Burial The Persistence Of Memories

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One of the leading lights of the Asheville, NC craft beer community has sold out to the Great Satan, AB Inbev, whatever shall we do!? Well, Asheville is one of the most densely populated cities in the country when it comes to breweries (second only to Portland, OR), so there's no shortage of alternatives. Among them is Burial, which I've heard good things about, but only been able to sample once at a share (i.e. not exactly ideal conditions).

They started tiny, with a 1 barrel brewhouse, now sporting a 10 barrel brewhouse and tasting room, and will soon be spinning up an additional 20 barrel production facility with associated "urban farm" and a restaurant/brewpub-like facility. Sounds peachy, but let's take a look at this Double IPA to see if all this expansion is justified (hint: it is)

The Persistence of Memories is a Double IPA brewed with El Dorado, Mosaic, and Equinox hops, and a pretty obvious reference to Salvador Dali's famous painting. So let's brush up on our surrealism and drink some beer, eh?

Burial The Persistence Of Memories Double IPA

Burial The Persistence Of Memories Double IPA - Pours a pale yellow gold color with a finger of finely bubbled head that has good retention and leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of sugary sweet citrus hops with a hint of pine. Taste starts off sweet, lots of citrus, with some pine emerging in the middle, finishing with a balancing bit of bitterness and dank pine. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, very easy going. Overall, this is a great IPA. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/19/17. Canned: 4/27/17. Batch: #CANDYISDANDY

Many thanks to fellow beerNERD Danur for bravely exploring the environs of Asheville and snagging this can for me. I will most certainly be keeping an eye out for more Burial (and what the hey, more Asheville breweries while I'm at it).

Vintage Dogfish Head

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Once the darlings of the craft beer community, it seems that Dogfish Head's fortunes have been on the wane in recent years. Sure, they're still chugging along and are often the savior of a BMC dominated taplist, but their beers aren't quite as heralded as they once were. This might be due to the hit-or-miss nature of their sometimes gimmicky approach, or perhaps just plain snobbery. Personally, I tend to enjoy their more "normal" takes on beer, though some of the "off-centered" stuff hits its mark from time to time as well. I had the good fortune to visit the original Rehoboth Beach brewpub last year, and it was a really good time. I had some brewpub exclusives like Porter by Proxy and SeaQuench Ale (now a regular release) that I really enjoyed (and others that were... less successful, like Choc Lobster).

Anyway, I knew that I'd squirreled away a few bottles of Dogfish Head's more extreme efforts a few years ago, so I lit my torch and made the trek into the deepest, darkest catacombs of my cellar. After fighting off a hoard of mummies and centipede-like creatures, I managed to extricate a few vintage bottles of Dogfish Head from several years of cobwebs and dust.

As per usual, there are two sides of the coin when drinking well-aged beer. On one side, it's always an interesting and sometimes sublime experience. On the other, while it's always a different beer than it was fresh, it's rarely a better beer. I'm happy to report that, in this case at least, Dogfish Head's wares held up remarkably well. Of course, you'll also have to note that these are among the more extreme varieties they make in terms of ABV and thus are particularly good candidates for aging. I suspect most of their other offerings would not fare so well. I've got some comments about each beer that are incorporated below, so read on, fearless drinker:

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine - A barleywine brewed with figs, I always found the label's "Directions" charming: "Open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. Or: Walk hand-in-neck into the middle of the woods. Use a shovel to dig a 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal the bottle in a plastic bag. Place in hole & pack with dirt. Memorize location & leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open & enjoy." Well, I didn't pack it in dirt and I left it in the catacombs of castle Kaedrin for 5 years instead of just 1, but this still held up pretty well. I'd probably recommend a little less time in the cellar if you're looking to age your own, but it definitely takes on age gracefully. This is probably one of Dogfish Head's more underrated beers. This is actually the last beer from Dogfish Head that I did a proper review for, and it's from 2012... I may need to remedy that, but for now, let's look at our well aged 4-5 year old bottle.

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Pours a very murky brown color with a half finger of off white head. Smells of dark fruits, those figs and prunes, crystal malt, dank resinous hops (typical of aged beers, but it's a subtle presence here, lending complexity). Taste hits that fruity malt character, rich caramelized figs and prunes, crystal malt, light on the resinous hops, followed by a heaping helping of booze. There's a little oxidation going on here, but it's not overwhelming the beer. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, lots of boozy heat but nothing unapproachable. A sipper for sure. Overall, this has held up remarkably well. Would try again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/4/17. Bottled in 2012B.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Perhaps Dogfish Head's most famous beer, it's one of the few that does seem to still command a devout following. One thing you'll hear a lot of people say about this beer is that it's almost undrinkable when fresh, which I've always counted as an exaggeration, but I never did manage a well-aged version until new. This has to be one of the most remarkable transformations I've ever seen in an aged beer. When fresh, it's certainly boozy and hot, but it's got lots of great citrus and pine hop character going on. I liked it. With age, especially once we start talking about 5-6 years, it essentially turns into a malt-forward barleywine. Even just the color of the beer changes dramatically. I managed to dig up a picture from ye olde digital catacombs that shows what it was like with about 6 months on it (you can click to embiggen all the images in this post, but I'm afraid this one isn't exactly high quality. Please direct complaints to my old cell phone):

2012 Picture of a freshish bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

And with 6 years on it (these two bottles were from the same 2011B batch), oxidation takes hold and turns this a much darker color:

A six year old Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA from the same batch as previous picture

Whoa. Pours a murky, very dark amber color with a finger of white head. Smells like a malt-forward barleywine, lots of oxidized aromas, a little bit of dank, resinous hops (way different than fresh). Taste is rich and sweet, again, malt forward, more like a barleywine, certainly a little oxidized, a little faded, dank, resinous hops, finishing boozy. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, and quite boozy, not as hot as fresh, but plenty of warming sensations as I drink. Overall, I may have kept this just a bit too long, but it's still quite interesting. I'd like to try one with 3 or so years on it to see how it compares. For now B or B+

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/18/17. Bottled in 2011B.

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout - Of the Dogfish Beers I've aged, I'd expect this one to do the best. It ticks all the right checkboxes for the ideal beer-aging candidate: dark malt-focused ale with extremely high alcohol, no flavor additives likely to fade too much over time (i.e. coffee, vanilla, etc...), and so on. This is the sort of beer that drinks pretty hot fresh, but ages considerably well. At 2 years old, it was a really tasty treat. With 5-6 years under its belt, it's even better. This appears to be one of the few beers that actually does get better over time.

A vintage bottle of 2011 Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a half finger of tan head that disappears quickly. Smells rich and malty, caramel, dark fruit, even some roast and dark chocolate remaining. Taste is very sweet, caramel, dark fruit, almost port-like character here, again, still a little roast and chocolate. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and chewy, plenty of booze but it does not at all feel like 18%. Overall, this has held up remarkably well, could probably last much longer! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter glass on 5/1/17. Bottled in 2011A.

So there you have it. I've depleted my entire supply of Olde School, but I still have a 120 (same vintage) left, and a 2010 WWS slumbering in the cellar. I'm guessing the WWS could take several more years before showing significant degradation, but the 120 should probably be drunk soon (and if I had Olde School, that seems to be at its limit as well). All three of these beers are good for long term aging though, and my recommendation would be to pick up a 4 pack of each, and drink a bottle every 1 or 2 years.

Funky Buddha Double Feature

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Funky Buddha has a reputation for gimmicky sorcery and artificial flavoring. Like most things, this cuts both ways. Some of these beers are absolutely wonderful, others are less successful. As I gather from a Florida-based friend of mine, even the great stuff can get old pretty fast, but in small doses, these can be really fascinating beers (this is something that doesn't hit me as hard, as I only get dribs and drabs once or twice a year, so it's all still a novelty to me). Thanks to that same Florida man, I've recently received a cache of Funky Buddha beers in the mail, so let's dive into a couple of them to see what's kickin' in the sunshine state.

First up is Undefeated Saison, brewed in honor of the Miami Dolphins' 1972 campaign where they became the only NFL team to complete an undefeated season and win the Super Bowl. Back in the day, I had a well worn copy of the Sega Genesis game Madden '93 and used to play with the 72 Dolphins a lot, relying heavily on Larry Csonka, who seemed like an invincible truck. Anywho, the beer bills itself as a "French Countryside Style Ale" (i.e. a saison and my unsubstantiated guess is that it's using the 3711 yeast strain) brewed with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape must and fermented with saison and Champagne yeasts. Sounds good, though I feel like this could have been improved with the addition of some Brett and/or a touch of oak. Also needs more Csonka:

Funky Buddha Undefeated Saison

Funky Buddha Undefeated Saison Brut - Pours a orange amber color with a finger of dense white head that sticks around for a while. Smells of vinous fruit, a little 3711 yeasty esters and spice. Taste is sweet and a little spicy, that vinous fruit shows up again and intensifies through the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated and somehow both sticky and dry, maybe even some winelike tannins pitching in. Overall, this is an interesting little saison, nothing to go too crazy over and it begs for some Brett and/or barrel treatment, but it's fine as is (well, maybe a little disappointing, but a far cry from bad). B-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 5/12/17. Released: November 1, 2016.

Next we have Butta' Cup, a double brown ale made to evoke, yes, the fabled peanut butter cup. No brand specified, but you know they're talking about Reese's, because what other one can you really name? I mean, yeah, sure, I know your local chocolatier has a handmade version that is spectacular, but does anyone really think about those? Did you get those when you went trick-or-treating? No. And as I've mentioned before, there's something about peanut butter beer that, while certainly gimmicky, still manages to evoke a feeling of nostalgia and warmth. Or something. So is their artificial flavoring wizardry game doing better than their saison game? Why don't you build me up, butta' cup?

Funky Buddha Butta Cup

Funky Buddha Butta' Cup - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells of peanuts, vanilla, and a little chocolate, as advertised. Taste has a nice sweetness to it, less peanut butter than the nose would imply, less chocolate too, but a good amount of vanilla. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little astringent, but that goes away as it warms. Overall, this is really nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/12/17.

So a pretty good showing here, nothing to rival the best of Funky Buddha that I've had (Last Snow and Wide Awake It's Morning), but they're always interesting, that's for sure.

Aslin Double Feature

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Aslin Beer Co. is part of the burgeoning Virginia beer scene and has made waves with their Northeast IPAs. I had initially thought that the brewery's name came from the owners' obsession with C. S. Lewis, but no, that's Aslan that I was thinking of, not Aslin. It turns out that the three owners are all brothers-in-law, married to three sisters that feature the maiden name of Aslin. That's some mighty fine flattery right there, but I still think there might be a portal to Narnia in their brewery somewhere. I shall have to visit and investigate further, but for now, I'll just check out a couple of their IPAs that a generous friend procured for me:

Aslin Special Drops Bringo!

Aslin Special Drops: Bringo! - An IPA made with Rosemary and a hint of Vanilla. Pours a slightly hazy, pale golden orange color with a finger of white head, good retention, and a little lacing as I drink. Smells nice, lots of floral and citrus notes, maybe something herbal (update: apparently rosemary). Taste has more citrus than the nose, juicy fruit like oranges, maybe a touch of vanilla, finishing with a bitter little bite. As it warms, the vanilla comes out more, and you get that orange creamsicle character everyone seems to be chasing these days, but in a subtle and thus not as gimmicky way. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light to medium bodied, with an almost dry finish. Overall, this is really quite good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/6/17. Canned on: 04/11/17. Batch: Bring it on.

Aslin Johann Buys a Broat

Aslin Johann Buys a Broat - Double IPA with Pineapple and Mandarin Orange. Can wasn't quite a gusher, but huge amounts of head billowed up upon pouring, a little darker orange color, with several fingers of off-white head. Smells nice, lots of citrus hops, juicy NE character, orange juice, a little pine. Taste is very sweet, again lots of juicy citrus here, pineapple, oranges, a little vanilla too, some dank pine and light on the bitterness in the finish, but enough to balance things out. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and this feels less attenuated or dry, medium to full bodied, maybe a touch of warming alcohol. The overcarbonation isn't terrible at first but over the course of the whole can, the carbonation does present a issue that brings this down a bit. Overall, if they fix the carbonation in future batches, this could be great. For now, let's say B but it could easily hit A- territory on a future batch...

Beer Nerd Details: 9.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/6/17. Canned on: 04/18/17. Batch: Drumptster Shrimp.

Certainly worth further investigation. Plus, you know, potential Narnia entrance. Many thanks to fellow BeerNERD Ray for procuring these cans for me.

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, Josh Weikert wants to know: Is the Internet Helping or Hurting Craft Beer? He suggests a list of topics which I'll just use as a template. In short, technology and the internet is a double edged sword and any discussion of such is bound to resolve into a series of tradeoffs. Human beings don't so much solve problems as they exchange one set of problems for another in the hopes that the new set is more favorable than the old. I suspect you'll see such tradeoffs play a role in each topic below.

Marketing beer in the internet age

Social media has to be a boon to a small brewery operation, allowing breweries to connect with drinkers and advertise new offerings or events with relative ease and on the cheap. On the other hand, beer nerds are fickle and marketing can rub people the wrong way, especially when it gets gimmicky. It's great to be connected to the community, but it can be difficult to be on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism due to a trivial mistake (let alone a geniune mishap). As long as you're willing to engage and get better, this usually works out, but it can be difficult.

The astounding influence of beer bloggers to make or break breweries (just kidding, but seriously, what's the effect of all of this quasi-journalistic beer commentary on the drinking and brewing public?)

With the dozens of readers I have (dozens, I tell you!), my influence is certainly formidable and I sometimes struggle with the power I have to make or break a brewery. In the words of Ben Parker, "with great power comes great responsibility." On the other hand, I'm pretty sure about half of my visitors are bots and search engines, so there is that. Obviously, I'm joking here (uh, not about the visitors, sadly), but the idea of quasi-journalistic beer commentary being done at the grassroots level clearly has some influence on our community.

How are beer reviews (expert and mass-market) affecting what gets brewed and drank?

As someone who reviews a lot of beer and has dozens (dozens!) of readers, I feel confident in saying that beer reviews have a low impact. Personally, I find a lot more benefit in actually writing a review than I do in reading others. Trying to put into words what I smell/taste/feel about a beer has been a good learning experience for me, but that doesn't exactly make it very interesting to read (especially if you've never had the beer in question before). On the other hand, grappling with this sort of thing does make it a little easier to decode other reviews, cut through the flowery or absurd descriptors, see mistakes for what they are, and get a pretty good idea of what you'll get from a beer. Since this post is turning into a wall of text, let's do a quickie:

Against the Grain London Balling
Barrel-aged English style barleywine, rich caramel, light barrel character, too much carbonation. More boring details below*.

Aggregate beer ratings are another matter and probably do probably have a moderate impact and give a nice at-a-glance overview of the general feeling of the community. It's most useful at the extremes (i.e. high number of ratings along with a very low or very high score) and obviously there are other caveats that must be considered (locals tend to be more forgiving, rarity has more of an impact than it probably should, etc...), but it can be a useful way to get a quick read on a beer, even if it shouldn't be your absolute guidance.

Are beer apps for tracking and rating overly-"gamifying" beer (or does that make drinkers more adventurous)?

Tickers gonna tick, as evidenced by the fact that they were doing so well before Untappd and other similar apps. Those outliers aside, while I think that a lot of people do patronize beer tracking apps and while they may flirt with the gamification aspects of those apps, I think their usage ultimately boils down to a pragmatic desire: in a world with 5300 breweries in the US alone, I want to know if I've had something before or not. I suspect this drives app usage more than badges or other gamification elements. I'm sure I went a little out of my way for certain badges back when I first downloaded Untappd, but I can't think of any time in the past 4 or 5 years that I did so...

Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

This is a tricky one. I suspect these "aleholes" impact craft beer adoption less than they impact those specific message boards (or Facebook groups or whatever). Every community is different, but honestly I feel like the more mainstream ones are more of a turnoff because the folks on them aren't used to the tenor of interacting online.

The internet is a low-trust environment. But I've been around long enough to see different waves of people adjust to this state. When I was first online (early 1990s), no one trusted anyone, everyone was using pseudonyms, there were warnings galore about dangerous predators and the like. With each successive leap that the internet makes, there is an influx of people that just don't get it yet. BBS users went through this a bit. AOL and email caused a few of these in the early days too. Widespread broadband caused some of it. Message boards and blogs went through their own growing pains.

Nowadays, a lot of this is driven by social media. We've gotten great at breaking down barriers to entry and there's been this push towards using "real names" and verified users in the past decade as well. All of this means that there are lots of people who aren't used to having their statements scrutinized or haven't encountered a really good troll (as in, like, effectiveness, not "good" as in a moral statement, obvs) before. It doesn't help that a lot of platforms encourage lower wordcounts, which provides lots of opportunity for misinterpretation. Twitter is especially bad at this sort of thing.

I think TalkBeer, BeerAdvocate, and RateBeer all strike a decent enough balance. But I belong to a few groups on Facebook that are orders of magnitude larger than those specialized communities, and the tenor there, while mostly positive, can spiral out of control when someone has a meltdown (a recent example involved people who, for some ungodly reason, love to post chugging videos. It evolved into this weird callout culture that started to really rankle other members, and one dude in particular started harassing people, which then escalated. Eventually, he was kicked out and started his own chugging group that is super exclusive and I guess more power to him, but it didn't need to be anywhere near as acrimonious as it was.) Also, you know, fake news.

Time will pass, people will identify some of these issues as damage and find ways to route around them. It's happened before and it will happen again. This goes for pretty much all of the preceding questions, actually. As mentioned above, we never really solve problems. We just exchange one set for another. Funnily enough, what didn't work in the past might work now, and vice versa. The internet is a living platform, there's no one answer.

* Detailed review to demonstrate how awful tasting notes are:

Against The Grain London Balling - Pours a cloudy brown color with amber highlights and a solid finger of off-white head. Smells of rich malt, some citrus, vanilla and oak. Taste starts off sweet, rich caramel, with a light bourbon, oak, and vanilla character emerging in middle with a boozy finish. Supposed to be aged in Angel's Envy barrels, and the bourbon character is certainly there, but not super heavy. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, surprisingly so, almost effervescent, not enough to completely sink it, but enough to bring it down a grade. Medium to full bodied, and a little boozy heat. Overall, it's really quite solid, but that carbonation is a bit too much. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter on 4/30/17.

See? The worst.

Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend

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Another entry in Boon's Mono Blend series, kinda like a singe barrel offering, only it's got a touch of young lambic blended in for bottle conditioning. Still, it's an interesting series of beers. Vat 77 consisted of 2 year old lambic and was very earthy and minerally, but here we have Vat 79. It's the oldest foeder at the brewery, dating back to 1883. In addition, according to the brewery:

So old that we do not know. The oak comes from oak trees that are almost 250 years old, which means your lambic is matured with trees planted between 1670 and 1680.
Sploosh. Rumor has it that Vat 79 is mostly used as a component for the Mariage Parfait blends (which are mostly 3 year old lambic).

An anecdote from an old brewery webpage: An American lady that tasted lambic from the No. 79 cask said it was "Boon to be Wild". Well that sounds good to me, let's dive in:

Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend

Boon Oude Geuze A L'Ancienne Vat 79 Mono Blend - Pours a slightly hazy golden color with a finger of white head that has good retention. Smells nice and earthy, funk, that trademark Boon minerality, something a little fruity lurking in the background. Taste hits with sweet, fruity notes up front, followed by funky earth and minerality, finishing with oak and tart fruit. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated, moderately dry, medium acidity, a nice oaky character to the mouthfeel too. Overall, this is one damn fine geuze, better than Vat 77 for sure, and stacks up favorably against the competition. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% (back label) or 9% (front label) ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a geuze tumbler on 4/29/16. Batch #62203. Best Before 12/17/2034. Brewed on the 19th and 20th of 2011. Bottled 17th Dec 2014. Released April 2016.

There have been two other Mono Blends released, Vat 44 and Vat 109, but I have yet to see those around just yet. I will most certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for those...

Logsdon ZuurPruim

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I usually try not to get too worked up about things like a brewery's ownership change or brewer switchups, but it's hard not to be concerned when it's a brewery you really like. At least Logsdon's buyout wasn't coming from a huge multi-national corporation like the great satan, AB Inbev, but it apparently did lead some to some weird PR and distribution mishaps that might shake a beer dork's confidence. That being said, things seem to have calmed down. Their brewer corps has solidified and they seem to have a decent focus on independence and innovation. They've even managed to start a spontaneous fermentation program and have been expanding their barrel aging efforts.

ZuurPruim (literal translation: sourpuss!) is a barrel-aged tart plum ale that first saw release in December of last year. Aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with 100 pounds of plums per barrel, the initial batch was split into two releases, each of which received a small portion of that spontaneously fermented beer for added complexity. In short, Logsdon appears to be back on track.

Logsdon ZuurPruim

Logsdon ZuurPruim - Pours a cloudy, almost murky orange color with a finger of white head that has good retention and leaves a little lacing. Smells fabulous, tons of fruit, those plums coming through, maybe something more vinous too, some oak, and a little bit of earthy funk livening things up too. Taste hits a lot of those notes from the nose, sweet, vinous fruit, plums, a little bit of earth, tart, bordering on sour in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, not as well carbed as accustomed to from Logsdon (there's enough, but this isn't as effervescent as usual), and perhaps as a result, this feels a bit heavier than other offerings, low to medium acidity. Perhaps a bit less attenuation here than usual as well, though nothing outside the boundaries of good. Overall, this is a solid little Plum sour, perhaps not as light on its feet or nimble as something like Peche 'n Brett, but still pretty great on its own. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/22/17. Bottle No. 250. Best by: 11/2021.

Seizoen Bretta remains one of my favorites and something I like to keep around in case anyone stops by, but most of what I've had from Logsdon is great, and it sounds like they're moving in the right direction these days, so I'm sure you'll see more from them someday soon...

La Cabra Aleatory #1

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La Cabra continues to chug along, quickly establishing itself as a regular brewpub on the Kaedrin beat (a position all breweries aspire to, I assure you), and now, as if on cue, they've had their first bottle release. A nice online pre-sell made for a convenient and easy-going release day, no long lines of empty chairs or ridiculous waits here.

I originally thought this was names as some sort of beer pun, like ALE-atory (get it?), but it turns out that aleatory is a real, bona-fide word and everything. It means an object (or form of art) that relies on random elements or a roll of the dice during its production. In this case, we've got an American Wild Ale made with 500 pounds of raspberries that, if the name has any meaning, were probably lucked into at some point. It's then aged in virgin oak for 4 months. While perhaps not the face melter that Brettophile was back in the day, this is a great little initial bottle release.

La Cabra Aleatory 1

La Cabra Aleatory Series #1 - Pours a bright, almost luminous ruby red color with a finger of off white (maybe a little pink?) head. Smells nice, a hint of earthy funk, a kiss of oak, lots and lots of raspberries. Taste has a nice raspberry kick to it, tart but not super sour, again, not a lot of oak or funk here, but enough to balance things out. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, dry, low acidity. Overall, a very nice little raspberry ale. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/16/17. Bottle No. 204 of 351.

A solid first offering from a brewpub that I expect great things from in the near future. I talked to them about Brettophile, which apparently takes a bit longer to make, but they're thinking maybe late this year for the first release. Until then, I'll just have to keep visiting the taproom...

The Bruery Mélange #3

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Of The Bruery's long line of Mélange experimental blends, the #3 seems to be the best known, most widely consumed, and among the top rated iterations. It has three components: their Anniversary Old Ale (a solera-style barrel-aged beer that holds a special place in my heart), White Oak Sap (a barrel-aged wheatwine that I have not had, but which bears a resemblance to White Oak, which is actually one of my least favorite Bruery beers), and the fabled Black Tuesday (a colossal 18%+ ABV imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels that is glorious). All of these components are above 14% ABV and it's packaged in a large-format bottle because (as I've already established) Patrick Rue is trying to kill us. He doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop... ever, until we are drunk.

Anyways, exact proportions of the blend are unknown, but I'm going to give it a SWAG because I'm the worst. I suspect the majority of this beer is the Anniversary Ale, with smaller proportions of White Oak Sap and Black Tuesday that mostly cancel each other out, leaving us back at Anniversary Ale territory. Which, like, isn't a bad thing. I absolutely love the Anniversary Ales, and this one does feel like it gives a slight twist to the old familiar. That being said, I was perhaps hoping for a little more of the Black Tuesday influence. Still, with Mélange #3 hitting distribution this year, it's not difficult to obtain (if a bit pricey), so if you like the Bruery's barrel-aged stuff and you can handle MarkIntiharing a 16.3% ABV beer, this is worth checking out:

The Bruery Mélange #3

The Bruery Mélange #3 - Pours a murky dark brown color, maybe a scosh darker than your typical anniversary beer, with half a finger of off white head. Smells wonderful, caramel, toffee, oak, vanilla, toffee, caramel, bourbon, toffee, caramel, hints of something a little darker, not quite roast, but maybe chocolate, lending it a sorta chocolate covered caramel/toffee feel. Taste follows the nose, rich caramel and toffee, bourbon, oak and vanilla, did I mention caramel and toffee, lots of booze in the finish. As it warms, dark fruit emerges in the middle and evens out that finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, plenty of boozy heat. Overall, it feels a lot like a slightly more complex Bruery Anniversary beer; the other components are there, but they seem to balance each other out, leaving you back in Anniversary territory. Not that that is a bad thing, as those anniversary beers are some of my all time favorites. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.3% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip/snifter glass on 4/15/17. Vintage: 2017.

Par for the barrel-aged Bruery course, which is pretty good in my book, and it was a welcome return to beer after my temporary hiatus.

Hot Sauce Double Feature

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I'm not one of those capsaicin-addicted thrill-seekers hunting down obscure pepper-walez like the Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango ("...grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum.") but I do enjoy spicy food and hot sauces. As per usual, you should remember that this is a beer blog and I am the worst, so you'll need to take my ramblings with the appropriate boulder of salt. Or not. I'm not your mother.

Anyway, these are at least beer-adjacent hot sauces, so there is that. Choosing a favorite hot sauce is probably about as difficult as choosing a favorite beer (i.e. impossible), as different offerings fill different needs. I always have at least 3 or 4 different hot sauces on hand, sometimes more. Frank's Red Hot is, of course, a constant and utterly necessary for wings (I generally don't mind sampling another flavor of wing, but I'm invariably let down by the experience and regret not ordering the regular ol' buffalo wing), but it's nice to have some differing flavor profiles or textures around too. Before we get to the hot sauce, I wanted to give a shout out to Serious Eats' recent Top 30 Hot Sauce list, which is a pretty fantastic resource that lead me to our first selection...

BLiS Blast and Pappy and Company Hot Pepper Sauce

BliS Blast is up first. BLiS (an acronym for Because Life is Short) is most famous for making a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup (that is nice, but not as great as the Pappy aged one I reviewed last week), but they make a whole line of barrel aged goodies, like this hot sauce, comprised of chipotle, arbol and cayenne chilies aged for up to a year in barrels that have previously been used to age bourbon, maple syrup, and Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). The order of the aging is unclear to me, and there are a couple of possibilities. If the various aging processes occurred in the order listed, I think the resulting beer would have actually been Canadian Breakfast Stout (regular KBS doesn't have the maple syrup component, but CBS does). Or perhaps separate bourbon barrels, some having aged syrup and some having aged KBS are blended together in the end. Whatever the case, the result is pretty great.

Pours a dark, grainy, browninsh red color. Smells complex, sweet, but almost smokey, maybe coffee, lots of cayenne peppers, chipotle comes out as well, and yes, relatively sweet too. Taste follows the nose, sweet with a smokey, almost roasty character and a light spice heat. Mouthfeel is rich and sweet, light spice heat but it lingers for a bit. Overall, this is a fascinating hot sauce, hints of almost barbecue going on here, but it's got a nice, light heat and smokey, roasty character that is really well done and complex. Relatively mild as hot sauces go, but the barrel character seems to actually come through and contribute more here than I'd expect.

Hot Sauce Nerd Details: Bottled (375 ml). Heat level: Mild (estimated)

Next up, Pappy & Company Barrel-Aged Pepper Sauce. This is a collaboration with Midland Ghost, a hot sauce made from first generation Ghost Peppers and aged in Pappy barrels of unspecified expression (my guess is the 10 and 12 year, as with the syrup). A little more straightforward, but still quite nice.

Pours a light, bright orange color, pepper chunks visible. Smells more evenly of pepper, apparently ghost pepper. Taste is more obviously hot sauce than the BLiS stuff, lots of peppers, vinegar, and moderate to high heat. Mouthfeel is lighter and thinner but spicer, hotter than BLis (though it's not overly-so, nor is it something that will get the Scoville-addicts who've built up a resistance excited). Overall, this is hot, tasty, and interesting. I don't get a ton of bourbon or anything to indicate its provenance, but it's still pretty good... if a little disappointing since the maple syrup they make has such a great bourbon character.

Hot Sauce Nerd Details: Bottled (5 ounces). Heat level: Medium (estimated)

Verdict? The BLiS is more interesting and unconventional and I think I like it better overall, but the Pappy & Co offering is still a good, if more conventional, hot sauce. That being said, the world of hot sauce is so large that it's hard to justify the Pappy premium for something that isn't as distinctive as you might think.

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

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