January 2019 Archives

Free Will Ralphius Variants

| No Comments

Free Will makes what is probably the best local barrel-aged stout, dubbed Ralphius. To be sure, there are plenty of one-offs that could contend (both Levante and Tired Hands could compete in this arena) and if you widen the "local" area, others will put up a good fight (or, uh, dominate).

Free Will Ralphius Variants

This year, Free Will has decided to expand their program with variants, which is what we'll cover today. Released in a low-pressure Black Friday event, they're clearly providing an independent, local alternative to Bourbon County and associated variants. As per usual, this sort of stout variant game represents nice changes of pace, but mostly I come back to the idea of straight bourbon barrel aged stouts, and regular ol' Ralphius is probably still my favorite. Because I'm boring? Sure, let's go with that. Now that I've killed all the momentum and suspense, let's take a look at these variants....

Free Will Maple Ralphius

Free Will Maple Ralphius - Aged in Bourbon and Bourbon Maple Barrels - Pours a deep black color with only a crown of brown head. Smells of rich caramel, a hint of chocolate and roast, with some brown sugar, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, only a little of that maple barrel. Taste is rich and sweet, caramel, a touch of maple syrup, hints of underlying roast, and plenty of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, lightly but well carbonated, some pleasant boozy heat. Overall, it's a great little variant, maple is present but not overpowering or cloying, I probably should have bought more of these. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.6% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 11/25/18. Bottled Oct. 2018. A total of 600 bottles were produced.

Free Will Coconut Chocolate Ralphius - Aged with, you guessed it, coconut and chocolate - Pours deep black with a bit more head, half a finger that quickly resolves to the crown. Smells... a lot like regular Ralphius, some roast, caramel, and lots of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. As it warms and if I do the olephactory equivalent of squinting, I get some coconut. Taste is again pretty light on the coconut, but it's there, but the Ralphius base is its standard self. I guess chocolate is there too, but it doesn't really stand out. Mouthfeel is on point as well. Overall, a good beer, a bit light on the Coconut, but the Ralphius base keeps it going. Not especially sure how to rate this, as it's probably an A- due to the strength of the base, but if you're looking for a Coconut stout, this might not fully scratch that itch, making it more of a B+. I never managed to snag the Iron Abbey Collaboration that Free Will made last year, which sounded an awful lot like this variant of Ralphius, so I can't really make the comparison, though I'd like to try sometime!

Beer Nerd Details: 16.6% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 11/27/18. Bottled Oct. 2018. A total of 600 bottles were produced.

Free Will Chocolate Orange Ralphius - Aged with, big shocker, chocolate and orange - Pours that same deep black with a cap of brown head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge. Smells similar to the standard Ralphius profile, but the orange and chocolate do pop, especially as it warms. Taste is sweet, lots of that base Ralphius character, but the citrus and chocolate do make an impression. Mouthfeel is par for the course. Overall, a good beer, a nice variant, but original Ralphius still rules. This is perhaps more subtle than the BCBS take on same, for what that's worth. And I'm not really sure what that's worth. Is it worth having a variant if the added flavor doesn't come through too strong? B+

Beer Nerd Details: 16.6% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/1/18. Bottled Oct. 2018. A total of 600 bottles were produced.

Free Will Cinnamon Chile Ralphius - Aged with cinnamon and ancho chilies - Yeah, looks the same, almost no head this time. Smells heavily of cinnamon, a little chile too and hints of the usual Ralphius base, but the cinnamon is dominant here. Taste features more of the Ralphius base than the nose would have you believe, but the cinnamon is still powerful with a lighter touch on the chile, though you get a teensy bit of lingering spicy heat in the finish (nothing untoward though, and the cinnamon is still front and center). Mouthfeel is the usual full bodied stuff, a little spicy heat from the chile that lingers a bit, but again, it's a light touch that adds complexity, rather than overwhelm. The cinnamon, on the otherhand, almost feels like it's adding something to the mouthfeel. Grainy? Chalky? Not sure how to describe it, but the cinnamon is not just tasted, but felt. Overall, way more heavy handed than any of the variants, especially when it comes to the cinnamon, which is prevalent despite the strength of the base, which is the only thing keeping it remotely in check. I happen to like cinnamon, but this is perhaps a bit much. I'm enjoying it, but I could see it being a turnoff to some. I'm finding it to be a nice accompaniment to the holiday season though. B

Beer Nerd Details: 16.6% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/8/18. Bottled Oct. 2018. A total of 600 bottles were produced.

Free Will Coffee Ralphius

Free Will Coffee Ralphius - Yes, the dreaded coffee (apparently from local Speakeasy Coffee Company) - Same general appearance, a nose with lots of coffee and a little of that base caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste has that standard Ralphius character with a prominent coffee bite coming in the middle and lingering through the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, a little boozy heat. Overall, it's a well balanced bba coffee stout, very well done. If you're missing BCBCS this year, this one should tide you over. Even my coffee ambivalence can sometimes be conquered. This is the highest rated of all the Ralphius entries this year, and I can see why, even if my general taste still prefers regular. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.6% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/9/18. Bottled Oct. 2018. A total of 600 bottles were produced.

Pretty sure the beer nerd details are, er, estimated, since they're all identical (except for when I drank it, which is precise and accurate), but you get the picture.

Bottle Logic Sight and Mind

| No Comments

Picture, if you will, a beer. Four simple ingredients, added to which a fifth: the barrel. In this case, a blend of barleywine aged in bourbon and brandy barrels. An enticing elixir To Serve Man. You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of bwizzle. Next stop, Bottle Logic.

Rod Serling, I am not, but this beer, clearly inspired by The Twilight Zone, is truly One for the Angels. Let's crack the sweet malt cipher:

Bottle Logic Sight and Mind

Bottle Logic Sight and Mind - Pours a cloudy, dark brown color with half a finger of tightly bubbled head that doesn't stick around long. Smells great, brown sugar, caramel, toffee, molasses, fruity malt, and the requisite bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste is amazing, tons of rich caramel and toffee, brown sugar and molasses, dark candied fruits, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and chewy, finely carbed, with a pleasant boozy heat. Intense, but complex and very well balanced. Overall, a spectacular, dimension spanning beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 13.7% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 11/2/18.

Yes, I drank this over two months ago and am only getting to it now that I have Time Enough at Last. Alright, enough with the Twilight Zone puns. This is a great beer and fully deserving of the hype around Bottle Logic, which is all in the Eye of the Beholder. Sorry, couldn't resist. Incidentally, I just realized that Serling never said "Picture, if you will" in the Twilight Zone, but rather, his other show, Night Gallery. Drats. Truly, we have entered a land of both shadow and substance.

Odd Breed Double Feature

| No Comments

South Florida's Odd Breed is a small brewery focused on wild ales that I've become acquainted with thanks to Kaedrin friend Steve, who lives down those parts and generously volunteers to send some Florida cheer up my way from time to time. My guess is that it's called Odd Breed due to their use of wild yeasts and other microflora, and totally not a fiendish, Doctor Moreau-esque plot to cross-breed humans with wild animals. However, if they do ever announce a new production facility location at a remote Atlantic island, I may be more skeptical. What can I say, I love beer, but I'm distrustful of many brewers' stated goals. Um... anywho, they make good beer, so let's take a look:

Odd Breed Past and Future

Odd Breed Past & Future - This is their Flagship, a pretty straightforward saison aged in French oak puncheons. I say straightforward, but the brewer says he's been working on the recipe from years, and it's evolved from a super-dry Dupont-esque clone to a beer that loosened the dryness and upped the acidity. Pours a pale straw yellow color with a solid finger of medium bubbled head that manages to hang on for a while. Smells quite nice, oak and saison spice, hints of tart fruit. Taste starts out sweet, hits that saison spice (like cloves and coriander), then tart fruit, finishing with a tart kick. Mouthfeel is light and crisp, well carbonated, and relatively dry. Overall, a very well executed saison, and a rock solid flagship that compares favorably with locals like Tired Hands. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (capped and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/7/18. Bottled on: 09/11/18. Batch 2.

Odd Breed Fresh Off the Farm With Peaches

Fresh Off the Farm With Peaches - A blend of golden wild ales aged in those French oak puncheons that are then transferred onto nearly 800 pounds of hand-picked, ripe organic peaches (which were only lightly washed, so as to contribute their own microflora). Pours a pale, very cloudy straw yellow color with a finger or two of white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells great, plenty of peaches, some lactic funk, and even more peaches. Taste has a nice dry character with some peachy sweetness to it, followed by some puckering tartness and some oak, and then more peaches and did I mention peaches in the finish. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and dry, moderate acidity, perhaps not quite quaffable, but headed in that direction. Overall, yeah, this is a real winner right here. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (capped and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/15/18. Bottled on: 06/22/18.

A nice first impression, for sure, and I have a couple others that I'll be bringing to shares in the near-ish future. I suspect this won't be the last you see of Odd Breed here...

2018 Year End Musings

| 2 Comments

The two-headed Roman god Janus could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other, and as such is generally regarded as the god of things like beginnings, transitions, and time (amongst other such concepts). So too is the month January named after Janus, as it's a transition to a new year. An almost completely arbitrary one, to be sure, but it's good to take some time out to strap on our Janus mask, take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we're going. This can be a tricky thing in our increasingly polarized society, but fortunately beer is generally a simpler pleasure (especially if you focus more on the liquid in the glass rather than more nebulous things like business, law, or culture) and this is but a simple beer blog, so let's take a look at my year in beer. Assorted thoughts:

  • The Evolution of Novelty - Last year I speculated on the end of novelty, but that's too broadly stated. However, the fact remains that I'm drinking more repeat beers than ever. There are annual releases that I look forward to every year. Sometimes I'll even buy a 4 or 6 pack of something and drink the entire thing! I know that sounds awfully normal to most people, but for years and years, I would just buy single bottles/cans/drafts of as many things as I could and basically never drank the same beer twice. In short, I was a novelty whore, and drinking the same beer twice almost felt like some sort of moral failure. Of course, this is silly, and such feelings have pretty much disappeared in the past few years. This is not to say that I don't still seek out the new and exciting, just that the prospect of drinking multiples of the same beer is now pretty common, especially when it's something I really enjoy. Which, again, sounds dreadfully normal and I'm sure the fact I'm even harping on this at all would be confusing to some people, but this is where I'm at.
  • The Rise of Lagers - It's no secret that the grand majority of beers that garner hype in the beer world tend to be ales, and even here, my tendencies are to review mostly ales. That being said, lagers have been a growing portion of my beer diet. Again, this is indicative of a longer term trend that began years ago, but blossomed more this year, in particular with respect to Oktoberfest beers, of which I drank many (indeed, these beers were a key player the aforementioned repeat beer drinking). Of course, I didn't actually review any of them, so maybe I have some work to do on that front, but then:
  • The Decline of Blogging - This blog has never particularly garnered a huge audience, but I'm assuming that if you are actually reading this, you may have noticed a distinct decline in the posting schedule over the past year. Once again, this is a longer term trend, but it accelerated this year, to the point where I'm only really posting 3-4 times a month on average. Certainly a far cry from the heyday of the blog, when I'd regularly post 3-4 times a week. There are many reasons for this. I've been writing here for over 8 years and while I'm not above a little repetition, it does feel like I should only really be writing about things that really knock me out or that inspire me in some sort of unique way. After writing about 200+ Stouts (and similar numbers of IPAs), the style itself doesn't provide much inspiration, so it's got to come down to brewery info, some sort of story about the name or inspiration behind the beer, or just bald recitations of tasting notes (and you know how exciting that can be). Posting will, of course, continue, if only out of sheer momentum, but I like the more relaxed once a week schedule these days. Or perhaps I should take to writing more freeform stuff or more creative exercises. Time will tell, of course, but I suspect I'll maintain a relatively healthy schedule.
  • Beer Shares - At this point, I regularly participate in 2-3 bottle shares a month, with varying ranges of intensity. This has lead to new friendships and the opportunity to taste some great beer that I'd otherwise never have a hope to try, and it's a lot of fun. Alas, since these tastings aren't happening in a sensory deprivation chamber with strictly controlled light, temperature, and humidity conditions, they don't usually make for good blogging material (another contributer to the above lack of posting). This has been one of my favorite developments of recent years though, and it's been a really good time.
  • Barleywine is Life - The trend of the year that I didn't realize was happening until I put some lists together below and noticed the prevalence of a style that I've always enjoyed, but which has taken on a bigger role, probably due to DDB's totally bonkers Barleywine is Life Facebook group. Fully 25% of my top 20 of the year are barleywines (or at least, life-adjacent stuff like B-Bomb), and 40% of the unreviewed hit the mark too (at least one of which will be reviewed in detail, I just haven't gotten to it yet because I'm the worst). It's an impressive showing, and I expect the trend to continue into the new year (already have a couple new bwizzle bangers in the pipeline).
  • Homebrewing Limbo - I'm at a place right now where I'm home brewing once a year. I enjoy the process and it's been a really great way to learn about what really makes beer tick, but I haven't make much time for it in recent years. I was planning on doing something when I took a vacation across the holidays, but then I came down with the flu and that kinda killed any motivation I had. I really do want to do that Scotch ale I've been threatening to make for a few years now, so who knows? Maybe I'll ramp it up this winter.
  • Aging Beer - My first few rounds of experiments with aging beer have already come to fruition, and this year was something of a rebuilding year, with more of a focus on getting Lambic in the cellar to age. I suspect some of that aging will come to fruition in the next few years, but in general, aging beer is fun, but highly variable and not strictly necessary. Mostly beers do change, sometimes dramatically, but aren't necessarily much better than they were fresh (and sometimes they're far worse). As per usual, my eyes are bigger than my liver, so some aging happens just by default as I buy more beer than I could ever drink (or even share). The cellar is getting a tad bit unwieldy though, so this year might see a more significant "drink down" of older beers with a bit of a purchasing freeze. Regardless, it will be a fun year.
  • Taking a Break - I continued my Lenten tradition of (er, mostly) giving up beer for a while this year, and I think the practice is a solid one that does me (and my waistline) a lot of good, so I expect that to continue. Indeed, I could see my overall consumption reducing throughout the year as well. This dovetails nicely with the whole evolution of novelty thing mentioned above, as one of the things that drove drinking to higher levels was the all-consuming need to explore the new and exciting beers I'd acquired (or which were on tap locally, etc...) I've also gotten better at not forcing myself to power through too much of a beer that I don't like. This goes against my general desire for efficiency and frugality (I mean, I spend a lot more than most on beer, but since I do so, I generally feel obligated to get my money's worth), but there's no need to torture myself.

So all in all, it's been a good year for me and beer, but then, what year hasn't been good? In accordance with the decline in blogging and increase in repeat beers, my top "new to me" beers of the year list is shrinking. This year, I'm only listing 20 beers with reviews (but another 10 that I never got around to reviewing for various reasons). Standard disclaimers apply: this is a list of beers that were new to me this year and which I reviewed on the blog. It's not an all time favorites list, so if you don't see something on here, then maybe I didn't try it this year or perhaps I had it in a previous year. Or you have bad taste and are a bad person. It could be that too. This is a naturally arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with it and enjoy making lists like this. Lists are American! So let's do this thing:

  1. 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston (2015) (Gueuze)
  2. Kane Object Permanence (Barleywine)
  3. Fremont B-Bomb (American Strong Ale)
  4. Levante Glitter Parts (IPA)
  5. Xyauyù Gold Label 2011 (Barleywine)
  6. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #9 (DIPA)
  7. Samuel Adams Utopias (2017) (American Strong Ale)
  8. Suarez Family Brewing Call to Mind (Saison)
  9. Tilquin Oude Pinot Noir Tilquin à L'Ancienne (Lambic)
  10. Tree House Bbbrighttt with Citra (DIPA)
  11. Kane A Night To End All Dawns (Imperial Stout)
  12. Finback Social Fabric (DIPA)
  13. Cantillon 20 Ans D'Amitié (Lambic)
  14. Suarez Family Brewing Palatine Pils (Pilsner)
  15. Smog City Bourbon Barrel-Aged O.E. (Barleywine)
  16. Barrel of Monks Bourbon Barrel Aged Father Christmas (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
  17. Victory Java Cask Maple (Imperial Stout)
  18. Burley Oak Double Blackberry Mango JREAM (American Wild Ale)
  19. Phantom Carriage Crawling Eye (American Wild Ale)
  20. Hill Farmstead Poetica 2 (Pilsner)

The Unreviewed
Beers that where I had small samples and/or never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

  1. Anchorage A Deal With the Devil - Double Oaked (2017) (Barleywine)
  2. Bottle Logic Sight and Mind (Barleywine)
  3. Pelican Mother Of All Storms (2013) (Barleywine)
  4. Maine Dinner (DIPA)
  5. Allagash Coolship Resurgam (American Wild Ale)
  6. Firestone Walker Abacus (2011) (Barleywine)
  7. Cycle Rare Noa (Imperial Stout)
  8. The Bruery Chronology:24 - Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy)
  9. Aslin Moonshield (Imperial Stout)
  10. Funky Buddha Morning Wood (Porter)
Bottle Logic Sight and Mind You will be seeing a full review of this Bottle Logic barleywine soon enough, so stay tuned. In other news, the new year in beer looks as promising as ever, so let's get back to the hard, hard work of drinking beer, shall we?

Categories

Monthly Archives

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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.

Follow me on Twitter

Like me on Facebook

Toast me on Untappd

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2019 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2018 is the previous archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.