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The Annual Beer Recession

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I am entering that cyclical period of contraction which results in a general slowdown in drinking activity (i.e. a beer recession; like an economic recession, but nowhere near as dire). As with previous experiments on this sort of thing, this is not quite a strict ban on beer drinking (nor alcohol in general), just a reduction in consumption. The goals are pretty much the same as ever: break some bad habits, get my health in order, explore other realms of boozy glory, reset my palate, delay gratification, and so on.

Posting will slow down a bit for the next few weeks, but you can still expect one or two posts a week. Some will cover differing areas of booze (I've got some Wine and Bourbon on deck right now) and others might even involve non-alcoholic substances (customarily Tea, but I might throw something out there about maple syrup and/or hot sauce). As usual, while I might be writing about something other than my preferred beverage, I tend to do so from a beer dork's perspective, which I hope is enlightening. Indeed, I sometimes wonder what a whiskey or wine nerd would think about my posts on that topic... as if I have enough readers for that to matter! Anywho, I might even do a little straightup beer commentary while I'm at it, who knows?

When I started doing this a few years ago, I didn't really know what to expect, but I enjoyed it enough that I've done it every year since then. Detoxing and realigning for a while really does make for a triumphant return, and my waistline is usually pretty happy about it too. So stay tuned, we'll almost certaining be talking Wine and Bourbon next week...

2016 Year End Musings

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It's the time of year when everyone feels obliged to take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we're going. I suppose aligning this with orbital cycles makes as much sense as anything else, so since this is a beer blog, I shall recap my year in beer. 2016 was a crappy year in many ways, but no so much with beer, which is nice, since this is a beer blog. So what happened this year?

  • Repeat Beers - I've been something of a novelty whore for a while now. Rarely did I drink a beer that I'd had before, preferring instead to try something new. This is something that's been easing for a while now, and 2016 marks a high point for me. I probably still drink a far wider variety of beer than your average dork, but the thought of buying a 4 or 6 pack and drinking the whole thing doesn't seem infeasible anymore, so that's different. Don't get me wrong, I'm still fascinated with new beers and continually seek them out, but I've had enough beers to know what I like, and look forward to trying certain beers every year now, which is nice.
  • Bottle Shares - I mentioned last year that I fell into a good group of local beer nerds who have a regular share, and it's been fantastic. Everyone's very generous, and it's always a good time. I've been to a few others as well, and it's generally a fun way to try a bunch of beer that I'd probably never even know about or hope to acquire (most of the below "Unreviewed" list is from shares.)
  • Homebrewing - Another lackluster year in this arena for me, but let's make a new years resolution to get this hobby going again. I had a good start with my Christmas Ale rebrew (which I dubbed Rantlers! after a favorite movie quote from a bad movie) and plan to keep it going with my much threatened Scotch Ale in the near future.
  • Blogging Plateau - I've continued a slow decline in the number of posts, I know. Part of this has to do with the above. Drinking more of the same beer means less things to review. I've also gotten over the compulsion to write about every new beer I try and tend to focus on beers that are interesting or great. This will probably continue into 2017.
  • Taking a Break - For the third year in a row, I basically gave up beer for Lent. This is a great chance to reset and recalibrate and it's good for my waistline too. Plus, I get to explore other worlds of boozy glory, which is actually very enlightening. In theory, this should translate to more variety throughout the year, but I'm basically still obsessed with beer, so while I do blog about wine and whiskey and whatnot from time to time, don't expect this to turn into anything other than a beer blog.
  • Other Stuff - Minimal trading last year, but I don't think that will hold up. Definitely some great stuff I'm looking to trade for this year. I still go through phases where I drink down my cellar and try aged beer (another recap of vintage beer coming soon) and for the most part, my recommendation remains to drink your beer fresh. My aging focus now is more on lambic than anything else, because I've had the best experience with that. Still plenty of things aging down there though, so you'll probably continue to see posts about aging beer from time to time.

It's been a good year of beer for me. Nothing too unusual going on, but my beer nerdery is continuing to progress apace. So here's a list of my 30 favorite beers of the year that were new to me. Astute readers may notice that this list is normally 40 beers, but in accordance with some of the above, I feel like less is more this year. As per usual, it has to be a beer that I reviewed this year and it's also something that I haven't reviewed before (i.e. no Heady or Parabola on this list). I'm also going to include a separate list of 5 beers I loved that I didn't review (almost all of which came from bottle shares, and thus were small pours with no notes taken, and so on). Of course, this is an entirely arbitrary exercise and the rankings would probably change depending on mood etc... I've also tried to limit the number of entries from a single brewery, but sometimes that's hard, so whatever. Let's get to it:

  1. Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2015) (Imperial Stout)
  2. Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #14 (Saison)
  3. Other Half Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dream (Double IPA)
  4. Allagash FV 13 (American Wild Ale)
  5. Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  6. Ale Apothecary Sahalie (American Wild Ale)
  7. Tired Hands Rustic Pentagram (Saison)
  8. Sante Adairius Saison Bernice (Saison)
  9. FiftyFifty Eclipse Grand Cru
  10. Fantôme Artist 2 (Saison)
  11. Foam Built To Spill (Double IPA)
  12. Hill Farmstead Dry Hopped Arthur (Saison)
  13. Casita Cerveceria Del Árboles (Saison)
  14. Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett with Blueberries (American Wild Ale)
  15. SingleCut Softly Spoken Magic Spells (Double IPA)
  16. Funky Buddha Wide Awake It's Morning (Imperial Stout)
  17. Midnight Sun Termination Dust (Barleywine)
  18. Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy (Imperial Stout)
  19. Tired Hands Oat Potion (Saison)
  20. The Veil Crucial Crucial Aunt Aunt (Double IPA)
  21. Tired Hands Believer's Club Bottle 1 (Saison)
  22. Forest & Main Marius (Peach) (Saison)
  23. Free Will Ralphius (Imperial Stout)
  24. Oude Geuze Boon Black Label (Gueuze)
  25. McKenzie Toad the Brett Rocket (Saison)
  26. Tröegs Bourbon Barrel Aged Impending Descent (Imperial Stout)
  27. Hanssens Oude Schaarbeekse Kriek (Fruited Lambic)
  28. Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel (Tripel)
  29. Rodenbach Alexander (Flanders Red Ale)
  30. Victory Java Cask Rye (Imperial Stout)

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

  1. The Bruery Wineificiation III
  2. Cigar City Double Barrel Hunahpu's Imperial Stout
  3. Kane A Night to End All Dawns (Vanilla)
  4. Fremont B-Bomb Bourbon Barrel Aged Abominable Winter Ale
  5. Casey Family Reserves - Cherry

I would love to get more of each and every one of these beers, but I'm just glad I got to try some of them at all.

So a great year in beer, with hopefully even more to come in 2017.

Comments Are Working Now!

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At least, I think they are, hence this test post which you can safely ignore.

Ignore Me!

I've confirmed that the two most popular login types are working, so Google OpenID and Wordpress users are free to fire away in the comments. It looks like the new version of Google ID (now that I've got it working) actually shows a relevant name and even links to Google+ (formerly, you got a username at best, and a weird string of characters at worst). Go forth, ye readers, and comment. Also, why are you reading this? I said to ignore this post. IGNORE ME!

2015 Year End Musings

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Now comes the time of year when we attempt to divine information about the time past and times to come, all based on the relative positions of celestial objects. In other words, we all become astrologists around the new year! I'm making light of this, but it's a good thing to take stock of where we are and where we're going from time to time, and completing another orbit around the sun is as good a time as any. This isn't really the place for personal reflections, but it is a place for beer! So let's get down to the year in beer that was, and perhaps look forward to what the future holds.

It was a good year! I drank lots of great beer, made lots of new friends, and even got interviewed. 2016 has a lot to live up to, but also plenty of opportunity.

Looking at the past few year end musings (jeeze, has it been 5 years? Yikes.) I tend to get repetitive on my reflections, so I'll try to limit these observations to relatively new stuff rather than just repeating that yes, I've aged some beer, and while I've had a couple of revalations, most of it was just as good fresh (see how I squeezed that one in there? I may not be so successful at this.)

  • Beer Festivals - I've never been a huge fan of beer festivals for reasons I have already belabored in my recap of Operation Chowder, a trip in which I attended the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston. I only went to one session (Friday night), and had a great time, but felt no regret that the other sessions were sold out. Likewise, I had a fine time at the more local Kennet Brewfest, but I only went to it because someone had an extra ticket. I mean, it's fine, but 95% of the beer flowing there was generally available in the area anyway. I think I enjoyed ACBF more because there were so many New England breweries that I'd never had before that were there. As such, I may loosen my disdain for festivals... when traveling. GABF, here I come? Let's not get carried away.
  • Bottle Shares - I have often posted about Beer Club, but that's generally a low key affair. This year, I connected with a more formal local group that has very cool bottle shares, ones that I haven't really posted much about (though I have mentioned them). I would expect this to continue, because I enjoy not documenting every beer I drink, and honestly, writing a full review based on a 2 ounce sample after having sampled 10 other beers really isn't the best way to do it. Plus, you know, it's rude. Look for a tweet here or there, but otherwise, these shares will remain just plain old fun. Alright, fine, based on this and my beer festivals, I might add a supplementary list of beers I loved, but only had small samples of below.
  • Taking a Break - For two years in a row, I've basically given up beer for Lent. I find it to be a very good chance to reset and recalibrate, not to mention the benefit to my waistline. Plus, I get a chance to focus on other things like Bourbon, Scotch, Wine, and Tea. It's now something I actually look forward to every year. This starts in early February this year, so look for a shift in blogging material in a month or so...
  • Wales, bro - I've often talked about slaying personal white whale beers, things that aren't particularly rare, but which I'd never managed to snag before. This year was the first year I actually slayed true beer nerd walez, that ridiculous list of absurdly rare beers. In each case, it wasn't something I realized until after I drank the beer in question (usually lucking into it by accident), and to me, that's the way to do it. I feel like intentionally hunting down beers on that list would be quite annoying. Then again, I guess that's why they call them wales, bro. Regardless, I'm happy I got to try those beers, and one of them was my favorite beer of the year (see below!) so maybe the list isn't complete bullshit.
  • Style Parity - Alright, this is not really true at all, but after last year's American Wild Ale dominated top 40, this year's list is at least a little more diverse. A lot of this is just the natural ebbs and flows of availability and the degrees to which I'm willing to hunt stuff down. Part of it is also more of a willingness to branch out. Heck, I even listed a Pilsner on this year's top 40. A Pilsner! Will wonders ever cease?
  • Blogging Plateau - I'm still blogging at a pretty good clip, but I feel like I've reached a nice 2-3 posts a week cadence that I don't really want to exceed much anymore. There was a time when 4-6 posts a week were common, but those days have past, and I'd expect things to continue on the slower pace. After all, it's nice to drink something without having to write about it, and I've long since gotten over the compulsion to post about literally every beer I've tried.
  • Other Stuff - Of the normal topics, I have little to say. I had a terrible year in homebrewing, so I'm going to try and turn that around in 2016. Ratings inflation continues unabated. I keep meaning to inaugurate a new class of A+ beers, and I guess 2016 is the year for that. I've actually been drinking a bunch of aged beers recently, and plan on posting about them in more detail in the nearish future.

A pretty interesting year, and it's fun to see how my beer nerdery is progressing. So here's my list of top 40 beers I've tried this year. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you don't see your favorites on the list, don't get all wound up about it. I've either had it in a previous year or just didn't catch up with it. Or, I had it and hated it, because you're the worst. How could you like such a horrid thing? But I digress. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with lists. Lists are American. What are you? A communist? There I go digressing again. I tried to limit breweries to a handful of entries, but whatever, it's my list and I'll do what I want. Speaking of which, let's do this:

  1. Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) (Lambic)
  2. Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) (American Wild Ale)
  3. Tired Hands Pathway of Beauty (IPA)
  4. Allagash Cuvée D'Industrial (American Wild Ale)
  5. Alchemist Focal Banger (IPA)
  6. Firestone Walker XIX - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  7. Midnight Sun Arctic Devil (Barleywine)
  8. Tired Hands Freedom From the Known (Saison)
  9. Logsdon Peche 'n Brett (Saison)
  10. Pizza Boy Golden Sour (American Wild Ale)
  11. Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev's Cobra (Imperial Stout)
  12. The Bruery Cuir (Old Ale)
  13. Firestone Walker XVIII - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  14. Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Rye (Imperial Stout)
  15. Allagash Farm To Face (American Wild Ale)
  16. Trillium Congress Street IPA (IPA)
  17. Jack's Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer (Baltic Porter)
  18. Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout (Imperial Stout)
  19. Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip Of Sunshine (Double IPA)
  20. Forest & Main Moeder Seizoen (Saison)
  21. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 (Double IPA)
  22. Lost Abbey Cuvée De Tomme (American Wild Ale)
  23. Almanac Dogpatch Sour (American Wild Ale)
  24. BFM XV (√225 Saison) (Saison)
  25. Alpine Nelson (IPA)
  26. Stone Southern Charred (2014) (American Strong Ale)
  27. Midnight Sun Berserker (Imperial Stout)
  28. Crux Tough Love [Banished] (Imperial Stout)
  29. Prairie Pirate Noir (Imperial Stout)
  30. Victory Java Cask (Imperial Stout)
  31. Forest & Main Rum Barrel-Aged Gmork (Imperial Stout)
  32. Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta (Saison)
  33. Telegraph Gypsy Ale (American Wild Ale)
  34. Sante Adairius Jose Pimiento (American Wild Ale)
  35. Modern Times Monsters' Park (Imperial Stout)
  36. Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka (Czech pilsener)
  37. AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout (Imperial Stout)
  38. Grassroots Brother Soigné (Saison)
  39. Lost Nation The Wind (Gose)
  40. Kern River Just Outstanding IPA (IPA)

The Unreviewed 5
Beers that where I had small samples, never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

I need to find a way to get more of each of these. Yum

So it's been a great year, and hopefully 2016 has even more in store for me. Cheers!

Upgradation

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So the comments on here have been broken for a few months and I haven't been able to figure it out. I'm finally taking some time to get this stuff fixed. All of which is to say that things may get a little wonky around here for the next couple of days, but we'll hopefully be upgraded to the newest version of Movable Type and comments should work too. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, here's a pic of Tired Hands Out of the Emptiness Batch 2.

Tired Hands Back Into The Emptiness

It's just as fantastic as batch 1. Go forth, and drink ye a beer for me.

Update: The upgrade is complete, but I'm still dealing with some issues. Comments are working on my generalist blog, but not on the beer blog (no idea why), and I'm having trouble publishing new entries now. Super duper. Not even sure if this update will make it out there... In any case, bear with me. We'll be back and running soon enough.

Again Update: Huzzah! I think all issues have been resolved. Comments are working again, and I'm able to actually publish updates. And the world rejoiced! Or, well, I am rejoicing.

We Interrupt This Program (Again)

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Around this time last year, I took a wee break from beer:

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?

Well it's that time of year again, and I'm taking another break from beer, for largely the same reasons elaborated in that post. Believe it or not, last year's experience was a lot of fun. I had fun with some other beverages and my waistband was pretty happy with the experience too.

One thing I wasn't expecting last year was that I almost ended up blogging more than normal. I've been writing about beer for over 4 years, so all the writerly low-hanging fruit is pretty well exhausted. But I've barely scratched the surface of wine, whiskey, or tea. Not to mention whatever else I'll get up to this year. Plus, I find that writing about other booze from the perspective of a beer nerd can be interesting. So while the blog may slow down slightly, there should still be plenty to keep you busy (even if you're not a whiskey/wine/whatever type of person).

Plus, as with last year, there are a few instances when I still plan to drink beer. And I have a couple of reviews saved in the hopper that will keep us busy on the blog too. So stay in touch, it's going to be a bumpy fun ride.

2014 Year End Musings

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According to the Gregorian calendar, the earth has completed yet another orbit around the sun, and thus Earthlings like myself are prone to reflect on the previous orbital period or somesuch. I had a weird year in beer, in some ways it's a natural progression, in other ways, I've regressed. Depending on your point of view, I guess. Regardless, the usual categories of musings I cover every year in a post like this (See 2013, 2012, and 2011 musings) have been mildly stagnant this year. On the other hand, that's probably a good thing. So here's some musings for 2014 and because I like arbitrary exercises and I seem to do it every year, a top 40 list.

  • Taking a Break - I took a break from drinking beer (er, mostly) in March and April of 2014, which was actually a very enjoyable experience. I spent some time with other libations and even some non-alcoholic beverages (the horror!) I plan on doing the same thing (at around the same time) this year, so saddle up.
  • Drinking Down the Cellar - After my beer break, I spent a few months drinking beers from my cellar. I've noted on many occasions that my eyes are bigger than my liver, so my cellar was growing. Not one of those obscene things that you see on youtube or somesuch, but sizeable enough that I wanted to do some pruning. A fair amount of this was stuff I'd had before, so much of it didn't actually show up on the blog... which lead to:
  • Decrease in Blogging - I still blog a lot, but there was a time when I'd crank out 4-5 entries a week. Now it's mostly 3 (with the occasional 4th, though also sometimes less), which has become a comfortable groove for me. I expected to continue in this manner in 2015, perhaps settling down into 2-3 entries a week (or less).
  • An American Wild Year - Looking at my top 40, I'm struck by how many American Wild Ales show up (with the occasional Lambic or sour/funky Saison that might as well be an American Wild) and, conversely, how few Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts there were (Not that they're absent, but seeing as though they're my favorite style...) I think this probably has something to do with a strong local scene in Wild Ales, and just a few opportunities that came up. I find that my ability to acquire great beer tends to go in style waves, with 2014 being a whole lot of saisons and American Wilds. Right now, I'm predictiong 2015 will have a few more Stouts!
  • Trading - In all honesty, I don't think I completed a single trade this year, though a few of the beers on the list below are from late 2013 trades. I still managed to get my hands on plenty of non-locally distributed beer and I anticipate this dry spell ending in the next couple months, but yeah, not a year for trading over here.
  • Wales, bro - Not a ton of these this year either (and certainly not the true beer nerd walez), but a couple of personal white whales were slain this year, but those are stuff everyone's had before and for some reason had eluded me until 2014, like The Abyss or Saison Brett. And then there's emerging breweries like Sante Adairius or local wonders like Tired Hands, which I'm doing my best to keep up with. I see more of that happening this year as well, not so much with the insane wales, bro.
  • Ratings Inflation - I mentioned this last year as well, but ratings inflation has continued unabated. Stuff I rated an A a few years ago often does not compare to the stuff I'm rating an A these days. The only exception is the A+ category, where I never rate anything (only 4 entries in the 4 years of the blog, and none in 2014). I think the point there is that I generally want to try a beer on multiple occasions and see if it stands up to the test of time, which is sometimes impossible (limited, one time only brews?) and also not conducive to stuff I've already reviewed. That being said, perhaps we'll have some upgrades in the year 2015. Stay tuned!
  • Homebrewing - I've been terribly lazy this year. I started off pretty strong, with a batch of Fat Weekend IPA and an oak-aged barleywine, but since then, things have been pretty quiet on this front. In part, this has to do with my whole drinking down the cellar thing (a not insignificant amount of the beer down there is homebrew), but it's also definitely a laziness thing. I plan on revving back up soon enough.
  • Aging/Cellaring Beer - Drinking down my cellar wasn't really part of my experiment with aging beer, more just a result of buying too much beer and unintentionally aging it. As with last year, I'm finding that aging is interesting, but rarely produces spectacular results. This bottle of 1.5 year old Tired Hands Only Void was spectacular, and I had a few other successes in 2014, but for the most part, I'm still finding that drinking beer fresh is your best bet. However, I do have some true experiments that I'm hoping to did into in 2015. I anticipate at least a few will be great.
So it's been an odd year, certainly not bad, just different. In the grand scheme of things, that's probably a good thing though, so here's my list of top 40 beers I've tried this year. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you don't see your favorites on the list, don't get too worked up about it. Or get worked up about it, if that's your thing, just don't expect me to care too much. 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 take that with a giant grain of salt. I tried to limit breweries to a handful of entries, though I think I still ended up with, like, 4 Tired Hands beers on here. Make of that what you will, here's the list:

  1. Tired Hands Parageusia1 (American Wild Ale)
  2. Stone Fyodor's Classic (Imperial Stout)
  3. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude 5 (Double IPA)
  4. Tired Hands The Emptiness is Eternal (Saison)
  5. The Bruery Mash (Barleywine)
  6. Sante Adairius Cask 200 (American Wild Ale)
  7. Cascade Sang Royal (American Wild Ale)
  8. Firestone Walker Stickee Monkee (Quadrupel)
  9. Cantillon Iris (Lambic)
  10. Tired Hands Psychic Facelift (IPA)
  11. Cisco Pechish Woods (American Wild Ale)
  12. Carton 077XX (Double IPA)
  13. Union Double Duckpin (Double IPA)
  14. Logsdon Oak Aged Bretta (Saison)
  15. Tired Hands Back Into The Emptiness (Saison)
  16. Firestone Walker XVII - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
  17. Hill Farmstead Harlan IPA (IPA)
  18. Thirsty Dog Wulver (Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy)
  19. Neshaminy Creek The Shape Of Hops To Come (Double IPA)
  20. Avery 5 Monks (Quadrupel)
  21. Voodoo Buffalo Trace Black Magick (Imperial Stout)
  22. FiftyFifty Old Conundrum On Wood (Barleywine)
  23. Three Floyds Chevalier Bertrand Du Guesclin (American Wild Ale)
  24. Lost Abbey Framboise De Amarosa (American Wild Ale)
  25. Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot (American Wild Ale)
  26. Voodoo Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy (Imperial Stout)
  27. Hill Farmstead Florence (Saison)
  28. Cisco Monomoy Kriek (American Wild Ale)
  29. Lost Abbey Track #8 (Quadrupel)
  30. Deschutes The Abyss 2013 Reserve (Imperial Stout)
  31. Crooked Stave L'Brett d'Or (American Wild Ale)
  32. HaandBryggeriet Odin's Tipple (Imperial Stout)
  33. DC Brau On The Wings Of Armageddon (Double IPA)
  34. Surly Furious (IPA)
  35. Boulevard Saison-Brett (Saison)
  36. Forest & Main Lunaire (Saison)
  37. Victory Wild Devil (American Wild Ale)
  38. Allagash PNC Broken Elevator (American Wild Ale)
  39. Prairie Puncheon (Saison)
  40. The Bruery Sucré (Old Ale)
Well, after looking through that list, it seems I did have a rather fantastic year. Here's to 2015, already shaping up to be a good one.

Commenting Woes

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For the five of you who read this blog and feel like commenting, I have an issue. The Google login doesn't seem to be working. There's no obvious solution to the problem, but I'm working on it. I posted more details at my generalist blog, but I just wanted to let you know that if you want to post a comment, Google isn't working. Wordpress and the other options seem to still work fine, if that matters. I apologize for any inconvenience and promise that the person or persons responsible will be sacked.

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

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