Kane BBA Three Hundred Sixty Five

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Allright, stay with me here. In 2012, Kane was celebrating their first anniversary, and they put out a beer called Three Hundred Sixty Five (the significance of this name is obviously a total mystery.) It was comprised of a blend of 70% Belgian-style quadrupel and 30% barrel-aged imperial stout. Most of that was released then, but some of the finished blend was racked back into bourbon barrels for another year. At their second anniversary party in 2013, they incorporated some of that aged juice into their next anniversary beer, Seven Hundred Thirty (again with the cryptic name), but reserved some of it for release on draft on its own. At their third anniversary in 2014, they incorporated Seven Hundred Thirty into their next anniversary beer, One Thousand Ninety Five (I suppose I've worn this naming joke down to the bone, so I'll refrain this time and this time only). I think you're getting the solera-like pattern here, but the point is that at that third anniversary, they finally released some of the original Bourbon Barrel-Aged Three Hundred and Sixty Five in bottles. So if I've got the chronology right, they brewed and blended it, aged it in bourbon barrels for a year, then bottle conditioned for another year before releasing.

Everybody Got That?

Then it made it's way to me after another, er, 3-4 years or so in the bottle. Quite the storied beer. As we've seen recently, Kane's got a pretty darned good barrel program, so let's dig in:

Kane Bourbon Barrel Aged Three Hundred and Sixty Five

Kane Bourbon Barrel Aged Three Hundred and Sixty Five - Pours a murky, very dark brown color with a half finger of off white, fizzy head that does not stick around very long. Smells nice, lots of that bourbon, oak, and vanilla, along with some almost cola-like spice notes. Taste is very sweet, hits some Belgian yeast spiciness, that cola-like character is there too, with a nice, boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla character. Mouthfeel is on the lighter end of full bodied, rich but again on the lighter side of that spectrum, nice tight carbonation too. Overall, it has a neat sorta bourbon barrel aged coke feel to it, with some added Belgian yeast notes for complexity. Having had some of the newer anniversary blends, I suspect that while this was quite nice, it would have been better if not aged as long as it was. Still really happy to have tried it! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.2% ABV bottled (750 ml silver wax). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/22/18. Released: 2014.

Many thanks to Gene of Talkbeer for sending this my way (he was very generously making good on a mixup from a while back that was totally not his fault). I will most certainly be seeking out more from Kane's barrel program.

Again Burley Oak Quadruple Feature

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In what's become an annual tradition, I stopped in at Burley Oak on my way home from a vacation in Ocean City, MD for a big, pre-holiday release. Last year, I was taken aback by how bonkers the release was. This year, I was mildly prepared for the insanity. I wouldn't think to put Burley Oak in the top tier of breweries capable of sustaining releases like this (i.e. TreeHouse, Monkish, Other Half, etc...), but I suspect their location matters, and it helps that it was a holiday weekend.

For their part, Burley Oak has implemented some practices to minimize the strain, such as numbered wrist bands and pre-orders (though not pre-payment, which would make the line move faster, but probably presents challenges of its own). The facility has morphed a bit as well, and is more conducive to the whole beer swap/share environment that inevitably emerges during such events. I talked to a guy who was third in line; he'd arrived at 7 pm the night before and hadn't left. Me? I was 173rd in line. But I still got everything on offer, so there is that:

Burley Oak 100 Citra

Burley Oak 100 (Citra) - Last year's Mosaic 100 was amazingly good. Here we have the same beer, but with Citra hops. Alas, I don't think that this rivaled last year's version, though it's obviously quite nice. Pours cloudy, downright murky, a muted, milky looking yellow color with a finger of white, dense head that sticks around for a while. Smells great, lots of sweet citrus and floral notes. Taste is sweet and citrusy, orange juicy, that floral component kicking in for complexity's sake, with a perfectly calibrated finish. Not noticeably bitter, but not sickly sweet either. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a little chewy, well balanced stuff. Overall, it's great. I'd put the mosaic higher, but this is quite good. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/30/18. Canned: 06/29/2018. Batch: Y WAS THE B BALL COURT WET?

Pretty Girls Like Hazy IPAs

Pretty Girls Like Hazy IPAs - This is a "Pink" IPA (whatever that means) triple dry-hopped with Vic Secret, Summer, and Mosaic hops. Pours a murky pinkish hued color with a finger of off-white (a hint of pink?), dense head that sticks around and leaves some lacing. Smells great, citrus, pine, pineapple, really nice. Taste isn't quite as great as the nose, sweet with a little of that citrus going on, and a balancing bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, moderately dry, again, not quite as good as the nose would have you believe. Overall, it's a solid little IPA, but nothing special. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/18. Canned: 06/29/2018. Batch: BECAUSE OF ALL THE DRIBBLING.

Double Blackberry Mango JREAM

Double Blackberry Mango JREAM - The acronym stands for "Juice Rules Everything Around Me", in case you were wondering, and last year's entries in this series were nice, but didn't particularly blow me away. This one turns things around, perhaps because of the "double" nature providing a wallop of richness, or maybe just Blackberry Mango combo is more to my palate. Pours a hazy, bright red color with a finger of striking pink head. Smells nice, lots of fruit, those blackberries coming through strong, less of the mango. Taste starts off with rich and sweet, with bright, tart fruit coming through in the middle, again with the mangoes taking backseat to the blackberries, finish with a lactic sour kick. Mouthfeel is rich and on the higher end of medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate acidity. It's not something you could slam several of in a row, but it's really great. Overall, this might be my favorite take on a JREAM yet. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/18. Canned: 06/25/2018. Batch: I DON'T TRUST THAT TREE

Strawberry Banana JREAM

Strawberry Banana JREAM - Pours a hazy yellowish orange color with a finger of white head. Smells decent, sweet, I'm getting both strawberry and banana in there, though who knows if I'd be able to pick that out blind. Taste starts off sweet, hits a sugary strawberry and banana note in the middle, finishing with a tartness that escalates into sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but smooth and medium bodied, a sorta sweet soft drink feel to it, but with that acidic note in the finish. Overall, it's not the eye opener that Double Blackberry Mango was, but it's pretty good and compares favorably the ones I had last year. B or B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/6/18. Canned: 06/25/2018. Batch: IT LOOKS A BIT ...SHADY

So there you have it. Not sure it'd be worth getting in line at 7 PM the night before, but I'm glad I got there when I did...

Finback Social Fabric

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Yet another member of NYC's beer renaissance is Finback brewing. Located in Queens, it's not just a borough where you can sow your royal oats or discover a worthy bride anymore. Between Finback and their neighbors at SingleCut as well as brethren in Brooklyn like Other Half and Interboro, things are looking up in the NYC beer scene. This particular beer is a double dry-hopped DIPA made with Mosaic and 007 (the hop formerly known as Idaho 7, which if this beer is any indication, is a wonderful match with Mosaic). The Social Fabric may be fraying, but beers like this might help knit things back together. Yeah, fat chance, but let's give it a shot, eh?

Finback Social Fabric

Finback Social Fabric - Pours a cloudy yellow color with a solid finger of head that sticks around for a bit, leaving a bit of lacing. Smells fantastic, sweet, bright, tropical fruit, mangoes, oranges, and a wallop of pineapple. Taste starts off sweet, hits that bright tropical fruit note, juicy citrus, mangoes, and pineapples, finishes with just enough balancing bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, light, and crisp, well carbonated, drinks like a lower ABV beer. Overall, this is fantastic. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/24/18. (No canning date, but I'm guessing this was within 2 or so weeks of canning.)

Many thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Dana for slinging this can my way. I will most definitely need to be checking out moar Finback in the future. In the meantime, IPA season continues next week, but we'll start to see some other styles float in too....

And so we enter IPA season here at Kaedrin HQ. I know, I know, all year is IPA season, especially these days, but the summer months tend to be an attractor for hops. For whatever reason, my fridge just magically starts to fill with new and unique IPAs around this time of year, much moreso than the winter months. As such, the next several reviews will feature hoppy beers. I usually try to mix things up here, but sometimes the pipeline gets clogged with hops. Oh, the horror!

First up is a pair of Tree House IPAs thoughtfully passed along by Kaedrin friend Danur (many thanks!) I also had two additional Tree House beers at a share (also thanks to Danur), but they were small pours and I didn't take notes because I'm the worst and I know everyone loves tasting notes and finds them super-useful and entertaining to read so I'm sorry that I don't have much to say about them and by the way, I only really took detailed notes on the first of these beers, so enjoy it because the rest of the post is blatant rambling and run-on sentences kinda like this one. Annnd... go:

Tree House Bbbrighttt with Citra

Tree House Bbbrighttt with Citra - I initially mistook this for plain ol' Bright w/Citra, but apparently the extra b's and t's mean something. I think this was, like triple dry hopped instead of whatever they normally do? Something like that? Let's see: Pours a moderately hazy but kinda radiant (bright?) pale straw yellow color with a solid finger of dense, fluffy head. Smells great, lots of juicy citrus (dare I say bright?) with a nice floral component. Taste starts off sweet, again that juicy citrus with a solid floral note, followed by just a hint of balancing bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, perfectly carbonated, crisp, refreshing. Overall, big shock, another great Tree House IPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/22/18. Canned on: 06/12/18. Batch: NNNEVER EVER SAW THE STARS SO BBBRIGHT

Tree House Hurricane

Tree House Hurricane - I didn't take detailed notes for this, because as previously mentioned, I'm the worst and I'm just going to blather about it for a bit and maybe make a Bob Dylan joke (or maybe just mentioning that is enough). My general impression is that this has a great citrus nose, but the taste is dryer and more minerally than I'm used to from Tree House. It's still got your typical citrus hop notes, but they're not quite as pronounced here. But the dryness makes for a good mouthfeel and a nice match with food. Still a pretty good IPA, but not near their top of the line. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/26/18. Canned on: 06/12/18. Batch: EVERYBODY'S PLAYING IN THE HEART OF GOLD BAND

Tree House Juice Machine

Tree House Juice Machine - This apparently very limited release (2 cans pp) appears to be a sorta mix between King Julius and Very Green, with a convoluted hop schedule consisting of Magnum, Columbus, Amarillo, Citra, and Galaxy, resulting in a complexity not quite present in, for example, the above beers. Lots of citrus, juicy tropical fruit, pine, and floral notes, pretty much running the gamut of what hops are capable of. It's totally delicious. That being said, I suspect ratings are entirely driven by rarity here. It deserves a good rating, to be sure, but this gets astronomical ratings. I will abstain from rating because I was not in a hermetically sealed environment like I usually am (but seriously, not ideal conditions here). Who knows, maybe if I have ten more of these I'll think they're worth the trouble.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/5/18. I don't remember the canning date, but I assume it's around 6/12 like the above.

Tree House Very Green

Tree House Very Green - The plain ol' Green was actually my first Tree House beer way back when, shared by a visiting friend from Vermont, and it was phenomenal (once again, I never really wrote about it because it was a social situation and it's not like I drank a whole can, and so on). Like Juice Machine, this one is hyped to high heaven, probably because of the rarity. It's also totally delicious with all that great NEIPA character, juicy hops with some big floral notes - the word green actually does come to mind, but that may just be the power of suggestion and my puny willpower. Again, totes great beer, but the hype and rarity drive the ratings perhaps a bit to far. Of course, here I am posting terrible pictures and no tasting notes, so it's not like I'm immune to hype.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/5/18. I don't remember the canning date, but I assume it's around 6/12 like the above.

So there you have it. I continue to pine for Tree House beers and will most certainly be seeking them out in the future. Many thanks again to Kaedrin friend Danur for braving the Massachusetts wilderness to acquire and share all these beers.

Kane Object Permanence

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Object Permanence is the idea that objects continue to exist even when you are no longer observing them. Unfortunately, beer does cease to exists if you insist on drinking it. Doubly unfortunate when the beer is as good as this one.

Kane was one of the brewers that made this Pennsylvanian take notice of New Jersey, which sez a lot, and I've been particularly impressed with their barrel program. A Night to End All Dawns and its associated variants are spectacular, but alas, I keep losing the lottery and have to make due with the generosity of friends at shares to get a taste of the stuff. I've had a few tastes of other Barrel Aged goodies from them, which have been uniformly great. Fortunately, I did manage to procure this bit of life, an English Barleywine with a complicated malt bill aged in bourbon barrels for over a year. The beer is gone, but the idea continues to exist even though I can no longer drink it. Or something like that. What is this, a psychology blog? No, it's a beer blog, so read my dumb tasting notes:

Kane Object Permanence

Kane Object Permanence - Pours a murky brown color with a cap of off-white head. Smells fantastic, rich toffee, caramel, a hint of dark fruit, and a great bourbon, oak, and vanilla character. Taste follows the nose, rich toffee, caramel, dark fruit, and a boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla character. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, almost creamy, moderate carbonation provides just enough levity, some boozy heat but nothing unwieldy. Overall, this is fantastic, one of the better examples of life that I've had. A

Beer Nerd Details: 11.8% ABV bottled (750 ml waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 4/20/18. Vintage: 2016 (batch 1?)

I've recently come into a couple of more Kane bottles. One is last year's vintage of Object Permanence (huzzah), and the other is a BBA anniversary beer from them. Stay tuned. I may not wait two months to write that one up (assuming I drink it soon). Fingers crossed for this year's ANTEAD lottery too.

Bottle Logic Red Rover

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I drank this on Friday, April 13th, so yes, I'm far behind on reviews here. A thousand pardons. That date being what it is, I decided to have a little movie marathon and broke out my 8 movie set of Friday the 13th films. Yes, I still use physical media from time to time, wanna fight about it? Also, yes, for some reason I love the Friday the 13th series of films, such that I'm probably going to spend a lot more time writing about them in this post than the beer in question. We can fight about that too, if you like.

So I started off with the original Friday the 13th. Made in 1980, it's not an ur example of the slasher genre or anything, but it may be a codifier of a few conventions. In other words, it's derivative as all get out, but it solidified the template that many of the trashier examples of the genre follow. There's not much in this movie that was not done earlier and better by the likes of Black Christmas or Halloween, but this shows how lesser filmmakers imitate greatness. Some elements are still great. Tom Savini's makeup and effects are a step up from earlier examples, even when they're lifting gags wholesale from obscure proto-slashers like Bay of Blood. The ending is also a notable example of a broader horror movie trope (I won't spoil it here, but it's a good one, despite the implication that it's a dream sequence? Whatever, it works.) It suffers a bit in my mind for the lack of Jason, though it's also interesting in that respect. It was fun revisiting this, but it's not the one I usually reach to rewatch.

Next up was Friday the 13th Part 2. Made on the cheap just a year later, this one features Jason for the first time, though he's still in backwoods overalls and with a bag over his head (which again, are elements stolen from earlier films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown, etc...) Again, decent makeup and effects work here, and the film is still aping Bay of Blood for its kills, but the real standout of the film is Ginny (played by Amy Steel), arguably the best final girl of all time. She fights Jason with a kick to the nards, a machete, a pitchfork, a chainsaw, and of course, a cable knit sweater (or, like, her wits, whatever). She also subverts a lot of the supposed final girl conventions, which are generally overstated to make a case that slashers are conservative morality plays (which they can be, but aren't always). Anyway, the film is a bit marred by Steve Miner's unimaginative direction and the nonsensical ending, but it's still a fun little flick.

Ginny kicking ass

Realizing that I probably wouldn't get through all of the series in one night, I then skipped ahead to Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, the much maligned fifth installment of the series. While certainly not one of the best of the series (a distinction that belongs to Parts IV and VI), I do think it's a bit underrated. It's got a neat-ish idea. Since Jason was "killed" in part IV, they decide to follow the little boy who killed him. Now grown up, he's haunted by visions of Jason. Currently living in a halfway house with other troubled teens, people start dying, and it's implied that Jason may be returning, perhaps as a copycat. Or something. It's not a very well executed idea, but the movie still has some fun characters or moments here or there. I mean, come on, how can you not like Violet?

Violet doing the robot

Well that's probably way more about Friday the 13th movies than you wanted to know (and I'm betraying way too much about my knowledge of these movies), so let's get to one of the beers drank whilst watching. Bottle Logic's barrel aged beers are hyped and praised to the point where obtaining them tends to be rather difficult, but it's not so bad for lesser efforts like this one, an Imperial Red Ale made with Cassia Bark (basically cinnamon), aged in Mitcher bourbon barrels, then finished on French oak. It's all done in collaboration with Barks of Love, a dog rescue organization, so it's for a good cause too. Red Rover, Red Rover, I call Jason over:

Bottle Logic Red Rover

Bottle Logic Red Rover - Pours a dark amber brown color with a solid finger of dense, off-white head that leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells very nice, a spicy, cinnamon-like character, floral and almost fruity aromas, woodsy, with a bit of boozy bourbon lurking around. Taste hits the same profile as the nose, sweet and spicy, cinnamon, a little fruit, rich toffee, some bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, hints of spice and booze on the palate, but in a balanced way. Overall, tasty, complex, refined, and balanced stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/13/18. Release: 2018. Level 1.

Alright folks, maybe I won't wait a month to post again. Maybe.

Jester King and Fantôme Del Rey

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The label sez: "We continue on, forward, like phantom people, towards subtle dawn." I don't know what that means, and the ghost infamously never shares its secrets, so we'll just have to let that be, I guess.

The beer itself was originally brewed in Belgium at Fantôme, with Dany and Jester King brewer Garrett Crowell collaborating on the recipe. Speaking of which, unlike most Tômes, we know a little more about the recipe here. It's made with dark candi syrup, truffle honey, coriander, and black peppercorns. After the initial batch in Belgium, Jester King made a batch back at their own brewery and subjected it to extended fermentation and partial barrel aging (and using their distinctive well water and a melange of native, mixed-culture yeast and bacterial beasties.) The name Fantôme Del Rey roughly translates to Ghost of the King, which is actually pretty evocative. But how's the beer?

Jester King and Fantôme Del Rey

Jester King and Fantôme Del Rey (Texas Version) - Pours a striking clear golden orange color with a solid finger of dense white head that has great retention and leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells very funky, lots of dusty, musty Belgian funk going on, a little earthy, some unidentifiable spices, and an underlying fruitiness peeking through. Taste is candy sweet up front, a little sticky fruit, hints of spice and earthy funk, finishing with a whisper of tartness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a little low on the carbonation (but there's plenty there), some stickiness, and only a hint of acidity. A little more carbonation would have done this well. Overall, this is a very nice beer, atypical for Fantôme, which I guess makes sense since this is the Texas version. Well worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/8/18. Blend #1 - 03.22.16.

Always down for another Tôme, and Jester King is certainly a brewery I should seek out more often. Many thanks to fellow BeerNERD Gary for procuring this bottle for me in his many travels.

Hoppin Frog Barrel Aged InTENsity

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And now for something completely different. I know I'm supposed to be writing about this beer, but I've been doing this for almost 8 years at this point and thus getting a little repetitive. Please indulge me. Doubly so, because I'm going to talk about the (for some reason) much maligned Dean Koontz. For the uninitiated, he's a very prolific horror/suspense author that is usually dismissed as a second-rate Stephen King.

To me, though, he's an important author in that he's the one that got me to start reading books. I wasn't, like, illiterate or anything, but I mostly only read books when forced to for school, and Koontz got me reading for pleasure. No coercion necessary! Sure, his novels get repetitive, he has some specific bugaboos that he always focuses on (there's a Scooby-esque satanic bad guy that seems supernatural but often isn't and then a good guy with Police/SWAT/FBI/CIA/Army/Marine/etc... training takes him on and usually falls in love with a strong single mother with a precocious child and adorably intelligent dog along the way), and the stories can be repetitive, but they tend to be pretty interesting and a lot of fun. Movies based on his books have been almost uniformly bad, which might also be part of why his reputation suffers.

Unfortunately, his prolific output also means there's a lot of stuff out there that isn't quite as good as his best (to put it kindly), and from what I've read recently, he hasn't really come close to the success he had in the 80s and 90s. Even given his tendency to repeat himself, when you've got about 100 books in print, it's a little more difficult to find one that suits you, and people these days usually aren't willing to give an author a second chance (a fair strategy for dealing with media overload, to be sure). For the record, I'd recommend checking out Lightning, Phantoms, Midnight, Strangers, or maybe:

Intensity by Dean Koontz

Pretty much the last great book of his that I remember reading was called Intensity. Granted, he didn't use goofy capitalization to emphasize a brewery's tenth anniversary (see? This post is coming together. Kinda.), but I have to admit that when I saw this bottle of beer, I immediately thought of Koontz's novel. It was one of the flood of serial killer tales that besieged us in the mid 1990s, and to my mind, one of the better ones. A gruesome but well paced and compulsive read.

It's been a solid twenty years since I've read it, but I still remember a lot of details, which isn't something you expect from popular airport thrillers like this. Some of these details are trivial, like the killer's choice of music for his cross country murder spree: Angelo Badalamenti (most famous as a film and TV composer for David Lynch, amongst others - and an odd choice to be employed like this). There's this recurring bit with an albino deer that was mysterious but still evocative. There's one decision from our protagonist that might be difficult to swallow, but once you get past that the book doesn't really let up. It's genuinely tense, and if I remember correctly, Koontz even sometimes reverts to present tense at times to emphasize the tension (a move that could be jarring and cheap, but which I remember working well). For once, Koontz's obvious love of dogs is subverted by his use of them in a villainous fashion. The killer's refusal to conform to textbook serial killer tropes (which was becoming a trope of itself at the time, to be sure) was effective, and there were some neat twists in that arena.

At this point, you've probably seen a dozen similar tales, so this might be old hat, but it was pretty great for teenaged me. There was a TV mini-series that was pretty much par for the course (not particularly worth seeking out, but not an abomination either), and it's worth noting that the first half of High Tension is remarkably similar to the first half of Intensity, though the stories diverge considerably from there (even so, this might be the only real worthwhile Koontz adaptation, even though it's not really acknowledged as such).

That a beer would remind me of a serial killer story is probably something best left unexplored, but since this is, in fact, a beer blog, let's take a closer look at this beer brewed in honor of Hoppin' Frog's tenth anniversary. It's a hoppy, American-style barleywine that was aged in bourbon barrels for six months, then dry hopped for some extra kick. Of course, this was released in 2016, so that fresh hop character has probably dissipated... or maybe not. Let's drink it and find out:

Hoppin Frog Barrel Aged InTENsity

Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged InTENsity - Pours a clear, dark amber color with a half finger of off-white head. Smells of faded citrus hops, a little toffee, some boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla edging in too. Taste starts off which rich caramel, crystal malt, and boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla, the hops emerging more towards the finish, which also has a boozy little bite. Some mild oxidation here gives complexity without turning the whole thing into cardboard. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, moderate carbonation, some boozy heat too. Overall, it's bit on the hoppy side, as American Barleywines tend to be, but it's quite nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/1/17.

I'm not sure if Hoppin' Frog still makes Naked Evil, but I remember that as being better than this one. Of course, that was like 5 years ago, and my memory of that is somehow not as distinct as my memory of Koontz's book.

Lambic in general, and Gueuze in particular, have slowly but steadily taken up more of my allotted drinking cycles. Channeling my inner-wonk, nothing beats the harmony, complexity, and balance involved in the traditional three vintage blend of spontaneously fermented beer that marks Gueuze. I suppose this sounds like marketing fluff or just plain wanking, but who cares, Gueuze is probably awesomer than you are. I mean, not you, the other readers. Wink wink, nudge nudge. As producers go, the conventional wisdom is that Cantillon is well known for their fruited lambics, but Drie Fonteinen is most famous for their Gueuze blends (not to belittle their other offerings, nor other lambic producers, who all have their strengths, and what the hell, conventional wisdom can go pound sand, but I digress - the point is that Drie is great at blending.)

After Drie Fonteinen recovered from their "Thermostat Incident", they actually managed to rev up a new production facility, and a few years later, the first vintages of their Gueuze were ready for blending. Of course, their OG standard is wonderful, but since they were finally self-sufficient again, Armand Debelder decided to blend up a special batch in honor of his father, Gaston. This beer consists only of lambic brewed by 3 Fonteinen, and this post will actually cover two batches. One, with the old label, was one of the earlier 2015 batches, and I shared that with a bunch of friends recently (so didn't take detailed notes, but I'll give some background on why I was sharing such a bottle and whatever thoughts I can muster below). The other is a newer 2017 release, and has the new, swanky silkscreen label with stickers, which I was able to write tasting notes for. Because you all love those, right? Right. The label sez that this is "blended from lambics aged and matured on 4 different barrels, originating from wort of 7 different brews. The old lambic was brewed with slightly darker malts and was destined for another Straffe Winter (but we actually forgot about it...)" (Straffe Winter is a Faro that they have still only released once, in case you were wondering.) Ok, enough wanking, let's get to it.

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand and Gaston

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston (2017) - Pours a dark golden orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy, bubbly head. Smells fantastic, deep, earthy funk, oak, plenty of fruity esters. Taste hits the fruity ester notes more than the nose, but that earthy funk provides some good complexity in the background and the oak leavens things well. A well balanced sourness emerges in the middle and lasts through the finish. It's delicious. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, medium bodied, with a moderate and well balanced acidity. Overall, this is one spectacular, well balanced, complex geuze. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.3% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 2/9/18. Bottling Date: 01/25/17. Best Before: 10/26/37. Blend n° 17 - Season 16-17.

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand and Gaston 2015

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston (2015) - I hate the sport of basketball. However, I do make one exception, and that is Villanova basketball, which I have watched with some regularity since I graced that fine university, jeeze, over twenty years ago? Anyway, two years ago, Villanova won the NCAA championship and my friend and fellow VU alum Rich brought a BCBS Vanilla Rye to a share the night after we won. It was a spectacular beer; age had treated it very well and I'd go so far as to say it's one of the few beers I've had where age has actually improved the beer. Anyway, a few weeks ago, Villanova won their second NCAA championship in 3 years (and third overall), and Rich and I immediately started putting together a share where we'd dig out something great from our cellars. He brought a spectacular bottle of ADWTD, and I brought this beauty: the first vintage of Armand and Gaston. This consists of some of the first lambic brewed on their new system in 2013, and according to the bottle logs, it's the second 750 ml bottling (both in October of 2015), and there were approximately 3,800 bottles in this batch (there was an additional 375 ml bottling and a thusfar unreleased 1.5 l bottling that is aging in the 3F cellars).

Opening the bottle resulted in some mild gushing (cork basically popped out on its own), but fortunately, not too much of our precious juice was lost. And yes, my impression was that this was somehow even better than the 2017 vintage I just praised to high heaven above. Super funky, but it didn't quite veer into extra-pungent blue-cheese territory that is fascinating for sure, but not quite as nice as this. Earthy, fruity, tart but not overly acidic, highly carbed and effervescent, great balance,depth, and complexity, I could have easily rocked the entire bottle by myself, but I was glad I shared it with some friends who could appreciate its charms. Again, I didn't really take any notes, but it was great. I'll give it an A too, and this is definitely the sort of thing to seek out.

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 4/12/18. Bottling Date: 2015, October 20. Best Before: 2035, October 26th.

I love the Best Before date on the bottle. Not just 20 years, but 20 years and 6 days. A minute longer and it'll spoil. Anywho, both vintages were phenomenal. Seek this out. It may be pricey, but it's worth a stretch. But my priorities are way out of whack, so you do you.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

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As a probable whisky dilettante and professed novelty whore, I don't have what you'd call a "house bourbon", that sort of thing that you always have on hand in case you want a belt of the ol' comfort. But if I did? It would probably be the standard Elijah Craig offering. It's lost its age statement (it formerly was a 12 years old), but it's still a pretty great, approachable, affordable, highly available bourbon that hits all the right notes that I'd want in a bourbon.

So naturally, when I finally spied a bottle of the cask-strength version of same, I jumped on the opportunity. As I understand it, this is one of the more readily available of the highly-regarded cask-strength offerings, but in PA, it was very hard to come by (there have been very limited releases and I think even a lottery at one point), so naturally I wound up getting it in MD during one of my periodic pilgrimages to State Line Liquors.

The idea is very high proof (not quite haz-mat levels of Stagg, though some batches have gotten there) and still age stated at 12 years, it's basically regular Elijah Craig, only more so. This particular batch is apparently one of the lower proof (lowest?), but then, it's still pretty high for me... Let's dive in:

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof - Pours a deep, dark coppery orange color with plenty of legs. Smells great, lots of oak, some caramel, spicebox, cinnamon, dark fruit, vanilla. Taste follows the nose, lots of oak, moar spicebox, cinnamon and the like, a little dark fruit, more oak, and vanilla. Like the regular Elijah Craig, it's very oaky, but this time, it feels more balanced with the rest, which is interesting. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and quite hot. I mean, yeah, keep in mind my baby beer palate, and this isn't the hottest thing I've drank, but it's clearly there. Overall, a nice improvement over the base offering, and one of the better barrel strength offerings I've had (noticeably better than the younger offerings, like Booker's or Stagg Jr.). A-

Whiskey Nerd Details: 124.2 Proof, 62.1% ABV bottled. Drank out of a glencairn glass on 3/24/18. Batch No. B517

Beer Nerd Musings: As previously mentioned, EC12 barrels seem to be prized amongst beer brewers. It historically played a role in BCBS (though their barrel program is so large at this point that who knows anymore). Interestingly, one of the most reliable EC12 barrel aged beers, FiftyFifty's purple waxed Eclipse variant, seemed to be rarer in the most recent release. I'm unsure if that's due to lack of barrels, some result of the loss of age statement, or probably most likely, just FiftyFifty's desire to shake things up a bit (this year's lineup featured a lot of adjuncts like maple, coffee, and vanilla, as well as more diverse barrels from apple brandy, rye, and even mead). Whatever the case, if a beer specifies that it's aged in Elijah Craig barrels, it's usually a good indication. The barrel proof offering is probably too expensive to use for homebrew (something the standard expression would be great for), but will make a great addition to my infinity bottle someday (this... is a topic for another post, though).

Fellow Travelers: Obviously lots of other folks have tried various batches of this out:
Signe Drinks has reviewed the same batch I have, and puts it squarely in the middle tier of Elijah Craig Cask Strength releases. Not the best, but not the worst, he sez. Josh Peters has had many different batches as well (though I don't think this specific one was in his list). The sadly defunct Sku also reviewed early batches and came away impressed. Finally, I suppose I should mention fellow beer dork DDB, who also seems to enjoy these offerings.

This more or less completes my beer hibernation for the year. Actual beer posts will be returning shortly, though I expect the pace of posting here to continue its slow, inexorable decline.

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

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