New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers" and that's a subject that interests us here at Kaedrin, so here goes.

Of course, I've already said my piece on Northeast IPAs and Milkshake Beer (in addition to reviewing lots and lots and lots and lots of them). Indeed, I've just completed a quick, day-long tour through Vermont in order to acquire various Northeast IPAs (and saisons, and stouts, and lagers, and everything else, but NEIPA is clearly the driver), the sixth such incursion in the past five years. Here's some Hill Farmstead Walden from the latest sorty:

Hill Farmstead Walden

Since I've already opined on the subject, I shall try not to repeat myself too much. The short story, in my mind, is that the entire trend is driven by yeast. This harkens back to the days of Greg Noonan and the Vermont Pub & Brewery, where he pioneered the use of the fabled Conan yeast. An English strain, it tends to accentuate the citrusy character of hops, lending a distinctly "juicy" feel to the resulting beer. Yes, the beer tends to be a little hazier (ok, sometimes a lot hazier or downright cloudy), but that's a red herring. You can make super hazy IPAs with a clean American Ale yeast strain, but that won't capture the Northeast feel. Of course, not everyone uses Conan, but when you look into the Hill Farmsteads and Tired Hands of the world, you find some sort of English strain of yeast that accentuates that juicy character. (Again, more detail in my previous post on the subject.)

Part of the reason I attribute this to yeast (other than it actually being the most important, defining difference between NEIPA and traditional or West Coast IPAs!) is that when I finally got my greedy biscuit snatchers on some "Vermont Ale" yeast, I basically took an old IPA recipe and made the same thing (it ended up having slightly higher ABV and slightly less IBUs) but with different yeast and I was shocked at how different the resulting beer was. Yes, again, it was cloudy, but all my homebrew is relatively cloudy. The flavor was light years away from the original brew (which was a nice, solid little West Coast style IPA). Up next, I'm probably going to try a similar recipe, but using the easier to find Wyeast 1318 London Ale III strain (rumored to be close to what local Kaedrin favorite Tired Hands uses).

I could keep going, but I'd just be repeating myself, so let's give a quick whirl to the questions Gail posed:

The encounter: Do you remember your first NEIPA - if so, what was that like? Details, please. And how has your perception of the style changed over time?

I didn't know it at the time, but it was during a Philly Beer Week event with Hill Farmstead. My first was their What is Enlightenment? but I guess that's technically an APA, so let's go with Abner, which was the true revelation of the day. Of course, at the time, I didn't really know exactly how to describe how it was different, I just knew that it was delicious. It was actually during that event that I learned of Tired Hands, our local purveyor of NEIPA, and not long after that, I started going regularly (their lack of regular, staple beers means that I've had literally hundreds of different NEIPAs from them). Shortly after that, I got my claws on some Heady Topper, and I was hooked. I've been in love with the style ever since, and I've gotten better at being able to describe, distinguish, and differentiate NEIPA from regular IPA...

Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend ... why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does "IPA" still apply in a way that's helpful to drinkers?

I tend to go with Northeast IPA, but I'm not too picky and most of the other names work. Ultimately, though, they're still IPAs. I don't think that we absolutely need a new BJCP style or something (though perhaps easing some of the restrictions on clarity and IBU might be in order).

Or the crusade: Testify! Exactly why do you love or hate these beers? How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you. Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?

I love these beers because they're delicious! Is there any other real reason? Of course, there's no accounting for taste. If you don't like them, more power to you (and please lay off, these things tend to be in short supply, so fewer drinkers translates to better/easier availability... but of course, I'm not holding my breath on that count.)

Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style?

I've already explained this a little above, but it basically amounts to pale malt (with much less in the way of crystal than a lot of IPAs, but other adjuncts like oats, rye, and wheat often in the mix), copious amounts of newfangled "flavor" hops (i.e. mostly American citrus and pine bombs, but also NZ and Australian hops, but these days, even Germany is starting to jump on the bandwagon - it's the citrus notes that are probably most important), and of course, the all-important yeast. Note that "cloudiness" is not an absolute requirement. I've had some of these that are no cloudier than an equivalent unfiltered West Coast IPA. Of course, I've had others that literally look like orange juice or chicken broth, but again, not an absolute requirement. Bitterness tends to be lower, but it doesn't need to be (I suspect the juicy character leads to a sweeter perception no matter what the IBU). Milkshake IPA should include lactose. Flaws tend to be in the mouthfeel (some can get excessively grainy) and it's worth noting that these beers often don't last - they sorta require drinking as fresh as possible.

Alright, so I could probably go on and on about this stuff, but the short story is that I like these beers a lot, and I hope they continue to be a thing.

Fantôme Duo

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There are many varieties of Fantôme, but it's always rough trying to figure out what makes each one different. Sometimes the addition is obvious or well known, but most of the time you're just left with the label's cryptic "Belgian Ale brewed with spices" (and occasionally additional "herbs"). The ghost never reveals its secrets! But sometimes you can get an inkling.

First up is this collaboration with Beancurdturtle Brewing's Daniel Fernandez, a beer consultant who collaborates with breweries and helps design and brew beers. Based in California, he seems to spend a lot of time working with European brewers like Fantôme. Ghost Turtle (this feels like a reference to something) is a typical Belgian ale brewed with spices and herbs, but when one fateful knower speculated Anise, he was shot down and told that the beer used: "No anise. Three flowers, a few herbs, and wildflower honey." Still a little nebulous, but better than nothing:

Fantome Ghost Turtle

Fantôme Ghost Turtle - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that has good retention and leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells great, lots of sweet, candied fruit, and that trademark tôme funk. Taste hits the saison spice notes harder than the fruity esters, with earthy funk doing its thing in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, decent carbonation, pretty easy going. Overall, it's a solid little tôme! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/9/17.

Next up is Vertignasse, which again lists unspecified spices and herbs, but a little digging reveals that the green color (which was not quite as vivid in my bottle as some pictures I've seen) at least partially derives from spinach juice (ew? Thankfully this doesn't come off as being vegetal.) Some have also specified that this is a variant of Fantôme's Blanche, a wheat beer that hasn't been made in a while, but which makes sense (this does feel very much like a Belgian Wit). Ultimately not as good as their other Green offering (Magic Ghost), but hey, it ain't easy being green:

Fantôme Vertignasse

Fantôme Vertignasse - Pours a pale, yellowish green color with a finger of white head. Smells mostly of the famed and unspecified spices, but I'll hazard a guess of coriander and cloves, some of which no doubt comes from the yeast, which only bears a hint of funk. Taste is sweet and spicy, that coriander and cloves come through here too, but there's something fruity and juicy here too. It's a good mixture of flavors. Mouthfeel is a little light on the carbonation, but in a way that works, light bodied but not something you necessarily want to chug. Overall, a nice, complex, and light saison that is unique, which is saying something from this brewery. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/16/17.

So there you have it, two new Tômes that have at least partially been explained. But one can never be truly sure what a Ghost consists of... As Dany likes to say: Secrets, secrets. Up next on the Tôme front is the new batch of Été (which, as I understand it, is drastically different than the last one I managed to procure) and a Ghost I'm going to save for Kaedrin's annual Six Weeks of Halloween marathon!

The Veil Quadrupel Feature (Again)

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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.

Tree House Julius

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Oh brother, another top tier Northeast IPA. How big is this tier!? Look, this is definitely one of those tiny breweries with high demand and thus ridiculous hype, so I'd love to be able to wave you off of this stuff, but damn, it seems that the top tier can accommodate this one. Structural integrity appears to be holding.

This is a NEIPA apparently inspired by "Trader Joe's Unsulfured Just Mango Slices" and made with copious, unspecified hops (not sure what the big secret is, my guess: Citra). Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your beers. All hail Caesar! Or at least Julius.

Tree House Julius

Tree House Julius - Pours an opaque, murky orange yellow color with a finger of white, tight bubbled head that sticks around a while and leaves lacing as I drink. Smells great, huge waft of juicy citrus, grapefruit, orange, with some dank pine lurking in the background. Taste hits those citrus hops hard, a little more floral here, but juicy citrus is the driver, with a nice dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, tight, crisp, medium bodied, very well balanced, and relatively dry, making this utterly quaffable. Very flavorful but not a palate-wrecker. Overall, well shit, it's living up to the hype. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/15/17. Canned 07/06/17. Batch: I'VE BEEN TOLD TO EXPECT IT.

A good beer to drink in July. Many thanks to Kaedrin friend Danur for the can! I obviously need moar.

Exhibit 'A' The Cat's Meow

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It seems like I've been covering this sort of thing a lot lately. What do you know, a new Northeast brewery that I've never heard of making great IPAs, will wonders never cease? This is far from Exhibit 'A' in the ongoing trial of the People vs. Northeast IPA (both in timeframes and quality), but it's probably a worthwhile exhibit that is worth pursuing if you're in Massachusetts and feel doing some courtroom sketching or something.

Objection! Speculation. Overruled... but I better be going somewhere with this.

And I am: This appears to be a flagship IPA of sorts, a relatively straightforward NEIPA made with Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops. Your Honor, I present The Cat's Meow:

Listen, I inadvertently took a picture of the back of the can, which shows the cats ass and tail and I want to pretend like thats cool and everything and that I totally meant to do that but in reality I did not. I know you are not really reading this though, so it is probably not an issue. Or maybe it is. Oh no, what have I done.

Exhibit 'A' The Cat's Meow - Pours a hazy yellow orange color with a finger of head that has good retention and leaves some lacing. Smells nice, tropical citrus and dank pine hops. Taste is sweet, with that mango citrus hop character coming through in the middle, followed by some more dank flavors and a little bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed, medium bodied, pretty easy going. This was great when I first poured it, but seemed to lose a little steam as I drank. Overall, this is a good IPA. Not quite top tier, but if I lived in Framingham, MA, it'd be a solid go-to (perhaps at intervals with lagers from that other Framingham brewery, Jack's Abby). Worth checking in on if you're in the area. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a snifter glass on 7/16/17. Canned: 6/29/17 (I think? Hard to read...)

Pretty good for right now. Dammit, I should have said "right meow", what's wrong with me?

Burley Oak Quadruple Feature

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Every summer, I find myself vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland. I'm not one of those people who go to the beach every weekend (I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. /Vader), but I enjoy it every once in a while, and it's a way to get out of my Philly rut in many ways. Including beer! A couple of years ago I discovered Burley Oak Brewing, just a hop and a skip away in Berlin, MD, and it just so happened that this year's OCMD trip perfectly coincided with a can release of four different beers.

Such releases come in many flavors. There are infamous national attractions, like Dark Lord day, that are more like festivals, but the grand majority of releases at most breweries tend to be relatively mellow affairs. You maybe go a little early and wait in line, but often even that level of committment isn't needed. Then there is a kooky tier of relatively small breweries that nevertheless generate an insane demand. Local Kaedrin favorite Tired Hands falls into that category, and while their releases have calmed down somewhat on the whole, they still get insane for certain beers (notably Milkshake variant cans and Parageusia bottles). There are some other PA breweries that generate a lot of angst over releases (i.e. Voodoo, Bullfrog, etc...) but in general, these are the events that make the normals think that beer nerds are degenerates (and, well, they're not wrong).

All of which is to say, I was expecting something akin to a low-level Tired Hands release for this Burley Oak event (i.e. people in line, but nothing bonkers). A friend cautioned me to get there two hours early, which was certainly a surprise for me. I've had a bunch of Burley Oak beer in the past, but with all due respect, nothing that warranted this sort of crazy. Then again, a big release of popular beers on a holiday weekend is just asking for trouble. Fortunately, the timing of my independently planned departure from OCMD perfectly aligned with that recommendation, so that's what ended up happening. And I'm glad it did, because that line got all kinds of stupid as time went on (it basically encircled the entire brewery and parking lot). Let's dive in:

Burley Oak 100

Burley Oak 100 - Double IPA tripple dry-hopped with Mosaic and named after an emoticon? My kinda stupid. - Pours a murky golden yellow color with a finger of white, dense head. Smells nice, lots of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple, and the like. Taste follows the nose, lots of tropical fruit, juicy citrus stuff, mild finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well but tightly carbonated. Overall, this is the best Burley Oak IPA I've had, it compares favorably to the typical NEIPA purveyors, worth waiting in line. And I've had a couple more of these over the past couple of weeks and damn, it's only grown in my estimation. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/17. Canned: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)

Burley Oak Blueberry Strawberry J.R.E.A.M.

Burley Oak Blueberry Strawberry J.R.E.A.M. - Sour ale with lactose conditioned on blueberries and strawberries. Incidentally, the acronym stands for "Juice Rules Everything Around Me", just in case you were wondering. - Pours a cloudy but bright, almost luminous maroon color with a finger of bubbly head that doesn't last long. Smells of bright citrus and a little Berliner-like twang. Taste is very sweet, those strawberries an blueberries coming through in a sorta generic jammy way (not sure I'd pick them both blind, but I might get one), a nice lactic tartness pervades, especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, moderate to high acidity, but nothing untoward. Overall, a nice little tart ale here, though it kinda begs for oak. B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/1/17. Released: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)

Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M.

Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M. - Sour ale with lactose conditioned on apricots and raspberries. - Pours a cloudy but bright reddish orange color with a finger of quickly dissipating head. Smells more of raspberry than apricot, jammy, a little of that lactic funk. Taste hits that raspberry pretty hard (with hints of apricot, but again, I doubt I'd be able to place that blind), very sweet, jammy, with a little less sourness, though it's still pretty puckering. Mouthfeel is rich, medium to full bodied, well carbonated, less acid than the other variant, but still moderate to high. Overall, I like this better than the blueberry/strawberry, but it still sorta begs for some oak to leaven things a little. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/2/17. Released: 7/1/17.

Burley Oak Coffee N' Cream

Burley Oak Coffee N' Cream - Cream ale with Burley Oak's house made cold brew coffee. Hey look, this is apparently the first time I've written about a cream ale. Score? - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of white head. Smells strongly of roast coffee and not much else. Taste hits that coffee flavor pretty hard too, an underlying sweetness peeks out a bit too. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and easy to drink. Overall, this is not a beer for coffee-ambivalents like myself, but if you do like coffee, you may enjoy. For me, I'll give it a C+ because I'm the worst.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/17. Released on 7/1/17.

So there you have it. I probably won't be going to far out of my way for these releases, but there is that annual trip to OCMD, so there's always a chance!

Siren Maiden 2015

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England's Siren brewing started luring unsuspecting and wary travelers to their doom a few years ago, and the first beer they brewed was a big American-style barleywine - their "maiden" voyage, if you will. They promptly stashed the result away in various wine and spirits barrels and got a crew together to come up with a harmonious blend at the end of the next year. They never fully empty the barrels, though, leaving at least 10% left and refilling the remainder with fresh Maiden for the following year's batch. A sorta hybrid solera type system going on here, and I find myself reminded of a few big American efforts along similar lines. The solera-esque nature recalls the Bruery's Anniversary beers, the same-beer-in-different-expressions approach is like FiftyFifty's Grand Cru, and the whole Anniversary blend thing reminds me of Firestone Walker's Anniversary beers... Pretty good company, if you ask me.

This particular edition is the third in the series. About 50% is fresh American-style barleywine, the rest was the previous year's batch aged in a variety of barrels: 33% Auchentoshan (non-peated Scotch that has a reputation as a lighter whisky that makes a good component in blends), 21% Red Wine, 15% Jack Daniels, 9% Pedro Ximenez, 9% Madeira, 4.33% Tequila, 4.33% Glentauchers and 4.33% Banyuls. I've been somewhat lax at covering the whole British beer scene on this blog (hey, I've got a crapton of American breweries to keep up with here, give me a break), but this is the sort of thing that makes me want to succumb to that Siren song:

Siren Maiden

Siren Maiden 2015 - Pours a dark amber-hued brown color with a finger of off-white head. Smells of dark fruit, toffee, oak, with a little whisky and wine character coming through. Taste starts off rich and sweet, with some oak, fruit, and toffee kicking in, but dries up a little towards the finish, which has the remnants of a bitter hop bite. As it warms, more of that dank, aged hop character emerges. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied up front, but thins out a little in the finish, a little booze heat, but nothing untoward, medium to high carbonation, but on point. Overall, a damn fine, complex barleywine. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 7/7/17. Vintage: 2015.

I may have to dig a little deeper into Siren's catalog, as this was quite pleasant. Would love to try other vintages to see how much the differing blends and barrels contribute.

The Session #125: Mark SMaSH!

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session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Mark Lindner SMaSH! No, he's not the Hulk, he's talking about "single malt and single hop" beers. Frankly, this is not a topic I'm particularly well versed in, so I'll just vamp on some of his questions:

Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, ...) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?

This does appear to be trendy amongst a relatively small segement of homebrewers, but I wouldn't peg it as a more general beer trend. I've apparently had a couple of these without even realizing it, which says something. It feels like a trend requires people to be seeking out these beers because they are SMaSH, which isn't something I see much of...

What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally. Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?

There are four main ingredients of beer (water, barley, hops, yeast), so strictly controlling two of them reduces the variables, making it an interesting experiment, especially when part of a series. This can go multiple directions, highlighting a particular malt, hop, or even yeast or water, depending on what you vary from batch to batch. This does sorta depend on having a series of SMaSH beers to compare, but comparative drinking is something I enjoy and can be illuminating for novices or experienced lushes alike.

Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a "style," however you define that?

The great thing about niches is that you can never have too many, so even if I doubt that this will break out into the mainstream, this has a place (again, as mentioned above, doing a series of these could be illuminating). This isn't really a "style" unto itself though, as evidenced by the fact that you can find wildly divergent SMaSH profiles out there (then again, it's not like some established styles are particularly coherent - I'm looking at you, saison!)

Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.

I've only had a handful (that I know of) and they've been decent enough, though I can't think of anything that really melted my face. That being said, I'd be willing to bet I had a great one that I didn't even realize was SMaSH...

Do you brew them?

I have never brewed a SMaSH beer. I wouldn't rule out the possibility and I like the idea of working within restraints, but at the same time, I don't brew often enough to really get the most out of the idea.

Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)

Absolutely! You could achieve this sort of thing with various lager styles (maybe a Kolsh?) or Belgian styles. In fact, as mentioned above, I'm virtually certain that I have had SMaSH beers that would fall under those styles that simply don't advertise the simplicity of their recipes (or that weren't made with SMaSH in mind, but nonetheless qualify as SMaSH anyway).

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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