December 2012 Archives

2012 Year End Musings

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The Earth has once again completed its orbit around the Sun, which for some reason means that we should all take stock of what we did over the past orbital period and post our top 10 whatever. Here at Kaedrin, we like things, so I'm thinking we'll post our top 40 beers. That sounds like a lot, but it's been a good year, and I've sampled at least 250 different beers, if not more. Plus, I stink at choosing favorites, and with something as varied as beer with all its disparate styles, I need some breathing room.

Before we get to the big list, I thought I'd muse a bit on the themes of the year. This is, of course, more about me than the industry in general. But that's why you're here, right?

  • Trading - Yes, I've dipped my feet into that most nerdy of pursuits, beer trading. Indeed, at least a few of the top 40 wouldn't be there if it weren't for some trades made this year, and I'm betting this will flow into next year as well. I don't see myself reaching the heights of the true beer nerds out there, but I'm sure I'll be getting ahold of more and more interesting beers in the coming year. Special thanks to Jay for kickstarting this new phase in my beer dorkery.
  • Sour Beer - Despite experimenting with sours over the past few years, I didn't fully buy in until this year. Naturally, these are beers that are expensive and harder to find, but I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more in the way of sour beer in the next year or so. At the very least, I expect to hunt down some Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen, so it should be a fun year.
  • White Whales - When I first started this blog, I found it frustrating to read all these other blogs about beers that I'd never seen before or that weren't really available in the area. Well, that's changed somewhat, but then, so has the definition of "White Whale". I'm certainly not to the point where I'm going to start creatively misspelling them as .rar walez or anything silly like that, and the stuff that those trading nerds revere as wales will probably never made their way into my greedy paws (not that I'd mind, but still, those seem like tough beers to land). In the meantime, I'll have to settle for shelf whales and the like, but that's not a problem or anything. In a year where I got to try DONG (draft only, no growler) whales like Pliny the Younger, or pre-brick Westy 12 (tasted so much rarer back then), or witness the emergence of Tired Hands, I really have no room to complain and heck, I'm starting to feel a little bad about constantly reviewing beers that aren't that easy to find for the majority of the country. A little. Not that I'm going to stop or anything.
  • Barrel Aged Beer - These continue to be a little obsession of mine, and that partly feeds into my newfound admiration for sours as well. That being said, bourbon barrel aged stouts and barleywines continue to be a favorite, and I've got some supposedly spectacular stuff lined up for 2013.
  • Palate - I always feel awkward discussing my palate for this stuff, but I will say that I've started to get pickier about certain things. I've especially become sensitive to hoppy beer and age/storage issues. It's not something I recognized much in previous years, but this year it became more obvious that fresh, hoppy beer is really ideal and that such beers need to be refrigerated immediately, etc... I'm also getting to be one of those nerds that can identify certain hop varieties by aroma/taste. I'm not awesome at it, but I can pick out a lot of the usual suspects like Cascade/Simcoe, Centennial, and the like. And I'm getting there with specialty malts too, though I'm certainly far from an expert on either. Most of this is due to my further exploration of:
  • Home Brewing - I actually only made 3 batches of beer in 2012, but two of them were fantastic, and the other is actually conditioning nicely and getting better as we speak. I would have probably made another batch at some point this year, but I was redoing my kitchen, so that didn't happen. My new stove, however, might help speed up the process. I guess there's only one way to find out. I'm actually hoping to try some more adventurous stuff in the homebrewing realm this year, so stay tuned.
  • Aging/Cellaring Beer - I've mentioned a few times that my eyes are bigger than my liver, so my cellar has grown to be rather large at this point (this might be part of why I'm attracted to trading, but we'll see how that goes). Some of that stuff is aging intentionally, others will just take a while for me to get to. As mentioned above, I tend to favor drinking hoppy stuff right away at this point, but I've got some really interesting beer in the cellar that I want to get to ASAP. Others are things that I really want to age and find out how well they hold up. Only one way to find out, I guess.
It's been a good year, filled with great beer. So great that, like I said earlier, I'm going to post my top 40 beers, if I can even manage that. Like last year, this list is based solely on what I drank this year. While I drank my fair share of 2012-only limited releases, a lot of these will be old-hat to some of you. To qualify for the list, I had to drink the beer in 2012, and I had to review the beer on this here blog (each beer will be linked to its respective review). They're all at least an A- on my grading scale, and they're being listed from best to "worst", though I should note that this is a pretty fluid list. Stuff could shift around depending on my mood, and there are some A- beers that ended up looming larger on my mind than expected, perhaps even pushing out an A. Go figure. If you're really curious, check out the archives on the right of the page. Ok, enough disclaimers and equivocation, here's the list:

  1. The Bruery Coton (Old Ale)
  2. Logsdon Farmhouse Ales Seizoen Bretta (Saison)
  3. Hill Farmstead Abner (Double IPA)
  4. Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale (Flanders Red Ale)
  5. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (Imperial Stout)
  6. Firestone Walker Parabola (Imperial Stout)
  7. Bell's Hopslam Ale (Double IPA)
  8. Firestone Walker §ucaba (Barleywine)
  9. Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude #2 (American Black Ale)
  10. Russian River Pliny the Younger (Double IPA)
  11. Trappist Westvleteren 12 (Quadrupel)
  12. Firestone Walker XV - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  13. Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne (Gueuze)
  14. Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire iO Saison (Saison)
  15. Weyerbacher Whiskey Barrel Aged (American Brown Ale)
  16. Rodenbach Grand Cru (Flanders Red Ale)
  17. Tired Hands Flavor Aroma (IPA)
  18. The Bruery and Cigar City Collaboration: Marrón Acidifié (Flanders Oud Bruin)
  19. Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA (Double IPA)
  20. Tired Hands Westy13 (Saison?)
  21. Three Floyds Zombie Dust (American Pale Ale)
  22. Weyerbacher Insanity (Barleywine)
  23. Tired Hands Zombie (American Black Ale)
  24. Russian River Row 2/Hill 56 (American Pale Ale)
  25. Victory Oak Horizontal (Barleywine)
  26. Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps (Scotch Ale)
  27. Full Pint Rye Rebellion (Imperial Stout)
  28. HaandBryggeriet Bestefar (Winter Warmer)
  29. Bink Grand Cru (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
  30. Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (Imperial Stout)
  31. Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil (Barleywine)
  32. Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale (Double IPA)
  33. Port Brewing Older Viscosity (Imperial Stout)
  34. Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager (Dark Lager)
  35. La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged) - Batch 3 (Quadrupel)
  36. Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti (Imperial Stout)
  37. The Bruery Oude Tart (Flanders Red Ale)
  38. Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout 2008 (Imperial Stout)
  39. Affligem Dubbel (Dubbel)
  40. Tripel Karmeliet (Tripel)
Hot damn, that was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I could have easily made this a top 50 without blinking, and those 10 that I left off could have muscled their way onto the above list if I were in a different mood. And heck, there are some superb beers I just recently had that haven't been reviewed yet - ¿Impending Descent? could have made the list for sure... but it'll have to wait til next year, I guess. Speaking of which, I'll see you then. Have a great new year!

Update: Jay has posted his top beers of 2012 today as well, check it out, his lists are always worth reading...

Holiday Beer Roundup

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Holiday beer season is my favorites, but I've been slacking a bit this year, so let's catch up with a few of these suckers that I had in the leadup to Christmas. It turns out that most of these beers were shelf turds (meaning, they've clearly been sitting on the shelf, unsold, for a while), but I'm a big tent kinda guy, so I liberated these beer from their boring shelfish lives and put them to work, fulfilling their intended purpose. Things are also looking pretty international here, but again - big tent. We're like that here at Kaedrin. Let's get this holiday party started:

Baladin Noel

Birrificio Le Baladin Noël Baladin 2010 - I keep hearing things about these fancy new Italian craft breweries, so I figured I'd give them a shot. Fancy bottle, hefty price tag that was fortunately marked down, how could I pass this up? Pours a dark amber, almost brown color with visible sediment and half a finger of bubbly head. Smells of dark fruits - raisins in particular, with some light spiciness and maybe a hint of darker malts. Taste is also quite fruity, again with the raisins, plus a very light spiciness. Mouthfeel is surprisingly well carbonated considering how little head I got out of it, but it's got a medium-ish body, thinner than I'd expect, with a relatively dry component. Overall, this is a solid Belgian style beer, but nothing to really write home about. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 12/22/12.

Hoppin' Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale - The only non-foreign beer in the post, I suppose I could make an insensitive crack about Ohio, but I'm not a jerk (remember, big tent guy here). Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown, with half a finger of bubbly head. Smells strongly of traditional mulling spices, ginger, cinnamon, clove, etc... Actually smells a lot like a snickerdoodle. Taste has a nice, sweet malt backbone to match that spicy flavor profile, leaning more on the cinnamon here than in the nose. Mouthfeel is quite nice actually, medium bodied, well carbonated, but with a hint of stickiness. No real booze in here, which is nice for a reasonably strong beer. Overall, it's a really solid winter warmer style beer, one of the better I've had this year. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip on 12/22/12.

Dieu du Ciel Solstice d hiver

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel! Solstice d'hiver - These wacky French Canadians threw me a wicked curveball the last time I tried them, an utterly fantastic take on a Scotch ale, so I made preparations to try more. This Winter Solstice beer pours a cloudy dark brown color with just a thin layer of quickly disappearing head on top. Smells of caramel malts and fruit, with some hops peeking through as well. Taste is sweet, filled with that rich caramel flavor with the fruits showing up in the middle and finish. Some hop presence as well, but nothing overboard like a lot of American barleywines. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and smooth, almost creamy. There's just enough carbonation to make it palatable, so it's smooth without being still, if you know what I mean. Overall, this is a very well crafted, balanced brew. Not as eye opening as with my previous Dieu Du Ciel experience, but a pleasant one nonetheless. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 12/23/12.

Emelisse Winterbier 2011 - I've heard good things about these brewers in the Netherlands and have had some pleasant experiences with their brews first hand, so let's try some more. Pours an amber brown color with minimal head. I inadvertently poured a big slug of yeast into mine glass, so this thing was cloudy as can be, with chunks o' yeast floating all around. Fortunately, that didn't adversely affect the beer, at least by my count. Nose is quite nice, fruity sweet with what could have been spice, but I couldn't quite place it. I may be imagining things. Taste follows the nose, nice sweetness with ripe fruits and a note of brown sugar, finishing with a balancing bitterness. Booziness is apparent, but not overpowering. Mouthfeel has a low carbonation, perhaps too low, bit it comes together well enough. Medium bodied, a little booze. Overall, a solid wintery ale, but I think I'd rather have had a fresh bottle. Still, these crafty Netherlanders intrigue me enough that I'll seek out more of their stuff... B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/26/12.

A thousand pardons for the lack of pictures on two of these. I'd fire up MS Paint, but I'm no artist (read: I'm too lazy at the moment). You'll just have to use your imagination. This, more or less, wraps up the holiday beers for this year, but don't you worry, I've got plenty of facemelting stouts and barleywines on the way, wintery to their core, and perhaps a few IPAs and sours as well, just to keep things interesting. Stay tuned.

Samichlaus Helles 2007

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I discovered Samichlaus a few years ago and immediately sought out some bottles to lay down in my cellar. Breaking out a vintage bottle on Christmas eve whilst I belatedly wrap presents is quickly becoming one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Last year, I cracked open bottles of both 2009 and 2010 and was quite impressed with how well the age treated the 2009 edition.

Today's beer was actually bottled in 2007, but it's also the Helles version of the beer. Helles is German for "bright" and this beer is supposed to be a paler version of the traditional Samichlaus, but the trouble with this is that the beer has such a high original gravity that the end result looks more or less the same as the traditional variety. Back in the day, Michael Jackson noted that: "In recent years the brewery has accepted the traditional view that Christmas and winter beers should be dark." This translates to the fact that the brewery only puts out the Helles every four years. However, it appears that they haven't completely given up on the idea, as I've seen 2011 bottles around.

In truth, this may be the oldest beer I've ever had (aside from a miniscule sample of 2003 120 Minute IPA I snagged a while back, but I don't think that should count). Fortunately, I bought this just last year, so it's not like it was sitting in my cellar for 5 whole years. Let's see if age has treated this one well:

Samichlaus Helles 2007

Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier Helles 2007 - Pours a clear amber/orange color with visible sediment (my bad) and next to no head at all, just a thin film of white head fading quickly to a ring of head that eventually disappears completely. Smells strongly of dark fruits, cherries, sweet malts, and maybe some booze. Actually really nice, better than what I remember from other Samichlaus vintages. Taste is very sweet, intense flavors of caramel giving way to fruitiness, plums and cherries, and a sorta rummy booze liqueur character pervading throughout. Mouthfeel is sticky and syrupy, but carbonated enough that it doesn't get cloying, lots of alcohol heat, a sipping beer for sure, but it's got a very smooth, almost creamy texture that I'm going to credit to the age of this particular bottle. Though I've never actually had the Helles before, given my experience with the regular Samichlaus, I'm going to say the age has actually improved this beer considerably. I'm really enjoying this more than I expected. It feels more like an old English Barleywine than a doppelbock (or helles, for that matter), and I'm guessing that a bottle of this stuff would age really well for many years (even more than the 5 year old bottle I've got here). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/24/12. Bottled in 2007.

At this point, I regret not loading up on the 2007 when I could. But I still have a few bottles of the 2009, and each year thereafter. So let's just say, you'll be seeing this every year.

Victory Oak Horizontal

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Twas the night before my Christmas vacation, when what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a tweet from Victory and the promise of oak aged beer. I sprang from the cubicle, visions of caged and corked bottles dancing in my head, and dashed to the brewery in my horseless sled.

Uh, yeah, so a poet, I am not. And this isn't even technically a Christmas beer! For shame. I beg the forgiveness of Clement Clarke Moore. But Victory's Old Horizontal is a winter seasonal, a big, strong barleywine that's perfect for the season. Due to capacity issues, Victory actually hasn't brewed any of that base beer for the past couple years, much to my chagrin. This year, Victory "bribed" their brewers to put in extra hours and make up a batch, but instead of simply releasing it, they chucked it in Bourbon barrels for three months. This barrel aged version was dubbed Oak Horizontal, and it was released just two days ago.

Victory Oak Horizontal Boxes at the Brewery Store

Of Victory's planned barrel aged brews, this seemed to be the most exciting, perhaps just because I tend to love me some Bourbon barrel aged barleywines. This was a quasi-stealth release, so like Red Thunder, there was no Sturm und Drang normally associated with bottle releases. Pretty much everyone I saw walking out of the brewery had at least a bottle or two, if not a whole case, so I'm guessing it's all gone by now, though the clerks said it would be getting limited distribution in PA and NJ as well. They also said less of this was made than Red Thunder (presumably due to those capacity issues), so make of that what you will. Whatever the case, I've got my allocation, so let's see how Victory did:

Victory Oak Horizontal

Victory Oak Horizontal - Pour a very pretty, dark, clear amber color (ruby tones, so much clarity) with a finger of light tan head. Smells of caramel, oak, and vanilla, with just a bit of bourbon and maybe some fruitiness too. Taste is filled with rich caramel and that vanilla oak character, with a well matched bourbon flavor and just a bit of fruitiness. No booze apparent at all. Server at the brewery sez it's 14% ABV, but I cannot believe it's that strong. The base beer is 11%, so this is certainly no slouch, probably at least 12%, but who knows? Mouthfeel is full bodied, but not overly chewy or heavy. Well matched carbonation, certainly not a gulping beer, but it doesn't feel like a monster even if it is. Overall, this is a great beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV (probably somewhere in the 12-13% range) bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/21/12. Bottled on 12/20/12. Bottle also sez: B15 1552 (batch and bottle number?)

I would put this beer on par with Weyerbacher's most excellent Insanity, another barrel aged barleywine that's got quite a following. Will be curious to see how the beer nerd community responds to this one. In other news, my cellar is growing unwieldy again, so I may need to chill out for a bit and drink some of that down. Lots of exciting stuff down there, though, so you'll have some interesting reading/jealousy issues coming. But ohh, the BA Eclipse beers were just released. Dammit. And soon enough, Victory will be releasing White Monkey. Golden Monkey was one of those formative craft beers for me... it's a beer I'm almost scared to revisit at this point... but I am curious to see what the white wine barrel aging will do to it. Perhaps a double feature is in order. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter

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This year's Christmas beer consumption here at Kaedrin has been rather eclectic. I've had some old standards, like the Anchor and Sly Fox offerings, but most of the beers I've had have fit into the elusive "do whatever you want" category of Christmas beers. It doesn't really matter what's in the beer, so much as that it has a Christmassy label. A prime example is today's beer, Three Floyds Alpha Klaus, which is billed as a "Christmas Porter", whatever that means. From their description, it's basically a straightforward porter with a big addition of "strange American hops". No idea what's strange about them, but let's find out, shall we:

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head and reasonable retention. Smells of typical porter toast and roast, maybe some coffee, but also a big juicy hop component that's really quite nice. Taste follows the nose. Lots of toasty, roasty malt, but it's tempered considerably by prominent citrus and pine hop flavors. Has a well matched bitterness in the finish, with both the hops and the dark malts conspiring to offset whatever sweetness that remains. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and this is eminently drinkable stuff, goes down real easy. Not too sweet, not too bitter, not too dry, just well balanced. Overall, porters just ain't my style and they tend to feel kinda samey to me, but I'm enjoying this and it actually does something interesting with the style. I can see why it's highly regarded... even if it's not my favorite beer evar or anything. B+

Beer Nerd Stats: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/15/12.

Special thanks to my new pal Joe in Chicago who slung these Three Floyds beers my way. Look for more reviews in the near future, including some Top 100 heavy hitters.

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

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The 5th installment of The Bruery's 12 year long project matching beers with each verse of the 12 Days of Christmas. For the patient among us, the idea is to cellar each installment until 2019, when 12 Drummers Drumming is released and you can have an epic vertical tasting. Of course, the beers are ready for drinking at the time of their release too, and I was a big fan of both 3 French Hens and 4 Calling Birds (alas, I never got my hands on the first two installments), so I was really excited for this latest installment, 5 Golden Rings. It's the first light colored beer in the series, though I suppose it makes a bit of sense given the name of this verse. On the other hand, the verse doesn't quite mean what you might think. Courtesy of The Dogs of Beer:

Modern artwork associated with the song typically depicts five bands of gold, like rings you'd wear on your finger. And 5GR is no exception, it's not obvious at first, but the swirl of the label is made up of repetitive groups of interlocked five rings. But as I somewhat alluded to last year, the song is about preparing for a Christmas festival, with the first seven verses describing birds (game or otherwise) that were being brought to the festival as food. In this case the five golden rings referring to five male, ring neck pheasants.
Huh. Never knew that. Well, let's crack this thing open and see how it fares:

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings - Pours a sorta turgid, cloudy golden orange color, sorta brownish, with a finger of bubbly white head (surprised I got that much out of it). Smells full of clove, with other spices making an appearance as well as a bready, cakelike aroma that's quite pleasant. I get the impression that this is actually spiced, not just relying on Belgian yeast character to provide such aromas. Taste is very sweet, with that spiciness from the nose taking a back seat to sugary sweet malts and booze. It finishes on a surprisingly juicy, boozy note (upon closer inspection of the bottle, I'm guessing this is due to the pineapple juice used in brewing and yes, as I drink more, that pineapple is pronounced throughout the taste). As it warms, I get some more of that peppery, bready yeast, which actually helps temper the sweetness. Mouthfeel is heavy, a little sticky, could potentially get cloying, with low to moderate carbonation. Some light booze astringency and maybe some warming alcohol in the belly, but this isn't a gulping beer and as such, that warming factor doesn't play too much of a role. Overall, I don't feel like this came together as well as The Bruery hoped. It's not undrinkable or anything, it's a solid brew, but perhaps a bit too sweet and strong. I'm really curious to see how it ages. From what I'm having here, it could go either way... If the age dries it out (which sometimes happens with older strong Belgian pales, like Tripels) and the booze mellows a bit, that could perhaps work wonders with this beer. Or not. But in the here and now, it's not really lighting the world on fire. B

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 12/14/12.

So my Bruery-fueled, liver-destroying, wallet-lightening, amazing-beer-filled winter continues. If I can clear some time off my schedule to knock back one of their true monster beers, I'll have a review of that coming soon. And I'm sure I'll hit up that bottle of Cuir that's been in my cellar for a while too. Might as well just make this a full year of Bruery, instead of just a winter.

Olde School Barleywine

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Lately, it seems like all of Dogfish Head's beers have gone off the deep end. I know they're fond of "off-centered" stuff and strange ingredients, but a lot of that stuff doesn't seem to pique my interest. I guess it's interesting that someone is making beer with "an ancient form of wheat and loaves of hearth-baked bread, and it's flavored with chamomile, doum-palm fruit and Middle Eastern herbs", but I dunno, that's just not revving my engine. Maybe I'm just a man of simple tastes. I tend to prefer Dogfish Head's more normal takes on standard styles, like IPAs (made with far out ingredients like... hops!) and stouts. This barleywine offering straddles the line a bit, but it at least sounds like it's beer.

It starts off as a rather big 13% barlewine, which is then dosed with dates and figs, bringing the final result up to around 15% ABV. And apparently the date/fig addition actually has some sort of historical basis in that the cellarman in Ye Olde English pubs would attempt to revive a flat cask beer by adding crushed up dates and figs to the vessel. The addition of sugars would revive the yeast, add carbonation, and freshen up the beer a bit. I don't know how historically accurate this practice really is and I don't want Martyn Cornell to cross the pond and break my legs for promulgating beer myths, so I'll just say that I'm assuming some liberties were taken with the story. Still, a barleywine fermented with dates and figs fulfills Dogfish Head's "off-centered" mission whilst still being something that sounds like beer. In other words, I bought one and drank it:

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine - Pours a dark orange color with a finger of white head that fades quickly, but leaves a ring of head around the glass for quite a while. Aroma is filled with figs, sweetness, and maybe some piney, citrusy hops. Taste is quite complex. Lots of crystal malt up front, with some resinous hops coming out in the middle, and that figgy goodness hitting in the finish and asserting itself through the aftertaste. Booze hits in the finish too, but nothing overwhelming. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, and boozy, plenty of carbonation, but not something you want to gulp down. A real sipping beer. Overall, it's a solid, complex barleywine with some interesting and uncommon notes. I'm quite enjoying it and would be curious to see how it ages, despite its relatively light color. Regardless, if you like figs, you should really check this out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/8/12. Bottled in 2012B.

Label sez: "Directions: Open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. Or: Walk hand-in-neck into the middle of the woods. Use a shovel to dig a 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal the bottle in a plastic bag. Place in hole & pack with dirt. Memorize location & leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open & enjoy."

I suppose that's a romantic notion. I have another bottle of this stuff, but I think I'll just let it sit in my cellar for a while, along with some 120 Minute and World Wide Stout. Maybe I'll crack another one of those in a year or two.

Barrel Aged Santa's Little Helper

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Port Brewing's Santa's Little Helper is a solid, if unremarkable, imperial stout. I've had it a couple times, and it's fine, but I always feel like I'm missing something. Perhaps what I was missing... was bourbon!

Port Brewing Barrel Aged Santas Little Helper

Port Brewing Barrel Aged Santa's Little Helper - Pours an oily black color with very little carbonation, just a tiny ring of brown head forms at the edge of the glass. Smells strongly of bourbon, maybe a hint of the underlying roasted malts, but the bourbon (and too a lesser extent the corresponding oak and vanilla character) is clearly the focal point here. Taste is again dominated by bourbon, though there's also a pronounced malt sweetness that comes through, and some roast too. The beer opens up as it warms, with oak and vanilla asserting themselves and more of that caramel and roast malt character coming out to play too. Definitely more complex as it warms. Mouthfeel is almost completely flat, very little carbonation, sticky, some alcohol heat. Overall, it seems like the base beer didn't really stand up to the bourbon barrel treatment so well (perhaps the fact that I'm not a huge fan of the base beer also has something to do with it). It's better than some, and I'm enjoying it, but there are many better BBA beers. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber) Drank out of a snifter on 12/8/12. Vintage 2012.

Port/Lost Abbey continue to put out interesting stuff, even if I'm not totally in love with all of it. But when they're on, they're really on, so I'll no doubt be trying more of their beer soon enough...

Tired Hands Speed Round

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In case it hasn't been clear from the frequent posts about Tired Hands, I've been spending a lot of time there. This was partly brought on by the fact that I'm redoing my kitchen and thus have had times when I had no way to cook anything, but it's also probably due to the fact that Tired Hands is pretty fantastic. As a brewpub, they basically have a constantly rotating list of offerings (with only two consistently available). As such, I can't really keep up with everything, even as often as I'm visiting, but that won't stop me from trying. Here's some thoughts on some recent visits. Many of these are 4 ounce pours, and I didn't take detailed tasting notes for a bunch of them, so pedants might want to take this with a grain of salt. Let's get to it, shall we?

  • Tired Hands Weedeater - This is a Double IPA made with Galaxy and Amarillo hops. Yum.

    Tired Hands Weedeater

    Big citrus and floral aromas and flavors from the hops, very well balanced, light carbonation and creamy texture with a nice, clean finish. Great stuff, though I feel like I'm grading on a curve at this point. I think I may prefer FlavorAroma to this, but that's a tough bar to clear. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 9.3% ABV on tap. Drank out of 8 oz glass on 12/6/12.)
  • Tired Hands Westy13 - Described as a dark saison, this is a beer that's really grown on me. I've had it 3 times now, each time a 4 ounce pour, but each time feeling like I could easily put down a couple 8 ounce glasses. Which, at 13% ABV, makes this a dangerously drinkable beer.

    Tired Hands Westy13

    Big, bold, rich malt flavors with that saison yeast contributing an uncommon fruitiness and peppery character that's similar to, but distinct from most Belgian Strong Darks. Really nice caramelized dark fruit flavors too. The mouthfeel is rich and smooth, not as heavy as you'd expect, but not quite as dry as its namesake (tough to beat the mouthfeel on Westvleteren beers) Big, complex, delicious beer. The last keg kicked this week, but it will be coming in bottles soon enough. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass on multiple occasions.)
  • Tired Hands Earthbound - A straightforward but very well done pale ale, nice citrus/pine hop character, went down real easy. I think this might have fared better if I hadn't just had FlavorAroma, which was just superb. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass.)
  • Tired Hands Good Good Things - A rather weird combination: a sour IPA. Very juicy but also extremely acidic. It's like the sourness and the hop character teamed up and just started blowing things up. It's an interesting beer, but I think I can see why most sours aren't hopped up wlike this. An interesting experiment, but I'm ultimately glad I only had 4 ounces of it. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass.)
  • Yes, Yes, Yes, Killing The Ego - Another uncommon take on a dark saison, this one incorporating maple syrup and cacao nibs. Alas, those components did not come on as strong in the finished product as I might have hoped. A fine beer, not quite what I'd expect from a saison, even a dark one, but it was certainly a pleasant drink. B (Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a 4 ounce glass.)
So there you have it. Always something interesting going on at Tired Hands. Up next for me is their Singel Hop Saison, Motueka (another New Zealand varietal), which just went on tap this week. Some other upcoming stuff sounds interesting, including Falco's Nerd Flight (IPA brewed with Galaxy, Amarillo, and Falconer's Flight hops), MotherAnimal (a barleywine conditioned on coffee beans), and Good Yule (a strong "holiday saison", whatever that means).

Bink Grand Cru

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It's been a while since I've played Belgian beer roulette, so I figured I'd take a flier on this beer, cryptically designated a "Grand Cru". Just what is a Grand Cru, you ask? That's an excellent question; it doesn't mean anything.

In wine, the phrase is clearly organized and regulated. It refers to the highest level of vinyard classification. Something about terroir. I don't know, what is this, a wine blog? The point is that while it's formally defined for wine, it was basically adopted in the beer world as a marketing tactic. Most beers labeled as Grand Cru seem to be imply that it's a style, but that's not at all the case. You can get a Belgian Strong Pale, like the 9.5% ABV Southampton Grand Cru, or today's beer, Bink Grand Cru, which is a 13% ABV Belgian Strong Dark monster, or even Rodenbach Grand Cru, which is a sour Flanders Red weighing in at just 6.5% ABV. That's a pretty disparate range of flavors and styles right there.

I suppose you could say that it generally represents an improved or more elaborate offering than the brewer normally makes, perhaps their "grandest" beer. Or not. Like I said, there's no actual rules for what constitutes a grand cru in the beer world. So roulette it certainly is, with Brouwerij Kerkom's winter beer (aka Winterkoninkske!) in my glass:

Bink Grand Cru

Bink Grand Cru - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with minimal light tan head. Nose smells quite sweet, a little Belgian yeast character, maybe some molasses, a lot of chocolate. The taste is filled with rich, sweet, dark malts, a little spice, a hint of dark fruit, and again with that big chocolate character. Oh, and booze. Very boozy. Intense flavors all around, but not overwhelming. Mouthfeel is surprisingly well carbonated for such a big beer, making it seem perhaps a bit less heavy than it really is, which is actually nice. Spice and booze make themselves felt, but nothing too unweildly. The booze also warms things up a bit, maybe just a hint of burn in the mouth. Full bodied, but not super chewy or anything. It's a sipping beer, but it's not hard to drink. I wouldn't call it well balanced, but it's working pretty well. Overall, big, complex, uncommon flavor profile, I enjoyed it upon first taste, but it just got better as I drank, which is nice for such a big beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 12/7/12.

This actually reminded me a little of Tired Hands' Westy 13, though it's got a more chocolate and booze component than Tired Hands' brew. Ok, so maybe it's just that they're both 13% and dark and rich. Still, both are excellent. Another successful session of Belgian Beer Roulette, and I live to play again.

Three Floyds Zombie Dust

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Crossed over the serpent and the rainbow to get ahold of some Zombie Dust, a single-hop American Pale ale from Three Floyds. Those Munster, Indiana brewers have quite the reputation these days, partly because of beers like this, currently sporting a 4.52 average rating (out of 5) on Beer Advocate and clocking in at number 13 on their Top Beers list. Brewed with Citra, the trendiest and thus supply constrainediest of hops these days, this was originally only available on draft, but a little over a year ago, they started bottling it. And thus it was that Indiana beer traders rejoiced at their ability to pawn off $2 bottles of beer for the veritable pick of the litter. And who can blame them? I recently acquired a few of these, along with a boatload of other Three Floyds brews (from someone who thankfully was very generous with their side of the bargain). Within hours of delivery, I was drinking Zombie Dust, and I didn't even have to take a powerful Haitian narcotic or fight sharks. Go me.

Apologies for the picture. The label is gorgeous but does not photograph well.

Three Floyds Zombie Dust

Three Floyds Zombie Dust - Pours a deep golden orange color with a couple fingers of tight white head, lacing out the yin yang, and nice retention. Aroma is intense grassy citrus hops, smelled it right away, as soon as I popped the cap. Really beautiful nose. The taste features a little more in the way of grassy and herbal hop notes, but that juicy citrus hop character, grapefruit and such, is the real driving force in the middle. Well balanced sweetness up front with a nice dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel starts with a very well carbonated but smooth dryness flowing into that juicy, sweet middle before returning to dryness in the finish. Low medium bodied but immensely refreshing and quaffable, this thing disappeared quickly. Overall, it's superb, especially for a "simple" pale ale. Is it 14th best beer in the world? Maybe not so much, but I'll be damned if the hype on this isn't well deserved. Definitely among the top pale ales, if not the king. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/7/12.

This beer made a pretty fantastic first impression for Three Floyds, and I'm really looking forward to some of the others I've acquired, including the likes of Dreadnaught (another top 100 tick) and Dark Lord.

Decembeer Club II: Electric Boogaloo

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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. As usual, a core group of stalwarts showed up, along with some new faces and other return guest stars. All told, a solid turnout, plenty of good beer, and a fun time had by all.

Decembeer Club 2012
(Click for bigger image)

Apologies for the image quality. Brightness kinda got away from me there. Stupid flash. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. Standard disclaimers apply, though I think I've achieved a new level in beer nerdom in that I've already had (and probably reviewed) a lot of the beers presented here. Go figure. Roughly (yeah, yeah, gimme a break, it's a social gathering after all, you're lucky I can do this much) listed in order of drinking, not the order in the picture above:

  • Hitachino Nest White Ale - This has actually been on my radar for a while, but it's not something I've ever tried before. It's a very solid Belgian wit beer, not super strong on the wheat (though it's there), more defined by the Belgian yeast character of fruit and dry spice. Sorta reminded me of St. Bernardus' Tokyo beer, which is not suspicious at all, as Hitachino is Japanese (I swears, I didn't realize it when I was drinking, except perhaps subconsciously because Hitachino does sound pretty Japanese). Really worth checking out, and it won't break the bank like St. Bernardus will. A-
  • Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer - This must be the 4th or 5th time I've had this. I've always enjoyed it too, though I didn't have any sticky toffee dessert dish to pair it with (like I normally do). A solid contribution from a beer club newcomer. B+
  • Ommegang Scythe & Sickle - Malt-focused, Belgian-style harvest ale, recently reviewed! Well chosen and well placed in the tasting. This works well with food (which came out as I was drinking this)... B+
  • Ballast Point Sculpin IPA - Yep, another that I've had several times before, but I do love this beer. It seems that some beer club members have been doing some research on Beer Advocate and this is a pretty good choice. Well played, Paul. A-
  • Magic Hat Hi.P.A. - A decent enough IPA that I think just pales (pun intended!) in comparison with Sculpin. Flavors seemed muted and a little bland, but seemingly well crafted enough. Not something I'd seek out again, but I wouldn't turn it down if you handed me one. B-
  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel Xmas - A variant on my homebrewed abbey dubbel beer, when I was bottling and I got to the bottom of the bucket I added a cinnamon stick and some clove to the remaining beer. Alas, I didn't get much additional spice out of this, at least in my small sample. However, I feel like the beer has finally conditioned into something solid. Still not quite what I was going for, I think perhaps too much in the Special B department, yielding a bit too much in the way of toasted malt character, but still, it's coming along well. I will refrain from rating this for now, as I don't think it's peaked yet, but perhaps a full review will be forthcoming.
  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) - Just reviewed this one yesterday (along with the 2011 variety). This was one of my contributions, so of course it was good.
  • Evolution Secret Spot Winter Ale - I've enjoyed most of Evolutions offerings that I've tried so far, and this one is no exception. But it's not really exceptional either. Another beer that may have suffered a bit by comparison to the previous beer. Technically an altbier, this drinks kinda like a winter warmer without the spice. I like. Want to try again in better context. B
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Yep, just reviewed this one too. Big flavors do well in beer club setting.
  • Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2011 - One of my contributions... I've had the 2010 vintage, and though Mikkel claims to tweak the recipe every year, this seemed pretty similar to me. It's listed as a Belgian Strong Dark, but it reads more like an Imperial Stout. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts, smooth, well hidden booze. It's said that this is a spiced beer, but it's hard to detect in this. Definitely a complex beer, and I'm guessing the spices contribute to that without being overpowering. Overall, a very good beer, worthy of the holiday. A-
So there you have it. Another successful beer club. Good company, good food, good beer. As always, already looking forward to the next installment.

Anchor Christmas Double Feature

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Every year, I buy a six pack of Anchor Christmas. And every year, I remember why I don't normally buy six packs. On the other hand, this yearly tradition, when combined with my packrat tendencies, yields the possibility of a vertical. Yeah, yeah, Anchor Christmas has a different recipe every year so it's not technically a "vertical", but it's close enough for me. Just to underline the inappropriateness of this non-vertical vertical practice, I sandwiched them around a filmic double feature of Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So there.

Anchor Christmas 2012

Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a dark brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy khaki head and plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of mulling spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the like, maybe even anise, but the malt and hops seem to peek out a bit, even if they're overshadowed by spice. The taste is also pretty well defined by all those spices, but the malt backbone also asserts itself, some caramel and toast going on (maybe even a hint of coffee? As it warms I seem to be picking this up more...), and I'm getting some bitterness in the finish too. It's no pale ale or anything, but well matched with the spice. There might be a faint amount of pine or spruce or something going on here, though I'm not sure if my mind is just playing tricks with me or what. Mouthfeel is a little on the thin side, though there's enough substance there to make this feel right for the style, an Overall, I like this, it's a solid entry in the winter warmer style, if not quite a transcendent experience. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/1/12.

Anchor Christmas 2011

Anchor Our Special Ale 2011 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a dark brown color with a very slight amber tint to it and a finger or two of tightly bubbled, tan head that leaves just a bit of lacing as I drink. The smell is actually quite similar to this year's entry, lots of mulling spices, some malt character. The taste is again quite similar, though that coffee flavor I was picking up in this year's edition is not here. Still, lots of bright, clear spice, maybe more than this year's... Nice range of malt flavors coming through here too. Mouthfeel is a little more robust than this year's, but comparable, relatively light. Overall, both these beers are pretty much on par with each other. I think I might like this one slightly more, but only by a sliver. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/1/12.

Anchor is apparently considering a bigger change for next year's batch: The 2013 Our Special Ale might no longer be a spiced beer. "I think we've taken this about as far as it can go. I'm leaning toward making a big change for next year." Color me curious. Early editions of the Christmas beer were pale ales, which isn't really very wintery, but why not? Or maybe they'll go more stoutlike. Perhaps even increase (or, heck, reduce) that ABV... Whatever the case, it seems that next year's vertical may display some more dramatic differences than this year's edition. Sounds exciting.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga'

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Last year, due to lack of fortitude and brewing capacity (mostly the brewing capacity), Lagunitas decided not to make their traditional winter beer, called Brown Shugga'. It's a big beer and it takes a long time to brew and their expansion was delayed last year, not to mention the issues with fortitude. So they placed their tongue firmly in cheek and released an American IPA called Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale: Brown Shugga Substitute. We loved Laginitas Sucks here at Kaedrin HQ, but were saddened that we never got to try Brown Shugga. Happily, it seems that Lagunitas has resolved their fortitude issues from last year (and, uh, installed additional brewing capacity), so I can finally get my first taste of this popular winter beer.

As the story goes, Lagunitas was attempting to make a barleywine and must have realized that the gravity was coming in too low. In an attempt to salvage the brew, they threw in copious amounts of brown sugar, hence the name of the beer. The result... wasn't the barleywine they wanted, but it turned out to be a tasty beast its own right and quickly developed a devoted following. In terms of style, this thing is shunted into that vague American Strong Ale designation... It's basically a dark reddish amber beer with a big hop bill and a robust, manly 9.9% ABV. Sounds pretty great to me, let's do this thing:

Lagunitas Brown Shugga

Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Pours a clear, bright amber color with a finger of whitish head and plenty of lacing as I drink. The smell has a big sugary sweet, piney hop character to it that matches together rather well. The taste seems strangely subdued, though certainly quite appealing. That brown sugar flavor definitely peeks it's head in the door, but doesn't really overwhelm. Ditto for the hops, who have shown up at the party too, but seem like a bunch of insecure little wallflowers. This might sound harsh or negative, but I really don't mean it that way, as it's surprisingly well balanced. There's booze hanging around too, though that's not particularly unwelcome at a party like this. Mouthfeel is quite nice, smooth, heavier than I was expecting, but easy enough to drink. A little boozy, definitely some warming factor. Overall, I'm enjoying this, but quite frankly, I think I might actually enjoy Lagunitas Sucks more. It's a party, but not one of those legendary events that will be enshrined for all eternity. Just a regular ol' Friday night at chez Kaedrin. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 11/30/12.

So there you have it. Lagunitas Sucks is making a comeback earlier in the year. I think both these brews are worth your while, but I do think I prefer Sucks. In any case, I'm sure Lagunitas will be making more appearances on the blog in the future...

Sly Fox 2012 Christmas Ale

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Sly Fox is one of the throngs of brewers that puts out a vintage dated Christmas beer with changing recipes every year. It's not quite as storied or classy as, say, Anchor's definitive Christmas beer series (stay tuned, as we'll be covering that one in the near future as well), but they're a good local alternative. I could be wrong, but I believe this is also the first year that Sly Fox has canned their Christmas Ale (usually only available in 750s or on tap), and the label features nifty to/from labels, which means my coworkers will probably be getting a can of this stuff on their desk just before Christmas. So let's fire this thing up:

Sly Fox Christmas Ale 2012

Sly Fox 2012 Christmas Ale - Pours a deep, clear, dark amber color with a couple fingers of fluffy, light tan head. Smells almost exactly like a gingerbread cookie or gingersnap or something. Obviously that spicy component is expected, but there's a sorta cookie aroma, maybe some vanilla too, that differentiates this. Other spices are apparent, cinnamon, clove, the usual suspects, but ginger seems to be the defining spice. The taste isn't quite as cookie-like, but it's got a hint of creaminess in the middle and the spices are more prominent in the beginning and in the finish, particularly ginger. I don't normally love ginger in beer, but this is actually working well enough for me (still glad I didn't spring for the 750 though). Mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, those hints of creaminess apparent, a very slight harshness from the spice, and a light to medium body that allows you to gulp the stuff down quickly, if you so desire. Overall, very solid winter warmer, about on par with last year's offering, but also distinct. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/30/12.

I will continue to look forward to this beer every year, along with the stalwarts like Anchor. Speaking of which, stay tuned for another Anchor Double Feature (see last year's). Alas, no 2010 beer left, so I can't do a full 3 year vertical, but in a few years, I should be able to do a nice 4-5 year vertical of Anchor. Who knows, I might even start doing verticals for Sly Fox Christmas...

The tale of this beer begins back at Stillwater's first anniversary, when they made a Belgian Strong Dark in the mold of a foreign export stout. That beer was called 25 To One, and has since been tweaked a bit, renamed Folklore, and moved into Stillwater's regular lineup. In addition, this is one of the base beers for their barrel aging program, and several different versions have been made. What I have here is a beer aged in 20 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels. Only 1200 bottles made, a steep price tag, and a gorgeous minimalist label, but alas, I found myself a little disappointed by the contents of said bottle:

Stillwater Folklore - The Tale of Van Winkle

Stillwater Folklore - The Tale Of Van Winkle - Pours a very dark, almost black color with a skimpy, light brown head. Smell is all about bourbon and oak (maybe some coconut from the barrel aging too), with just the faintest hint of roasted malts. Similarly, the taste is comprised mostly of bourbon, with oak falling into the background and whatever roasty smoke character exists is almost completely muted. The bourbon doesn't feel like it'd be overpowering either, but it's really the flavor that is emphasized the most here. Mouthfeel is surprisingly thin for a barrel aged brew, well carbonated, some boozy burn from the bourbon. Overall, while certainly not a bad brew, it's a bit disappointing. Bourbon is the star here, with the base beer contributing little. I like me some bourbon, but this just isn't balanced very well and the base beer doesn't seem to stand up to the barrel aging process very well... B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 11/24/12.

Opinions on BA and Ratebeer seem to be wildly divergent, but I'm definitely not the only one who thought the bourbon overpowered the base beer. I still like Stillwater quite a bit, and some of their other barrel aged beers seem to have a better reputation, so I'll be keeping my eye out for those.

HaandBryggeriet Bestefar

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Along with the recently mentioned Nøgne Ø, HaandBryggeriet is at the vanguard of the burgeoning Scandanavian craft brewing movement, bringing big, bold flavor to the land of trashy Euro-lagers, and turning quite a few heads in the process. Including beer dorks like myself, who have read the raves and eventually plunked down some hard earned dough to get my hands on some of their stuff. I don't know much about them and basically picked up this bottle solely on the general enthusiasm Jay has for their work, choosing their Norwegian Winter Ale because we are suckers for that sort of thing here at Kaedrin. Also, they only made 2160 bottles of this stuff, most of which was presumably hoarded by Norwegian beer nerds. How could I turn this down?

Bestefar is the Norwegian word for "grandfather", referring to the father of Father Christmas, who, if the label is any indication, possesses the magical power of beard growing. I guess this is not a surprise, as it's coming from the land of the vikings. And I'm happy to report that, in my limited Norwegian beer consumption, this is the "best by far" (as they say on the bottle):

HaandBryggeriet Bestefar

HaandBryggeriet Bestefar - Pours a very dark brown color with 3-4 fingers of brown, fluffy head. Smells of roasted malt, chocolate, maybe even a little coffee (but nothing overpowering). Taste is deep roasted malts, with some chocolate and coffee and maybe just a bit of caramel. There's also a sorta elusive hop character that faintly chugs along in the background. Different flavors pop in and out of prominence as I'm drinking, though all those flavors are always there. But sometimes I'll take a sip, and I'll really feel the roast or the coffee. Next sip, I'll get more chocolate. And so on. Interesting. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, a little chewy, well carbonated but not quite effervescent (really hit the balance well here). Overall, this feels more along the lines of a Baltic Porter or Imperial Stout than a Winter Warmer, but who's complaining - it really does make a great cold-weather beer and it hit the spot perfectly. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/24/12. Batch: 384. Total bottles: 2160.

Let's just say that I can't wait to get my haands on some more of their stuff. Bryggeriet on, I say. Ok, enough puns, but I was quite impressed with these folks and will gladly seek out more of their beer.

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer

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At some point, I resolved to get my hands on more Cigar City beers, and they do distribute to this area... but their offerings have been scarce of late. I have no idea why, but when I saw this one about a month ago, I quickly bought it, not realizing that it was from last year! It's a big, dark beer, so it should be able to hold up to the time, but it's also got a big hop component which I'm assuming I lost out on a bit. In any case, this beer officially kicks off the Christmas beer season. Here at Kaedrin, we take these things seriously, so expect to see a boatload of other wintery themed beers in the near future. This particular offering falls into the "make it stronger" school of holiday beer thought (with maybe a bit of "do whatever the hell you want", just for good measure.) The label sez it's a mashup of barleywines and old ale winter-warmer styles, but with a big citrusy American hop presence. They call it a Floridian Winter Ale:

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer - Pours a very deep, dark amber brown color with a solid 3 fingers of fluffy head, good retention, and plenty of lacing. Smells full of caramel and citrusy, piney hops. Taste is very sweet, dominated by rich caramel, brown sugar, and toffee tones. Big citrus and pine hop flavors lighten things up a bit, but those sugary caramel/toffee flavors rule the day. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, but very well carbonated, which really helps cut all the rich flavors a bit. That being said, there's a lot of mouth coating here, and a finish that lingers. Fortunately, these flavors are all right up my alley, so it works well enough in the end. The booze is well hidden in the taste, but you get that warming alcohol feeling in the belly soon enough. Overall, this is an interesting beer, along the lines of a barleywine or old ale, but kinda doing its own thing. A whole 750 gets to be a bit much, but I really enjoyed it. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/23/12. Bottled November 2011 for consumption in 2011/2012.

I still haven't tried a lot of Cigar City's brews, but I'll be sure to snag a few the next time they make their way up here... Anywho, lots of Christmas, holiday, and otherwise wintery offerings coming up in the near future, even including a few deliberately aged brews. Stay tuned!

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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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