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Quick Hits

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When I started this blog, I was generally looking to write about every new beer I tried. I learned a lot, which was the point, but I'm also sure it was boring. Being the 3583756th blog to review Sierra Nevada Pale Ale isn't particularly constructive or, frankly, all that interesting. I don't want to read that, let alone write it and inflict it upon you. So what I'm getting at here is that I might not review every beer I try anymore, and I might do more posts like this, with just a few quick hits on mildly interesting beers I've had lately. In fact, this has been happening for a while now, and it's part of the reason I feel like everything I review is really good - I'm not putting much energy into those bad beers. Anyways, I'm sure you're devastated by all this, but I'll try to make up for it by drinking and reviewing interesting beer and maybe even writing things that aren't just reviews. So for now, let's just look at a few beers I've had over the past couple months, but which haven't inspired posts of their own:

Marooned On Hog Island - 21st Amendment

21st Amendment Marooned On Hog Island - Jay loved this and I always fall in love with 21st Amendment's artwork, but then, I'm not a particularly big fan of oyster stouts either. Something about the salinity that most of them have just doesn't work that great for me, though it can make for an interesting change of pace. This one pours a black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of sweet roasted malts along with something I can't quite place (brininess? Presumably the oysters...) Taste is straight on stout, sweet with plenty of roasted malt and that briny oyster character coming through towards the finish, which retains a bitter roast too. Mouthfeel is very nice, well carbonated, lighter bodied than I'd expect, but still substantial. Overall, it's a solid beer, but it didn't hit me in the gut like I wanted. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Duck-Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale - Man, Duck-Rabbit sounds like it'd be right up my alley - a brewery specializing in dark ales? Sign me up! And yet I'm almost invariably disappointed by their wares. Granted, I haven't had anything other than their regular lineup, but still. I like Scotch ales, but this one doesn't feel like the style at all. It pours a deep, dark brown, maybe copper color with a finger or two of fluffy light tan head. Smells rather odd, kinda like a soda. Caramel and fruit are there, but perhaps a uncommon yeast character is showing up as well. Taste is similar, plenty of caramel, some fruit, and that soda-like character from the nose. Mouthfeel is more carbonated than expected, and I'm guessing this has a higher attenuation than your typical scotch ale. I mean, it's not dry, but it's nowhere near what a Scotch ale is supposed to be either. Feels a little unbalanced, sloppy, though it's not at all unpleasant. Overall, I guess I'm just not feeling this one. Certainly not a bad beer, but a little disappointing and not really on-style. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Milwaukee Brewing Louies Resurrection

Milwaukee Brewing Louie's Resurrection - I got a pair of these beers in that trade that brought me a bunch of Three Floyds, and I had one right away that was pretty darn good. Not mind-blowing, but a really nice bourbon character mixed with a typical malty red ale. Solid stuff, but then I think I let the other one sit around for a bit too long. It pours a brownish amber color with a finger of off white head. Smells of toffee, caramel, light bourbon. Taste hits with that toffee and caramel right away, very sweet start, rich flavors, mild bourbon character, some euro hop flavor. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, very easy drinking. Overall, a very nice beer. Not going to expand consciousness or anything, but good. B+ (fresh) or B (not so fresh)

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Green Flash West Coast IPA - This one would probably qualify as a boring review of a regular beer, but it happens to be my first Green Flash beer ever, which is surprising given their wide availability in the area. Will have to seek out more from them. This one pours a deep orange color with a finger of white head, plenty of lacing. Smells like an IPA! Lots of citrus and pine hops. Taste follows the nose, a little more crystal malt character than I was expecting from a "West Coast" IPA, but as an east coaster, this does not bother me at all. Again with the citrus and pine, maybe some herbal spice too, nice bitter finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, crisp, easy drinking stuff. Overall, solid beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout - This one came to be via my first BIF trade (which is something I'll explain in a later post). Pours a very dark brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, light brown head. Smells like a sweet stout, caramel malts and some roast apparent, but also maybe some floral, citrusy hops. Taste starts sweet, with a light roastiness emerging quickly and lasting through the finish. Some floral and citrus hops make themselves know, but they're not aggressive, just adding a nice complexity and balancing bitterness to the brew. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, with a slightly yet pleasant astringent character, medium bodied. Overall, it's an above average stout, more along the lines of what I look for in a stout. It didn't blow my mind, but it's a worthy brew. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

So there you have it. Tomorrow, we return to the realm of amazing barrel aged monsters, so grab your broad sword and strap on a shield, things are going to get elemental up in here.

Allies Win the War!

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Earlier this week I reviewed a beer that I think had the best designed bottle (sorry, "ceramic crock") I've ever seen, but the packaging for the recent 21st Amendment collaboration with Ninkasi gives it a run for its money. Indeed, all of 21st Amendment's beers have great packaging, making excellent use of the larger canvas provided by cans (and I love that they put their cans in boxes, even with four- or six-packs).

21st Amendment and Ninkasi Allies Win the War 4-pack box

Seriously gorgeous stuff, and the can itself is also pretty great. I will make one complaint though, which is that, well, it's hard to tell which way is up on this thing. A minor quibble and totally worth the confusion because it's just an awesome package. But let's not get to carried away, it's what's in the packaging that counts, and this time around, it seems that the beer is worthy of its packaging:

21st Amendment and Ninkasi Allies Win the War

21st Amendment & Ninkasi Allies Win the War! - Pours a dark amber color, maybe a little brown, with a couple fingers of white head that leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Aroma is full of hoppy pine resin and sweet, almost sugary citrus fruitiness. Taste starts off sweet but that's balanced very well by the hop bitterness in the finish. Those pine resin and citrus flavors are present as well, leading to a nice rich flavor profile. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, ample carbonation, and a little bit of stickiness. No real booze to be had here and it's pretty damn easy to drink. Overall, an excellent beer, not quite the equal of YuleSmith (which seems to have become my yardstick for hoppy imperial reds), but damn close. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/21/12.

21st Amendment continues to impress, and even though Ninkasi doesn't really distribute here, I'm going to keep my eyes on them...


Fireside Chat

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I had this beer last year and was quite taken with it. It didn't blow me away or anything, but it had a C+ on Beer Advocate at the time, which struck me as dreadfully underrated. BA seems to have upended the cart by using, like, 3 different rating scales now, none of which are the old letter grading system that was being used last year. Right now it's got a 74 (out of 100), which still seems awfully low. What have these 21st Amendment people done to inspire such ire? Is this beer made with the venom of an endangered species? Perhaps it's brewed solely with illegal immigrants in a sweatshop? Is this beer an elaborate money laundering scheme for mobsters? What's going on here?

I will say that it wasn't quite as great as I remembered from last year. Perhaps this could be attributed to it being on tap last year, or perhaps I got a fresher can and by the time I got my hands on it last year, it had mellowed out some... But it's certainly not as bad as BA is indicating... Well, anyway, here goes:

21st Amendment Fireside Chat

21st Amendment Fireside Chat - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of tan head. Lots of holiday spices in the nose - cinnamon, clove, and the like. Taste is sweet, with some caramel malt character and just a hint of roastiness. The finish is spicy and dry, with more bitterness than I remembered from last year. Medium bodied and well carbonated, this one hides its relatively high ABV well. Overall, it's a really solid winter warmer style beer. I'm slightly less impressed with it out of the can, but it's still much better than the relatively craptacular ratings it garners on BA. I'll give it a B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip on 12/24/11. Unfortunately no Fireplaces were available during consumption.

There you have it. Up next on this brewery's front is Allies Win the War - 21A's collaboration with Ninkasi (with whom I'm entirely unfamiliar, as they don't distribute here). I bought one of the gorgeous 4 pack boxes of that beer, so I've already had one and quite enjoyed it. I'll probably be drinking another for actual evaluation purposes soon.

Beer Club: The Ales of March

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Yes, my beer pun abilities have declined considerably. I have no idea what I'm going to do for April. Anyway, this month's beer club convened at an English style pub called The Whip Tavern. We're enjoying a freakishly large rainstorm right now, but I suppose that's part of the British experience, right? The pub is kinda in the middle of nowhere, but a few of us were able to brave the storm and the flooded roads to attend, and we were rewarded with some wonderful beer.

  • 21st Amendment Fireside Chat: A winter seasonal at the end of its run, this one was a dark brownish color with a hint of red and about a finger of head. Aroma was sweet with a hint of caramel or maybe toffee. Taste was similar - very sweet (again with the caramel or toffee) and doughy with a twang of something spicy in the finish. A relatively strong beer, the alcohol was present, but subtle. A pretty full body and warming mouthfeel as well. I don't know what the Beer Advocate geeks are smoking though, as this is certainly not a C+. More like a B or even a B+. Perhaps the fact that I was having it on tap made a difference (apparently this is typically seen in cans). (Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% on tap. Drank out of a wine glass.)
  • Twin Lakes Tweeds Tavern Stout: The uber-local Twin Lakes brewery doesn't even bottle or can their beers - they're only available on tap. This one was an extremely basic stout. Dark brown in color, with hints of amber when held to the light. Roasted aromas in the nose, with a very basic stout-style taste. Roasted malts, slightly bitter finish. An enjoyable beer, but also probably an example of what I'm not a big fan of in a stout. Plenty of carbonation and a medium body, just not a whole lot to go around in terms of flavor. Again, not a bad beer, but certainly not a great one either. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Yards Extra Special Ale (on Cask): Again! Since this was an English style pub, I was really hoping for a cask conditioned beer... and it turns out that what they had was the same one I had last weekend. When we first got there, the waitress said they had Victory Yakima Glory on cask, which I immediately jumped on, but apparently it kicked right before we arrived. Dammit. I still ordered a half-pint of the ESA, and it was quite enjoyable (again!) though perhaps not quite as good as it was at the brewery. (Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on cask, drank from a half-pint glass)
  • Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer: This being an English pub with a wide variety of imported beers, I figured I should actually avail myself of such an opportunity. After consulting the menu (and beer advocate on my phone), I settled on this beer. On the bottle, it says it's aged for 77 days in oak barrels (which seems kinda short to me, but what do I know?)


    Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer

    I was a little worried about the fact that this came out in a clear colored bottle (most beer bottles are brown because they protect against light, which can damage beer and cause off flavors), but it was ultimately pretty enjoyable. It's a clear, golden colored beer with an ample white head. Aroma seemed kinda funky, maybe even a bit tart. Taste was sweet with an almost white wine tint to it (just a hint of tartness there), which seemed strange. Perhaps it did get hit by some light on its journey to America. Well regardless of whether or not it was intentional, it tasted interesting to me. Again, I'm not terribly well versed in oak aging of beers, but there was a good amount of complexity in the taste. Light to medium bodied, not a lot of carbonation, but just enough to make it go down easy. Again, a very interesting beer. It was actually quite expensive, so I'm not sure it was worth it, but at the same time, I'm glad I got to try it. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a half-pint glass.)

  • Tetley's English Ale: Not a cask ale, but it was so smooth and creamy that it kinda felt like one. Unfortunately, that's just about all it had going for it. It had a rather bland taste, kinda like a toned-down Yards ESA. On the one hand, it's not something I'm going to go out of my way for, but on the other hand, it's certainly not bad and I could probably drink these all day without getting too bloated or drunk. At 3.6% ABV, it's not exactly a monster, but I can see why the British are into their session beers (i.e. this is something you could drink all day and not get too sloshed on). The name Tetley reminds me of tea, and I almost even detected a flavor of tea in the beer, but I'm pretty sure they have nothing to do with each other (was I imagining things then?) I'll give it a C+, which is fine for what it is. (Beer Nerd Details: 3.6% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)


I was very disappointed by the lack of Victory Yakima Glory on cask, and I also attempted to order a bottle of Brewdog Punk IPA, but alas, they were out of it. Nevertheless, great times were had by all, and I ordered me some Bangers and Mash which turned out to be quite fantastic. There was also quite the delicious toffee cake desert thing that went quite well with the Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer. I look forward to our triumphant return to the Whip (probably sometime this summer).

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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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