August 2017 Archives

Cigar City Hard Sauce

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Hard Sauce is a rich mixture of butter, sugar, and booze that is a frequent accompaniment to a large number of holiday sweets, puddings, and pies (as befits its seasonal provenance, other flavorings like vanilla and nutmeg are often added). The term "sauce" doesn't really capture the consistency here though, it's more of a spreadable soft butter than a smooth liquid or glaze. But when paired with warm pudding or pie, it does melt into more of what you'd think. It appears to be English in origin, dating back to King George I (aka The Pudding King), who demanded plum pudding with hard sauce at all Royal Christmas dinners.

Apparently the fine folks at Cigar City prefer their hard sauce paired with warm Pecan Pie, so they brewed this beer with pecans and vanilla, then aged it in bourbon-barrels. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but then, the second half of that quote is "that mediocrity can pay to greatness" so let's not get carried away. So hold on to your hats, Oscar Wilde fans, we're taking a closer look:

Cigar City Hard Sauce

Cigar City Hard Sauce - Pours a dark brown color with a thin cap of tan head that quickly disappears. Smells of, yes, pecan pie, nutty, sweet, caramel and toffee, a little bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste starts with rich caramel and toffee, some oak and vanilla, moves into that nutty pecan character, finishing on a boozy bourbon note. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and rich, tightly carbonated, some sticky booze. Could probably use a bit more heft here, but it comports itself well enough. Overall, this is really nice and the pecans come through strong... not their best Barrel Aged effort, but a decent change of pace. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 8/11/17. Bottled on: 12/21/16.

Many thanks to fellow BeerNERD Ray for the bottle (it's one of the El Catador Club beers). Cigar City always worth a try, and I tend to enjoy their barrel aged efforts...

Upper Pass Double Feature

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This isn't exactly Vermont Beer Roulette, that venerable practice wherein I just grab a bottle (or can) of something in Vermont that I've never heard of and hope for the best, but it's close. In accordance with tradition, I did a little asking around before this latest Operation Cheddar to see if there was anything I should be on the lookout for, and one of the things that came up: get some Upper Pass!

They've only been around for about a year and a half, but if these two cans are any indication, they'll be here to stay. Currently brewing on a tiny one barrel system, they do manage to slip in the occasional big batch at the Von Trapp Brewery in Stowe (I believe my two cans hailed from one of those supplementary batches). I don't know what it is about Vermont that breeds great IPAs, but Upper Pass has joined those hallowed ranks. Maybe it's in the water.

Upper Pass First Drop

Upper Pass First Drop - An "American Pale Ale" (but seriously, pretty much indistinguishable from an IPA) made with Golden Promise and Pilsner malt, a blend of two "East Coast" yeasts (and we know how important that is to the NEIPA style), and a lineup of hops that include Azacca, Centennial, Citra, and Mosaic. Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing. Smells great, sweet stone fruit, almost peachy, with some dank pine peeking through. Taste hits that juicy citrus and dank, resinous pine note hard, peaches and pineapple, with a balancing but only moderate bitter bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry, and quaffable. Overall, this is fabulous stuff. Very well balanced and crushable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/11/17. Canned on: 7/27/17.

Upper Pass Cloud Drop

Upper Pass Cloud Drop - Pours a little paler orange, cloudier, and a half finger of white head and lacing. Smells just as good, less stone fruit and less dank but still juicy and citrusy. Taste hits that juicy citrus hop character, sweet and less bitter, but still relatively balanced. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little thicker than First Drop, sticky with a faint but pleasant hint of booze. Overall, while I think I might actually like First Drop a teensy bit better, this is still pretty fantastic and earns the same grade! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/11/17. Canned on: 7/27/17.

Always something new and great brewing in Vermont, these folks are putting out some great beer and we will be on the lookout upon future sorties into Vermont.

So this annual sorty into Vermont to secure beer has become a hallowed tradition here at Kaedrin, and is thus well tread ground at this point. Every year, there are some minor tweaks, but the general shape of the invasion has cohered into a firm(ish) state: Start at Warren Store, hit CBC in Waterbury, new Alchemist visitor's center, Lost Nation for lunch, Hill Farmstead, and now Foam, all before heading back to my vacation spot in upstate NY.

It's a fun little day trip, and I'm happy I get to do it, but I'll try not to bore you with repetition, so enjoy some brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, and a few quickie reviews (that are light on tasting notes and heavy on ruminations, so less skippable than usual, heh).

The Alchemist Brewery
A wide shot of the new Alchemist site, it's purty

The Alchemist Brewery Interior
Some brewery equipment at the Alchemist

A Sandwich from Lost Nation
Lunch at Lost Nation, some sort of smoked beef sandwich with pickled onions on top, glorious as always

I know I post a picture of this Hill Farmstead sign every year, but I like it, so you get another.
Obligatory Hill Farmstead sign that I post every year because I like it and you should too

The Hill Farmstead Compound
A wide shot of the Hill Farmstead compound, which kinda makes it sound like a cult and, um, that's not too far off for a lot of visitors (sadly not excluding myself)

The entrance to Foam
The entrance to Foam

Hill Farmstead Difference and Repetition

Hill Farmstead Difference & Repetition - First things first, this is a perfect name to describe the never-ending succession of IPAs that everyone offers these days. To outsiders, this must seem ludicrous. When I got back from Vermont, my brother asked what the difference was between all these IPAs and it's like, ugh, he doesn't want a lecture on yeasts and hop terroir and it's funny, because these mostly taste the same to him. Even to a grizzled veteran, drowning in IPAs can lead to a sorta palate fatigue. You can see differences, but it all starts to feel samey after a while. Or... different but repetitive, if you will. Anyway, this orangish yellow IPA is brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo, & Galaxy hops (just a citra away from my own Crom Approved homebrew) and smells and tastes fabulous, ripe mangoes, citrus, a hint of dankness, with a well balanced, light bitterness towards the finish. Easy going and quaffable. Overall, yeah, no crap, stop the presses, this Hill Farmstead IPA is great. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Foam Experimental Jet Set

Foam Experimental Jet Set - Named after a Sonic Youth album (all of Foam's names appear to be indie-rock references), I don't really know much about it. At first, I assumed it used experimental hops, and maybe that is indeed why they referenced this album, but who knows, the details of the recipe aren't readily available. I was quite impressed with Foam during last year's Operation, and loved their Built to Spill (I snagged another growler of that this year for a friend), so I was excited to get another taste of their wares. It turns out that this is one of the murkier, more turbid entries in the NEIPA style (cleaning the growler revealed lots of sediment gunk in the bottom of the bottle, which seems pretty rare for a growler), but it's pretty darned tasty. It looks like milky orange juice, smells of sweet, juicy citrus hops with a taste that follows the nose. The mouthfeel is a bit chewy and sticky, with some booziness too. Overall, an interesting NEDIPA, a bit boozy for my tastes (I tend to prefer my DIPAs in the 8%ish range), but worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.27% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Hill Farmstead Dharma Bum - An all Simcoe IPA, this one takes me back. Simcoe was, perhaps, one of the first hops I kinda grew to recognize and differentiate. It's always been a favorite for my homebrewing (my first homebrewed IPA was single-hop Simcoe and I still always use it for bittering, at least, when making an IPA). It's got a nice citrus and pine character that isn't entirely overwhelmed by the juicy flavors and aromas imparted by whatever yeast strain HF uses. It makes for an interesting, almost transitional NEIPA beer. Really nice Simcoe character imparted here, and just enough NEIPA juiciness to keep tings interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/6/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo

Simple Roots Citra And Amarillo - When I was walking into the Warren Store (my usual first stop of Operation Cheddar, usually just to get some Lawson's, but I always end up taking a flier on something I've never heard of), I noticed someone carrying two cases of beer from their car into the cooler. I asked, and it turned out it was these Simple Roots cans. After Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo have also been a mainstay in my homebrewed IPAs, and are definitely favorites. Pours a, a, a... is that clear? What the hell guys? Clear golden yellow with finger of white head that leaves lacing. Floral, citrusy hops, a little cereal grain in the background. Light bodied and crisp, well carbonated and quaffable. Overall, do we call these things throwbacks now? Clear, almost west-coast inspired APA? It's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/12/17.

Burlington Amber Ridge

Burlington Amber Ridge 2017 - A "robust" maple amber ale aged in bourbon barrels, my kinda stuff. This beer changes from year to year (last year was a brown ale base), but the idea remains the same. Presumably named after Amber Ridge Maple farm and the maple syrup they provided, it was also aged in Stonecutter Spirits whiskey barrels (of which, I don't know much about.). The result is a pretty darned good take on the style. Nice amber color with off white head, good barrel character, maple, caramel, oak, and vanilla, relatively light and nimble for its 12% ABV (I mean, still medium bodied, but something like this is usually much heavier), I liked this a lot. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 8/12/17. Vintage: Limited Release 2017.

Moar reviews to come, so stay tuned. I'll leave you with some haul pics because that's always fun too:

Can Haul

Can Haul: Alchemist Skadoosh IX, Heady Topper, Pappy's Porter, and Beelzebub. Burlington Strawberry Whale Cake. Upper Pass First Drop and Cloud Drop. Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine. Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo (see above).

Miscellaneous Bottles Haul

Miscellaneous Bottle Haul: Central Waters BBA Scotch Ale, BBA Barleywine, BBA Stout. Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett with Blueberries and regular ol Nightmare on Brett. Tilquin Gueuze. Burlington Amber Ridge (see above)

Hill Farmstead Bottle Haul

Hill Farmstead Bottles Haul: Farmer Wave, Anna, Arthur, Clara, Edith, Florence, Brother Soigné, and Convivial Suaréz.

And if you think that's a lot, well, I didn't actually capture, *ahem*, all of the bottles and cans I bought. I know that's the cool kid thing to do, but that was, like, way too much work and you don't need to see a hundred bottles and cans splayed all over your monitor. Anywho, this basically concludes Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar. More to come in terms of actual reviews, so stick around...

Hill Farmstead Sue

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An overdue recap of Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar (my latest foray into Vermont hunting for beer) is on its way, but in the meantime, let's look at a beer I drank in anticipation of that momentous undertaking.

Sue is a wine barrel-aged version of Susan, which is one of Hill Farmstead's trademark bright, juicy, tropical fruity IPAs. This is... not the most likely candidate for extended aging. However, after two years in the barrels, the beer picks up lots of wine character and lemony tartness, making it much better than what an "aged IPA" would normally conjure.

So let's get dressed up all in black, head over to San Quentin, and drink a beer named Sue*. "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do!?"

Hill Farmstead Sue

Hill Farmstead Sue - Pours a yellowish golden color with a solid finger of long lived head. Smells quite nice, oak, vinous fruit, lemons, and sneaking in the background are some of those dank, faded hops (very delicate aroma, it works). Taste has a nice sweetness to it, tons of that vinous fruit, wine, lemons, a bit of earthy funk, almost no sign of hops until well into the finish. MOuthfeel is medium bodied, crisp, and effervescent, with a relatively dry finish. Overall, much better than its description would imply - it feels like a solid, complex saison rather than an IPA (I'll slap the American Wild Ale label on this one, but you could easily call it a saison). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/28/17. Bottled: 2017 05 11.

Many thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Dana for picking this up on her own invasion of Vermont recently. Several more Hill Farmstead offerings to come, as well as a full recap of Operation Cheddar VI, so stick around.

* Get it? Screaming hot Johnny Cash reference here. Somewhere I have a list of potential beer names, and one of them was A Beer Named Sue. I mean, not "Sue" (like the above beer) but literally "A Beer Named Sue". I have no idea what it will be, and at my current rate of 1 batch per year it may be a while, but I will brew a beer and call it that. Someday.

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Gail Ann Williams of Beer by BART wants to talk about "New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers" and that's a subject that interests us here at Kaedrin, so here goes.

Of course, I've already said my piece on Northeast IPAs and Milkshake Beer (in addition to reviewing lots and lots and lots and lots of them). Indeed, I've just completed a quick, day-long tour through Vermont in order to acquire various Northeast IPAs (and saisons, and stouts, and lagers, and everything else, but NEIPA is clearly the driver), the sixth such incursion in the past five years. Here's some Hill Farmstead Walden from the latest sorty:

Hill Farmstead Walden

Since I've already opined on the subject, I shall try not to repeat myself too much. The short story, in my mind, is that the entire trend is driven by yeast. This harkens back to the days of Greg Noonan and the Vermont Pub & Brewery, where he pioneered the use of the fabled Conan yeast. An English strain, it tends to accentuate the citrusy character of hops, lending a distinctly "juicy" feel to the resulting beer. Yes, the beer tends to be a little hazier (ok, sometimes a lot hazier or downright cloudy), but that's a red herring. You can make super hazy IPAs with a clean American Ale yeast strain, but that won't capture the Northeast feel. Of course, not everyone uses Conan, but when you look into the Hill Farmsteads and Tired Hands of the world, you find some sort of English strain of yeast that accentuates that juicy character. (Again, more detail in my previous post on the subject.)

Part of the reason I attribute this to yeast (other than it actually being the most important, defining difference between NEIPA and traditional or West Coast IPAs!) is that when I finally got my greedy biscuit snatchers on some "Vermont Ale" yeast, I basically took an old IPA recipe and made the same thing (it ended up having slightly higher ABV and slightly less IBUs) but with different yeast and I was shocked at how different the resulting beer was. Yes, again, it was cloudy, but all my homebrew is relatively cloudy. The flavor was light years away from the original brew (which was a nice, solid little West Coast style IPA). Up next, I'm probably going to try a similar recipe, but using the easier to find Wyeast 1318 London Ale III strain (rumored to be close to what local Kaedrin favorite Tired Hands uses).

I could keep going, but I'd just be repeating myself, so let's give a quick whirl to the questions Gail posed:

The encounter: Do you remember your first NEIPA - if so, what was that like? Details, please. And how has your perception of the style changed over time?

I didn't know it at the time, but it was during a Philly Beer Week event with Hill Farmstead. My first was their What is Enlightenment? but I guess that's technically an APA, so let's go with Abner, which was the true revelation of the day. Of course, at the time, I didn't really know exactly how to describe how it was different, I just knew that it was delicious. It was actually during that event that I learned of Tired Hands, our local purveyor of NEIPA, and not long after that, I started going regularly (their lack of regular, staple beers means that I've had literally hundreds of different NEIPAs from them). Shortly after that, I got my claws on some Heady Topper, and I was hooked. I've been in love with the style ever since, and I've gotten better at being able to describe, distinguish, and differentiate NEIPA from regular IPA...

Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend ... why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does "IPA" still apply in a way that's helpful to drinkers?

I tend to go with Northeast IPA, but I'm not too picky and most of the other names work. Ultimately, though, they're still IPAs. I don't think that we absolutely need a new BJCP style or something (though perhaps easing some of the restrictions on clarity and IBU might be in order).

Or the crusade: Testify! Exactly why do you love or hate these beers? How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you. Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?

I love these beers because they're delicious! Is there any other real reason? Of course, there's no accounting for taste. If you don't like them, more power to you (and please lay off, these things tend to be in short supply, so fewer drinkers translates to better/easier availability... but of course, I'm not holding my breath on that count.)

Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style?

I've already explained this a little above, but it basically amounts to pale malt (with much less in the way of crystal than a lot of IPAs, but other adjuncts like oats, rye, and wheat often in the mix), copious amounts of newfangled "flavor" hops (i.e. mostly American citrus and pine bombs, but also NZ and Australian hops, but these days, even Germany is starting to jump on the bandwagon - it's the citrus notes that are probably most important), and of course, the all-important yeast. Note that "cloudiness" is not an absolute requirement. I've had some of these that are no cloudier than an equivalent unfiltered West Coast IPA. Of course, I've had others that literally look like orange juice or chicken broth, but again, not an absolute requirement. Bitterness tends to be lower, but it doesn't need to be (I suspect the juicy character leads to a sweeter perception no matter what the IBU). Milkshake IPA should include lactose. Flaws tend to be in the mouthfeel (some can get excessively grainy) and it's worth noting that these beers often don't last - they sorta require drinking as fresh as possible.

Alright, so I could probably go on and on about this stuff, but the short story is that I like these beers a lot, and I hope they continue to be a thing.

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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 August 2017 listed from newest to oldest.

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