June 2013 Archives

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13

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Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve series is a different beer every year, usually a "big" one. That, my friends, is what she said. (Well, this post devolved quickly.) This year, it's an 11% Belgian style Quadrupel. From what I can tell, it's got a pretty limited release and people line up to buy the stuff, so big thanks to my BIF partner for getting a hold of some of a bottle for me. Let's not waste any more time:

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13 - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a little less than a finger of light tan head. Smells of Belgian yeast, lots of fruity esters and a little less in the way of spice. Maybe some brown sugar or molasses going on too, and a hint of darker malts (but not quite roast). Taste is nice and sweet up front, not quite as fruity as the nose would have you believe, more of a bready character, actually kinda like toast. Maybe even a sorta nutty flavor too. Hints of booze in the finish. As it warms, dark fruits come out more, plums and raisins. Lots of complexity, that's for sure. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but very smooth. A little boozy warming in the belly going on here, but it doesn't feel like a monster either. Not really dry, but attenuated enough. Overall, this is a very nice, complex, flavorful beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/22/13. Bottled 022713.

Another solid offering from Saint Arnold, a brewery I'll have to keep an eye out for next time I'm in Texas...

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void

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So far, Tired Hands has made quite a few barrel-aged beers, but as far as I know, they've all been sours. Excellent sours! And while I've certainly caught that sour bug over the past year or so, I have to admit that I still have an inordinate fondness for straight up whiskey barrel aged stouts. So it was with great anticipation that I chiseled my way through the waxed cap of Tired Hands imperial stout, Only Void, aged in local Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey barrels.

I had the "regular" stainless steel aged Only Void at the Anniversary Party, and I had the Red Wine barrel aged variant on Only Void day. Both were excellent, so I was really looking forward to this bottle - one of only 144 available at the release (adding in Believer's Club members puts the full allocation at somewhere around 220 or so - mental note: find out how to get in on that). So enough blabbing, let's drink this sucker. Oh and check out this fancy glassware too:

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void

Tired Hands Rye Barrel Only Void - Pours a deep dark, almost black color with a couple of fingers of tan, khaki head. Fantastic retention, the head never really goes away. Smells of chalky roasted malts, some caramel, maybe a hint of whiskey (but it's not very pronounced in the nose). Taste is sweet, full of rich caramel, very little whiskey and oak, but lots of vanilla. Chocolate flavors also present, and it evolves as it warms up too. Minuscule roasted malt character. Mouthfeel is super smooth, rich, creamy, full bodied, but surprisingly drinkable. Well carbonated, and no evidence of the booze whatsoever - impressive for a 12% beer. Overall, this is great, delicious stuff. Not quite best in class and no where near as whiskey forward as I'd expect, but right up there with the cool kids and face melters anyway. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of an Only Void snifter on 6/21/13.

Another winner from Tired Hands, well worth waiting in line for. These guys are absolutely killing it right now. And of course ther'll be more jealousy inducing posts about Tired Hands going forward!

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union

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Beer dorks don't seem to get very worked up by lagers, but then Jack's Abby shows up in Framingham, Massachusetts, and everyone starts losing their minds. It shouldn't be a surprise, because there's lots of flavorful lagers out there, but perhaps neophytes still associate lagers with the Macro crowd. Or maybe they're just so overawed by massive facemelting ales that the more subtle, cleaner lagers get lost in the shuffle. Whatever the case, there's a lot of room in the market for breweries that take the road less traveled. From what I can see, Jack's Abby is doing very well for themselves. They're a small operation and only distribute in MA, but a very generous friend kindly picked up a few of their beers during a trip up there last week (Thanks Danur!). I was most excited to get my grubby hands on these suckers, and immediately made preparations to drink this one first:

Jacks Abby Hoponius Union

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union - Pours a slightly hazy yellow golden color with a finge ror two of dense white head. Smell is full of hugely floral hops, some grapefruit, and maybe a subtle bubblegum yeast character too. Taste is full of those floral hops, herbal even, a bit spicy, some grapefruit, with a well matched bitterness towards the finish. Not as much citrus as I'd expect from something made with Citra and Amarillo (Centennial, on the other hand, seems to be dominant here), but that's not a bad thing at all. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, clean, crisp, and easy going. Overall, this is really good, easy drinking stuff. Not quite exactly what I was expecting, but damn good nonetheless. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/21/13. Bottled 05/06/2013.

A promising start, and I've got three more lined up. You will no doubt be seeing them over the next couple weeks.

My fourth batch, brewed almost 2 years ago to the day, was a saison that turned out fantastic when it was fresh, but degraded over time (and become super carbonated). I've been wanting to make another batch of saison recently, so I took the recipe for the initial batch, toned down in terms of malt, and threw in some fancy Nelson Sauvin hops for yucks.

The real adventure this time around will be splitting the batch into two after primary fermentation: half will be bottled at that point, with the other half going into a secondary fermenter and dosed with Brettanomyces. I've long ago established that saisons are the least coherent style in the history of beer... which is actually one of the reasons I love them so much. My initial batch (and half of this current batch) was patterned after Saison Dupont, a classic of the style. The Brett dosed half of this batch will (hopefully!) be closer to Fantôme's saisons, which is where the name of this beer (Kaedrôme, get it?) is coming from (big thanks to Scott of Beerbecue for suggesting that perfect name).

Allllrighty then, lets get this party started:

Brew #11 - Saison
June 22, 2013

0.5 lb. Belgian CaraVienne (specialty grain)
3.15 lb. Northern Brewer Pilsen LME
3 lb. Briess Pilsen DME
1 lb. Light Belgian Candi Sugar (liquid)
1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (bittering @ 5.8% AA)
0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (bittering @ 10.9% AA)
0.5 oz. Saaz hops (flavor)
0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Saaz hops (aroma)
0.5 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (aroma)
0.5 oz. Bitter Orange Peel
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 3711 French Saison Yeast (Primary)
White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii (Secondary)

Ingredients for Kaedrome Saison

I'll spare you the play by play, as that's mostly the same for every batch. The only thing I'll say about that is that my new kitchen kicks ass, and has removed 30-60 minutes from the process. It turns out that the "Power Boil" element actually lives up to its name (it still takes a little while, but much faster than my old stovetop). And the bigger, deeper sink makes cooling in an ice bath much quicker too. It only took a little less than 3 hours, including all the cleaning.

I hope the Nelson Sauvin hops work out with this one. I basically chose them on a whim, thinking they would go pretty well with the saison. I hedged a bit and used some Saaz that I had laying around too, so I hope it's a solid combo. Hop Additions at 60, 15, and 5 minutes remaining in the boil. Irish moss at 15 minutes. Orange Peel at 5 minutes. Pitched the 3711 yeast at 70 degrees.

Original gravity: 1.060 (14.6 Brix), pretty much right on target. My little homebrew app says I should be getting 80%+ attenuation out of this (maybe even as high as 85%).

Now I just need to figure out the process for the Brett dosing, but I've got a couple weeks for that. Again, general idea is to fill up my 3 gallon secondary fermenter, pitch the Brett in there, and bottle the rest of it right away.

I know very little about the different varieties of Brettanomyces, but in looking around, this seems like the one that fits me best. For the uninitiated, Brett is a wild yeast strain. It usually contributes funky, earthy characteristics to beers. Some people use descriptors like "horse blanket", "barnyard", or "band-aids" (among lots of other stuff, even smoky and spicy flavors), but that... doesn't sound good, does it? Indeed, Brett is generally viewed as a contaminant and thus something to be avoided, but if done properly, it can match really well with beer, especially sour beers. This saison isn't meant to be sour, though apparently the Claussenii strain that I'm using is more subtle than some of the others and contributes a "fruity, pineapple like aroma". I'm going for something along the lines of older Fantômes (which tended towards sour) or Logsdon Seizoen Bretta, but everything I read about Brett is that it's a little on the unpredictable side. So fingers are going to be crossed.

Since the primary fermentation yeast is going to yield a pretty dry beer to start with, I'm guessing that the Brett won't be a massive contribution, but that sounds good for my first attempt at this sort of thing. Unlike regular brewer's yeast, Brett will eat up pretty much any sugars left in the beer, so I need to give it a lengthy period to do its thing, at least a couple months. Luckily, it's a hardy organism and thrives in warmer temperatures (so summer was a good time to experiment with this sucker). On the other hand, my understanding is that Brett is difficult to clean, etc... and a lot of homebrewers advise keeping the equipment that touches it separate from your regular brewing materials. This should be fine, as I've basically been using the same stuff for two years and some of it could probably be refreshed anyway.

So this is going to be one of the more interesting batches I've ever made... if it goes well. Wish me luck!

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Arcadia Brewing Company is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, also home to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg... Yes, the guy who invented breakfast cereal. Battle Creek has thus become known by the name Cereal City, USA, complete with a massive "breakfast food funhouse" (whatever that means). Arcadia either hates the moniker, or they just really love puns and couldn't resist naming their English Barleywine "Cereal Killer". There's a lot of text on the label, so I guess you wouldn't call it minimalist, but I really like the one tiny graphical element they have: a hand gripping a spoon like it's the psycho knife (and for added verisimilitude, they've included some dripping milk which... also calls to mind Psycho.)

This particular bottle was aged in Bourbon Barrels (part of the same release as that Imperial Stout I enjoyed a while back). Like the Stout, this one features the same industrial strength waxed cap and rumor has it that this was aged in those mythical Pappy Van Winkle barrels that magically transform mediocre beers into spectacular face melters. Not having ever had the regular Cereal Killer, I can't really say, but I did find that this treatment worked better for the barleywine than it did for the stout. This is some pretty fantastic stuff.

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer Barleywine - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a cap of off white head that resolves into just a ring of head pretty quickly. Smell is pure bourbon and caramel, some toffee, oak, and vanilla playing too. Taste hits the same notes, lots of caramel and toffee mixed with that bourbon, oak and vanilla character. Mild booziness is apparent too, and that bourbon character becomes more prominent as it warms up. Textbook bourbon barrel barleywine stuff here. Wouldn't call it balanced, but it's unbalanced in, like, a good way! Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, a little boozy, decent carbonation but smooth too. Overall, a really nice BA barleywine, textbook stuff... but like, a really good textbook. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz. waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 6/15/13. Bottled on 12/18/12.

I've got another one of these in the cellar, and I'm glad for that. I'm guessing that aging in barrels for 22 months is not something they're set up to do on a rolling basis, but who knows. Maybe we'll see some of this every year. Definitely worth seeking out.

Prairie Gold

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Handling those pans, looking for liquid Gold:

Prairie Gold

Prairie Gold - Pours an almost neon gold color, a little straw yellow in there too, lots of head that quickly dissapates. Smell has some light funk, lots of musty, spicy, peppery Belgian yeast, and a bright lemon note to lighten things up. Taste features a typical Belgian yeast character, but that quickly takes a back seat to the tart, lemony sourness. As it warms, that lemony character morphs into a broader fruit profile, maybe some pear, a little vinous even. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, a pleasant enough acidity, crisp and bright stuff. Overall, it's really good. Not earth shattering, but few are. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/15/13.

Another solid showing from Prairie, though I don't seem to be quite as bullish on them as some others (then again, we haven't had the same beers either). Definitely good enough to seek out more from them though, so keep an eye out. I'm sure we'll get to it sometime.

Manneken-Penn

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A recent tradition of Philly Beer Week is for one local brewer to travel to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This Belgo-Philly connection is mostly due to Tom Peters of the most excellent Monks Café bar. He generally hooks Philly up with great Belgian beers all year round and has the connections to line up special collaborations every year. Last year, we had an Iron Hill and Dupont saison, and the year before that, Sly Fox worked with De Proef to make a funky saison. This year, Chris Wilson of Weyerbacher was chosen to collaborate with Brasserie de la Senne, and they took the enterprise in a decidedly different direction.

They call this sucker a Belgo-American Dubbel. It's got the trappings of the dubbel style (spicy Belgian yeast, dark sugars) mixed with a more American hop bill (notably including Calypso, which is not common, but which should impart fruity citrus hop notes). The label is actually pretty funny, a mashup of the William Penn statue that sits atop City Hall and the infamous Belgian landmark Manneken Pis (which, yes, is a statue of a peeing child). Yeah, so it's an interesting combo, one I don't think I've had before, so let's see how it turned out:

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken Penn

Weyerbacher and Brasserie de la Senne Manneken-Penn - Pours a deep light brown color with a finger of fluffy head and good retention. Smells feature that typical Belgian yeast profile, spicy and fruity, some brown sugar, but also something else lurking in the background. Maybe hops? Yes, American hops, a little citrus and pine. And whoa, those hops take a front seat in the taste, lots of citrus and pine with the Belgian yeast characteristics still making themselves known before the bitter hop finish. Yep, this is like a dubbel/IPA hybrid, a combo I don't think I've ever experienced... and it works well enough. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and a little dry bitterness in the finish. Overall, this is quite an interesting, novel beer. Doesn't quite blow my socks off, but it's pretty damn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 6/15/13.

Interesting stuff, and I'm already looking forward to next year's collaboration. I may also have to check out some of Brasserie de la Senne's other wares in the meantime.

Drie Fonteinen Golden Blend

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Drie Fonteinen has been around since 1887, and they've been making geuze style beers since then. Well, technically, they purchased new and old lambics from other breweries and blended them together (as befits the style). Since they opened, they've gradually been expanding the operation over the generations, to the point where they now have their own production brewery. But seeing as though geuzes are always comprised of a blend, they've kept that skillset up to date as well. Indeed, the guy they put in charge over there, Armand Debelder, is called a Master Blender, and if you get your jollies by obsessing over top lambic lists, you'll see that he's well deserving of that title.

Your typical geuze is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics. What we have here incorporates 4 year old lambic as well, clocking in at about 25% of the blend. The rest of the blend is comprised of a "secret" allocation of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics, because, you know, Master Blenders gotta put food on the table. Given the expense of aging beer, the thirst of angels, and the extra year needed to produce this, the cost of entry is a bit on the high side here (hence the "golden" blend). Is it worth it?

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend - Pours a very pretty golden orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that seems to fade into a more dense head with decent retention. Smells of musty funk with a big oak element. Taste starts off sweet, with that oak hitting pretty quickly, but then yielding to tart, fruity flavors that escalate into full blown puckering sourness towards the finish. As it warms up, that sourness intensifies even further. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, crisp, with an extremely dry finish. Overall, this is a great beer, certainly a step up from their regular Oude Geuze, and among the best that I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/14/13. Bottled 02/17/2011. Good until 02/2021.

I've seen people saying that this bottle is sitting on shelves with absurd price tags upwards of $40. But then, it's also on Etre Gourmet for 11 Euros, so do the math on that, and even with absurd shipping costs it's cheaper to order it direct from Belgium. On the other hand, more reasonable prices in the $20-$25 range might be worth it if you're a huge fan of the style... Certainly not a beginner beer though.

Dock Street Flemish Red

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Finally ticking the last of five beers I bought at the Dock Street bottle release way back when. A flanders red aged for 2.5 years in old Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, then (unintentionally) further aged in the bottle for another year and a half or so. Color me interested:

Dock Street Flemish Red

Dock Street Flemish Red Sour Ale - Pours a dark amber brown color with minimal, slow forming, big bubbled, white head. Smells of oak and cherries, with a very sharp twang that indicates sourness, quite nice. Taste is very sweet and extremely sour, with that sourness hitting almost immediately, lots of fruitiness, sour cherries, vinegar, jolly ranchers, and some oak making itself known in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel is a little low on carbonation, but nothing excessively low (like some of Dock Street's other barrel aged brews). It works well enough at the start, but it feels a little flat towards the end of the bottle. Medium bodied, an acidic vinegary feel, very slight slickness. Overall, this is a good example of the style, but not quite world beater status. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.75% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands glass on 6/8/13. Bottled November 2011.

It seems like every one of Dock Street's barrel aged brews has just one minor flaw that holds in back from true greatness. They've all been pretty good as they are, but tended to be a little low on carbonation, or in this case, a little high on the acidity. Part of it could always be the age of the bottle, but then, they claimed the low carbonation was intentional, so there is that. I'll probably continue to check out their annual barrel aged brew, and some of the staple beers are pretty great too. One of these days they'll really knock one out of the park...

Television show pitch: A police procedural about a tiny, 3 inch tall (you might even call him "petite") French-Canadian detective named Mort. He uses his diminutive size to spy on unsuspecting criminals and has an amazing success rate. His partner is a talking Chihuahua named Nacho who is only slightly taller than Mort and in the pilot episode, he's only three days away from retirement. Of course, that means that... Woops, as I was typing this, the NSA was analyzing it on behalf of CBS, who has just offered to buy the rights for the "La Petite Mort" show for $3 million. Those guys sure love their police procedurals. So you're going to have to wait and see what happens to Nacho in the pilot episode.

So I'm rich now. I'll see you later, suckers. In the meantime, check out the tie-in beer (eat your heart out, Ommegang), already made by Wisconsin's own Central Waters (in collaboration with the awesome sounding Chicago bar Local Option). It's a bourbon-barrel-aged, Belgian-inspired Weissenbock. And I thought my stupid pitch was weird:

Central Waters La Petite Mort - Bourbon Barrel Aged

Central Waters Local Option Bourbon Barrel Aged La Petite Mort - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a finger of off white had. Not getting a lot out of the nose. Hints of bready yeast, fruit, and bourbon. As it warms, the nose opens up a bit. Taste has lots of caramelized sugars, maybe even some bready toastiness, an almost nutty flavor too, hints of fruit, with that bourbon and oak coming through towards the finish. Mouthfeeel is well carbonated, medium to full bodied, but only a hint of richness from the bourbon barrel. Relatively dry, which doesn't usually work well with bourbon, but the balance is on point here, so nothing is overpowering. Overall, this is good, really good, and a really nice change of pace too. It grew on my as I drank, too, which is always nice. Solid B+ material.

Beer Nerd Details: 9.05% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/7/13. Vintage 2013.

Central Waters is a brewery I should probably check out more often. Nothing in the immediate pipeline, but their stuff seems available enough around here that I'll certainly pick some up at some point.

Lost Abbey Saint's Devotion

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The Lost Abbey: Inspired Beer for Sinners and Saints Alike... and also for: the Antichrist! Tomme Arthur's middle name? Damien! Does he have the number of the beast birthmark? Of course he does! Number of days since the last freak accident at the brewery? Two. Somehow a lose pane of glass was launched horizontally through the brewery, hitting a mild mannered bottling line worker right in the neck, popping his head off like a cork (well, a cork in a well carbonated beer, so, like, not a Lost Abbey cork). The disembodied head tumbled through the air, carromed off a couple of bottles of Cable Car and landed directly in the trash can. The tragedy was mostly averted, though, because the bottles of Cable Car were unharmed.

Well, Antichrist or not, Tomme "Damien" Arthur sure seems to know what he's doing on the beer front. This beer is a variant of one of their old standbys, a dry-hopped but relatively straightforward Belgian Pale Ale called Devotion. It's solid but not exactly lighting the world on fire. So they dosed it with Brettanomyces, which jacked the ABV up to (wait for it) 6.66%. Does the beginning of this post make sense now? No? Well fine then, here, look at the pretty picture:

The Lost Abbey Saints Devotion

The Lost Abbey Saint's Devotion - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a ton of fluffy head. Smells utterly fantastic, spicy Belgian yeast and a beautiful fruity Brett character not unlike Logsdon Seizoen Bretta or Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire iO (which is high praise). The taste starts with a sweet and spicy Belgian pale note, with that fruity, earthy Brett popping in towards the finish. Nice balance of flavor here, with no element getting too uppity. All cracks about poor carbonation aside, the mouthfeel for this one is highly carbonated, effervescent, and very dry. Crisp and refreshing, this could pull food pairing duty or perhaps a nice daydrinking deal, or just by itself. Overall, this is a fantastic brew! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 6/1/13. Vintage 2013 A (I think, date on the bottle kinda got smudged)

I will say, this was a bit pricey. I generally expect that from Lost Abbey, but I've heard it can be found for sub-$10 in some places, which would be a bargain. Not sure if it was just a bottle shop markup or what... Legit beer though, especially if you like those Bretty saisons/pales.

Some Notes From Philly Beer Week

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Now that it's officially ended, I think it's fair to say that I failed at Philly Beer Week. I went to a few things, but it seemed that all of the week's most interesting events were happening at inconvenient times for me (not complaining here, as it's a total pain to get into the city and I don't do it often enough). To be sure, I went to a few events and sampled a few beers, but nothing like last year's Hill Farmstead adventure, though I suppose the two Tired Hands events warrant excitement (technically not part of the official proceedings, I'm going to say they count anyway). You've already heard about their anniversary event, but they had an Only Void bottle release yesterday too, and I was fortunately able to get there early enough to snag some fancy glassware and bottles (sub-250 bottle release for each variant detailed below).

Tired Hands Only Void bottles and glassware

The black waxed one is straight up Only Void aged in stainless steel, which I got to sample at the Anniversary last week (it's spectacular). The light greenish waxed one in the middle is local rye whiskey barrel aged Only Void (I'll have to confirm this the next time I'm at Tired Hands, but I'm guessing that "local rye whiskey" is Dad's Hat Rye, which is a distillery I've been meaning to check out). I'm particularly excited for that one since, to my knowledge, it's the only non-sour whiskey barrel aged beer Tired Hands has ever made... Finally, we've got the red waxed variant, which was actually barrel fermented and then aged in local red wine barrels. They had some of this on tap at the release and I managed to snag a sample before it kicked (which happened within the first hour - there were still people waiting in line for bottles). Very nice fruity sour notes to this one. Special thanks to Rich on Beer for gifting his seat at the bar to me when he was leaving, much appreciated.

Other Philly Beer Week highlights included some Firestone Walker stuff (but nothing I haven't seen before, which was a slight disappointment), lots of Tröegs Scratch series beers, and a couple of relatively new local brewery Neshaminy Creek beers that I've been waiting on for a while now. I was a little disappointed by their Leon imperial stout (also known as the S'more beer, as it's brewed with graham crackers, marshmallow fluff, and chocolate), but I thought perhaps a 6 month stay in bourbon barrels would improve it. They had a lot of events last week, so it wasn't hard to track down the bourbon barrel stuff:

Neshaminy Creek Bourbon Barrel Aged Leon

I was a little worried about it when I first took a sip. Super boozy and bourbon forward, I think it may have even been worse than the base beer... but it turns out that it was just served way too cold. As it warmed up, there was a big transformation. Still bourbon forward and a little boozy, but it evened out quickly, and more stoutlike flavors joined the party. All in all, I think it was a nice improvement over the base beer, but it's no top tier face melter either. I think the base is just too well attenuated to really stand up to the bourbon. Or something. I still enjoyed it quite a bit and will give it a B+

They also had a firkin of their Coconut Mudbank Milk Stout with Samoas and Caramel Delights added into the firkin. Not sure if it was those Girl Scout cookies or what, but this thing had an overpowering coconut aroma/flavor that sorta dominated the taste. I like coconut, so I guess there are worse things out there, but it ultimately felt a little unbalanced. Still enjoyed it. B-

And that just about covers my Philly Beer Week exploits. The Tired Hands stuff was great, but I wished I could have gotten my arse into the city for the Lost Abbey event, where there were apparently pours of Cable Car and Duck Duck Gooze happening. Oh well, I guess there's always next year...

Caldera Mogli

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Another swanky packaging option for those brewers looking to trick me into buying their beer is the waxed bottle cap. Just cannot resist. It helps that they're usually great beers, a correlation that will no doubt lead me to disaster someday. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for shelfwalez like this oak-aged imperial porter brewed with chocolate. This beer is made using the cut-rate method of bourbon soaked oak chunks or something like that, but it turned out pretty damn well to me:

Caldera Mogli

Caldera Mogli - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head, minor lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic, bourbon, oak, chocolate, caramel, a hint of roast, and loads of vanilla. Taste starts with some rich chocolate and caramel, a little roast peeking through, followed by some hop bitterness. As it warms up, those hops come out a little more, perhaps even some piney resin entering the playing field. Chocolate seems to be the big star here, but it's all well integrated. Mouthfeel is smooth, rich, sugary, full bodied but at 8.5% it's not a monster at all (actually very approachable). Not dry, per say, but better attenuated that a lot of stouts. Normally I find that higher attenuated beers can't stand up to the bourbon/oak combo, but this one works very well. Overall, this is wonderfully complex stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/31/13. White Wax version.

There's supposedly a variation of this beer packaged with black wax that had a lot more chocolate and was even better, which sounds pretty awesome (but also apparently quite limited). This beer is no slouch, so I'd keep an eye out for both if you're the type who likes their stouts chocolaty.

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus

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Made in pretty much the same fashion as the Kriek, but with raspberries instead of cherries. Named Rosé because of the color, but dedicated to Gambrinus instead of Bacchus. Gambrinus is a legendary king of Flanders, and an unofficial patron saint of brewing (the official honor belongs to Saint Arnold). He's also apparently getting a lapdance on the label of this beer. Good for him.

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus - Pours a clear, bright red/amber color, so many robey tones, with a finger of fizzy pink head. Smells of raspberries and oak, with that lactic twang tweaking my nose for good measure. Taste hits with oak and sweet raspberries, with a fruity, tartness hitting in the middle and intensifying into a puckering, sour finish. The oak character is really well developed here, almost as prominent as the raspberries. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, medium bodied with a richness I associate with the oak, and pretty darn refreshing. Overall, another winner from Cantillon. I still might prefer the Kriek, but I think that's just because I like cherries better than raspberries! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a Cantillon Gueuze tumbler on 5/31/13. Bottled 12 October 2011.

And the hits from Cantillon just keep coming. A couple more in the pipeline, too. Very exciting.

June Beer Club

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You know the drill: a bunch of beer-minded colleagues and I get together at a local BYOB and drink our faces off. A low turnout this month due to scheduling, but still good times. I was negligent and forgot to take a picture of the beers on offer, so I made this fancy artist's rendering in MS Paint:

The middle one is a lambic, which is why its in a green bottle.

I think I may have missed my calling. For the sake of posterity, some half-remembered notes are recorded below. You're welcome.

  • The Captain's Invisible Moon - Which, if named after the style, would be "The Captain's Cream Ale", which just sounds gross. Unless you're a big Chris Evans fan. Like, a really big fan. Oh yeah, the beer. A homebrewed cream ale, it came out pretty well, kinda like a wheat beer, but with that smooth texture of a cream ale. Really easy drinking and a good way to start the night.
  • Brewer's Art Ozzy Ale - Nice Belgian yeast character, lots of spice (clove) and again, pretty easy drinking. It's a perfectly cromulent beer, but nothing to go nuts over. B
  • Boulevard Coffee Ale - This was one of those beers I got from the BIF trade, but since I wasn't a big coffee guy, I figured I'd share it with some people who might appreciate it a bit more. The coffee wasn't overwhelming at all, which is nice, especially since this isn't a stout either. Lots of malt character with that coffee taking a prominent place. It's not really my thing at all, but I was glad I got to share it (even though, uh, it seemed that a most beer club peeps were also not coffee people either). C+
  • Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale - I have actually had this before (and incorporated it into my Choose Your Own Adventure Beer Review epic), and in this setting, it stood out pretty darn well. I could probably be tempted to upgrade the rating, but I'll leave it at a B for now.
  • Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l'Ancienne - This is the green bottle in the artist's rendering above! One of my other contributions of the night, this one is every bit as good as I remember, and compares favorable with the big boys at Cantillon and 3F (at least, when it comes to their regular lineup). Still an A- in my book.
  • Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout - Another of my contributions, I actually bought a Dark Horse variety pack a while back, and since Dark Horse apparently loves to make stouts, they have a sorta numbered series of beers, this being the third. It's got a big blueberry aroma and even a little taste, but it doesn't feel artificial either, which actually kinda works. B
  • Boulevard Love Child No. 3 - Label sez it's aged in bourbon barrels, but I should have inspected more closely, because this sucker is actually a wild ale. A malt-forward base with some very tart, sour notes that hit quickly, but fade towards the finish, making this a pretty darn good drink. Decent funk, actually one of my favorites of the night. A-
  • John Henry West Indies Pale Ale - A pale ale aged on rum oak spirals... I would have expected that boozy rum to dominate, but it doesn't. Unfortunately, it doesn't really add much either. I feel like the rum and oak sorta fought the hops, sorta canceling each other out. What we're left with is fine, I guess, but not as flavorful as you might think. B-
  • Dark Horse Too Cream Stout - Another of Dark Horse's stout lineup, this one is a milk stout. Smooth, but big and burly, it's a bit of a bear, but it actually acquitted itself really well considering it was the last beer we opened. B
Well, there you have it. We'll return to normal review blogging for the next few days. It is actually Philly Beer Week, so I should probably hit up some other places this weekend and write about a few things I've already seen. Or something.

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale

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I'll be the first to admit that my palate isn't the most refined of them all, but one of the things I appear to have absolutely no tolerance for is Diacetyl. It's a byproduct of fermentation that can yield powerful flavors of butter or butterscotch to a finished beer. I know what you're thinking: Butter and Butterscotch are awesome! And yes, it is, but you wouldn't put a pat of butter in your beer, would you? That's kinda gross, is it not? Well, to me it is, but to some, low levels of diacetyl are actually desirable (high levels, not so much). Notably, a lot of English pale ales tend to lean in that direction. Not all of them are like that, of course, but that just makes sampling British beers a bit of a crapshoot for me. In this case, an expensive crapshoot, as I (wrongly) assumed that a port cask aged barleywine would have minimal diacetyl.

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale - Pours a cloudy orange brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smells of toffee and some fruitiness, presumably from that port cask. The toffee has that buttery diacetyl note that I generally hate in British beers. And yep it's prominent in the taste too. I've had worse examples of this, but I just can't get on board with that particular character. Otherwise, it's got some nice port notes, and some caramel and toffee that are nice. Mouthfeel is rich and smooth, full bodied. Overall, it's clearly well made, I just can't get past that diacetyl. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (adorable little 9.3 oz bottle). Drank out of a snifter on 6/1/13. Brewed in 2011.

A pity, as I like a good Porto every now and again and you rarely see US beers aged in Port barrels. Yeah, so anyway, I'm probably not going to check out the various other barrel aged treatments of this stuff, especially given the expense (for a tiny bottle, no less). Fortunately, I had some other great beer this weekend that would make up for this one, so stay tuned.

Tired Hands Anniversary

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Today was Tired Hands' one year anniversary, and they had a big shindig featuring lots of fantastic beers. As per usual, their events are a bit of a madhouse, but they did a good job keeping up with the demand, and it helps that the new and special beers they were serving were nothing short of spectacular. Big congratulations to Tired Hands for living up to lofty expectations and establishing themselves as the best brewer in the area.

Lunch of Champions: Only Void and an Everything Pretzel
Yummy Everything Pretzel paired with Hophands mustard and Only Void

I had quite a few things today, and for shits and giggles, I'll include stuff I've had from the past few months as well, because why not? Yeah, I suppose the fact that most of them are already gone forever is a pretty good reason not to dwell on them, but how else am I to make my readers jealous?

St.Oner - No picture! Sorry about that! One of Tired Hands' typically fantastic IPAs. It's getting very hard to judge these against one another, as they're all so damn good. The big twist with this one is a very juicy citrus character, presumably from the hops but also maybe some fresh fruit. Pleasant bitterness, and at 6.5% ABV it was downright quaffable and refreshing on a hot day. A-

Romulon

Romulon - Wow, this is a beautiful gueuze-like sour blend (wine barrel fermented Saison and fresh Saison). Very nice oak character, a bright but not overwhelming sourness, tart fruits, just fantastic! While technically a saison, I'd put it right up there with some of the fantastic gueuzes I've been having lately. Indeed, this is probably a contender for my favorite Tired Hands beer ever (even though that's a sorta impossible choice!) A

Only Void

Only Void - Tired Hands has a little fermentation chalkboard and I feel like this beer has been sitting on there since last year. A massive 12% imperial stout conditioned on stainless steel (there are some barrel aged variants coming), pours black with tan head. Nice roasty nose, dark chocolate is there too (and becomes more pronounced as I drink), maybe a hint of coffee in the nose too. Taste has that well balanced roast and coffe note, some earthiness, but also lots of chocolate and some rich caramel and maybe even some hop bitterness in the finish. Really well balanced flavors for such a monster beer. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and smooth. It's not quaffable or anything, and it would work as a dessert sipper, but it's pretty easy going for something this big. Only a slight alcohol warming in the belly... Because I drank too quickly! Overall, it's a fantastic imperial stout. A

Our Berry Vest

Our Berry Vest - A blend of the aforementioned Only Void and a strong brown ale called "So It Goes" (which I've never seen or had before) conditioned on fresh strawberries. At 11.5% ABV, this is no fru-fru beer, and it actually has some sour notes to go along with the fruity strawberry. Really interesting beer, it's got the Only Void notes of roast and dark chocolate softened considerably by a sour fruity character, strawberries coming through clearly, much lighter body than Only Void, but still a big beer. An almost chocolate covered strawberry feel (ok, perhaps not quite like that, but still really good). Great variation on the theme. Glad I sprung for this one. A-

And that covers what I managed to greedily gulp down today. In order to fan the flames of jealousy, here's some more stuff that I've had over the past couple months...

The Light That Spills Out of the Whole in Your Head - In the running for weirdest/awesomest beer name. A 6% citrus pale ale, great juicy hop character full of citrus, really easy drinking and refreshing. One of the few beers Tired Hands has brewed more than once (I think! I know I had this before, but for some reason, never recapped it). A-

Tralfamadorian - They called this a 6.8% barrel fermented biere de garde, but it basically feels like a lighter bodied Flanders Red. Whoa, robey tones, dense tan head, pretty. Taste is reminiscent of Domo, sorta a Flemish red, but with slightly less body. Light on the oak, some sharp sourness, but not overwhelming. Nice sour cherry notes, really well done. A-

Station - A 5.8% Simcoe IPA? Sign me up! Cloudy straw yellow, beautiful grapefruit citrus nose, ditto in taste, with some light herbal notes too. Light and quaffable, very nice! Grading on a curve: B+

Wiggle Wurm - 9.2% DIPA, clear golden yellow, citrus & pine hop aroma, very sweet on the palate, sticky but not cloying. Solid! B+

Wisdom Teeth - Darwin Solera series number 4, a 6% Brett pale ale. This series is seriously mellowing out with each new installment. It's still got that funky salinity, but it's more well rounded and integrated. It's a fun series of beers, highly drinkable stuff and getting better with each iteration. B+

My Briefcase Says "Time Is Money" - Another fantastic name. It's a 5.7% Black IPA, nice drinkable beer, not as hoppy as you'd expect, but not super roasty either, striking an interesting balance. B+

Eye 4A Face - A 4.5% dry hopped farmhouse mild conditioned on oak. Dark golden hues, nice citrus hops in the nose, taste more malt focused, maybe a hint of oak, plenty of bitterness, easy drinking. B+

CuzCuz - Southern Hemisphere IPA filled with New Zealand hops, etc - Super cloudy straw yellow, bright citrus and herbal hops, floral too, really nice, easy drinking stuff... B+

Tabula Rasa - Classic modern saison at 6.2% ABV. I got a super yeasty pour, almost milky looking, Jean said that happens sometimes and it's really annoying because he has to sacrifice a bunch of beer to get past the yeast plug. It was drinkable, but he gave me another glass after he cleared the line some. Once I got a proper glass, it was still super cloudy, but at least it was yellow! Nice peppery yeast in the nose, a lot like Farmhands. Taste has that big saison yeast character, spicy sweet, similar to Farmhands but a bit more body. Medium bodied, smooth, spicy, very nice. Overall, really nice. B+

Pineal - Mosaic Amarillo Simcoe IPA at 6%, this may be my first real Mosaic hopped beer? Can that be? Well if this is any indication, I'm going to have to seek out some more! Bright cloudy yellow, beautiful nose, citrus, pine, nice floral aspect, great nose. Taste has nice sweetness, big juicy citrus notes, pine and floral notes too. Great beer. A-

Caskette - Hoppy golden mild at 4%. Yellow color, fantastic juicy hop nose, biscuity malts make a nice platform for those hops, compulsively drinkable. Would have loved to tried the one they actually put on cask! B+

Jittery Tiger - An oatmeal stout brewed with espresso at 6.6%. Black with tan head, big roast coffee nose, strong coffee in taste, roasty, bitter. Coffee beers are not normally my thing... but I like this. Not my favorite evar or anything, but good, and goes down easy... B+

Yellow & Green - A 4.5% all Cascade Keller pils. Nice yellow color, some herbal hops, plenty if citrus too, classic Cascade hop character. Feels more like a pale ale than a pils, but it's really quite nice... B+

Carpathian Kitten Loss - An 8.8% DIPA brewed with rye. Citra & Simcoe hopped, this has an amazing aroma, bright oranges up in my noseballs, citrus hops all they way... Taste is fantastic too, lots of citrus hops, bright, nice spicy rye or caramel note, a hint of booze but well balanced, way too easy to drink for the ABV, smooth. Delicious, better than the last couple DIPAs that they've made... A-

Phew. That's a lot of beer (spread out over the past few months, I assure you!). I feel very lucky to have Tired Hands out here in my backyard (ok, a half hour away, but still). Really looking forward to the Only Void bottle release (coming soonish, I think), especially those bottle conditioned variants.

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

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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