October 2011 Archives

The Fear of 120 Minute IPA for Halloween

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I don't normally talk about where I work, and I won't go into specifics, but I always wonder who on earth signs up for our emails. We're a retail company, and I guess if you're into some stuff, the emails could be beneficial, but in my personal life, I don't think I've ever actually wanted an email from a retailer (aside from order/shipping confirmations, which are a different beast). Except, of course, for my local beer and liquor stores. So when Pinocchio's sent out their Halloween specials, notably featuring the long absent Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, I was all aboard. I now know what it means to be an email subscriber, despite the fact that I've never really cared before (I mean, aren't emails so 1990s?) So yeah, I got to have a long sought-after beer (hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on some bottles that I can age (more on this later)), and Pinocchio's always has a huge selection of great beer in the coolers as well, so I brought home some interesting stuff as well. Let's just call this a beertastic Halloween. But enough babbling, let's get to the good stuff:

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Many moons ago, Dogfish Head was among the few breweries shooting for the title of highest ABV beer. Their entry was a whopping 23% ABV IPA that was basically an extension of their 60 and 90 minute series of IPAs. The central conceit behind the series is that they are continually hopped beers. Small amounts of hops are being added to the boil continuously, eventually yielding a large amount of hop character. The 120 is boiled for a full two hours (an hour longer than most beers) and it features a huge amount of hops and malts too. And then the beer is dry hopped and further aged with hops for more aromatic characters. Anyway, as the race to highest ABV beer evar went on and breweries like Brewdog started really pushing the envelope, Dogfish Head bowed out and actually decreased the amount of alcohol in this beer to make it a bit more manageable and well balanced. This was probably for the best, as I can't imagine a higher ABV beer tasting this good.

Pours a mostly clear but dark golden color with minimal head. The aroma is full of citrusy hops, orange and grapefruit notes, just a hint of herbal hop character and alcohol heat. Taste is sweet with a very well matched booziness. It's obviously a strong beer, but I don't know that I would have guessed just how high the alcohol is... There's surprisingly little hoppiness in the taste, with just a hint of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste. The mouthfeel clearly features that alcohol burn character, and yet it's relatively smooth for it's strength. Overally, it's quite good, complex, and well worth seeking out. I'm having trouble picking a rating, as I value the extreme and experimental nature of the beer, but it's not exactly the most delicious beer ever or anything. I'll give it an A-, because I really enjoyed it and would love to get me a 4-6 pack of the stuff to try over the period of a few years.

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 10/31/11.

Now, after the beer (and after I ate something), I headed to the back room at Pinocchio's, which has a massive (800+) selection of beer varieties available. A few folks were tasting some of the beers, and I spied an open 750 of the 120 minute. Knowing that I'd love to have a bottle or two of the stuff, I asked the guy behind the counter if he had any for sale and he laughed and pointed at the date on the bottle. It turns out that the bottle was from 2003. The guy kindly poured about an ounce into a shot glass for me to try out (for which I am very grateful), and damn, this is clearly that same beer, but with a much more complex array of flavors. It was too small to really rate, but damn it was good. I really need to find me some bottles of this stuff and age it in my cellar (aka my fridge).

Anyway, before I went to the store, I had myself another beer (with my dinner), this one a more festive Halloween beer:

Flying Dog The Fear

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale - Hey, look, another dark colored pumpkin ale. Very dark brown, almost black color with some amberish highlights and a finger or so of tan head. Light pumpkin pie spices in the nose. Taste is full of sweet malts and a well balanced portion of pumpkin pie spicing (I know lots of folks don't like overly spiced pumpkin beers, but these darker beers really do seem to stand up better to the spicing). Well carbonated, but either my palate was obliterated by the 120 Minute or it was a light bodied beer. I would have expected something with a little more heft to it, but it certainly wasn't bad. It's a really nice beer, but not something that really stands out. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip on 10/31/11.

I grabbed a glass of water, finished off my meal, and then headed over to the bottle shop, where I picked up a nice selection of exciting beers, including:

Phew. I've clearly got my work cut out for the next few months (not to mention all the stuff I still have sitting around, including a few cases of homebrew). Too many beers, too little time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish watching Halloween. Speaking of which, have a good Halloween!

Before, During And After Christmas Beer

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Yet another Gypsy brewer? Apparently! Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the man behind Evil Twin, and he is, in fact, the identical twin brother of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (better known as Mikkeller, probably the most famous Gypsy brewer). Strangely, they haven't collaborated on a beer yet, but perhaps someday... Evil Twin has only recently made its way to the US, but many of the beers have been much sought after. Jeppe doesn't seem to be quite as prolific as his brother, though he seems to be just as experimental (though sometimes those funky experiments don't quite work out so well).

The bottle for this one sez: "You might think this Christmas Beer is a Christmas Beer. But actually it is something so non-Christmassy as a classic Imperial IPA." Then at the bottom of the label, it says "Best before next Xmas." Well, there goes the during and after Christmas part, but hey, at least he's owning up to the weirdness of the beer's name (unlike those tricky Sierra Nevada folks).

Evil Twin Before, During And After Christmas Beer

Evil Twin Before, During And After Christmas Beer - Pours a very nice orange color with some yellow peeking through and a finger or so of white, fluffy head. Smells sweet with lots of fruity citrus hop aromas and even a little pine. Taste has a nice, strong sweetness to it, plenty of that pine and citrus in the flavor as well, with the bitterness coming out in the slightly sticky finish and aftertaste. Carbonation is a little lighter than usual, but still appropriate, and you get a nice biting hop character, not to mention some warming alcohol character. Overall, an above average DIPA, certainly something I would try again (perhaps during or after Christmas?)... if I could afford it! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip on 9/17/11.

Another day, another great Gypsy beer. And another hit on my wallet. I guess that's bound to happen when a brewer makes small batches and doesn't actually have a brewery (and then we import the beer from Denmark). I'll most likely be keeping my eye out for more Evil Twin, but I don't expect to be going too far out of my way for this stuff...

Warsteiner Premium Oktoberfest

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My sampling of this year's seasonal beers has trended heavily towards the pumpkin side of things, but the other major seasonal style is the Märzen, more commonly known as the Oktoberfest beer. Back in the day, brewing during the hot summers was illegal, besides which, results were often poor as there was no real way to cool the brews, leading to bacterial infection and other nasty effects. So beers that were brewed in March (in German, Märzen) were kept in cellars and caves that were cooled with ice to last through the summer. From what I can understand, the modern style isn't really that similar to the historical style (I wonder if any brewers actually brew their Oktoberfest beers in March?), but they all have a certain character that seems unique to the style.

Warsteiner Oktoberfest

Warsteiner Premium Oktoberfest - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger or two of off white head. Aroma is malty and sweet, with a bit of a twang that I can't quite place. Taste features the typical octoberfest maltiness along with some of that twang from the nose. The twang isn't horrible, but it's also not particularly doing anything for me either. I don't really know what to make of this. It's not horrible, but not particularly accomplished either. I'm not a huge fan of Oktoberfest beers, but I've had a lot of varieties that were better than this... C

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 10/21/11.

I can't say as though I've been particularly impressed with the Octoberfest style of beer. I've never had one that I'd consider great or transcendent, though I've had a few that would make worthy session beers.

Happy Hour

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The hour so happy it lasts 5 hours! Usually bars around here have a handful of craft taps to go along with the usual macros, but tonight, I went to a place that unexpectedly had a huge selection of big craft beers. I wasn't expecting it at all, but when I arrived, someone handed me the beer menu (the fact that there's a beer menu in itself is pretty awesome) and scanning through it I saw a few beers I didn't recognize (always an interesting venture) along with some heavyweights like The Bruery (rarely seen around here), Lagunitas, and some other worthy beers. Good times. Here's what I had:

  • Bavarian Barbarian Grumpy Pumpkin - Well, most pumpkin beers tend to be on the lighter side, but this marks the second time in a few days in which I've had a dark pumpkin ale. This time it's more of a pumpkin porter, and it was a very solid beer (not quite as good as the imperial pumpkin stout we had at the most recent beer club). Very muddy brown color here, with almost no head. Lots of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...), but it doesn't overpower the typical dark beer flavors as well. This wasn't quite as well matched as the Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout I had earlier this week, but it's along similar lines. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Wild Ale - I wasn't sure what to expect out of this one. The description on the menu talked a lot about Belgian characteristics, but I would have called it more of a DIPA or Imperial Red than a Belgian Pale Ale. That being said, there is a hint of that Belgian yeast in the taste, enough to differentiate this from the throngs of other hoppy beers.


    Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Wild

    But the hops are really taking center stage here. Filled with pine and resin flavors, with a full body and a sticky finish, it was quite a beer. I suppose it's not a super bitter beer, though it's clearly there. Once again, I find myself resolving to seek out more Lagunitas beers. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 8.85% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

  • Boxcar Brown Ale - After two approximately 9% whoppers, I had to slow down a bit, so I picked this uber-local 5% brown ale. Boxcar is basically right down the street, and they only have a couple of beers. Their launch beer was solid, though not particularly special. They've since expanded to a couple other standard styles, including this brown ale. It's super cloudy looking (you can tell despite the even brown color) and bursting with flavor. Lots of caramel, a little bit of a nutty flavor, and even some chocolate. Indeed, I got the impression that I was drinking a sorta liquid brownie at some point, though that notion doesn't really survive the whole session. I've actually had this before, but it was from a bottle and it was very different. From the bottle it was much more muted. On tap, it was quite a bit more assertive. Full bodied, but still easy to drink. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap (16 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint.)
  • Avery Maharaja - Well, so much for moderation. Here comes another 10.5% ABV monster. It's actually the only beer of the night to be even remotely clear, with a pale orangish color and a finger of head. Features a lot of the same characteristics as the Lagunitas beer I tried earlier, but this strangely had a lighter body and seemed like it would be a more refreshing brew (if it wasn't already the 4th beer of the night). Perhaps a bit more bitter, with a similar pine and citrus character, but less of the stickiness in the mouthfeel and again, lighter bodied. A really solid beer, and something I should probably try again with a cleaner palate... B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

I had really wanted to get a glass of The Bruery's Rugbrød, but apparently the keg had just kicked. Damnit! But that's ok, because as the ratings above show, I had a pretty great night. Did I say that I was going to cut down on my beer intake? Well apparently not this week! That being said, I had a great time tonight and I've found a new local place to get some good craft beers.

Octobeer Club

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Tonight's beer club was most excellent. Good turnout, really good beer, and an overall good time. For the uninitiated, the beer club is basically just a bunch of folks from my work who get together once a month to enjoy a nice dinner together... along with lots of different beers and wines and other alcoholic wonders. The past few months have been sparsely attended, so the beer selection was somewhat sparse, but tonight we had so many beers that we didn't even get to them all. As you might expect, lots of seasonal beers were brought, and we had a couple of quite excellent brews:

octobeerclub.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For reference, here are some brief thoughts on most of the pictured beers (some we did not get to, though at least two of those I will review separately). As usual, this isn't exactly ideal tasting conditions, so take them with a grain of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Ithaca Flower Power IPA - While not popular with some folks (i.e. non-hopheads), I thought it was quite a good beer. Very floral, so much so that it does tend to differentiate itself from the throngs of other IPAs. Quite enjoyable and something I'd like to try again at some point. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • The Bruery Autumn Maple - Wow! This was a really fantastic beer. Full of Belgian yeast character and full bodied, this was a dream to drink. Perhaps it was just the power of suggestion, but I felt like the molasses and maple syrup flavors were very apparent, along with the general spiciness. It doesn't taste like a pumpkin beer, but it's definitely got a fall seasonal feel to it, which is a nice change of pace. The Bruery never ceases to amaze me with their beers. I loved this one and will need to find myself a bottle to try out by itself, but for now I'll give it the A it surely deserves. (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Shmaltz Coney Island Freaktoberfest - Perhaps the weirdest beer of the night. It pours an odd blood red color with a pink head, but it tastes more along the lines of an Oktoberfest beer, though there was something distinctive and odd about the taste that was throwing things off. As a gimmick beer, it's certainly successful. The appearance is certainly a hoot, and the fact that it's 6.66% ABV is pretty funny as well. Ultimately, it's got some neat gimmicks, but it's an average beer. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Otter Creek Oktoberfest - A not particularly accomplished version of the Octoberfest style. In discussion, someone mentioned that it tasted a bit like rotting otter, which is perhaps an exaggeration, but this isn't a particularly good beer. Maybe drinkable, but not something I'm rushing to try again. My least favorite of the night. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Blue Point's Mother Pumpkin Ale - Another of the more subdued pummpkin ales that I've had this year. Certainly not a bad beer, but the pumpkin and spice flavors were somewhat faint here. That's not necessarily a horrible thing, but it also doesn't really make the beer stand out either. It's an ok beer, worth trying, but not something I see myself seeking out at any point. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Post Road Pumpkin Ale - I didn't realize it when I tried it, but this is actually Brooklyn Brewing's take on a pumpkin ale. It's yet another of the more sessionable pumpkin ales, perhaps slightly better than Blue Point's entry (see above), but not nearly as good as some of the other pumpkin ales I've had this year. Well crafted and worth a try, probably something I could drink again, but also not particularly special. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Dundee Oktoberfest - Ah, a stealth macro! Not bad, but I'm also not sure if I'd identify this as having that distinctive Oktoberfest character either. It tastes fine, and it maybe has a hint of the typical flavors associated with the style, but it's certainly not an eye-opener either. I don't see myself seeking this out again, but I wouldn't turn it down either. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Victory Otto - This is one of my most anticipated beers of the year; a smoked Belgian style dubbel from my favorite local brewery. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to expectations. It's got a nice smoky character and it doesn't seem like that would overwhelm the rest of the beer, but I would have liked to have tasted some sort of Belgian yeast flavors here as well, and they were just absent. This makes it somewhat one-dimensional. I will say that it seemed to get better as I drank, and it certainly isn't bad, but as Belgian dubbels are one of my favorite styles, I wish this had more of that sort of style going for it. I'll probably try this again at some point, as it did end up being enjoyable, but I did find it a bit disappointing as well. B (Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout - Wow, this is really fantastic beer from a brewery I've never even heard of... It's basically an imperial pumpkin stout. It's got the typical pumpkin pie flavors and spices, but it's all very well balanced. The stoutness is downplayed and not very roasty, but that's the way I like it, and the pumpkin pie character fits well with the dark style. It's full bodied but smooth, and it definitely hides the 11% ABV well. Dangerously drinkable stuff, and perhaps the most flavorful beer of the night - certainly the only beer that even came close to comparing with the Bruery Autumn Maple. I'm not sure where I can get this, but I need to find myself another bottle of this stuff. Really wonderful beer. A (Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
Well, that covers most of the beer we drank. We also had another of my homebrewed saisons (which, again, I should review, but not now) and some of the less beer inclined folks had a Leinenkugel Berry Weiss, but I kinda knew that's not for me, so I didn't try any of that. Of the unopened bottles, I'm sure I'll be trying the Warsteiner Oktoberfest this weekend, and I'll get to Founders Centennial IPA at some point as well.

Southampton Pumpkin Ale

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In continuation of my seasonal, mostly-pumpkin beer binge, we've got another of the more (though not quite) sessionable versions of the style here:

Southampton Pumpkin Ale

Southampton Pumpkin Ale - Pours a dark amberish orange color with a finger of head that quickly disappears. The smell seems to be more focused on the pumpkin itself than the spices, though they're also there. The taste has a very nice balance to it. Sweet malts with just a little in the way of spice. But the real hero is the mouthfeel, which is very smooth, making for a very quaffable beer. Light bodied, but very flavorful, I really enjoyed this much more than I was expecting (and much more than the Dock Street beer I mentioned yesterday, which I described similarly, but which is distinctly inferior to this beer). When it comes to pumpkin beers, I don't generally drink more than one in a session, but this would certainly work. Well played, Southampton. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank from a tulip on 10/16/11.

Though I haven't really gone crazy with it, I'm quite enjoying this fall season. I don't know that it's really my favorite season in terms of beer, but the beers made now certainly fit with the season very well, and I like how it's almost a warm-up for my favorite seasonal beers, the winter and Christmas ales. I've got a few more seasonals, including at least one more Octoberfest/Marzen style (something I've been lacking this year), and we'll see what the Beer Club peeps bring tomorrow night as well.

The Whip

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Back in March, we had a beer club outing at The Whip Tavern, an English style pub. At the time, it was a bit cold and pouring rain, so we resolved to come back later in the year and sit outside. Well, a few weeks ago, we did just that. England doesn't really have a reputation for great cuisine, but both meals I've had here have been really great. The first was Bangers and Mash, and it was perfect. This time around I had some delicious duck contraption. For whatever reason, it seemed like the taplist was a bit more limited this time around, but I still managed to get my hands on a few seasonals and interesting beers nonetheless. I'm going from my sparse Untappd notes and memory here, so take the following with a grain of salt (also no pictures - sorry):

  • Dock Street The Great Pumpkin - Another pumpkin ale, this one somewhat more subdued in the alcohol and spice departments, which isn't really a bad thing, but which also doesn't really set this apart from any other pumpkin ale. Pretty standard stuff, though certainly something I could drink a few of... B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Weyerbacher Harvest Ale - It's the time of year when hops are harvested and breweries grab a portion of fresh "wet hops" (normally hops are dried in order to preserve them) to make various hoppy styles (a practice that deserves a closer look on the blog at some point). This beer gave off a really fantastic hoppy aroma. It's a little on the earthy/grassy side, with just a little citrus peeking through. The taste was nice and bitter, with an almost spicy hop character to it. Perhaps this is just me buying into the hype, but it tasted fresh. It's not a face melter or a revelation or anything, but a well executed IPA. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Leavenworth Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen - Not terribly familiar with the style, but it was kinda like a stout mixed with delicate wheat flavors. I have to say, I didn't really care for it. No off flavors or anything, it just wasn't working for me. Perhaps the roasty flavors were the cause of my issue, but whatever. I didn't have a problem drinking or finishing it, and it was certainly more interesting than a macro, but still not particularly inspiring. C (Beer Nerd Details: 4.7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Theakston Old Peculier - I've always heard good things about this beer, but I must have gotten a bad bottle because I didn't care much for it and the flavors I got out of it don't seem to match up with much of the BA nerds' thoughts... I got a distinct apple aroma out of this, which is typically a sign of problems. I also got some raisins in both the aroma and taste. It wasn't undrinkable, but it wasn't particularly good either. D (though I may revisit it at some point). (Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.)
  • Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer - I had this the last time I went to the Whip as well, perhaps because it goes really well with one of the desserts. This time around, I got a better feel for the oak and caramel/toffee flavors in the beer and was quite pleased that I got another. So I will up this to a B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Spaten Oktoberfestbier - I was going for a German Octoberfest beer; what I got was a skunked bottle of dishwater. Yes, it was in a green bottle, and it was bad. I couldn't get much out of this beer at all, and didn't finish it. This does kinda bring up the question of how to rate beers that are clearly defective, but in this case, it's all due to the green bottle choice, so I have no problem giving it an F. (Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.)
Well, there you have it. Even considering that the drafts were mostly half-pints, I probably drank too much, but it was still a fun night out (we even stayed long enough to play a couple rounds of quizzo). I'm sure I'll be returning to this place at some point soon.

Anniversary

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Today marks the one year anniversary of Kaedrin Beer Blog. To celebrate, I'm drinking a homebrewed saison (I should review it sometime, but that time is not now) and taking a look at some statistics:


  • 152 total posts (not quite 3 a week on average)
  • 27 posts about IPAs, making that the most talked-about style on the blog. The runner up is Stout, with a whopping 21 posts. In both cases, the numbers are inflated since I don't break out double or imperial varieties and so on, so it's perhaps unsurprising that those two styles are posted about the most often. After them comes Saison (14), Belgian Strong Dark (13), Tripel (11) and Wheat (11, though I also don't make a distinction between Belgian Wit, Hefeweizen and other various styles)
  • 13 posts about Victory Brewing, which is unsurprising as they're my favorite local brewery. Local brewer Yards comes in second with 9, and another local, Weyerbacher, has 8. Also at 8 is Ommegang, while Russian River and Dogfish Head are both at 7.
  • 96 posts about beer from US breweries, significantly outpacing the runner up, which is Belgium at 29 entries. Things trail significantly after that, with the UK coming next at 11, but 6 of those are also categorized under Scotland (meaning that I post more about Scottish beers than English beers!)
  • 51 posts featured a beer rated B+, which was by far the most common rating. B and A- both have 34, while B- has 25 and the big A has 24. Fortunately for me, the least common rating is F, with just one lone entry. I suppose you could take this to mean that I'm overrating a lot of beers, and perhaps that's true, but it's not like I'm trying to find bad beer, after all. And I've only rated 3 beers A+, so there is that too.

Damn, I drank a lot of beer last year. It's probably something that I should tone down a bit. While I think it's clear that I love beer, it's also not particularly good for me from a health perspective. Don't get me wrong, I'll still be drinking a lot, but if all goes to plan, the next year won't see quite as much drinking.

In my first post a year ago, I mentioned that the primary purpose of the blog was really to help me keep track of what I drank and how well I liked it. I also noted that I was pretty unsophisticated about my beer consumption and that my palate wasn't particularly sharp. I'd like to think that I've come a long way since then, but I think I still have much to learn. In a more general sense, my purpose for blogging is to learn, and I feel like I'm making progress on that front.

I can say that I've written many more beer reviews than I was initially expecting. I try to spice them up with general notes about the style or screenplays or whatever, but ultimately, most posts fall into the familiar beer review format. Perhaps if I drink less this next year, I'll spend more time writing or posting about beer in a more general sense. I've got a few ideas for interesting posts, but they will take some time to write (more than most entries at least), so I still expect the majority of posting to be reviews. This may not be the most interesting thing in the world for everyone, but it does get me towards my goal of blogging, as writing about beer forces me to think about it in a more thorough fashion.

All in all, it's been a good year. I don't see my posting slowing up any, and I already have lots of beers in my "cellar" (i.e. my fridge) that I'm sure will be interesting. I'm going to wait until the end of the year to do a top beers post, or to post about my best posts, but for now, look for some additional seasonal beer reviews coming up...

Pumking

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When Europeans made their way to the New World, one of the things they found was that many of the domesticated crops they relied on in the old world did not have native counterparts in the Americas. Because this is about beer, you can bet that one of these non-native crops was barley. It being in short supply, early American brewers, desperate for fermentable sugars, turned to other crops to make up the difference. Hard-up colonists used all sorts of gnarly stuff in place of malts, including molasses, corn, parsnips, spruce, and, of course, pumpkin. These early brews probably tasted nothing like today's pumpkin beers, as they used no malt at all and probably didn't feature the same sort of spicing we use these days.

Once barley and malt became more prevalent, pumpkin disappeared from breweries. It experienced a bit of a revival in the 19th century, but as a flavoring agent (as opposed to a full blown pumpkin beer). The conventional wisdom is that modern pumpkin beers began with Buffalo Bill's Brewery in 1980, but I'm sure there are earlier examples that would approximate the style. In any case, Southern Tier's Pumking is probably the best regarded of the pumpkin ales. Even those crotchety pumpkin-beer-haters I mentioned yesterday seem to enjoy this particular beer, so let's see what's got them so worked up:

Southern Tier Pumking

Southern Tier Pumking - Pouts a slightly cloudy golden orange color. Not much head at all, and it quickly dissapates. The nose is filled with a bready aroma (very familiar aroma, like pie crust) along with the typical pumpkin and spice characteristics that usually dominate. The taste is extremely well balanced. Sweet, pumpkiny, spicy, bready and it nails the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and velvety. It's not assertively carbonated, but it's got enough body to work well. Overall, it's certainly vying for the top of my Pumpkin beer rankings (not that I'm an expert). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/7/11. Hops: Magnum (bittering) and Sterling (aroma)

More pumpkin and octoberfest beer posts are on their way, though they probably won't start showing up until next week...

Rise of the Devious Pumpkin

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Pumpkin beers are an interesting and apparently divisive breed. Many folks seem to really dislike the style, or to at least think it's a bit on the repetitive side. And it certainly can be repetitive: most make liberal use of standard pumpkin pie spicing like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Of course, one of the big challenges with this type of beer is that brewing with any kind of spice is really, really difficult. When it comes to hops, it's easy. If you know the alpha acid content of the hops, there are simple measurements and calculations you can make, thus making it easy to balance the rest of the brew to match. Spices don't have any such easy calculations and their potency varies greatly. This isn't an excuse, but it also represents a big challenge to brewers and when done right, it adds subtle flavors and complexity without overwhelming. For pumpkin beers, though, subtlety is rarely the order of the day. Pumpkin itself doesn't have a particularly strong flavor, but the typical spices are quite potent and can be overpowering. Which, I suppose, is why some folks are leery of the style. Personally, I like it, though I'm glad it's confined to a seasonal exercise.

Fegleys Brew Works Devious

Fegley's Brew Works Devious Imperial Pumpkin - Pours a mostly clear amber color with a finger of white head. Smell is pure pumpkin pie. Lots of spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc... Taste is very sweet and spicy along with some bracing booziness. The mouthfeel is well carbonated but still smooth and velvety. It leaves a nice sticky feeling in the finish too. Folks who dislike the tendency to over-spice pumpkin beers will certainly not enjoy this, but I'm having a good time with it. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/30/11.

I'm many reviews behind at this point, but in the interest of seasonality, I'm skipping ahead to some of the more recent things I've drank (hopefully I'll get back to the older ones later). I've got a few more seasonals lined up, and the blog is approaching its one year anniversary as well. I don't have anything special planned, but, hey, maybe I'll have a beer.

Fiddler's Elbow

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I'm so used to Americanized versions of English styles that I thought it might be interesting to wade into some actual British versions. In this case, we have a simple, hoppy pale ale, though oddly, it's a beer that brewer Wychwood doesn't even list on their website. In searching around, there are apparently a few different versions of this beer, some of which even incorporate wheat in the recipe. My "imported ale" version doesn't say anything about wheat on it and seems to have a higher ABV than the British version, though who really knows. Information about this specific beer is a bit sparse, though I love the evocative name of the beer (my nerdy assumption being that it was the old-timey equivalent of medical condition now known as Wii-elbow - ok, it's also apparently the name of a nearby town in England, but that's just boring). I should note that I also love the artwork on all of Wychwood's beers (and even the unique bottle itself features the witch logo ingrained in the glass). They're actually quite appropriate for this time of year:

Wychwood Fiddlers Elbow

Wychwood Fiddler's Elbow - Pours a hazy golden orange color with less than a finger of big-bubbled head. Aroma is very distinct from typical American pale ales. Smells hoppy, but with lots of malt and yeast character as well. Even some caramel and toffee notes in the nose. The taste is more malt focused, again with the buttery toffee (perhaps even too much of that, and it's got an almost burnt or toasted character to it as well - perhaps it's butterscotch, typically a sign of a problem), though there is a small hop bite towards the finish and in the not-to-pleasant aftertaste. The hop presence here isn't anywhere near as pronounced as American varieties. It's got a medium body, and that overpowering toffee/butterscotch flavor makes it less quaffable than I'd really want for a beer like this. It's an interesting change of pace for me, but it's also not something I'd really go out of my way for either... I have to wonder if I perhaps got an old bottle, or one that had some other defect. It was certainly drinkable, but something seemed very off to me. D

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/4/11.

I've had a couple of Wychwood's other beers, so this was quite the disappointment. I will one day return to this brewery, but I don't see it happening anytime soon, as I have quite a backlog of bottles to get through and we're coming up on my favorite time for seasonal beers...

Russian River Supplication

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Russian River's head brewer, Vinnie Cilurzo, is an interesting guy. He started out in the winemaking world, but was apparently so taken with the fact that you could start drinking beer within a few weeks of brewing that he switched over to beer (ok, it probably wasn't that simple, but it sez so on this bottle of Supplication, so I'm sticking with that story). Perhaps to further taunt his winemaking brethren, Cilurzo started playing around with weird wild yeasts and bacterias when making his beers. Take Supplication, which is a brown ale aged in pinot noir barrels with cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. Those critters certainly add a nice, complex sourness to a beer that would already be pretty flavorful. They're also an anathema to winemakers, who apparently think Cilurzo is a nutbag for using stuff like Brett. It's rumored that those folks won't even enter Russian River's brewpubs for fear of picking up some sort of bug that they'll inadvertently bring back to their winery, infecting their wine (apparently these are hearty little creatures that are difficult to get rid of).

The irony here is that this beer was aged for well over a year before being bottled, so it looks like Cilurzo hasn't completely escaped his winemaking roots. But this series of beers that he's created (all aged in old wine barrels of various styles) is quite interesting, and I have to wonder if we'll see more coordinated wine and beer collaborations in the future (another brewery that mixes expertise from both the wine and beer worlds is apparently Firestone Walker, a brewery I need to become more acquainted with). Ok, enough babble, onto the beer:

Russian River Supplication

Russian River Supplication - The cork for this was really jammed in there. I normally don't have any issues opening corked bottles of beer, but this one took some coaxing. Pours a really gorgeous clear amber brown (copper?) color with a finger of quickly disappearing white head. The smell is filled with sweetness and funk. You get some of that wine and cherry character along with the typical funky Brett aromas. Sourness hits immediately in the taste, followed by cherries and a dry, red-wine-like finish. The sourness is really the most prominent element here, but it's well balanced with the other elements. Mouthfeel features the characteristic twang of sour beers, but it's compulsively drinkable. A wonderful beer, probably favorite of Russian River's sours (that I've tasted so far). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked mini-magnum). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/4/11. According to the label, this bottle was from batch 006X2, brewed on 11/7/2009 and bottled on 1/5/2011 (so it was not quite 2 years old when I drank it).

Well, I'm either getting the hang of this sour thing, or Supplication really is just that good. I will no doubt continue to dabble in the world of sour beers, though it doesn't look like I have any in the pipeline right now, so it may be a while.

Aventinus the Wise

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Both the name of this beer and its label make me think it's going to tell my fortune or something. Perhaps I'll open the bottle, and instead of delicious beer, I'll get a piece of paper with a cryptic message predicting my future, like "You will invent a humorous toilet lid" or "You will be aroused by a shampoo commercial" or something appropriately weird*. As it turns out, Aventinus was named after a famous Bavarian historian and fortunately, my bottle was indeed full of delicious beer:

Schneider Aventinus

Schneider Aventinus - Pours a very cloudy, medium brown color. Smell is full of bananas and clove, but in more of a wheat beer way than a Belgian yeast way. Really wonderful, complex aroma here. Taste is sweet and spicy, some fruitiness and spiciness (clove?) and a nice, dry finish. Wheat is also present, and it even comes out a bit in the aftertaste. Drinks pretty easy for an 8.2% ABV. Overall, a really good beer and I can certainly see why it's considered a classic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 9/3/11.

I'm quite behind on my reviews at this point, but I'm also trying to slow my intake down after the whole Texas debacle vacation.

* Yeah, yeah, another stolen Simpsons gag.

Texas Beer Dispatch

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As previously mentioned, I spent the last week watching horror, SF, action and just plain weird movies, not to mention hobbits beating the crap out of each other (see my other blog for thoughts on the movies and other events of Fantastic Fest). Of course, nearly all of this was accompanied by beer. I must say, the Alamo Drafthouse is one awesome venue for a number of reasons, but right now, I'll just say that it represents a melding of two passions: beer and movies. They've got some common offerings, but most of their beer menu is local craft stuff, and I spent most of the week sampling beers I've never heard of and can't really get up here in PA. As I mentioned in an update to my previous post, I was tracking my beers via Untappd all week, but then, I was also watching movies and talking a lot, so take the below thoughts with a grain of salt. Alright, here goes (in roughly the order in which they were drank):

  • Live Oak Oaktoberfest - So not only local beers, but local seasonals - and this is a pretty damn good one. I wouldn't say it's a spectacular beer, but it was exactly what I was looking for out of an Octoberfest beer, and one of the better examples I've ever head of that style. B+
  • Shiner Bock - You can't got to Texas and not have at least one of these, right? And Shiner happened to be a sponsor of the festival, so these were available in abundance, sometimes even being handed out for free. I've talked about this beer before, though that was on another trip so I didn't actually rate it. It's certainly nothing special, but it's a solid beer and it's hard to argue with free pints, right? B
  • New Belgium Hoptober - Ok, so this isn't a local Texas beer, but New Belgium doesn't really distribute here (though they have started in Maryland) so I always try some of their stuff whenever I can. I would have described this as a very good IPA, but BA calls it an "American Blonde Ale"? Strange because, as the name suggests, it's massively hoppy. A really nice piney hop aroma. Well matched sweetness and hop bitterness in the taste. Overall, a really good brew, one of my favorites of the week. B+
  • Lagunitas Mystery Red Ale - So on Friday, my local Austin friends took me out and I ended up getting some sort of Lagunitas seasonal beer which I can't recall, but it was a red ale of some sort, very hoppy and tasty. I actually enjoyed this one immensely, so I wish I remembered what it was called. I think it may have been the Lucky 13, but who knows. B+
  • Independence Brewluminati Braggot - Well, braggot has gone from a style I'd never heard of to a style I've had two examples of in the past few weeks or so (the other being Weyerbacher's Sixteen). Go figure. I don't know that this one was as good as Weyerbacher's offering, but it was still a nice change of pace and worthy beer. It was lighter in color, so honey flavors dominated the taste more, but I still really enjoyed it. B
  • Real Ale Fireman's #4 - Another blonde ale and apparently another of Austin's typical session beers, as it was available all over. It's not a mind-blowing beer or anything, but pretty good for a simple blonde ale. It's got some subtle bready caramel notes, but is otherwise pretty straightforward. I only had one, but it's certainly a worthy session beer and I'd try it again. B-
  • North by Northwest Black Jack (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - Local friends took me out to dinner at this most excellent brewpub, where I had their bourbon barrel aged black ale (BA calls it a Belgian dark ale, but I don't think that's right). It's quite fantastic. I didn't detect a ton in the nose, but damn, that taste is fantastic (and once I had some headroom in the glass to swirl the beer around, the nose came out more). Rich flavors of caramel malts, bourbon, vanilla, a light oakiness, and maybe even some chocolate. Just a hint of toasted malts, but nothing like a stout. Very well balanced - no flavor dominates, making for a very complex brew. Appropriately carbonated, but a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Not too heavy and not too boozy, but it's certainly not a lightweight either. Probably my favorite beer of the week. A-
  • Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA - This is the sort of beer that makes me feel like IPAs are kinda... samey. It's hoppy in the nose and the taste, and it's bitter, but it's kinda one-note. Not much going on here. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but there wasn't really anything special about it. C+
  • (512) IPA - Now this IPA, on the other hand, was maybe the best I'd had all week. Great citrus/pine nose, well balanced sweet/bitter combo in the taste (with some of that citrus/pine shining through). Nice and complex, a very well made beer. And damn, I didn't try any other (512) beers. Given this one, I probably should have sought them out! B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another non-TX beer that isn't super common in PA, so I gave this one a shot too. It's very good, roasty, coffee and chocolate flavors and that milk stout chalkiness (probably the wrong way to describe it, but it seems common to the milk stouts I've had recently). Well done, but nothing super special either. B
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard - So this one's really not local, nor is it something hard to come by, but I'd had a bunch of drinks that night, and was settling in for the Fantastic Feud, so I gots me a comfort beer. If you're reading this blog and need me to describe Arrogant Bastard... I'm sorry. Actually, I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's of course very good. B+
  • Independence Bootlegger Brown - I have to admit that I'm no expert on brown ales, but this one didn't really do the trick for me. It was fine for what it was - a dark, roasty, almost stout-like ale, but there wasn't really much complexity to it. I had no problems putting one down, but it doesn't really stick out for me at all either. B-
  • Live Oak Hefeweizen - I enjoy a good Hefe as much as the next guy, but they do tend to get pretty boring... but not this one! Wow, what a fantastic (pun intended) brew. If I had this earlier in the week, I'd have certainly had more of them. Really wonderful aroma of bananas and clove. Typical wheat and yeasty flavors mixed with a surprising fruitiness. Well balanced, complex, and a joy to drink. A-
  • Avery White Rascal - Another non-TX beer, but since I was rockin the wheat beers, I gave this one a shot. It's... not as good as the Live Oak, but it is pretty tasty all the same. Perhaps if I didn't have these two wheat beers back to back, I would have rated this higher. B
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 - Yeah, I've had this before and of course it's very good. I don't really have much to say about it - hoppy and bitter! - but if you like a good IPA, it hits the spot. B+
Well, there you have it, a successful outing and quite a variety of new beers I'd never heard of before. If you're ever in Austin, I recommend anything by Live Oak, as they seemed to have put together the best lineup (yeah, I only had 2 of their beers, but BA seems to rate the others pretty highly too). Before I left, I did stop off at a grocery store and picked up a big beer to bring home: Jester King's Wytchmaker Rye IPA in a fancy 750 ml bottle. Look for a review... uh, in the next month or so! Overall, I'm pretty jealous of Austinites. Not only do they have the best movie theater I've ever been too, but they can drink beer there too. We really need to get us some Alamo Drafthouse style places up here.

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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