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Anatomy of a Blog Post

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If you'll permit some of that navel gazing that bloggers are famous for, I'd like to spend some time bloviating about how this blog gets written. Before you start screaming and throwing little pickles at me, I'd also like to note that I'm not the only one who has done this before. A couple years ago*, Ed from The Dogs of Beer wrote a similar post, and it set off a series of other posts from other bloggers. Yes, it's all naval gazing to an extent, but I have to admit that I enjoyed reading about how other folks in the fraternity of beer bloggers construct their posts. I've been doing this for a little over three years now**, and have settled into a comfortable groove... that doesn't appear to resemble anyone else at all. Not least of which because at least two of these people appear to be awake at 7 am, which is totally crazy town. I'm a night owl, and do most of my blogging after 10 pm (if not later).

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The process begins with... beer! As you might imagine, we have a large procurement department, so we're always scouring the area (and social media) for new beers, bottle releases, and the like. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say, my eyes are bigger than my liver, and thus I almost always have a large quantity of interesting, blog-worthy beer on hand at all times. What is blog-worthy, you ask? Initially, my plan was to write about every beer that I drank. Right now, this is a more difficult question, but lately, they tend to be beers that require some effort to acquire and/or understand. Maybe they have a good story behind them. Maybe I'm new to the brewery. Maybe I went out of my way to snag it and want to justify the extra effort. Maybe it's a style I'm not that familiar with. Or, who am I kidding, maybe it's spent some time in a barrel of some kind.

So any given post is generally initiated on the weekend. I tend to only really review beer that I drank alone, mostly because if I'm drinking with friends, I don't want to be rude and bury my nose into my phone whilst I tap in some detailed notes. There are occasional exceptions, and sure, I might take a picture and check in on Untappd, but for the most part, I'm drinking at home on Friday or Saturday night. My goal these days is to drink no more than 3 blog-worthy blogs a week (and less is fine, though that usually doesn't happen).

I crack open a bottle, pour it into my glassware of choice, and snap several quick pictures with my phone (believe it or not, the pics that show up on the blog are usually the best, most clear pics). I go through the beer nerd tasting routine. Appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel, rinse and repeat. As I'm doing this, I'm taking notes on some sort of computing device (desktop, laptop, tablet, they all work). Most of the tasting notes are written in the first 5 minutes or so, though I will usually revisit as I'm finishing up the first glass, just to make sure that, for instance, a sweet beer didn't get cloying, or to note how the beer changed as it warmed up. If I'm particularly inspired, the research phase of blogging will start while I'm drinking as well (but always after the tasting notes are practically done). This mostly consists of lazy googling, and generally ends quickly, as some shiny new object catches my attention on the internets. On rare occasions, an idea for a post will crop up around now.

At the end of a given weekend, I'll have a few sets of tasting notes. My ideal schedule is to post something on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (aligning with the three blog-worthy beers I had that weekend). As I mentioned earlier, other bloggers seem to start their process in the early morning, which is crazy talk here at Kaedrin HQ. Most of the time, I'll start my research phase (that fancy phrase for googling) after I've had my dinner and am lazing around for a bit. At this point, I should also point out that Kaedrin employs a crack squad of chain-smoking monkey researchers for much of the tedious detail work, and they're very thorough.

Monkey Research Squad
Kaedrin's Chain Smoking Monkey Research Squad

What I'm really looking for is an angle for my post. I'll occasionally come up empty and just bang something out in a few minutes, but most of the time I'm able to find something I can hang a post on. A brewery profile, a pedantic style discussion, an even more pedantic exploration of the brewing process, historical notes, personal digressions, and so on. In rare instances, I'll be inspired to write something in Screenplay form, or maybe do something off the wall, like a Choose Your Own Adventure Beer Reviews type post. After three years, some of these topics are starting to get a bit thin. You can only wax philosophic on a given beer style so many times before you start repeating yourself.

In any case, I haven't started writing yet. I'm just researching and formulating. Instead, I head down to my basement and exercise (gotta work off those beer calories somehow, amirite?) and this is where the idea for a given post really starts to form (or, uh, fall apart). Exercise is all about tedious repetition, so it's good to have something rubilating in your head during that time. Once I finish exercise, during my "cool down period" I try to bang out a first draft. I may or may not be successful at completing this, but that's when the writing starts. I'll once again, take a break and shower off (so I suppose I do get ideas in the shower sometimes), after which I fire up Spotify and go into full blown panic mode, and crank out the rest of the entry.

Once a draft has been completed, I need to take a few minutes to get the picture ready (cropping, resizing, etc...) and categorize the post (look at all those categories over there on the right!), which again gives my brain a chance to think about something else for a minute. Then I edit the post. This consists of four primary activities. First, fixing grammar and typos and whatnot. Maybe adding a link here or there that I forgot whilst I was writing. Boring stuff. Second, I tend to be longwinded, so I am almost always removing something I wrote in order to make the post flow better. I'm almost never successful in this, and often produce bloated posts (like this one!), but I do try. Third, I clean up the tasting notes a bit, and try to add some levity. I write technical documentation in my day job, so I find my tasting notes tend to feel kinda... samey. That might make them boring to read, but they do tend to at least be consistent. But if I can get a zinger in there, all the better. Finally, I make a conscious effort to bring the funny somewhere in the post. The results of this process are dubious at best and I will often rely on lame pop culture references or the infrequent meme, but again, I'm at least trying. On the other hand, I'm genuinely proud of the stupidity of the meme I made on this post, and I do love making obscure pop culture references that few people will ever understand.

And that's just about it. Publish the post, and obsessively check my stats, which are pitiful. The actual writing of the typical post usually takes 30-60 minutes, though longer, more creative posts obviously take more time. Go figure! One interesting thing I've noticed lately is that writing about new beverages has really opened up options for the angle of approach. There's usually something interesting about the beverage itself, but even if there isn't, I feel like writing about a given beverage with a beer nerd's perspective makes for some interesting observations. Perhaps I should continue writing about these other beverages, if and when the opportunity presents itself.

Well, I hope this was enlightening and yep, I'm pretty sure no one is reading by now, but hey, it's all good. This was fun. We should do it again sometime. In any case, this weekend is seeing the first non-alcoholic beverages that will be blogged about here, though I think I'll also hit up some rye whiskey too. The following weekend will be tea, followed by Scotch... and then my 40 days are up, and I'll be back to beer with a vengeance. So far so good.

* We like to be timely here at Kaedrin, which is why we usually post about current events and topical stuff about a year or two later.

** Though I will also note that I've been blogging over at my generalist blog for almost 14 years, so take that.

We Interrupt this Program...

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In the 1930s, folks became very worried when their favorite radio programs were interrupted by special news bulletins. News back then tended to include things like Depressions and Nazis, so that was a pretty reasonable reaction. These days, the phrase "We interrupt this program..." is a pretty harmless declaration used half ironically to state things like how I'm not going to drink that much beer for the next six weeks or so.

See how I slipped that in there?

Fear not, this is but a temporary situation, undertaken on a whim. Blogging will continue, very possibly at the same 3-4 post per week rate (but let's not count on that, mmmk?), though it will not all be about beer (more on this later). Blasphemy, I know, but I've actually been looking forward to this for a while. And lord knows this isn't a particularly strict regimen I'm going to engage in here. Fat Weekend is coming up in a few days, and all bets are off there (but then, Fat Weekend was never particularly good material for blogging anyway, seeing as though I'm too busy yucking it up with the famed quorum of portly gentleman I don't get to see as often as I used to). And the following Wednesday is beer club, which is still on. But the bulk of my beer drinking, which tends to occur on weekends, will be on temporary hiatus.

There are several reasons for this, all of which are self-imposed and not the result of any particular problem. First, I probably drink too much. I know for a fact that I drink a lot less than other folks, but that doesn't mean I don't drink too much either. The other day, I was heartened to answer "0" for the first three questions in this essay, but there are plenty of times when my answers would be much worse and the phrase "I don't have a problem" still seems problematic to me considering how much beer I've drank (at a pretty steady pace) for the past 5 or so years. And if you read this blog, you can see that I don't exactly shy away from the high alcohol brews. So I'd like to prove to myself that I'm not a slave to my favorite beverage by not drinking it for a few weeks, if I can manage that.

Second, the health component. While I absolutely savored every damn dromp of that Bruery Mash last week, it occurs to me that a bottle of 12.5% ABV barleywine represents at least 700-800 calories, which would be a non-trivial portion of my diet on a normal day. A few years ago, I came close to hitting 200 lbs and realized that I wasn't 23 anymore, so I started eating better and exercising more. I'm actually much healthier now than I was back then (and am down into a more svelt 170-180 lb range), but I again find myself thinking "I don't have a problem" and that attitude worries me sometimes. So let's try this little experiment and verify that, shall we?

While I'm on the subject of health, I'd like to air out a pet peeve I have about beer boosterism. I follow a lot of beer blogs and keep pretty close tabs on twitter, so I see my fair share of "Beer is healthy for you" articles, and it kinda drives me up a wall. Yes, some studies have shown that, for instance, alcohol can help boost HDL Cholesterol (aka "Good" cholesterol) but the thing that most of us conveniently downplay is that those studies are about "moderate" consumption. Guess what? I don't think Bourbon County Brand Stout counts as "moderate", nor does taking down a couple Hopslams. What's more is that while alcohol can have a good effect, it's rarely the best way to get that effect. If you want to raise your HDL, exercise, eat better, and lose some weight. I bet your doctor won't actually recommend to increase your booze intake. There are other benefits of moderate consumption and plenty of things specific to beer, but it's probably best to be wary of something that your body treats like poison. Obviously I love me some alcohol (as evidenced by the fact that I'm not actually giving up on alcohol!), but I think it's important to be clear headed about this stuff. No use in fooling ourselves.

I've been particularly bad about my health of late. The Holidays are always rough, but then we kept getting snowed in, I got sick, and my elliptical machine broke. Most of these were basically excuses to stop exercising and drink more beer, which in retrospect was probably a bad idea. I don't feel any real ill effects or anything, but I have put on a few pounds and those jeans are getting a little more snug than I'd like, so I'd like to do a little course correction now before it becomes an actual problem.

Third, sacrifice is a good thing. I grew up Catholic. Nothing particularly strict, but my family went to Church on Sundays and most of my schooling was through Catholic institutions. In case you didn't know, Lent started last Wednesday. I always hated Lent growing up, but as an adult, I've found it an invaluable way to break bad habits and/or try new things. 40 days is an excellent length of time to give something up. It's short enough that it's achievable, but long enough that your routine can be changed for the better. I suspect that even if I became a firebreathing atheist, I'd still find value in Lent (or do it some other way, like how some people had a dry January). Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I'm not giving up beer, strictly speaking. I know it's a cheat to give things up a week at a time, but to me, this is actually more about the health aspect. As I mentioned above, a little course correction is needed. And like I said, sacrifice is a good thing, and a little delayed gratification can be very rewarding. This is probably an unpopular sentiment in our age of on-demand everything, but screaming "Don't care how I want it now!" won't get you anywhere in life.

Fourth and lastly, I want to explore other worlds. As a culture, we're leaning away from mass media. Oh sure, we've still got superstars and blockbusters, but the really interesting stuff is happening in the fringes and in the niches. Not a day goes by that I don't run across some absurdly specific, single-purpose website like Brides Throwing Cats or Stephen King's Boners. In its own way, this is a good thing, but then, there's no reason to isolate our beverages into siloed worlds that don't touch each other. For instance, I spend a lot of time obsessing over bourbon barrel aged beers, so why wouldn't I dip my feet into that bourbon world for a bit and see what its like? I think it would do a world of good, and give me some valuable perspective on the booze world. And, of course, nothing needs to limit this to alcoholic beverages. I plan to spend at least one week checking out some decent tea (despite Padraic's relative hiatus from blogging, I'm sure he'll be a helpful guide).

Starting tomorrow, blogging will shift from solely beer-focused posts to include other beverages. This week, we'll be talking about bourbon. Next week, I'm thinking Port wine, though Fat Weekend may inspire me into a different direction. I plan to spend a week on wine, and another week on Scotch. There will definitely be at least one post on rye whiskey. And the aforementioned tea will get some love too. I figure I should be able to get a comprehensive understanding of these expansive worlds of booze in a single weekend, right? Well, no. All of these are beverages I already know and like (not starting from scratch here), but I would like to know more about them. To a certain extent, I've already progressed far down that path and will certainly continue far beyond these six weeks, but I've never really laid down the gauntlet. The primary reason I blog is to learn, and so here we are.

I am an unabashed lover of beer and that hasn't changed, so I will naturally still be writing from a beery perspective, even if I'm writing about bourbon or wine or whatever. Hopefully these posts will still be interesting and maybe even enlightening. There's a reason this is a beer blog, but that doesn't mean we can't mix things up a little. I doubt many whiskey/wine geeks are reading this particular post, but if so, I should say that my tasting notes for your preferred beverage will be dramatically, frustratingly bad. I already know that my vocabulary for this stuff is horrendous, which is one of the reasons I'm doing this (again, I blog to learn). Plus, it's not like I'm ruling out any pure beer writing either. I've had a few ideas for posts bouncing around in my head for a while, and it's about time I sat down and knocked them out.

Last weekend, I had naught but two drams of bourbon, and a couple small glasses of port as a nightcap. So perhaps not super healthy, but I haven't had a beer for a little less than a week (and it's not like I didn't follow up that Bruery Mash with a dram of bourbon, so I'm doing pretty well here so far). I've been getting back on track with my exercise regimen too. I feel good. This will be an interesting 6 weeks and hopefully you can join me on this beverage journey. Stay tuned, for tomorrow, we take a trip to Black Maple Hill.

2013 Year End Musings

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Another orbital period has passed, which I guess means I need to reflect on the year that was or some such thing. Since I'm terrible at choosing favorites and because it's a totally arbitrary exercise, I'll be posting my top 40 beers of the year. That might seem like a lot, but then, I could probably do a top 40 Tired Hands beer list and still have 60 of their brews that didn't make the cut (I'm pretty sure this is not an exaggeration; they put up at least 1-2 new beers a week on average and I've kept up pretty well). I drink too much is what I'm saying.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Various musings on my year in beer:

  • Trading - It continues, and a fair amount of beers on the list below came from trades, LIFs, and BIFs, but not nearly as much as you might think. It turns out that Philly is a pretty great beer town, asinine PLCB rules notwithstanding, and even the suburbs are getting in on the action these days. I doubt I'll ever reach the crazy 5 trades per month tempo that some beer dorks engage in, but I'm pretty happy with the 5-6 trades I engage in per year, and I got to try some great stuff this year because of that.
  • Wales, bro - White Whale beers are a sorta moving target. When you start to dip your toes into beer nerdery, anything popular that is rare and/or isn't distributed near you is a whale. Stuff like KBS. Then you start ticking those top 100 beers that are hard to find, but the goalposts move to obscure vintages of absurdly limited beers (I've had approximately 1 beer on that list) and people start creatively misspelling whales as walez or wales and at that point, who cares? The hunt can be fun, but some of that stuff seems like a fool's errand. I'll probably stick with local wales and trade for some khaki wales if the mood strikes me. With stuff like Operation Cheddar an finally procuring some Cantillon, I've gotten pretty good at scoring some great stuff, and that's all I can really ask for.
  • The year the ratings died, sorta - I've been doing this for three years now, and I'm experiencing some serious ratings shifting here. Stuff I'd have rated an A a few years ago might be a B level beer nowadays. Is this changing tastes? Or was I just plain wrong? Or maybe I'm just drinking such a higher caliber of beer now that it puts that older stuff in a different perspective? Probably all of the above. So take my ratings with a grain of salt. I'm a moron.
  • Snobby Palate - I'll never claim to have a great palate, but I'm starting to get super snobby about fresh IPAs in particular. And bars that don't clean their tap lines are starting to annoy me. And I'm pretty sensitive to carbonation issues. I don't know how great this development really is, but I try not to annoy other people with my snobby palate and pedantry.
  • Sessionable Beer and Redrinking Beer - I used to basically never drink the same beer twice. And I used to review nearly every beer I drank. But that's lame. I've definitely drank a bunch of beers I've already sampled this year. Some are massive face melters that have a limited annual release (oh, hello there Parabola!), but I've also found a desire for "regular" beer or even a session beer. Sure, I still drink an unhealthy amount of high ABV stuff and the list below certainly contains ample Imperial Stouts and Barleywines, but sometimes I want to sit down with something normal, like a 4% pale ale. Not everything has to melt my face, all the time.
  • Home Brewing - A slow start to the year, but I've been on a tear of late. I've also been tackling "slow" beers, stuff that takes a while to actually finish off (like, for example, the Brett dosed saison or bourbon oak aged imperial stout), but in about a month, I should have about 3 batches hitting their prime. Poor timing, perhaps, but still. I've also finally procured a kegerator and have kegged my first beer (Red Heady), so we'll see what that does (I'm actually planning to keep a relatively sessionable beer on at all times, but we'll see). As per usual, I've got lots of plans and ideas, so it should be a fun year.
  • Aging/Cellaring Beer - I spent a pretty big portion of the year trying to drink down my cellar rather than going out and procuring the next big thing. Of course, I still buy way too much beer, but most of it is not really for aging, even if, uh, it takes me a while to get to it. There are definitely some beers that have really worked for me after a couple years in the cellar, but most are better fresh. This tends to be the general accepted wisdom in the beer nerd world, but it's interesting to discover it for yourself.

So it's been a great year in beer. As previously mentioned, I'm posting my top 40 beers, mostly because I feel like it. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year. Stuff I've had before but loved is also not eligible (so no Parabola or Supplication, etc...) so don't get too cuckoo nutso if your favorite beer isn't on the list. Or whatever, yell at me in the comments, what do I care? Everything on the list has been rated at least an A- on my grading scale and the ordering is generally from best to worst. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with lists, so whatevers. One other rule: I tried to limit some breweries to a handful of entries, because otherwise this would be a list of my favorite Tired Hands, Cantillon, and Hill Farmstead beers, and while that's probably accurate, it's also probably very boring. Alright, enough whining about disclaimers, let's demonstrate how crappy my taste is:

  1. Tired Hands Romulon (Saison)
  2. The Bruery Black Tuesday (Imperial Stout)
  3. Hill Farmstead Susan (IPA)
  4. The Alchemist Heady Topper (Double IPA)
  5. Cantillon Kriek (Lambic)
  6. Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine (Barleywine)
  7. Russian River Framboise For A Cure (American Wild Ale)
  8. Voodoo Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick (Imperial Stout)
  9. The Bruery Bois (Old Ale)
  10. Cigar City Nielsbohrium (Imperial Stout)
  11. Fantôme Magic Ghost (Saison)
  12. Cantillon Fou' Foune (Lambic)
  13. Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist Walden (American Pale Ale)
  14. Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA (Double IPA)
  15. FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Rittenhouse Rye (Imperial Stout)
  16. Oude Quetsche Tilquin (Lambic)
  17. Sante Adairius Love's Armor (American Wild Ale)
  18. Firestone Walker PNC (Imperial Stout)
  19. Half Acre Beer Hates Astronauts (IPA)
  20. Tired Hands Phantom With Three Different Colored Eyes (Double IPA)
  21. Tröegs Scratch Beer 83 - 2012 (¿Impending Descent?) (Imperial Stout)
  22. Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer (Barleywine)
  23. Cantillon Saint Lamvinus (Lambic)
  24. Tired Hands Only Void (Imperial Stout)
  25. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout (Imperial Stout)
  26. Cisco Brewers Lady Of The Woods (American Wild Ale)
  27. La Cabra Brettophile (American Wild Ale)
  28. Crooked Stave St. Bretta Summer (Wit/Wheat Beer)
  29. Three Floyds & Mikkeller Risgoop (Barleywine)
  30. Cascade Kriek Ale (American Wild Ale)
  31. FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Elijah Craig (12 Year) (Imperial Stout)
  32. Divine Teufelweizen (2011) (Weizenbock)
  33. Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude (Smoked Beer)
  34. Clown Shoes & Three Heads Brewing Third Party Candidate (Imperial Red Ale)
  35. Forest & Main Oubliant (Tripel)
  36. Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot (Barleywine)
  37. Voodoo Laird's Apple Brandy Gran Met (Tripel)
  38. Firestone Walker XVI - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  39. Caldera Mogli (Imperial Stout)
  40. Logsdon Seizoen (Saison)

Damn, that was more difficult than I thought. There are at least, like, 5 other Tired Hands IPAs that could easily replace the one I put in there, not to mention stuff like Guillemot Nebula or even the Rye Barrel Only void. I had a great year in beer. Here's to a great 2014!

Halloween and Other Nonsense

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The most awesomest time of the year has arrived, bringing with it stuff like decorative corpses, mutilated pumpkins, bite sized candy, pumpkin beers, and a whole host of other nominally ghastly objects that suddenly become socially acceptable. Here at Kaedrin, we tend to drink a lot of beer (yeah, par for the course, I know) and watch a lot of bad horror movies (these tend to be chronicled on my generalist blog, so stop by and say hello if you're so inclined). So look for some season's greetings in the near future. And Sweetzels. Lots of Sweetzels.

Kaedrin Halloween Festivities
(Click for larger version)

Speaking of Halloween themes, Tired Hands is getting into the swing of things with their series of beers named after various monsters. Last year were the classics: Vampire, Zombie, etc... Take a look at the fermenation board for a preview of this year's fun:

Tired Hands Fermentation Board
(Click for larger version)

Yep, 80s horror monsters all the way. Not on the board, but mentioned by the bartender last time I was there, is Marty Rantzen (!), a suitably obscure choice that warms this jaded horror movie lover's heart. Of course, these are just names, and it's what's in the glass that counts, but Tired Hands has more than proven themselves on that front and their nonsensical naming conventions only add to their charm.

Speaking of nonsense, check out this video I made on Vine after I got drunk on Saturday.

It's no DDB video revue, but I think it turned out well given the approximately 30 seconds I put into it.

Incidentally, this is the sort of thing I've been posting on Twitter lately, so go there and follow me now (if you don't already). Cheers.

Parabolic Vacation

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Posting will be light this week as I head op to Kaedrin North for a respite from the daily grind. I really kicked the vacation into gear a couple days ago with a Firestone Walker Parabola, a beer which I had inexplicably "only" granted an A- to last year. Let's up that to an full-blown A, shall we?

Firestone Walker Parabola 2013

"But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice--guessed and refused to believe--that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chances, no return. Yet they do move forever under it, reserved for its own black-and-white bad news certainly as if it were the Rainbow, and they its children...."

See you next week, though I'm sure I'll post a thing or two on twitter, in case you're afraid of withdrawal.

Kaedrin's Beer Twitter Stream

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So I finally decided to stop trying to cram my beer obsession down my personal twitter account's feed (which will still probably feature some beer anyway, and feel free to follow that as well) and created a new feed @KaedrinBeer for that purpose. What will be on this stream? I'm not really sure! It will certainly contain pictures of stuff that wouldn't necessarily make it to the blog, as well as links out to other articles, blogs, and the like. You should totally follow me and tweet things at me and do other things that could be interpreted with various innuendos.

Welcome to 2013

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It's going to be a good year in beer:

Recent Acquisitions
(Click for a bigger version)

For the record, that's Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, The Bruery Black Tuesday, Fantôme La Dalmatienne, New Glarus Serendipity, Founders Bolt Cutter, and Three Floyds Dark Lord. And that doesn't include some other recent and exciting acquisitions. 2013 is shaping up to be a good one... at least, in terms of beer.

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...

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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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