February 2012 Archives

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale

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Apparently one of my favorite local beer nerd establishments got their hands on a sixtel of the fabled Pliny the Younger (currently Beer Advocate's #1 Top Beer on the planet). They posted about it on Facebook late last night, and they opened their doors at 10:30 am this morning. Ten minutes later, it sold out. Someone posted on facebook: "Sorry job-havers." Curse my responsibility! I'm sure the beer is great, but at this point, I can't help but think that it would never live up to expectations and I probably won't go too far out of my way to get my hands on the stuff. It's true, we are one of the lucky markets that gets a taste of the stuff, which is nice, I guess, but from what I can tell it's always an absolute madhouse, and tastings sometimes only consist of a few ounces. I certainly wouldn't turn any down, but it just doesn't seem worth the colossal stretch required. Of course, I say this now, but next year I'll probably post about how I stood outside in a snowstorm for 4 hours just to get a tiny 0.1 ounce sample applied to my tongue with an eyedropper.

In the meantime, I'll just have to deal with the oodles of other great IPAs on the market, of which there certainly is no shortage. But tonight, I'm reviewing a pale ale even further down the spiral (apologies for the craptacular blurry picture):

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of whitish head. Lots of floral hop aromas in the nose. Unusual flavors hit the palate first, perhaps that floral hop flavor is more prominent than the nose advertises. Actually a bit of spiciness to the taste as well, also probably from the hops. Just a faint amount of bitterness in the finish. Seems a bit simplistic. Carbonation is very strong and almost biting, though the body is still rather light. Doesn't go down quite as easy as I'd hope. Overall, I'm not too taken with this beer. It's not horrible, but something about the hop profile doesn't work for me. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 2/18/12.

Ok, so this ain't quite a Pliny substitute, but a few upcoming reviews could perhaps hit a little closer to the target.

Brooklyn Black Ops

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This is one of those beers that I never thought I'd actually get to try, but whilst perusing the beer menu at a local establishment, it jumped out at me. Now, from what I've heard, this is an obscenely expensive beer in almost any case, and buying it from a bar... well, let's just say that it's probably not something I'll do again. That being said, I'm really glad I got to try some and I can cross another beer off the white whale list.

I'd always thought that the base for this bourbon barrel aged beer was Brooklyn's excellent Black Chocolate Stout, but apparently they tweak a different imperial stout recipe each year and, of course, barrel aging adds an additional variable to the process. The brewery sez it's "aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented in the bottle with Champagne yeast" which is at least a little strange. I get the impression that most bourbon barrel aged beers are not bottle conditioned, but I could be wrong about that. The selection of Champagne yeast is more unusual, though you do see it in very high ABV beers (regular brewers yeast can't really tolerate high ABV, whilst Champagne yeast can). In theory, the bottle conditioning would make the beer more suitable for aging, though I greedily drank this one up less than a week from purchase... Anyway, enough nerding out about how the beer was produced, let's drink this stuff:

Brooklyn Black Ops

Brooklyn Black Ops 2011 - Pours black color with a couple fingers of light brown head. Smell is filled with chalky, roasted malt and bourbon. Taste prominently features that roasted malt along with just a bit of chocolate and tons of boozy bourbon emerging in the finish. The mouthfeel is a little light on the carbonation and smooth, but still very nice. Not quite as rich or full bodied as I'd expect, it still packs a big amount of flavor in a high medium body. Overall, an excellent bourbon barrel aged beer, but not quite reaching the heights of others I've had. Indeed, I might even like the regular Black Chocolate Stout better, but then, I've only had one of these and would gladly try more (though I don't think I'd quite pay this much for one again). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 2/17/12. Label sez 2981 (bottled on 298th day of 2011)

I never have gotten around to trying out Brooklyn's Local 2, which is something I've been wanting to drink for a while (and it's readily available in this area too), and while I remember being disappointed by Sorachi Ace, I think it's probably worth giving it another try (I drank it a few years ago and it didn't do much for me)...

Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager

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Victory celebrated their 15th Anniversary last year, and to mark the occasion, they created a new flagship beer: Headwaters Pale Ale. It was a beer that goes against most "Anniversary Beer" conventions. Namely, it wasn't a high-ABV face-melter that incorporated all sorts of weird ingredients. Instead, it's focus was on highlighting the most unassuming of beer's ingredients: the water. Few would call a 5.1% ABV Pale Ale a very adventurous anniversary beer, but then, this is a beer that has developed into Victory's flagship. It's became so popular and so ubiquitous in this area that Victory actually ran out and had to rearrange their brewing schedule to make up for the demand (so no Old Horizontal this year *sniff*).

But this year, things are a little different. In honor of their 16th year, Victory is making a limited batch of beer in collaboration with famous local chocolatier Éclat. I wouldn't call this a typical anniversary beer, but it's not quite the old standard that Headwaters was either. It's actually quite an unusual beer. Heck, it's a lager. One way to divide the beer world is to separate them into ales and lagers. Lager yeasts ferment at lower temperatures and typically feature cleaner, smoother, more stable flavor profiles. There tends to be less in the way of fruity esters or spicy phenols (which can be very prevalent in ales). There seems to be much less of a focus on lagers in the beer nerd community for some reason, though around this time of year, everyone seems to start cracking open doppelbocks.

In any case Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager is a Euro Dark Lager brewed with Peruvian Pure Nacional cacao beans (apparently quite rare) and is served on nitro tap:

Victory Eclat Cocoa Lager

Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager - Dark brown color, beautiful amber highlights, creamy tan head. Smells like chocolate with a hint of roasted barley. Taste has some light chocolate with just a hint of well balanced roastiness emerging in the finish. Lots of flavor, but very well matched and not overpowering at all. Mouthfeel is a dream. Nitro pour makes it incredibly smooth, but this is the perfect mouthfeel for the flavor profile. Medium bodied, clean and smooth, very easy to put down. The muted flavor profile of the lager matches perfectly with the nitro pour. A really fantastic beer... A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV on tap (nitro pour). Drank out of Victory's .3L Bar Glass.

I really hope I can get me some more of this before it's gone. Or that it becomes a regular brewpub/local tap akin to their (also pretty good) Donnybrook Stout. Given how well the nitro pour accentuates the beer's flavors, I'm not sure a bottling would work so well (and I doubt the expense of those nitrogen cans would be attractive to Victory at this point).


Oscars Beer Drinking

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So I promise I won't promote my other blog all the time, but here at Kaedrin, we have a yearly tradition of watching the Oscars, mocking celebrities, and drinking beer. So stop on by my generalist blog for predictions (which are up now, around noon EST) and frequently updated commentary/mockery (starting with the ceremony, around 8:30 pm EST or so). (To get an idea, see previous liveblogging posts are here: [2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004])

I'll be cracking open a bottle of Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter and maybe a few others throughout the night. It's obviously not the focus of the night - it's more about me accusing celebrities of being drunk rather than getting drunk myself - but I'm a nerd, so I'll be commenting on beer too.

Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

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Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout is a hugely popular beer, but it's one that never really connected with me (I gave it a B). I wouldn't call it bad, but perhaps a bit overrated. Well, Great Divide has taken this beer and used it as a chance to experiment. There's a version with Brett, a version with Belgian yeast, and several oak aged varieties - including this one, aged on oak chips with cocoa nibs (apparently there's a "hint of cayenne" as well, though I certainly didn't pick up on that). The regular Yeti sorta emphasizes the things I don't particularly love about stouts, but this treatment - less of the bitter hops and roasted coffee flavors, more in the way of chocolate and vanilla character - is right up my alley:

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti - Pours a thick black color with a finger or so of brown head. Aroma is full of roasted malts and, yes, chocolate. Taste is very sweet, with less of the roastiness than I was expecting (though it's still there), a little bitter dark chocolate, and a very nice vanilla oak character, along with a heaping helping of booze. The finish is relatively dry and bitter, with that bitterness lingering into the aftertaste. I remember the regular Yeti being very bitter too, but this version seems to have a more pleasing bitterness. Mouthfeel is full bodied and boozy, a little bit of alcohol burn, but it works quite well. Overall, I'm much happier with this than I was with the regular yeti. I actually kinda love it, which was surprising... A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/11/12.

Great Divide has a bunch of these oak aged Yetis, and I'd like to try some of the other ones... The Bourbon Barrel aged version sounds particularly enticing, though the Espresso Oak Aged one might not be my thing...

Adventures in Brewing - Beer #7: Bottling

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After two weeks in the fermenter, I bottled the single-hopped Simcoe IPA this past weekend. Fermentation started quickly and lasted most of the first week, despite the small batch. About a week into the process, when fermentation had slowed considerably, I cracked the lid and dropped in another ounce of Simcoe hops. I've never done dry hopping before, but it's supposed to impart additional aromas to the beer...

And judging from the smell in my kitchen during bottling day, I'd say that extra step was worth the stretch! Amazing citrus aromas (grapefruit!), not quite as much in the way of pine, but still a great smell.

Final Gravity was 1.012, which is a little lower than expected, but it could also be that low because the Original Gravity wasn't as high as I estimated. That being said, I'd say I'm in for something around 7-7.3% ABV, right at the high end of a single IPA (or the low end of the Double IPA). I gave it a taste, and hoo boy, that citrus is huge. Very nice bitterness in the finish too, though I'm guessing that will mellow out as the beer conditions in the bottle. I'm so very looking forward to this beer! There's nothing quite like a super-fresh IPA, and this is probably as fresh as I'll ever get to taste...

My IPA, straight from the fermenter

I'm planning on cracking one open this weekend, though who knows if it will be carbonated enough. I only got around 1 case of beer out of this batch, but then hugely hopped beers fade with time, so having a case should last just long enough.

Up next is what I'm calling an Earl Grey beer. The base beer will be a sessionable English Bitter (which is a style that has always confused me, since they're not actually that bitter), and I'll be adding some Bergamot oil towards the end of the boil (and maybe even some Earl Grey tea). Should be interesting! After that, I'm going to start working on my Belgian Dubbel for this summer...

Ommegang Aphrodite

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Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love. I swear I didn't plan it this way, but I drank this on the weekend before Valentine's day, which seems mildly appropriate I guess (though Cupid is usually the one associated with the holiday - Cupid is the Roman equivalent of Aphrodite's son Eros, but I digress...) Anywho, Ommegang was my first love in the world of beer, so I always try to catch up with their specialty brews. This one is a Belgian fruit beer made with raspberry and pear, fermented with Ommegang's house strain and Brettanomyces. Not exactly my thing, but again, I like to give Ommegang the benefit of the doubt:

Ommegang Aphrodite

Ommegang Aphrodite - Pours a bright red color with a very light pink head. Smell is difficult to describe. I want to say it's like a fruity syrup, not quite cough syrup, but syrup is the word that most comes to mind. I also get a bit of funk and yeast here, but not quite as strong as the fruitiness. The taste has that same sort of fruity syrupy flavor, maybe a little more into the cough syrup realm here, but also a little on the vinous side. The finish isn't quite tart, but there's a bit here. Perhaps a bit on the spicy side too, though I feel like that hits more in the mouthfeel, which is a bit harsh and sticky. It's very sweet, but it finishes dry. As such, it doesn't quite reach cloying, but drinking a full 750 ml bottle of the stuff is a bit much. A most unusual beer. Not something that is blowing me away, but interesting nonetheless. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/10/12.

To be honest, I'm more intrigued in Ommegang's latest release, Seduction, brewed with chocolate and Liefmans Cuvee Brut Kriek. I've been spending the past month and a half or so trying to drink down my cellar a bit, but I may have to peek my head out for a bottle of that stuff. And their forthcoming Art of Darkness is definitely right in my wheelhouse, so definitely look for a review of that one at some point.

La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged)

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I don't typically think of the Trappists as being trendy, but here they are, barrel aging their beer. Of course, barrel aging beer isn't a new thing at all, and the Trappists over at Koningshoeven were using barrels back in the late 19th century. Well, they recently decided to restore that tradition and since I'm a total sucker for this sort of treatment, here we are.

The base beer they used was their most excellent Quadrupel, and they've used a variety of different barrels throughout several batches. The bottle I got my hands on was from Batch 3, which featured a blend of beer aged in 3 different barrels:

  • New Oak Medium Toast - 18% of the beer in this batch
  • Port Medium Toast (French Oak) - 55%
  • La Trappe Q. Medium Toast (French Oak) - 27%
At their website, they even list out the common flavors attributed to each type of barrel (at the bottom of the linked page). Ok, so let's get this party started:

La Trappe Quadrupel Oak Aged Batch 3

La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged) - Batch 3 - Pours a cloudy (visible sediment), deep brown color with a finger of puffy head. The aroma is full of sweet, dark fruit (raisins are clear), bready Belgian yeast, and a sorta red wine-like character (which I suspect is from the port barrels). The taste starts sweet and spicy, complexity emerging in the middle with more pronounced fruit and some of that oak aged quality (vanilla and leather), and a boozy finish (again, wine-like flavors here, probably from the port). Mouthfeel is a little lighter on the carbonation than the regular Quad (less effervescent), but still rich and full bodied. Overall, a wonderful and complex take on an already great beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked mini-mag). Drank out of a goblet on 2/10/12.

These early batches seemed to favor port barrels and new barrels, but they apparently went through a phase of aging in white wine barrels and have since moved on to old scotch barrels with their latest batches. I'd love to catch up with some of those varieties as well. In fact, it seems like each batch is unique, so if I ever see these again, I'll probably pick up another bottle...

Moar Kaedrin

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Did you know I had another weblog? In actuality, I've been blogging there for almost a dozen years now, and I write about lots of stuff, even sometimes touching on beer, like a few weeks ago when I talked about genres and beer styles, including this quote about beer styles:

In one of the many stories he likes to tell about German, English and Belgian brewers, Michael Jackson first asks a German how beer is made. "Pils malt, Czech hops," the brewer replies. Then Jackson asks the German brewer down the road the same question. "It's the same as Fritz said. That's how you make a Pilsener, that's what we learn in school."

After getting a different answer from a British brewer, Jackson turns to a Belgian brewer. "First of all, you take one ton of bat's droppings. Then you add a black witch," the Belgian answers. "The brewer down the road uses a white witch." Jackson concludes with the lesson: "Belgium is a nation of tremendous individualists."

If style guidelines for Bat Dropping Ale stated that color shouldn't be less than 25 SRM, do you think that would have stopped the brewer down the road from using a white witch? Of course not. Style guidelines don't limit creativity, lack of imagination does.
And of course, more on the subject in that post.

Do you like movies? Cause I love them. I recently posted my top 10 movies of 2011. And we have an annual tradition here at Kaedrin about liveblogging the Oscars. Check it out next week! (Previous editions here: [2011 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004])

Basically, I have another blog and you might enjoy it. Check it out! I'm also on twitter and Untappd. The Kaedrin empire is wide ranging and powerful. Follow it!

Founders Red's Rye PA

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Founders, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, seems to be one of those bedrock breweries. They make a ton of styles, and they knock them all out of the park, including this rye beer. I'm pretty sure this is the first of that style I ever had. I don't know who "Red" was, but I presume he's the guy on the label and that he loves him some rye. And hops.

Founders Reds Rye

Founders Red's Rye PA - Pours a brownish amber color with a finger of light head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smell is all hopped up (citrusy and floral), with some caramel malt and maybe some of that rye as well... Taste has some caramel malt along with a heaping helping of citrus and earthy, floral hops and a well matched bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and easy to drink for a beer with this much flavor. Overall, a damn fine beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/5/12.

I wouldn't say that my palate is particularly attuned to rye, though I seem to be able to pick it out in the aroma better than the taste. The same went for the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye I had earlier this week... But I'm interested to try more rye beer. And at this point, I'm always willing to sample something new from Founders.

The Oak Melchior

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Just what is a Melchior? Every time I see that name, I have to pronounce it like I assume Robert Loggia would. The Oak Melcheoooorrrrrrr!

As it turns out, Melchior is not a reference to a beloved character actor, but rather one of the Three Wise Men. Melchior, Caspar (aka Gaspar), and Balthazar were the three kings bearing gifts to the newly born Jesus. While not explicitly named by Mathew in his gospel, as near as I can tell, most of the details come from various Greek transcripts dating to the latter half of the first millennium. Basically, Biblical fan fiction.

Well, the relatively new brewers over at the Picobrouwerij Alvinne decided to make a series of beers celebrating our favorite Magi, then age them in a variety of barrels. This particular beer was brewed with mustard seeds and aged for 6 months in Calvados brandy barrels. Actually, the barrels apparently contained Cognac for 10 years and Calvados for 8 years. The label says that "We found these barrels at a local farmer in the French Contentin." I get the impression that the Belgian brewers just got drunk, crossed the border and mounted an attack on France, who promptly surrendered, yielding old brandy barrels as spoils of war.

Beer Advocate lists this as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, which makes sense, because my exhaustive research has revealed that Melchior was likely the king carrying Gold:

Alvinne Oak Melchior

Picobrouwerij Alvinne The Oak Melchior - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with minimal head, actually quite a pretty looking beer. The smell has a twang to it that I associate with sour beers, and that seems to overwhelm any other aromas (upon further pours into the glass, I do get a sorta bready aroma too). I was naturally expecting the sourness to appear in the taste, but there's not much there. Instead, I get typical rich oak flavors and maybe a bit of booze (presumably from the cognac and brandy) with a thick but smooth malt backbone. Maybe just a hint of a sour twang there, but you really have to look for it (and possibly imagine it). I'm not detecting the mustard seeds at all, but that's as it should be. The flavors are complex enough that I'm sure the mustard played a role somewhere. The mouthfeel is chewy and heavy with just enough light carbonation to make the rich flavors palatable. The booze contributes a big warming feeling as well. An extremely unusual beer, but one I'm glad I got to try. If it weren't for the disconnect with the aroma, this would be in the A range, but I'll still give it a solid B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/4/12. Cap sez: Melchior Calv342, Jan 2013 Lot 469.

Has anyone ever made myrrh beer? How about frankincense beer? I smell a homebrew batch coming on. Or something.

I'd be really curious to see how this Calvados barrel treatment would work on a darker beer style... and apparently Picobrouwerij Alvinne has done just that. For a "pico" brewery (i.e. a really small brewery), they sure do seem to put out a huge variety of beers, from typical Belgian styles to Imperial Stouts. Beer Advocate lists 54 different beers. And they've seemingly barrel aged all of their normal beers at some point. In several different types of barrels, no less. The Melchior itself has 5 different barrel-aged versions.

I bought this bottle on a whim because it sounded interesting and it was from Belgium (let's call this another successful round of Belgian Beer Roulette). Now I'm going to have to head back to State Line Liquors and stock up on some more Alvinne treats.

Febrewary Beer Club

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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. An interesting turnout this month, as a few stalwarts were absent, but new attendees picked up the slack. This time around, we visited a Mexican BYOB with quite the ostentatious decor:

February Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

Phew, that place has some brightly colored furniture. But amazing salsa and good food too. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so you can and should be skeptical of my notes. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale - Wow, very rich malt flavors here, like a Scotch ale, but with something more. I got a distinct barrel aged character out of it, though this not one of those versions (apparently there are bourbon, port or brandy barrel aged versions, which I'd love to try). Fantastic beer, got the night going in style, though it may have set the bar unreasonably high for the following beers. I'd love to get me some more of this. A candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Appalachian Jolly Scot Scottish Ale - A somewhat local PA beer, this is another malt-forward ale that, unfortunately, didn't stand up too well to the Hairy Eyeball. It was fine, to be sure, and I'd probably really enjoy one of these by itself, but it came off as being a biton the thin side after the rich flavors of the Hairy Eyeball. B
  • Blue Moon Belgian White - I know, it's brewed by Coors, but hey, it actually worked really well at this point in the night. After two malt forward beers, it was a really refreshing change of pace, and I honestly have no problem with this beer anyway. Obviously not something I would ever go out of my way for, but a lot of places that only stock macros will have this on tap, and it's actually a nice beer. No, it won't melt your face, but it's a good gateway beer. Lots of wheat and citrus, it's refreshing and made for a nice palate cleanser tonight. B
  • Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale - Big brown ale brewed with Maple Syrup, you do get that character coming through pretty strongly here. A big, rich ale, no real hop presence, but lots of malts and that maple syrup adds a nice richness to the proceedings. Very well done, and another candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA - Well hopped (citrus and a little pine), plenty of balancing malts, and some of that distinctive rye character (though I never got the full-on rye bread character people seem to talk about). It didn't blow my mind, but a very solid beer that I could probably drink often. B+
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8 - Not pictured (late arrival), but it's a classic. Already reviewed here.
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) - Another beer I reviewed a while back, this is one of the more interesting beers of the night. Massive aroma, intense flavors of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, maybe even some coffee. I could just sniff this stuff all night. Great stuff, maybe even a little better than I remember (though I think my chief complaint last time was that it's a bit too sweet to drink a whole bottle). A strange beer because I wouldn't call it one of my favorites, but it's so distinctive and interesting that I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone. A great dessert beer.
  • Dominion Ale - Any beer that follows the intense flavors and aroma of Creme Brulee was probably doomed to failure, and this turned out to be a rather standard English Pale Ale, a style I'm coming to dislike quite a bit these days. I always feel like there are buttery off flavors in these beers, and this one is no exception. I even threw in a small slice of orange, which helped mellow it out a bit, but blegh. Not a fan of this beer. D
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale - My homebrewed winter warmer style beer (a kinda spiced red ale), this thing has to be my best beer yet. Very nice spicy aroma, picking up lots of that cinnamon and clove, tastes quite nice, almost creamy mouthfeel. I really hope this wasn't some sort of fluke. I should really do a recap of all my homebrews at some point on the blog, so no rating for now, but I would seriously put this up against any of the winter warmer style beers I've had over the past couple years.
  • Boxcar Brewing A Long Winter's Night - This is probably as local as I can get. The (tiny) brewery was literally a few blocks away from where we were tonight (and this limited edition brew doesn't even warrant a page on BA, apparently). This winter ale was very interesting. I didn't get a lot of spice or anything out of it, but it was a very nice cloudy brown color with... it's hard to describe. Roasted chocolate? But not at all like a stout. More like a brown ale, but with no coffee and some chocolatey overtones (to be honest, it's very much like their regular brown ale, but perhaps less nutty). Very solid beer. B
All in all, a pretty great night! We didn't manage to get to all the beers in the picture, though I ended up taking a can of pale ale home with me, so perhaps a review of that in the coming weeks... That's all for now.

Lagunitas Sucks

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Well, no, but that's what they named their beer. Years ago, in a failed attempt to make a barleywine, Lagunitas attempted to save the batch by throwing in a bunch of brown sugar. The result... wasn't a barleywine, but it was apparently pretty great in its own right. It was called Brown Sugga, and it became their regular winter seasonal beer. Unfortunately, it apparently takes a long time to brew and it ties up brewery resources, so this year, when resources were at a premium and their brewery upgrade wasn't ready yet, Lagunitas decided to cancel the popular brew this year (they're installing extra capacity right now, so there should be no problems next year.)

Knowing that folks would want their Brown Sugga fix, Lagunitas took the self-deprecating route, made this beer and called it Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale: Brown Sugga Substitute:

Lagunitas Sucks

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale - Pours a nice clear golden orange color with about half a finger of quickly disappearing head. Tons of lacing though. Smell is sugary sweet, with lots of citrus (grapefruit), a little pine, and some sort of earthy floral aromas as well. Taste is very sweet, with that floral pine taste hitting immediately, followed by a well balanced bitterness in the middle and finish. Mouthfeel is light to medium, really easy to drink. Maybe a hint of booze is detectable, but the dry finish does a good job hiding it. Overall, a wonderful beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.85% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/3/12.

I'm not an expert on Lagunitas, but they sure seem to know what they're doing with these hoppy beers (i.e. they don't suck!) As much as I enjoyed this one, I'm kinda looking forward to Brown Sugga next year...

Clown Shoes Lubrication

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My brother gave me three beers for Christmas, all of which were picked out by my nieces (9 and 7 years old). I've already mentioned the other two on the blog a while back, but this one looked familiar. I couldn't quite place why I recognized it, but I finally figured it out. Apparently this beer's label art caused quite a weird stir last summer when the Beer Advocate Events Director, Candice Alström, who found the label offensive. I don't want to get into the details (check the linked article above for that), but I find that claim for this particular label to be absurd (other Clown Shoes beers may be another matter, but there are many labels out there that are horribly sexist, so perhaps a more comprehensive tact would be more appropriate).

In any case, my nieces thought the robot on the label was goofy, which reminded them of me (I'm apparently known in my brother's household as "Crazy Uncle Marky"). I was touched and honored by their choice:

Clown Shoes Lubrication

Clown Shoes Lubrication - Pours a deep black color with a ton of tan head. Aroma is filled with roasted malts and bready yeast, with maybe a hint of hop character (I was expecting more, though with all that head, who knows?) The first thing that hits in the taste is that roasted malt with maybe a little coffee. The flavor intensifies through the middle and finishes bitter and dry. There's hop bitterness here, but very little hop flavor. It's well carbonated but surprisingly light bodied (maybe into medium bodied). Overall, I feel like it's unbalanced and a little disappointing, though to be fair, that tends to be my feeling on the style in general (the only American Black Ale/Black IPA that I've thought was a real success was Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. Otherwise, I'm usually left wanting a good stout or a good IPA.) Certainly not a bad beer and I'd rather have this than, say, a macro beer, but I was hoping for a bit more... B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/3/12.

I don't really see myself racing out to explore more from Clown Shoes, but I did appreciate the gift.

Hopslam

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I don't know why, but last year, I underestimated how hard it would be to find some of this beer and ended up missing out on its hoppy goodness. Well, not so this year. I've been keeping my eye out, and last week, I spied some at a local establishment and finally made my acquaintance with this beloved beer. I would love to get my hands on some bottles of the stuff, but things are a little rough in PA, where you mostly have to buy beer by the case and thus this stuff sells out pretty quickly. Guy at the bar mentioned that he's been on the waiting list at his local distributor for two years... and he still wasn't sure if he'd get the case this year. But I hear rumors of more stuff coming later in February, so maybe I'll snag a few bottles then... But for now, I'll just have to deal with it on tap:

Bells Hopslam

(Apologies for the craptacular picture. It was dark!)

Bell's Hopslam Ale - Nice clear golden color with about a finger of head. This might sound obvious, but it's quite hoppy. Tons of juicy citrus, a little pine, maybe some floral aromas too. Tastes fantastic - very sweet, nice citrus and pine hop flavors, with a well matched bitterness emerging in the middle, hitting full force in finsh. It's a sweet beer, but the finish is dry and bitter enough that it never feels cloying. It's apparently brewed with honey, which would help explain some of that dryness... Extremely well balanced. Mouthfeel is smooth, maybe a little heavy, but still very easy to drink. The alcohol is well hidden too, though maybe just a hint of warming if you drink quickly (unsurprising given the ). Overall, fantastic beer. I can see what all the fuss is about... and I want more! A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap (10 ounces). Drank out of a goblet on 2/1/12.

I do hope I can get me a few bottles of the stuff, but I have to admit, the stories about people stalking this beer are a bit much. If I can find some, great, but I ain't going crazy trying to get my hands on the stuff. Ditto for Pliny the Younger, which

Older Viscosity

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As I've made abundantly clear last week, I'm at a point in my beer obsession where I don't mind paying a little extra money to try something new and interesting. As a fledgling beer nerd, I had some initial hesitation on that front and I'm still a little suspicious whenever I see a single bottle going for more than $20. But for the most part, I've found those expensive beers worth the stretch. When I first pulled the trigger on a highly priced beer (The Bruery's Coton), the excuse I gave myself was that I was still relatively new to this whole good beer thing and that I was willing to spend a little extra to experiment with new and interesting beers. I suspected that I would grow out of that phase as I became a more seasoned beer nerd, but a couple years later, I'm not sure about that. I think I'm more willing to pull that trigger now than I ever have been before. It helps when the beer is as good as Coton was (I even went back and bought another bottle to age), though there have been times when I've paid through the nose for a beer I didn't particularly care for.

Now, beer pricing is apparently somewhat controversial. Some think that beer is too cheap, some think it too expensive, some think it's cheap because it's "just beer", others note how much effort goes into creating the beer, and yet others want to know more about why they have to pay a premium to get the latest super-duper beer. In the linked post, brewer Tomme Arthur (of The Lost Abby and Port Brewing) left a comment where he mentions:

It's true,our beers have become more expensive, and over the years, we have developed a reputation for beers outside the boundaries. These are what I refer to as flavor driven beers.

Are they expensive? Depends upon what value you place on them. Stephen is obviously a fan and feels compelled to say so. For me, they are not expensive, they are merely priced at a higher point than conventional beer. And I don't believe we make conventional beer.

He mentions a lot of things in his comment, including the cost of materials and ingredients and how barrel aging is a long and expensive process... but none of that really matters.

Look, we're not communists here. We don't determine value by the amount of effort that went into creating the beer. We pay what we're willing to pay to get a beer that tastes good. It's our decision. Some of us might take into account how the beer was brewed (or supporting their local brewer, etc...), but most of us are more interested in the experience of drinking the beer and not the process of brewing it. Now, doing a high gravity, barrel-aged beer represents a significant investment on the part of a brewer, and thus we're going to have to pay more to get our hands on a bottle. I'm not saying that a brewer should take a loss on selling that kind of beer. But the true value of the beer is ultimately determined by the paying customer, not by the brewery. If that value is less than it costs to brew the beer, well I'm betting that particular beer wouldn't likely be brewed again (unless the brewer's got money to burn). The market sorts these things out, and so far, I don't think we've really seen anything too excessive (with the possible exception of retailer gouging, which the brewery has little control over).

Personally, I love that world class beer is generally available to everyone. Even people on a severely limited budget can save up and buy an amazing beer for a small fraction of the cost it would take to explore the world of, say, fine wine or Scotch. And I don't want to lose that either, but if I have to pay a premium to get my bourbon-barrel beer fix, so be it. Speaking of which:

Port Brewing Older Viscosity

Port Brewing Older Viscosity - I actually reviewed the regular Old Viscosity a while back. I liked it, but was certainly not blown away. As it turns out, the regular version is a blend of 80% "young" beer with 20% bourbon barrel aged beer. That mixture clearly imparted some character to the beer, but I had noted that it seemed more about texture and body than flavor, and even then, it wasn't as full bodied as I would have liked. Well, Older Viscosity is 100% bourbon barrel aged goodness, and I'm happy to report that it was well worth the wait...

Pours a deep black color. Seriously black. Like a black hole, no light can escape it. Also, practically no head at all. Smell is full of bourbon and wood, with some caramel and chocolate aromas making an appearance. Taste is seriously boozy, lots of rich bourbon and oak flavors along with that caramel and vanilla character. Maybe just a hint of bitter roasted malts in the finish. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, a little low on carbonation, but it works well with this. Overall, I'm enjoying this much more than I enjoyed the plain Old Viscosity... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/21/12. Vintage 2011.

So there you have it. For me, definitely worth the premium, and I've got another bottle of the stuff in my cellar which I plan to check out sometime later this year. Or maybe next year. I also have a few Lost Abbey beers down there, at least one of which I plan to get to in the near future. And there's always the Mongo IPA and Shark Attack Red and probably a dozen other Lost Abbey beers I'd like to try.

After some post-holiday procrastination, I finally settled down to make myself a small batch of a Simcoe single-hopped IPA. Hops are one of the 4 key ingredients in beer, and there exists an amazing variety of hops. Most of the bitterness in beer comes from hops, but they also provide flavor and aroma characteristics. Some hop varieties are good for bittering, but not for flavor or aroma. Some are great for flavor or aroma, but not really for bittering. And then there are the utility players - hops that do everything. Simcoe is one such hop. Simcoe is actually a relatively new variety of hop, often referred to as Cascade on steroids (Cascade hops were the most revolutionary of American hops - most notably featured in Sierra Nevada's classic Pale Ale). They're a high alpha acid hop (around 12-13%), which makes them great for bittering, but they also impart a huge, distinctive citrus and pine flavor/aroma.

I patterned my recipe on Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA, though I have no idea how accurate the recipe I used matches that beer (I do know that my recipe wouldn't be as strong as 9% ABV though). The guy at the homebrew shop mentioned that my grains, at least, were similar to Bell's Two Hearted (which is another fantastic IPA), but that beer uses Centennial hops instead of Simcoe. Anywho, this is what I settled on (note: this is a small, 2.5 gallon batch, so there's much less malt than you might expect):

Beer #7: Simcoe Single-Hopped IPA
February 4, 2012

.25 lb. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)
.5 lb. CaraPils (specialty grain)
.5 lb. Vienna Malt (specialty grain)
3.3 lb. Briess Pilsen Light LME
1 lb. Golden DME
0.5 lb. Turbinado Sugar
1 oz. Simcoe (bittering @12.2 AA)
1 oz. Simcoe (flavor, 2 additions)
1 oz. Simcoe (aroma)
1 oz. Simcoe (dry hop)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 1056 - American Ale Yeast

Nothing too fancy here (although damn, Simcoe hops are expensive!) I suppose the Turbinado sugar isn't a typical ingredient, but simple sugars like that help dry out the beer (which would otherwise have been pretty heavy). Steeped the specialty grains in 2-2.5 gallons of 150° F - 160° F water for around 20 minutes, drained, sparged with another half gallon of water, threw in the can of Light LME, and put the lid on to bring the wort to a boil. During the wait, I scooped out a small sample of wort and made myself a Hot Scotchie. It's a strange beast, this hot scotchie. I've heard many homebrewers talk about it, but details on exactly how to make one are a bit scarce. Near as I can tell, you take a sample of unhopped wort before it reaches boiling, then add a shot of Scotch to it. Jeff Alworth has a decent description:

Brewers would draw off a small amount of the mash as it issued from the grain bed, fresh and warm. To this they added a dollop of Scotch. What happens is nothing short of mystical. Mash runnings are very sweet and flabby--there's no definition to the flavors. The addition of Scotch somehow reverses all this. Like an electric current, the Scotch animates the grains so that you can taste them in HD. The Scotch is likewise a very clear note, but not sharp or aggressive. It has all the flavor of a straight shot, but it's floating amid Mom's comforting malted. Insanely beguiling.
So I took a sample of wort, and threw a shot of Ardmore (it's a cheap Scotch, but it's got a nice, distinctive peat smoke character to it that's not overpowering) in there.

A Hot Scotchie

It was an interesting experience. My experience with the hot scotchie wasn't quite as revelatory as it seems to be for everyone else though. It was good, to be sure, but I'm not sure it's something I'd always do. Also, because this is a small batch, I probably shouldn't have taken that much malt out of the wort - I ended up with a lower OG than I'd like...

Anywho, once the boil begins, I add in 1 ounce of Simcoe hops and start the timer. 30 minutes into the boil, I add the Golden DME and Turbinado sugar. When I do this, the temperature of the pot seems to drop (makes sense because I'm adding room temp ingredients), so I pot the lid back on the pot and bring it back to a boil (I'm not counting these 5 minutes time as part of the boil). Once it's back boiling, I add a half ounce of hops (the first flavor hop addition). 10 minutes after that, I add another half ounce of Simcoe (second flavor hop addition) and the teaspoon of irish moss. Finally, with 5 minutes left to go, I add the aroma hops (actually sprinkling some throughout the last 5 minutes).

Moved the pot to the ice bath to cool it off, brought it down to about 80° F, strained the wort (removing the hops) into the fermenter, and topped off with about 1/4 to 1/2 gallon of cold water, bringing the final temperature down below 70°.

Original Gravity: 1.068. Definitely lower than I was shooting for (my target was in the 1.070s), but assuming a 75% attenuation, this should work out to around 6.7% ABV, which will be a solid IPA. Add in that citrusy, piney goodness from the Simcoe, and I'll be a happy camper.

I did notice a lot of sediment in the wort, even after I strained it into the fermenter, which has me a bit worried, but what else can I do? I guess we'll find out in a few weeks.

I'm going to try something new with this batch - dry hopping! I talked to the guy at the homebrew shop and he said I could do it in primary, so I figure I'll wait a week or so (i.e. until fermentation ends), chuck in the last ounce of hops, give it another week, then rack to the bottling bucket and bottle the suckers. Exciting!

Not sure what my next batch will be. I've been toying with the idea of a Earl Grey beer - start with a british beer base (perhaps an ESB), then use some sort of bergamot oil for extra flavor. I have no idea if it will work, but I want to see how it turns out. It'll probably be another small batch, so even if it's bad, it won't be a big deal. After that, I've been thinking about a Belgian dubbel for a while now, and I think it'll be time...

The Session #60: Growlers Galore

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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, Kendall from the Washington Beer Blog wants to talk about growlers:

Tell us about your growler collection. Tell us why you love growlers or why you hate them. What is the most ridiculous growler you've ever seen? Tell us about your local growler filling station. Ever suffer a messy growler mishap? Anything related to growlers is acceptable.
I have to admit that I'm not a big growler guy. They have their uses and I've certainly availed myself of the growler's services, but it's an elusive creature - not something I frequently use. I don't really have any crazy objections to it, nor do I have a strong opinion about tap versus bottle (I like some beers better on tap, and others from the bottle). To me, they're just another tool in the beer nerd's arsenal.

But I can still point you towards something interesting and growler related for this Session. So I'd like to introduce you to the growler-filler at Victory Brewing Company:

I mentioned this thing before in a previous post about a growler of Victory's Ranch S IPA, but damn, isn't that thing badass? When I go to Victory, I love watching it in action. Their fancy growlers themselves are pretty cool looking too, and the way they pressurize with CO2 seems to keep it fresh longer (at least, until you pour your first!)

Alas, I don't find myself taking advantage of it all that often. Oh well, there are worse things in the world. Like, perhaps, the fact that I have way too much great beer sitting, undrunk, in my cellar. Now, if you'll excuse me, I should probably go drink some of that stuff...

Ultra Brune

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It's time to play Belgian Beer Roulette! It's a game we can all win more often than not, and so this time around, yes, I won. Maybe not a blowout, but a win nonetheless.

Ultra Brune

Brasserie D'Ecaussinnes Ultra Brune - Pours a very dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of tan head. I was a little off-guard, and lots of yeast chunks ended up in the glass (though I have to say, sediment never seems to bother me). Smell is filled with bready Belgian yeast, with some dark fruitiness tucked in there too. Taste is very sweet, lots of dark fruit, a little booze but nothing overwhelming. Maybe a bit of a toasty milk chocolate thing going on too, but it's not a strong component. Mouthfeel is a little heavy, sticky sweet, but there's enough carbonation to make it work. Overall, quite good and another successful round of Belgian Beer Roulette... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 1/21/12.

Every time I play Belgian Beer Roulette, I feel like I should do it again soon, and this time is no exception. But I should probably drink down some of my cellar before I play again!

The Beer Cellar

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As I mentioned yesterday, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my liver. I tend to buy more beer than I drink, so my cellar has been growing of late, and I've even started intentionally buying beers to age. In yesterday's post, I covered what kinds of beers are good for aging. Today, I'm going to list out the beers I'm currently excited to crack open... in a few years. Also some beers I wasn't intentionally aging, but which will probably have an extra year or so on the bottle before I actually get to it.

Not to mention 3-4 cases of homebrew and a bunch of other beer that's probably not suitable for aging. I didn't think I had this much beer sitting around. Yes, I need to get drinking. Hopefully a lot of the above won't be aged too long, if you know what I mean... I'd say only a handful of the above will really make it long term.

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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 February 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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