Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton

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In this corner, weighing in at approximately 90,000 tons per year, current Michigan tart cherry champion: Montmorency. And in this corner, weighing in at approximately 20,000 tons per year, upstart tart cherry challenger: Balaton. Ready? Fight! Alright, so I didn't completely make up those numbers, but the general idea is that Montmorency is the most common sour cherry produced in the United States. Balaton is relatively "new" (I mean, been around 20 years or so in the US), but quickly growing.

Also, a true fight would be to produce two different beers, highlighting each cherry separately... then, like, I dunno, smashing the bottles together and reading shards of broken glass like tea leaves in order to proclaim a victor. Or maybe just be boring and do a double-blind taste test or something; clearly an inferior option (no gnarly broken glass!), I don't know why I even mentioned it. Um, yeah, anyway what we've got here is an even blend of cherry varieties added to one of Jester King's oak-aged farmhouse ales. So let's get with some hot cherry on cherry action:

Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton

Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton - Pours a pinkish red color, so many robey tonez, a finger or two of light pink head. Smells great, lots of cherries, a bit of funk. Taste is sweet, tart cherries, some funky earthiness, finishing with a sour punch. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and moderately acidic. Overall, it's a really good cherry beer, near the top tier but not quite hitting the level of best lambics, etc... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.1% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/30/19. Bout 6, February 2019.

Jester King remains generally pretty solid, but the competition in the farmhouse ale arena is pretty fierce and they're pretty comparable to local purveyors of such things...

The Rusty Nail

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Brewed with iron nails that are allowed sufficient time, oxygen, and water to develop the formation of surface rust, adding an earthy, metallic crunch to an otherwise standard stout. Wait, no, that can't be right. I see there's also a cocktail known as The Rusty Nail that's a mix of Drambuie and Scotch whisky. I'm not especially familiar with it, but Drambuie itself is just Scotch whisky with Scottish honey and added spices and herbs that lend a sweeter, more botanical flavor to the Cocktail. From this, you would expect a beer by the same name to maybe use a Scotch barrel and incorporate similar ingredients and, well, sorta. Fremont opts for the more convenient Bourbon barrels, and just adds licorice and cinnamon bark to the party (which, to be fair, are commonly used descriptors of Drambuie). Pretty sure no rusty iron is added. The imperial oatmeal stout base has a touch of smoked malt too, and the whole thing is aged in 8-12 year old bourbon barrels for 15 months. Here at Kaedrin, we hold Fremont's barrel program in high esteem, so it's no surprise that while this probably doesn't taste much like the cocktail, it's still really good:

Fremont The Rusty Nail

Fremont The Rusty Nail - Pours an inky black color with but a cap of light brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells prominently of cinnamon, with some underlying caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Maybe even some of that licorice if I do the olfactory equivalent of squinting. Taste starts off with a more familiar BBA stout base, rich caramel, hint of roast (or maybe smoke from the smoked malt?), but then that cinnamon kicks in, followed by more barrel character, oak, vanilla, and a boozy bourbon bite in the finish. I'm not a particularly big licorice fan, so it's probably overwhelmed by the other elements of this beer, which means I don't really detect it much (or perhaps it's just adding an indistinct complexity). Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, moderately carbonated, broken up a bit by the cinnamon, which is strong but not completely overpowering. Overall, yup, a fantastic little beer. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce capped and waxed). Drank out of a snifter glass on 8/10/19. Vintage: 2019.

I recently also got a small taste of Brew 3000, Fremont's anniversary barleywine, which was quite nice. Alas, a one ounce taster at a beer fest does not make for a good overview of the beer. Perhaps someday I'll manage to acquire a bottle (perhaps Brew 4000?) In the meantime, I seem to have developed quite a backlog of reviews, which I'll work my way through soon enough...

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...

Plan Bee Double Feature

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I recently mentioned that I'm a boring creature of habit, but during this year's prelude to Operation Cheddar, I did manage to stop in at Plan Bee in addition to Suarez Family Brewery. For the uninitiated, Plan Bee specializes in making beers with local, upstate New York ingredients, some of which are sourced from their very own farm. This includes, as their namesake would imply, honey produced by vicious, unstoppable bees and their blasphemous, inconceivable hive mind. The brewery itself is located not too far away from the Thruway (or Suarez, for that matter). It's a small place that seems to be operating in a literal farmhouse.

Plan Bee Farmhouse

The whole northeast was in the midst of a heat wave when I visited, so the lack of air-conditioning didn't exactly make me want to stick around, but I like the rustic atmosphere and I'm sure it's fantastic in the Fall, Winter, or Spring... On this blog, I've only covered their basic flagship beer, but I've been lucky enough to sample some others and whilst stopping in on this trip, picked up a couple of fruited wild ales (amongst others) that turned out to be rather good.

I drank these a while ago, but I've recently watched a couple of movies for the Six Weeks of Halloween about killer bees that would make a good double feature with these beers. If, that is, you like cheesy horror movies like I do. The Bees is a schlocky creature feature that actually goes to some interesting, if goofy and on-the-nose, places. The Swarm is a big-budget disaster film directed by none other than Irwin Allen and featuring a star studded cast, including Michael Caine. It's also a bit of a bloated mess, overlong and rather silly, but there's some entertainment to be had. Not a bad double feature, considering Plan Bee's meddling with nature will inevitably lead to a killer bee laden apocalypse. They may doom the planet, but in the meantime, we can at least enjoy their beer:

Plan Bee Precious

Plan Bee Precious - Barrel aged NY Wild Ale referemented on apricots from Bittner-Singer Orchards. Pours a very pale yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head with good retention and some lacing as I drink. Smells great, lots of sweet, ripe stone fruit (apricots, apparently) and some musty funk adds a bit of complexity to the aroma too. Taste starts off sweet, lots of that apricot, up front, with some more general tartness emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish, a little bit of oak and funk leavening the proceedings too. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, crisp, and moderately acidic, light to medium bodied, quite easygoing. Overall, this is a pretty damn fabulous beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/3/19.

Plan Bee Beeroo

Plan Bee BeeRoo - Dark NY Wild Ale aged on oak on plums with green and purple shiso leaf. Pours a turbid, murky orange color with a solid finger of white head with decent retention but not a lot of lacing. Smells great, sweet, ripe stone fruits (plums this time), a light earthy funk. Taste is very sweet, plenty of plums, some earthy funk, oak, and a tart sourness emerging in the middle and lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is tightly carbed, moderately acidic, medium bodied. Overall, this is great, maybe not quite as good as Precious, but close enough. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/10/19.

Plan Bee Huitlacoche - NY Farmhouse Ale made with Reid's Yellow, Blue Clarage & Bloody Butcher Heirloom Corns grown by the brewer on the premises. Bonus review! By which I mean that I brought this to a share and don't remember much about it other than that it was a solid little wild ale, but it lacks the intensity of the previously mentioned beers. I mean, you would expect that much. It's not like corn will be more intense than apricots or plums. So not really a review, but I'd definitely drink this again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV bottled (750 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/4/19.

Those fruited beers are a definite step up from my previous experience with Plan Bee, which I'll grant wasn't a huge sample size, but still. Those two were fantastic.

Foundation Riverton Flyer

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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

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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.

Cycle Roadtrip - Fresh Blacktop

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Today we tackle another of Cycle's trademark barrel-aged stouts, a "Vanilla Barrel Aged Imperial Stout on Vanilla Beans" that's part of their annual Roadtrip Series. Not sure what constitutes the roadtrip, but the five beers in the series depict what appears to be a twisting and winding road on their labels and would you look at that?

Cycle Roadtrip Set, it spells Cycle!

I see what they did there. I am, of course, only covering the first one and it's pretty straightforward, but others in the series add in other ingredients like cacao nibs, cinnamon, peppers, maple barrels, coffee, almonds, and coconut. I suspect my inner curmudgeon would prefer the simplest of these (plus, that guy loves vanilla), but I've had enough of Cycle's beers to know that they're probably all great. Let's burn some rubber on this Fresh Blacktop though:

Cycle Roadtrip 2018 Fresh Blacktop

Cycle Roadtrip 2018 Fresh Blacktop - Pours black as night with just a bare cap of light brown head that quickly dissipates. Smells great, tons of vanilla, caramel, a little bourbon and oak, but the vanilla is the true star. Taste starts with rich caramel, that vanilla kicks in, and a light bourbon and oak character hits towards the finish, which isn't as boozy as you'd expect. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, moderate but appropriate carbonation, a little booze. Overall, it's fantastic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/31/19. Vintage: 2018.

I also shared the most recent iteration of Cycle's Monday (part of their Weekday series), which seems very similar to this beer, but also incorporating honey and aged in maple bourbon barrels (it was pretty great stuff, perhaps a little less focused on the vanilla). I expect we'll see more from Cycle on these pages soon enough (though nothing in the direct pipeline)...

Alright, no dumb, intentionally misleading references for this beer (unlike some other Fremont offerings I've written up), but it's worth noting that the Abominable Snowman on the label is wearing a coconut bra, which is pretty fabulous.

As per usual, Fremont blends vintages of aged beer, this time 9, 12, and 24-months old bourbon barrel aged B-Bomb, then they added toasted coconut. Coconut can be a tricky ingredient. At its worst, it can make a beer taste/smell like sun tan lotion. But at its best, it can transform the beer into something akin to liquid Samoa cookies (or Liquid Caramel deLights, depending on which Girl Scout bakery region you live in). I'm happy to report that this is the latter:

Fremont Barrel Aged B-Bomb Coconut Edition

Fremont Barrel Aged B-Bomb Coconut Edition - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells great, tons of toasted coconut, some boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla aromas, but the coconut is most prominent. Taste is very sweet, tons of toasted coconut, some caramel, and plenty of boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla. It's kinda like a liquid Samoa cookie. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, well carbonated, plenty of booze. Overall, a fantastic variant and nice change of pace, but my dumb-dumb instincts always prefer the base. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter glass on 5/24/19. Vintage 2018.

That basically covers my spin through the Fremont KDS and B-Bomb variants. I didn't post about Coffee KDS or Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb because of my general ambivalence towards coffee, but I did share both with friends and they were both pretty damn good (especially Coffee Dark Star, which was fantastic) and received well. In general, though, my feeling is that the plain ol' KDS and B-Bomb are the best. I've got one more Fremont beer in the pipeline, and a couple others that I would love to get ahold of, so you haven't seen the last of these folks on these pages. Stay tuned...

Yoda Potato Strikes Back

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I somewhat recently (ok, I guess starting late last year) started playing around with Tavour. For the uninitiated, Tavour is basically an app that has a small number of beers on offer (around 10 at any given time, with a new beer added about twice a day on average). If the beer interests you, you can buy it, and they'll put it in a crate, and after a certain amount of time your crate ships out and you get to enjoy the beer you've selected. Easy peasy. The shipping takes a while though, and to facilitate their cheap, flat-rate (about $15 no matter how much beer you have), it doesn't really go through the big majors, so you need to schedule your shipment at a time when you'll be home.

It's an interesting experience and it's pretty easy to go overboard. The beers on offer range from exceptional brews from not-locally-available breweries to pretty mediocre stuff that isn't usually nationally distributed for a reason. After a couple of shipments, I've settled into a pretty selective mindset, but it's always fun to take a chance on something new and obsure. IPAs are a little tricky given the shipping lead-time (typically it takes two weeks once the crate ships, and the beers aren't exactly right off the line), so I usually only order them during the last week before my crate ships. Full credit to Tavour though - they're very open about packaging dates on IPAs, which is really great of them.

This is basically a Northeast IPA made with Citra, Lemondrop and Galaxy hops. Listermann was a longtime homebrew store turned brewery (starting a little over a decade ago) in Cincinnati, OH. The beer is named after the brewer's dog (pictured on the can), and apparently Yoda Potato can be found running around the brewpup, scrounging for crumbs and head scritches. Sounds good to me:

Listermann Yoda Potato Strikes Back

Listermann Yoda Potato Strikes Back - Pours a murky yellowish orange color with a solid finger of tight white head. Smells sugary sweet, citrus hops with floral aromas sprinkled throughout. Taste hits those citrus and floral notes, along with some kinda green onion bits, a little balancing bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and a bit viscous. Overall, it's a solid NEIPA, but not quite top tier. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/24/19. Canned on 4/25/19.

Pretty solid stuff, not going to supplant any of my local NEIPA purveyors (of which there are many), but a nice change of pace.

So we all know that the regular Dark Star beer is named after the obscure Carpenter/O'Bannon film (and totally not the popular Grateful Dead song), but this Spice Wars variant is a clear allusion to Dune. And not just any Dune, but the Expanded Dune universe. You know, those novels that were written somewhat recently by Frank Herbert's son Brian Herbert (and co-written with the uber-prolific Kevin J. Anderson). The Spice War in question actually took place before the events of the original Dune and concerned a potential alternative to the Spice Melange (the war ended in disaster as that alternative never panned out). These Fremont folks are probably super-nerds, is what I'm saying (perhaps they should be called Fremen?)

That or this is just, like, a spiced version of BBA Dark Star. Fremont uses their typical practice of blending several barrel ages here as well, this time consisting of a blend of 18, 12, and 8-month Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star in 12-year old Kentucky bourbon barrels. The spice regime includes cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, vanilla, and clove. This sort of thing probably puts this in more of a winter warmer or Christmas season beer, but I couldn't really wait that long, so I just scarfed it down at the first opportunity. Let's delve into this, Harkonnen style:

Fremont Barrel Aged Dark Star - Spice Wars

Fremont Barrel Aged Dark Star - Spice Wars - Pours a deep, dark black color with half a finger of light tan head. Smells very nice, lots of spices along the lines of cinnamon and nutmeg, some ginger showing its face too, hints of underlying stout base like caramel and roast, the spices mostly hiding the barrel in the nose. Taste has more of that rich caramel up front, followed quickly by a cavalcade of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, returning to caramel, with hints of the underlying roast, more spice, and a light bourbon, oak, and vanilla in the finish. It's a real roller coaster of flavor. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, well carbonated, spice combining with booze to provide a little pleasant heat. Overall, it's a very nice winter warmer-ish beer. Doesn't really rival the plain-ol' BBA Dark Star, but it's a nice change of pace (would probably have been better to drink during the holiday season!) I didn't have a problem drinking the bottle, but this is the sort of thing that would be absolutely perfect for a share. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber, grey wax). Drank out of a snifter on 5/10/19. Vintage: 2017.

As per usual, the fancily flavored variant is a nice change of pace, but doesn't quite eclipse the original. I will say that the Coffee variant, which I shared with a bunch of friends due to my legendary ambivalence to coffee, went over very well and was actually pretty damn fantastic. Stay tuned for another Fremont variant (of B-Bomb), coming soon to these pages.

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

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