January 2012 Archives

Aging Beer

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At some point, it became clear to me that I was buying more beer than I was drinking. When I find myself in a liquor store with a great selection, I can't really help myself, and so I end up with a collection of beer that is growing faster than I can drink. And those 5 gallon batches of homebrew didn't help either!

Thus began my beer aging experiment! I don't have a ridiculous program here, but my beer cellar has been growing. Sometimes by default - I bought too much beer, so it has to sit in my basement (or my fridge) until I can get to it. I know, that's a good problem to have, and I'm not complaining. But I've even started doing some intentional aging, and my initial experiments came to fruition this past holiday season.

But this is a long process, so my experience isn't exactly comprehensive. Being a huge nerd, I've read a lot about the subject and I figured it'd be worth exploring my strategy on what beers to age and when to crack them open.

  • Alcohol Content: The higher the ABV, the better the beer is suited for aging (and the longer you can age it). In my experience, super high ABV beers (i.e. beers above 12%) taste very "hot" when they're young. As they age, they mellow out a bit. Lots of people will say that those uber-strong beers are undrinkable until they reach a certain age, though that's not usually something I've found to be true. That being said, my experience with the 14% ABV Samichlaus is that the extra time in the bottle really does make the beer more palatable. My tiny sample of a 2003 Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA had clearly matured and become more complex than the fresh stuff. I've also tried some lower-ABV stuff (notably Anchor Christmas), which seemed to go ok, though it didn't taste that much different to me (of course, I had no comparison in that case, so it's difficult to tell). That being said, the general rule seems to be that beers less than 5% aren't really suitable for long-term aging. What you want are big beers like imperial stouts, barleywines, and big Belgian beers... stuff that'll get you truly sloshed on a single bottle, basically.
  • Bottle Conditioned Beer: Beer that has been bottled with live yeast is much more likely to change over time. The yeast is still alive and processing the beer, so the beer will continue to evolve. A lot of Belgian beers are bottle conditioned, and some American brewers have experimented with this sort of thing. Dogfish Head's Squall was a bottle conditioned version of their 90 Minute IPA, and it was quite good! This is also why a lot of homebrewed beer gets better over time, as the yeast is still evening out the beer in the bottle. Anxious newbs like myself often post on homebrewing forums about how bad their beer turned out, but a lot of advice basically amounts to giving the beer some time (which personal experience shows is probably a good idea). I also see a lot of people noting that their best bottles of homebrew were the last few in the batch.
  • Dark Colored Beer: Everything I've read indicates that darker colored beers age better than pale beer. I've looked around for a scientific explanation for why this is so, but I haven't really found much (other than hops, which will get its own bullet below). My guess is that dark beer contains much more flavor elements, whether that be from various forms of toasted or roasted malt, or specialty adjuncts like caramelized sugars, etc... Anyways, dark colored beer like stouts, barleywines and Belgian strong dark, quads, etc... seem to be ideal.
  • Malt, not Hops: Beers that rely mainly on malt for their flavors age much better than hoppy beers. Hop flavors and aromas break down quickly over time (and since so many pale ales rely so strongly on hops for flavor, perhaps that's why pale beers don't age so well). Again, Belgian beers seem to do well here, as they're very malt-focused. As are most stouts and Scotch ales, and lots of other styles. IPAs... not so much. Anecdotal and accidentally discovered evidence seems to indicate that this is true. I had a bunch of Founders' Centennial IPA a while back, but I let one of them sit a bit too long in the fridge. It was fine and I had no problem drinking it, but it was definitely much better when it was fresh.
  • Barrel Aged Beers: These beers take on big extra flavors when aging in the barrel, and beers aged in a barrel tend to become a bit stronger (as some water evaporates or soaks into the wood - the "angel's share" if you will), which also helps out. With time, all that flavor starts to blend together and become more tempered with time. I haven't experimented with this very much, but I've definitely had some barrel aged beers that could have used some extra time to mellow out. Then again, some beers are almost perfect right out of the barrel. I've got a few of those aging in my basement though, so it's something I will certainly be experimenting with...
  • Smoke and Spice: I don't have a ton of experience with aging these, but I'm really curious to try some of these out after a while. I know I've read that smoke can act as a preservative in beer, and in my experience, that smoke character is usually overpowering in a young beer. My hope would be that putting some age on a smoked beer would let that smoke mellow out, while harmonizing it with the other flavors in the beer. Spiced beers are another question mark for me. I presume the spicy aromas and flavors will fade with time, but in some cases that could be a good thing (I'm thinking that overspiced pumpkin and holiday beers might benefit from that age). I've got a few spiced beers squirreled away for next year, so I guess we'll find out!
  • Wild Ales, Sours, and Lambics: These beers tend to be bottle conditioned and/or barrel aged, so it stands to reason that aging would work well with them. Apparently some of Cantillon's lambics will age well for over 20 years (despite being only 5-6% ABV). Beers with Brettanomyces (a wild yeast) and other bacterial bugs (like lactobacillus and pediococcus) will continue to evolve as those critters do their work in the bottle. SOur beers have never been my favorite, but there are certainly a few beers I'd like to try aging...
  • Storage Conditions: Basically, a dark, cool place. Light is the enemy of good beer (light breaks down the compounds contributed by hops, resulting in lightstruck or "skunked" beer), and high temperatures tend to speed degradation. In terms of temperature, 50 degrees F seems to be ideal, though everyone stresses the need for a constant temperature over anything else. Also worth noting is that storing beers upright is important, especially for bottle conditioned beers (as the yeast should be settled on the bottom of the bottle).
  • Maturation Waves: Martyn Cornell sez: "Experiments suggest that the maturation takes place in "waves", so that a beer which is in fine condition at, eg 30 months may have deteriorated at 36 months, be back on form at 42 months, deteriorated again at 48 months and so on." I have no real experience with this, but I will say that some of my homebrews seem to go like this. I'll have one and it's great. A few months later, I'm not so impressed. A few months after that, I'm amazed at how good it is. This one is a bit troubling, as it sorta means that I'm ruining some beers, but I guess I'm willing to take that risk...
  • Wildcard: And finally, I'll probably age some random beers just because I want to see what happens with them over time. Or because I forgot it was sitting in the back of my fridge. Or because it's hidden somewhere in my basement. Who knows, maybe aging a questionable beer will pay off.
  • How Long to Wait: The big question! It obviously depends on the beer, but my goal for purposefully aged beers is to buy multiples of the same beer and try them on a regular interval (once a year seems like a good idea, though the "waves" of maturation gives me pause for some beers). In other cases, it will be a bit more haphazard.
Aging beer is not a new practice, but it is something that seems to be gaining popularity these days, and lots of people are experimenting and learning. I'd hope for some more scholarly efforts in this area, but I'm having fun trying this stuff out myself. Tomorrow, I'll post the current contents of my cellar, along with some comments on why I want to age them and when I'm planning on cracking them open...

Affligem Dubbel

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Affligem Abbey was founded in the middle of the 11th century by a group of six "pillaging knights" who had reformed themselves into Benedictine monks. Brewing activities began as early as 1074 and the abbey was apparently intimately involved in the hop trade (apparently hops still grow near the monastery). History being what it is, the abbey's buildings were sacked several times over the centuries, and always rebuilt, though after it was destroyed during World War II, the monks decided to contract a local brewery to make their beer. That brewery was eventually bought out by Heineken, but the monks retain the Affligem brand name and certain controls over their beer (and like the Trappists, they use their proceeds for charitable purposes).

They claim their current recipes are a modernized version of the same beers being brewed nearly a thousand years ago. The modernization was apparently lead by a monk named Tobias, who called the result "Formula Antiqua Renovata". I assume that this is all marketing fluff and that "modernization" consisted of completely redesigning the beers or that the original recipe went something like: water, barley, hops. Anyway, Affligem appears to be most famous for their Tripel or perhaps their Noël, but they first came to my attention because of their most excellent Dubbel (which people rarely talk about for some reason):

Affligem Dubbel

Affligem Dubbel - Pours a cloudy brown/amber color with a couple fingers of white head. As you get towards the bottom of the bottle, you can see yeast sediment as well. Smell is filled with dark fruits (raisins, plums) and Belgian yeast character (spicy). Flavor is rich, sweet and fruity with a well matched spiciness and nice dry finish. There's something else here that's contributing to that richness - almost like molasses or brown sugar. Sometimes I'm even getting a note of chocolate in there. It gives the beer a most welcome distinctive quality. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied and it's got those rich flavors, but this is definitely easy to put down. At 7%ABV, it's not going to kill you either. Overall, one of my favorite dubbels! A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 1/20/12.

This beer does share a certain character with Ommegang's Abbey Ale, though this isn't quite as heavy. I remember picking up a bottle of this stuff in my fledgling beer nerd days when I knew nothing about beer. I picked it because it had a tasteful design and I knew I liked dubbels - not quite Belgian beer roulette, but pretty close. I remember being somewhat disappointed by their Tripel when I circled back on it, but it's something I'm going to need to revisit at some point.

Marrón Acidifié

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Collaboration beers are among the most weirdest things about the craft beer world. Rarely do you see competitors actively collaborate like this, but then I guess the fact that craft beer only really represents around 5% of the market generally means that they're not really competitors - their growth comes at the expense of the macros. Or something like that, I guess.

This one is a collaboration between The Bruery and Cigar City. If I'm not mistaken, both come from the craft beer class of 2008 and both enjoy a pretty solid reputation* amongst beer nerds. I've already sung the praises of The Bruery before, but Cigar City is new to me, and in a recent interview over at Beer Samizdat, I learn that their brewer has the awesomest name ever: Wayne Wambles. Amazing.

On The Bruery's website, they have a page for this beer that lists a lot of what I usually call the Beer Nerd Details in my reviews. Things like ABV, IBU, and SRM. But this one has an additional metric that I don't believe I've seen before. Apparently this beer has not 4, but 6 whole shizzles**.

The Bruery and Cigar City Marron Acidifie

The Bruery and Cigar City Collaboration: Marrón Acidifié - Pours a very dark red color with minimal head. Smell is filled with sour aromas, some sweet fruitiness, and funk. Packed with rich flavors with a beautifully matched tart finish. Very sweet and fruity (cherries are most prominent to me, but other tropical fruits also seem present), and extremely well balanced. Mouthfeel is nice and rich, almost chewy. Low on the carbonation, but it actually works well with this style. Overall, a fantastic beer, among my favorite sours (maybe even the best I've had). Indeed, I think it might be one of the most approachable sours I've had, which is saying something because this thing is a bit of a monster. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/14/12. IBU: 15, SRM: 20, Schizzles: 6.

This was released in the Spring, not making it's way to the East Coast until early Summer, though I didn't pick up my bottle until this past holiday season. It's bottle conditioned though, and the bottle sez it's suitable for aging up to 5 years. I guess what I'm saying is that I need to buy some more of these for my burgeoning beer cellar program. Also on my to-do list: get my hands on some more Cigar City beer.

* And by "pretty solid" I man astronomical.

** Apparently besting a previous beer called "Four Shizzles", though records on that one are a bit sparse.

Trappist Westvleteren 8

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I've already written about this beer's bigger brother, the legendary Westy 12 - purported to be the best beer in the world (maybe second best) - and most of what I said goes for this beer as well. It's just as hard to obtain (I got my bottle along with the 12), it's got that same spare Trappist aesthetic (no labels, just some info crammed on the crowns to identify them), and while its ratings might not be quite as high as its brethren, it's still extremely well reviewed (it currently resides at #16 on Beer Advocate's list and #15 on RateBeer's list). So let's take a closer look, shall we:

Westy 8 Cap

Trappist Westvleteren 8 - Pours a dark brown color with some amberish highlights and a couple fingers of light tan head. The aroma and taste have the same profile as the 12, but somewhat more subdued. Lots of dark fruit in the nose, plums, raisins and the like, and some of that musty Belgian yeast character. Taste is also very flavorful with that dark fruity sweetness and dry finish. Mouthfeel is a dream, just like the 12. Perfectly carbonated, dry (but not too dry), and just a hint of booze. It's definitely lighter bodied, and the flavors are slightly less rich. Overall, a fantastic beer, but not the equal of its big brother. A-

Westy 8

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 1/13/12. The cap has a date printed on it that says 07.10.14.

Amazing stuff. I feel like I should have more to say about it, but nothing else is coming to mind. If you ever get the opportunity to try any Westvleteren beer, don't pass it up. I'm not going to go out of my way to try the Blonde, but perhaps I will luck into one at some point in my life. Or perhaps not. These are rare beers, after all!

Allies Win the War!

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Earlier this week I reviewed a beer that I think had the best designed bottle (sorry, "ceramic crock") I've ever seen, but the packaging for the recent 21st Amendment collaboration with Ninkasi gives it a run for its money. Indeed, all of 21st Amendment's beers have great packaging, making excellent use of the larger canvas provided by cans (and I love that they put their cans in boxes, even with four- or six-packs).

21st Amendment and Ninkasi Allies Win the War 4-pack box

Seriously gorgeous stuff, and the can itself is also pretty great. I will make one complaint though, which is that, well, it's hard to tell which way is up on this thing. A minor quibble and totally worth the confusion because it's just an awesome package. But let's not get to carried away, it's what's in the packaging that counts, and this time around, it seems that the beer is worthy of its packaging:

21st Amendment and Ninkasi Allies Win the War

21st Amendment & Ninkasi Allies Win the War! - Pours a dark amber color, maybe a little brown, with a couple fingers of white head that leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Aroma is full of hoppy pine resin and sweet, almost sugary citrus fruitiness. Taste starts off sweet but that's balanced very well by the hop bitterness in the finish. Those pine resin and citrus flavors are present as well, leading to a nice rich flavor profile. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, ample carbonation, and a little bit of stickiness. No real booze to be had here and it's pretty damn easy to drink. Overall, an excellent beer, not quite the equal of YuleSmith (which seems to have become my yardstick for hoppy imperial reds), but damn close. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/21/12.

21st Amendment continues to impress, and even though Ninkasi doesn't really distribute here, I'm going to keep my eyes on them...


Corne Du Diable

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Over at Beervana, there's a nice pedantic discussion over what constitutes an West Coast IPA (an offshoot of a debate with Stone's Greg Koch). Truthfully, I've never quite understood the distinction myself, but I always assumed it had something to do with big, juicy American hops with all their fruit and pine characteristics. But reading those posts and the comments, it occurs to me that no one really knows and who really cares? Styles are like genres in that they're fuzzy around the edges and often bleed into one another. Styles can give you a broad idea of what you're in for, but maybe they don't need to be quite so granular or locked-down.

Anyway, if you think west coast IPA's are causing a taxonomy problem, check out this beer. Beer Advocate calls it an American IPA. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel's description adds some confusion to the mix:

Corne du diable (French for "Horn of the devil") is a contemporary interpretation of the classic English India Pale Ale. This new style, born on the west coast of North America, is characterized by stronger and hoppier beers. The result is a red ale expressing caramel flavours coming from the malt, sharp bitterness and powerful hop aromas, thanks to dry hopping
Ok, everyone get that? It's an English IPA born on the West Coast of North America, resulting in a red ale?

Yeah, so now you know why I only have one IPA category on my site (of course, that was born more out of laziness than anything else, but I digress). And the red ale intersection with IPA is also a bit of a pitfall, but maybe we should just drink the stuff instead of parsing its style:

Dieu Du Ciel Corne Du Diable

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Corne Du Diable - Pours a cloudy brownish amber color with a small amount of head. The smell is unusual. There's definitely lots of hoppiness there - maybe a hint of citrus, but more herbal or floral aromas seem to be the most prominent. The taste has lots of caramel malt, very sweet, with that same hoppy citrus and herbal character, and a well matched bitterness in the finish. Maybe a little spice too, and I want to attribute that to the hops for some reason. In any case, big flavors for a 6.5% ABV IPA... Mouthfeel is fine, maybe just a tad light on the carbonation (but still fine for the style). Speaking of which, it's called an American Style IPA, but it actually feels more English. Maybe even a hint of that butterscotch flavor that I always find in English pale ales and usually don't like, but it really works here (perhaps because it's not an overwhelming flavor). Overall, a very interesting beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip on 1/21/12.

Apparently the only Canadian beers I drink are French Canadian. Yeesh. It's actually hard to believe this is my first Dieu Du Ciel beer though. I quite enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to checking out more of their brews. They're not quite as ubiquitous as Unibroue around here, but they seem to be pretty widely available. And I get the feeling they don't really care about style either - most of their beers seem to be quite unusual (at least, from reading about them!)

Yeast Hoist

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Ron Regé Jr. is a cartoonist who has been putting out independent comics and zines since the 1990s. He somewhat recently began publishing a series of comics called "Yeast Hoist" which aren't really about beer, though there's some beer in the art and the phrase does seem to be slang for drinking a beer. But mostly it's just art. A large portion of it is available on the internets, but he was apparently approached by Belgian Brouwerij Sterkens to do some exclusive art for their St. Sebastiaan Golden Ale, and it resulted in one of the most gorgeous bottles (actually a half-liter ceramic crock) I've ever seen:

Yeast Hoist Closeup

Apologies for the lackluster quality of the shot, but that is quite awesome, isn't it? And while Regé's art is often somewhat abstract, it really fits well with a Belgian abbey tripel style beer. Unfortunately, the contents of the bottle didn't quite live up to the promise of the artwork...

Yeast Hoist

St. Sebastiaan Golden (Yeast Hoist) - Pours a surprisingly light golden color with an almost nonexistent head. Aroma is sweet, fruity, and spicy. Taste is very sweet, with a little fruit and spice. There's a sorta bitterish aftertaste, but not quite enough to counter the sweetness. Mouthfeel is light, under-carbonated, and a little sticky. Overall, quite disappointing. A little more carbonation may have done wonders, but as it is, it's underwhelming. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (500 ml ceramic crock). Drank out of a goblet on 1/13/12.

I'm pretty sure the Yeast Hoist bottles were a limited run, but the standard St. Sebastiaan Golden bottle is the same style ceramic crock thing, just with different artwork. It's apparently somewhat popular, so perhaps I just got a bad, under-carbonated bottle or something.

SOPA Blues

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I was going to write a beer review tonight, but since the web has apparently gone on strike, I figured I'd spend a little time talking about that instead. Many sites, including the likes of Wikipedia and Reddit, have instituted a complete blackout as part of a protest against two ill-conceived pieces of censorship legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Congress (these laws are called the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act, henceforth to be referred to as SOPA and PIPA). I can't even begin to pretend that blacking out my humble little site would accomplish anything, but since a lot of my personal and professional livelihood depends on the internet, I suppose I can't ignore this either.

For the uninitiated, if the bills known as SOPA and PIPA become law, many websites could be taken offline involuntarily, without warning, and without due process of law, based on little more than an alleged copyright owner's unproven and uncontested allegations of infringement1. The reason Wikipedia is blacked out today is that they depend solely on user-contributed content, which means they would be a ripe target for overzealous copyright holders. Sites like Google haven't blacked themselves out, but have staged a bit of a protest as well, because under the provisions of the bill, even just linking to a site that infringes upon copyright is grounds for action (and thus search engines have a vested interest in defeating these bills).

I won't belabor the point much further, but I will link to Kaedrin's official stance on Intellectual Property, Copyright and DRM, a post I wrote a few years ago on my generalist blog that I think is still relevant. An expanded version of this post you're reading right now is also up at my generalist blog, along with some other links and thoughts on the matter. Feel free to stop on by.

And if you're so inclined, perhaps your form of protest could be represented by a different kind of blackout. Regularly scheduled programming will resume tomorrow.

1 - Thanks to James for the concise description. There are lots of much longer longer and better sourced descriptions of the shortcomings of this bill and the issues surrounding it, so I won't belabor the point here.

Victory Smokin' Oats

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I know, it's unfair. This beer is only available at the Victory brewpub (and maybe a few local beer bars). I promise, tomorrow I'll review a beer that's more widely available*. Anyways, Victory seems to like smoked beer. They've got their roots in German brewing, so perhaps that's not a surprise, but they do a lot of smoked beers at their brewpub (though mostly not for wide release - one exception to this is Otto, a smoked Belgian Dubbel). But if they wanted to, I think this smoked porter (presumably brewed with oats) would actually work pretty well:

Victory Smokin Oats

Victory Smokin' Oats - Pours a very dark brown color with amber highlights and finger of tan head. Smell is smoky with a solid amount of roasted malt character. Those roasted malts take on more prominence in the taste, along with some coffee flavors and a rather well matched smokiness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with solid carbonation and a nice crisp finish. It actually went really well with the brisket taco things I was eating at the time. A very good beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 0.3L glass on 1/7/11.

* Technically, the next beer on my list is Trappist Westvleteren 8, which is one of the least accessible beers in existence, but I'll skip it for a day or two, I think.

Pannepot

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A "pannepot" was a fishing boat based in the small Belgian village of De Panne. As the story goes, the men would go out fishing and their wives would stay home and brew up a strong, dark beer. I don't know how closely De Struise Brewery is following those historical recipes, but they call this beer their Fisherman's Ale, an ale brewed with spices.

Struise is something of an anomaly in Belgium - they're relatively young! In a country where some abbeys have a brewing tradition going back almost a thousand years, Struise began operations in 2003. They seem to be part of a crew of European brewers that are taking their cue from US craft beer, creating non-traditional Belgian beers. Apparently this wasn't so successful at first, but as recounted in a recent article in The Atlantic (reproduced at theBeerAuthority):

Struise's reputation is almost entirely a consequence of the Internet. "In the early days, it was impossible for us to sell beer in Belgium," Grootaert said. But after a RateBeer.com user in Denmark contacted Grootaert and tried his beer, Pannepot began circulating within the Danish beer-geek community, and its Web-savvy fans broadcast their approval to the rest of the world.
Yet another thing to thank the Danish for, I guess. Cause this beer is pretty fantastic:

De Struise Pannepot

De Struise Pannepot - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of tan head. The smell is very strange. Spicy, but not the typical Belgian spice. Also very fruity sweet, maybe even some brown sugar. Taste starts off sweet with a spicy kick. Fruity sweetness emerges in the middle (again maybe some brown sugar) and lingers through the aftertaste, though it does finish pretty dry (with just a hint of bitterness). Complex flavors keep evolving as it warms up. Mouthfeel is great. Highly carbonated, but not overpowering. Nice full body. A really interesting beer, and something I'd love to try again. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a goblet on 1/7/11. 2010 vintage bottle.

Recommended if you're looking for a good Quad/Belgian Strong Dark. Good stuff and I'm sure I'll be crossing paths with De Struise again soon enough (heck, I didn't even realize it, but this is my third post about De Struise without even really trying to focus on trying their beers...)

Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale

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Back in aught two, Stone started what they call a Vertical Epic. Each year, they put out a one-time brew that is meant to be aged until December 12, 2012. Assuming you're patient enough, you can then enjoy a vertical tasting of all the brews (it's not strictly a "vertical" tasting, as each year's beer has a different recipe, but you get the idea.) Each beer is released on one of them funny numerological dates, like 2/2/02, and 3/3/03, and so on, with the culmination being on 12/12/12 later this year (after which, such numerical games are not possible). This year has the added benefit of being binary (for the last time this century!)

I've actually never had any of these beers until now, but they generally seem to be a Belgian Strong Ale with some sort of twist. This year's installment was brewed with Anaheim chiles and cinnamon. Yeah, I think we're all thinking the same thing here:

Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11

Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale - Pours a dark amber color with a finger of light head and some lacing as I drink. Smell is filled with bready, musty Belgian yeast and some spiciness. The taste starts out surprisingly bland, with some sweet flavors emerging in the middle and a big bang of spice (chile and cinnamon are both there, though I'm not sure how well I'd be able to pick them out if I didn't already know about it) hitting in the finish and plowing through the aftertaste. It's most unusual. The chiles are definitely there and you even get a bit of heat from them (and it seems to build as you drink), but they're nowhere near overwhelming (the way they've been in other chile beers I've had). Overall, this is an interesting beer with a unique character. It's not a beer I'll be pining after for years to come or anything, but I'm really glad I got to try some. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.4% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/6/12.

An epic idea, for sure, but it seems I've come on board a little too late in the process! Still, I'll check out that 12/12/12 beer for sure.

Victory Ranch S IPA

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Having exhausted Victory's regular catalog of beers (and most of their seasonals...), I set about sampling their irregular catalog of beers. This one appeared out of nowhere. No fanfare, just a new Double IPA on tap at the brewery. With a cryptic name.

As it turns out, this is a 100% Cascade hopped beer. Victory sourced the hops for this beer from a family owned hop farm called the Segal Hop Ranch (i.e. Ranch S), apparently the first hop farmers to commercially grow cascade hops (starting back in the late 1960s), so these folks ain't fooling around. In an interesting Victory blog post a while back, one of the Victory brewers recounted his visit to the farm, talking about the Cascade Hops (which are apparently also used in Hop Devil) as well as Citra and then there's this intriguing tidbit: "During the visit, the Segals showed me an unnamed experimental hop they are growing that had a fruity aroma with notes of banana and vanilla." Well that sounds interesting, but I'll have to make due with this Cascade single hopped double IPA for now. I picked up a growler of the stuff a couple weeks ago and ended up drinking the whole damn thing that weekend. Incidentally, Victory's growler filler machine thingy is absolutely badass.

Victory Ranch S IPA

Victory Ranch S IPA - Pours a really striking clear golden orange color with a finger or two of fluffy white head. The smell is filled with earthy citrus hop aromas. As it warmed and/or as I drank more of it over the course of the weekend, I started to pick up more of a pine-like aroma. You know how all the descriptions of Simcoe hops say that they're like Cascade on steroids? I never understood that until now. This Cascade beer really does have the smell (and taste) profile of a Simcoe beer. The taste is sweet with some of that earthy, piney citrus, but also a more floral or even herbal character leading into the dry, bitter finish and lingering aftertaste I expect from an IPA. Again, I feel like my palate adjusted to this the more I drank, with the pine taking a more pronounced position. Mouthfeel is smooth and just a bit sticky, with a light to medium body. Quite an easy drinking beer. I even got a bit of alcohol warming out of it, though I think that's because I drank a lot of it quickly. It's a lot like a souped-up Hop Devil (and it has less in common with Hop Wallop)... Hop Devil was the beer that sold me on IPAs, so this is very good thing, and a nice surprise from Victory. Again, as I drank more of it and that Simcoe-esque quality started to shine through, it perhaps came into its own. I really like this beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV growler (2L), filled on 12/30/11. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/30/11 and 12/31/11.

I have no idea if this beer will return (I went to the brewery again this past weekend and they were already out of this) or if Victory has bigger plans to bottle this or something, but I'm glad I got to try some, as I enjoyed it greatly.

January Beer Club: Hoppy New Beer!

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. We had an average turnout this month, with 5 folks drinking beer and one pregnant club member who actually brought some non-alcoholic beer for us to try:

January Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or a giant hunk of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale - I already reviewed this beer last month, but this bottle seemed a lot better than the one I had before. Not sure what the deal is there, but it was a better balanced brew than I remember, and certainly not a C. Maybe an upgrade to a B- is warranted.
  • Clausthaler Premium - The first of our non-alcoholic beers, this one was actually not the worst thing I've ever had. It's not particularly great either, but it's certainly comparable to a solid macro lager, maybe even better. If you're pregnant, this would certainly hit the spot (though apparently there's an amber version that is better). I give it a C
  • Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale - I've had this a few times before, but it's actually better than I remember. Very nice, lots of hop character in the nose and the taste (nice floral and pine notes), but not overwhelmingly bitter or anything. I don't get a ton of oak out of this, but it's definitely more complex than the standard Arrogant Bastard. A-
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale - Rogue's collaboration with the Voodoo Doughnut shop generated a lot of buzz when it was announced, but once it was released, it got denounced as a "foul abomination". Fortunately, it's not that bad, though it's certainly not a mainstream beer. It smells very strongly of maple syrup with a little smoke coming through. The bacon comes out a little in the taste, but I'm still getting more maple syrup than anything else. There's some smoke there too, but it's not an overpowering flavor. Mouthfeel is actually quite nice, though it's still not an easy drinkin beer. I'm not sure I'd want to drink an entire bottle, but I did seem to like it a lot more than most beer club peeps. Perhaps because I was drinking this along with the burger I had ordered? Whatever the case, it is a bit of a gimmick, but I kinda enjoyed it. B-
  • Kaliber - This is the other non-alcoholic beer we tried, and we had high hopes. It's brewed by Guinness, and when my pregnant friend asked around, this was one of the recommendations she got. But yeah, this is horrible beer. Bland and watery with some off flavors or something. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was a kinda nice palate cleanser after the strong character of the Voodoo Doughnut (but then, water would probably have done just as well or better). F
  • The Bruery Mischief - A classic. I reviewed this a while back, and it's just as good as it was the first time. Still an A and probably my favorite beer of the night.
  • Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock - Very sweet and malty beer, I rather enjoyed this, though it was far from my favorite beer of the night. Perhaps a bit too sticky sweet, though still quite solid. I actually have one of these in my fridge somewhere, so I'll have to give this some closer attention at some point. For now, I'll give it a B
  • Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper - During a beer run in early December, I actually bought one of these (along with a few others) and put it on my passenger's side seat for the trip back home. At some point, I had to brake suddenly and my beer went flying... and this one broke open. I knew what happened right away, but since I was driving I couldn't really address it until I got home. For the next week or so, my car smelled of imperial stout... which, actually, wasn't that bad. I eventually picked up another bottle, but never drank it, so I brought it to beer club. It's quite a solid imperial stout. Roasty aroma with a taste that features a lot of dark chocolate and roasted malts. It was quite good, though perhaps my taste buds were a bit shot at this point of the night, as this wasn't quite as great as I was expecting. I'll give it a B for now.
  • My Homebrewed Christmas Beer - I think this is perhaps my best crafted beer yet and other folks at beer club certainly seemed to enjoy it (it went pretty quickly, which is pretty gratifying). I keep saying this, but I should really do some reviews of my homebrewed beers at some point.
  • Dana's Homebrewed Tripel - This did not come out as Dana had planned - there was a bit of a sour flavor present in the beer - but it actually turned out ok. Very citrusy nose and the taste, while not a typical tripel, was actually pretty good.
And that covers all the beer that we drank. As always, a great time was had by all, and we're already looking forward to February.

Trappist Westvleteren 12

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My first beer of the year and I may have just shot myself in the foot. I mean, yeah, January 1st just another day and our penchant for creating end of the year lists is an entirely arbitrary practice, but still. This sets the bar pretty high.

Trappist Westvleteren 12. The fabled Westy 12. Both Rate Beer and Beer Advocate have it ranked as the #2 best beer in the world, and it's been there for a long time. Indeed, it is often in the #1 slot, occasionally falling to a Pliny the Younger or Kaggen Stormaktsporter. In short, it's a legendary beer.

Of course, it's impossible to get. Almost literally. To buy a case of it, you have to fly to Belgium and even then you have to jump through all sorts of hoops, calling the Monastery at the magic time, going to the secret pickup place at the secret time, doing the elaborate 42 step handshake with the attending monk, ducking below the booby traps (Only the penitent man will pass!), then bribing the airport baggage handlers so they don't just "lose" your package, and so on. Apparently the monks also sell some bottles to their local cafes, so you can get one there too, but for most of us, the Westy is a pipe dream. Why do they do this? Well, the monks at the Saint Sixtus Abbey only sell their beer in order to financially support the monastery (occasionally, they will also use their earnings to support a charitable cause). This means not much beer is made, and apparently the local folks like this stuff too, so it sells out quickly. Go figure.

How did I get one? Let's just say I'm a weak, weak man. I bought a "collectible bottle" that just happened to be unopened. Wink, wink. I feel a little bad about it, but not really. It was expensive but not obscene (the way a lot of "collectible bottles" are), and it's pretty much the only way I'd be able to actually get my hands on one of these things. Ok enough preamble, let's do this:

Trappist Westvleteren 12

Check out that bottle. You've got to love a brewery that's so badass it doesn't even need to put labels on their bottles. The only real identifier is the gold cap.

Trappist Westvleteren 12 Cap

Pours a cloudy dark brown color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smell is strong with dark fruits - raisins and plums - along with some bready Belgian yeast. The taste has that same dark fruit character to it, very strong and rich flavors, sweet, well matched, a little booze, and a nice dry finish. The mouthfeel is absolutely perfect. Full bodied, a little chewy, but very easy to drink. Perfectly balanced carbonation that lasts throughout the entire taste. There's a little booze in there, but its true strength is hidden well by the rich flavor profile. Overall, an exceptional beer. A

Trappist Westvleteren 12 Closeup

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 1/1/12. The cap has a date printed on it that says 15.06.14.

So is it the best beer in the world? Probably not, but it's up there. I mean, I've only had the one and it was superb, but I'd like to try it a few more times before I put the best in the world label on something. I suspect even then it wouldn't be at the very top of my list (though perhaps a top 10 slot would be fitting). Heresy? Maybe, but who really cares? When you get to beer that is this good, it doesn't really matter how you rank it. I've also got a bottle of the less infamous but just as hard to get Westy 8 that I'm hoping to crack open this weekend, so look for another review soon!

A Note on Commenting

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Those who have attempted to leave a comment recently have no doubt found themselves facing a rather ugly error page despite the fact that the comment actually went through and was being displayed properly on the site. Sorry about that. In the short term, I've tried to make that error page a little more friendly so that you know what's what.

This has been a problem I've been running into lately and is probably the result of my host attempting to deal with the massive throngs of spam comments that were attempted on this site (and on my generalist blog) a while back. It's a 504 error, which is apparently something of a scripting timeout, and yeah, I know, you don't care.

So to make a long story short, if you submit a comment here, it should work, even if you get a weird page with an error on it. Also, I know it's annoying to have to log in with your Google or Wordpress (or whatever) account to leave a comment, but you can blame that one on the spammers too. I understand this is all a confusing state of affairs, and I assure you the appropriate person or persons responsible will be sacked. Unless that person is me, in which case, you're fucked because I'm pretty lazy about this stuff. I mean, come on, this beer isn't going to drink/review itself, amiright?

Update: Playing around with some Module Caching settings. You may see some funkiness on the site. If something seems wrong, I suggest panic.

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Mario wants to know what we drink when we're not drinking beer:

So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let's talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as Scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.
Well, leaving aside the beer blog roundup of posts that aren't about beer, I didn't have much trouble picking my poison. A few years ago, and I would have said Coca-Cola. But then my doctor told me I drank too much Coke. And I won a basket of Scotch and Cigars. Warning: What follows is a long and arduous tale of how I came to enjoy Scotch, followed by a beer review (said beer having been aged in Scotch casks). Feel free to skip ahead if my blabbering is putting you to sleep.

Every year at work, we have a number of charity events, and for one of them, various teams put together a basket of goodies. People buy tickets and enter to win each basket. In the 7 or so years I've participated, I've won three times (the secret is to put your tickets in the bags with the least amount of tickets). There are always baskets of booze and beer, and they're usually among the most entered baskets, but the Scotch and Cigar basket only had one bottle of scotch, so I'm guessing folks went for quantity over quality, and so I won and thus began my interest in scotch (and to a lesser extent, bourbon).

The Scotch I won was called The Balvenie. It's a single malt Scotch, but unlike most single malt Scotches, The Balvenie comes from a single cask (I'm no expert, but usually multiple casks are filled with the whisky from a single malt, then blended together). It's the 15 year old version, but it's got a nice fancy label with all the relevant dates and whatnot, and as luck would have it, my particular bottle sat in the cask for 18 years (it was casked in 1990 and bottled in 2008).

The Balvenie 15

At the time, I was a little intimidated by the world of fine Scotch whisky. I didn't want to waste this gorgeous and unique bottle of Scotch on an unrefined palate. Truth be told, it was right around this time that my beer geekery went into overdrive. I was learning a lot about beer, so I knew how different things could feel after you refined your palate a bit. So instead of cracking the Balvenie, I went out and bought some cheap Scotch. I started with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. A scotch whisky blend, and relatively cheap stuff with which to acquire a taste for scotch.

My initial strategy consisted of pouring a little bit of scotch in a glass, then filling most of the rest with water. Yeah, if a whisky nerd ever reads this, their head might explode, but this is why I got the Johnnie Walker. I would have one of these every day, but each day, I would decrease the amount of water. After a couple of weeks, I was drinking it straight up (like a real, fire-breathing man!) and enjoying myself quite a bit. I finally cracked open The Balvenie and basked in its glory.

During this period, my friend Padraic took pity on my scotch newbie soul and gave me the rundown (Padraic is a big beer nerd too, and he also maintains a blog about tea - quite the renaissance man!) He gave me a nice list of Scotches to try, and pointed me to a blog written by his friend Jacob called Water of Life (Padraic also contributes some reviews there). Thus armed with recommendations, I began exploring the world of Scotch a bit more.

It's been slow going and I won't pretend to be an expert. Beer is my poison of choice and I've probably only had 7 or 8 different scotches in my life. I only recently figured out that Islay is pronounced "eye-wah". Speaking of which, I don't know much about the various scotch regions either (though Islay seems to be home to the peaty, smoky monsters of Scotch). But I tell you now, every time I pour myself a dram of The Balvenie 15, I find my appreciation grows immensely. It is a really spectacular spirit, and I'm glad I still have some of it left. Oh sure, I could buy myself another bottle, but as it says on the label "Each bottle is unique and unrepeatable."

But this is a beer blog, so to bring the subject back to beer, we'll naturally have to talk about Scotch barrel aged beer! I've covered a few of these, ranging from the sublime to the merely brilliant to the awkwardly balanced to the outright disastrous. Today, I review one of Brewdog's now defunct Paradox series. An intriguing idea - they brewed up some imperial stout, then aged it in varying brands of Scotch barrels. This one was aged in Smokehead barrels. It's an Islay scotch, and apparently quite heavily peated, with lots of smoke. In my above referenced examples, Islay seems to overpower the flavors in beer, even in an imperial stout. But two examples isn't exactly a big sample size, so here's a third.

This one's been sitting around for at least a year, so perhaps the flavors have had enough time to come together and harmonize or something. The bottle says this should be served "at room temperature, unless you live in an igloo." In which case, I presume our Eskimo friends would have to find a way to warm up the beer. Fortunately, I don't live in an igloo:

Brewdog Paradox Smokehead

BrewDog Paradox Smokehead - Pours an extremely dark brown, almost black color with a couple fingers of light brown head. The aroma is dominated by peat smoke (as expected), with just a little musty yeast and roasted malt character shining through. That peaty smoke appears prominently in the taste as well, along with the corresponding scotch flavors, but you also get more of that roasted malt. Coffee and even chocolate make a welcome appearance towards the middle to finish, with a lingering aftertaste that actually works well. Mouthfeel is weird to judge. Feels very heavy and chewy, but that is perhaps due to the temperature (I don't normally drink beer at room temperature). Overall, this is actually a damn good beer. I never really had a fresh bottle of this, but I suspect that the extra time on my shelf has done this beer a favor, and that it would get even better with additional aging. The flavors have actually married together well, though it is not quite the perfection of Ola Dubh 40 or Devine Rebel. That being said, I'm impressed and a little saddened that Brewdog doesn't make these anymore. Perhaps I'll still be able to find a bottle somewhere... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/6/11. Bottle label says this is Batch 15, best drank before 19-8-16 (and unlike Storm, this one didn't have a little sticker over the date!)

Well, there you have it. I wish I had a bottle of Smokehead to chase this with, but what are you going to do. I have about 5 bottles of scotch in my little liquor cabinet with varying degrees of glory left in the bottle. Since this is a strong beer, I may have to forego the Balvenie tonight and hit up the newly acquired Ardbeg 10, whose Islay smokeyness knows no bounds. Someday, perhaps, I will do more considered Scotch reviews (they would definitely make great candidates for a double feature) here, but for now, this post will have to do.

Update: The Roundup has been posted. As it turns out, I'm very unoriginal, as lots of beer folks apparently go for the occasional dram of scotch as well. Go figure.

Polishing Off Christmas Beer Season

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Did I say I only had 2 Christmas beers left? Turns out there were more. Rather than belabor the holiday beers, I figured I'd just finish them off, all in one post.

  • Mikkeller Red/White Christmas - Inspired by the colors of Christmas, red and white, Mikkeller made this combination between an Imperial Red Ale (i.e. the Red) Belgian Wit (i.e. the White). Is this anything more than a gimmick? Well, I'll tell you, if there's wheat in this beer, I couldn't detect it (and only found out about it after the fact), but there are spices added. Of course, the spices are subtle, but there's definitely something going on here. Whatever the case, it's a pretty great beer:

    Mikkeller Red White Christmas

    Pours a dark reddish brown color with fluffy head and tons of lacing on the glass afterwards. Smell is fully of earthy hops and citrus, maybe a little pine. The taste is sweet with a spicy bite and a well balanced hop bitterness in the finish. The hoppiness trends towards the citrus and pine, and as the beer warms, some complexities emerge in the taste as well. Mouthfeel is great, smooth and eminently drinkable. I was taking pretty big swigs of this one. Surprisingly medium to full bodied, with lots of complexity. It's not quite Yule Smith, but it was quite enjoyable. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - A Christmas gift from my brother (apparently picked out by my nieces, as they liked the funny looking reindeer on the label). As it turns out, I've sampled this before, but neglected to rate it. I was pretty middle of the road on it in that context (a larger tasting with lots of other beers), but by itself, well, it just didn't stand up. Pours a clear orange amber color with a very small amount of bubbly head. Aroma is very English pale ale to me - bready, a little citrus, maybe even some raisins... but there's also some buttery diacetyl notes (typically something that doesn't go over well with me). Taste is sweet, a little bready, with some light caramel/toffee flavors there, but I can never seem to get past the prominent buttery diacetyl in these beers. Mouthfeel is ok, maybe a little light on carbonation, but smooth and drinkable. The beer gets slightly better as it warms up, but this was still disappointing. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Pickled Santa - Another Christmas gift from my brother. Ridgeway is a brewery that makes 22 beers, and I swear, half of them are Christmas beers. 11 Christmas beers. And most of them seem to be mediocre at best, this one not being an exception. It's definitely better than the Reindeer's Revolt - more spicy, more head, less diacetyl - but there's nothing particularly special about this beer either. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
So there you have it. That wraps up this year's Christmas beer blogging extravaganza. Regular beer blogging will resume next week, and boy did I have a doozy to start the new year off right!

Noel De Calabaza

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Ok folks, coming down the homestretch here. Only two holiday beers left to review. This one is an Belgian style ale aged in oak barrels with wild yeast to give the beer a bit of a sour twang. I didn't realize that last part when I bought it (beers that say they're oak aged generally make me think of bourbon barrel aged stuff, not sour stuff, though both seem to happen frequently), so that wild ale twang sometimes catches me by surprise. This was my Christmas night, done with all the festivities, vegging out on the couch beer, and despite the unexpected wildness, it fulfilled its duty well enough:

Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza

Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza - Pours a dark brown color with some amber highlights and a white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. The aroma is full of vanilla, oak, sugary sweetness, and a twang that I normally associate with sours. And yes, there is a bit of a tartness to the taste, though it's not nearly as prominent as it is in a lot of sours. The taste has a lot of sweetness and fruitiness along with some spiciness (peppery? Not notably Christmassy, but it's there...) and that wild twang emerging in the finish. The richness of the base beer's flavors can clearly hold their own with the sourness, a combination I usually like better than beers that are super sour. The mouthfeel is strong and full bodied, a little acidic, but well matched. Overall, it wasn't what I was expecting at all, but I'm enjoying it... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/25/11.

I don't really know what style to call this one. BA calls it a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but it seems more like an American Wild Ale to me, so that's what I'm putting it as. In other news, Jolly Pumpkin is a brewery I should really become further acquainted with.

Two Front Teeth Holiday Ale

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So I bought this beer last summer. Damned if I remember why I bought it then, but I did. Heck, I've never even really heard of the brewery (as it turns out, they're a very small, semi-local brewery)... But it's been sitting in my fridge since then, and it actually seemed appropriate for New Years, so here we are.

Why is it a New Years beer? When you hear the phrase "Holiday Ale" you're probably thinking about something that's Christmassy. Darkish beer with spices and/or lots of warming alcohol, with maybe the odd imperial red ale making an appearance. But there's definitely a different connotation for New Years. When it comes to alcohol, people tend to think of Champagne as the spirit of choice for that holiday. Jim from the Beer & Whisky Brothers blog recently laid out his 5 Rules for New Years Beer and while I normally find such proclamations kinda silly, I thought I'd play along anyway. Because I'm a silly guy, after all.

So let's see here. The beer is corked, so check that off. The label is a bit iffy. It's well designed and everything, but it's not like a fancy, classy Champagne label. It is light colored and as it turns out, you can see through it, so we're back on track. It's definitely quite effervescent and bubbly, so there's another criteria met. The name "Two Front Teeth" isn't quite nasty, but neither is it properly festive, unless you're hanging out with a bunch of hockey players for new years. So that's a strong 3 out of 5, with the other two criteria on the borderline. Call it 4 out of 5. Not too shabby:

Spring House Two Front Teeth

Spring House Two Front Teeth Holiday Ale - Pours a bright, clear golden color with tons of fluffy head. Smells deeply of musty Belgian yeast and typical banana/clove aromas. Taste is candy sweet with a punch of spiciness and a nice dry finish. There are definite hints of fruitiness in the taste, but I'm not getting any cherries out of this. As it warms, that fruitiness becomes more pronounced, but I still couldn't pick out cherries... It's light colored, but it feels a bit on the heavy side. Medium to full bodied and a little alcohol warming effect, but still smooth. Not an everyday beer, but it's working well as a new years beer! From what I've heard about this beer, I'd like to try a fresh bottle of this stuff, as it seems like it may have mellowed out in my fridge after such a long stay... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.75% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 12/31/11. No date on the bottle, but I'm guessing it was bottled in late 2010.

Interestingly enough, the past two years worth of New Years beer for me have been strong saison style beers (last year's being Avec Les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont, a hard beer to beat and one of my favorite beers period, let alone holiday beers). They do strangely seem to fit the mold. I'd also assume that a light colored sour beer would work - think Russian River Temptation (I suspect Jim would take issue with the name of the beer and the Scythe imagery on the label, but who cares what he thinks). In fact, that beer is quite champagne-like. Perhaps if I can't find a new saison for next year...

Fireside Chat

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I had this beer last year and was quite taken with it. It didn't blow me away or anything, but it had a C+ on Beer Advocate at the time, which struck me as dreadfully underrated. BA seems to have upended the cart by using, like, 3 different rating scales now, none of which are the old letter grading system that was being used last year. Right now it's got a 74 (out of 100), which still seems awfully low. What have these 21st Amendment people done to inspire such ire? Is this beer made with the venom of an endangered species? Perhaps it's brewed solely with illegal immigrants in a sweatshop? Is this beer an elaborate money laundering scheme for mobsters? What's going on here?

I will say that it wasn't quite as great as I remembered from last year. Perhaps this could be attributed to it being on tap last year, or perhaps I got a fresher can and by the time I got my hands on it last year, it had mellowed out some... But it's certainly not as bad as BA is indicating... Well, anyway, here goes:

21st Amendment Fireside Chat

21st Amendment Fireside Chat - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of tan head. Lots of holiday spices in the nose - cinnamon, clove, and the like. Taste is sweet, with some caramel malt character and just a hint of roastiness. The finish is spicy and dry, with more bitterness than I remembered from last year. Medium bodied and well carbonated, this one hides its relatively high ABV well. Overall, it's a really solid winter warmer style beer. I'm slightly less impressed with it out of the can, but it's still much better than the relatively craptacular ratings it garners on BA. I'll give it a B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip on 12/24/11. Unfortunately no Fireplaces were available during consumption.

There you have it. Up next on this brewery's front is Allies Win the War - 21A's collaboration with Ninkasi (with whom I'm entirely unfamiliar, as they don't distribute here). I bought one of the gorgeous 4 pack boxes of that beer, so I've already had one and quite enjoyed it. I'll probably be drinking another for actual evaluation purposes soon.

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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.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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